3 - The Flutter of Black Wings

Another kind of Man in Black haunted Brooklyn, New York, in 1877-80. He had wings and performed aerial acrobatics over the heads of the crowds of sunbathers at Coney Island. A Mr. W. H. Smith first reported these strange flights in a letter to the New York Sun, September 18, 1877. The creature was not a bird, but “a winged human form.“

This flying man became a local sensation and, according to the New York Times, September 12, 1880, “many reputable persons” saw him as he was “engaged in flying toward New Jersey.” He maneuvered at an altitude of about one thousand feet, sporting “bat’s wings” and making swimming-like movements. Witnesses claimed to have seen his face clearly. He “wore a cruel and determined expression.” The entire figure was black, standing out sharply against the clear blue sky. Since he wasn’t towing an advertising sign behind him, and since the primitive gliders of experimenters during that period rarely traveled far, and then usually downhill, the incidents are without explanation.

Leonardo da Vinci studied the flights of birds in the fifteenth century and tried to build a man-powered ornithopter without success. Thousands of other basement inventors have worked on the idea since; constructing canvas wings that were moved by the muscles of the optimistic pilots. Most of these weird-looking machines became instant junk on their first test flights.


And several overconfident types went crashing to their deaths when they leaped off cliffs and high buildings in their homemade wings. It was not until May 2, 1962, that a man really succeeded in flying under his own power. Mr. John C. Wimpenny flew 993 yards at an altitude of five feet in a contraption with rigid wings and a pedal-driven propeller at Hatfield, Hertfordshire, in England.

The principle of the ornithopter—propulsion through the birdlike movement of wings—has been known for centuries but no one has been able to make it work. No human, that is. Machines flying through the air with moving wings have frequently been sighted during UFO waves. But the UFO enthusiasts tend to ignore any reports which describe things other than disks or cigar-shaped objects.

In 1905 “a titanic white bird” fluttered around California.


One witness, J. A. Jackson, “a well-known resident of Silshee,” was paying a visit to his outhouse at 1:30 A.M. on August 2 when he saw a brilliant light in the sky. It seemed to be attached to a seventy-foot “airship” with wings.

“The mysterious machine appeared to be propelled by the wings alone and rose and fell as the wings flapped like a gigantic bird,” the Brawley, California, News reported, August 4, 1905.

Others in the area reported seeing the same thing.

Winged beings are an essential part of the folklore of every culture. From the times of Babylonia and the Pharaohs, sculptors were preoccupied with putting wings on lions and unidentifiable beasts. Although the angels of biblical times were never described as being winged, painters and sculptors have always persisted in giving them feathered appendages. (Actually, the old-time angels appeared like ordinary human beings. They even had supper with Lot.) When demons overran the planet during the Dark Ages they were also recorded as monstrous entities with bats’ wings.

Remote areas of the world are still said to be inhabited by harpies and winged humans. On July 11, 1908, the famous Russian traveler V. K. Arsenyev was trekking along the Gobilli River when he had this encounter: (

... I saw the mark on the path that was very similar to a man’s footprint. My dog Alpha bristled up, snarled and then something rushed about nearby trampling among the bushes.

However, it didn’t go away, but stopped nearby, standing stock-still. We had been standing like that for some minutes ... then I stooped, picked up a stone and threw it towards the unknown animal. Then something happened that was quite unexpected: I heard the beating of wings. Something large and dark emerged from the fog and flew over the river. A moment later it disappeared into the dense mist My dog, badly frightened, pressed itself to my feet.

After supper I told the Udehe-men about this incident. They broke into a vivid story about a man who could fly in the air. Hunters often saw his tracks, tracks that appeared suddenly and vanished suddenly, in such a. way that they could only be possible if the “man” alighted on the ground, then took off again into the air.

[*] Yuri B. Petrenko, “Forerunner of the Flying ‘Lady’ of Vietnam?” Flying Saucer Review, vol. 19, no. 2 (March-April 1973): 29-30.

In Mexico there are stories of the ikals, tiny black men endowed with the power of flight who live in caves and kidnap humans. In India the giant bird known as the Garuda is an important part of the mythology. The gods Vishnu and Krishna traveled around the heavens on the back of a great Garuda. North American Indians have extensive legends about the Thunderbird, a huge bird said to carry off children and old people. It was accompanied by loud noises, hums, buzzes and, apparently, rumbles from the infrasonic and ultrasonic levels. Known as Piasa to the Indians of the Dakotas, it was supposed to have terrifying red eyes and a long tail.

We are dealing with three types of phenomena in these cases.

  • The first is the winged man

  • The second is a giant bird, so huge it is a biological impossibility

  • Third, we have a monstrous demon with red eyes, bat’s wings, and a body closely human in form

All three are probably interrelated.

Research is still fragmentary but there is journalistic evidence that the winged man of 1880 was not confined to Coney Island. His activities there were just a publicity gambit, attracting the notice of the staid New York Times and thus attaining a measure of respectability so that when anyone anywhere else saw him they had a frame of reference.

According to the Louisville, Kentucky, Courier-Journal, July 29, 1880, the winged man was busy in that area. Two men, C.A. Youngman and Bob Flexner, reported seeing “a man surrounded by machinery which he seemed to be working with his hands.” He had wings or fans on his back which he was flapping rather desperately to keep aloft. The startled men watched him flutter unsteadily out of view.

But he would be back.

A year before the first flying saucer “scare” erupted in the state of Washington in 1947, a group of sixteen people in San Diego, California, witnessed a strange phenomenon. They were gathered on a rooftop to watch a meteor shower on the night of October 9, 1946, when a bluish-white winged object appeared in the sky.


It looked like an extremely long airplane carrying two reddish lights and it left a luminous contrail.

“The strange object was certainly no airplane,” one witness told Harold T. Wilkins. (1) “The wings, which moved, were too wide for any bird. Indeed, they were rather like the wings of a butterfly. The whole object emitted a red glow.“

[1] Harold T. Wilkins, Flying Saucers on the Attack (New York: Citadel Press, 1954), chapter III.


The object was especially conspicuous as it crossed the face of the moon. Some of the witnesses thought it resembled a gigantic bat. Astronomers have also reported similar objects.


In Popular Astronomy, 1912, Dr.F.B. Harris stated:

“lathe evening of January 27, 1912,1 saw an intensely black object, like a crow, poised upon the moon. I estimated it at 250 miles long by 50 miles wide. I cannot but think that a very interesting phenomenon happened.“

In that crazy year 1880, an Italian astronomer named Ricco, on the observatory at Palermo, Sicily, was studying the sun at 8 A.M., November 30, when he saw,

“winged bodies in two long parallel lines slowly traveling, apparently across the disk of the sun. They looked like large birds to cranes.“

Cranes on the sun? Crows 250 miles long on the moon? Black-garbed men swimming through the skies over Coney Island? Ornithopters over Kentucky and San Diego?

On December 30, 1946, Ella Young, an American writer, saw one of our bats at dusk near Morrow Bay, California.

“On the golden sky it looked very black,” she reported. “It came forward head on, and had a batlike appearance, owing to the curvature of its wings. I am not sure if there were motions at the extreme tip of the wings; but the strange machine seemed to stand still for several minutes, and its form was very distinct. Suddenly, it either lowered itself toward the horizon, or the bank of cloud-mist made an upward movement—maybe, both movements occurred—for the machine passed behind the cloud and did not reappear. Immediately afterward, a great flush of color spread over the sea.“

May through August 1947 saw the first modern UFO wave in the United States. Odd lights, glistening circular machines, and reddish flying cigars captured the American imagination. Tiffany Thayer, the eccentric novelist and founder of the Fortean Society, named after Charles Fort, chortled over the air force explanations in the society’s journal, Doubt. Obviously the government was determined to cover up the true facts in this new situation.


Mystics and cranks quickly appeared, explaining the phenomenon as the work of people from outer space. The press gave the sensation a two-week run, then went back to the intricacies of the cold war. No one, not even the beady-eyed Forteans, paid much attention to the giant birds and machines with flapping wings that returned to our skies in 1948.

Early in January 1948, Mrs. Bernard Zailowski reported seeing a “sizzing and whizzing” man with silver wings maneuvering about 200 feet above her barn in Chehalis, Washington. The air force scoffed.


Four months later, two laundry workers in Longview, Washington, about forty miles south of Chehalis, claimed to see a trio of “birdmen” circling the city at an altitude of 250 feet.

“When they first came into sight, I thought they looked like gulls, but as they got closer I could make out that they weren’t gulls and I knew they were men,“ Mrs. Viola Johnson told reporters.


“I could see plainly that they were men. ...They wore dark, drab flying suits. I couldn’t make out their arms but I could see their legs dangling down and they kept moving their heads like they were looking around. I couldn’t tell if they had goggles on but their heads looked like they had helmets on. I couldn’t see their faces.“

That happened on April 9, 1948. That same day, a couple in Caledonia, Illinois, reported seeing “a monster bird ... bigger than an airplane.” Researchers Jerome Clark and Loren Coleman dug into Illinois newspapers and discovered that state had an epidemic of funny birds in -1948. (2)


[2] Jerome Clark and Loren Coleman, “Winged Weirdies,” Fate, March 1972.

That January James Trares, twelve, excitedly exclaimed to his mother, “There’s a bird outside as big as a B—29!” They lived in Glendale, Illinois. In April, a huge bird was reported in Alton, Caledonia, Overland, Richmond Heights, and Freeport, all in Illinois.


Walter Siegmund, a retired army colonel, saw it on April 4.

“I thought there was something wrong with my eyesight,” he said, “but it was definitely a bird and not a glider or jet plane .... From the movements of the object and its size, I figured it could only be a bird of tremendous size.“

Three people in Overland, Illinois, viewed the creature on April 10. At first they thought it was an airplane, then it began to flap its wings.

By late April the Garuda was buzzing the city of St. Lous. Dr. Kristine Dolezal saw it on the twenty-sixth. A group of instructors at the Mississippi School of Aeronautics observed “an awfully big bird” at 1,200 feet the next day.


A salesman named Harry Bradford complained,

“I’ve seen it three times in the last four days and that’s too much tomfoolery for a man of fifty to take.“

“I thought people who reported seeing the thing were ‘bugs’ until I looked into the sky last night,” Charles Dunn, an inspector for U.S. Steel, declared on April 30. “It was flapping its wings and moving quite fast at about 3,000 feet altitude and it appeared to be illuminated by a dull glow. It looked about the size of a Piper Cub plane but there was no engine sound and it was not a plane. I could hardly believe my eyes.“

Although the plane-sized bird was seen sporadically during the next decade, the flying saucers stole the limelight. The air force and the amateur investigators chose to pursue the more exciting Martians and Venusians.

But the figure of a man with “wings like a bat,” dressed in tight-fitting black clothes and surrounded by an eerie glow startled three people in Houston, Texas, on June 18, 1953.

“I could see him plain and could see he had big wings folded at his shoulders,“ Mrs. Hilda Walker said. He was about six and a half feet tall and was perched on the limb of a pecan tree.  “

His halo of light slowly faded out and he vanished.

“Immediately afterward,“ Mrs. Walker continued, “we heard a loud swoosh over the housetops across the street. It was like the white flash of a torpedo-shaped object.“

“I may be nuts, but I saw it, whatever it was,” Howard Phillips, another witness, declared.

The next big year for our phantom fliers was 1961. Residents along Florida’s Tamiami Trail began seeing what one woman described as,

“a big vulture ... with a wingspread of about fifty-five feet. Isn’t that sort of unusual?”

In May 1961, a New York pilot was buzzed by,

“a damned big bird, bigger than an eagle. For a moment I doubted my sanity because it looked more like a pterodactyl out of the prehistoric past.”

The thing had swooped at his plane as he cruised up the Hudson River valley.

Far away, in the Ohio River valley, another startled pair had an even more breathtaking experience. A woman prominent in civic affairs in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, was driving on Route 2 along the Ohio River with her elderly father.


As they passed through a sector on the edge of a park known as the Chief Cornstalk Hunting Grounds, a tall manlike figure suddenly appeared on the road in front of them.

“I slowed down,” she told me years later, “and as we got closer we could see that it was much larger than a man. A big gray figure. It stood in the middle of the road. Then a pair of wings unfolded from its back and they practically filled the whole road. It almost looked like a small airplane. Then it took off straight up ... disappearing out of sight in seconds. We were both terrified. I stepped on the gas and raced out of there.

“We talked it over and decided not to tell anybody about it. Who would believe us, anyway?“

Dr. Jacques Vallee, French statistician and computer expert, was given access to the air force’s UFO files and he came across a curious report from an air force colonel who was driving alone along a road in Illinois one night (no date is given) when he became aware of something flying above his car. It was, he said, a huge bird the size of a small airplane. It flapped its wings and soared away.

There are shaggy bird stories by the pound. A businessman in Arlington, Virginia, wrote to me recently, describing an experience he and three friends had in the winter of 1968-69. They were at a farm near Haymarket when they heard a strange rushing sound near a small lake. Intrigued, they set out with flashlights and a couple of dogs to investigate. Suddenly the dogs howled, turned tail, and ran. There, standing by a tree was a huge dark shadow between eight and twelve feet tall.


The quartet scurried back to their car, turned on their lights, and swung toward the shadow.

“All we saw,” he reported, “was this huge thing with large red-orange eyeballs and winglike arms. We couldn’t get out of there fast enough.“

We even have a naked woman with wings in our collection. The case was investigated by Don Worley, an experienced student of the unknown, who interviewed the witness in depth.

“He is a reliable observer,” Worley notes, “and he swears that this event is well beyond the capacity of his imagination.“

Earl Morrison, the witness, was serving as a private, first class in the marine corps in Vietnam in the summer of 1969.


He and two buddies were sitting on top of a bunker near Da Nang on a warm summer evening.

All of a sudden—I don’t know why—we all three looked out there in the sky and we saw this figure coming toward us. It had a kind of glow and we couldn’t make out what it was at first. It started coming toward us, real slowly. All of a sudden 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 black, everything was black. But it glowed. It glowed in the night—kind of a greenish cast to it.

There was a glow on her and around her. Everything glowed. Looked like she glowed and threw off a radiance. We saw her arms toward the wings and they looked like regular molded arms, each with a hand, and, fingers and everything, but they had skin from the wings going over them. And when she flapped her wings, there was no noise at first. It looked like her arms didn’t have any bones in them, because they were limber just like a bat.

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 couldn’t do anything. We didn’t know what to do. We just froze. We just watched what was going over because we couldn’t believe our eyes. ... So we watched her go straight over the top of us, and still she didn’t make any noise flapping her wings. She blotted out the moon once—that’s how close she was to us ... As we watched her—she 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. The total time when we first saw her and could almost define her until we lost sight of her and were unable to define her was between three or four minutes. (

[3] FSR Case Histories, No. 10, June 1972.


Vietnam had a big UFO wave in 1968-69, which included an epidemic of phantom helicopters. On several occasions the military forces on both sides fired at the objects without effect.

Pfc. Morrison’s account stands as one of the best close-up sightings of a winged entity.

A bright “star” appeared over the trees of Sandling Park, Hythe, in Kent, England, on the night of November 16, 1963, and so began one of the classics in ufology. Four teen-agers were strolling along a country road near the park, going home from a dance, when the movements of the “star” caught their eyes. It dipped out of the sky and headed straight for them, finally dropping down behind some nearby trees.

John Flaxton, seventeen, said he suddenly felt very cold, and a sense of overpowering fear engulfed the group. They started to run. The light, now a golden oval-shaped object, reappeared from behind the trees and seemed to move along with them from a distance of about two hundred feet. When they stopped, the light stopped. Then it was lost from sight behind the trees. The four youngsters slowed down, catching their breath.

Suddenly a tall, dark figure emerged from the woods and waddled toward them. It was completely black and had no discernible head. Mervyn Hutchinson, eighteen, described it as looking like a human-sized bat, with big bat wings on its back. All four took off as fast as they could go.

More strange lights were seen in Sandling Woods in the days that followed. Investigators found three giant footprints, an inch deep, two feet long, and nine inches across. Three weeks later a group of people, including two newspaper reporters, visited the site and found the whole forest illuminated by a strange pulsating light. They watched it from a distance for half an hour, afraid to go closer. (

[4] Charles Bowen, ed., The Humanoids (London: Neville Spearman, 1969).

These great Garudas and winged beings are closely associated with luminous phenomena. They tend to appear in areas where UFOs have been active and, like UFOs, they tend to linger for days or even weeks in the same specific area. The big luminous bird of the Illinois-St. Louis region in 1948 was visiting an area of the Mississippi valley that would see continuous UFO and hairy monster activity thereafter.

In many instances the witnesses have clearly seen the objects in the process of materialization or dematerialization. A glow is observed first, usually a reddish glow marking the emergence of the object from the invisible band of the spectrum into infrared and then into the narrow band of visible light. Or, if the object is passing through the visible band to the higher frequencies it is cyan (bluish-green) before it fades into blue (hard to see at night) and then enters the ultraviolet range. The chills experienced by John Flaxton and his group were probably caused by microwaves above the infrared (which produces heat), just as the very cold atmosphere accompanying ghosts is a radiation effect.

The absence of any overpowering odor, either sickly sweet like violets or roses or nauseous like hydrogen sulfide, in these bird and batman cases puzzles me, however. This could indicate some subtle difference in the basic structure of these creatures; a difference in the energy components or molecular structure.

People are still seeing flying freaks.


On May 21, 1973, a group of men in a woods near Kristianstad, Sweden, reported an incredibly huge black bird which passed within one hundred feet of them. One witness had a camera with a telephoto lens and attempted to take a picture, but his film jammed. Camera malfunctions are remarkably common among would-be UFO photographers, and even those who try to take pictures of the serpent at Loch Ness.


It almost seems as if some outside force fouls up cameras when monsters and UFOs are around.

Back to Contents