The Bukit Timah Monkey Man, commonly abbreviated as BTM or BTMM, is a cryptid said to inhabit Singapore, chiefly in the forested Bukit Timah region. The creature is often cited as a forest-dwelling hominid or primate, and is also accounted for as being immortal; however, its exact identity remains unknown, and its existence disputed. Documentation of the BTM is sparse and scattered; the creature is largely considered a product of local folklore. Karl Shuker, a leading cryptozoologist, however, has featured the BTM at length in his book Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007).
Alleged sightings of the animal are rare. Records come mainly from Malay folklore, accounts from Japanese soldiers in World War II, and occasional unconfirmed reports from local residents. The first claimed sighting is said to have occurred in about 1805; the most recent was in 2007. The BTM is said to be hominid-like, greyish in color, and between one and two metres (3 to 6 feet) in height, with a bipedal gait. All sightings have been centered upon the Bukit Timah region, which gives rise to the cryptid’s name.
If the creature truly existed, its living habitat would be markedly small. The Bukit Timah rainforest, its habitation, is 164 hectares (410 acres) in area, amounting to approximately 1.6 square kilometres (0.62 sq mi), and the area is frequented by visitors and park watchers. Additionally, the area is wholly enclosed by urban settlements, being just 12 kilometres from the city centre, which would likely increase detection by humans. Some experts believe claims of the BTM to be a case of mistaken identity; that the observations were probably that of large crab-eating macaques, a monkey species common to the area. Reports are also often dismissed as mass hysteria.
Sightings of the BTM are rare, almost all in the Bukit Timah region and its vicinity. The first report of the creature came in 1805, before the colonial British discovery of Singapore, when a Malay elder claimed to have seen an upright-walking, monkey-faced creature in the Bukit Timah area. Japanese soldiers also reported the creature during World War II. Richard Freeman, a cryptozoologist, has argued that an animal such as the Monkey Man could have easily inhabited Singapore in the pre-colonial days.
The most recent sighting of the BTM was in 2007. A Singapore tabloid, The New Paper, has since featured the cryptid on its papers, gathering accounts from a number of witnesses. Amongst those highlighted in the article are:
A 48-year-old taxi driver, who lives around the neighbourhood of Serangoon, was quoted as saying:
“When driving my taxi past the fire station on Upper Bukit Timah Road in the middle of the night I hit what I thought was a child that ran out in the middle of the road. It was on the car bonnet and then snarled at me – it was like a monkey but so big! It ran off injured covered in blood, and holding its arm which was broken.”
A 29-year-old housewife said:
“I was going to the bus stop early one morning to catch the bus 171. It was very foggy and cold. I thought I saw a tramp going through the rubbish bin, however when I approached, it called out with a loud animal sound and ran back into the forest. It was grey, hairy and ran on two legs, but had a monkey’s face. I was shivering with fear and called the police but to no avail.”
A 65-year-old retiree from the neighbourhood of Bukit Panjang recalled the creature from his childhood, saying:
“We were always told as children when in the Kampung not to go near the forest at night due to the Monkey Man. Of course we never saw it ourselves but it was always some uncle or friend of the family who had seen it. Once we were shown these footprints near the forest road, and I remember the strong urine smell. Whenever we heard shrieks coming from the jungle we would tell each other- don’t disturb the Monkey Man.”
The Chinese-language paper Shin Min Daily News also reported on the BTM in 2008, stating that the Monkey Man would appear after dark in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. The paper described the creature as having the face of a monkey but walking upright like a man; it dispatched a journalist to comb for evidence, but the expedition proved futile. The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve official take provided at that point in time was that people were mistaking the common long-tailed (aka crab-eating) macaque monkeys for the Monkey Man.
With local monkeys
Monkeys are often seen roaming about and encountered by visitors in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, and the crab-eating macaque monkeys in particular bear similarities to the descriptions of the Monkey Man. The clearest distinction between the two would be in size; the crab-eating macaques are typically 38-55 centimetres in body length, while the BTM’s height is said to be between one and two metres. Height perception, however, may also be influenced by factors such as darkness and angular perception.
With other cryptids
Besides local monkeys already existing in the region, the Monkey Man has been connected to other cryptids. The most similar link would be the Orang Pendek, a similarly described cryptid that resides in the Indonesian island of Sumatra; some cryptozoologists have even placed the BTM as part of the Orang Pendek species. The creature is also frequently likened to the reported Monkey-man of New Delhi, in India. In the latter case, many have believed mass hysteria as the sole cause of the perpetuation. The two cryptids have themselves been linked to the Spring Heeled Jack, an extraordinary leaper that frightened civilians in England in the 19th and 20th century, in a feature by Terry Deary in his book True Monster Stories (1992).