One type of entity long reported in the world of the unexplained is that of the prowling phantom, skulking about in the shadows to terrify, baffle, and even attack, which I have covered here before. There is one type of these shadowy individuals that warrants attention in that they seem to have been decked out in powered suits or armor of some type, very much like some sort of dark superhero. Here we look at various unidentified individuals that have skirted about the periphery of our understanding while donning fantastical suits of unknown design and even more inscrutable purpose.
One very bizarre entity decked out in some sort of mysterious powered suit seems to have been obviously not human and quite literally out of this world, appearing in the country of Finland, at a place called Kinnula. The first sighting occurred on February 2 of 1971, when two local women named Sinikka Kuittinen and a Mrs. Manninen had a strange encounter with what seems to have been some sort of alien being. The two were allegedly driving along a remote road in a region near Kiiminki at around 8 PM when they saw a strange light pass over their vehicle, followed by the startling sight of a very bizarre creature that ran across the road in front of them. The entity was described as being around 3 feet in height and dressed in a thick greenish-brown suit with a helmet, and the witnesses explained that it moved in a series of nimble leaps and bounds that almost seemed to defy gravity.
An even more dramatic account would come just 3 days later, on February 5, 1971, and involved two lumberjacks named Petter Aliranta and Esko Juhani Sneck, who saw what seems to have been the very same entity. The lumberjacks reported that they had witnessed a UFO descend into the trees, upon which it landed in a small clearing and disgorged a diminutive humanoid entity less than 3 feet tall that was dressed in some sort of green one-piece suit with a faceplate reminiscent of something a deep sea diver would wear. The creature seemed to have some sort of anti-gravity device on its person, perhaps ensconced within the suit, as it levitated from the ship to land on the snowy ground, which oddly did not melt under its feet.
After a few moments the being then reportedly began approaching the two lumberjacks, moving in graceful leaps that suggested its anti-gravity powers, as it was described as moving like someone walking on the moon, almost as if it were gracefully gliding along with each jump. Aliranta apparently stood his ground and the thing then allegedly turned around to head back to its ship, with the lumberjack deciding to give chase for some reason.
When it reached the strange object it then purportedly began to levitate towards an opening, and Aliranta reached out to grab its leg. It is unclear what would have possessed him to try this, but he certainly regretted it, as the material of the thing’s suit was claimed to be incredibly, unbearably hot, searing the lumberjack’s hand and causing him to reel away in intense pain. The craft then ascended and disappeared into the night. The two witnesses would later claim that they had experienced disorientation and partial paralysis for an hour after the craft was gone, and the burns on Aliranta’s hand would apparently take months to heal.
While this may have been an alien or a tall tale, other such suited-up mystery phantoms are a bit harder to categorize. One of the strangest cases of a phantom in some sort of weird suit comes to us from the country of Czechoslovakia during the bloody fighting of World War II. The Nazis relentlessly and brutally moved in to occupy the country between the years of 1938 to 1945, and the oppressed and conquered Czechoslovakian people were forced into hard labor at oppressive factories producing tanks, guns, and artillery, in horrid conditions and routinely worked until they fell in exhaustion or death. All through this, the Czech people were subjected to numerous, countless cruelties, offenses, and human rights abuses, and the occupying Nazi forces in Czechoslovakia were quick to deal out death and suffering to those who would dare to oppose them, although there were scattered resistance groups that were largely ineffectual.
The worst atrocity carried out against the Czechs happened in the after math of the assassination of SS leader Heinrich Himmler’s deputy and Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, Reinhard Heydrich, which resulted in swift and merciless reprisals. The villages of Lidice and Ležáky were razed to the ground, 1,300 were ruthlessly murdered and 10,000 arrested and sentenced to rot or be executed in concentration camps without trial. It was somewhere around this time, when the people of Czechoslovakia were lost in despair, without hope, and with their villages in ruins, that a curious, enigmatic stranger began to make his presence known.
There began to circulate rumors of a mysterious man dressed in some sort of black body armor and wearing a face mask that held within it glowing eyes. This shadowy figure was said to have all manner of strange powers, in particular the astounding ability to make superhuman leaps of extraordinary magnitude, with witnesses describing the way he could bound across rooftops, over speeding trains, high gates, and even buildings with ease. In at least one report the black-clad figure was said to be able to leap completely over the Vitava River at its widest point, during which he was said to fly effortlessly through the air “like a shuttlecock” and to unleash an ear shattering, unearthly whistling sound. This power to leap great distances with ease led the stranger being called Pérák, or literally “Springer” or “Spring Man,” with the name deriving from the Czech word péro, meaning “spring.”
Adding to this impressive leaping ability was Pérák’s alleged phenomenal speed, stamina and agility, all of which were said to make him impossible to follow or capture. His strength was said to be at superhuman levels, able to toss a full grown man aside easily or to punch through walls. At first, Pérák was seen by the populace as a menacing, almost demonic figure to be feared. Early versions of the story have the mysterious apparition scaring or chasing and terrorizing innocent people, and even killing or raping citizens, and people began to avoid going out at night or refusing to go to work night shifts at the weapons factories to the extent that it even had a negative impact on the Nazi arms production output.
However, this image as a sinister and diabolical boogieman quickly changed as time went on. Word began to spread that Pérák was starting to turn his attention to the ruthless German occupying forces, sabotaging their equipment and leaping from the shadows to slit their throats before bounding away. Although he seemed to mostly prefer stealth and moving in the shadows, there were reports of the phantom actively engaging German soldiers, throwing them about like ragdolls and stabbing at them with swords, clubs, or knives, as well as using some sort of ear-piercing sonic attack to stun enemies and make them reel in pain. It was rumored that during these violent encounters he seemed to be impervious to bullets when fired upon by the Nazis, with some accounts even describing German bullets ricocheting off of him to hit other soldiers, and he was always able to use his amazing jumping abilities to easily evade pursuit.
Pérák not only showed great athletic and combat prowess, but also showed great skill with explosives and pyrotechnics, being credited with blowing up German supply lines, vehicles, and even destroying a tank in Grébovka Park. In a few stories he was seen to use some sort of fireworks as a weapon, spewing flames from devices on his wrists at the enemy. He was also known to allegedly steal secret Nazi plans and documents, such as the plans to an unspecified German secret weapon from the ČKD factory in Vysočany. There were even those who went so far as to claim that it had in fact been Pérák who had assassinated Reinhard Heydrich. Throughout all of this one-man struggle against the juggernaut German war machine, Pérák was said to leave bold and taunting anti-Nazi graffiti on walls or gates in normally inaccessible places, further strengthening his legend.
This growing image of him as a sort of superhero for the Czech people led to Pérák evolving to be a potent symbol of resistance against the Nazi regime, a savior for the people, and the fantastical stories quickly fanned out across the countryside to embed themselves firmly within the collective consciousness of the oppressed populace. Pérák seemed to be everywhere. It got to the point where nearly every problem, mishap, accident, or death the Germans suffered was attributed to the Spring Man of Prague, and he was widely seen as a hero and a ray of hope piercing through the gloom and death of the Nazi occupation. The legend of Pérák steadily gained momentum until the end of the war, when he seemed to vanish as suddenly and mysteriously as he had appeared, leaving a powerful legend behind.
Theories have long swirled as to who or what Pérák was. One idea is that he was a disgruntled citizen, an American secret agent, or a British paratrooper who had taken matters into his own hands, and that his various abilities and agility could be explained by the vigilante being an acrobat or gymnast who had developed through ingenuity a variety of ingenious gadgetry to explain his amazing powers, such as real spring loaded boots, pyrotechnic weapons, stimulants to enhance physical prowess and strength, and some sort of bullet-proof body armor. It has even been suggested that the whistling or wailing sound often attributed to Pérák could have been from some sort of spring-loaded machinery or even a sonic weapon in itself embedded in his suit for the purpose of startling, frightening, stunning, or disorienting his enemies. These abilities could have subsequently been possibly exaggerated over consequent retellings as the tales took off in the peoples’ imagination. Other ideas are that this was an actual specter, ghost, demon, or even an alien. Then of course this may all just be an urban legend, a story created to give the people hope in the face of the Nazi scourge.
It is certainly worth mentioning the clear parallels between the stories of Pérák and yet another phantom in a suit, in the form of the notorious Spring-heeled Jack of the United Kingdom. Beginning in 1837, the industrial suburbs of London, Sheffield, and Liverpool, as well as the Midlands and even as far away as Scotland became the stomping grounds for a mysterious figure with the remarkable ability to make enormous leaps via springs attached to his feet, who persistently terrorized residents and was known to make his escape by swiftly bounding away.
This specter quickly became known as Spring-heeled Jack, and was depicted as having a frightening appearance, with metal claws attached to his hands and in some accounts glowing red eyes and the ability to shoot blue and white flames from his mouth. Spring-heeled Jack was far from a noble hero, and was mostly seen as a decidedly malevolent force which sowed mayhem and misery wherever he went, but it was a very widespread tale all the way up to the early 1900s and word of this scary entity spread throughout Europe, including the region of Bohemia.
Considering this, it seems plausible that considering the similarities in the apparent use of pyrotechnics, or jumping to attack or evade capture, the stories of Spring-heeled Jack may very well have influenced those of Pérák. After all, even Pérák started off as a menacing, demonic figure, and the striking similarities between the two are obvious. Whatever the case may be, both Pérák and Spring-heeled Jack remain compelling mysteries that have never been adequately solved.
In the years after World War II there were some strange encounters with what seems to have been a person or people in some sort of flying mechanized suit. In early 1948, a 61-year-old witness named Bernice Zaikowski claimed that she had been out in the yard of her home in Chehalis, Washington at around 3:00 PM when some neighborhood children began looking up at the sky and chattering away about a “flying man” up in the sky. It was at this point that Zaikowski allegedly heard an odd noise from above that sounded like “a sizzling and whizzing,” and when she looked up she could see something very odd indeed hovering up over a nearby barn around 20 feet in the air.
The witness insisted that what she saw looked like a man wearing a pair of long silver wings fastened to his shoulders with some sort of strap rig, and which he seemed to control with some sort of high-tech panel attached to his chest. The mysterious man with his bizarre flying suit apparently then performed some aerial acrobatics, ascended into the air, and flew off into the distance in an upright posture. At no point could the witness discern any obvious source of propulsion such as a jet pack or propeller, and the contraption the man wore seemed to be mostly silent except for that odd whizzing sound. The whole sight was seen by Zaikowski and several other witnesses, all of whom were dumfounded. Was this some sort of flying gadget crafted by a mad genius?
Later that same year, in April of 1948 the mysterious figure was purportedly seen again in the same general vicinity, and this time he was apparently with friends. The two witnesses, laundry workers Viola Johnson and James Pittman, claimed that they saw “three men in flying suits” making circles over the city at a height of around 250 feet. Johnson would say of the spectacle:
They looked like three men in flying suits flying through the air. They wore dark drab flying suits and as far as I can judge - I'm not very good at judging distance - they were 250 feet high, circling the city. They were going at about the same speed as a freight train and had some kind of apparatus on their sides which looked like guns but I know it couldn't have been guns. I couldn't see any propellers or any motors tied on them but I could hear motors which sounded like airplane motors, only not so loud. When they first came into sight I thought they looked like gulls but as they got closed I could see plainly that they were men. I couldn't make out their arms but I could see their feet dangling down and they kept moving their heads, like they were looking around. I couldn't tell if they had goggles on but their heads look like they had helmets on. I couldn't see their faces.
The two witnesses’ story was somewhat corroborated when several local people later recalled hearing strange sounds in the sky at around the time of the sighting. Who were these flying men and where did they get those amazing suits? Were these some eccentric inventors who had come up with a new way of flight? If so, whatever happened to this incredible invention? Or was it something else, perhaps time travelers or visitors from another parallel dimension? Could it have all just been a hoax or tall tale? It’s hard to say.
Most recently, the Swiss town of Maules was haunted by some sort of humanoid phantom between the years of 2003 and 2013, which was said to stalk through the nearby woodlands. The enigmatic figure was typically described as being around 6 to 7 feet tall and dressed in some sort of boiler suit, as well as a gas mask that covered the entire head, a military style cape, and rugged military boots. Although quite frightening to those who encountered the inscrutable entity lumbering through the woods, there have been sightings that seem to suggest it is not malevolent but still unsettling nevertheless, as was the case of a local woman who saw the being wandering about while clutching a bunch of flowers. Another local named Marianne Descloux saw the phantom as well, and she would say of the sight:
It was a rainy Sunday. He had a cap, a dark cloak and his gas mask. What could possibly be going through his head? I don't know, but it was unforgettable - and unpleasant. I hope I don't run into him again.
The thing has come to be known as “Le Loyon,” as well as the “Ghost De Maules,” and things got even odder still when an amateur photographer claimed to have captured a photo of it. The photo would be published in the newspaper Le Matin, and although it has been widely criticized as being a hoax the photographer insists that it is all real. He would say of his encounter:
I approached him up to a dozen meters away. He had a military cape, boots and an army gas mask - an antique type, I think. He measured more than 1.90m. He stared at me then turned his back on me and left in silence.
Adding some more mystery and intrigue to this strange figure was the discovery of what appeared to be the suit, gas mask, and cloak laid out in the forest accompanied by a cryptic note which refers to "Le risque d'une chasse à la Bête," or "The risk of a hunt for the Beast," and allegedly includes the figure’s insistence that he is a “harmless being” and concern that Le Matin had made his existence known and forced him to abandon his plight, whatever that was. According to one article on the matter written in a bulletin in Sâles the letter seemed to be some sort of suicide note, and it says of the contents:
The risk of a hunt for the Beast became too great...The note expressed Le Loyon's concerns that the recent exposure would lead to further attention, which forced the person under the clothes to abandon the walks, which the letter referred to as 'happiness therapy.' Then, it snarks at the reader for not understanding the works of one Sacher-Masoch.
Whatever it all means, the mysterious intruder has not been seen since, leading one to wonder what it all means. Who was Le Loyon? Was this just some maniac running around in his weird getup or was this something more? What did that last note even mean, and was it even from the guy himself? As with many of the cases here it all remains unresolved. In the end, with all of these cases we are left to wonder who or what these phantom figures were, where they came from, what they wanted, and where they got their wonderful toys. Be it humans messing around with new tech, aliens, inter dimensional interlopers, or just plain hoaxes, these are decidedly unique accounts at the very least. Are they ghosts, demons, aliens, mad scientists, or what? Whatever they are, they can safely be said to inhabit their own corner of the world of the weird.