Time and again, terrifying winged humanoids have been glimpsed, on the ground or in flight, by reliable witnesses. JANET and COLIN BORD describe the most amazing of such mystery reports
TALES OF HUGE BIRDS carrying off children are terrifyingly credible. The sightings of creatures resembling latter-day pterodactyls strain the powers of belief much more. But the cases we now describe would he dismissed by most people as utterly unbelievable: fantastic stories of man-like beings with wings. Yet they are told by ordinary, sincere people.
In the United States, on 18 September 1877, a winged human being was seen over Brooklyn, New York. Few details are available, but a similar figure was seen in September 1880, not far away at Coney Island. It was described in the New York Times, none too seriously, as 'a man with bat's wings and improved frog's legs'.
Sightings of winged humanoids seem to be more widely distributed around the globe than those of giant birds and supposed pterodactyls. The next report comes from Vladivostok, in the far eastern USSR. On 11July 1908 a man walking in the Sikhote Alin mountains saw what looked like a man's footprint on the path ahead. His dog began to act strangely, and something could be heard trampling among the bushes. After several minutes of standing and listening, the walker, V.K. Arsenyev, threw a stone towards the unseen creature, whereupon he heard the sound of wings beating and saw something 'large and dark' fly away over the river. Unfortunately he could make out no details because of fog. Later, when Mr Arsenyev told local people what had happened, they identified the creature as 'a man who could fly in the air', well-known to hunters in the area.
A Brazilian couple, the Reals, had a closer view of 'their' winged people. Early in the 1950s they were walking one night in a wood near the sea at Pelotas in the state of RioGrande do Sul when they noticed two gigantic 'birds' in the trees. As they got nearer, the 'birds' came down to the ground, and the amazed pair saw that the creatures were about 6 feet (1.8 metres) tall and looked human. They were crouching on the ground as if observing the Reals. Luiz do Rosário Real wished to approach them more closely, but his wife insisted that they return home.
A strange report describing an even closer sighting comes from Houston, Texas, USA. The night of 18 June 1953 was hot; three neighbours were sitting out on the front porch of an apartment house in the small hours. Mrs Hilda Walker said later:
We were just talking idly, when I looked up and about twenty-five feet [7.5 metres] away I saw a huge shadow across the lawn. I thought at first it was the magnified reflection of a big moth caught in a nearby street light. Then the shadow seemed to bounce upward into a pecan tree. . . . I could see him plain and could see he had big wings folded at his shoulders. There was a dim gray light all around him.
The shadow was also seen by Howard Phillips and Judy Meyers, and they described it as 'the figure of a man with wings like a bat. He was dressed in gray or black tight-fitting clothes. He stood there for about 30 seconds, swaying on the branch of the old pecan tree. Suddenly the light began to fade out slowly.' They agreed also that he was about 61/2 feet (2 metres) tall and wore a black cape, tight trousers and quarter-length boots.
As the light faded, the figure seemed to melt away, and the three heard a loud swooshing noise over the houses and saw a white flash. All were adamant that they had seen this inexplicable apparition.
First sighting of Mothman?
Not quite so clearly visible, but still definitely man-shaped, was the figure standing in the middle of the road ahead of a woman driving her father along Route 2 in the Chief Cornstalk Hunting Grounds of West Virginia, USA, in 1960 or 1961. As they got closer, the driver slowed the car. The two apprehensive witnesses saw that the grey figure was much larger than a man. The driver later reported what happened next:
A pair of wings unfolded from its back and they practically filled the whole road. It almost looked like a small airplane. Then it took off straight up disappearing out of sight in seconds. We were both terrified. I stepped on the gas and raced out of there. We talked it over and decided not to tell anybody about it. Who would believe us anyway?
Who indeed? Although she did not know it, she was possibly the first witness of a winged being later nicknamed 'Mothman', which in late 1966 plagued an area of West Virginia called Point Pleasant. First to see it at that time were two young local couples, Mr and Mrs Roger Scarberry and Mr and Mrs Steve Mallette. Late on the night of 15 November they were driving through the 'TNT area' where there was an abandoned wartime explosives factory. As they passed an old generator plant, they saw in the darkness two bright red circles, which looked like eyes. As the circles moved, the couples saw a man-shaped figure, between 6 and 7 feet (1.8 and 2 metres) tall, greyish in colour and with big folded wings; it was shuffling along on two legs.
Roger, who was driving, quickly turned the car in the direction of safety and they drove off at speed. But they saw the creature, or another similar one, standing near the road and as they went past it spread its bat-like wings and began to follow them. Even though they accelerated to 100 miles per hour (160 km/h), the 'bird' kept pace with them - without flapping its wings. Mrs Mallette could hear it squeaking 'like a big mouse'. When they reported their experience at the sheriff's office, the deputy could see they were scared and he drove straight to the TNT area, but saw nothing strange.
The story was publicised and Point Pleasant immediately became a focus of attention for monster-hunters. Armed men searched the TNT area but did not find their prey. However, Mothman was still around: on the evening of 16 November he appeared to Mrs Marcella Bennett who was visiting friends living in the TNT area. She was sitting in the parked car when she noticed a figure in the darkness. 'It seemed as if it had been lying down. It rose up slowly from the ground. A big gray thing. Bigger than a man, with terrible glowing red eyes.' Like the two couples on the previous night, Mrs Bennett seemed hypnotised by Mothman's red eyes. As she stood there staring at it, she and her baby daughter were grabbed by a friend and dragged into the house.
During the following days, numerous people saw Mothman - or believed they did. How many of the sightings were caused by the 'contagion' of news stories, we shall never know. The writer John Keel went to the Point Pleasant area to investigate at first hand. From the many reports he collected, he established that Mothman was between 5 and 7 feet (1.5 and 2 metres) tall, grey or brown in colour and man-shaped but without any arms or head. It had luminous bright red eyes where a man's shoulders would be. The wings were folded back when not in use, and the wingspread was about 10 feet (3 metres). The majority of sightings were made in November and December 1966; then Mothman was gone.
Three marines on guard duty near Da Nang in South Vietnam, in July or August 1969, got a closer view of the extraordinary entity that flew over them in the early hours of the morning. The story was later told by one of them, Earl Morrison:
All of a sudden-I don't know why- we all three looked out there in the sky and we saw this figure coming toward us. It had a kind of glow and we couldn't make out what it was at first. It started coming toward us, real slowly. All of a sudden we saw what looked like wings, like a bat's, only it was gigantic compared to what a regular bat would be. After it got close enough so we could see what it was, it looked like a woman. A naked woman. She was black. Her skin was black, her body was black, the wings were black, everything was black. But it glowed. It glowed in the night - kind of a greenish cast to it.
The three saw her long enough to notice that she had arms, hands and fingers, but that these were joined to her wings. They just stood and watched as she flew overhead, a couple of yards above them.
The Cornish Owlman
Sometimes, as in this report, the sightings have been single ones, the mysterious winged entity afterwards disappearing as if it never existed. And sometimes, as in West Virginia in 1966, there have been repeated sightings in a small area, but still without any real clues emerging as to the nature of the apparition. Perhaps the strangest series of reports of 'winged things' are those concerning the 'Owlman', seen in Cornwall, England, in 1976 and again in 1978. The Owlman's territory was very small - the area around Mawnan Church on the south coast.
He was first seen on 17 April 1976, hovering over the church tower, by June Melling (12 years old) and her sister Vicky (9 years old). June described and drew a feathered birdman. Nearly three months passed before the second sighting, made on 3 July. Again the witnesses were young girls: 14-year-old Sally Chapman and Barbara Perry. They were camping in the woods and at about 10p.m. they realised that they were not alone. They heard a strange hissing noise, and then saw a figure standing not far away among the pine trees. Sally described what they saw:
It was like a big owl with pointed ears, as big as a man. The eyes were red and glowing. At first, I thought it was someone dressed up, playing a joke, trying to scare us. I laughed at it, we both did, then it went up in the air and we both screamed. When it went up, you could see its feet were like pincers.
Barbara added: 'It's true. It was horrible, a nasty owl-face with big ears and big red eyes. It was covered in grey feathers. The claws on its feet were black. It just flew straight up and disappeared in the treetops.'
The next day, 4 July, yet another young girl, Jane Greenwood, along with her sister, saw the Owlman. Jane described what they saw in a letter to the local paper:
It was Sunday morning and the place was in the trees near Mawnan Church, above the rocky beach. It was in the trees standing like a full-grown man, but the legs bent backwards like a bird's. It saw us and quickly jumped up and rose straight up through the trees.
My sister and I saw it very clearly before it rose up. It has red slanting eyes and a very large mouth. The feathers are silvery grey and so are his body and legs. The feet are like big, black crab's claws.
We were frightened at the time. It was so strange, like something in a horror film. After the thing went up there was crackling sounds in the tree tops for ages. [There's good odds it was an Owl! -LB]
Later that day we spoke to some people at the camp-site, who said they had seen the Morgawr Monster on Saturday, when they were swimming with face masks and snorkels in the river, below where we saw the bird man. They saw it underwater, and said it was enormous and shaped like a lizard.
Our mother thinks we made it all up just because we read about these things, but that is not true. We really saw the bird man, though it could have been somebody playing a trick in very good costume and make-up.
But how could it rise up like that? If we imagined it, then we both imagined the same thing at the same time.
The 'Morgawr Monster' she refers to is a sea monster that was also putting in regular appearances in Falmouth Bay during 1976. UFOS were seen in the area too - Falmouth Bay was the best place to be in 1976 if you longed for a strange experience.
After July 1976 the Owlman apparently did not reappear until June 1978. Early that month a 16-year-old girl saw 'a monster, like a devil, flying up through the trees near old Mawnan Church.' On 2 August three young French girls also saw him near the church. They were frightened by something 'very big, like a great big furry bird'. It was white with a 'gaping mouth and big round eyes'.
Why should strange events occur together at certain points on the globe? If some form of energy, known or unknown, is involved in the genesis of these strange happenings, it would seem that it tends to focus or concentrate in limited areas at specific times. The result is an upsurge in sightings of monsters and UFOs, and an increase in strange happenings of all kinds.
Doubtless there will be waves of sightings of weird winged creatures again. But, as with UFOs and the bigfoot, it seems very unlikely that we shall acquire unambiguous physical traces of the things seen - we cannot count on having a corpse to study. The phenomena seem too elusive.
Reproduced from THE UNEXPLAINED p1166