I was taken by surprise when a 90 year old Maasai elder told me a story about the big foot creature. I had heard other legends of ogres and beasts that patrol forests and I always believed that they were told to keep children from getting into danger. I told our interpreter that similar bigfoot stories exist in USA and elsewhere, “Yes but those are stories, this is true” he insisted. In fact two elders claimed that they had actually seen it and this was good enough for the youth to believe it.
Later, I told the story to David Coulson, the Director of the Trust for African Rock Art (TARA) and asked if he had ever heard of similar stories on his travels across Africa. David listened in stunned silence, then narrated his own experiences of “lion men” in Tanzania. He said he read a book written by a Tanzanian policeman about them, and had met a nurse who had witnessed a lion man. It emerged that children, often mentally challenged individuals, were held and trained by witches to be his assassins. They would be kept in a pit and raised in a feral state for this purpose. The horror inflicted by lion men emerged in Singida when 103 people were killed by lion men in 1946 and 1947 and this has been written up here and here.