Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. He is the author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), Dragons: A Natural History (1995), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), The Unexplained (1996), From Flying Toads To Snakes With Wings (1997), Mysteries of Planet Earth (1999), The Hidden Powers of Animals (2001), The Beasts That Hide From Man (2003), Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), Dragons in Zoology, Cryptozoology, and Culture (2013), The Menagerie of Marvels (2014), A Manifestation of Monsters (2015), Here's Nessie! (2016), and what is widely considered to be his cryptozoological magnum opus, Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors (2016) - plus, very excitingly, his first two long-awaited, much-requested ShukerNature blog books (2019, 2020).

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Thursday 26 July 2012


Artistic representation of Britain's bat-winged monkey-bird (Richard Svensson)

The following winged wonder only became known to me in mid-October 2007, when Jan Patience, acting editor of the now-defunct British monthly magazine Beyond for which I contributed a major cryptozoology article each issue, brought to my attention a truly extraordinary email that she had just received from a reader. At that time, I was preparing a lead article on lesser-known British mystery beasts for the next issue of the magazine, so the email reached me in time for me to investigate it further and include a full account of the case in my article (Beyond, January 2008), and it is this account of mine that I shall now quote from here.

The email in question had been sent by Jacki Hartley of Tunbridge Wells, Kent, concerning a truly bizarre beast that she claims to have encountered on three totally separate occasions, and which she reported as follows:

"Back in 1969 I was 4 years old and travelling back from my auntie’s house in London. Dad had been driving for about half an hour and we were going through the countryside. I was in the back of the car when I suddenly heard an awful, screeching scream. Mum and dad were in the front chatting and heard nothing. It was twilight and as I looked out of the back window into the trees, I saw what I could only describe as a monster.

"It had bat wings which it unfolded and stretched out before folding back up again, red eyes and a kind of monster monkey face with a parrot's beak and was about 3 feet in height.

"To my 4 year old mind it was terrifying and I had nightmares for weeks. I did not have a name for this thing in my vocabulary and so called it The Bat Winged Monkey Bird as it seemed to be such a weird mixture of animals.

"I saw it again late one night when I was eleven from the back window of the car on our way home from Hastings, I think we were travelling through Robertsbridge and I saw it for the third time last year.

"It was 4.30 in the morning and I was woken by the same horrible screeching sound. Thinking someone was being murdered in the street I jumped out of bed and ran to the window, catching the tail end of it as it flew past. I knew immediately what it was. . .the same horrible monster thing I had seen all those years ago, The Bat Winged Monkey Bird was back.

"I would be very grateful if you or any of your readers could shed any light on or put a name to this thing."

When Jan forwarded Jacki’s email to me, I was naturally extremely intrigued, and replied directly to it, requesting any further information that Jacki could send.

Close encounter with the bat-winged monkey-bird! (Ryan Durney/Birds of Lore)

In response, I received this second email, together with two accompanying pictures, one of which is Jacki’s own representation of what she saw, and the other a photo of her taken at the age when she experienced her first sighting of the monkey-bird:

"My most recent sighting was at 4.30am on 19-10-06 outside my bedroom window, I saw the tail end of it fly past after the awful screeching noise woke me up, my address is in Tunbridge Wells in Kent.

"The time before that I was on my way back from Hastings in Sussex, having just passed through Robertsbridge. While the first time I saw it, we were coming back from London, heading toward Kent and had been travelling for about 20-30 minutes. The creature was sitting in a tree in a field off to my right.

"As for my parents, they just laughed and said I must have fallen asleep and had a nightmare; they weren't interested and simply dismissed it, even though I had nightmares about it coming to get me.

"Although the creature looked solid flesh and blood and made an awful sound, I think it could be paranormal in origin as I have never seen or read about anything that even vaguely resembles it, but if it is real, I would love to know if anyone else has seen it."

Jacki Hartley’s sketch of the bat-winged monkey-bird, and a photograph taken of her at the age when she first saw it (Jacki Hartley)

There is no doubt that this grotesque entity as described by Jacki does not correspond even vaguely with any known species of animal native to Britain. And even when venturing beyond the known into the realms of cryptozoology and zooform phenomena, there is little to compare with it, especially from the British Isles. Perhaps the nearest is the Cornish owlman, a weird owl-human composite spied in the vicinity of Mawnan Church Cornwall, mostly during the 1970s, and discussed later here. Remarkably, however, as I discussed in my Beyond article, Jacki’s creature is certainly reminiscent of the Raymondville man-bat(s), for which there has never been a satisfactorily explanation.

Raymondville man-bat (artist unknown, but appeared in Creatures From Elsewhere (ed. Peter Brookesmith, 1984))

Consequently, here, for anyone who may be unfamiliar with the latter, is a summary of the Raymondville man-bat case, together with a similar one subsequently reported from LaCrosse, Illinois, as quoted from my book Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008):

"Sitting in his mother-in-law's backyard at Raymondville, Texas, on the evening of 14January 1976, Armando Grimaldo suddenly heard a strange whistling, and a sound that reminded him of flapping bats' wings - a highly pertinent comparison, as it turned out. For just a few seconds later, he was attacked by a man-sized monstrosity with the face of a bat or monkey, a pair of large flaming eyes but no beak, dark, leathery, unfeathered skin, and a pair of huge wings yielding a massive 10-12 ft wingspan (i.e. twice that of any known species of bat). Swooping down at the terrified man, the creature snatched at him with its big claws, but, happily, Grimaldo was able to flee inside before his aerial attacker had inflicted any serious injuries. Nevertheless, his encounter was just one of several on file from this particular region of Texas during early 1976, all documenting sightings of a similar entity.

"Another ‘man-bat’, 6-7-ft tall with a leathery 10-12-ft wingspan, clawed hands and feet, yellow eyes, well-delineated ears, and revealing a huge snarling mouth brimming with teeth, almost flew into the windscreen of a 53-year-old man, Wohali, as he was driving his truck (with his 25-year-old son as passenger) along a road near LaCrosse, Wisconsin, just after 9 pm on the evening of 26 September 2006. The creature then flew back up into the sky and vanished, but the shock of encountering it was such that both men became physically sick. They were convinced that it was a physical, tangible entity. This remarkable case has been documented in detail online by Linda Godfrey at http://www.cnb-scene.com/manbat.html"

LaCrosse man-bat (Richard Svensson)

Returning to Britain's bat-winged monkey-bird: What is also very strange about Jacki’s report is that she saw the creature in three very different geographical localities and over a considerable period of time, yet without any other eyewitnesses apparently having seen it – or have they? This is where you, gentle readers, come in.

Keeping an eye on the bat-winged monkey-bird...or is it the other way round?! (Ryan Durney/Birds of Lore)

Like Jacki, I would love to know if anyone out there has indeed seen this extraordinary creature, or something like it. So if you have, please get in touch with any details that you can provide. I now declare the case of the bat-winged monkey-bird well and truly open for online investigation!

Bat-winged monkey-bird as illustrated in colour for the front cover of the January 2008 issue of Beyond, containing my article on lesser-known British mystery beasts (Philippa Foster)


  1. Karl the following description of a Brazilian evil spirit called an akura's from Itzhak Beery's The Shamanic Truth of Evil Spirits on Reality Sandwich


    "just as I was closing my eyes and getting ready to spray the energy-cleansing Trago (sugar cane rum), I noticed a wicked-looking, black furry creature high above her, descending fast in her direction. I couldn't believe my mind's eye as I watched it attempt to clutch her in its sharp, long-nailed claws, huge monkey eyes popping out while it screamed through a crooked, eagle-like beak."

  2. I wonder if it was more along the lines of imaginary/sleep-related? I was trying to picture a car traveling at 30mph and the speed at which it passes a static object like the tree. From there, if we imagine a scenario where the child's attention is caught by the screech and sees the critter, it's a 'maybe.'

    So much movement though? I don't think there would be enough time for the critter to unfurl and furl its wings in the time taken for her attention to be caught and the car to pass by.

    I wonder if she had dozed off in the car for the first two encounters? This would allow for the possibility that she had had a hypnagogic/hypnopompic vision. With the final encounter occurring in the right conditions for a similar experience, it's worth considering. If it was sleep-related, it'd go further in explaining why she appears to be the sole witness to such a critter in England - it'd be a part of her internal mental landscape.

    In comparison, a couple of years ago I awoke to watch an abstract spherical object slowly travel towards me across the ceiling and down the wall. Even now, I can picture it clearly, but given the choice between it being a physical event or some transitional sleep weirdness, the weirdness wins. However, like Jacki, an element of uncertainty lingers.

  3. All I can think of is the song "Moonage Daydream" by Mr. Bowie and performed under the band name Arnold Corns;

    "I'm an alligator, I'm a mama-papa coming for you
    I'm the space invader, I'll be a rock 'n' rollin' bitch for you
    Keep your mouth shut,
    you're squawking like a pink monkey bird
    And I'm busting up my brains for the words..."

    The song was written in '71 though.

  4. Interesting! This looks like a bizarre creature.

  5. Thank you, Dr. Shuker, for helping the world to believe the incredible and impossible! Thanks to you, I believe in mermaids, bigfoot, nessie, ogopogo, the nandi bear and many creatures my sceptical mind once would have dismissed. Though really, I prefer to believe in mermaids over evil, creepy monkey-bat creatures lol!

    All the best, The Thinker

  6. I wonder if this is some type of owl. The descriptions are lacking in detail in terms of its coloration and proportions. Was it all feathers? I have difficulty appreciating it because of its singularity, not that she alone is the only claimant but that there seem to be three sightings from one person alone.

    The sighting from Lacrosse, Wisconsin is interesting, though I think it deserves more clarification as to what was observed.

  7. I wonder if the first witness simply saw an oout-of-place fruit bat or flying fox. Perhaps if someone had never seen one of these, they could get a fright and let their mind fill in the blanks (hence the beak, for example). Even then, however, the question remains, what would a fruit bat be doing in England?

  8. My aunt in law who lives in California, recently posted about hearing a terrible screeching sound accompanied by what sounded like very large wings flapping and something running across her roof. The only birds around hear large enough to make that type of commotion are pelicans, but they never come in this far from the coast and certainly do not screech. That story immediately came to mind when I read this article.

  9. For all those who doubt that this creature exists, here's what I gotta say. That thing exists. I should know, as it lived in the roof of my house for three years, making creepy scratching noises, scaring starlings and screeching at neighborhood cats.

    I remember I was about seven or eight, and I was with my family driving late at night, coming home from something or other, and I thought I saw a face reflected in the car window, looking at me.

    It had a beak, a kind of shaggy, feathery appearance, and it was exactly like the creature mentioned in this blog post. I didn't know what it was for years but now I do. That thing isn't a myth, people. It's real. And probably still swooping through the night sky to this day.