This article first appeared in the September 1847 issue of Ye Olde Skeptoid:
As is true with most of you, I too have heard stories of the brutish half man half beast known as the Pongo. This monster of African folklore is said to be a violent creature with magical powers. Western men of science traditionally give little credence to the fantastical stories of this monster ape and any thinking man realizes that this story must be the product of an overactive native imagination.
Legend has it that he relishes the taste of human flesh, often raiding villages in order to carry away captives for purposes of cannibalism or rape. Female Pongos supposedly turn into beautiful women to get close to male victims, and then change back to their true forms when it is too late for the men to escape. It is said that Pongos and humans would mate and produce hybrid children who look human, but who have violent, cannibalistic urges from their Pongo side.
Our Western history of the Pongo dates back to about the year 1590 when Andrew Battel, an English sailor, spent time in the wilds of West Africa and recorded his experiences in the book Purchas’s Pilgrimage. He wrote of both smallish and larger man beasts who roamed the wilds. The former he named engeco and the latter the Pongo.
Not much has been written of that beast between that time and this. Therefore, it may surprise you greatly to learn that this giant ape has been proven in fact to exist. Earlier this year Dr. Thomas Savage, a Christian missionary at the Gabon, discovered a skull of the huge ape. He sent information regarding this skull and two detailed drawings of it to one Sir Richard Owen, the famed English biologist, comparative anatomist and paleontologist, who declared the beast extant.
This story of discovery teaches us that any cryptid, however fantastic it seems, might be real. Supernatural or fantastical characteristics are no reason to disqualify them from further investigation. In fact, European folklore from the not too distant past assigns many supernatural abilities and odd behaviors to real animals such as wolves, eagles and mice. We now know that these superstitious ideas are false, even though the animals themselves are indisputably real.
At the suggestion of Dr. Savage, the new ape has been named “Gorilla”, derived from the Arabic word for “ghoul”.