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Captain William Hichens (died 2 October 1944) was an English colonial administrator and Swahili historian who investigated several cryptids in East Africa before the field of cryptozoology was developed.

He had personal encounters with two cryptids. The first of these was in the 1920's,[1] during an official lion hunt in Tanganyika, when he briefly observed two hairy men walking upright across a forest clearing. His guide identified them as agogwe:[2]

"Some years ago I was sent on an official lion-hunt to this area and, while waiting in a forest glade for a man-eater, I saw two small, brown furry creatures come from the dense forest on one side of the glade and disappear into the thickets on the other. They were like little men, about four feet high, walking upright, but clad in russet hair. The native hunter with me gaped in mingled fear and amazement. They were, he said, agogwe, the little furry men whom one does not see once in a lifetime. I made desperate efforts to find them, but without avail in that well-nigh impenetrable forest. They may have been monkeys, but if so, they were no ordinary monkeys, nor baboons, nor colobus, nor Sykes, nor any other kind found in Tanganyika. What were they?"

In 1925 Captain Hichens was sent out to investigate depredations made by the Nandi bear in a village in the Kenya Colony. The latest victim was a 6-year-old girl, snatched after the monster forced its way through an 8-foot zareba.[3] During the night his tent was attacked by something which gave a terrifying roar and carried off his pet dog:[1]

"...the whole tent rocked; the pole to which Mbwambi [his dog] was tied flew out and let down the ridge-pole, enveloping me in flapping canvas. At the same moment the most awful howl I have ever heard split the night. The sheer demoniac horror of it froze me still...I heard my pi-dog yelp just once. There was a crashing of branches in the bush, and then thud, thud, thud, of some huge beast making off. But that howl! I have heard half a dozen lions roaring in a stampede-chorus not twenty yards away; I have heard a maddened cow-elephant trumpeting; I have heard a trapped leopard make the silent night miles a rocking agony with screaming, snarling roars. But never have I heard, nor do I wish to hear again, such a howl as that of the chimiset. A trail of red spots on the sand showed where my pi-dog had gone. Beside that trail were huge footprints, four times as big as a man's, showing the imprint of three huge clawed toes, with trefoil marks like a lion's pad where the sole of the foot pressed down. But no lion ever boasted such a paw as that of the monster which had made that terrifying spoor."[4]

Hichens followed the tracks and spent a week in the forest searching for the animal, but never found it or his dog.[5] He later described several other sightings of the Nandi bear, and gave a detailed description of its habits. He also wrote that "some of us who have hunted the brute share the view that it may be an anthropoid", anticipating Bernard Heuvelmans' theory of the Nandi bear as a giant baboon.[6]

He also reported the mngwa (which carried out attacks whilst Hichens was the magistrate of Lindi in Tanganyika; he personally saw its victims and interviewed eyewitnesses), the crowing crested cobra, the irizima, the isiququmadevu, the khodumodumo, the chipekwe (which he suggested may be a chalicothere), the ndalawo, the lau, the lukwata, the mlularuka,[1] and shapeshifters.

He wrote under the pseudonym of "Fulahn" after his first writings on unknown African animals were attacked.

Selected bibliography

  • Fulahn (1927), "On the Trail of the Brontosaurus: Encounters with Africa's Mystery Animals", Chambers's Journal (London: W. & R. Chambers) 7 (17): 692-695
  • Fulahn (November 1927), "The Savage As Scientist", The Golden Book (31): 611-617
  • Fulahn (1928), "The Dragon Who Devoured the World: An African Folk-Tale translated from the Kiniramba Language", The English Review (London: Duckworth & Company) 47: 87-??
  • Fulahn (1929), "The Savage Bloods His Spear", Blackwood's Magazine (Edinburgh: William Blackwood) 226: 120-13?
  • Hichens, W. (1929), "Africa's Mystery Beasts", Wide World Magazine (London: G. Newness): 171-17?
  • Fulahn (1930), "The Black Man's Gods", The Fortnightly Review (London: Chapman and Hall) 133: 500-51?
  • Hichens, William (January 1931), "Waylaying the Witchdoctor", The Fortnightly Review (London: Chapman and Hall) 135 (769): 93-99
  • Fulahn (1933), "From Strange Places", Blackwood's Magazine (Edinburgh: William Blackwood): 135-139
  • Hichens, W. (1936), "Demon Dances in E. Africa", Discovery: The Popular Journal of Knowledge (London: Mercury House) 17
  • Hichens, W. (December 1937), "African Mystery Beasts", Discovery: The Popular Journal of Knowledge (London: Mercury House) 18 (216): 369-373
  • Hichens, William (1938), "Lizard-Men of the Kidau", Chambers's Journal (London: W. & R. Chambers): 81-??
  • Hichens, W. (November 1938), "The Leopards of Mbwongo", Wide World Magazine (London: G. Newness) 82 (488): 126-13?
  • Hichens, W., "The Lion Men of Usure", Wide World Magazine (London: G. Newness)

Notes and references

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Eberhart, George (2002) Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology
  2. Hichens, William, "African Mystery Beasts" Discovery 18 (1937)
  3. Newton, Michael (2009) Hidden Animals
  4. Hichens, William "On the Trail of the Brontosaurus: Encountes with Africa's Mystery Animals" Chamber's Journal (1927)
  5. Shuker, Karl (1995) In Search of Prehistoric Survivors
  6. Heuvelmans, Bernard (1955) On the Track of Unknown Animals