The Ahool is a winged cryptid allegedly native to the remote forests of Western Java, an island part of Indonesia.
The creature is reportedly also found on other islands of the Indonesian archipelago.
The name Ahool supposedly comes from the howling cry of the creature resonating through the forest as it flies overhead.
Alleged eyewitness accounts claim the cry is a prolonged howl that sounds like “ahoooool!”
There are various conflicting descriptions of the legendary Ahool.
Folklore describes it as a giant, cave-dwelling bat-like creature, but other accounts claim it is a monkey- or primate-like creature with wings.
According to cryptozoologist Karl Shuker in his book The Beasts That Hide From Man (2003), locals claimed the creature is about the size of a 12-month-old child.
Ahool is a bat- or monkey-like winged creature
Some accounts claimed the Ahool has a face similar to a bat. Others said its facial features resembled a chimpanzee or monkey.
The head and face are monkey-like. It does not have a prominent snout. Instead, it has a flattened human-like face, black eyes, and short ears.
It has short but thick dark fur. The fur color ranges from black to grey.
It has pair of long wings attached to long thin arms that end in long, sharp claws. The wings consist of a leathery membrane of skin, muscles, and related tissues stretched tight over supporting structures attached to the body and arms. The wings have a dark or reddish color.
The wingspan is about 12 feet, according to Shuker. However, other sources claimed a wingspan of up to 28 feet, making it much longer than any known bat, bat-like creature, or bird.
The bird with the longest wingspan is the wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans) with a wingspan that may approach 12 feet. The flightless bird with the longest wingspan is the common ostrich (Struthio camelus), with a wingspan of up to 6.6 feet.
Ahool is a nocturnal predator
The Ahool lives in dark subterranean caves, especially caves beneath waterfalls.
It may squat on a cave floor or perch on a ledge holding its wings folded against its body. Some eyewitnesses claimed to have seen the creature squatting on the forest floor.
According to some accounts, the Ahool perches or squats with its feet pointing backward. Shuker noted that this trait supports claims that it is a bat-like creature because bat feet point backward when resting.
Folklore claims that the Ahool is an aggressive nocturnal predator. It feeds on fish and hunts at night in streams, rivers, and lakes. It flies close to the surface of the water in search of prey.
It may feed on small animals. But it may also attack larger animals, including humans.
Cryptids similar to the Ahool
Alleged cryptids similar to the Ahool include:
The cryptozoologist Ivan T. Sanderson proposed that the Ahool was a previously unknown bat species. Sanderson supposedly based his conclusion on a previous encounter with a similar fearsome bat-like cryptid known as the olitiau, native to the forests of Cameroon in Central Africa.
According to Shuker, Sanderson and the famous naturalist Gerald Russell were part of the Percy Slanden Expedition team exploring the mountainous forests of Cameroon in 1932 when they encountered a previously unknown bat-like creature.
Sanderson described the creature as a jet-black flying beast with a wingspan of about 12 feet. It had a monkey-like face and a set of teeth suggestive of a carnivorous diet.
The kongamato is yet another alleged cryptid similar to the Ahool and olitiau. The kongamato is supposedly native to the forests of East Africa.
In his book In Witchbound Africa (1923), the explorer Frank Hulme Melland reported that natives described the kongamato as a giant beaked flying creature.
Native accounts suggest the kongamato is similar in appearance to the extinct ancient pterodactyl (Pterodactylus antiquus).
Folklore from the island of New Guinea also claims the existence of a bat-like cryptid, the Ropen, similar to the Ahool.
However, other accounts describe the Ropen as reptilian rather than bat-like or primate-like.
[Fun fact: New Guinea is the second-largest island in the world. It includes the independent states of Papua New Guinea (East) and Western New Guinea or Papua, part of Indonesia.]
What is the Ahool?
Biologists and cryptozoologists have debated and proposed known species that eyewitnesses might have mistaken for a mysterious cryptid:
Bartels reportedly suggested that the creature was a rare bird comparable to an owl (order Strigiformes).
There are more than 200 known species of owls. Thus, according to Bartels, Ahool could be a previously unknown owl species.
According to some cryptozoologists, a frugivorous (fruit-eating) bat species similar to the hammer-headed bat (Hypsignathus monstrosus) might have inspired the Ahool legend.
Male hammer-headed bat specimens may have a wingspan exceeding 3 feet. They make a loud honking noise when they are active at night.
However, hammer-headed bats are found only in Central and West Africa.
Great flying fox
Among known animal species, the most favored candidate for Ahool is a bat species known as the Great flying fox (Pteropus neohibernicus) or Bismarck fruit bat.
It is a species of frugivorous megabat native to the forested lowland areas of New Guinea and the Bismarck Archipelago. Western New Guinea is part of the same Indonesian archipelago as Java, while the Bismarck Archipelago is a chain of Papua New Guinean islands off the northern coast of New Guinea.
The Great flying fox is one of the largest known species of extant bats. The adult male may have a wingspan exceeding 4 feet.
Citing Peterson (1964), cryptozoologist Shuker reported a specimen preserved at the American Museum of Natural History in New York with a wingspan of 5 feet 5 inches.
Several cryptozoologists proposed that the Ahool could be a surviving population of an extinct species of animals known as pterosaurs.
Pterosaurs (winged lizards) consisted of multiple winged reptile species belonging to the order Pterosauria. They appeared during the Triassic Period (c. 250-200 million years ago) of the Mesozoic era (c. 250-65 million years ago) and went extinct at the close of the Cretaceous Period (c. 145 million-65 million years ago).
Many were piscivores (fish-eaters), but others had more varied carnivorous or insectivorous diets. Experts also believe some were omnivores (feeding on plants and animals).
However, a criticism of the pterosaur theory is that native descriptions of the Ahool suggested they were not reptilian but bat-, monkey-, or chimp-like.
Bats are not reptiles but mammals belonging to the order Chiroptera.
Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and Monkeys (infraorder Simiiformes) are also mammals belonging to the order Primates.
However, if the Ahool were indeed a primate, it would be the first case of a flying primate.
Sightings and Tales
Dr. Ernst Bartels sighting
The American cryptozoologist Sanderson reported a sighting of the Ahool by a naturalist named Dr. Ernst Bartels.
Bartels allegedly reported sighting the Ahool in 1925. The naturalist was exploring the forest near the Salak Mountains in the vicinity of a waterfall when a monstrous bat-like creature reportedly swooped overhead.
Bartels reported another encounter in 1927. The creature reportedly flew over his hut near a river in West Java around midday.
He claimed to have heard the signature cry.
The naturalist rushed outside to view the creature but only heard it cry a second and third time in the dark.
According to Shuker, the Ahool habitually utters its signature call thrice while flying at night.
The Beasts That Hide From Man: Seeking for the World’s Last Undiscoveerd Animals, Karl Shuker, 2003.
Extraordinary Animals Revisited, Karl Shuker, 2007.
In Witchbound Africa: An Account of the Primitive Kaonde Tribe & Their Beliefs, Frank Hulme Melland (1923).
https://karlshuker.blogspot.com/2018/07/the-ahool-and-olitiau-giant-mystery.html, “The Ahool and the Olitiau – Giant mystery bats on the wing?” accessed on February 28, 2003.
https://www.genesispark.com/exhibits/evidence/cryptozoological/pterosaurs/kongamato/, “The ‘kongamato’ of Africa,” accessed February 28, 2023