Proto-Nazi Hoax: The “Ape” in Green Hell

Posted by: Loren Coleman on March 29th, 2007

Dr. Francois de Loys' ape Ameranthropoides loysi

If this was such an extraordinary image, why did the alleged photographer not show the back end of the primate and why did he keep it stored away for almost ten years?

The photograph (above) of an alleged “Ameranthropoid ape” supposedly was taken in South America by François de Loys. It has a checkered history, and was used for proto-Nazi racist promotion in the late 1920s and early 1930s, despite the fact it is most certainly a spider monkey (below).

Dr. Francois de Loys' ape

Dr. Francois de Loys' ape

Basically, two schools exist about this photo. 1) There are those that believe the François de Loys story and thus believe he saw some apes run bipedally. They believe he killed one, and he photographed an “ape”; and 2) there are those that understand the evidence appears to demonstrate a hoax coming out of George Montandon’s promotion and François de Loys’s interest in supporting a racist theory for the origins of the Indians of the Americans. All testimony and photographic evidence must be viewed in light of their racist motives, in my opinion. And the “ape” story, mostly supported by verbal information, then collapses easily.

While Heuvelmans, in his classic book, On the Track of Unknown Animals (Fr. 1995; Eng. 1958), writes the de Loys photograph is one of the best pieces of evidence for a cryptid, he appears to have changed his firm stance by the time his checklist was published. He retreated in his opinions on the creature for when the checklist was published in Cryptozoology in 1986, this photographic evidence was not mentioned.

However, Heuvelmans still retained the notion that large unknown apes or large monkeys may exist in South America, a concept that I agree with, of course. Consideration of apes in South America, I contend, has nothing to do with being skeptical of the de Loys photo. It will also be noted, Heuvelmans does not mention the Patterson-Gimlin footage either, as he does not accept that this film from 1967 is authentic.

I would assume that many which rush to note Heuvelmans apparent support of the de Loys “ape” do not so quickly side with his opinion of the Patterson-Gimlin film. On these two issues, I tend to disagree with Heuvelmans’s sense of both, as I accept the Patterson-Gimlin footage as a good probable record of a Bigfoot in California, but found the de Loys “ape” photograph has been employed in such a way that it must be labeled a hoax.

Michel Raynal and I wrote extensively about the de Loys matter in two issues of The Anomalist; one was the article noted directly below, and the other was a followup rebuttal to critics.

The Anomalist 4
Autumn 1996
“De Loys’s Photograph: A Short Tale of Apes in Green Hell, Spider Monkeys, and Ameranthropoides loysi as Tools of Racism”
by Loren Coleman and Michel Raynal
Perhaps the most famous photograph in cryptozoology is the snapshot of an animal, said to be an ape, seated on a wooden crate, taken in the rainforests of South America, allegedly in 1920. Adventurers, popular anthropologists and early cryptozoologists have retold the story of this South American ape photograph so many times, that it has become one of the field’s most celebrated illustrations . . . It is time to ask why the animal in the photo was promoted as an “ape”–instead of just being viewed as a curious picture of a large spider monkey. The answer lies in racism…84.


On this subject, I agree with Ivan T. Sanderson when he writes:

This matter has played such a prominent and, in my opinion, harmful and misleading part in ABSMery, I would like to try and dispose of it once and for all – or, at least, once again; for this has really been done several times already…

First, this picture produced by Dr. Francois de Loys is obviously that of a Spider-Monkey which is a very distinct type of South American primate that may be seen in any zoo. It displays all the characteristics of that genus – narrow shoulders and pinched chest; comparative lengths of upper and lower arms and legs; hands and feet in detail; and the enlarged clitoris of a female. In fact, it is a pretty clear picture of one of these animals – dead.

Sanderson’s book can be read for his insights into how to determine the height of this not too tall spider monkey. Raynal’s analysis concurs. Then Sanderson goes on:

Thus this animal, with its head poked up to an unnatural degree by a stick, measures about 27 inches [it measuring 10x:6x as against the box]. This is a fair-sized Spider-Monkey but not even a large one.

The original photograph is not just a case of mistaken identity; it is an outright hoax, and an obnoxious one at that, being a deliberate deception….Ivan T. Sanderson Chapter 8, Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life, Philadephia: Chilton, 1961.

As Sir Arthur Keith said about this picture when he saw it: “A photograph of the animal from behind would have clinched matters…”

Dr. Francois de Loys' ape

The French cryptozoologist Michel Raynal must be fully credited with the rediscovery that the describer of the alleged new species, Dr. George Montandon, was actually a racist and anti-semetic, who thought that “Whites” derived from Cro-Magnon man, “Blacks” from gorillas, and “Orientals” from orangs and gibbons. His hatred of Jewish people was graphically shown during the 1930s-1940s when he tried to devise ways to stop the Jewish population from reproducing (one “solution” of his was to cut off the noses of Jewish women). The de Loys “ape” was the final piece in the Montandon-de Loys racist theory that this new Ameranthropoid was the ancestor of the American Indians (or in one version, “the Jews”).

The entire discussion of this photograph needs to be framed in terms the François de Loys “ape” being a spider monkey and it’s use as that of a hoax for political purposes.

People have assumed details told by de Loys as fact, such as the report of the attack of the two primates, the number of teeth found, and other details. But how does one count 32 teeth (a detail first noted by Montandon) in the photo, as the skull was reportedly lost? Any statements of François de Loys and George Montandon are suspect.

Raynal also found new information (from material published first in 1929 and 1962) that confirmed what we had earlier discovered. Raynal found that François de Loys

– tied his “discovery” to the origins of Indians theory from the beginning,
– modeled the encounter on the gorilla-hoax encounters from Africa.

And from an acquaintance of de Loys, records reviewed by Raynal indicate that

– de Loys was a “bromista” (prankster);
– the tail of the monkey was probably cut off by de Loys; and
– the animal was photographed in a banana plantation.

Most likely, the animal in the photo was simply an upper-limit-sized female specimen of Ateles belzebuth, a spider monkey. Thus, no South American ape has ever been photographed. White-bellied or long-haired spider monkeys, Ateles belzebuth, are found in the northeastern portion of the Amazon in South America. Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, and Brazil.

The expedition of de Loys was reported to be in Venezuela. The explorers took some photos, and returned to put them in with de Loys’s pile of other photos, unremarkable travel images, for nine years, until a proto-Nazi discovered them to use for his own sinister purposes. Unfortunately, some people interested in cryptozoology still champion them without taking any account of their history.

In 1998, Pierre Centlivres and Isabelle Girod published an article on the améranthropoïde, in the review of Gradhiva ethnology, and come to the radical conclusion: it is about a hoax assembled by George Montandon, on the basis of its prejudice (racialism) on the origins of the man. Having fallen by chance on the photograph from the monkey by traversing the documents piled up by Loys on the Motilones Indians, Montandon saw there the “missing link” between the South American monkeys and the Indians, who consolidated it in his delirious theory of the ologenism. Consequently, he used it to prove the existence of a South American anthropoïde (Centlivres and Girod 1998).

It is the assumption already discovered (independently of Centlivre and Girod), by Loren Coleman and Michel Raynal (1996, 1997), two researchers whom one can only with difficulty suspect of being anti-cryptozoologique.Michel Raynal

CENLIVRES, Pierre, and Isabelle GIROD
1998 George Montandon and the large American monkey. The invention of Ameranthropoides loysi. Gradhiva, n° 24: 33-43.

COLEMAN, Loren, and Michel RAYNAL
1996 De Loys’ photograph: shorts have bruises of apes in Green Hell, spider monkeys, and Ameranthropoides loysi have the tools of racism. The Anomalist, n° 4: 84-93 (Autumn).
1997 One of Loys’ S photograph. The Anomalist, n° 5: 143-153 (Summer).

1929 Discovered of a monkey of appearance anthropoïde in South America. Newspaper of the Company of the Americanists of Paris, 21 [n° 6]: 183-195.

1999 the mysterious monkey of Of Vaud of Loys. 24 Hours (October 15).

VILORIA, Angel L., Free URBANI, y Bernardo URBANI
1998 François de Loys (1892-1935) there a hallazgo desdeñado: the historia of una controversia antropológica. Interciencia, 23 [n° 2]: 94-100 (marzo-abril).

VILORIA, Angel L., Free URBANI, Stuart McCOOK and Bernardo URBANI
1999 Of Lausanne to the forests vénézuéliennes. Geological mission of François de Loys (1892-1935) and origins of an anthropological controversy. Bulletin of the Company Of Vaud of the Natural Science, 86 [n° 3]: 157-174 (September).

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

24 Responses to “Proto-Nazi Hoax: The “Ape” in Green Hell”

  1. busterggi responds:


    So, because years after the photo was supposed to have been taken it was used as’evidence’ by whackos for socio-political propaganda that ‘proves’ the photo is a hoax?

    I’ve seen photos of a Nazi Bund rally at Madison Square Garden, NYC, that was held in the late ’30’s. They displayed a pictures of Hitler and George Washington on the same stage. Using your logic George Washington must have been a hoax.

    I don’t think so.

    Why is it so hard to believe that a species of large tailess monley, evolutionally derived from spider monkey lineage might exist?

    Why I even have a book called ‘The Field Guide to Bigfoot, Yeti and Other Mystery Primates Worldwide’ by some guy, that includes a couple of giant monkeys from South America so someone in this community thinks giant monkeys may exist in SA.

  2. Loren Coleman responds:

    Please re-read the blog, buster. You apparently missed the point that accepting that giant monkeys or apes may be in South America has nothing to do with the finding that this photograph was used to support evidence of an “ape” for political reasons. The photo is of a known species of monkey.

    Whether or not there are other unknown primates in South America, and I think evidence indicates there may be, is separate from the point of this essay.

  3. kittenz responds:

    I believe it is possible, even likely, that there are giant monkeys, and maybe apes too, in Central and South America. I also think that the de Loys photo is that of a common spider monkey.

    Spider monkeys are surprisingly ape-like in appearance, notwithstanding the fact that they have that long, prehensile tail.

  4. Ceroill responds:

    This one has fascinated me for years. I first saw and read about this photo back in the 70’s, but there was no mention then (in what I was reading) of the political / racist background of the situation. Very interesting, Loren. Thanks for the illumination.

  5. mystery_man responds:

    Same here, Ceroill. This enigmatic photo had always enthralled me in my younger days. It wasn’t until it became apparent that it was a hoax and there were racist intentions behind it that my fascination turned to disdain. I have no tolerance for racism whatsoever, and the ulterior motives behind this photo make me seethe a bit. I find it interesting that there are some camps that still embrace this photo as anything other than what it clearly shows, which is a spider monkey.
    That being said, I think it is likely that some form of ape exists in South America and I definately think there are undiscovered monkeys there. I personally think South America is one of the great frontiers for cryptozoology.

  6. Ceroill responds:

    mystery_man, I agree wholeheartedly.

  7. Bob Michaels responds:

    Excellent analysis of Ameranthropoides loysi photo. the tail had to removed in the picture to fool Heuvelmans, he conceded that the Spider Monkey is undoubtedly like A.Loysi, but is much smaller and has a long prehensile tail.

  8. Beachdaddy03 responds:

    A+ to Loren, Kittenz, and mystery_man. I have been to Central and South America. This picture is of a spider monkey. The hands and feet of this monkey are for climbing. You can see this in the photo. The jungles there are so vast that I too believe there could be other primates of unknown origin living there.

  9. Mysteriousness responds:

    Beachdaddy03 – that’s a great point and exactly what I was thinking. The de Loys ape has all the physiological signs of a climbing monkey and probably does have a tail as well – just because we can’t see it in the photo does not mean it does not exist.

    I always default to Occam’s Razor. Since it looks just like a spider monkey, then it probably is a spider monkey.

    That isn’t to say there aren’t unknown primates – just probably not this one.

  10. daledrinnon responds:

    I strongly disagree with Loren on this. Loren knows this. I strongly disagree that the photo represents a Spider Monkey and I strongly disagree that a photograph attributed to one person is proven a hoax by the political leanings of another person.

    Now Loren can argue about it all he wants, I have had my say, and frankly, I do not see any reason for further discussion.

    With all deference to Loren because to this being his blogsite, naturally.

    I am simply stating my honest opinion. It pains me to see this matter brought up once again.

    Oh and I for one do not appreciate the “Read the information given above, Buster” approach. It smacks of an effort to discredit any contrary opinions as uninformed. I have corresponded with Heuvelmans, I side with him, and I am NOT uninformed on the subject.

  11. Loren Coleman responds:

    Regarding Dale’s email: Discussion is what this comment section is about, so, of course, there is reason for more discussion.

    For example, the shape and structure of the feet of the photographed primate demonstrate that this is not a bipedal animal. That was a good point brought up in one of today’s comments.

    As to my comment to “Buster,” well, that’s his name, and he did misstate and ignore my clarification within the blog that I sense there are unknown primates in SA. Of course, I am going to counter such a comment, which is not a contrary opinion, but a misstatement of my position.

    Obviously, this photo is real, per se. However, my, Raynal’s, and others’ position that it was employed for political and racism reasons calls for the use of the word “hoax,” if a spider monkey picture is protrayed as an “ape.” Sanderson’s position is clear, as well, that this was a spider monkey, way back in 1961.

  12. hlw responds:

    loren has told us his honest opinion, and backs it up with facts. This blog is for debate on all things. Daledrinnon if you do not agree fine, what is it? do you have any facts or even theries to put forward? It looks like a spider monkey. give us another Idea. Give us something to go on.

  13. mystery_man responds:

    A good thing to look at is the feet. Those are feet designed for an arboreal lifestyle, with long toes and opposing big toes. This is useful for climbing through trees and grasping branches, but not so efficient for bipedalism. The feet on this specimen would not be productive for this purpose and I do not think a bipedal ape would evolve to have feet like the ones seen in the photo. To me, they look excactly like the kind of feet one would find on a tree dwelling monkey, like a spider monkey. There are other physiological traits of the spider monkey here as well and the only thing that does not resemble a spider monkey is the lack of tail, which as has been said before, could have been hidden or cut off. It is more likely to me that this is the case than the theory that this is some sort of new bipedal ape. The idea that the tail is hidden or missing seems like a reasonable theory to me considering that the morphology of the pictured animal is strikingly similar to a spider monkey. And then there are those feet. Just by looking at the feet of the one in the photo, they are not of a type that have evolved for regular bipedalism.

  14. mystery_man responds:

    The comparatively long, sinewy arms are also indicative of an arboreal primate. I think Mysteriousness made a good point. With only this photo as physical evidence, and the appearance that so highly resembles a spider monkey (if you compare the spider monkey photo, I really think it is hard to see this thing as anything else), I think it is quite reasonable to come to the conclusion that a spider monkey is what this thing is most likely to be. Citing lack of tail and so on to me is not enough to outweigh the other visual evidence presented in the picture, or the comparative analysis with the spider monkey photos, especially as absent tail could be attributed to a mundane explaination.

  15. joppa responds:

    It’s not just the feet, look at the hands – spider monkey hands – designed for hanging from limbs, swinging on vines and living in trees – like a spider monkey.

    Most ground dwelling apes or monkeys don’t have such pronounced “tree climbing” hands. Every part of this critter says “I’m a tree dweller”.

  16. mystery_man responds:

    Yes, Joppa, the hands too. The feet are just the first thing that jumps out at me here.

  17. daledrinnon responds:

    The hands are the key to the identification.

    Willy Ley, when discussing the photo mentions that it has “Small thumbs.” It does indeed have small thumbs. Spider Monkeys are Thumbless. The genus name. Ateles, refers to this.

    The hands and feet are not like a spider monkey, in fact they compare favorably to a siamang’s. The strip of flesh between the nostrils is also not wider than a Siamang’s, but the nostrils are dialated. It is NOT necessarily Platyrhinnian.

    The crux of the matter is this allegation that the photograph is a hoax based on the assumption that the hoax was motivated for racist purposes. That line of reasoning is fallacious and illogical. There are a couple of logical steps needed in between there to make the assertion true. Those logical steps are not proven and hence not there, and the syllogism does not exist. You simply cannot get from the photo to the assertion of a racist hoax on the basis of the presented facts, it is a paranoid statement.

  18. Loren Coleman responds:

    Calling a statement “paranoid” is unnecessary, and is getting rather close to flaming and anyone continuing to do such things will be booted from here. Please refrain from such comments, and instead more fully explain yourself in points of fact.

    The history of how this photo was allegedly taken, how it was stored away, and how Montandon “discovered” it and used it, engaging de Loys in his plot, has been overviewed closely here and more in depth in the articles on the matter (see references).

    An unremarkable but strange photograph of a spider monkey was discovered, and then it was used incorrectly for Montandon’s racist purposes. I would call that a hoax created by Montandon.

    Why is this line of thinking of myself and Raynal so difficult for Drinnon to understand without getting into unjustified attacks on the theorists? Montandon’s history is clear. His “American anthropoid” cannot be separated from his history, as if, because we are talking about cryptozoology, he gets a pass.

  19. MBFH responds:

    I’ve always been dubious of the photo showing anything other than a tree living ape since I was a youngster. It’s the feet and hands.

    Is there any chance of a larger imagine as I’ve never been able to make out the thumbs that are described, that Dale refers to?

  20. Loren Coleman responds:

    Regarding what is seen on the hands of this specimen:

    The thumbs of its hands are extremely small – also a characteristic of the spider-monkeys. The genitals (which are not a penis but a clitoris, for it is indeed a female) are strikingly large. All female spider-monkeys have an over-developed clitoris.Bernard Heuvelmans, On the Track of Unknown Animals, 3rd rev. ed., 1995: page 369

  21. mystery_man responds:

    True, spider monkeys have either no thumbs, or small stumps for thumbs, but examining this photo, I see no thumbs on the creature and so I cannot see how the hands point to something other than a spider monkey. I do not see the “small thumbs” that were mentioned by Willy Ley. Lets not forget that spider monkeys can have stump like thumbs, although they are not opposable. Even if there are small thumbs present, the hands, feet, and limbs point towards a tree dwelling primate and not those of a bipedal ape. Therefore, the presence of thumbs would merely rule out a spider monkey, yet not the evidence that this is anything other than an arboreal primate. At the very most, this could be a new type of primate, but a clearly arboreal one. The morphology of the creature in the photo is not consistent with that of a land dwelling, bipedal ape.

  22. mystery_man responds:

    Yes, Loren, thank you for posting that. Indeed spider monkeys can have very small thumbs which is the most I can gather the pictured creature has. There is no evidence whatsoever that I can see that points to this being anything other than a spider monkey or at the very most another type of tree dwelling monkey.

  23. things-in-the-woods responds:

    Its a real photo. Of a real spider monkey.

  24. traveler responds:

    OK, here it goes. I don’t post many comments on here, but this is one where I must. Loren might remember me discussing a sighting of my fathers. If this is a pic of a real creature or not, I don’t know, but I know this. There are large monkey\apes in those jungles. Larger than what science knows there to be. I was born and raised in those jungles. My father was a jungle explorer. He did see very large thick bodied monkey/apes. He saw them at a distance. His closest comparison to size was that of a chimp. They were dark colored, and moved very very fast through the trees. He said they were definitely bigger than any type of monkey he was familiar with, including the howlers, and the grey woolys, which got to be quite large. I grew up with many pet monkeys, including several spider monkeys, some capuchins, some bat monkeys, squirrel monkeys, and even bat monkeys that weren’t supposed to be in our area of the jungle. This picture just doesn’t seem to really be a common spider monkey. There’s something in the face that just doesn’t set right with me. Honestly, I can’t really describe it. Something in the jaw and face. I have seen many many dead monkeys, and even then it doesn’t seem right. Is this a large creature? I don’t think we can really know, but I am not comfortable with the whole common spider monkey thing.

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