It is an unfortunate fact of life that tragic disasters rear their ugly heads from time to time, taking their toll in human life and incalculable suffering. We understand and lament that this all happens, but what many of us may not be aware of is that at times such tragedies are preceded by rather strange unexplainable phenomena, inscrutable entities, and mysterious omens or portents that defy rational explanation. It is unclear what these paranormal events prefacing disasters mean, but they are numerous enough to at least warrant investigation and some thought. Let us take a look at some of the spookier and inexplicable of such paranormal portents of doom.

One of the most commonly seen mysterious entities witnessed before tragedy, disaster, and strife are various shadowy winged figures that seem to appear in the days leading up to these unfortunate events. By far the most well-known of these is the infamous Mothman, of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, in the United States. Starting in 1966 there was a rash of sightings of a humanoid, winged figure with glowing eyes lurking about the region, sometimes witnessed by multiple people and reputable individuals. This bizarre creature would be sighted around 100 times throughout 1966 and 1967, and gain the popular name of the Mothman, which was widely reported on in the media, although no one could have predicted what it all meant or what it was leading to.

These strange encounters seem to have culminated in a major disaster, when on December 15, 1967 the Silver Bridge, which spans the Ohio River at Point Pleasant to connect it to the city of Gallipolis, Ohio, suffered a catastrophic and fatal collapse that stole away the lives of 46 people. It would later come out that several witnesses had seen the Mothman flying about the bridge and perching upon it in the hours leading up to the terrible disaster, with one person even claiming to have photographed it as it looked upon the scene of the destruction. After the disaster the Mothman sightings rather abruptly stopped, leading many to speculate that the winged entity had been some sort of portent or harbinger of bad things to come, or indeed even responsible for causing it. These events were most notably documented in the 1975 book The Mothman Prophecies, written by John Keel, as well as cryptozoologist Loren Coleman’s 2002 book Mothman and Other Curious Encounters.

While the Mothman of Point Pleasant may be one of the earlier and most well-known of these sinister winged omens of disaster, it is certainly not the only one. On April 26, 1986, one of the worst nuclear accidents the world has ever seen occurred at the at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, near the town of Pripyat, in the northern Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, which was part of the Soviet Union (USSR) at the time. The disaster and chain of horrific events all started at the plant’s Reactor 4, where there was a safety test carried out that involved turning off all of the power. Due to a mishmash variety of maintenance and safety issues, the reactor suffered a severe explosion and subsequent raging fires, which spewed vast volumes of dangerous radioactive material into the atmosphere. In the end, the Chernobyl disaster would cause numerous deaths and astronomical economic damage, cementing it as the most disastrous nuclear plant accident in history, the effects of which continue to reverberate to this day.

It would become apparent that in the days leading up to the horrific accident, a massive, black bird-like creature had been spotted ominously circling about in the skies above the town of Pripyat. The frightening creature was supposedly even seen by startled workers at the plant itself, and those who saw it from close distances claimed that it was a sort of humanoid winged figure with glowing red eyes like fiery embers. To make it all even weirder still, those who saw it were said to be haunted by horrible, vivid nightmares and premonitions, as well as strange phone calls at all hours of the night by someone who would threaten them or simply hang up. Further deepening the mystery are the reports from first responders and rescue workers at the scene of the disaster, some of who also reportedly saw the winged entity prowling about.

These purported encounters have led to many linking what has come to be called “The Black Bird of Chernobyl” to the notorious Mothman, but some skeptics have doubted the far-out tale. Surprisingly, one who has stepped forward to debunk the tale of Chernobyl’s Black Bird is the famed cryptozoologist Loren Coleman, who has said these reports spring directly from the 2002 Mothman Prophecies film, and he has said of the tales and their movie connection thus:

Right after the movie was released, various websites posted the Chernobyl/Mothman reports as factual. But there is not one thread of evidence that any winged weirdies were witnessed before the Chernobyl accident. It is a bit of movie fiction that has, unfortunately, moved into pseudo-factoid cryptozoology.

Regardless, the Black Bird of Chernobyl is still debated and held up by some as real. Other similar winged creatures have been supposedly sighted before other tragic calamities as well. Some witnesses have claimed to have seen such winged creatures before and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York’s World Trade Center, as well as in the weeks leading up to the deadly August 1, 2007 collapse of the I-25W Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which would claim 13 lives, and also before a swine flu outbreak in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico in 2009, and others. So ubiquitous are reports of these winged humanoids seen before tragic disasters that they have become a class of strange phenomena unto themselves, and have been speculated to be some sort of beings that are either here to warn us of or actually cause these tragedies.

Besides winged birdmen, other disasters seem to have gone hand in hand with the appearance of ghostly or demonic figures that cover a wide range of odd phenomena. A very curious series of events supposedly occurred before one of the worst mining accidents in British history, which was an explosion that struck and killed 89 miners on March 10, 1890 in Morfa, South Wales. It would turn out that there were numerous reports of unexplained paranormal phenomena in the area leading up to the incident. In many cases it was reported that there were heard inexplicable knocks coming from the mines, as well as disembodied voices, anomalous lights, and shrieks or wails in the night in the vicinity, and unexplained clouds of the smell of flowers or perfume wafting up from the darkness, in addition to potent, recurring nightmares experienced by residents that seemed to hint at some inexorable calamity.

In other instances there were strange apparitions seen, such as a ghostly red dog that was repeatedly witnessed to appear and then vanish, as well as a shadowy man dressed in oilskins and a leather cap, who was also prone to blinking away into thin air. One miner claimed that he had been followed up from the blackness below by a ghostly presence. All of these disparate phenomena were apparently bad enough that many miners began to refuse to even go to work, which may have reduced the final death toll when the disaster finally actually hit. One report of some of these phenomena and their connection to the approaching disaster was given in the May 21, 1890 edition of the Western Mail, which said:

The story of the man dressed in oilskins and wearing a leather cap, who one day appeared on the cage and then vanished into thin air, mentioned in one of the narratives yesterday, is another example. Then there is another tale told of a man who jumped on a journey of trams underground, and, after riding some distance, jumped off and melted away in the darkness of the mine; and that this man was recognized as one who died long ago. Strange noises of ghostly trams “running wild” in the pit and heavy falls which never took place are quite ordinary matters compared with the remarkable perfume which is alleged pervaded some part of the mine on a particular occasion. It was an odour like that of a garden of roses. There was nothing visible, but the pleasant aroma of innumerable roses was, it is said, inhaled by several persons. These hallucinations, evidently formed of morbid fancies, have, for some time past, produced in the minds of many of the workmen a vague, indefinite fear that something would happen. Of course, all the workmen do not believe this tattle, but not a few shake their heads ominously when such things are mentioned, and one actually said yesterday: “I did not believe them before, but it has all come true now."

Speaking of mining disasters and ghostly phenomena, we have the very strange case of a mine in Freiburg, Germany, which supposedly was the scene of a massive explosion in September of 1978. Fortunately, no one was killed in the incident, but according to the story this is perhaps due to the intervention of some phantom apparition. On the morning of the fatal explosion, a group of miners were allegedly on their way to work in the doomed mine when they noticed a large shadowy figure wearing a voluminous black cape standing by the entrance, which as they approached unleashed an unearthly howl that reportedly sounded “like 50 people screaming.”

The frightened men understandably retreated to some distance away as the figure paced about glaring at them, and around an hour later there was purportedly an earthshaking boom that caused the earth all around to shudder. This was the explosion, which would subsequently lead to the collapse of the entire mine, and would have been their certain death if that strange creature had not chased them off with its unearthly screams. It is difficult to ascertain whether this event ever really happened or not, and the miners involved have never been identified or proven to have ever really existed, but it is a spooky tale nonetheless.

Some disasters have also been supposedly heralded by strange lights in the sky that seem to be UFOs. In March of 2011, the region of Fukushima, Japan was devastated by a powerful earthquake and subsequent lethal tsunami that would wipe out thousands of lives and leave countless people without homes. In the weeks before the earthquake there was a dramatic spike in UFO reports in the region, including four anomalous objects over Haneda Airport a week before the disaster, a curious unidentified object seen and filmed just north of Tokyo a mere 2 hours before the quake hit, the video of which you can see here, and a cigar shaped object seen hovering in the vicinity of the Fukushima nuclear plant at around the same time. Similar anomalous lights in the sky have been seen in the days and hours before other earthquakes all around the world.

fukushima 2
Devastation at Fukushima, Japan

In the United States, the state of Oklahoma was terrorized by a hulking, vicious tornado on May 20, 2013, which laid waste to vast swaths of land and killed 91 people. Just 48 hours before this horrific tragedy, numerous reports of what seemed to be a “fleet of UFOs” came in from the vicinity of Moore, Oklahoma. While skeptics have claimed that these were just floating paper lanterns or some other mundane aerial phenomena and its timing so close to the tornado a coincidence, others believe that it was unmistakably some sort of sign. We will probably never know for sure, but the phenomenon of strange lights in the skies before and after disasters is widespread enough that it certainly all makes one wonder just what is going on here.

Other strange entities that have been seen before disasters are a little harder to classify. In 1979, the Godson family was on a family trip to the theme park called Luna Park, in Sydney, Australia. The day was going great, but they would have a rather odd encounter while at the park. At one point, a mysterious man dressed in a loincloth and a “Satanic” looking shamanistic mask and headdress of some sort approached and took a picture with the family’s 6-year-old son, Damien, while putting his arm around the boy’s shoulder. It seemed rather strange but harmless enough at the time, but it would get sinister rather quickly. Later that day, the Luna Park Ghost Train was gutted and ravaged by an out of control fire, which would kill Damien, his father, his 4-year-old brother, and three other children and one adult in the worst catastrophe the park had ever seen. Sine then, it has been speculated that the bizarre masked figure was some sort of ominous portent to the disaster or the instigator, and the park has claimed that there was no one employed there at the time wearing such a costume.

Damien Bennett and the strange figure at Luna Park

Another strange figure appeared before a terrible tragedy in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2010. At the time, an Allan and Sandra Bennetts had just moved to the area after buying a house there and renovating it. One afternoon, the family was visited by an unknown man dressed in black and wearing dark sunglasses. The stranger allegedly passed Alan an envelope that was later found to contain within it black and white pictures of their house from the 1930s. Alan Bennett would later claim that there was an unsettling quality to the photos, and that he had soon after thrown them away. The general atmosphere of the house was claimed to have also changed after the visit, with an unidentifiable sense of dread permeating the air at all times.

In addition to all of this this, paranormal activity began to beset the family, with perhaps the most dramatic being an incident in which the couple was awoken in the middle of the night to find footprints appearing in their blanket, which culminated in Alan being temporarily strangled by a violent, invisible force. Whether the man in black and this demonic entity were connected is unknown, but what is known is that several days later the area would be rocked by the first of two major earthquakes, which would claim the lives of hundreds of people. Were these some sort of sinister premonition of doom? It remains unknown.

With such incredible accounts we are left to wonder about many things. Are there strange phantom beings that make themselves known when disaster is about to strike? If so, what are they and what do they want? Do they actually cause these unfortunate events or are they in a sense trying to help us by warning us of the impending crises? If this is the case, then how can we understand the messages to better prepare for what is to come? If such beings and phenomena exist at all, then their intent and meanings remain a complete enigma to us. There is no way at the moment to penetrate these deep mysteries or the meanings they hide within them. They seem to be just merely another facet of the vast landscape of the weird that continues to elude us.

Brent Swancer

Brent Swancer is an author and crypto expert living in Japan. Biology, nature, and cryptozoology still remain Brent Swancer’s first intellectual loves. He's written articles for MU and Daily Grail and has been a guest on Coast to Coast AM and Binnal of America.

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