The Cryptid Zoo: Ahool, Olitiau and Other Giant Bats

In the 1940 film 'The Devil Bat' Bela Lugosi stars as a mad scientist who sents this giant bat to attack people. This screenshot is copyrighted by those who own the copyright to the film.
According to mainstream science, the world's biggest bat is the Bismark flying fox, an animal that never gets larger than six feet from wingtip to wingtip. According to cryptozoology, mainstream scientists might be wrong. Many sightings from seemingly reliable people suggest that this might not be the case. A number of bat species that are just as big or bigger might be out there, waiting for science to formally recognize them. The island of Java, not very far from the Bismark flying fox's home of New Guinea, is supposed to harbor a bat with a twelve-foot wingspan called the ahool. It cries sound like "A-hool" and it eats fish. It has gray fur and a flattened face with huge black eyes, with its head overall looking like a monkey's head. It is not attributed with supernatural powers, and seems like such a plausible animal that it has drawn the attention of naturalists. If a giant bat lived anywhere, the dense rainforests of Java would be a likely place.

Another plausible place for an undiscovered giant bat to live is Cameroon, a country in Africa where scientists have reported seeing a very similar bat. This creature is apparently called the olitiau by locals (but this might just be a curse word). It also has a twelve-foot wingspan and a monkey-like face, but its fur is pure black. It is regarded with a great deal of superstition and fear. It is not improbable that both of these bats might have monkey-like faces. Bats have a notoriously wide variety of head shapes, and many known species have heads resembling different animals such as foxes, dogs, lemurs or even horses!

Another possible African giant bat is the kongamato, which has also been interpreted as a pterosaur by some cryptozoologists. This creature is not quite so large, has reddish fur, and has a long snout instead of a flattened face. Madagascar, a large island just off the coast of Africa, has tales about a bat called the fangalabolo, with a wingspan larger than 5 feet, bigger than any other bat known to live in Madagascar. The Guiafairo of Senegal is described as a giant bat that is very smelly and often manages to terrify people by making its way indoors. It is hated very much, and its name translates to "the fear that flies by night." The mlularuka of Tanzania is perhaps the most tame and ordinary of undiscovered African bats. Like known species of giant bats, it is a fruit-eater and thus is mainly spoken of as a pest to agriculture. It is described as being the size of a dog.

Other giant bat reports sound less plausible and shade off into an area where it is nearly impossible to separate the few facts that might exist from the masses of folklore and the paranormal that these alleged facts are buried in. One such creature is the sasabonsam from Ghana in Africa. Depicted in folklore as a bearded human with bat wings, the one known body (which has sadly disappeared, along with the only photograph of it) was described as being far less human than the legends say. It was an animal like a huge bat, with a twenty-foot wingspan and stiff black-and-white spotted fur. It had huge teeth and heavy ridges over its eyes.

The Indonesian orang-bati is even more mythical. These human/bat monsters live in an extinct volcano on the island of Seram and abduct children. Still, some researchers working in the field of cryptozoology think that a real bat may be hiding behind these fantastical tales.

Giant vampire bat reports are generally kept separate from giant bat reports, mainly because the giant vampire bat is large for a vampire bat, but still medium-sized when compared to bats in general.

You can find out more about Giant Bats from the following sources:

Clark, Jerome and Coleman, Loren. Cryptozoology A-Z. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999. Pages 26, 38, 125-127

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Newton, Michael. Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology: A Global Guide to Hidden Animals and Their Pursuers. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2005. Pages 14, 38-39, 66, 82, 103, 153, 185-186, 234-235, 277, 300, 352, 354, 379, 382, 403, 410, 412

Shuker, Karl. The Beasts That Hide From Man: Seeking the World's Last Undiscovered Animals. New York: Paraview Press, 2003. Pages 84-93, 103-107

Wikipedia, The. Ahool

Wikipedia, The. Kongamato

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The text on this page is copyright 2007 by Jamie Hall. Please use proper citation if you are using this website for research.