The Cryptozoologist



Posted on July 9, 2012 at 1:10 AM



From the Cryptid Chronicles

June 20, 2012

(Cryptozoologist's Note: While doing some follow-up research, I came across this post from the Cryptid Chronicles in which the author postulates the same identity for the so-called Mothman as I had previously—that it may be a species of giant owl, possibly a surviving species long thought to be extinct. I am presenting their post verbatim, the only addition being an illustration comparing the size of a Cuban Giant Owl or Giant Cursorial Owl (Ornimegalonyx oteroi) with that of a human. I think their article presents some interesting additional support for this theory. That said, any typographical or grammatical errors are part of their original post. ~ Crypto)

Mothman as an owl has previously been discussed on Cryptid Chronicles with Mark A. Hall’s theory about “Bighoot” with his sense that Mothman/Bighoot may have developed a protective mimicry that has been utilized by the giant owls to disguise themselves as upright trees and logs lying on the ground.

While I don’t believe that all Mothman sightings can be misdiagnosed as an animal, I do think with specific qualities reported in some cases such as Mothman having no head but rather a set of eyes in its upper chest and accounts of “glowing” eyes lends credence to Mothman as an owl.

One of the original eyewitnesses, Linda Scarberry (1966), specifically stated that the effect was related to the car headlights. “There was no glowing about it until the lights hit it,” she said. Others echoed her statement. For example, one man, alerted by his dog, aimed his flashlight in the direction of his barn, “and it picked up two red circles, or eyes, which,” he said, “looked like bicycle reflectors” (Keel 1975, 56).


The reflector-like nature of the creature’s eyes is revealing. As ornithologists well know, some birds’ eyes shine bright red at night when caught in a beam from auto headlights or a flashlight. “This ‘eyeshine’ is not the iris color,” explains an authority, “but that of the vascular membrane—the tapetum—showing through the translucent pigment layer on the surface of the retina” (Gill 1994).

The TNT area is surrounded by the McClintic Wildlife Management Area—then, as now, a bird sanctuary! Owls, which exhibit crimson eyeshine, populate the area. Indeed, Steve Warner (2002), who works for West Virginia Munitions to produce .50-caliber ammunition in the TNT compound, reported to Joe Nickell, Senior Research Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, that there were “owls all over this place.” Conversely, neither he nor a coworker, Duane Chatworthy (2002), had ever seen Mothman, although Warner pointed out he had lived in the region all of his life.

Because of Mothman’s squeaky cry, “funny little face,” and other features, including its presence near barns and abandoned buildings, Joe Nickell identified it as the common barn owl (Nickell 2002). One Skeptical Inquirer reader (Long 2002) insisted it was instead a great horned owl which, although not matching certain features so well, does have the advantage of larger size. It seems likely that various owls and even other large birds played Mothman on occasion.

Here then is the question separating the mystifiers from the skeptics: Is it more likely that there has long been a previously undiscovered giant species among the order strigiformes (owls), or that some people suddenly encountering a “monster” at night have misjudged its size?

Could there be a super large owl living in the north-east at least—in the woods of West Virginia and the Appalachian Mountains which may be a genuine cryptid?

There has been evidence of super large owls found in the fossil records in that area dating back several hundreds of thousands of years ago—some with a wingspan of over 40 to 50 feet! That’s an owl large enough to easily pick up a cow or a buffalo and carry it away to a giant nest to feed its young. It would be 6 feet tall while standing with its wings closed! Could you imagine coming upon that thing in the woods at night?

So it is JUST possible that at least some reports of the MOTHMAN is not a monster or a demon or a extra-terrestrial after all—but a bonafide “cryptid”—a relic of evolution left over from prehistoric times which may have been living deep inside Appalachian mountain hollows for hundreds of thousands of years and has only rarely emerged to be seen by human eyes (and scare them shitless) due to some change or variability in its natural environment or food base. And if you’ll pardon the pun… Who (hoo) knows? Perhaps this giant owl has a giant brain that is telepathic and can indeed force you to stand paralyzed just with it’s piercing gaze. Maybe, as the Native Americans say, it’s even intelligent and has a memory of its history and a spirituality all it’s own.

There is at least one unconfirmed report of a GIANT OWL swooping down to pick up a small boy out playing in a farm yard in the Appalachian mountains back in the 1930’s. The giant owl screeched with such a terrifying sound at the boy’s struggling and biting at its feet that the boys father and brother and farm hand heard it from the barn and came out and threw rocks and sticks at it until it dropped the boy from a height of about 15 feet into a soft earthen livestock yard relatively unhurt except for a few scratches and bruises from the giant owl’s claws (and probably some hilacious nightmares!!!!).

However when the family reported the incident to the local authorities, they were ridiculed and laughed at and eventually came to wish they’d never made the report. But to further confirm their story, possibly the exact same giant owl was seen again about a hundred miles away not more than three months later by a well-respected and sober business man out on a solitary fishing and hunting trip up in the Appalachians. The shaken fellow who reported seeing the giant owl fly over head with the limp carcass of a dark brown horse dangling from it talons said it was the most terrifying moment of his entire life. He said every hair on his body stood on end when that giant bird flew over with a roaring whooosh and looked down at him for just a second with those large, piercing eyes… “I know exactly what a field mouse feels like now when he spots an owl swooping down from overhead… with those DAMNED EYES that cut right into ya and turn your blood to ice… and it ain’t a good feelin’ let me tell ya…”

Enormous prehistoric owls may have migrated from Cuba to a town near you

In the piney mountains and desert mesas of south central New Mexico, residents of the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation still share the legends of an enormous and evil bird: Big Owl.

The Jicarilla Apaches, along the state’s northern edge, also talk of Big Owl, beneath the slickrock canyons and gray bluffs of their reservation. But in their stories, Big Owl can paralyze humans just by staring at them, and after doing so, it swallows them whole, just as smaller owls swallow mice.

Such stories may actually have a basis in fact, citing accounts of an actual undocumented species of 3-to-5-foot-tall giant owl (Bighoot). Ornimegalonyx oteroi, or the Cuban giant owl, was an approximately 3-foot-tall owl that lived in what’s now western Cuba up until about 8,000 years ago. In the last few decades, three nearly intact skeletons of this bird have been found in Cuban caves, and their size and bone structure suggest this owl was similar to an oversized version of the common burrowing owl, with long legs and an ability to fly only short distances.


Perhaps some giant owls survived extinction, migrated, reproduced and became part of New Mexico’s Apache oral histories—and there are a number of intriguing points that support his case. Mentions of giant owls occur throughout the mythology of American- and Canadian-Indian tribes. Many Iroquois once feared what they called Flying Heads—man-sized, bodiless, open-mouthed heads covered in ragged hair—heads that could fly in a halting way, were armed with talons and craved humans which Mark A. Hall has theorized were actually giant owls.

Sightings of giant owls continued into the era of North America’s first European-American settlers. Hall said some settlers saw their livestock carried off by enormous birds they called booger owls, and such sightings have persisted into the present, across America and across the Southwest.



In a chapter of Cryptozoology and the Investigation of Lesser-Known Mystery Animals, New Mexico journalist Jerry A. Padilla recounted a Taos woman’s encounter with an owl she estimated to be at least 4 1/2 feet tall.

This incident reportedly took place in the 1950s, not far north of the New Mexico-Colorado state line, when Taos resident Rosa M. Lucero was a little girl. Lucero recalled the giant owl wandering silently from a cluster of willows, walking back and forth and just staring at her and her grandmother, Elena Bustos Lucero, as the two of them frantically gestured the sign of the cross.

“It just walked around in the garden by the willows,” Rosa M. Lucero said in the above-mentioned book. “My grandmother was convinced it was a nagual—someone taking the form of an owl—because she herself said that in all her long life she’d never encountered an owl so large and unafraid of people.”

Though generally described as making a hooting sound, owls are sometimes also said to hum. The Internet is studded with mentions of owls humming as coyotes howl, owls humming the sounds of the night and barn owls humming people to sleep. Taos Tales, by Elsie Clews Parsons, includes a northern New Mexico oral history of a coyote who “went singing and at the end of every song he said like the owl, hum! hum! (grunt).”

A much better-known hum in northern New Mexico is the notorious Taos Hum—a low, pulsing throb of a sound that torments about 2 percent of Taos’s population, causing anxiety, dizziness, headaches, nosebleeds and insomnia. Many people have suggested possible explanations—a government project, aliens, mass hysteria—but the Hum’s cause remains unknown.

Would it be ridiculous, though, to suggest that maybe, just maybe, the Taos Hum might be caused by man-sized owls—the Bighoot—humming throughout the New Mexico woods?

This evidence presents a somewhat rational explanation for the Mothman as some giant bastard owl. Whether a mutation or relic animal, one thing is certain—happening upon one would be an unnerving encounter.


Top illustration credit Copyright © Yasmin Foster

I would like to thank Yasmin Foster for her generous contribution of the gorgeous artwork, it’s a very neat interepretation of Mothman as an actual owl. Please check out more of her artwork at

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