Sep 29, 2022 I Nick Redfern

The Strange Saga of a Mysterious Winged Woman in the Vietnam War

Over the years there have been numerous sightings of strange, flying humanoids. Most famous of all, of course, is the Mothman of Point Pleasant, West Virginia and made famous by John A. Keel, by his book The Mothman Prophecies. A devil-like, winged monster with glowing, red eyes, Mothman’s appearance came quite literally out of nowhere and, some say, culminated in high tragedy and death. But what was the Mothman of Point Pleasant? And how did the legend begin?  To answer those questions we have to go back to the dark night of November 12, 1966, when five grave-diggers working in a cemetery in the nearby town of Clendenin were shocked to see what they described as a “brown human shape with wings” rise out of the thick, surrounding trees and soar off into the distance. Three days later, the unearthly beast surfaced once again. It was at the highly appropriate time of the witching-hour when Roger and Linda Scarberry and Steve and Mary Mallette – two young, married couples from Point Pleasant - were passing the time away by cruising around town in the Scarberrys’ car. And the strange affair had begun. 

(Nick Redfern) Me hanging out with Mothman.

Moving on, there's the Batsquatch. It was a diabolical beast encountered by a young man on the night of Saturday, April 16, 1994. The location was southeast of Buckley, Washington State, and with Mount Rainier in the background. Interestingly, Mount Rainier has another strange and now-famous aerial mystery attached to it: it was over the mountain, on June 24, 1947, that a pilot named Kenneth Arnold encountered a squadron of strange, flying vehicles that, when the media got hold of the story, became famously known as flying saucers. Meanwhile, however, back to 1994. The man who became the unfortunate witness to the terrible beast was Brian Canfield, who, at the time in question, was driving his truck to Camp One, a settlement in the area, and which is situated near Lake Kapowsin. All was normal until Canfield’s headlights began to fade. That was bad enough. But, in mere moments, his engine completely quit and his vehicle silently coasted to a stop at the side of the road.

All thoughts of what he should do, on a lonely stretch of Washington State road at around 9:30 p.m., went totally out of the window when an infernal monstrosity loomed into view. Canfield could only look on, terror-stricken, as a large, dark-colored humanoid descended from the black skies. It did so in a curious semi-gliding, semi-flying fashion, finally coming to rest right in front of his vehicle. Canfield was unable to move, such was his level of terror. All he could do was grip the steering wheel and stare in stark terror at the beast before him. It was a shocking sight, to say the least. 

And, there's the Owlman of the U.K. In 1976 the dense trees surrounding Mawnan Old Church, Cornwall, England became a veritable magnet for a diabolical beast that was christened the Owlman. The majority of those that crossed paths with the creature asserted that it was human-like in both size and design, and possessed a pair of large wings, fiery red eyes, claws, and exuded an atmosphere of menace. No wonder people make parallels with Mothman. It all began during the weekend of Easter 1976, when two young girls, June and Vicky Melling, had an encounter of a truly nightmarish kind in Mawnan Woods. The girls were on holiday with their parents when they saw a gigantic, feathery “bird man” hovering over the 13th Century church. There's also the Houston Batman that was seen in the summer of 1953.

(Jonathan Downes) Many thanks to good friend Jon Downes for the excellent artwork on his book, The Owlman and Others.

Given the fact that it was a hot and restless night in the city of Houston, 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. The beast took to the skies.

I shared all the information above to demonstrate that Mothman is most definitely not the only winged humanoid that has been reported. But, for me, one of the most fascinating cases is one that took place in the Vietnam War. It all specifically took place in Da Nang, a city on the south-central coast of Vietnam. It was in August 1969 that a man named Earl Morrison, along with several comrades, had the shock of his life. It was, very appropriately, in the dead of night when the menacing event occurred – and as the men were on guard-duty, keeping a careful look out for the Vietcong. Everything was quiet and normal until around 1:30 a.m. That’s when the atmosphere changed, and an eerie form made its presence known to the shocked men of the U.S. 1st Division Marine Corps. Despite being somewhat reluctant to speak out publicly, Morrison eventually changed his mind and, by 1972, was comfortable about discussing the incident, even if he wasn’t comfortable with what he encountered. His story makes for incredible reading:

“We saw what looked like wings, like a bat’s, only it was gigantic compared to what a regular bat would be. After it got close enough so we could see what it was, it looked like a woman. A naked woman. She was black. Her skin was black, her body was black, the wings were back; everything was black. But it glowed. It glowed in the night, kind of [a] greenish cast to it. She started going over us, and we still didn’t hear anything. She was right above us, and when she got over the top of our heads she was maybe six or seven feet up. We watched her go straight over the top of us, and she still didn’t make any noise flapping her wings. She blotted out the moon once – that’s how close she was to us. And dark – looked like pitch black then, but we could still define her because she just glowed. Real bright, like. And she started going past us straight towards our encampment. As we watched her – she had got about ten feet or so away from us – we started hearing her wings flap. And it sounded, you know, like regular wings flapping. And she just started flying off and we watched her for quite a while.”

One of those who took a great deal of interest in the story of the flying woman of Da Nang was a UFO researcher named Don Worley. His personal interview with Morrison revealed additional data, such as the fact that the woman’s hair was black and straight, that the wings may have had a slight furry quality to them, that she “rippled” as she flew by, that she appeared to lack bones in her body, and that her wings seemed to be directly “molded” to her hands and arms. The investigators Janet and Colin Bord say of this particularly odd case: “Usually our reports of winged figures describe them as ‘men,’ but without any indication whether features are seen which tell the witness definitely that it is a man. In view of this we suspect that so-called ‘birdmen’ should strictly be termed ‘bird people’ or ‘bird persons,’ and that no sex attribution can honestly be made. However, the Da Nang sighting does not come into that category. The only other female winged figure we have on record is a creature from Welsh folklore, the Gwrach-y-rhibyn. She resembled the Irish banshee, moaning and wailing to foretell death in a family.”

(Nick Redfern) Winged Things Everywhere.

Marie Trevelyan – a noted expert on Welsh folklore – made more than a few comments that, with the benefit of hindsight, suggest Earl Morrison and his colleagues were visited by something eerily similar to the Gwrach-y-rhibyn. Trevelyan said of the Welsh winged she-monster that it had…  “…long black hair, black eyes, and a swarthy countenance. Sometimes one of her eyes is grey and the other black. Both are deeply sunken and piercing. Her back was crooked, her figure was very thin and spare, and her pigeon-breasted bust was concealed by a somber scarf. Her trailing robes were black. She was sometimes seen with long flapping wings that fell heavily at her sides, and occasionally she went flying low down along watercourses, or around hoary mansions. Frequently the flapping of her leathern bat-like wings could be heard against the window-panes.” Did the Gwrach-y-rhibyn pay a visit to Vietnam in 1969? It’s an amazing question to ponder upon. After all, the Welsh monster was noted for her links to looming death. And, no-one can deny the tragic number of deaths that occurred during the Vietnam War.

The exploits and nature of this nightmarish Welsh thing were expertly chronicled back in the 19th century, by a man named Wirt Sikes who, at the time, was the American Consul for Wales. While the story of the Gwrach y Rhibyn is told in Sikes’s 1880 book, British Goblins, it is to Sikes’ original notes we turn our attentions to. They tell a story that is creepy, horrific, and unforgettable: “A frightful figure among Welsh apparitions is the Gwrach y Rhibyn, whose crowning distinction is its prodigious ugliness. The feminine pronoun is generally used in speaking of this goblin, which unlike the majority of its kind, is supposed to be a female. A Welsh saying, regarding one of her sex who is the reverse of lovely, is, ‘Y mae mor salw a Gwrach y Rhibyn,’ (She is as ugly as the Gwrach y Rhibyn - not a nice title, at all).

“The specter is a hideous being with disheveled hair, long black teeth, long, lank, withered arms, leathern wings, and a cadaverous appearance. In the stillness of night it comes and flaps its wings against the window, uttering at the same time a blood-curdling howl, and calling by name on the person who is to die, in a lengthened dying tone, as thus: ‘Da-a-a-vy!’ ‘De-i-i-o-o-o ba-a-a-ch!’ The effect of its shriek or howl is indescribably terrific, and its sight blasting to the eyes of the beholder. It is always an omen of death, though its warning cry is heard under varying circumstances; sometimes it appears in the mist on the mountain side, or at cross-roads, or by a piece of water which it splashes with its hands. And, finally, we have this from Sikes:

“The gender of apparitions is no doubt as a rule the neuter, but the Gwrach y Rhibyn defies all rules by being a female which at times sees fit to be a male. In its female character it has a trick of crying at intervals, in a most doleful tone, ‘Oh! oh! fy ngwr, fy ngwr!’ (my husband! my husband!) But when it chooses to be a male, this cry is changed to ‘Fy ngwraig! fy ngwraig!’ (my wife! my wife!) or ‘Fy mlentyn, fy mlentyn bach!’ (my child, my little child!) There is a frightful story of a dissipated peasant who met this goblin on the road one night, and thought it was a living woman; he therefore made wicked and improper overtures to it, with the result of having his soul nearly frightened out of his body in the horror of discovering his mistake. As he emphatically exclaimed, ‘Och, Dduw! it was the Gwrach y Rhibyn, and not a woman at all.’” So far as we know, this particularly intriguing flying humanoid was not seen again.

Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

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