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Archive for the ‘giant birds’ Category

wingedcryptids

Lon Strickler’s Phantoms and Monsters blog, a daily stack of reports sent to him by eyewitnesses who say they have observed bird-like beings, has become the go-to place to check out unknown sky-cryptids. In his new book, “Winged Cryptids,” Strickler climbs into the cockpit to take on the daunting role of crypto-ornithologist, showing readers that our skies fairly teem with flapping, gliding and diving air-beasts.

Why the interest in big birds? Strickler says part of it is personal, explaining he was hooked by his own sightings of them in 1981 and 1988. The latter event occurred while investigating reports near Baltimore, Maryland, and the experience left him both terrified and fascinated. He wanted to know more about the massive creatures – some with wingspans more than 20 feet wide– and vowed to seek for answers. He has since received myriads of reports of a wide variety of winged cryptids, including the great puzzle of bat-like flying humanoids over Chicago, northern Illinois and other nearby states.

The winged wonders are not just a Midwestern thing. Sightings range from California to Buffalo and beyond. I also love the book’s mysterious cover art with its ancient-looking, feathered wings, but no body. And I’m still shuddering at the gargoyles in southwestern Florida and the flying skeleton-like thing.

Overall, “Winged Cryptids” is a book that I’m glad to have in my library, perhaps because it reminds me of my own signature mantra when encountering strange beings… always look behind you, always look up.  Available Here 

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Great flying creatures–from giant humanoid bat-beasts to heavenly, silver-white,  stork-like flyers–date back to the art and story cultures of most ancient civilizations around the world. Many of us are already familiar with ornithoids of early Sumerian and Egypt, Native American thunder birds, and other well-known examples, so it’s always a delight to find giant birds in places I’ve personally missed. A few months ago in Loveland, Colorado, my husband and happened upon just such a treasure. We were there to show a half-hour sneak peek of Return to Wildcat Mountain at Longmont’s Charles Dickens Horror Film Festival, when we found something lovely.

Here, the various types of Chapungu or “Great Spirit Bird” of Zimbabwe are depicted in stone sculptures created by modern-day African artists, the Shona people. The sculptures–with explanatory plaques–are displayed in a large, gracefully landscaped park. The Great Spirit Birds are said to protect the people and to warn of coming bad events (Pt. Pleasant’s Mothman and bridge collapse come to mind as an American parallel).

I’ve included a few of my own photos here but there are many more resources online. A good place to start is at http://www.chapungusculpturepark.com . (Note: Links have been a bit problematic) And keep looking up! Who knows what else is flying around up there, waiting for some writer or artisan to take  lasting note?

 

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witness sketch of the Man-Bat of La Crosse, WI, 2006

My favorite motto is “Always look behind you, always look up.” And there seems to be a lot more reason over the past few years to obey that second half of the saying.

Although they’ve proven quite controversial, many dozens of giant, flying, sometimes bat-like creatures have been spotted above the city of Chicago and its environs in the past few years by a variety of eyewitnesses. This isn’t entirely new. There have been similar reports from around the US for decades, such as those describing Point Pleasant’s Mothman, Tacoma’s famed Batsquatch and others including the creature I called the Man Bat that almost flew right into the windshield of a truck on a country road near La Crosse, WI the night of September 26, 2006. I investigated that one on site quite soon after it was seen, and also heard from other area people who’d encountered it. Overall, these and the other eyewitnesses reporting sightings across the country seem as credible to me as any other group of cryptid spotters, and I do believe this is a phenomenon worthy of investigation.

I could not help wondering, though, why some–again, FAR from all–of the Chicago flyers were appearing over popular tourist areas such as Lincoln Square, the Gold Coast and the Art Institute of Chicago. Most cryptid sightings occur in rural or at least liminal places; the outskirts of a city rather than the downtown, for instance.

The Art Institute sighting reminded me of something I’d written in a 2009 book titled “Mythical Creatures” for the Chelsea House series, Mysteries, Legends and Unexplained Phenomena, edited by my late, great and dear friend Rosemary Guiley. (The book includes the story of the La Crosse Man Bat on pages 33-34.) Also, my youngest son has an art degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), and had some first-hand knowledge of various projects people were working on.

Before I go any farther, I want to be clear; I’m offering this idea only for what it’s worth—and only as it may provide insight to some encounters with the sky critter phenomenon. There are other ideas and theories out there. I’m not offering a solution or even a suggestion that any particular individual has been involved with the origin of these unknown flyers in any known way. But let’s look at one chapter, “Mixed Up Monsters,” of the book mentioned above.

My research on  that chapter back in 2009 had led me to the various, publicly exhibited works of an art professor at SAIC named Eduardo Kac (pronounced Katz) who’d become famous for his claim that he had produced a rabbit/jellyfish chimera named Alba that glowed green under black lights. The exhibition intended to display Alba to the world never happened, however. And more importantly to our discussion here were another facet of Kac’s work involving remote-controlled, bat-like robotic figures complete with sonar. Many researchers have studied and written about these bat-bots.

One such writer, a Stanford student named Thomas Loverro, offered a paper in the Stanford Undergraduate Research Journal on Kac’s work, divided into sections titled telepresence, biotelematics, robotics and transgenic art. https://web.stanford.edu/class/sts129/essays/Loverro2.htm

These artworks were created not with brushes or chisels, but with the latest scientific equipment. Or as a Dec. 12, 2018 Chicago Reader article put it, “…SAIC’s Bio Art Lab, where art is life—literally.” This futuristic genre had garnered its own space at SAIC, a lab in the basement of the MacLean Center at 112 S. Michigan.

Loverro also wrote “… [Kac’s] 1999 Darker Than Night interactive exhibit, which is a culmination of the works examined thus far. It brings computers, robots, animals, and humans together and asks them all to communicate with each other. Kac placed a robotic bat (“bat-bot”) in a cave with over three hundred Egyptian Fruit Bats in a zoo. The robotic bat was equipped with the ability to convert real bats’ high-frequency calls to within the audible range of humans and also rotate its head, where the sonar microphone was located. Human listeners could then remotely, via a virtual reality headset, turn their head to control the bat-bot’s microphone and immerse themselves in the world of the bat.”

http://www.web.stanford.edu/group/journal/cgi-bin/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Loverro_Hum_2002.pdf

Kac’s “bat-bot,” then, literally hung out with living bats.

http://www.web.stanford.edu/group/journal/cgi-bin/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Loverro_Hum_2002.pdf

SO…it could be mere coincidence. But since Kac is a Professor Emeritus at SAIC, and is undoubtedly well known to a generation of art students and other artists, could it also be that some follower or admirer of his work may have seen some of the early Chicago Flyer reports, remembered the bat-bots and designed one with drone technology for some short flights above downtown Chicago? Over the Art Institute? Where there is an art-bio-lab? I emailed Kac at his SAIC address to see if he had any idea whether such experiments were being undertaken in the school or elsewhere, but did not receive an answer. It’s possible he never received my inquiry. And also very possible he has never heard of Chicago’s flying things.

Again, this is all mere speculation and not a suggestion that any particular person, known or unknown, is involved. It doesn’t explain sightings in any other places, either, especially those in other states. But I do think it’s a good example of how in this day and age, investigators need to look outside the cave to explore all possibilities. At least knowing that bat-bots and other bio-mechanical-genetic “things” are being invented may help keep us looking up.

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Received report Oct 23, 2018, 1:12 AM

A man who wishes to remain anonymous said he had a sighting he could not explain, and wasn’t going to tell anyone about it, but recently changed his mind hoping someone could identify it. The sighting took place in summer, 2018, in Love’s Park, Illinois, only about 20 miles south of the Wisconsin border, and included his daughter. They are habitual sky gazers, he said, and enjoy watching planes on their flight paths to and from O’Hare Airport. But what they saw that day just before dusk was no aircraft.

What he described as “the thing we saw” appeared to be about 100 feet in the air, flying due east over their heads and then circling once before continuing its eastbound path. It was close enough, he said, that they felt they had a good view.

He wrote, “This very large bird was gliding in the air above us. I cannot say for sure the exact size of this bird, because it was in the sky and there wasn’t anything to reference it with.

“This large bird was about 6 feet long, and 15-20 feet wide!  This thing was huge!!!  One thing really stuck out when we watched it, the wings did NOT flap like a normal bird. It just glided.”

The man said the closest photo he found was at Atlas Obscura’s Web site:

The man added they have seen cranes, eagles and other large birds in the area, but this one was much larger than any of those. He described it as dark in color, white ring around its neck. “The wings had a white stripe along the edge of its wings,” he said, “and the wings had feathers.”

He said he researched birds of all types for weeks but found nothing that resembled what he saw. He said, “But that is how I came across your site. I bought your book (American Monsters) and began reading it, and saw others have seen something similar to me! That is when I realized that we were not alone, and I have now chosen to speak to you about the sighting.”

He added, “But the large bird we saw was almost black in color, white ring around its neck, white stripe along its wings edge, and VERY LARGE! It did not move its wings either, it just glided. I have saw turkey vultures before.  In a way is does resemble it. But the size and colors did not! This thing put a turkey vulture to shame, in size!”

I’m not sure what this could be, either. The closest I could come is a Steller’s sea eagle, see this National Geographic photo with its dark feathers and white trim. Its wingspan is eight feet, smaller than this reported big bird but still really impressive, I’m sure. Illinois has a history of large bird sightings dating back many decades; perhaps this one will be added to the list. I hope sky gazers of that area will all spend some time looking up in case the dark-feathered one makes another fly-by.

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Coming soon, see the trailer! What IS cryptozoology and where is it headed?  https://www.facebook.com/cryptofilm/videos/598016363877553/

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This was another of those freewheeling dialogues that I so enjoy. Listen to The Paranormal View podcast recorded Nov. 4, 2016!

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Thunderbirds, mothmen and other unknown flying things are some of the most puzzling of cryptids. They appear in the sky or a nearby meadow, amaze lucky witnesses, and then fly away without any hint as to their intent. Sometimes they seem to portend doom, as in the famous case of Point Pleasant, W. VA’s Mothman, which many think was a harbinger of the tragic Silver Bridge collapse.

 

In other cases, such as the northwestern Wisconsin daylight sighting by John Bolduan that begins my “American Monsters” book, witnesses are left feeling perplexed yet privileged to have witnessed such a spectacle. Bolduan watched in awe as the tall, silvery-feathered bird took to the air and displayed a 22-foot wingspan.

 

There’s another example of that flighty ambiguity in my next book due out this fall, titled “Monsters Among Us, an Exploration of Otherworldly Bigfoots, Wolfmen, Portals, Phantoms and Odd Phenomena.” In this incident, a central Wisconsin woman witnessed a gigantic, large bird standing on a bridge near Black River Falls. She was told by a Native American elder that she had seen a Thunderbird.

 

Why am I bringing these examples up now? I’ve often wished that I had some way to help  interpret these incidents, but had never found much contemporary material aside from well-known Thunderbird lore. I was thrilled recently, then, to stumble across a gleam of illumination in my summer reading pile, in a book about one man’s solo canoe adventure down the Mississippi River. The beautifully written work, Nick Lichter’s The Road of Souls, Reflections on the Mississippi, also describes many of the places long considered sacred or otherwise important by our indigenous people.

 

One of these places is Rock Island, Illinois (specifically, the area known as Rock Island Arsenal across the river from Bettendorf, Iowa). Lichter cites the translated autobiography Life of Black Hawk to explain that this island was once considered a hunting, fishing and horticultural paradise by Blackhawk’s people, the Sac or Sauk. I’ll quote just the last half of Chief Blackhawk’s own statement from  Lichter’s book:

 

“In my early life, I spent many happy days on this island. A good spirit had care of it, who lived in a cave in the rocks immediately under the place where the fort now stands, and has often been seen by our people. He was white, with large wings like a swan’s, but ten times larger. We were particular not to make much noise in that part of the island which he inhabited, for fear of disturbing him. But the noise of the fort has driven him away, and no doubt a bad spirit has taken his place!”

 

Lichter adds, “The swan’s cave was long ago dynamited out of existence.”

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(Image shared from http://cdn26.us1.fansshare.com/photo/mississippiriver/shannon-mississippi-river-watershed-wikimedia-commons-delta-333095664.jpg)

Might the big birds seen up and down the Mississippi since Chief Blackhawk’s day be embodiments of that wandering spirit bird? Blackhawk doesn’t directly call the spirit bird a swan; he merely says it is white, has wings like a swan and is ten times its size. That’s very reminiscent of what Bolduan described. And Webb Lake, where it appeared, is only about five or six miles from the Mississippi in Burnett County, Wisconsin. Moreover, the other encounter I mentioned on the bridge in central Wisconsin was near Black River Falls, a tributary of the Mississippi.

 

This is just my own fanciful thought, but maybe that great, spirit bird is still winging over the Mississippi, setting down now and again as it searches for another place of peace– another earthly paradise to watch over. I believe it’s as good an explanation of these huge creatures as any.

My final thought is a question inspired by Blackhawk’s words when he suggested a “bad spirit” might have taken the great bird’s place… I can’t help but wonder what shape that bad spirit might have taken…

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