Jun 20, 2018 I Brent Swancer

Wartime Encounters with Menacing Mystery Monsters

Throughout history the battlefields of our bloody wars have been saturated with all manner of tales of valor, bravery, cruelty, and tragedy. These are part of the fabric of war, an intrinsic property of it, and this tapestry of death infuses our history with its grim shadow. Often overshadowed by the atrocity and gloom of war there are often other bizarre stories scattered about and buried within this history, and war seems to bring about it stories of strange entities, creatures, and mysteries as well, with some of these things being just as sinister and scary as any enemy. Here are some of the more frightening and violent encounters with cryptids and mysterious entities during wartime.

A particularly strange and rather violent early account comes from the Crimean War, which lasted from 1854 to 1856 and saw an alliance of forces from the Ottoman Empire, France, Britain and Sardinia battling the Russian Empire for religious control of the Holy Land in the Middle East. Amid all of the fierce fighting and death lies buried a very bizarre report of some sort of flying monster that defies easy classification. During a lull in fighting following a fierce 6-day battle, a band of Russian soldiers reportedly headed out over the nighttime battlefield in order to push past the corpses and buzzing flies to launch a surprise attack on their enemy, with whom they had arranged a tense 24-hour truce.

It was an underhanded tactic to say the least, but they wouldn’t get very far with their insidious plan. As they crept closer to the enemy camp, the men suddenly realized that in the air above them there soared an enormous flying, crow-like entity with the wings of a bat and which was described as not having any discernible head. The thing seemed to be circling ominously above them but the frightened men nevertheless warily continued on their mission. However, for some reason they had become disoriented and were actually headed back towards their camp, where they were mistaken for the enemy and gunned down by friendly fire, with only one of them living to tell the tale of what they had seen out there in the dark.

In later years the account has evolved and changed depending on the telling, with some reports claiming that the band of ambushers were not Russian at all, but rather Turkish troops, and that they had rushed from the darkness screaming and pursued by a horde of bizarre screeching bat-like creatures. One very interesting theory as to what was seen that night is that this was an early instance of a Mothman sighting, and that it was a harbinger of doom during this time of intense bloodshed. Whatever happened out there on that battlefield it remains an intriguing mystery among all of the tales of battle.

Moving on into later years we come to World War I, which produced a few very compelling accounts of mystery monsters. A very strange and very dramatic, almost cinematic sighting happened during the fighting on the seas during World War I, and occurred on July 30, 1915, when the German U-boat U-28 was patrolling somewhere in the North Atlantic and locked onto a British steamer called the Iberian. The steamer was relentlessly chased down and destroyed with torpedoes and shells, and it began to sink, the German sub circling it like a predator stalking its wounded prey. As they watched, the bow of the vessel tipped up and the once mighty British ship began its descent into the depths.

As it did, there was reportedly a huge underwater explosion aboard the doomed vessel, speculated to have been perhaps a damaged boiler. The massive detonation sent a shower of foamy water and debris into the air, as well as something altogether bizarre beyond reason. According to the U-28‘s captain, Freiherr George G von Forstner, he and seven other crew members, an anomalous creature the likes of which they had never seen was also ejected out of the water with pieces of ship and the spray of water, which was described as being somewhat similar to a crocodile in general body shape, with a long tapered head and measuring a whopping 65 feet (20 meters) in length. The creature apparently came back down to the water but was still alive, although obviously grievously wounded, purportedly thrashing about in the water and biting at wreckage for a time before sinking out of sight. In total, the creature was allegedly witnessed for around 15 seconds from a distance of around 500–300 ft (100-150 meters) in bright and clear daytime conditions.

Interestingly, Forstner would write of the bizarre encounter in both his log and in an official report on the matter. There has been speculation that it might have been a total fabrication, but this seems odd for a respected submarine captain to write such a fantastical delusion in a log right alongside serious war matters, as well as in a report to his superiors. It also could have been a mis-identification, but of what? Cryptozoologists have pointed to the fact that the creature described sounds very much like an enormous prehistoric marine reptile called a mosasaur. It will probably remain a mystery, as all of the witnesses are dead and the only records we have are the logbook and the official report. Whatever it was, the U-28 sighting is often considered to be one of the most reliable historical cryptozoological accounts out there.

Another very similar and even scarier encounter happened in later years near the end of World War I, again in the North Atlantic. On April 30th, 1918, the British vessel the Coreopsis was operating off the coast of Ireland when they came across the German U-boat UB-85 floundering in the water, which was approached without a fight. The frightened German crew seemed harried, and surrendered without a single bit of resistance, seemingly happy to have been found and eager to get off of their ship. The captain of UB-85, Gunter Krech, would under interrogation tell a rather frightening and unbelievable account. He explained that the previous night the submarine had surfaced in order to charge its batteries. It had been a calm and quiet night, but this would all change when a gigantic impact was reported as rocking the vessel from below. As the shaken crew gathered to peer into the dark waters, a strange beast then supposedly surfaced right next to the submarine, described as having a bony head and large teeth set within the comparatively small head.

Things had apparently gotten quite intense when the sea monster had then allegedly attacked the submarine, lurching up upon the starboard bow as it thrashed about and bit at the vessel. After a moment of stunned bewilderment, the men had begun to open fire on the creature, causing it to release the sub and slide back into the sea to disappear. In the aftermath of the startling encounter, it was found that UB-85 had sustained enough damage to prevent it from diving, making it a sitting duck for the enemy. The British calmly listened to this wild tale and then had the German submarine sunk, unfortunately along with any evidence at all that this had really happened. Additionally, official reports make no mention of the sea monster encounter, so there has been some skepticism as to whether this event really happened or not. Whether it did or not, it is certainly a rather exciting encounter.

One of the strangest encounters with a mystery monster in World War I allegedly happened on the battlefield of Mons, Belgium, in 1914, and was covered by author and researcher Theo Paijmans in an article called "The Hound of Mons", in Fortean Times, December 2008. Soldiers seem to have had more than the tenacious enemy to contend with, and according to an account by a Canadian veteran of the battle named F.J. Newhouse, the whole terrifying incident began with a Capt. Yeskes and four men of the London Fusiliers braved the perils of no man’s land in order to carry out a patrol of the area and never returned. This was not strange in and of itself, as this was a bloody battle during World War I and to go missing was a common occurrence. Yet, when the bodies of the men were found several days later, it was discovered that something had ripped their throats out and left gaping teeth marks upon the corpses. One night a few days after this, it was reported that soldiers from both sides heard an ear piercing, monstrous howl emanating from the desolate darkness of no man’s land. The bloodcurdling shriek was allegedly so terrifying that some soldiers who had braved battle day after day cowered and considered retreating at once.

From this incident sprang numerous rumors of other soldiers being found dead and mauled as if by some very large, vicious beast, and that unearthly wail became a common sound echoing out across the area. The occasional anguished cries of terror from German soldiers across the battlefield seemed to indicate that they were suffering similar attacks. The unearthly nighttime roars also increased in frequency and it was around this time that some of the soldiers on sentry duty along the edges of no man’s land reported seeing an enormous, gray hound skulking about out in the shadows of the war torn chasm between the two enemies, often said to possess glowing eyes. For two years the mysterious hound supposedly prowled the bloody battlefield of Mons, gaining an ever growing list of victims and instilling horror in the troops. Then, as suddenly as it had appeared the hound was gone and the attacks ceased.

The story was widely circulated when Newhouse first came forward with it in 1919, and it would gain further elements of bizarreness when he speculated that the creature had been the result of a twisted experiment carried out by a German doctor named Gottlieb Hochmuller for the purpose of inserting the brain of a madman into a massive Siberian wolfhound to be used as a weapon of war. Newhouse would say of this in a 1919 article in the Oklahoman:

The death of Dr. Gottlieb Hochmuller in the recent Spartacan riots in Berlin has brought to light facts concerning the fiendish application of this German scientist’s skill that have astounded Europe. For the hound of Mons was not an accident, a phantom, or an hallucination–it was the deliberate result of one of the strangest and most repulsive scientific experiments the world has ever known.

Accounts have variously claimed that the hound had been altered to be larger than before, that its capacity for hatred had been chemically enhanced, or that its hide had been made to be impervious to bullets. Newhouse claimed that papers had been found upon Dr. Hochmuller’s death that fully outlined the whole experiment as well as the doctor’s wishes to unleash the beast on allied troops, and fully proved that the experiments were real. It is not explained whether the doctor had anticipated the maniacal hound turning against its own side or why the walking weapon might have suddenly stopped its rampage.

So what was going on here? Was there really some surgically or even genetically enhanced hellhound stalking the no man’s land? Was it something more supernatural in nature? Was it pure fancy? If there is any grain of truth to it all, then it seems perhaps more likely that wild or feral dogs had perhaps been drawn to the war and had congregated there feed on the dead fallen in battle, upon which their gruesome activities would be spotted by frightened, battle weary soldiers and interpreted as supernatural hounds from hell. This theory would also account for the ghostly howling that was heard from the front lines. I do wonder if dogs would be willing to stick around through all of the riotous cacophony of gunfire blazing around them, but it does offer a rational explanation if indeed the events were even real. Whether this is a piece of war folklore and flight of fancy or has element of truth to it we will probably never know, and the “Hellhound of Mons” remains a mysterious tale buried in history.

Also from World War II is the account of an A.G. Starkey, who was stationed aboard a British vessel operating off the coast of Maldives. One evening as the vessel was moored, Starkley claimed that he had gone out on the deck and that as he looked out over the water he noticed a huge dark mass and shone his flashlight upon it, catching in its beam a truly monstrous squid, which was claimed to stretch from one end of the ship the other, for a total of 175 feet (53 meters), far larger than any known squid. He would say of the strange encounter:

As I gazed, fascinated, a circle of green light glowed in my area of illumination. This green unwinking orb, I suddenly realized, was an eye. The surface of the water undulated with some strange disturbance. Gradually, I realized that I was gazing almost point-blank at a huge squid.

Since no other crew members saw the beast, it remains an enticing, yet unverified account of an epically gigantic squid along the lines of the Kraken of lore. The Japanese seem to have been plagued by sea monsters as well, as there is a report from one of their scout ships that seems to point to a ferocious attack by some underwater beast. Details of the case are scant, but one crewman described how a surge of water erupted near the vessel, after which the boat was jolted by something relentlessly ramming the hull.

Other crewmen arrived and saw what appeared to a large grey shape in the water at least 50 feet long, with a white underbelly, leathery skin, a prominent dorsal fin, and what was described as “the head of an alligator.” The creature would ram the vessel, circle back, then ram it again, sending its hull shuddering each time. It got to the point where the bone-jarring impacts caused the boat to list to starboard, upon which the shocked and panicked crew opened fire, finally sending whatever it was that had attacked them back into the depths from which it had come. There was allegedly so much damage to their ship that they were forced to abandon their mission and go back for repairs. Whatever it was we will probably never know.

The Japanese had some other very bizarre encounters during the war as well. During the heavy fighting that went on during bloody Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942 and 1943 on the Solomon Islands, Japanese troops began to come back from these mosquito infested jungle battlefields with strange stories of having come across giant, hairy hominids ranging from 10 to 15 feet in height, and covered in long, brown to reddish brown hair, with prominent brows, flat noses, and wide mouths, as well as immense arms with which they occasionally brandished crude weapons such as sticks and clubs.

It was reported that the giants were known to be quite aggressive and even attack on occasion. Several units described these terrifying beasts crashing through foliage to ravage, kill and maim squads of soldiers, or snapping apart trees and branches in threatening displays of raw power. Bullets were said to have little effect on them and soldiers would on many occasions be kept awake by inhuman wailing from the dark as the strange behemoths wandered the night crashing through brush and pushing over trees. Interestingly, the Solomon Islands have a long history of mysterious giants, and the local people are well aware of them, with a rich tradition of folklore on the creatures, as well as sightings and footprint evidence of giant hairy hominids on the islands that continue right up to the present day.

Finally, we come to the Vietnam War, where American GIs trudging through the murky jungles fighting a tough enemy in a faraway land began to bring back stories of encountering strange and seemingly hostile ape-like creatures out in the wilderness, which would come to be known as the Rock Apes. The most well known, in-depth published accounts of these enigmatic creatures come from a book by a veteran named Kregg P. J. Jorgenson, called Very Crazy G.I. – Strange but True Stories of the Vietnam War.

The account describes the ordeal of a 6-man unit from the 101st Airborne Division, who were taking a break after a relentless hike through unforgiving mountainous jungle terrain carrying heavy packs. Even as they rested they were attuned to the surrounding environment, very aware that the Viet Cong were everywhere and could strike at any moment. As the unit sat there resting, exhausted in their sweat soaked fatigues, some trees located around fifteen yards uphill then reportedly began shaking violently, and it was assumed that this was the enemy. The soldiers prepared their weapons and trained an eye on the suspicious, jostling trees. As they sat in wait, mosquitos buzzing around their heads and the creeping, sickening dread of the coming battle weighing heavily on their minds, it was then noticed that an oblong head with a face covered in reddish hair and possessing a huge mouth and dark, deep set eyes had emerged from the brush.

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American troops in the Vietnam jungle

The startled soldiers then witnessed a strange creature step from the underbrush to reveal a 5-foot tall muscular frame enveloped in the same matted reddish hair, after which it stood there on two legs to seemingly carefully scrutinize the men. The soldiers then speculated that it must be a large orangutan, before one of them pointed out that orangutans were not native to Vietnam. As they argued over what it could be, the strange beast purportedly lost interest in them and quietly slinked back off into the jungle.

Although this is the most well known report, it is not by any means the only one, and some of them are quite violent in nature, painting a picture of decidedly ferocious and aggressive beasts. One such account given by a Michael Kelley, of D Co 1st/502d Infantry of the 101st Airborne Division describes not one Rock Ape, but hundreds of them. In the account, in 1969, 8 of the strange creatures came casually walking up a trail on a ridge of Nui Mo Tau and surprised a platoon that was in the middle of having lunch when they turned a ridge about 10 meters from where the men were situated. According to Kelley, the platoon at first immediately thought they were Viet Cong and “all hell broke loose.” The squad of men opened up with M-16s, M-79s, and grenade launchers, lighting up the forest in a vicious display of booming firepower and flying pieces of vegetation. Kelley himself was at the far end of a clearing, about 50 meters from where the barrage of continuous shooting had started, and he grabbed a weapon to run to join them along with the platoon Sgt., taking cover under a toppled tree.

For a few moments, Kelley and the platoon Sgt. stayed hidden as the cacophony of gunfire erupted everywhere. When they finally gave each other the nod to engage, they popped out from behind the tree, ready to see a sizable enemy force descending upon them judging by the nonstop barrage of relentless gunfire. What they saw instead was the platoon firing away at “ghostly images” that were swooshing through bushes and trees all around them. The mysterious intruders were described as being around 5 and a half feet tall, and all but one was light brown to reddish brown in color. The other was almost black and was a particularly aggressive large male, which reportedly madly rushed at men through the thick underbrush, snarling and with teeth bared.

Throughout the frightening encounter, the ape-like beasts reportedly made sounds that sounded exactly like dogs barking. Then, the creatures, whatever they were, abruptly melted away into the forest, disappearing as if they had never been there. When the surprised platoon regained their composure, they searched the bullet riddled, gun smoke permeated area and found no sign of any dead bodies of the animals, and oddly not even any fur or blood. Kelley would remark on the surreal scene:

This may sound very strange to you, but although I had no or little concern about killing the enemy, the killing of innocent animals turned my stomach and could enrage me if done without being a necessity. But I searched the site and but found not a drop of blood, which totally amazed me given the amount of firing that had gone on. I wonder to this day if the men were shooting just to scare the Rock Apes away or whether they were really just poor marksman! The men who’d suffered the surprise looked a bit worse for wear, and I’m sure a few had to wash their shorts out as a result of the unwelcome visit. It really scared the crap out of them, I kid you not!

In 1968, members of Mike Company of the 3rd Battalion of the 5th Marines operating on Hill 868, which was so known for Rock Ape sightings that it had earned the nickname “Monkey Mountain.” The unit apparently often came across plentiful physical evidence of the creatures there, such as droppings, tufts of hair, or footprints, as well as hearing their eerie barks and cries at night, and the Rock Apes even occasionally assaulted them with rocks lobbed from the jungle. The apes were described as “throwing like girls, but with velocity,” and men were reported as being often seriously injured by the hurled stone projectiles. In one account given by a veteran named Steve Canyon, a unit of Marines was out in the jungle of Hill 868 at night testing out a new muzzle flash and noise suppresser for their weapons.

As they were setting up, they suddenly noticed a Rock Ape glaring at them from the thick vegetation, reportedly completely unafraid. After a few moments of staring at the soldiers, the creature was said to then let out a sound like the bark of a dog. One of the men threw a rock at it to scare it away, and hit it dead on, after which the ape picked up a rock of its own and hurled it at them. It was then noticed that there were more of the Rock Apes gathering around in the jungle, around 20 of them, which all began screeching, howling, and throwing rocks at the frightened men in unison. Despite the threatening situation, the unit did not open fire, instead making a hasty retreat.

There was at one point even a body of one of the creatures found by a special forces team after performing a nighttime drop into enemy territory. The unit allegedly came across the body of a “decomposing bigfoot-like creature” that seemed to have been blown apart by a land mine. One of the members of the unit told his friend, a Steve Williams, about the tale, who would say of the gruesome discovery:

They could see into the body cavity…spine, lungs, and such. All was crawling with bugs. There was shorter hair on the huge head. The eyes sunk back an inch and a half from the brow line. It had long arms. Very large and long fingers. One hand was still wrapped around a branch. He (the original source of the tale) didn’t say what color it was, but did mention that it had a flat nose. If the creature had it’s legs, the estimated height was around 8 ft tall…there was no sign of the lower half of the body. They were able to see the teeth. All flat, well formed molars, except the canines, which were longer and pointed. Seemed adapted to living in the forest with long arms and fingers, or perhaps just builds night nests like gorillas sometimes do.

What happened to this body? Who knows? There are numerous other accounts like this, many of them are quite harrowing, and these reports became so commonplace that there were several expeditions sent out to try and find evidence of the creatures, which managed to find occasional human-like tracks, some of which were made into plaster casts. Is there some sort of undiscovered hairy hominid lurking out in the jungles of Vietnam and did these creatures menace troops during the war? If so what are they? Or was this just the product of war-addled minds and perhaps the use of drugs such as LSD? It remains a mystery that we may never fully understand.

It certainly seems when looking at accounts like these that the chaos and terror of war can hide within it some lesser known, oft-forgotten aspects, and here we find reports that go beyond the known and point to creatures lurking in the fringes of battle that are every bit as frightening as the enemy. We will probably never be able to corroborate any of these wild stories, as they very often exist as simply basic accounts from soldiers who perhaps had more on their mind than unexplained mystery beasts at the time. However, while we may never know the answers to these tales and are doomed to merely speculate, these cases nevertheless illuminate other aspects and mysteries of war and another facet of its horrors, serving to stoke the imagination and expand upon the history we know or think we know.

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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