In 1920, a Swiss geologist named Francois de Loys was conducting an expedition through the South American jungle in a search for petroleum. Tropical diseases and restless natives took their toll on the search party: of the original twenty, only four persons survived. At one point the little group set up camp near the Tarra River (somewhere on the border between Columbia and Venezuela) and began to settle down for the night.
To the party’s astonishment, they were set upon by a pair of large apelike creatures – apparently a male and a female – which hooted and screeched at the men, shaking tree branches and throwing things. The creatures appeared to be nearly as tall as most of the men on the expedition – around five feet. The group opened fire with their rifles, and the female was killed, the male retreating into the dense jungle growth.
The female creature’s body was examined, and the men were puzzled as to being able to identify the creature: none had ever seen or heard of such an ape before. It had no tail; and it sported 36 teeth – four more than most monkeys found on the American continent. They propped the thing up with a stick and photographed it (see right), and hence created the only clue we have that the beast even existed. (The skin, skull, and jaw bone of the ape were supposedly brought back with the party, but these have never materialized.)
The photograph was not released for publication immediately, however; a friend of de Loys’, George Montandon, finally did so in 1929, referring to the creature (probably jokingly) as Ameranthropoides loysi. Scientists of the time dismissed the whole thing as a hoax, saying the ape was nothing more than a spider monkey, cleverly posed so that its tail was hidden and its correct size unable to be discerned.
Unfortunately, the story ends there: all we have left is the photograph. And although it isn’t an Earth-shattering mystery – after all, five-foot-tall apes could indeed have been running around in South America in 1920 – the de Loys ape continues to intrigue. Its face haunts amateur cryptozoologists who will always wonder whether there is more of its kind out there right now.