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Bigfoot or Flying Demon at 20,000 Feet?

My previous article here at Mysterious Universe was a review of Ken Gerhard’s recent lecture – for the Dallas-Fort Worth MUFON group – on the Flying Humanoid phenomenon. The article began as follows. QUOTE: “On Saturday November 18, good mate and cryptozoologist Ken Gerhard drove up from his San Antonio, Texas home to speak for the Dallas-Fort Worth MUFON group on the following afternoon. The subject: Ken’s book Encounters With Flying Humanoids. If you’re into Cryptozoology, you’re sure to know Ken’s name. He has, quite literally, traveled much of the world in search of what have become known as Cryptids. Unknown animals, in other words. Indeed, Ken has now visited close to thirty countries in his pursuits of all things monstrous.” END OF QUOTE.

There’s a reason why I mention the above. During the drinks and snacks break between Ken’s lecture and the Q&A session, I got chatting with a guy who said that his favorite winged humanoid – of a demonic nature – was a fictional one. I asked him which one, thinking that he might be talking about the monster in the Jeepers Creepers movies. Or, maybe, the winged things in 1972’s Gargoyles, which is a particular favorite movie of mine. But, no. He wanted to talk about a particular creature in a certain, famous episode of The Twilight Zone. I asked him: “Which episode?” And he replied, with something like this: “The one with William Shatner and the flying demon on the wing of the plane.”

The episode of The Twilight Zone he was talking about was “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” It was the 123rd episode of the series. It was aired in 1963 and was written by Richard Matheson, who also wrote the novel I Am Legend and countless short stories and screenplays. In the story, it’s a stormy night and a supernatural creature is determined to bring a plane down by destroying the engines – and Shatner’s character, Robert Wilson, sees to his horror what the monster is up to. Even if no-one else on-board does. I told him that, yeah, that was a great episode. It still is. But, I explained, the monster in the story is not winged and it certainly doesn’t look like in any way demonic. In fact, I added, the monster has zero wings and actually looks not unlike a Bigfoot.

He looked at me, silently, for a few seconds and then said that I was completely wrong. No. I was completely right. I told him to take out his iPhone, surf around, and see what jumps out. He was dumbfounded to find that his memories of that old episode were wrong – and big-time too. I said that he was probably thinking of the remake (1983) of “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” which appeared in Twilight Zone: The Movie. In this version, actor John Lithgow took on the role of a man who sees a terrible creature on the wing of the plane he’s flying on – and during a violent storm. In the movie version, the creature on the wing does resemble what many people would likely call a demon. It, too, however, lacks wings. Strangely enough, I had an almost identical conversation, on this very same episode of The Twilight Zone, a few years ago.

There is a good reason why I mention all of the above. This brief chat at the Flying Humanoid gig demonstrates how the mind can distort our memories to a notable degree. Yes, an example like the one above relates to the world of fiction and nothing else. But, it’s notable how – perhaps as a result of being influenced by Ken’s lecture and by the cool Flying Humanoid-based imagery Ken showed the audience – the man’s mind began to warp an old TV memory into something very different to the reality of the situation. And, to the point which the memories that the man was 100 percent sure were genuine, were actually quite wrong. Moving onto the real world…

In light of the above, I would not be at all surprised if some recollections of the tale of the legendary “Missing Thunderbird Photograph” could be due to confused memories and circumstances, paralleling those mentioned above. And influenced by other, related factors. How many other memories of paranormal events/cases might be similarly distorted – albeit not deliberately or maliciously, of course – is an issue for another day.

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Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

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