Thursday, April 16, 2009

Oddities: Reflections on Winged Humanoids

Oddities: Reflections on Winged Humanoids
By Scott Corrales
Institute of Hispanic Ufology
(c) 2009

American audiences have fallen under the spell of actor Hugh Laurie in his portrayal of the misanthropic physician Gregory House on Fox’s “House M.D.”, but fans of Mr. Laurie’s work will surely remember one of his memorable roles as an unnamed, uncredited scientist in the music video “Experiment IV” by the incomparable Kate Bush. The 1985 video, which is closer to a short subject film in its intensity, has Laurie falling prey to a winged humanoid monstrosity – a product of an experiment in sound gone awry – and the viewer only sees the terrified scientist’s reaction to the nightmarish entity, and the ultimate lapse into a catatonic state. The fear projected by the actor in that silent scene is gripping and stays with the viewer long after the video is over.

It is precisely this fear that is so well described in the Mexican reported just last week, when “El Heraldo de Chihuahua” published the story of a young man who had been terrified by a vast, winged humanoid form that kept pace with his Jeep even as he tried to outrun it (Mexico: Panic Over "Humanoid" in Chihuahua – March 27, 2009 – We need only watch Hugh Laurie’s performance as the terrified scientist to imagine the expression on the student’s face as he was confronted by the apparition. An older person would probably have succumbed to a massive heart attack, which is precisely what happened to a Puerto Rican sugarcane cutter in 1995, when giant winged creatures were reported on the island, harbingers to the “Chupacabras” manifestations later that same year.

Despite their markedly different climatic conditions, steamy Puerto Rico and dusty northern Mexico share an unlikely common characteristic. For generations, ranging as far back as the 19th century, they have been the source of reports of winged entities of all sorts – not just “Thunderbird”-type manifestations, but flying anthropomorphic creatures that appear in waves. Popular tradition holds that such beings live in caves, whether in the hot dry Sierra Madre or limestone caves in the Caribbean karst region of northern Puerto Rico, which would offer great shelter for the creatures described. But what would they eat? Are they responsible for animal mutilations, or worse yet, reports of missing humans? It is likelier that we are dealing with a truly interdimensional phenomenon that is able to manifest itself “when the stars are right”, in true Lovecraftian fashion.

That said, one must hasten to add that these two locations cannot be said to have a monopoly on these creatures. The Mothman could not come from a more different location, and its background differs widely from that of its southern kin. Other winged humanoids are described as being headless, and the antiquity of these reports is attested by the fact that spellbooks from the late Roman Empire offer magical spells against the appearance of precisely such creatures.

The Watchman and the Winged Ones

On August 31, 1967, José Padrón, a watchman at a construction site in San Luis Potosí, was about to turn in for the night within the cramped confines of the site’s guardhouse. At around 1:00 a.m., he found himself stirred from his slumber by a noise --- someone or something large was making its way around the motor pool. Bears are not uncommon in northern Mexico, so one could have come down from the mountains to forage. Intruders, whether ursine or human, did not worry Padrón in the least: the latter were usually small-time thieves after spare parts for quick resale, or local adolescent vandals.

But when the watchman stepped out of the tin-roofed guardhouse, the last thing he was expecting to see was a vast, winged shape heading toward him, striding like a giant. It was the set of wings that etched itself into Padrón’s mind. He would later described them as comparable to those of a small aircraft, and the noise was apparently made as the creature tried to fly away from the construction site.

Outmatched by the intruder, the watchman ran for the precarious safety of the guardhouse, from which he did not emerge until the following day, when Enrique Rueda, the site’s supervising engineer, found the watchman cowering inside. We can only assume that Rueda listened dispassionately to Padrón’s account of the events, wondering how much pulque – fermented maguey juice – the man had consumed before passing out. But any doubts in the engineer’s mind were dispelled when he saw footprints not far from the guardhouse.

When measured, the indentations on the sandy ground measured slightly over twelve inches across and were six inches deep – requiring a force estimated at nearly six hundred pounds to create, by Rueda’s reckoning.

With the possible exception of the repeated sightings of West Virginia’s Mothman, events of this kind appear to be a one-off event: the witnesses see the entity once and never again. But night watchman José Padrón was to have the dubious pleasure of a repeat visit from the winged humanoid on the following night...and on this occasion, it brought a friend.

Stifling his panic, Padrón took a long, hard look at the entities, which left numerous footprints behind as they made their way around the construction site, in search of food, building materials for an unimaginable eyrie in the mountains, who knows. But the initial winged creature and his mate eventually flew into the darkness, heading toward the San Miguelito Mountains. Padrón was able to add an extra detail that perhaps dovetailed with engineer Rueda’s calculations of the creature’s weight: the ground shook as the creatures took off from the premises. Other evidence suggested that a mesquite branch had been snapped in two as one of the creatures flew by, no small feat considering the strength of the tree. No samples of hair or feathers were in evidence, either.

Prudently, the supervising engineer ordered that the night watch be increased to twelve unarmed men.

Hector Urdiales, a member of Mexico's Cosmos A.C. paranormal research foundation, decided to lead an investigation on Easter Week, 1984 to a seldom-visited area located behind Monterrey's Cerro de la Silla, an enormous, irregular-shaped hill dominating the city. Stories of a monstrous winged being prowling the area had come to Urdiales' attention. Accompanied by a friend, the explorer stopped at a roadside general store on the road to San Roque, N.L. where he interviewed the owner, who was among the many witnesses to the creature. They followed his indications as to where to camp and mount their watch.

Nothing unusual happened during their first day and night on in the area. On the following morning, while combing the banks of a stream running through a copse of savins, Urdiales and his companion made a chilling discovery.

The grass at the base of one of the trees by the stream was covered in the fly-covered blood and entrails of an unknown animal. Closer inspection revealed that the savin's entire trunk was streaming with blood flowing from above. Hesitantly they followed the trail of blood with their eyes until they came upon a surreal sight: some twenty feet off the ground, a large boar had been split open and spitted to a tree limb. Fear washed over the researchers, since they realized that the tall savin lacked the strong lower limbs which would have assisted a human to deliver the grisly cargo to such a dizzying height; nor could their minds conjure up any feline predator strong enough to drag a two-hundred pound boar up a cactus. Only a carnivorous winged predator having the wingspan and talons needed to attack that kind of prey could have possibly been responsible for the carnage.

On July 20, 1994, a farm worker at Rancho El Sabino in Monterrey was heading back to his house to have lunch at around eleven o'clock in the morning. As he walked past a nearby graveyard, the farm worker noticed something emerge from a another footpath at a distance of some hundred feet: as he got closer, he realized that he was looking at a half-human, half-avian creature which seemed indifferent to the startled human's presence. The creature continued to walk, chicken-like, down the footpath until it reached a crossroads. The birdman then flexed its enormous wings and turned down another path. By the time the farm-worker reached the same intersection, the aberrant figure was now half a mile ahead of him until he lost it from sight altogether.

Mexican UFO researcher and author Luis Ramírez Reyes makes the following statement in his book Contacto:Mexico (Diana, 1996): "When I learned that Norma Bancroft-Hunt' book Les peuples du Totem presents a sculpture of the conmemorative image of an Owlman--known as Tlingkit among the Yakutat--which according to legend, lived until its death in Icy Bay in 1890 due to a fall from a tree. Its body was never found, since it was devoured by crows, but a totem pole was subsequently carved out of the tree from which it fell. The image reminded me of the gigantic owl which appeared before me as a young man when I lived with my family in the city of Chihuahua in the early Sixties. It gave me such a fright that I ran and hid in my bedroom [...]. Most impressive of all was its size, which was approximately 1.50 meters (5 ft.) tall." Again, we see Chihuahua mentioned as a place where such unusual occurrences appear to be common.

It isn’t often that researchers of the paranormal get to have a close look at their subject of interest, and whenever there are exceptions, these tend to be significant. One such case involves the director Mexico’s Fundación Cosmos, A.C., Ing. Marco Reynoso, a distinguished UFO researcher and MUFON state director for Nuevo León. In the fall of 1979, Reynoso was a harried engineering student trying his best to deal with a heavy course load and work on his dissertation. One night, leaving the university earlier than usual, he arrived at his parents’ house – a rambling, high-ceilinged old manse of the kind common in Mexico – whose kitchen can be clearly seen from the main entrance.

All was dark; Reynoso’s father never got back from work before ten o’clock and his mother was out visiting neighbors. The only light came from a single bulb in the kitchen, casting enough light to show the kitchen table, which was located next to a window covered by a curtain.

Making his way to the kitchen to grab a bite to eat, the future ufologist noticed movement behind the curtain, but thought it was the normal action of the wind blowing through the open window. Then suddenly, a figure stepped out from behind the curtain: it was a humanoid figure, covered in glossy black hair and standing some thirty centimeters tall with outstretched bat wings. The curtain partly covered its face, so Reynoso was unable to make out any features. Fearlessly, he thought to use the curtain as a means to ensnare the strange apparition and pin it down, but the cloth drapes were suddenly sucked toward the open window, toppling objects on the table surface, and the bizarre creature vanished. Running out to the courtyard, he tried to see if he could find the intruder to no avail.

That’s when fear crept in: “I was completely certain that it was no optical illusion,” says Reynoso, “nor any known animal. The contrast between the kitchen and its contents, which were all white, and the blackness of the creature, left no mistake as to what I had seen. That event changed my life completely, since it highlighted the interest for the unknown I’d had since age 8.” The experience prompted him to join his first UFO research group, in whose files he found another case similar to his own, witnessed by a woman from another Monterrey neighborhood.

South American Oddities

But these events cannot be safely relegated to the 1960s: in the early years of the present decade, the South American republic of Chile found itself besieged for a number of months by a situation similar to what had been experienced in Puerto Rico in 1995 – sightings of winged humanoids, followed by the predatory “Chupacabras”

On April 29 2000, farm worker Jorge Pino reported seeing a strange creature at 8pm under full moonlight. He described as standing 1.50 meters and resembling “a big monkey with , clawed arms, enormous fangs, and wings.” The farmhand sent his mastiff is sent to attack the terrifying presence, and the animal returned to its master with a bloody neck to show for its troubles. Within weeks, farmers from Tucapel and Huepil were engaged in earnest discussions about something they called el pájaro (The Bird) whose manifestations were accompanied by unusual luminous phenomena and animal mutilations. In early May of that year, as livestock deaths continued to mount, an officer of the Chilean state police reported seeing something like “a giant bat” engaging in depredations near the city of Angol. Possibly the closest encounter with one of these entities occurred on May 5, 2000, when Prof. Liliana Romero heard a noise in the courtyard of her building shortly after midnight. Peering through a window to ascertain the cause of the disturbance, she was startled to see “an immense man, standing two meters tall, his shoulder blades split as though by a pair of wings.”

The most intriguing case of the Chilean wave of events occurred in the Summer of 2003, when researcher Jaime Ferrer of the Calama UFO Center made known the story of a young student known only as “Diego”, a resident of Calama who made frequent trips to the desert community of San Pedro de Atacama to visit his grandfather. In these visits he was usually accompanied by this two closest friends, known only as Jonathan and Carlos.

Around 21:00 hours on July 23, as the young men were ready to sit down to frugal dinner, they were startled by the howing of the local dogs, who ran to and fro in a frantic effort to get away from something. The visitors to the small rural house were further alarmed by violent blows rained against the door less than a quarter of an hour later: something very large and strong was clawing at the door, trying to get to them. “Terror seized them,” wrote Ferrer in his report, “ and the youngsters feared for their lives.”

Huddling under blankets and praying fervently that the rickety wooden door would somehow withstand the pounding, Diego heard his grandfather’s voice saying that it was safe to come out, and that “it” had gone away. Or had it?

The three visitors went outside for a look, trying to recover from their fright, when they noticed that “it’ was standing among the pear trees, standing at least a meter and a half tall, with outspread wings that measured three and a half feet on each side.

Ferrer writes that “it was covered by glossy black skin, very clean and hairless. It appeared as though it had recently emerged from the water, but without being wet. It had a large head and a small beak, presenting a sort of crest which was apparently missing a piece from a fight. Its eyes were immense and completely black, but sparkled brilliantly. They thought it was a prehistoric being, since its wings had a strong resemblance to those of
pterodactyls or bats, featuring bone-like protuberances which form the
skeletal frame of the wings. Its legs were sturdy and had powerful claws
like those of a carrion bird, but much stronger.”

The Paranormal Angle

Earlier it was mentioned that these creatures are often described as being “headless” – a description offered a few times in the Mothman reports of 1966-67. In fact, some sketches depict the entity thus. It is curious to note that the rituals of the ancient Coptic church (one of the oldest branches of the Christian faith) contain explicit prayers against the presence of "headless demons", such as the one appearing in the Zereteli-Tiflis collection, described as "a text containing a spell to provide protection against headless demons and powers that are bothering the person invoking angels and archangels". Another such amulet invokes the virgin Mary's protection against a headless dog: "because I am having a clash with a headless dog, seize him when he comes and release me..." (Ancient Christian Magic: Coptic Texts of Ritual Power, Princeton: 1999). One wonders if this orison would have worked against the bat-winged, headless "Mothman" of West Virginia or a similar entity seen landing on a field in Britain in 1965. Or even the Iberian Peninsula: Salvador Freixedo mentions a 1963 case from the Andorran town of Comarruga involving Mr. Sesplugues, a hotelier, who was driving toward Tarragona with his wife on a cold November evening. The drive was uneventful until “they saw a creature crossing the road at a distance of one hundred fifty meters, which they described as being generally man-shaped, but headless.”

Even the oceans are not safe from these visitations: on August 10, 2004, Puerto Rico’s El Vocero tabloid ran a story about castaways from the Dominican Republic. Seventy-nine people boarded a fragile vessel in the hopes of reaching the Puerto Rico, and after twelve days at the mercy of the wind and the waves, only thirty-seven survived to tell the tale...a tale of the horrors of the elements, and of the supernatural. When interviewed by the newspaper, one of the undocumented survivors told reporters that a "monster" with vast wings appeared before them. Filled with panic and fear, they began to read a book of the New Testament they carried aboard their yowl, but that the pages of the holy text vanished mysteriously from their hands.

Chilean researcher Osvaldo Muray covered a story of apparent demonic possession in the high-rise community of Juanita Aguirre outside of Santiago de Chile. A young lay preacher known only as “N.U.” became the subject of this possession event following a strange occurrence: one evening in the early 1990s, a friend stopped by to visit N.U. and spoke to her from the street level, while N.U. looked out her window. According to Muray, the friend noticed something very strange: a very strange bird was watching their conversation from the topmost branches of a pine tree close to the building. Between the light and the shadows, the person on the ground realized that the bird was not a bird at all, but a winged human. When interviewed, the friend told Muray that his “sixth sense” told him something was seriously wrong, and he advised N.U. to close her window and go to bed. He himself raced back to his automobile and headed home.


This is by no means an exhaustive listing of cases that have occurred in Latin America involving “winged weirdoes”, and they represent but a fraction of the recorded cases in the Americas. What are we to make of these entities? Are they real in the sense that a horse or a bear are real, or are they merely physical manifestations of something that comes in (“when the stars are right”, of course) from another level of reality? One can well ask what is it about our dimension that compels these entities to appear, and speculation on the subject ranges from an inevitable attraction to places where tragedies have occurred, entities that appear as byproducts of black magic operations and are unable to “return” to their place of origin. It has been argued that they “slip in” with the UFO phenomenon, perhaps swept along as these lights or objects enter and leave our dimension. The mystery remains.