The Centre for Fortean Zoology was founded in the UK in 1992 - nearly 20 years ago. Over the past two decades it has expanded to become a truly global organisation. We opened our American office in 2001, our Australian office in 2009, and now - in our 19th year - we are proud to welcome CFZ Canada to the CFZ global family.

Wednesday 30 January 2013

Long Before the Ikea Monkey

Some of you have been following the saga of the pet monkey found wandering in a Toronto Ikea store in December 2012.  If you aren't aware, the story can be found here.  The  rhesus macaque is most definitely a live, recognizable primate.  But in 2009, a person saw what he believed to be a monkey in Ajax, Ontario.

Initially, I approached this as a cryptozoology investigation, as there was no precedent for the ghost of a monkey.  A section of the initial report is as follows:

 On a daily basis and sometimes twice a day, I take my Labrador Retriever for a walk along the lakefront of the old cottage town of Pickering Beach; this has been a routine of mine for several years now. On this average day I was just strolling about the Lakefront 
 ... Rex my dog took a large and sudden leap and I veered to my right towards a large house and he started to bark quite out of the ordinary. I pulled Rex back and as I did I saw, as I have before, this strange long hairy tail (something like that of a cats but much longer) wrapped about the mid section of a tree on this property, then it just vanished. I continued to walk while Rex was barking away and looked again to the other side of the tree and there I saw the image of a monkey, a small round-headed little thing peering from the opposite side of the tree; this throwing a sheer shiver down my spine. It was seemingly chattering away directly at me but I couldn’t make out the exact sound other than a faint 'chtch, chtch, chtch' noise. This monkey sprang from the tree and ran across in front of Rex and I across the street towards the park into the ditch and back again to the property where it vanished towards the back of the house. This took a few short seconds, swift and agile as one would expect a monkey to be, the entire time this faint image looking right at us in a rather playful way however with it's teeth showing making it quite scary! As soon as I would see this monkey It would be gone, it vanishing to the back of this grey house and Rex calming down almost immediately. ... I would say that that without a doubt this is nothing that is real, no actual living animal as it's a faint image but enough that I can state for certain what it looks like and can identify it as a monkey. ... an experience I have had 6 times before

The witness also reported speaking with others, including his wife, who had seen this in the same area many time previously.

All local zoos were contacted and none were missing any monkeys, recently or for at least two years.  The municipal area restricts ownership of monkeys, but since not everyone is law abiding, a search was done to see if they are in fact available for purchase.  One seller was located in Sudbury.  Primates are generally considered inappropriate as pets and it would be extremely unlikely that someone in the area had one that got loose.   Additionally, the only likely monkey who could survive unsheltered in this climate would be the Snow Monkey, or Japanese Macaque.  

The only North American free range Snow Monkeys known are located in Texas. No monkeys have been reported missing among any local shelters or police departments.  After further discussion with the witness, I began investigating this as an actual apparition of an animal.

A cursory visit to the site revealed it to be nearly beachfront.  There is a large park between the actual beach of Lake Ontario and the homes in the area.
(aerial photo of Pickering Beach—1984)
There are two paved roadways between homes and water.  When I visited, the area was generally snow covered with many footprints—human, dog, cat, and what appeared to be squirrel.  Nothing that looked like monkey tracks was apparent.

Pickering Beach was at one time a cottage area for upscale Toronto families.  Established by lawyer James Tuckett in the 1920’s, it was a vacation site for the Corbets, Eatons, and Loblaws, among other prominent families.  The cottages have largely been replaced by large homes and the area is now part of the Town of Ajax.  Prior to becoming the beach resort, the area was cow pasture with a few trees and a small apple orchard.

During witness visits to the park, he located a memorial bench placed by the Corbet family.  At the witness suggestion, I contacted Christian Corbet, renowned artist, with questions regarding his experience at Pickering Beach and his relationship that led to placing the bench.  The Corbet family built the first permanent home at Pickering Beach in 1950 (demolished 2005).  Mr. Corbet was extremely helpful.  He was born in the area and raised by his grandparents.  And his Grandmother  Alice Charlotte (Gould ) Corbet had a monkey.

(Alf Gould and Chico)
Mr. Corbet’s Great Grandmother Priscilla Foden Gould (1891-1977) was probably psychic and could see auras. She also was a believer in reincarnation.  Not all of the family was supportive of this thinking, but to have the element in the family heritage may be relevant.   The monkey Chico was purchased at from the ASPCA in December 1933 as a companion animal to a cat.  Alice Gould wanted this cat, and Chico was offered as a bonus and became a gift for Alice’s twin brother Alfred Ernest Gould (1924-2001).  Alice continued to care for the monkey, named Chico, after her  brother Alf went off with the RAF in World War II. 

Alice and her brother Alfred were twins born to Priscilla and Fredrick James Gould in March 1924.  Alice died in 2004.

Alice Corbett was a huge part of the local school, Pickering Beach .  As a school board trustee, she fought for equal rights for women and equality among religions, creeds and races.   Alice Corbet is regarded as the first fully elected woman school board trustee on Ontario and most probably in all of Canada.  She served until 1965.

(Alice Gould Corbet and Chico)
Chico was a wonderful pet until about 1943.  He was often dressed in clothing and would play poker and chatter pleasantly.  After he bit Alice’s hand, his temperament changed and he became rather mean and unpleasant.  He required regular caging and was on a chain when outside.  He also had a fondness for eating onions.  Chico regularly escaped and would run across the road toward the local school.

Chico died January 1971 and is buried near Pickering Beach.  Current Pickering Beach area construction has not disturbed the gravesite and it is believed that Chico is still resting undisturbed.  Grandfather Corbet  (Alfred John Corbet. II 1922-1989) built a true coffin and Chico rests with a pillow and a blanket after a family funeral.

Most investigators and enthusiasts believe in the DPH (Dead Person Hypothesis, a phrase coined by Dr. Eric Ouelett, PhD) which is the idea that apparitions, poltergeists, etc.  are the result of human beings who have died and whose “spirit” or “energy” remains.  Could this be true for animals as well?  If so, is it all animals or just those closely related to humans, like this monkey would be?  If investigated like general ghost reports (i.e., using DPH) then the actions, location, and history would support the idea of a “ghost monkey”;   Chico being an extraordinary animal with close paranormal ties and a turbulent life who returns to his favourite places.

If we accept that humans can be ghosts, does this sighting make a case for all primates?  How about for all animals?  Would Sasquatch be a ghost?

Many thanks go to the original witness and to Mr. Christian Corbet for the wonderful support for this investigation.  If you have seen Chico and would like to send your report please contact me at

“What you cannot see, you cannot say does not exist”  --Christian Cordell Corbett

Telephone conversation with Mr Christian Corbett,  January 2010 with several follow-up emails.
Telephone Contact with Bowmanville Zoo, Toronto Zoo, Bergeron’s Animals, the Toronto Humane Society,  Humane Society of Durham Region, RCMP, Durham Regional Police Service,  February 2010 (Pickering Ajax Digital Archive)

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