Vietnam Bigfoot (Forest Man/Batutut) – Is it Real?

This past summer the program Destination Truth investigated whether the Vietnam bigfoot was real. They did a great job investigating and came away with a very good casting of a footprint.

It got me thinking, was there any more evidence of this creature’s existence? What did people know about it? What I found may surprise you.

Vietnam War Era

In the mid 1960s, US soldiers were living the nightmare of the Vietnam war deep within the jungles of Vietnam and Laos. The two countries share a long border and on either side of this border lies vast tracks of dense, unforgiving jungle. In addition to the horrors of war that they experienced, they also encountered strange and exotic creatures and terrain that they had never seen or heard of before in this jungle.

I heard an interview with retired Sgt. Thomas M. Jenkins, who had been sent on reconnaissance missions during his tour in Vietnam in 1969. He said that one day he saw a band of large apes throwing rocks at his platoon. That’s why the soldiers referred to these big animals as “rock apes”.  At another point a band of these apes actually threw a marine off the rock pile. So the soldiers were wary of them.

Biologists will tell you that there are a variety of apes and related animals living in those jungles. But Jenkins insists that several times they came face to face with a very different kind of ape. He said, “This animal was stockier, he was a darker color, a lot more muscular. This different creature would awaken them early in the morning, would burst out of the jungle into a clearing and just rail at us – yelling and screaming and shake his fists. It was very human behavior and it was real obvious that he took exception to our presence there.”

Are you wondering why no one took a picture of this thing? It almost makes me weep! I don’t know what the state of cameras was in the 1960s, nor if they could have been carried around by soldiers. I’m guessing in the midst of a war, you’re not worrying about sightseeing, and so we have no photos.

Interestingly, it wasn’t just the US soldiers who saw this large ape. Soldiers on the North Vietnamese side reported seeing the Forest Man, too. They said the creatures attacked their soldiers.

Cliff Barackman (of the Finding Bigfoot show) shared a tale told to his father by a Vietnam vet. It seems the man’s platoon was firing on the enemy, deep in the jungle. At one point, nearby on a hill, a Bigfoot walked through a clearing, then retreated the way it came. Next he saw it climbing a steep embankment/cliff before it disappeared into the thick jungle. The animal had no problem scaling the steep incline and that greatly impressed the soldier.

In an interview on Monster Quest, retired helicopter pilot and Vietnam vet Larry Wilson reported his own sighting of the Vietnam bigfoot. In November or December of 1970 he was flying a mission heading down a stream valley. He ascended to pass over a ridge line when he saw a defoliated tree wiggling, then he saw an ape man shaking the same tree. He said its skull was flat on top, about the size of a soccer ball, had facial features like a man, and no tail. Larry had a clear view of the creature and was certain it was an ape man.

Vietnamese Investigate

Long after the war ended, a respected Vietnamese biologist, Professor Vo Quy, set out to investigate the stories of the Forest man. Many soldiers told him their accounts of the creature and what happened to them during the war. Professor Quy said a friend of his, former soldier, told him he saw the animal in the jungle with his binoculars.

Bigfoot on Ice?

But the strangest story about the Forest Man/Batutut/Bigfoot was this one:

Sometime in 1966, it was reported that some American GIs captured an ape man. They came by helicopter up to the base in the mountains bringing something strange with them. The report said there was an ape man in a big net that hung from the bottom of the helicopter. They stayed for one hour in the airport then flew to Da Nang.

Interestingly, soon after the U.S. press started reporting that large apes in Vietnam were  interfering with military operations. One article I saw dates to November of 1966.

Here’s where it gets bizarre. In 1967 in Chico, CA (9000 miles from Vietnam), a large ape frozen in a block of ice and set in a macabre coffin shaped box was unveiled in a local carnival display. The carnival called it the “Minnesota Iceman” and it caused quite an uproar.

People clamored to know more about it, so finally a Belgian zoologist, Bernard Heuvelman examined the body. Mind you, the body was still encased in ice. But he concluded it was a new species and named it “homo pongoides”.

The carnival toured with the creature all around the country, then the corpse disappeared and was never seen again.

The carnival promoter, Frank Hansen, refused to divulge where or how he obtained the ape man. Rumors circulated that it came from Indochina (southeast Asia – which is where Vietnam and Laos are). Interestingly, Frank Hansen was a Vietnam vet and a fighter pilot who was stationed in Da Nang the same time witnesses saw the ape man being airlifted out of town.

Gigantopithecus Origins?

If these are ancestors of Gigantopithecus, they could have survived the ice age because it didn’t reach into southeast Asia. It would seem that the Yeti of the Himalayas and possibly the Yerin of China adapted to survive the colder, harsher climates further north. But the more temperate southern climates would have suited a large ape. If they survived all that time, it would seem they also probably survived the war.

Journalist and Bigfoot researcher Linda Moulton-Howe visited Vietnam and Laos to investigate the reports of the ape man herself.  She met with zoologist Kham Khoune Khounboline who was part of the 1992 research team that discovered the previously unknown saola species which looks like a cross between an antelope and a bovine. See photo just below. He believes the whole region is a goldmine of wildlife diversity, much of which is still unknown.

To that point, as recently as February of this year, a new species of bat was discovered in Vietnam. Its distinctive echolocation frequency alerted researchers to its presence and they discovered the bat and classified it as part of the genus Hipposideros. It was named H. griffini after the late Professor Donald Redfield Griffin of Rockefeller University in New York.

Khounboline found an unusual footprint that convinced him a large primate was living in the jungle. He said it was not a bear, it was not a human footprint. Local guides told him that this species is dangerous and if it finds people, it can kill them.

Moulton-Howe interviewed a former Laotian soldier who lives in the deep jungle in a small community of farmers. He claims that during the war he saw a reddish-black forest man. It made a distinct sound like, “eh eh eh”, like a monkey man.

A local farmer, Brinthan Senkham’s brother found ape man hair in one of his wooden traps. The cage had been broken, smelled terrible, and had the hair on it. His brother said there were foot prints around the area. The prints were oval shaped with no claws. They figure the ape man was about six feet tall. Further tests on the hair proved inconclusive.

Impossible Conditions

Searching for the ape man/Bigfoot in the dense jungles of Vietnam and Laos is nearly impossible due to the huge amount of unexploded bombs and related dangers that litter the entire area. Roads routinely wash out during the rainy season making the roads impassable. The jungle is so dense and thick that in most areas, you can just about see in front of your face and that’s it.

The logistics of mounting a search in that prime ape man territory are nearly insurmountable. But that didn’t stop Josh Gates of Destination Truth from trying to find it!

Destination Truth Investigates

Josh interviewed Dr. Tran Hong Viet of the Cryptozoic Research Center, a center started by the Vietnamese government to determine if the Batutut, or Forest man, really exists.  After 30 years of researching this elusive animal, he believes it exists. He describes it as about six feet tall with red-brown fur, and it lives in the jungle.

Dr. Viet found a foot print years ago in a remote cave that was neither human nor known primate. He showed it to Josh who photographed it extensively.

Later at the Zoological Museum, Josh met with primatologist Vu Ngoc Thanh. He described how scientists find an average of twenty new species a year in that area.

Kebang National Park is a vast area on either side of the Vietnam/Laos border and it’s a hotspot for sightings of the Forest man. The area is virtually unexplored, so that’s where Josh and crew went to investigate.

If you get a chance to see the repeat, it’s worth watching. They had a stone thrown at them, they heard heavy footsteps coming towards them, and they heard strange animal calls.

The highlight of their search was when Josh found a pristine, fresh footprint which he cast and brought back to the States for further study. Professor Jeff Meldrum examined the cast and confirmed that it was a sterling sample of an unknown primate in Vietnam, and a significant find for that area of the world, especially.

Ice Man Wentith?

Wondering what happened to the ape man encased in ice? I’m betting it went to the highest bidder for some very private, very exotic collector. If a collector doesn’t have it, then I’m thinking the military may have taken it back for further study or whatever.

I also can’t help but wonder why the Belgian zoologist didn’t take samples. I dug a little deeper and found a surviving video of Bernard Heuvelman describing what he saw. He examined the body for 3 days, described how it was killed (shot in one eye which was missing and which caused the other eye to come out of its socket). He thought at the time, it may have been a Neanderthal man, but his description corresponds exactly to a Bigfoot.

Further muddying this mystery is a statement on Wikipedia about the Minnesota Iceman, “[Primatologist John} Napier, in conjunction with the Smithsonian, made preliminary investigations of Hansen’s affairs, finding that Hansen had commissioned the creation of the Iceman from a West Coast company in 1967, leading Napier to conclude there was only ever one Iceman latex model, repositioned and refrozen between appearances. Napier stated that “The Smithsonian Institution…is satisfied that the creature is simply a carnival exhibit made of latex rubber and hair…the ‘original’ model and the present so-called ‘substitute’ are one and the same.”

Well, then what did the soldiers see in Vietnam? What was airlifted out of Da Nang? Where did that animal go, then?

Further claims suggest that in 2002 the body of the now thawed iceman had resurfaced. There is a photo (see photo) that suggests it was hard to get clear pictures due to the condensation on the glass atop the exhibit, and that mold had darkened the facial features. The body had supposedly been buried somewhere in a California forest in the interim. Surely it would have rotted by 2002?

Verdict Please!

I guess we’ll never know the whole truth about the Minnesota Iceman, but one thing does seem clear. With all the eyewitness accounts from people living and working (and fighting) in that area of the world, it seems there is a large unidentified-by-science primate walking around. Hopefully one day we’ll have definitive proof of its existence and it will be welcomed onto the roster of animals known by science!

What do you think?

13 comments

  1. My dad is a Vietnam vet and he told me he saw one of these while he was fighting out there. Decided to do some web surfing to see if he was bullshitting me or not.

    My thoughts on the Minnesota Iceman after reading this post: If the Minnesota Iceman was indeed a latex model, I think it’s still interesting Frank Hansen decided to commission its creation after returning from the war. Probably inspired by something he saw out there.

    • Seth – that is fascinating to hear! I’ve been dying to find a Vietnam vet who actually saw one of these creatures. Do you think he’d mind if I asked him a few questions? I could contact him by email or phone, whichever he’d prefer. Please let me know if he would be interested. Thanks! … Susan

  2. I’ll talk to him next time I see him and see what he says. He actually told me about it a long while ago so I’m trying to think of how to even broach the subject. But I’ll definitely get back to you with good or bad news. Just might take a bit since I only see him once every month or two (he’s retired down in Mexico and I’m in SoCal).

  3. Great article, Susan. So much abstract proof but as always, no physical evidence. We know these creatures are out there. You would think that SOMEBODY all these years would have found some proof by now. But I’m a believer.

  4. I was a recon Marine in 1968 and 1969. We worked out of An Hoa . On one of our patrols we had a big hairy ape like creature pass in front of our patrol in the jungle. Later that evening when we set up our harbor site , after setteling in and everyone going to sleep except the radio watch. We were awoken by loud screaming and grunting along with breaking of treelimbs or brush . We maintained fire control and did not set off our claymores . It all ended and that was the last experiance with said creature . I told a professor at the University of Montana about it and was told I must have been dreaming as there are no great apes in Vietnam . He taught anthropology. Well I know we saw it and heard it .

    • Pete, would it be possible to get in touch with you so I could ask you some more questions about your encounter? If you don’t mind, I would like to email you.

      … Susan (CryptoVille)

  5. Awhile back I wrote and you asked to get in touch with me . Do you still want to talk about said hairy fellow of the jungle . We didn’t harm him and he did not harm us . But he or she sure as hell gave us a scare late at night after we had crossed paths.

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