Call of the Cryptid: Batutut or the rock ape of Vietnam


Hailing from Vietnam, Laos and northern Borneo, the Batutut are another mythic ape-like creature.  Do they eat human livers?

Like most cryptids, the Batutut have many different names, and most of them sound cool. Sometimes they’re called Ujit or Người rừng. Probably my favorite is “forest people,” because it sounds so ultra-PC.   Project whatever name you like on them, though, because they probably won’t be offended.

Either that or they’ll be offended by the mere presence of humans no matter what they do. That’s right. My research leads me to believe these hypothetical creatures would be hostile to you.

Just walk by them and they might throw rocks. Some even claim they tear out human livers. Ouch! Can you imagine that? [Insert obvious Hannibal Lecter line right here.]

They are said to be covered in lots of hair, except on the knees, hands and face. The hair is grey, brown, orange or black, and they walk upright. Interestingly, the descriptions make them seem like Chaka from Land of the Lost.

In other Call of the Cryptid articles, I’ve mentioned how these apes seem similar to the mythic, “wildman of the woods.” That wouldn’t necessarily be an ape, but someone in the woods who is more animal-like than the average human. Indeed, the “forest people” name hints at this possible angle.

Who has seen them? Who have they seen?

Supposedly a French colonist saw one in Vietnam in 1947. If you don’t speak French you can hit Google translate and read this purported account, which says things like, “It was neither an animal nor a monkey, but a tall, wild man who walks upright, eats fruits, insects, whatever he can catch. Unlike the monkey, it was banned from all tribes.”   Also, according to Michael Newton’s 2005 work, Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology: A Global Guide, some were captured by tribesmen in the Đắk Lắk Province in 1971 (though, somehow, this hasn’t been verified and is therefore not indisputable proof).

It’s also claimed that, in 1982, Professor Tran Hong Viet took plaster casts of a footprint belonging to the Người rừng. This article says “The length [of the foot] wasn’t extraordinary, but it was much wider than a normal human footprint. The toes, too, were longer than human toes.” Viet found the footprints on the Chu Mo Ray Mountain.

Like with ordinary people, the height of “forest people” is said to vary, from between 3 to 7 feet. Contrary to other accounts, this article claims the creatures are generally harmless to people, and are “known to stroll up to campfires and sit down beside the villagers.” Well, isn’t that nice?

That’s not like another account: “This animal was stockier [than ordinary apes]; he was a darker colour, a lot more muscular. This different creature… would burst out of the jungle into a clearing and just rail at us – yelling and screaming and [shaking’ his fists. It was very human behaviour… it was real obvious that he took exception to our presence there.”  That’s an excerpt from
Very Crazy G.I. – Strange but True Stories of the Vietnam War by Kregg P. J. Jorgenson.

Unity with the forest people?

Unity with the forest people might make a difference, it seems. If you look like you belong to the region and don’t cause a ruckus, maybe they’ll leave you alone — instead of throwing rocks at you, flipping the bird or throwing you down a cliff onto the craggy rocks below.  Anyway, that’s the big question here for me: Are these mythical “forest people” ticked off most of the time or not?

Some accounts make it seem like people aren’t their bag. Others make it sound like they’d invite people over for tea. The Shields Gazette article suggests they even know how to start fires, but apparently don’t do it in a hostile manner. Either way, it seems we shouldn’t fear the Batutut more than regular people, who often bring about wicked drugs, crime, and other dangers to society.

My real theory on hostile accounts of the Batutut? It’s a sign that we live in a world full of storytellers, and most exciting stories involve danger, or even violence. They’re crafted with suspense building mechanisms, and have a cathartic edge to them. Saying, “Oh, those forest people are harmless” isn’t as compelling as saying, “I’ve heard they rip people’s guts out, man! There’s blood everywhere, then they howl like a satanic jet engine and set fire to the village.” Dangerous animals (and people) are more exciting than ordinary ones, and the same goes for cryptids.

Plaster caster, grab a hold of me faster

Has the Batutut (or the rock ape) received any mainstream attention? Kind of. The 5th season premiere of Syfy’s Destination Truth looked into the creature, bringing some purported footprint casts to to Idaho State University professor & anthropologist Don Jeffrey Meldrum. He said its some of the strongest evidence he’s seen (though it should be noted he’s a “Bigfoot believer”). I know I want to say there’s something to”forest people.”

It doesn’t help that, when talking about such creatures, people are always just listing the same accounts. Also, regarding casts, I seem to recall some TV episode where it was revealed how easy it is to make realistic huge, fake footprints.

Next. Crossbreed: Science fiction meets body horror comfort food. dark

Proof of concept?

Even if you don’t believe in the Batutut (or forest people, or rock apes or the wild man), there is arguably proof of concept with the discovery of Homo floresiensis in 2003. Said to be an extinct species that’s distinct from modern humans, the skeletal remains definitely still look similar to humans.

They may be extinct and separate from the Người Rừng (and from ourselves), but they’re a reminder of possibilities. Similarly, an adorable house cat may remind us of the saber-toothed cats that once stalked the earth. You especially wouldn’t want one of those clawing at your furniture!

That’s it for this Call of the Cryptid! What are your thoughts on the Batutut? Let us know in the comments!