Hoboken Monkey Man
By Cole Herrold
There are tons of cases out there that are extremely bizarre and seem to be either straight out lies or cases of mass hysteria. The case of the Hoboken Monkey Man is one such case. It's a case that appeared several times online and only in a few book and magazine sources and has been said by many to be a case that has absolutely no merit in the annals of actual cryptozoological study. However, upon closer inspection of this case, there are some particularly bizarre encounters that did make their way into some sources that seem to indicate that there were some kernels of truth to an outright hoax.
Hoboken was in a state of panic in October of 1982. School children were terrified by the whispers of their classmates. Those whispers were not only of the malevolent mirror spirit Bloody Mary or the deranged lunatics Cropsy and Hookman but a new boogeyman-like entity that seemed to of popped out of nowhere to terrorize the schools and streets of Hoboken. They would describe the horrendous actions of this figure known as Monkey Man, whose appearance was that of a mixture of the two in varying gruesome details. The creature was said to of lurked in the school hallways during the day and night and would leave the confines of the school grounds only to attack children on their way home from class. Rumors would go even further and into a more violent path as the creature was reported to of been seen throwing students out of the school’s windows and that the creature even allegedly killed a teacher.
The hysteria and panic swept through the halls and homes of Hoboken for two weeks before finally, word reached the Hoboken Police Department and the Public Safety Council. The officers and Council proceeded in going from home to home and to the schools attempting to find anyone who had claimed to of seen the creature or to see if there were any missing persons who could have perished at the paw of the Monkey Man. They scoured the streets at night, searching for anyone who bore the description of the person or creature said to be terrorizing the city. As the weeks and nights crept on, their inquires eventually came to a dead end. No members of any of the schools' faculties were missing, and no children in the area were reported missing either. As they talked to most of the students, they discovered that none had officially claimed to of seen the creature, and most said that they heard it from a friend who knew someone who claimed to of encountered the beast. The police and Public Safety Department irritated for they realized that this was some sort of urban legend gone out of hand, eventually came out with the following statement "There is no Monkey Man. No students or children missing. We went looking for him, he wasn't even in the streets. How do you stop a rumor that's growing like wildfire?”.
While this statement seems to be true for most of the rumors surrounding the creature, especially those in an urban surrounding like the schools. However, over the years, some potentially real sightings did take place; some cases seem to be in the same vein as Bigfoot sightings, and some are bizarre Fortean cases that seem to be similar to other nontypical animal phenomena. The earliest account comes from an individual named Jack D. Jack would describe an encounter he and his girlfriend would encounter one year before the mass hysteria outbreak in 82'. Jack and his girlfriend were out driving their car on Sinatra Drive; during that time, it was River Road. Jack, while staring out at the darkened road, noticed something moving in through the trees. The dark form soon stopped in one particularly large one, and as he looked through the windshield, he noticed it was something eerily bizarre. Jack pulled off to the side of the road, surprising his girlfriend as she did not yet see the arboreal abomination. Jack, still looking through the window, pointed up to the tree and there, dangling from a hefty branch, was the creature staring right back at them. The creature was monkey-like and proceeded to grunt and make all sorts of awful noises at the parked pedestrians. Jack, not following better judgement, proceeded to leave his car and girlfriend to get a closer look at this bizarre beast. As he got closer, he noticed that while it was monkey-like, it had eerily more human qualities as its hair was long and matted with what appeared to be more of a neanderthal like face. The creatures' arms were long and seemed to sway as it hung from the branch. The creature's body was covered in hair, but this was obscured by what appeared to be animal skins that were fashioned as a kind of clothing. Jack was shocked at this entity but not too shocked to be quiet, for Jack then proceeded to threateningly yell at the creature. The creature seemed to take offense and grunted right back at Jack. Jack backed away slowly and watched as the creature brachiated through the trees until it got to the deeper sections of the woods, ultimately disappearing into the darkness.
While Jack would never see the creature ever again, it would not be the last time this kind of primate Monkey Man would be seen. Two park rangers who worked for the Atlantic County Park in Route 50 while driving down the road noticed a strange figure moving across the road. The figure was an "anthropoid, ape-like" creature and seemed to be walking upright. Neither ranger reported their sighting at the time because it was "so strange and bizarre". This creature would reportedly have other sightings in the area, and much like the rumors of the creature in Hoboken was said to live in a building most of the time. The building was an old tin cow barn that was on the Belcoville Munitions Plant. During this flap of sightings, it was claimed that "no animals would go near the old barn and that the floor of the cow barn and the cowbarn itself were always clean". This adds a new patina to a case already bizarre for this, if not just some homeless individual who was mistaken for the entity, implies that the monkey man is a clean freak and not a creature that wallows in filth. However, sightings in the area today are no longer reported.
While the animal skin wearing monkey man and the nude version are bizarre enough, encounters with an even more sophisticated Monkey Man would arise and this time leaving the woods and returning back to the city. These are some of the even weirder Monkey Man cases, and the first shows he might have an occupation. A woman named Evelyn would recall her encounter with the Monkey Man when she was 10 in the book Weird NJ. Evelyn was in her bedroom reading; it was late, and she was trying to get the last couple pages of her book in before finally conking out for the night. As she was flipping and scanning the pages of her book, she suddenly had a bizarre feeling that she couldn't shake as she continued to focus in on the page. That feeling resonated to the point that eventually, she felt that she had to put down her book and investigate. She looked up and felt inclined to look out the window that faced another apartment. She peered into the apartment, and there appeared to be a man sweeping in a janitor's outfit. She continued to stare at the figure she felt uneased by him, but she couldn't place it, that is, until he turned around. There as she watched, what she assumed was just heavy sideburns, and a beard was actually a monkey-faced man. This proved too much for Evelyn, and she ran out of the room and jumped on her father's bed to wake him up. Her father, exhausted and irritated, followed Evelyn to her room, and the two peered out the window into the next apartment complex, but to her surprise and her father's further irritation, there was nothing there.
While this creature seemed to be hard at work, this does not seem to always be the case as sometimes it is reported to be either off for the day or on vacation. The next clothed creature account came from Mary A., whose children would report to encounter the creature as well as know where the creature lives. Mary and her children, when they first moved to 9th St in Bayonne, noticed how bizarre their street was; the street at the end of the block drops off into Newark Bay; this goes into a dead-end that was covered in No Trespassing Signs and fenced in areas. There in this drop off was the Old PT Boat Factory, and that is where the neighbors and ultimately her children would go on to tell her the Monkey Man lives. The rumors around town were that the Monkey Man was abandoned by his parents as a kid and now lives in the Old Boat Factory to this day; he is said to run around the wooded paths and trails along Newark Bay. She laughed at the accounts and dismissed them as pure urban legends, that is until her kids would claim to see him not once but twice. The first time her kids would encounter the Monkey Man, he was walking an old trail not too far off from their home. Her kid would describe him as having long brown hair on his arms and a monkey-like face, but he bizarrely wore a ragged green shirt and pants. The kids ran away from the figure to tell their mom, who saw the seriousness in their faces, realized that they had seen something. Then not too later, her younger son would also see the Monkey Man on the same trail that his siblings had. This time the Monkey Man was wearing the same ragged shirt that the siblings had seen him wear, and he was not alone, for he had a dog walking alongside him.
While detailed sightings of the Monkey Man seem to of faded away, there are rumors still to this day that the Monkey Man can be seen in Hoboken's Washington Street. These accounts are very different and are reminiscent of another phenomenon that occurred in 2001. This phenomenon was the Monkey Man of Delhi, India; it was an extremely famous case when it occurred and has many parallels to the Hoboken case. Both cases are believed to of been caused by mass hysteria as well as the sightings started out as being urban encounters of essentially bigfoot like creatures that then turned into encounters of bizarre suited humanoid cases. The accounts also both had alleged violence and death associated with them.
When breaking down this case, the 1982 Hoboken sightings seem to definitely be a case of mass hysteria. However, the sighting of a creature in 1981 definitely seems to be of some actual encounter. The creature is definitely a hominid of some variety. There is a possibility it could be some Tarzan enthusiast who had incredible gymnastic abilities, but this does seem to be unlikely. The creature appears to be some kind of hairy hominid, possibly a tree swinging sasquatch. While bigfoot are not exactly known for a tree lifestyle, there have been a few cases of young bigfoot swinging in the trees or an adult standing on some heftier branches. The animal pelts seen in this case is not exactly unheard of either in the history of bigfoot. Accounts of clothing or pelt wearing bigfoot are rare and appear more often in tales of native tribes, but they do occur, so it's possible that is what was reported.
As for the clothing wearing accounts, part of me automatically wants to say this is kids misidentifying some overly hairy individual while out working or some person with a birth defect of some kind. However, what if what they were reporting was actually something else? What could it be? Could it be some escaped mutant like the infamous Melonheads or the cabaret of cryptids said to of escaped from circuses or government labs? It seems very unlikely, but there are countless sightings of such entities. Could it be that these individuals might have Hypertrichosis, a disorder that causes extreme hair growth? This is more possible but also unlikely as this disorder as only 50 official cases have ever been reported.
While this case seems to be a mixture of mass hysteria and some possibly legitimate accounts. It is so uninvestigated, even with the police involvement, that getting more specifics are frustrating. There are plenty of bizarre flaps out there and plenty of cases that seem way too impossible to have anything real to them, but as with most legends, myths, and mass hysteria, there is some kernel of truth to it; the question with this case is how much is fact, how much is fiction, and how much went unaccounted for or reported? We perhaps will never truly know.
Species/Potential Species: Hominid or Hoax
Location: Hoboken, New Jersey
Sighted: 1981-1982/ unspecified latter accounts
Monsters of New Jersey: Mysterious Creatures in the Garden State By Loren Coleman and Bruce G. Hallenbeck
Weird N.J. By Mark Scuerman and Mark Moran
Lois, Mary “Is the Monkey Man Real?”. Finding Myself in Hoboken. August 30, 2008. http://myselfinhoboken.blogspot.com/2008/08/is-monkey-man-real.html. Accessed July 11, 2021.
Alana Biggers, M.D., MPH “Hypertrichosis (Werewolf Syndrome)” Healthline. August 28, 2018 https://www.healthline.com/health/hypertrichosis#causes. Accessed July 16, 2021.