[- Are these also called Mothmen? -]When a mysterious object passed over Mount Vernon, Illinois, on the evening of April 14, 1897, 100 citizens, including Mayor B. C. Wells, saw something that, as press accounts had it, "resembled the body of a huge man swimming through the air with an electric light on his back."
Reports of flying beings of human or generally human appearance are among the rarer anomalous phenomena, but they occur periodically. A "winged human form" was observed over Brooklyn on September 18,1877, according to W. H. Smith (New York Sun, September 21). Almost exactly three years later the New York Times (September 12, 1880) remarked on reports from Coney Island of a "man with bat's wings and improved frog's legs ... at least a thousand feet in the air ... flying toward the New Jersey coast ... [with] a cruel and determined expression." In a 1947 book Russian writer V. K. Arsenyev recounted this July 11, 1908, experience in the Sikhote Mountains near Vladivostok in the far eastern region of what would be the USSR:
The rain stopped, the temperature of the air remained low and the mist appeared over the water. It was then that I saw the mark on the path that was very similar to a man's footprint. My dog Alpha bristled up, snarled, and then something rushed about nearby trampling among the bushes. However, it didn't go away, but stopped nearby, standing stock-still. We had been standing like that for some minutes.... Then I stooped, picked up a stone and threw it towards the unknown animal. Then something happened that was quite unexpected: I heard the beating of wings. Something large and dark emerged from the fog and flew over the river. A moment later it disappeared in the dense mist. My dog, badly frightened, pressed itself to my feet.
After supper I told the Udehe-men about this incident. They broke into a vivid story about a man who could fly in the air. Hunters often saw his tracks, tracks that appeared suddenly and vanished suddenly, in such a way that they could only be possible if the "man" alighted on the ground, then took off again into the air.
One night in 1952 U.S. Air Force Pvt. Sinclair Taylor, on guard duty at Camp Okubo, Kyoto, Japan, said he heard a loud flapping noise. Looking up, he saw an enormous "bird" in the moonlight. When it approached, he got frightened and put a round into the chamber of his carbine. The "bird" now had stopped its flight and was hovering not far away, staring at the soldier.
"The thing, which now had started slowly to descend again, had the body of a man," Taylor recalled. "It was well over seven feet from head to feet, and its wingspread was almost equal to its height. I started to fire and emptied my carbine where the thing hit the ground. But when I looked up to see if my bullets had found home there was nothing there." When the sergeant of the guard came to investigate and heard the story, he told Taylor that he believed him because a year earlier another guard had seen the same thing.
Another soldier's tale of a flying humanoid came to ufologist Don Worley from Earl Morrison, who served with the First Marine Division in Vietnam. While stationed near Da Nang in August 1969, he and two other guards reportedly saw an extraordinary sight just after 1 o'clock in the morning. They were sitting atop a bunker and talking when they noticed something approaching them in the sky. Morrison told Worley:
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.... She started going over us, and we still didn't hear anything. She was right above us, and when she got over the top of our heads, she was maybe six or seven feet up.... We watched her go straight over the top of us, and still she didn't make any noise flapping her wings. She blotted out the moon once that's how close she was to us. And dark-looked like pitch black then, but we could still define her because she just glowed. Real bright like. And she started going past us straight towards our encampment. As we watched her-she had got about 10 feet or so away from us-we started hearing her wings flap. And it sounded, you know, like regular wings flapping. And she just started flying off and we watched her for quite a while.
Morrison thought the covering on her skin was more like fur than feathers. "The skin of her wings looked like it was molded on to her hands," he said, and the movement of her arms suggested they had no bones in them.
And UFOsThe Mount Vernon sighting took place in the midst of the great American UFO wave of spring 1897, and in the modern UFO age (which began in June 1947) reports of winged humanoids usually occur, or are interpreted, in a UFO context.
Some sightings are not of winged figures but of humans or humanoids flying through the air with the aid of mechanical devices attached to their bodies. The first known report of this kind was recorded near Louisville, Kentucky, on July 29,1880 (Louisville Courier-journal, August 6). UFO-age incidents include one from Chehalis, Washington, on January 6, 1948, when an elderly woman and a group of children allegedly saw a man with long mechanical wings which he manipulated with instruments on his chest as he flew in an upright position. Six and a half years later a 12-year-old Coldwater, Kansas, farm boy reportedly saw a dark-complected little man, with pointed nose and ears, float toward a UFO which was hovering nearby (Wichita Evening Eagle, September 8, 1954).
Three Houston residents reported what may or may not have been a winged UFO being in the early morning hours of June 18, 1953. As they sat on the front porch of their apartment building trying to escape the heat, an enormous shadow fell across the lawn, then appeared to bounce into a pecan tree. They saw the "figure of a man ... dressed in gray or black-fitting clothes" and bathed in a "dim gray light." Witnesses differed on whether he was wearing a cape or bearing wings. After 15 minutes he "just melted away," and shortly a "loud swoosh" sounded across the street, and a rocket-shaped object shot upward and disappeared along the northeastern horizon.
Even by the bizarre standards of flying-humanoid stories, the Mothman scare that hit the Ohio River Valley in 1966 and 1967 stands out in its sheer weirdness. Mothman's association with UFOs is speculative, resting on the fact that UFOs were manifesting in unusual numbers in the area all during the period of the creature's activity. The dozens of witnesses who saw it said it had bat-like wings, humanlike legs, and a broad trunk, at the top of which two big "hypnotic" eyes were set. Oddly, the wings did not flap, and on occasion, when Mothman (or a Mothman) got close to observers, they could hear a mechanical humming sound emanating from it. Otherwise it made a "squeaking" sound.