The island of ghosts and spells, as Madagascar is sometimes called, can bring unexpected surprises to Europeans. Its inhabitants believe in the existence of various deities and spirits, and cling to the strict observance of the so-called Fady, which is the Malagian equivalent of Polynesian taboo. So these are the restrictions and prohibitions, and the violations are punishable by supernatural forces.
The world is saturated with legends about a variety of furry beings like people. They can be large, such as the Nepali Yetti, the Mongolian Almas or the Australian Yowie. Or, on the contrary, of smaller sized beings like the Nittaewo from Sri Lanka, or the Kalanoro from Madagascar. But they all have traits in common, they are wild, their bodies are covered with thick fur and walk on two legs as men do.
And the legend of the mysterious creature, Kalanoro, has led us to the 4th largest island of the world, to the island of Madagascar, where this mysterious creature, according to the narratives of the natives still live today.
The Kalanoro had lived in Madagascar more than two thousand years ago, and so the legends about him have a deep tradition. Although most people in Madagascar are convinced of the existence of these mysterious beings, their views are often different.
In the publication of Antananarivo Annual 1886, the writer Herbert Smith describes this mysterious creature as follows. "He is a metre tall, with thick fur on his fingers, with long nails and surviving in remote dark caves, or in the impenetrable areas of Madagascar's rainforests. Kalanoro feeds on raw seafood, vegetables, grains but won’t despise honey or peanuts." Kalanoro has reportedly magical power, supernatural power, telepathic abilities and the inhabitants of Madagascar have great respect for them. The greatest occurrence of this furry wild hobble is to be largely near the town of Mahajanga and along the east coast of the island from Tamatave to the town of Maroantsetra. This was the first information that we managed to find out about the occurrence of this mysterious creature.
Upon arrival in the capital of Antananarivo, our first trip led to the National Museum. Here, twenty years ago, in the expedition with my father, Ivan Mackerle, I met a zoologist, Julian Ramanampamonja. At that time, we first learned from Julian about the existence of a kalanoro creature. Unfortunately Julian was not at home, he was on a duty trip somewhere on Madagascar, but from his son we got a telephone contact. From Antananarivo we continued with the guide, Gilbert Beandap to one of the few accessible places in the east coast of the island, to the town of Maroantsetra, where the usual foot of the tourist never takes a tour. This is the location where the Kalanoro has had the highest amount of sightings as to what the natives tell. We questioned anybody about the Kalanoro. We were looking for someone who could tell us more about him than we knew, or who had even seen him. To our surprise, we received some information about the people who were in contact with the Kalanoro. We were curious and eager to learn about this mysterious creature. The connection with the Kalanoro was carried out with the help of tromba, which is the Malagasy name for extatic ceremony for the summoning of spirits. The ceremony is performed by a shaman who is the mediator between the Kalanoro and people. The shaman can summon the Kalanoro and communicate with him. We did not want to leave anything to chance, so we participated in several ceremonies.
In 1964 the writer, Bacil Kirtley, wrote in an article “Unknown Hominites and New World Legends”, "Kalanoro is a creature of the land of dwarfs like in Europe Elves and trolls, stealing children from the natives and exchanging them for their own". Professor Joe Hobbs of the University of Missouri from the Geographic Institute in his studies in the Ankarana reservation in 1990 wrote in his article “People and caves in Madagascar” that "in the village of Ambalakedi Kalanoro kidnapped two children from one family, unhappy parents who wanted them back left honey, nuts and liquor near the cave of Andobora. Kalanoro took the gifts and gave the children freedom."
Although meetings with Kalanoros are rare, all those who have seen them describe them almost identically. As a little furry creature with long fingers and nails and inverted feet. According to the natives, Kalanoros do not steal children, but take them to reeducation to make them shamans, hence the future intermediaries between Kalanoros and humans. But if a child suffers, does not eat, and worries, Kalanoro will give him back.
In 1930, the French palaeontologist, Prof. Charles Lambertom, considered that Kalanoro could have been created thanks to native narratives and ancient memories of the natives on the extinct Hadropithecus. Hadropithecus is a medium-sized lemur that went extinct between the years 444-772, shortly after the arrival of people on the island. Its weight is estimated to be between 27-35 kg and the height would correspond to the height of the Kalanoro. Lamberton was further convinced that Herbert Smith in the Antananarivo Annual publication did not describe any mysterious creature, but lemur Indri, also called Babakoto. He thinks that Smith mixed the mythological figure with the beast and thus arose Kalanoro. For comparison, the Indri lemur grows to a height of about 90 cm and he appears is in the primary lowlands and mountain rainforests of eastern Madagascar. He has a stunted tail, his legs are long and slender, and his hands are short compared to legs. But he says nothing about the inverted feet. But the natives strongly reject the confusion of Kalanoro with Indri. They claim that they know the lemurs very well and in no way this mysterious creature is lemur. Most Kalanoros have great magical abilities and healing power. And this is one of the main reasons why the Malagasy people seek connection to him.
The route along the east coast to the north of the island is challenging, full of ferries and a more or less impassable route. The stretch you would normally pass in a few hours lasted a few days. On one of the ferries, the native, Joslin, told us convincingly about the existence of Kalanoro. "There are many living in Madagascar and helping people. “You will be afraid during a tromba, but there is no danger”, said Joslin.
American Cryptozoologist Brent Swancer characterizes the mysterious creature Kalanoro as a being about two feet high, with somewhat monkey traits. They are reportedly seeking water, like swimming in rivers or lakes. The Kalanoro is said to be mostly shy. Often under the veil of the night they come to the villages. Maybe even to steal food from people. If they meet a man, they are quite aggressive although they are small and have extraordinary strength.
Interestingly, there are many reports coming from the world about a creature similar to Kalanoro. For example, the Oran Pendek, an uncatchable creature from Sumatri, which is still occasionally observed by the natives, or Nittaewo, a mysterious dwarf from Sri Lanka with reddish hairs and curved sharp claws, or small human skeletal remains on the Philippine island Flores. They only prove that in parallel with the modern man, his relatives lived there, a little prehistoric hobbit. Could Kalanoro be something like that?
In the town of Mananara, which lies about 300 km north of Tamanave we learned that the occurrence of Kalanoro is not unusual in this area. Most people believe in it and have great respect for it. Here we participated in the first ceremonies of tromba. Shaman Modeste from Mananara tried to persuade us that there is nothing to fear, that tromba does not hurt, but heals. When establishing a connection with Kalanoro, Modeste went behind a wall, because we must not look at Kalanoro. Whoever looks at him will be blinded. The ceremony began, with loud banging and threshing so that the wooden hut shook. Two voices of communication between Kalanoro and Modeste were heard at once. After a while again threshing and banging. There were three voices. Another Kalanoro came. One could clearly distinguish between the voice of Modeste and the high squawk of both kalanoros. For us it was, however, an unintelligible sound full of screams that not even our Malagasy guide, Gilbert, had understood. We started asking questions. Kalanoro is a female which was essential information for us. They reproduce like people and have their own language of communication that only the shaman knows. Kalanoro can also communicate in Malagasy (native language). Their feet are reversed, so it's hard to trace them. They don't like dogs, because they are the only ones who can see them without anything happening to them. And also because the dogs were eating their children. Each Kalanoro has his name and chooses its owner (mediator with people). In different areas of Madagascar, these mysterious beings are called differently. On the east coast they call him Kalanoro, the inland kotoky, or kotobe. A male from Kalanoro is called a kotokely. It is smaller than the Kalanoro, his feet are also reversed, and has markedly red eyes. These mysterious beings are similar to the original inhabitants of Madagascar, who are named Vazimba. The Vazimbas were people in Madagascar, hunters and gatherers – the Pygmoid people who got to the island from the first continental Africa maybe more than 4 thousand years ago. However, the newly arrived tribes, which settled the inland of the island, gradually pushed the Vazimbas to the west. Vazimbas found refuge in the rocky forest known today as Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park. Vasimbas in Madagascar gradually became extinct, but to this day we can see the remains of their graves in the holes in the rocky cliffs around the river Manambolo, which flows to the Mozambique Strait. Malagasy people still have great respect for the people of Vazimba.
In the village of Sandrakatsy, which is less than 37 km from Mananara we participated in another ceremony. Shaman Pascal has healing abilities from the spirit of Andriamanitra. Tromba was running in the same way as in Modesta, we can say. When contacting Kalanoro, Pascal also went behind the curtain so that we could not see the Kalanoro and get blinded. From there, after a while, the same banging at the walls was heard, and then again the squawky voices that responded to our questions. But for us it still was not enough, we still missed some evidence of the existence of Kalanoro. We tried to contact the zoologist, Julian Ramanampamonja. But his response to our questions about the existence of Kalanoro surprised us very much. "I will not speak to you about this mysterious creature in any way. Kalanoro is a devilish creature and it is not fun to play with... " Julian said, and hung up. Fear was felt from his voice. It was clear that Julian knew much more than we thought. How is it possible that an educated man like Julian can say something like that? It gave us again the hope that Kalanoro is not just a mere fantasy of the indigenous Malagasy, as some may think.
The last Tromba we participated in was in the city of Tamtave near Shaman Ranaivoarison Odilon Francisco, nicknamed Coco. We met the most sought-after shaman of the city and people have great respect for him. Before the ceremony, Coco warned us that we had to undress to the waist and wrap a long scarf around the waist. We entered a room that was really different from the other rooms in which we participated in the Tromba. A magical atmosphere breathed upon us. In the wall there was a small window but no other entrance anywhere. Pieces of charcoal were blazing in the corner on the open fire. It was rather hot there, and there was a smell of fragrant sticks everywhere. On the walls were strange artifacts and various natural herbs were hanging that Coco got from Kalanoro to heal. Coco was happy to answer all of our questions and explain what amulets are hanging on the walls. He alerted us like all the other shamans before him that we must not look at the Kalanoro during the ceremony, and that is why we had to be blindfolded. So we asked him to draw Kalanoro when we could not see him. He willingly drew it, and we were surprised that his drawing of Kalanoro had not only a reversed foot, but also a head. Before the ceremony, we had to turn off all our devices, it was not permitted to shoot. Coco gave us a black stripe of cloth with which we used to blindfold ourselves. I secretly smuggled at least a cell phone to the ceremony and recorded the sounds in secret. We sat down on the floor facing the wall. Except for us and Coco no one was present in the room. Only Pavel Štěpán, a member of our expedition, waited in front of the only entrance that led into the room. He watched to make sure that no one else could enter the room except for of us. The ceremony began. Coco began to speak very quickly and loudly for us in an unintelligible language. His voice grew stronger and higher, and we felt that he was trying to establish a connection with Kalanoro. After a while it began, loud banging into the wall of the house, as if someone was trying to get in. Suddenly, it was as if someone had jumped on the ground behind us. Like some barefooted little child, who was running back and forth in swift steps. Suddenly there was a high squawky voice heard from one corner of the room. The barefooted being behind us was still running forth and back. After a while again the banging at the walls and something else jumped to the ground again. Again, quick barefooted steps of something small. It was something that touched our backs every time and said "Bonasara" greeting, which we were supposed to repeat. The ceremony was completely different from what we experienced before, there was something special about it. Coco began to communicate with the Kalanoro and we asked questions. The squawky voices that came just behind us could not have been made by one person. They were heard at the same time, and they were three and each coming from another direction. At that moment it was incredible for us how the voices could have got there when Pavel had watched the only entrance? Behind me, I heard quick bare footsteps, and a pitched squawky voice told me something I could not understand. A kind of a rough hairy hand began to touch me and squeeze my sore shoulder. It gave me creeps, it couldn't have been a human hand. As a cure I received from a Kalanoro some white powder to be mixed with water and applied on the sore shoulder. There was a terrible heat in the room, the whole ceremony lasted 20 minutes. A Kalanoro told us that he had known about our arrival long ago, but what was more interesting, he knew where our next trip would be. Our next plan was to explore the mysterious mountain of spirits, Ambondrombe. But we didn't talk to anyone before about the ceremony?! How could he know? The Kalanoro gave us aromatic sticks for our journey and said that we should ignite them at night on the mountain. They would protect us from the evil spirits of the mountain. The ceremony ended. We were full of impressions and questions to which we were looking for answers. But common sense told us that most of the things we had experienced were explicable. We're realists. Until today, convincing scientific evidence of the existence of this mysterious creature was not presented, but the Malagasy natives still believe in it. But a few unanswered questions are still stuck in our heads. How is it possible that we heard more voices in the ceremony that spoke simultaneously from different directions? No one else other than us were there, and the Shaman, Coco, couldn't have entered into the room? And how is it possible that the Kalanoro knew where we were going next in our journey on Madagascar? After all, we had not talked to anybody else about it?