Secret City: Have you heard of the Bukit Timah Monkey Man?

Photo: Screengrab from YouTube
Photo: Screengrab from YouTube

Love hiking and going off-trail in Singapore? The next time you do, keep your eyes peeled for one of Singapore’s most famous urban legends, the Bukit Timah Monkey Man – or BTMM. 

Wait, what?

The origins of this creature are a little sketchy – some accounts say the earliest sighting of the BTMM goes all the way back to the 1800s while others say the Japanese Occupation. But like the most recent sighting in 2020, all the details seem to match. 

Basically, all the witnesses claimed to have seen a monkey-faced man walking upright on two legs with greyish hair all over it’s body in the Bukit Timah area. 

Richard Freeman, a cryptozoologist (basically a dude who studies creatures from the folkloric record), stated that an animal such as the Monkey Man could have easily inhabited Singapore in the pre-colonial days.

If all the descriptions are consistent, this must mean the BTMM is either immortal – or there’s a whole family of them out there. Whoa.

But unlike the Yetis and Bigfoots around the world who, from eyewitness accounts are tall and towering over regular humans, the BTMM is said to be about 1.75m (5ft 10). 

So as tall as an average Singapore man? It would seem so. 

Show me the proof

Again, sketchy. I mean, people weren’t exactly vlogging during WWII, right? But in 2012, there was this footage from a domestic worker.

I don’t know about you but that looks like a man in a costume.  

Other than that, there’s only been hearsay and tall tales by taxi drivers and uncles. Literally. 

A taxi driver also gave an account of hitting what he thought was a child in the middle of the road late at night in the Bukit Timah area. The thing was primate-like covered with greyish hair and was on his car bonnet. It snarled at him before running into the woods clutching its broken arm. Interesting. 

A 65-year-old retiree from Bukit Panjang recalled the creature from his childhood, saying that as small children they were also told not to go near the forest at night because of a ‘Monkey Man’. Of course he had never seen it before but he added that there were instances, where they were shown footprints near the jungle track and attributed strong urine smells to the creature. 

The local Shin Min Daily News also reportedly sent a journalist to the site in 2008, but found nothing. 

BTMM, a national icon

Maybe we have the wrong creature as our national symbol. The BTMM has proven to be quite popular culturally. 

For something more kid-friendly, the BTMM was mentioned in a book on local-themed nursery rhymes by Gwen Lee called Jack and Jill on Bukit Timah Hill

The BTMM was also extensively covered a book by Karl Shuker, another cryptozoologist, called Extraordinary Animals Revisted

And if you prefer your urban legends in a more artsy format, here’s an art project that is loosely based on the BTMM featuring a collaboration between two Singapore visual arts and music projects, NADA and Brandon Tay.

Singapore, boring? Nonsense. After all, we’ve got our own Monkey Man mystery. 

Check out more Secret City Singapore stuff:


Support local news and join a community of like-minded
“Coconauts” across Southeast Asia and Hong Kong.

Join Now
Coconuts TV
Our latest and greatest original videos
Subscribe on