1. Your new book is Encounters with Flying Humanoids. What was your motivation to write this book?
My interest in the flying humanoid phenomenon dates back to my childhood. I owe a lot to my mother, who was quite an adventurous and creative woman. When I was a small child, she used to sit me down on her lap and enthrall me with tales of the West Virginia Mothman. Well, it wasn't long before I had my nose firmly planted in the books of John Keel, author of The Mothman Prophecies and Strange Creatures from Time and Space. I've been investigating sightings of flying cryptids for years now, but the idea for Encounters with Flying Humanoids came about during 2009. I appeared in an episode of a popular TV show called Monster Quest; this particular episode dealt with the flying humanoid enigma; afterwards, I received many emails from people who claimed to have had encounters with these beings. Most of them were really seeking answers, some type of validation or closure. To my knowledge, no one had ever really attempted to compile all of the data into one book before, and I'm hopeful that it will encourage other eyewitnesses to come forward and tell their stories, too.
2. How far back in human history do accounts of flying humanoids go?
The conceptual synthesis of both human and avian characteristics dates back over 17,000 years. According to carbon dating, that is the age of the cave paintings at Lascaux, France. One particular image there is known as the Bird Man of Lascaux, essentially a human-like form with the head of a bird. Other anthropomorphic birdmen appear in engravings and bas-reliefs starting around 900 BC. For example, the ancient Sumerians depicted the Apkallu or Abgal, winged humanoid demigods. There is also Pazuzu, the Assyrian king of wind demons, who is typically characterized as a human form with two sets of attached wings. The harpies of Greek Mythology are very well known from great works of literature. They are portrayed as vile, foul-smelling monsters that possess the head and bust of a hideous hag, attached to the body of a vulture or eagle. In Hindu and Buddhist culture we find tales of Garuda, an exceptionally important figure, who is often described as being man-like with enormous wings. In Japanese folklore, there is the Tengu; in Mayan culture, Camazotz, the death bat; and so on and so forth. There are many examples from diverse cultures all over the world that seem to indicate a familiarity with these winged humanoid entities.
3. Tell us about the Mothman.
Mothman is one of the most enigmatic figures in the annals of the unexplained. A gray, man-like creature standing over six feet tall with immense wings attached to his body, Mothman is the quintessential monster, ostensibly stepping right out of a science fiction movie. Most eyewitnesses have described the entity as possessing a low-slung head with two, enormous eyes. And the most startling features are the eyes: giant, blood-red embers like automobile reflectors that seemingly have a hypnotic power over humans. In some instances, motorists have claimed to have been chased by Mothman at speeds approaching one hundred miles per hour. His sole purpose seems to be to absolutely terrify humans. There were literally dozens of Mothman sightings around the town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia during the years 1966 and 1967. The incidents were well documented by local newspapers, as well as author John Keel who compiled them in the book The Mothman Prophecies (which was later made into a movie starring Richard Gere). The case is intricately complex and multi-faceted, with elements of UFOs, Men in Black, conspiracies, animal mutilations, poltergeist activity, curses, and ultimately the tragic collapse of a bridge that resulted in 46 deaths.
4. What about the Owlman?
Owlman, I suppose you could say, is the English counterpart of Mothman. That said, the descriptions are somewhat different—Owlman is man-sized and winged, but with grizzled, gray fur or feathers; pointy ears; a sneering, gaping, black mouth; and feet like pincers or crab claws. Like Mothman, Owlman is said to possess two enormous, burning, red eyes. What is interesting is that all of the encounters have been in the woods surrounding an old Cornish church that was built on an ancient earthwork, and that virtually all of the witnesses have been teenage girls. My colleague Jon Downes has written the seminal book on the Owlman, and believes that he experienced a great deal of psychic backlash while investigating that particular case.
5. Discuss the Houston Batman.
The Houston Batman has only been encountered one time, to my knowledge, but it is a very well-known story in Fortean circles. Basically, three Houston residents were sitting on their porch late one evening during June of 1953 when they observed a shadowy figure that landed on the branch of a large pecan tree. They described the entity as being well over six feet tall, humanoid in nature, and with two wings attached to his shoulders. What is really weird is that the Batman apparently emitted a dull glow, and that he seemed to be dressed in a black, tight-fitting uniform—similar to one worn by a paratrooper—including a helmet and knee-length boots. As they watched him, the Batman literally vanished from sight.
6. Where does the Jersey Devil fit in?
I used to think that the Jersey Devil was nothing more than a fabulous urban legend. From New Jersey's remote Pine Barrens there exist colorful tales of a winged, chimera that was—according to local folklore—the thirteenth child of a woman named Mrs. Leeds…a demon-spawn, if you will. During January of 1909, many newspapers in the area ran stories about Devil sightings, though the accounts quickly faded into obscurity. But just recently, I've interviewed a very credible man named John Lackey who related a most remarkable encounter to me. During 1977 (when he was a teenager) he and another youth spotted a winged, four-legged animal near the Delaware River. Mr. Lackey recalls that the thing was about the size of a Doberman Pinscher, with a long tail and a face like a monkey. The thing actually crossed the road in front of their car as they illuminated it with a spotlight. To my mind, this is the most convincing account of the Jersey Devil, though I honestly can't tell you what the devil the thing was.
7. What about the perception that these flying humanoids are somehow omens of disaster?
Well, what I discovered is that to this day the residents of Point Pleasant feel that there is a connection between the appearance of the Mothman and the Silver Bridge tragedy that impacted their community in such a profound way. The Mothman first appeared exactly one year and one day before the bridge collapse, and reports of the creature are virtually non-existent in the aftermath. I also found some other tantalizing stories to support the notion that these apparitions are bad omens. For example, in 1746 a harpy-like creature known as the Skree flew over a battlefield in Scotland just prior to the slaughter of 1,500 Jacobite soldiers. The Skree is also blamed for a cataclysmic train crash that killed 227 passengers. There have been appearances of flying humanoids during the Korean and Vietnam Wars, as well as ambiguous, unconfirmed accounts of Mothman-like creatures appearing just before both the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center attacks and the Chernoybl nuclear disaster. Interestingly, the Assyrian demon Pazuzu (who I mentioned earlier), was often associated with drought, famine, or inclement weather, and in many cultures the appearance of an owl outside a window is perceived as an omen of impending death or serious illness.
8. Are you familiar with the term Unidentified Flying Humanoids?
The term UFH, or Unidentified Flying Humanoid, was coined by Mexican UFO researcher Santiago Yturria, and it pertains to several videos that seem to show wingless, man-like figures floating high in the skies above Mexico. The phenomenon began in the year 2000, and many of the clips were captured by veteran sky watchers. What's really strange about these figures is that they do not seem to be reliant on any type of jet pack or device to remain airborne. While originating in Mexico, these UFHs have also been sighted over parts of the United States and Europe.
9. Throughout the course of your research, did you find any connections to the UFO phenomenon?
Most definitely; one of the most compelling links that I've uncovered is between flying humanoids and UFOs. It's well known that the skies over Point Pleasant were abuzz with strange lights during the Mothman saga. In addition, there is the case of the Houston Batman where witnesses observed a torpedo-shaped object shoot into the sky shortly after his disappearance. Flying Humanoids also appeared near Mount Rainier, Washington just after pilot Kenneth Arnold's famous flying saucer encounter, and over Mexico City in the years following a major UFO incident. In fact, one chapter in Encounters with Flying Humanoids is dedicated to notable UFO cases, including the Flatwoods Monster and the Kelly/Hopkinsville goblin incident (which involve entities apparently impervious to gravity). There does seem to be a connection in my opinion, particularly when one considers mythologies referencing gods from the sky.
10. Are you familiar with a famous case about a Mexican police officer who was attacked by a witch?
Indeed! I did investigate that particular case as part of the Monster Quest episode. A police officer named Leonardo Samaniego claimed he was patrolling a Monterrey neighborhood one evening during 2004 when he was confronted by a flying witch. He described her as being absolutely hideous; with black, lidless eyes; brown skin; and adorned in a hooded cloak. According to Samaniego, the non-human entity lunged at him and clawed at his windshield, causing him to lose consciousness. During the course of the interview with him, Leonardo actually broke down several times and cried as he spoke about the nightmares that have haunted him since the incident. In my mind, there is absolutely no doubt that Samaniego had a traumatic experiencean encounter with something that rocked the foundation of his reality.
11. Are there any conspiracy theories with regard to these beings?
There were many allegations of mysterious Men in Black paying visits to Mothman witnessesand we aren't talking about Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones here. These individuals, whoever they were, intimidated and threatened people who spoke publicly about these events. However, I'm not really aware of any such allegations outside of the Mothman case. Now, in some of the famous UFO cases I discuss in Encounters with Flying Humanoids, we know that the military was present after the fact, though they were somewhat secretive about the extent of their involvement.
12. What about negative repercussions for those involved in the investigations?
"Psychic backlash" is a term used by paranormal investigators who perceive negative repercussions as the result of their involvement in certain types of cases. As I mentioned earlier, Owlman author Jon Downes went through some tough times. Author Loren Coleman has speculated about a death curse related to the Mothman, though some of the primary witnesses lived full lives, passing on in recent years. Personally, I don't believe that I've experienced any negative backlash, though I did experience some strange coincidences leading up to my first visit to Point Pleasant. There also was one really strange incident where a pane of glass shattered in front of me for no apparent reason. The glass didn't blow outit only fragmented, but at the top of the break were two impressions that reminded me of two, huge eyes.
13. Any recent reports of these creatures?
There are actually many recent and previously unpublished accounts that I highlight in Encounters with Flying Humanoids, though only one that occurred in Mothman's old haunt near Point Pleasant. This particular incident took place about two years ago, when a man named John Hipes and his wife spotted an enormous winged creature take off from a bridge and fly out of sight. The most recent sighting, which I received after the book went to press, involves a man named Trey Austin of Big Spring, Texas. He and his wife claim that they observed a fourteen foot, winged humanoid with long flowing hair and sunken, black eyes soaring over their home one evening.
14. What conclusions have you reached with regard to the flying humanoid phenomenon?
The only thing that I am sure of is that these thingswhatever they areare not flesh and blood…at least not in a way that we know. They seem to appear and disappear at will, to move at impossible speeds, and to scare the wits out of people. But, they've been with us for a very long time, as evidenced by traditions around the globe. They could be extraterrestrial, inter-dimensional, demonic, phantom, or thought projections stemming from deep within the human consciousness. Your guess is as good as mine.