Thank goodness Jon Downes created the ‘zooform phenomena’ category back in the early 1990s, otherwise so many seemingly supernatural and inaccurately stated ‘cryptids’ would have been lost to us all. Clearly some ‘creatures’ seen throughout the world are not cryptids – they are not mystery animals, or creatures newly discovered, or even beasts ever likely to be discovered; e.g. Mothman, Jersey Devil, Goatman; because, put simply, they are something from beyond the realms of science and flesh and blood nature.
Due to their lack of solidity, even though many witnesses see such forms, these manifestations, clearly of a complex yet misunderstood unnature, are lumped in with the paranormal, an altogether loose category. Some zooform creatures are a sum of many parts, such as hoax, media influence, mass hysteria, or misinterpretation of a known animal, dramatised for greater effect.
In 2005 a bizarre creature, at first said to resemble a four-foot-tall monkey, was observed in the city of Elgin, Illinois, situated 40 miles northwest of Chicago. With a population of over ninety-thousand, it would seem absurd to suggest that an unknown primate could be on the loose, in what is Illinois eighth largest city. Experts at the time commented also that it would be impossible for a large monkey to inhabit the woods despite police combing the far west suburbs in search of a beast first sighted by fifteen-year-old Titiana Williams, who saw the creature lurking near her home one Sunday evening. Miss Williams stated that the animal resembled a monkey that was sitting on the slide. She told her mother about the sighting and several reports emerged in the space of a week.
The spate of sightings featured on NBC5 with reporter Lisa Tutman interviewing a Lt Cecil Smith from the Elgin Police Department. Tutman asked Smith of the possibility that the creature may have simply been a short hairy guy, to which Smith answered that although anything was possible, it seemed as if a chimpanzee may have been the culprit.
Despite the rather ordinary possibility that a monkey may have escaped a private collection, so was born the very brief legend of the Elgin Monkey Man, a pretty non-existent zooform creature that centred upon the Amanda Circle and Fleetwood Drive areas of Elgin. With police scouring the area into the early hours, experts from Brookeville Zoo stated that the descriptions given of the “brown and black” monkey, matched the identity of a chimpanzee.
Of course, no monkey was flushed from the bushes, and the Elgin Monkey Man faded into folklore. Its zooform status was elevated, however, when several news sources claimed that Elgin had its own Abominable Snowman. The mystery had slightly more lasting power than the five-foot-long boa constrictor which was found in 2003 at Churchhill Woods Forest Preserve in Glen Ellyn, and the capture on two occasions of a pacu (piranha relative) in the Fox River.