That's right: Mothman is not the only winged beast that falls into the category of Cryptozoology. As you'll see right now. I'll begin with a woman named Norka and her story of a winged thing she saw back in 1976. There comes a time in the life of every investigator of the paranormal when a case just gels. From the credibility of the witness to the importance of the story, everything combines together and in the best fashion possible. I have experienced such a deep sense of satisfaction and connection on a number of occasions. But, there is, perhaps, no greater example than the amazing affair of a woman named Norka, which came my way on the fourth day of my trek across Puerto Rico in 2004 - and with good friend, cryptozoologist, Jon Downes. Norka was a fascinating lady, who lived in a spacious and atmospheric house high in the El Yunque rain forest. Norka’s story was one that took our quest for the truth about the chupacabra to a whole new – and largely unanticipated – level. After we devoured our breakfasts fit for a king – in the open courtyard of the Wind Chimes Inn - our convoy of jeep, cars, and trucks once again hit the road. There were people to interview, creatures to be sought, and absolutely no time to waste. Around ninety minutes after we left bustling San Juan behind us, we arrived at Norka’s lavish home. It was dominated by a pair of huge, wrought-iron gates and a driveway that was so steep it actually required me to put the jeep in the lowest possible gear to successfully climb it. I quipped to Jon that the fortified home had probably been built to keep the chupacabra out. Who knows? After digesting what Norka said, I seriously had to wonder if my joke just may have been on target, after all.
Norka, seventy-something and sporting a beaming smile, invited us in as if we were old friends. It almost felt like we were. Norka was an incredibly generous host, despite unfortunately being in failing health. She provided us with liquid refreshment and snacks, gave us a tour of her home - which was, essentially, built solidly into the hill on which it stood - and regaled us with entertaining stories of her youth, during which she was a prize-winning, passionate motorcyclist. Both Jon and I instantly bonded with Norka, who was a fellow adventurer and lover of life – and a highly skilled artist, too. Roughly an hour after arriving, the crew had set up all of their equipment, the cameras were ready to roll, and me, Jon, and Norka assumed our required positions on the balcony of Norka’s home. It provided an incredible, panoramic view of El Yunque. Indeed, the angle of the miles-wide view, coupled with the sheer altitude of Norka’s home, provoked a slight sense of vertigo. But that was no matter. Jon and I suspected that Norka had something special to say and we wanted to hear it. We weren’t entirely sure how special, but we quickly found out.
Norka’s words demonstrated that the chupacabra enigma was much older than many researchers had assumed or concluded. Norka’s account, we were fascinated to learn, dated from 1975, at the height of the summer months. The defining event itself was actually the culmination of a series of disturbing attacks on domestic animals in the area in which Norka lived. Tragically, this included an assault on one of Norka’s pet dogs, which was found dead, outside the perimeter of her hillside home. It was also found lacking each and every one of its bones, including its skull, no less. How the bones had been savagely removed was something that not even local veterinarians were able to explain. Other families in the area reported their dogs missing, too. They, also, were left with nothing but tears, anguish, presumed dead pets, and a mountain of unanswered questions. As circumstances would have it, and only a couple of weeks later, Norka had an encounter of a kind that would have made horror-maestro H.P. Lovecraft nod approvingly. It was dusk, on a stiflingly hot, weekday night in August 1976. The atmosphere – as day began to surrender to nightfall – was as normal and tranquil as it had ever been. It wasn’t long, however, before normality and tranquility gave way to something hideous. As Norka drove carefully and slowly along the twisting, climbing road (in a car, rather than on one of her trusty motorbikes, I should stress), something suddenly surfaced from the huge, dense trees that stood proud and tall, like gigantic green curtains, and which dominated each side of the road.
Doing barely twenty miles an hour to begin with, Norka was easily able to slow down as a curious beast loomed into view. Norka, looking into the camera, said that only about twenty feet in front of her was the strangest, most terrifying animal it had ever been her misfortune to encounter. For all intents and purposes, it looked very much like a bat. Except, that is, for one astonishing thing: the abomination was around four to five feet in height. Not surprisingly, Norka could scarcely believe her eyes as the monster shuffled slowly across the road, its muscular legs taking slow but deliberate strides across the hot tarmac. With her eyes transfixed on the beast, Norka could see that its body was dark brown in color. Two large wings were folded tight against its back. The clawed fingers on its hands – that drooped in curious, limp fashion from its bony wrists - were of a distinct, white-yellow hue. Of a near-identical color were two enormous fangs that protruded from its gaping, almost slack-jawed, mouth. Most frightening of all to Norka were the eyes of the creature: focused intently on Norka herself, they were almost blazing, like red hot coals.
After what seemed like a torturous amount of time, but which was maybe no more than twenty or so seconds, the creature unfurled its wings. At this point, Norka could see just how big those mighty, membranous appendages were: somewhere in a combined region of twelve to fifteen feet. Norka said the wings flapped in a fast, furious and loud fashion that deeply shocked her. In mere moments, the beast took to the skies, vertically, and was quickly lost from sight. It was, I said to Jon later, almost a case of the Jeepers Creepers movies come to life. He didn’t disagree in the slightest. Since this was the only interview planned for that day, there was no need for us to make a hasty drive to destinations new, and so we hung out for another hour or so, chatting further with Norka, even though the cameras had stopped rolling. Jon and I were suitably impressed. Our quest for the truth of the chupacabra had taken a major step forward – and, in terms of the date of Norka’s encounter, a major step backwards! And there was one more thing: Norka had so enjoyed the afternoon that she surprised me by presenting me with nothing less than a full-color painting she had done of the creature she encountered back in 1975. I thanked Norka for her incredible generosity. Atmospheric and captivating, her artwork has pride of place on the one wall of my office that is not dominated by mountains of bookshelves.
Certainly, one of the most bizarre of all the many and varied strange beings that haunts the lore and legend of Texas is that which became known, albeit very briefly, as the Houston Batman. The most famous encounter with the beast took place during the early morning hours of June 18, 1953. Given the fact that it was a hot and restless night, twenty three year old housewife Hilda Walker, and her neighbors, fourteen year old Judy Meyer and thirty three year old tool plant inspector Howard Phillips, were sitting on the porch of Walker’s home, located at 118 East Third Street in the city of Houston. Walker stated of what happened next: “…twenty five feet away I saw a huge shadow across the lawn. I thought at first it was the magnified reflection of a big moth caught in the nearby street light. Then the shadow seemed to bounce upward into a pecan tree. We all looked up. That’s when we saw it.”
She went on to describe the entity as being essentially man like in shape, sporting a pair of bat style wings, dressed in a black, tight-fitting outfit, and surrounded by an eerie, glowing haze. The trio all confirmed that the monstrous form stood about six and a half feet tall and also agreed that the strange glow engulfing him was yellow in color. The Batman vanished when the light slowly faded out and right about the time that Meyer issued an ear-splitting scream. Mrs. Walker also recalled the following: “Immediately afterwards, we heard a loud swoosh over the house tops across the street. It was like the white flash of a torpedo-shaped object… I’ve heard so much about flying saucer stories and I thought all those people telling the stories were crazy, but now I don’t know what to believe. I may be nuts, but I saw it, whatever it was… I sat there stupefied. I was amazed.” Meyer added to the newspaper that: “I saw it, and nobody can say I didn’t.” Now, onto the U.K. and the 1960s.
Midway through November 1963, one of the most chilling and eerie of all monster encounters on record occurred in the dark and shadowy environment of Sandling Park, Hythe, Kent, England. It was an encounter that, in terms of the description of the creature, provokes Mothman-style imagery – even though the latter, famous creature did not hit the headlines in and around Point Pleasant, West Virginia until the mid-1960s onwards. Although Sandling Park was certainly shrouded in overwhelming darkness at the time of the beastly event, it was hardly the sort of place where one would expect to encounter nothing less than a fully-fledged monster. Amazingly, however, and according to a group of terrified witnesses, that is exactly what happened. John Flaxton, aged seventeen on the night that all hell broke loose, was accompanied by three friends, including eighteen-year old Mervyn Hutchinson. As they walked along a lane running by the park – after returning from a local Friday night dance – the group of friends became aware of a bright object moving overhead, which they at first took to be nothing stranger than a star. How very wrong they turned out to be.
The teenagers were amazed, and more than a bit scared, by the object’s presence, as they watched it hover and then drop out of sight behind a group of trees. The boys decided to leave the area with haste, but the light soon loomed into view again. It hovered around ten feet from the ground, and at an approximate distance of two hundred feet, then once again went out of sight. “It was a bright and gold oval,” one of the boys reported. “And when we moved, it moved. When we stopped, it stopped.” That was not necessarily a good sign! Suddenly, the boys heard the snapping of twigs from a nearby thicket, and out from the wooded area shuffled a creature of horrendous appearance. “It was the size of a human,” reported Mervyn Hutchinson. “But it didn’t seem to have any head. There were wings on its back, like bat wings.” The group fled, perhaps understandably not wanting to hang around and see what developed next. Matters didn’t end there, however. Five night later, one Keith Croucher saw an unusual object float across a nearby soccer field. Forty-eight-hours after that, one John McGoldrick, accompanied by a friend, checked out the location and stumbled upon unusual impressions in the ground, which gave every indication that something solid and significant had landed there.
Neil Arnold, a researcher of paranormal and monstrous phenomena who lives in the county of Kent, has this to say about the matter: “Local UFO experts believed that the case was nothing more than a misinterpretation of natural phenomena, but Flaxton recalled: ‘I felt cold all over.’” And, as Arnold also notes: “Three giant footprints were also found in the vicinity which were said to have measured two-feet long and nine inches across. On 11 December, various newspaper reporters accompanied McGoldrick to the area and found that the woods were illuminated by an eerie, glowing light. No-one investigated any further and the case faded as mysteriously as it had emerged.” To this date, the saga of the Mothman of Hythe, Kent remains precisely that: a mystery. And, those are just a few rivals to Mothman in the monster stakes!