Percy Fawcett and the Mysterious Man Apes of South America by Brent Swancer The remote jungles of South America have long been the source of tales of strange creatures and legends, and among these are numerous sightings of large, ape-like creatures prowling the wilderness. The descriptions of these beasts often varies, with sizes ranging from a diminutive 3 feet tall all the way up to hulking, 12-foot-tall hairy giants, and are often claimed by the natives of the region and witnesses to live in villages of their own, use primitive bows and arrows, and to have a language of grunts and whistles. Although regional names may vary, they are now mostly filed under the blanket name Maricoxi, and they are for the most part more or less the South American version of Bigfoot. Perhaps one of the most well-documented and harrowing encounters with these mysterious creatures was detailed by the famed British explorer Colonel Percival H. Fawcett, who vanished into the jungle during an ill-fated expedition to find a mysterious lost city he called Z. Fawcett was known to write extensive journals of his travels, many of which would later be compiled into books by his son Brian Fawcett. In one of these books, called Lost Trails, Lost Cities, there is to be found within its pages a rather curious and spectacular tale of encountering the Maricoxi. Percy Fawcett The encounter supposedly happened in the year 1914, as Fawcett was on an expedition to map out the uncharted southwestern region of an area called Matto Grosso. From Bolivia they penetrated into the dark jungle up the Guapore River, and already they had become well acquainted by local tribes with the bizarre stories of hairy man-beasts said to dwell out there in that sea of trees, and although it seemed rather fantastical it was enough to keep them wary of their surroundings and what they would find out there on their journey. Ivan Sanderson wrote of the stories Fawcett heard in his 1967 book Things, in which he writes: They nevertheless bravely ventured out along the river, coming across some oddities along the way. The first interesting discovery was a previously unknown Amerindian tribe, who identified themselves as the Maxubis and displayed some curious traits, such as their religion of worshiping the Sun, and demonstrating an inexplicable knowledge of the planets of the solar system, which they could draw out with rather shocking accuracy. This would have been interesting to have studied further, but Fawcett and company were not there to do anthropological work, and after staying with the tribe for a few days they headed back out into the mist-shrouded jungle once more, leaving these fascinating people behind and crossing over into a region that was completely unseen by outsiders and may as well have been the surface of some alien planet. Matto Grosso After several days of dealing with the numerous perils of this untamed land, the expedition found themselves faced with a mysterious trail out there in the middle of nowhere, which they presumed to be one used by the Natives of the region. As they stood there deciding whether to follow the trail or not and which way to go, Fawcett writes that they saw two figures moving about 100 yards away, apparently chattering away in some unknown language and carrying bows and arrows. Although they were at first presumed to be from a local tribe, closer inspection showed them to be decidedly odder, and Fawcett described them: It seems quite obvious by this point that Fawcett did not regard what he had glimpsed as human beings. This was perhaps all odd enough as it was, but it got even more bizarre that evening at dusk, when the forest suddenly came alive with the sound of what seemed to be braying horns from out in the distant dark. The expedition members were immediately on alert, as they instinctively knew that this was an aggressive sound issued forth with the promise of threat. Fawcett would write of these horns and what followed: It is an eerie image to be sure, this solitary camp of bedraggled explorers terrified by the sight of hairy men and now harassed by these mysterious horns in the night, punctuated by the chattering of some rough, alien language, and it was still not over for them. The next morning the team warily checked their surroundings and could find no sign of any of the “savages” having intruded into the vicinity. They continued along one of the well-delineated trails they were finding and camped once again that evening without incident. The next morning, they struck out from the camp and within just about a mile stumbled across what seems to have been the actual village of the strange tribe, populated by creatures who were obviously not exactly human. Fawcett rather spectacularly describes what happened: This brutish ape-man allegedly continued to do this several more times, aiming the bow only to continue with his odd, disjointed dance and then aim it again. However, Fawcett seemed to know that at any point that arrow could unleash, and his hand was firmly kept upon the butt of his pistol as he took in the whole outlandish scene. At some point Fawcett says he began to seriously fear for his life, and decided to try scaring it off with his sidearm, shooting off a round that pinged the earth by the beast’s feet and sent a thunderous boom echoing through the jungle. He says of this sequence of events: This account may seem to be completely sensational to the point that it might be easy for the more skeptical minded to dismiss it out of hand, but there are a few reasons why it has warrant and deserves consideration, the first being that this was likely not some fictional story Fawcett was telling. It was part of his very serious and typically meticulous notes on his expedition and sitting right there amongst more mundane observations of the wildlife and region’s peoples. He was a consummate professional and member of the Royal Geographical Society, as well as a very respected, experienced explorer and surveyor, and there is no rational reason at all for why he should want to concoct such a story to drop in the middle of his otherwise meticulous journal. Why would he do that and risk his reputation? To what ends? It also means he would not likely have made misidentifications of local tribes or wildlife, as he was as familiar with these jungles as one could possibly be in the era. Fawcett has also been accused of having perhaps exaggerated his dealings with the Natives and in this case made them out to be hairy brutes out of some racist agenda, but if that were the case then why are there other records of his dealings with locals that are completely accurate in their depiction of their appearances and behavior? It is somewhat true that Fawcett was known to have some strong opinions on the more primitive tribes, but he seems to have never let it compromise the matter-of-fact way in which he recorded the people themselves. Sanderson has much to say about this aspect of the journal entries, writing: While Sanderson may seem perhaps too quick to buy the whole tale, it certainly is an account that stands out among Fawcett’s writings, and which ultimately leaves more questions than answers. What did Fawcett and his fellow expedition members encounter out there in that jungle? Were these indeed the legendary Maricoxi or something else? It is truly unfortunate that, considering that Fawcett was not particularly interested in following up on it, and seems to have considered it mostly an obstacle and oddity, he never did make any effort to find out what they were, and the creatures of his account just sort of fade into the background to remain perplexing enigmas. Did these creatures really exist the way Fawcett described them, and if so what were they and how did they fit into the Maricoxi legend? The answer may forever remain hidden out there in that forbidden jungle lair. .