War brings with it violence, horror, strife, and madness. Among all of the chaos and bloodshed there can be some rather strange incidents indeed, and across the ages there have been various accounts of something very strange going on behind the scenes of our relentless drive to kill ourselves. Although there are plenty of reports of the killing and death of war, what is not often reported upon are the numerous cases of strange sightings and phenomena that seem to be going on as well. Perhaps some of the more bizarre of these are the baffling and sinister entities that have been seen in wartime of a decidedly supernatural, perhaps even demonic nature. Here is a selection of wartime encounters with creatures and beings that seem to lie beyond our current understanding of the world as we know it.
One rather obscure but terrifying account originates in October of 1943, among the cacophony of death and chaos of the German bombings of London. As the citizens cowered in their homes fearfully awaiting the next booming shudder of the ground from another bomb, a military group called the ARP (Air Raid Precautions) stalked through streets painted by the flickering of the glow of explosions and picked through the rubble of the massacre in an effort to salvage as many lives as they could. One of these men was named Howard Leland, and he was to find something perhaps far worse than the enemy here in this war-torn wasteland.
At some point the ground heaved with the wrath of a particularly close bomb strike, and Leland allegedly ducked into a quaking abandoned house to take shelter as the structure rained dust and debris down upon him. As it was night, he used his flashlight to pierce through the murk, particles of dust dislodged by the bomb strike hovering and dancing in the beam. He made his way to the top of a darkened stairwell that descended down into a pitch black that his feeble light could not shake off, and he nevertheless stumbled down to the bottom of a cellar, where he reportedly crouched down to wait out the enemy bombing run, praying that the building he was in would not be the next to be disintegrated into rubble.
As he waited there for either the bombs to stop or to die, he purportedly began to get the very strong feeling that he was being watched, that eyes were lying heavily upon him, a feeling that would evolve into a palpable sense of thick dread. Sitting there in the dark silence, Leland reportedly shone his flashlight up to the top of the stairs and caught in its beam the horrifying sight of what looked like a massive cat-like beast crouching at the topmost step, with large, incandescent eyes and horns protruding from its head. Leland would later explain that the monstrous entity had seemed to exude icy waves of an “aura of evil,” and that its unblinking eyes had had a hypnotic quality that held him in a trance.
As he sat there transfixed by the entity's gaze, it suddenly leapt from the step to come pouncing down towards him as an unearthly howl reverberated through the still air, yet before it hit the ground it seemed to evaporate into thin air, breaking him from whatever spell it had kept him in. At that same moment he said that he had heard human voices and footsteps, and that some of his fellow ARP members had then emerged from the gloom to his rescue. Leland told them what had happened in a panic, but none of the other men reported having come across anything strange in the house and had not heard the bone-chilling wail he described. However, much to Leland’s surprise some of the other men in the unit claimed that a very similar shadowy, cat-like beast with horns and glowing eyes had been spotted by others in the same vicinity.
Apparently Leland would be so disturbed by his harrowing encounter with the unexplained that he would visit a clairvoyant named John Pendragon, who was allegedly immediately able to divine the location of the house on a map of London. With some digging into the history of the house it would turn out that one of the previous owners had been an occultist and black magician who had routinely used cats for sacrifices in dark, arcane rituals. It seems that this sinister individual had gone mad and then hung himself at the top of those stairs, after which the cat monster had been spotted over the years. This caused Pendragon to come to the conclusion that the entity that Leland had seen was perhaps some sort of elemental spirit or demon that had taken on a feline form due absorbing the history of cat violence that permeated the structure. The account was written of in both Pendragon’s autobiography Pendragon (1968), as well as Brad Steiger’s book Bizarre Cats (1993), and remains a truly bizarre account of the unexplained from World War II.
Another type of vaguely demonic entity supposedly seen during World War II were devilish-looking little beasts known as Gremlins. These gnome-like, somewhat reptilian creatures were often reported especially by pilots during the war on all sides of the conflict, and were often blamed for technical mishaps, malfunctions, and freak accidents. I have covered this here at Mysterious Universe before, and a particularly strange example of such an account comes from a man identified only as L.W., who was a Boeing B-17 pilot during the war and not only believes that many plane failures were due to the activities of these mischievous creatures, but also claims to have had a close encounter of his own with the creatures. L.W. claimed that during one mission his aircraft had sudden technical difficulties, and that when he investigated he came face to face with the legendary Gremlins, which he said were about 3-feet tall with hairless grey skin, long pointy ears, and red eyes. He would say of what happened thus:
So I am very aware of my surroundings, and as I go higher, I notice an unusual sound coming from the engine. The instruments went nuts. I look at my right and I see an entity staring at me. Then I look at the aircraft’s nose, and there it is another one, hanging in there. Dancing lizards. I was perfectly fine…my senses were in good shape, but the weird things were still there looking at me. They kept going at it, pounding the plane with all their might. They appeared to be laughing, with their big mouths open, looking at me, hitting the plane with their long arms, trying to pull stuff. I have no doubt in my mind that they were trying to crash it. I managed to stabilize the flight and I saw the critters falling off the aircraft. I don’t know if they fell and died, or if they jumped from my plane to a different one. I have no idea.
There are numerous similar reports from throughout World War II, and whether these creatures were ever real at all or just the product of addled minds they remain at least curious accounts of something decidedly supernatural in nature going on during World War II. In later years we have a case of very demonic creatures supposedly encountered during the Vietnam War (1955-1975), which was related to Lon Stickler at the site Phantoms and Monsters by a witness who claims to have been a U.S. Army corporal during the war. He claims that in 1970 he was second-in-command of a squad of soldiers operating in a thickly jungled remote area just south of the DMZ (demilitarized zone).
The witness claims that they had set up a bivouac in an area of steep hills, and had then set out on a night patrol of the surrounding vicinity. They encountered what they took to be enemy activity and hunkered down to wait it out, during which time they got only fleeting glimpses of something moving through the brush. When the activity died down they continued through the valley they were in until they hit a sheer wall of stone that oddly looked as if someone had stacked enormous boulders in front of it. A cave entrance was also visible, which looked to have been cleanly carved into solid rock. It was very unlike anything they knew of enemy caves, and they decided to get closer to investigate.
As they approached, a fetid, putrid smell like “rotting eggs and human decay” began to pervade the area, which seemed to be bellowing out from the cave opening. So bad was the stench that several squad members reportedly fell physically ill, vomiting in the bushes. They took up positions in the jungle near the entrance and waited as they discerned strange rumbling sounds from below. As dawn began to come, something very strange happened indeed, of which the witness says:
Just then we noticed movement in front of the cave. A being (I first thought it was a man) moved through the entrance into the clearing in front of the cave. As it stood up from a crouch it stood at least 7 foot high and started to look in our direction. At that time, another similar-looking creature was moving out of the cave. They were making hellish ‘hissing’ sounds and looking directly at us.
The only way I can describe these beings is that they looked like upright lizards. The scaly, shiny skin was very dark – almost black. Snake-like faces with forward set eyes that were very large. They had arms and legs like a human but with scaly skin. I didn’t notice a tail – though they wore long one-piece dark green robes along with a dark cap-like covering on their heads. I never noticed if they had anything on their feet.
No one gave the order – it seemed like the entire squad opened fire at once. Every piece of vegetation between us and them was quickly sheared away. I yelled out a cease-fire order – at the same time I was looking in the direction of the cave. There was nothing there. We immediately checked our flank in case these things circled around us – but there was nothing.
As we approached the cave, ready to resume action if needed, it became apparent that the beings had escaped – most likely back into the cave. It was soon decided to set charges and close the cave entrance.
When we returned to camp we all seemed to be in a daze. There was little discussion of the incident and we were never debriefed – so I know the sergeant never filed a report. Then again, if he did, it was kept quiet by the brass.
It is a very strange account to be sure, if it is true at all. Moving on into later years yet are reports from U.S. military personnel stationed at Hahn Air Base, at Morbach, Germany, during the Cold War in the 1980s. According to soldiers at the base, a strange, wolf-like creature prowling about on two legs was spotted from time to time, with one particularly harrowing account coming from 1988. According to the reports, one evening a group of Air Force personnel were at the base when the sirens began shrieking into the dark, indicating that something had tripped an alarm somewhere.
Base personnel went to investigate and apparently came across a bipedal wolf-like monstrosity standing around 8 or 9 feet in height, which gazed menacingly at the soldiers before clearing a 10-foot tall fence with apparent ease. When a tracker dog was brought in, it apparently became overwhelmed with fear at the location of the sighting, cowering and trembling with terror. At the time it seems that no one knew of a persistent legend in the area of a creature that spans back to the time of Napoleon. According to the tales, a man named Johannes Baptist Schwytzer and some others had deserted Napoleon’s army and fled towards his homeland in Alsace, eventually finding himself in the German town of Wittlich, where they murder the family of a farmer whose land they had been stealing from.
The legend says that the farmer’s wife cursed Schwytzer to become a howling beast on the full moon, after which the soldier had killed her as well. The stories say that the curse worked, and that he became a beast at the full moon to murder, rape, and pillage as a bipedal wolf-like abomination, continuing his reign until he was killed by a lynch mob of villagers. It is speculated that this legend may have had something to do with what the U.S. personnel saw, and an anthropologist from the College of Mainz by the name of Matthias Burgard even checked out these reports to uncover several reports of a bipedal wolf-man in the area. What was going on here? No one seems to really know, and tales of the “Morbach Monster” continue to circulate.
Coming into the 2000s we have the war in Afghanistan, which produced some strange accounts as well. One that was personally relayed to me was that of a man named Jerry Aberdeen, who in 2004 was stationed in Mosul, Ninewah Province. He told a very strange story of a seemingly demonic creature encountered out in these badlands. He would say of this weird incident thus:
I was attached to 2/3 INF 3 SBCT at FOB Patriot. A call went out on the radio that FOB Diamondback (the airfield) was under attack. Everyone on every FOB from, Courage, Blickenstaff, Patriot and Marez jumped into the closest vehicle and headed to the airfield to counter the attack. I was in a vehicle with some other infantry guys, an engineer and a PsyOps guy. When we got to the airfield we saw some dudes trying to climb over the wall. The gunner opened up on them and the rest of us took up a position in a ditch on the other side of the road and opened fire. There were three of us side by side, the engineer, the PsyOps guys and myself. We fired and one guy and he dropped from the top of the wall (hard to tell who actually shot him). Right after he fell there was stream of black smoke coming out of him. The engineer made that comment that he must have been wearing a suicide vest and it malfunctioned. A few seconds later the black smoke grew larger and started to take a human looking form. What happened next all three of us saw and there was no doubt. The now fully materialized black smoke was standing upright and now had red smoky glowing eyes and a weird looking mouth. The damn thing actually smiled at us and turned to, sort of run but it just dissipated after it took a few steps. Very hard to describe how it all happened. All three of us just looked at each other wide eyed for a second or two. After it was all over we only spoke about once then never again.
Was this a demon, a ghost, a specter, or what? It is hard to say. There are also reports of what seem to be actual vampires in Afghanistan, and I have written of these here before thus. One investigator, reporter, and former U.S. Marine named Tim King, who spent months in the Afghanistan combat theater covering a variety of of military operations for Salem-News.com and Oregon’s KPTV FOX-12, wrote of just such a thing in a 2007 article for Salem-News entitled "Vampires in Afghanistan? Soldiers Say It’s True." According to King, during his travels he met an American soldier at the Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan who would tell him a bizarre tale indeed.
The soldier asked King if he knew about the vampire problem in the area, something the reporter had not once heard of in his entire time in the country. Intrigued, King asked for more information on what the soldier was talking about, who obliged by claiming that the vampires were said to live deep in the desert, that they were quite a bit taller than normal humans, and that they were frequently women. He claimed the people of the area had known about these sinister creatures for centuries, that they came out in the dark and stalked the desert badlands and mountains at night looking for victims, and that they were indeed often thought to be responsible for people going missing without a trace. The soldier would tell King:
They are really terrified of them. It scares people half to death if they just think one is around. They come out at night, sometimes people come up missing, especially kids. They even pull their animals inside when the vampires are out. It’s been going on for hundreds of years here, people in other parts of the world don’t even know about it; but anyone who has lived around here does. Guys are scared, you’re damned right. They know there isn’t a thing anyone can do about it if one of them decides to come after you, you just stick with other people and hope for the best sometimes.
War brings with it monsters, of that there can be no doubt. Yet among the human monsters that congeal out of the darkness of conflict also seem to be those which of are of more uncertain origins. Are these the result of stressed minds plagued by the specters of war? Are they just tall tales and superstitions? Or are these perhaps a peek into the world of strange entities prowling the fringes of the suffering we bring upon each other, perhaps feeding upon the terror of it all? There within the cracks of all of the reports of war we will continue to uncover such anomalous cases, and wonder just what it all means.