All across the world sit stone demons perched atop dizzying heights to stare out across the countryside below in silent, frozen stares of contemplation, and which are collectively known as gargoyles. The term “gargoyle” is thought to come from the name of a monster in the 7th century called La Gargouille, which was said to terrorize the country of France in the region of the Seine River before being righteously slain by St Romanus, the Archbishop of Rouen. Upon the mighty beast’s death the lore has it that its head was supposedly mounted on a church to keep other monsters at bay, and from here grew the tradition of crafting the likenesses of grotesque demons out of stone in order to serve as protectors or guardians of important places. It turned into quite an architectural phenomenon, and gargoyles sprouted up all over on churches, cathedrals, or anything else that needed protection from demons and evil spirits. Gargoyles can be seen all over the world, including famously the Notre Dame in Paris and the 112 gargoyles of the Washington National Cathedral in Washington D.C. But are these creatures merely confined to these stone apparitions eternally looking upon their domain?
In more modern times there have been sightings of what are often compared by witnesses as being distinctively like the stone gargoyles of centuries past, only living, and they seem to come from out past the fringe of the bizarre, mostly described as winged, hunched-over gruesome abominations that are hard to really categorize. One report from 2004 comes from the site Phantoms and Monsters, and concerns a witness in Bluefield, West Virginia, who had an encounter with just such a monstrosity when he was a child. He describes the area as being mostly quaint, rural farmland, and he says one day he had a very frightening experience when he was playing near a hedge separating his house and the neighbors’. He says of what happened:
I was sitting there in broad sunny daylight when all of a sudden I saw rustling in the hedges. I looked over and out popped out what I can only put into words as a gargoyle! It looked at me with solid, pointed black eyes. It had frog-green skin. Its face looked like a frog except it had teeth and ears that I'll never forget for the rest of my life. Its ears flexed outward like two big green gloves on the side of its head - like the king that the gargoyles in statues has. Its body was shaped like a bull dog and its webbed feet turned inward as it walked.
Once it saw me, it paused and opened its mouth wide open and hissed. He held it wide open as if to taste the air. I was so scared that I was completely paralyzed. I tried to cry for help, but nothing came out. And as if someone took the pause button off of me, I fled so fast to my home that I don't even remember the race getting there. I was in a panic. I tried to describe it to my mom. She pointed at the animal Childcraft books and said, "See if you can show mommie a picture of the animal." The closest animal that I could find that looked like what I saw was a koala bear, but I only picked that animal out because it had similar black pointed eyes. My mother laughed and said, "Son, those animals are only in Australia." What you probably saw was a dog and with that it was never spoken of again.
Could this possibly have been just a misidentified dog with a description like that? If not, then what was it? Your guess is s good as anyone's. A similarly disturbing account reported at around the same time comes from Reddit, from a witness who says his own experience happened in California’s Central Valley, this time in a rather suburban area surrounded by orchards. He describes how one evening at around 10 PM he was riding a skateboard home when he heard what sounded like gusts of wind, even through the night was calm. He says of what happened next:
I look up in the direction of the sound and behind the slope of my neighbor's roof I see two large wings flap and then begin to fold, as if the creature had just landed there. As the wings were folding I'd guess they were about 5 feet in length, and I noticed that the house light from behind the creature trickled through the wings, they were opaque and leathery, not feathered like a hawks. It seemed to have heard me as I was passing and it became still, wings folded and rising over its circular head. It had no ears or horns, or anything protruding from its head, it was just round.
I couldn't see much more as the light was behind the creature, so it was a black silhouette but the leather on its wings were brown. I pulled out my phone and tried to use the flashlight setting to get a better view of it as I was passing, but the light didn't reach far enough and the creature slowly started to descend behind the slope of the roof until I no longer saw it. I ran into my home and just laid in bed thinking about what the hell I had just seen. It was too big to be a bat, I've seen bats around here and they're all small, and their head is shaped nothing like what I had seen. It couldn't have been a bird either as I distinctly remember the wings being leathery, with no feathers.
Again we are left to wonder just what it is this witness could have possibly seen. Demon? Alien? Mystery creature? Who knows? Another intriguing account comes from Renea Rude at The Paranormalist, who says that her own experience happened one summer when she was just a girl of 9 years of age. One evening she was driving with her mother along a rural road somewhere in the United States, through an area she describes as dotted with ponds and woodlands, and that is when she would see something that seems very much like a “gargoyle.” She says of her otherworldly experience:
It was crouched high in a half-dead oak tree that stood on the bank of a pond. The moon was full, or close to it, and the wind was still. I had enough time to see the creature, look for its reflection in the polished mirror of water beneath it, then look back up to confirm what I was seeing. I suppose I was wondering if it was a weirdly contorted part of the tree itself. Then the damn thing moved.
At first I thought it was going to dive into the pond, but then I realized it was just turning away from the road. As we swept past it, I twisted around in my seat to keep it in sight. I swear, its eyes flared red in our taillights. Then I saw it had wings folded down its back. I estimated it to be about the size of a large dog or a small goat, though the shape was wrong. It was holding itself in a hunched, compact, almost huddled position. It had arms and legs shaped like those of a monkey or lemur, but much thicker and bulkier. A primate of some sort seemed most likely, but I was puzzled because its body didn’t look furry, but rather rough and scaly, like an alligator. When I caught a glimpse of the wings, I thought they looked like a bat’s. Of course, I tried to tell Mom and Chet I’d seen something, but when I described it they chuckled and refused to go back and look for it.
A primate of some sort? Curiouser and curiouser. In 2005 there was a report on Reddit from a witness who claimed to have seen one of the creatures on a rural ranch in Nevada. He claims that he was out on the property one dark night with only his flashlight to provide illumination, when something came to him from out of his nightmares. He explains:
I felt a sudden compulsion to turn my head to my front right. In the beam from the flashlight, in front of my grandmother's chicken coop, about 15 feet from me, was an entity, about 7 feet tall. It had it's back to me, it halfway turned and looked over it's left shoulder at me. Turned enough that I could see it was DEFINITELY male. He had a rather long bulbous nose, large wings down to his mid calves, skin and wings that looked leathery, and was a taupe or pinkish color, no hair that I could see. He also was very thin, almost skeletal in appearance, with some sort of bony protrusions extending from the shoulders. I'll never forget it. Scared the crap out of me! I didn't notice any dead animals in the area, afterward, if there were any.
There have actually been a surprising number of such strange encounters, going all the way up into very recent times. In 2011 there was a report on True Ghost Tales from a woman calling herself Ashley J, who says that she had been out one night taking a walk with her boyfriend in her hometown in Northern California when they had their brush with the world of the weird. It was around 3 AM, and the street was described as well-lit, the night calm. As they strolled along they heard a whooshing sound like flapping wings and looked up to see a rather monstrous form coming towards them, of which she says:
He was flying low so I got a real good look at him. His wing span was the size of a small car and he looked to be 7 1/2 feet tall at least. The legs and head looked like that of a beast’s, but the torso was a big man’s with broad shoulders. I saw his wings flap again once but he mostly glided rather gracefully, but that’s the only part about him I would describe as “graceful”. I screamed out “Oh my God look!” within the first two seconds. And my boyfriend got a real good look at him too. I think the demon, creature, whatever heard me because when that happened he swooped down below the telephone pole and he disappeared as he passed the wiring. Keep in mind this was a well lit area with no trees. We should have seen him pass the other side clearly, but as his body passes the electric wire he vanished like he was going through a door or something.
From the site Phantoms and Monsters there have been quite a few other reports of gargoyles gathered by Lon Strickler, one of them supposedly occurring in the spring of 2010 at a place near County Road and Black Road in west Joliet, Illinois. The witness says that he was in his home enjoying a TV show with the window open one evening when he heard the muffled sobbing of what he took to be perhaps a woman crying out in the darkness. He went out to investigate the sound and that was when he saw a “a four-and-a-half-foot dark-colored entity” sitting atop the neighbor’s roof, which was crouched and hunched over, and distinctly reminded the witness of “a gargoyle.” Strickler says of what happened next:
The winged being stood and leaped from the roof, then dove towards the ground. As it descended, the huge 10-12 foot wings unfurled as it swooped upwards and quickly ascended into the night sky. [The witness] never saw the wings flap as the being ascended. He did notice that it had pointed ears, but could not make out any further features on the face. The wings were attached from the shoulders to the legs and did not seem to have detached arms.
This particular report was followed up on by paranormal researcher Tobias Wayland from the Singular Fortean Society, and it definitely seems to be keeping with the feel of these gargoyle reports, although it could also be connected with the ongoing sightings of flying entities in the Lake Michigan region, of which I have covered here before and of which you can read a full timeline compiled by the Singular Fortean Society here. From the state of Florida there was a spate of very recent supposed gargoyle encounters also reported to Phantoms and Monsters. In 2018, a creature described as a humanoid about 5 or 6 feet tall with bat-like wings was seen near Zephyrhills, Florida on two separate occasions by two different truck drivers. On both of these occasions the drivers said that they had noticed dead deer strewn along the road, although it was unclear if the two were related. Both truck drivers described being overcome with a paralyzing fear at the time and specifically mentioned the entities as looking like gargoyles. Interestingly, there was another witness in Zephyrhills who had an encounter that sounds very similar at their own residence, where they saw a bat-winged dark creature lurking about their property.
Also in 2018 was a report from the same site from a witness in Abington, Massachusetts, who was apparently out one evening having a cigarette at the time when he heard the whooshing sounds of what sounded like massive wings. When he looked up he says he saw what he distinctly describes as a “gargoyle” in every sense. The witness explained to Lon Strickler:
I look up and see this winged creature land on my neighbor's roof and just sit there like a Gargoyle would. I thought I was seeing sh*t or seeing something wrong but then the creature jumped up and flew away and I could see its whole body. It was the size of a small human but with massive wings. It reminded me of a Gargoyle.
I couldn't see the creature's face because it was dark and it was on the roof facing away from me. It looked black with a wing span upon flight maybe 4-5ft. The creature itself while crouched on the roof looked the size of a smaller human maybe 4ft. I watched it trying to figure out what I was looking at, for maybe 1 minute, then it jumped and flew off. Even when it flew away it still looked on the shorter end. As it flew, its legs hung but still in an almost crouching position. It wasn't a massive creature but it was definitely humanoid in appearance. Because it was on a roof next door crouched its possible this thing could have been much larger. I wish I could have seen its face.
Are these reports of animals, aliens, demons, or something else altogether? Do they even exist outside of the imaginations of these witnesses? So far we have looked at just a selection of gargoyle reports from the United States, but such creatures have been seen in other areas as well. Perhaps the most widely covered is a case from the small town of Barceloneta, Puerto Rico. It was here in this normally quiet, rural village that residents began to complain that something was mauling and ripping apart their chickens, to the point that the entire town was seized with fear, all punctuated by unearthly shrieks sometimes heard in the night.
To make matters worse there were several sightings of a 5-foot tall muscular humanoid with bat-like wings that looked so much like a classical gargoyle that locals started calling it La Gárgola. Interestingly, these residents insisted that it was not the sinister reptilian creature, the Chupacabras, but rather something different. Local residents apparently tried to set out traps for it to no avail. Whatever it was, the “Gargoyle of Barceloneta” supposedly killed over 50 chickens, left behind claw marks on trees, and has drummed up quite a lot interest on paranormal sites such as Coast to Coast AM and many others.
What could these bizarre entities be? Are they indicative of some sort of misidentification or just hoaxes? Or are they something altogether stranger? Aliens, demons, evil spirits, take your pick. The great paranormal researcher John Keel speculated that such winged entities could be interlopers from some parallel dimension, just passing through either intentionally or by accident, which would help to explain the pure outlandish quality glazing these accounts. It is unclear whether such sightings have anything to do with the gargoyles of times past, but they are definatly often mentioned as such, and these reports seem to go right out to the very fringes of cryptozoology and the paranormal. In time we might come to some understanding of them, but for now these reports, and many others like them, remain enigmas.