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The Beasts that Hide from ManPoint here for more book info
Seeking the World’s Last Undiscovered Animals
Karl P.N. Shuker, Ph.D.

Paraview Press, 2003
ISBN: 1931044643
Cryptozoology, 324 pages
Trade paperback, $17.95 / £11.99
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Excerpt
 

Excerpt from Chapter 5: A BELFRY OF CRYPTO-BATS

  For something is amiss or out of place
When mice with wings can wear a human face.

Theodore Roethke -- “The Bat”
 
     
  From the earliest times, bats have been viewed as creatures of mystery -- as arcane and abstruse as the opaque shadows of Night that animate so many of their kind. It is certainly true that during the past two centuries science has succeeded in brushing aside many cobwebs of longstanding confusion and credulity enveloping these winged wanderers, but there are a host of others still to be dealt with. Indeed, as disclosed in this chapter, there are certain sources of provocative (and scientifically inconvenient?) but little-known data on file that not only question the validity of some fondly treasured tenets of traditional bat biology, but also provide startling evidence for the existence of several dramatic species of bat still awaiting formal zoological discovery.
  
THE AHOOL AND THE OLITIAU -- OR, HOW BIG IS A BAT?
One evening in 1927, at around 11:30 p.m., naturalist Dr. Ernst Bartels was in bed inside his thatched house close to the Tjidjenkol River in western Java, and lay listening to the surrounding forest’s clamorous orchestra of nocturnal insects. Suddenly, a very different sound came winging to his ears from directly overhead -- a loud, clear, melodious cry that seemed to utter “A-hool!” A few moments later, but now from many yards further on, the cry came again -- a single “A-hool!” Bartels snatched his torch up and ran out, in the direction of this distinctive sound. Less than 20 seconds later he heard it once more, for the third and last time -- a final “A-hool!” that floated back towards him from a considerable distance downstream. As he recalled many years later in a detailed account of this and similar events (Fate, July 1966), he was literally transfixed by what he had heard -- not because he didn’t know what it was, but rather because he did!
  
The son of an eminent zoologist, Dr. Bartels had spent much of his childhood in western Java, and counted many of the local Sundanese people there as his close friends. Accordingly, he was privy to many strange legends and secret beliefs that were rarely voiced in the presence of other Westerners. Among these was the ardent native conviction that this region of the island harbored an enormous form of bat. Some of Bartels’s Sundanese friends claimed to have spied it on rare occasions, and the descriptions that they gave were impressively consistent. Moreover, as he was later to discover, they also tallied with those given by various Westerners who had reputedly encountered this mysterious beast.
  
It was said to be the size of a one-year-old child; with gigantic wings spanning 11 to 12 feet; short, dark-grey fur; flattened forearms supporting its wings; large, black eyes; and a monkey-like head, with a flattish, man-like face. It was sometimes seen squatting on the forest floor, at which times its wings were closed, pressed up against its flanks; and, of particular interest, its feet appeared to point backwards. When Bartels questioned eyewitnesses as to its lifestyle and feeding preferences, he learned that it was nocturnal, spending the days concealed in caves located behind or beneath waterfalls, but at night it would skim across rivers in search of large fishes upon which it fed, scooping them from underneath stones on the beds of the rivers. At one time, Bartels had suggested that perhaps the creature was not a bat but some type of bird, possibly a very large owl, but these opinions were greeted with great indignation and passionate denials by his friends, who assured him in no uncertain terms that they were well able to distinguish a bat from a bird! And as some were very experienced, famous hunters, he had little doubt concerning their claims on this score.
  
Even so, the notion of a child-sized bat with a 12-foot wingspan seemed so outrageous that he still had great difficulty in convincing himself that there might be something more to it than native mythology and imagination -- until, that is, the fateful evening arrived when he heard that unforgettable, thrice-emitted cry, because one of the features concerning the giant bat that all of his friends had stressed was that when flying over rivers in search of fish this winged mystery beast sometimes gives voice to a penetrating, unmistakable cry, one that can be best rendered as “A-hool! A-hool! A-hool!”
  
Indeed, the creature itself is referred to by the natives as the ahool, on account of its readily recognizable call -- totally unlike that of any other form of animal in Java, as Bartels himself was well aware.
  
Transformed thereafter from an ahool skeptic to a first-hand ahool  “earwitness,” Bartels set about collecting details of other ahool encounters for documentation, and eventually news of his endeavors reached veteran cryptozoologist Ivan T. Sanderson, who became co-author of Bartels’s above-cited Fate article.
  
The ahool was of special interest to Sanderson, because he too had met with such a creature -- but not in Java. Instead, he had been in the company of fellow naturalist Gerald Russell in the Assumbo Mountains of Cameroon, in western Africa, collecting zoological specimens during the Percy Sladen Expedition of 1932. As Sanderson recorded in his book Animal Treasure (1937), he and Russell had been wading down a river one evening in search of tortoises to add to their collection when, without any warning, a jet-black creature with gigantic wings and a flattened, monkey-like face flew directly toward him, its lower jaw hanging down and revealing itself to be unnervingly well-stocked with very large white teeth. Sanderson hastily ducked down into the water as this terrifying apparition skimmed overhead, then he and Russell fired several shots at it as it soared back into view, but the creature apparently escaped unscathed, wheeling swiftly out of range as its huge wings cut through the still air with a loud hissing sound. Within a few moments, their menacing visitor had been engulfed by the all-encompassing shadows of the night, and did not return….
 
© 2003 Karl P.N. Shuker, Ph.D.
 
 

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