In September 2009, I spent approximately a week in and around (a) the town of Winona, Minnesota, and (b) portions of nearby Wisconsin, with a team from the History Channel’s popular cryptozoology-themed series, MonsterQuest. We were there to investigate reports of large winged beasts that, in some respects, sounded not unlike the infamous Mothman of Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Others, however, were far more of a giant birdlike nature. And several even seemed like a bizarre combination of both. Being there for a week gave me a very good opportunity to dig deeply into some of the sightings, to gain the confidence and trust of the locals, and to see what I could uncover. I’m pleased to say that what I discovered amounted to a great deal.
One of the stories uncovered revolved around a Winona woman who, back in the 1960s, saw a large winged humanoid creature standing – legs spread wide – on a rooftop on the edge of town. Its wings were bat-like, black in color, and spread wide. Its red eyes stared malevolently at her as she watched it from the yard of her house, which was directly next door to the house atop which the man-beast stood.
For a few moments, the terrified woman and beast locked eyes, after which it took to the skies in incredibly fast fashion. Somewhat strangely, it did not take off by flapping its wings, as one might assume or expect. No: it simply spread its wings widely and rose vertically, not unlike a helicopter. The woman was baffled, however, on the matter of how it could do so without utilizing those powerful-looking wings. Interestingly, when, years later, the woman saw the 2001 movie, Jeepers Creepers, she told her family that the thing she saw decades earlier was practically identical in appearance.
Then there was the story that came from the employees of a restaurant in town. Several of the long-term staff recalled how, a few years earlier – which would have placed things around 2005 or 2006 – a truck-driver had come into the restaurant, in what was clearly a shaken state. As they crowded around him, he told them of seeing what he described as a “giant eagle” soaring a certain, large peak that overlooks the town itself. And in doing so, it emitted loud, screech-like sounds. Most odd of all, the truck-driver said that although there were more than a few other people on the road at the time in question, and the sighting occurred during broad daylight, no-one else seemed to see the massive beast. It was as if it manifested for him, and for him alone. And the list of encounters went on and on.
Also on our agenda was a trek to – and up – the nearby, huge, Trempealeau Mountain. There was a very good reason for this: the mountain, which is contained within the Perrot State Park (named after a French explorer, Nicolas Perrot), has longstanding traditions of sightings of huge birds. Not unlike the one reported by the aforementioned truck-driver in the early 2000s.
Many of these stories and legends originated with Native American tribes, who believed the creatures to be the legendary Thunderbirds, which are an integral part of their lore and history. With the MonsterQuest crew filming, we searched the mountain for the best part of a day and night, and – rather intriguingly – did find some large branches that hung over the sometimes-near-vertical edges of the mountain. None of us could deny they would have provided large winged things with perfect points of take-off and to allow them to make use of the thermals to help keep their mighty forms aloft. Whether or not they actually did, however, is quite another matter.
Late at night, we even used full-volume, call-blasting equipment, playing the calls of owls and eagles, as we sought to try and entice our quarry to show itself. It was to no avail. However, the witness testimony, combined with the Native American accounts of centuries past, convinced me that Trempealeau Mountain and its surroundings were, and maybe still are, home to fearsome fliers of the unknown kind.