Sasabonsam

Flying Humanoid of West Africa.

Etymology: From the Akan (Kwa) sasa ("spirit") + bonsam ("evil witch").

Variant name: Sammantam, Shamantin (for the female), Susabonsam.

Physical description: Height, 5 feet 6 inches. Black-and-white spotted skin or red skin. Females have white skin. Stiff head-hair. Human face. Bloodshot eyes. Horns or pointed ears. Long teeth. Beard. Thin body. Thin, batlike wings attached to long forelimbs. Wingspan, up to 20 feet. Long legs. Reversible feet with toes.

Behavior: Makes a cry like a bat's but deeper. Attacks and eats humans or sucks their blood. Females are much less malevolent. Habitat: Dense forests. Distribution: South-central Ghana. Significant sightings: In February 1918 or 1928, an Asante man named Agya Wuo killed a Sasabonsam and took it into his town. He had found it sleeping in a tree hollow, and it had emitted a deep cry. The carcass was allegedly photographed by the region's district commissioner, L. W. Wood.

In the 1930s, J. B. Danquah obtained a wood sculpture of a Sasabonsam, carved by Asante artist Osei-Bonsu. Possible explanations:

(1) A large, undescribed species of bat.

(2) A surviving pterosaur, a group of winged reptiles that lived from the Late Jurassic to the end of the Cretaceous, 150—65 million years ago.

(3) A spirit based on certain real and imagined characteristics of the Gorilla ( Gorilla gorilla).

Sources: Mary Henrietta Kingsley, Travels in West Africa, Congo français, Corisco and Cameroon (London: Macmillan, 1897), pp. 509-512; Robert Sutherland Rattray, Religion and Art in Ashanti (Oxford: Clarendon, 1927), pp. 27-28; Joseph Boakye Danquah, "Living Monster or Fabulous Animal?" West African Review 10 (September 1939): 19-20; Mervyn David W. Jeffreys, "African Pterodactyls," Journal ofthe Royal African Society 43 (1944): 72-74; Melville J. Herskovits, Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1972), p. 973; Bernard Heuvelmans, Les bêtes humaines d'Afrique (Paris: Plon, 1980), pp. 558-560.

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