The image of King Kong standing tall and defiant atop the Empire State Building, futilely battling wave after wave of bi-planes with guns blazing is iconic, made even more so by Peter Jackson’s recent rendition. The idea of a giant ape, of a creature blending the carnal strength of animal and the intelligence and emotional instability of man, has captured our imaginations for over a hundred years, ever since the first rumors of the mountain gorilla began drifting back from the Dark Continent. What most don’t know, though, is that the giant ape of our imaginations is actually more fact than fiction.
In 1935, while browsing a whole-in-the-wall pharmacy in Hong Kong, a Dr. Ralph von Koenigswald chanced upon an item the shopkeeper referred to as a dragon tooth. So named for its size, the apparent tooth was large indeed, nearly filling Koenigswald’s palm, which trembled with excitement. The tooth appeared to be a molar of primate origin, though its size alone indicated of an unknown species.
And so began the story of Gigantopithecus blacki, whose latin name translates literally to mean giant ape. Seven decades later, the largest primate known to science still remains largely a mystery. A few fossilized lower jawbones and teeth thus far found in a handful of limestone caves in China and Vietnam lead most paleoanthropologists to claim Giganto subsisted primarily off bamboo (much like the present-day giant panda), weighed 800-1200 pounds, stood 8-10 ft tall (though he’s presumed to be a quadruped), and went extinct 125,000 years ago.
Giganto’s story and the story of the giant ape don’t end there, though. For there are other paleoanthropologists, notably recently deceased Dr. Grover Krantz of WSU, who dissent. They claim Gigantopithecus didn’t die out, it migrated—north across the then frozen Bering Strait to North America—to survive a massive bamboo die off which also nearly exterminated the panda. Krantz and others go so far as to claim they have proof of their theory—proof that Gigantopithecus is alive and well on the North American continent. As evidence they offer centuries of documented Native American lore describing a large ape-like beast. On top of that, they point to thousands of recently recorded footprint findings and plaster casts, thousands of living eyewitnesses, and even a half dozen film footages. In fact, the only evidence missing for their theory is a flesh and bone type specimen.
Then why hasn’t Krantz et al’s theory made the headlines? Why hasn’t the media’s love affair with the giant ape embraced Gigantopithecus and brought him into every American’s home, broadcasting that the giant ape of myth is alive and well in the backwoods of North America? Kong lives!
Well, because the Gigantopithecus theory has one glaring problem. Much of the evidence for the theory is also claimed by others to be evidence for Sasquatch, or Bigfoot. And everyone knows Sasquatch is just a myth. It’s not real. Therefore Giganto surely can’t exist here in the Americas and thus certainly went extinct in Asia 125,000 years ago as most sober paleoanthropologists declare.
And yet, despite this glaring whole in the theory, the ranks of its supporters increase every year, as if they hadn’t been told that Bigfoot was nothing but a hoax. Why? Because every year more footprints are found and cast, more eyewitnesses come forward, and more minds are opened.
King Kong, Bigfoot, Sasquatch, giant apes of myth and legend may indeed live beyond the silver screen and the pages of the tabloids. They may even inhabit our very own reality. And according to one theory we already know them as Gigantopithecus.