The Ominous Octopus

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Ham Brook's What-is-it, Chemistry

In the Doc Savage stories, Ham Brooks found a strange ape in an adventure set in South America.

Doc Savage and the fabulous five from the back on one of the Bantam reprints:

Ham is on the left, Monk is on the right. In between are Johnny, Renny, and Long Tom.

"Ham" seems to have been a common nickname at the time: I also remember it being used as a character name by Stanly Weinbaum during this period. It's possible it could be related to comedian Lloyd Hamilton.


Ham Brooks
First appearanceDoc Savage Magazine #1 (March 1933)
Created byLester Dent
Ham Brooks is one of the characters referred to as the "The Fabulous Five", the primary assistants of Doc Savage, and first appears with the full name Theodore Marley Brooks.[1]
The character is presented as a Harvard educated lawyer,[2] holding the military rank of brigadier general, and known as a dandy. He is also shown as always carrying sword cane with a blade coated with a knock-out chemical.
He is also shown to love fighting with his friend "Monk" Mayfair. This began during World War I, when a practical joke landed Monk in a military jail. Ham had taught Monk some insulting French words, presenting them as compliments. Monk used them while speaking to a French general and got locked in the guard house. Shortly after that, Ham was framed for stealing a truckload of hams, resulting in his insulting nickname. Ham was able to defend himself, but the fact that he was never able to prove that Monk was behind this has always been a source of irritation for him.[2]
During the story "Dust of Death" an odd ape took a liking to Ham. He kept it due to its similarity to Monk. He named it Chemistry, to infuriate Monk. Monk often calls it "the what-is-it", since it looks to be either an ape, chimpanzee, gorilla or baboon, or a mixture.[3]

 In other media

Monk and Ham are the most important of Doc Savage's assistants, and they during the course of their adventures they have an ongoing quarrel, which their pets frequently become involved in.

But getting back to Ham's pet "What-is-it", I suspect that this was because of  the then-recent story of a discovery of an unknown new species of ape by Francois De Loys.

Ameranthropoides loysi

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Ameranthropoides loysi
(de Loys' Ape
Sub groupingHominid, primate
First reported1920
CountryColombia/Venezuela Border
RegionTarra River
"Ameranthropoides loysi" (De Loys' Ape) is allegedly a large primate encountered by François De Loys in South America. Apart from testimony of claimed eyewitnesses, the only evidence of the animal is one photograph.
Controversy continues about the authenticity of the animal, with critics contending that the de Loys' Ape is a hoax and that the photograph shows only a posed spider monkey carcass, though cryptozoology enthusiasts and a few others support the notion that Loys did indeed encounter an unknown primate.[1]




François de Loys, a Swiss oil geologist, led an expedition from 1917 to 1920 to search for petroleum in an area along the border between Colombia and Venezuela, primarily near Lake Maracaibo. The expedition was unsuccessful, and furthermore suffered greatly due to disease and skirmishes with natives; of the 20 members of de Loys' group, only four survived.
According to de Loys' later report, in 1920, while camped near the Tarra River, two large creatures approached the group. Initially, de Loys thought they were bears, but then noted that they were monkey-like, holding onto shrubs and branches. The creatures – one male, one female – seemed angry, said de Loys, howling and gesturing, then defecating into their hands and flinging feces at the expedition. Fearing for their safety, the expedition shot and killed the male; the female then fled. De Loys and his companions recognized that they had encountered something unusual. The animal resembled a spider monkey, but was much larger: 1.57 meters tall (compared to the largest spider monkeys, which are just over a meter tall). De Loys counted 32 teeth (most New World monkeys have 36 teeth), and noted that the creature had no tail.
They posed the creature by seating it on a crate and propping a stick under its chin. After taking a single photograph, de Loys reported, they skinned the creature, intending to keep its hide and skull. Both items were later abandoned by the troubled expedition.
According to other reports, more photographs were taken but were lost either in a flood or during the capsizing of the scientists' boat.


After de Loys returned to Europe, he kept the story of the unidentified ape to himself until 1929. That year, his friend the anthropologist George Montandon was perusing de Loys's files, seeking information about South America's native tribes. Montandon discovered the photograph, and thought it to be very important. De Loys finally related his account in the Illustrated London News of June 15, 1929, and three scientific articles regarding the creature were published in French journals. Montandon suggested a scientific name name for the creature: Ameranthropoides loysi.


A spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi), for comparison. This species is not usually found where de Loys' specimen was shot however.
After this publicity, de Loys’ account was deemed unreliable by several critics, notably Sir Arthur Keith, a prominent anthropologist. Keith suggested de Loys was trying to pass off a normal spider monkey as something more exotic. The photograph did not clearly indicate the creature's size, and Keith also noted that by not photographing the creature’s posterior, de Loys had left open the question of whether or not it had a tail.
According to the cryptozoological researcher Ivan T. Sanderson, the particular area of South America in which de Loys allegedly found the ape has no reports of oversized hominids. Sanderson believes it to be nothing more than a spider monkey. He says of the mystery surrounding the ape, "it is an outright hoax, and an obnoxious one at that, being a deliberate deception."[2]
Another cryptozoologist, Loren Coleman, also supports the hoax theory, and even goes as far as to say that Montandon perpetrated it in order to support his views on human origin. Montandon had suggested the name Ameranthropoides loysi to propose that the specimen was a missing link ancestor of the Western Hemisphere's "red" people. He had previously stated that Africans evolved from gorillas and Asians from orangutans.[3] However, as researcher Richard Ravalli has pointed out, Coleman failed to point to any direct evidence of a hoax by either Montandon or de Loys.[4] Since then, research has come to light, noted on Coleman's blog, suggesting that the stump of a banana tree can be seen at the right side of the entire photograph. Bananas are not indigenous to South America, making their occurrence in the remote jungle highly implausible, thus making it probable that the photo was not shot at the location de Loys indicated.[5] This argument and other findings which strongly indicate a hoax, largely the result of Spanish-language work by Venezuelan scientists Bernardo Urbani and Angel Viloria, were essentially unknown to cryptozoology researchers prior to the summer of 2007. In 2009, Urbani and Viloria translated and published their findings in English.[6]
Others have argued that de Loys could have encountered an unknown creature. The crate the creature was posed on was similar to ones commonly used for transporting gasoline, which measured just under 18 inches tall. Assuming this crate was the common type, its size would appear to support de Loys’ measurement of the creature, although others say the crate is only 15 inches tall and the ape would measure under 4 feet - smaller than de Loys' claims. Researcher Michael Shoemaker, while noting some similarities to spider monkeys, argues that the creature has a few pronounced differences: its chest and hands are different; its face is much more oval than the spider monkey's distinctively triangular visage; it lacks the spider monkey’s pronounced underbite; and has a much higher forehead than spider monkeys.

 See also


  • Jerome Clark, Unexplained! 347 Strange Sightings, Incredible Occurrences, and Puzzling Physical Phenomena (Visible Ink Press, 1993).
  • Bernard Heuvelmans, On The Track Of Unknown Animals (Hill and Wang, 1958).
  • Michael Shoemaker, "The Mystery of Mono Grande", Strange Magazine, April 1991.
  • Karl P.N. Shuker, Extraordinary Animals Revisited (CFZ Press, 2007).
  • Bernardo Urbani and Angel L. Viloria, Ameranthropoides loysi Montandon 1929: the History of a Primatological Fraud / Ameranthropoides Loysi Montandon 1929: la historia de un fraude primatologico (Libros en Red, 2009).
  1. ^ http://alchemipedia.blogspot.com/2009/10/de-loys-ape-ameranthropoides-loysi.html
  2. ^ De Loys' Ape - Unknown Hominid or Just a Hoax?
  3. ^ Newton, Michael (2005). "De Loys's Ape". Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology: A Global Guide. McFarland & Company, Inc.. pp. 128–129. ISBN 0-7864-2036-7.
  4. ^ Loren Coleman and El Mono Grande
  5. ^ De Loys’ Well-Known Prank
  6. ^ http://www.amazon.com/Ameranthropoides-loysi-Montandon-1929-Primatological/dp/1597544450

 External links

Here is the surviving photograph of the De Loys ape. It may or may not have been a hoax, but the story of this unknown ape could very well have been the inspiration of the "What-is-it" that was supposed to have been found in the same part of the world in the Doc Savage story DUST OF DEATH.


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