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Posts Tagged ‘wings’

img.manbat

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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My Necravenomicon Wings

My Necravenomicon Wings

I’m not a costume person. I had a bad costume-fail for my second grade class Halloween party and never quite recovered. I have always blamed my mother.

She had this thrifty notion that my costume should also be able to double as pajamas, so she had my grandma whip up a baggy bodysuit out of tiger-print flannel, complete with an eared cap that tied under my chin. The really egregious part was that she had forgotten to buy a mask or costume makeup, so she drew jagged stripes all over my face with her bright red lipstick. Altogether, I looked like Freddie Krueger had gotten hold of the neighborhood cat.

My classmates were grossed out. Worse yet, my two best friends, Mary and Leslie, were dressed like little dolls as Little Bo Peep and a fairy princess, respectively. My boyfriend  of the week, Larry Vorba, said Leslie was pretty but I was not. And the lipstick smelled like my mother’s saliva. I pretty much swore off elaborate costumes forever.

Then came WindyCon’s Steampunk-themed con, happening this Nov. 13-15. I’m on two panels and have a book signing — how could I not wear a costume? Besides, Steampunk is Victorian+fantasy+cool, Neil-Gaimanesque imagery. Irresistible. I decided to forget the tiger suit debacle and bought a hat and corset. I then set about creating a fantasy gadget “jet-pack” and attached it to some post-Halloween sale wings from Walgreen’s. I’m aiming for a gothy Victorian Tinkerbell look.

Here is a shot of the wing ensemble, and I’m also rigging up a big pocketwatch/brooch combination and will be carrying a transformed old book. I also have a very short ruffled skirt and tall black boots. And the only lipstick on my face will be between  my nose and chin where it belongs.

Larry Vorba, whereever you are, this one’s for you.

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