A string of incidents involving a large flying creature, said to resemble an owl or bat, were reported in recent weeks in the Chicago area. The alleged incidents were reported to the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), who have expressed concern that the sightings could be part of a hoax.
The first of three incidents involved an animal purportedly observed by boaters on Lake Michigan last month, between 10 pm on the date of April 15, and 2 am the following morning, spanning a period of roughly four hours between the sightings.
A statement from one of the witnesses included the following description, as given to MUFON:
"We were about two miles out on the lake, just off of Montrose at about 10 pm. We were enjoying ourselves when I happen to look up and saw what looked like a giant bat, and not like a fox bat. This bat was as tall as my husband, who is 6-foot, 4-inches, or even bigger. This bat circled the boat three times in complete silence before heading off towards Montrose. It quickly blended into the night sky and was gone in seconds.”
The witness who gave the statement above also noted that coinciding with the sighting of this large flying animal, the boaters observed a green light streak across the horizon. It seems likely that a green object of this description could easily have been a meteor, and thus unrelated to the observation of any large bat or other flying animal.
On the same evening, a separate incident in Chicago involved what witnesses likened to a "Lechuza" (this refers to a humanlike, and often shape-shifting birdlike monster in Mexican folklore). The creature observed, according to the report, resembled a large owl.
"We walked over there and saw what looked like a big owl," the witness described in a brief report. "As we walked up on it, this owl stood up on two feet and looked right at us. We saw what looked like a huge Lechuza, except it was about six feet tall and really big. It had large glowing red eyes that were completely freaking everybody out."
A final report made in the Chicago area on the same evening was logged near the Chicago International Produce Market. According to the MUFON report:
“I looked up and saw the biggest freaking owl I have ever seen! I’m 6-foot, 2-inches, and I’m guessing this thing was at least a foot taller than me. It was completely black except for it having bright yellowish/reddish eyes like a cat. It stood there for a minute or two staring at everyone before shooting up into the sky and disappearing. It made everyone feel very uneasy and only took off after some guys threw some rocks at it. It had wings on it like an owl, only bigger and you could hear it flap those wings when it took off."
MUFON Director of Communications Roger Marsh, who authored the report, advised that readers should "remain skeptical until witness interviews have been conducted and more case evidence is assembled."
It's been a while since the old "Mothman" legends have begun to stir again, but this recent spate of sightings in Chicago have gotten a few people talking about West Virginia's most famous urban legend... whether or not the "creature" in the reports actually resembles anything man-(or moth) like at all.
In November of 2016, a man driving along State Route 2 near Point Pleasant presented a series of photographs he took of a purported bat-like creature, which he claimed to have seen "jumping from tree to tree." The witness, according to regional news site wchstv.com, said he had only recently relocated to the area, and had previously been unaware of the Mothman legends. The photos appear to show a winged creature with long legs, and while relatively clear (see below), they leave much to the imagination. Reporting on the story, Snopes.com rated it and the accompanying photos "Unproven".
While comparisons to the legendary "Mothman" of Point Pleasant have been made regarding the recent Chicago sightings, these incidents give rather explicit descriptions of a large owl (with the exception of the Lake Michigan report, which likened the animal to a bat). Incidentally, early reports of the alleged "Mothman" of Point Pleasant similarly described the creature as resembling a large bird; possibly a sandhill crane, or a even variety of heron with a decidedly unfortunate name, the "shitepoke."
John Keel, author of The Mothman Prophecies (the book upon which the majority of the Mothman legend was based) later revisited the story himself, and in doing so, supposed that it seemed less likely there was any single animal that the alleged "Mothman" reports were based on. Keel wrote in The Complete Guide to Mysterious Beings (a revised and updated reprint of an earlier work of his) that a variety of reports of different animals--some of them large birds--might have been the basis for the Mothman panic instead.
"The anomalous bird sighting is strongly supported by the Lowell, Ohio, sighting and by the report of the five pilots in Gallipolis," Keel wrote, citing two observations of large, unidentified birds contemporaneous with the alleged "Mothman" flap. Keel noted, however, of the Point Pleasant sightings that, "something that looked like nothing more than a giant bird would be more apt to evoke curiosity instead of terror," as the Mothman was credited with doing according to the regional legends about the creature. Keel further noted the capture of two "unusual birds" in the area, one of them an Arctic snow owl shot by a farmer in 1966 near Gallipolis Ferry, which some said could have been behind a few Mothman sightings.
There are a number of species of owl that can grow to be very large, as the video below shows:
The following quote from John Keel, however, is something that must be emphasized in relation to all this, since it is more commonly left out of the modern mystery-mongering narratives about the alleged Mothman sightings. Reading it, we're certain you'll probably see why:
"We do suspect that a few alleged "Mothman" witnesses did mistake owls for "Mothman." While driving through the TNT area late one night in November 1967, we were startled ourselves when a huge owl suddenly flapped into the air next to the road. It was so big that it was carrying a full-grown rabbit in its talons. Perhaps if a similar owl suddenly fluttered in front of a car filled with teenagers they might mistake it for something larger and more dramatic."
In other words, Keel's skepticism about a single, so-called "Mothman" seemed to have deepened somewhat over the years. Granted, the author never appeared to have fully rejected the idea that something "anomalous" was witnessed in a few cases, whatever else that might have been.
Returning briefly to the Chicago sightings from last month, it is worth noting that the Mexican "Lechuza" is often associated with giant owls, since the mythology associated with these creatures involves witches (or brujas) believed to be able to transform into large birds. Hence, it is not unusual, per se, that one of the witnesses would describe a large, dark-colored owl as a "Lechuza."
One of the largest black owls known to exist is the greater sooty owl (Tyto tenebricosa), although this species, native to southeastern Australia, would be dwarfed alongside the alleged six-foot-tall owl in the reports from Chicago.
So where does all this leave us? One thing that is particularly telling about this case is that the reports appear to have been exclusive to MUFON; no similar reports of large, dark colored owls had appeared elsewhere around that time. Additionally, if the incidents described are legitimate, it does seem odd that they would be reported to a UFO investigation group like MUFON, rather than local news affiliates. The possibility that any legitimate reports along these lines might have been ridiculed or dismissed by local media might be worth consideration, though at present, the evidence at hand strongly suggests the work of hoaxers.
Being that this is the most likely scenario, for now it seems that the case of the "Windy City Lechuza" can be closed... pending the appearance of decent photographs (a novel idea, in this current age of smartphones), that would leave no further question about the presence of any of these "monster owls" in the area.
Micah Hanks is a writer, podcaster, and researcher whose interests cover a variety of subjects. His areas of focus include history, science, philosophy, current events, cultural studies, technology, unexplained phenomena, and ways the future of humankind may be influenced by science and innovation in the coming decades. In addition to writing, Micah hosts the Middle Theory and Gralien Report podcasts.