Nightmare From The Skies: From MONSTER FILES by Nick Redfern
Why was Houston, Texas terrorized by its own version of the Mothman monster? And what does NASA know about it? Decide for yourself in this excerpt from MONSTER FILES, written by Nick Redfern.
We have already seen how, in the early 1960s, staff at NASA’s John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field, Ohio, were involved in a deeply weird saga that reportedly began with the sighting of anomalous aerial phenomena in the immediate vicinity of the installation, and ended in the shooting, slaying, and autopsying of nothing less than a Bigfoot—all of which suggests the beast was far stranger than just a giant ape of the unclassified kind. This is not the only time the U.S. government’s space agency has crossed paths with uncanny, nightmarish beasts. For what might be a perfect example of this, we need to go back to the 1980s and the heart of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, where something infernal was trolling the night skies right over the facility.
-The Mothman Takes a Vacation-
On 11 known occasions, during the darkening months of the late autumn and early winter of 1986, staff at the center reported something disturbing and sensational: sightings of what bore an uncanny resemblance to the winged terror in the Jeepers Creepers movies, or perhaps the legendary Mothman of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, which became the subject of John’s Keel’s much-praised book, The Mothman Prophecies, as well as the 2002 movie of the same name. The Mothman was a winged, shining-eyed entity that allegedly haunted Point Pleasant in the 1960s and sparked a panic in the people of the town. And its cousin in the Lone Star State did exactly that at the Johnson Space Center years later—hardly surprising, given that the monster was described as having shiny, oily-looking black skin, a pair of huge, batlike, membranous wings, and, perhaps most memorable and unsettling of all, a long, flowing black cape of the type that would have made the world’s most legendary vampire, Count Dracula himself, envious to the extreme.
Intriguingly, every one of these encounters took place late at night, and involved staff working late shifts who had the opportunity to see the creature as they were arriving, leaving, or, in the case of security personnel, patrolling the facility. In addition, the weather was always the same: chilly temperature, clear skies empty of clouds, and a wild, howling wind. Really, all that was missing was a pack of supernatural hounds, a witch on a broomstick, and a full moon!
One night in November of 1986, in what was arguably the most terrifying encounter, several of the witnesses (including two guards on patrol) spotted the winged fiend squatting on its haunches on the roof of a small storage building before soaring upward into the starry night with astonishing speed. The witnesses also described an uncanny sensation or energy of profound malevolence fairly oozing from the creature; it seemed to enjoy and actually bask sadistically in the knowledge that it had been seen and had provoked so much fear and dread in the witnesses. Afterward, such was the level of wild anxiety and rampant rumor that spread around certain parts of the facility that an official, albeit low-key investigation was launched, in which security personnel took statements from the witnesses. What else could they have done, particularly given the fact that most of the accounts didn’t surface for days, or even weeks after they occurred? Not much—until the next dramatic and, this time, deadly development in the story occurred.
Shortly before Christmas 1986, the torn apart and—as subsequent autopsies demonstrated—nearly bloodless corpses of two German shepherds were found onsite, at the edge of a staff parking area, right around where the flying menace had been seen only four nights previously. In this case, the investigation was taken to a whole new level. The reason was obvious: if dogs were being slaughtered by the creature, then might the staff itself be next on the lethal list? It was a sobering thought that led police and, briefly, even the local FBI office to become involved in the investigation. The probe ultimately led only to a dead end, largely as a result of the fact that by early January 1987, the sightings had ceased. Moreover, despite discreet inquiries with local veterinarians, the owners of the two unfortunate dogs were never located. The flying fiend had seemingly moved on to pastures new, and the staff of the Johnson Space Center that was in on the story could finally breathe a big, collective sigh of relief.
Certainly, this is a decidedly strange and sinister story that relies solely on the testimony of two former employees at the center who, approximately a quarter of a century after the events occurred, have been willing to share at least the basics of what took place. But what about the beast? Do we have any way of truly knowing what it was, and why its target of interest was NASA? Well, we may not be able to identify what the winged thing was, but it can be said with certainty that this was not the only occasion when Houston was plagued by such a terrible flying entity of the night. Nor was it the only time that a facility intimately linked to space exploration had a cloaked monster in its midst that had an evil and savage predilection for mutilating animals in such a horrific fashion. To demonstrate this, we have to go further into Houston’s history—back to the summer of 1953, to be precise.
-Houston’s Beastly Batman-
Less than a year after the 12-foot-tall, flying (or floating) monster of Flatwoods, West Virginia, put in its legendary appearance for a handful of folk in the town, something very similar occurred in the heart of the Texan city of Houston. Whether or not we can lay this later, and particularly beastly affair squarely on the shoulders of the U.S. Air Force’s psychological warfare planners and the strange Second World War–era mind games of Jasper Maskelyne, is debatable. But as we’ll see, there are undeniable similarities that must give us at least some food for thought. Or, if it wasn’t a weird tool of government, but something truly unknown, perhaps the 50’s fiend of Texas was the very same one that popped up three decades later at the nearby Houston Space Center.
It all began shortly after midnight on June 18, 1953, on what was a torturously hot and steamy night in the city. It was one of those nights that makes sleep practically impossible without good air-conditioning, which is why 23-year-old Hilda Walker and a couple of her neighbors, Howard Phillips and Judy Meyer, were sitting on her East Third Street porch, sweaty, restless, and miserable. They were looking for some relief from the heat, but, as matters transpired, that was to be the absolute least of their worries. Walker spelled out how the calamitous events began. As the trio sat and chatted, “25 feet away I saw a huge shadow across the lawn. I thought at first it was the magnified reflection of a big moth caught in the nearby street light. Then the shadow seemed to bounce upward into a pecan tree. We all looked up. That’s when we saw it” (“Unearthly Batman Terrifies Watchers,”1953). “It” was a very simple yet apt term to use. Walker described an encounter with something that appeared to be an unholy combination of the Mothman and the horror of the Houston Space Center. (N.b. This was long before either was on anyone’s radar.) The creature may have been humanoid in shape, but it was clearly far from human. Utterly black, and with the ubiquitous batlike wings, it was an estimated 7 feet tall and was bathed in an eerie, yellowish glow. As soon as she saw it, Meyer screamed in terror at the top of her lungs. Who can blame her for that?
Walker, clearly the most forthcoming of the three, described what happened next to the local press (who were of course overjoyed by the sensational story):
Immediately afterwards, we heard a loud swoosh over the house tops across the street. It was like the white flash of a torpedo-shaped object…. I’ve heard so much about flying saucer stories and I thought all those people telling the stories were crazy, but now I don’t know what to believe. I may be nuts, but I saw it, whatever it was…. I sat there stupefied. I was amazed (Gerhard, 2010).
Cryptozoologist Ken Gerhard, who spent a number of years living in Houston, has documented several cases very similar to that of Walker, Meyer and Philips, including one that occurred as recently as the 1990s. The time was, yet again, the dead of night, and the location was the rooftop of Houston’s Bellaire Theater, where a “gigantic, helmeted man” with wings was seen by petrified staff. Perhaps, speculates Gerhard, the flying monster has never really left, and still dwells in the darker, shadowy parts of the old city (Ibid.).
-Terror at the Telescope-
In the late 1950s, an historic document, bearing the title Searching for Interstellar Communications, was prepared by Phillip Morrison and Giuseppe Conconi, a pair of physicists at Cornell University, and was published within the prestigious pages of Nature. Its focus: the potential feasibility of seeking out alien life via high-powered microwaves. The paper received a great deal of interest, particularly from a man named Frank Drake, who chose to turn the theories of Morrison and Conconi into reality at the Green Bank National Radio Astronomy Observatory in West Virginia, home to two of the world’s most infamous flying creatures: Mothman and the Flatwoods Monster. Despite a lack of success, Drake pressed on. In October of 1961, a conference (what became known as the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI) was held at Green Bank. Drake proved to be the standout character, when he revealed to the audience what has famously become known as the Drake Equation—a theoretical means of determining the number of intelligent alien cultures that might exist in the known universe.
At this point, it’s worth noting that NASA and SETI, although separate entities, are hardly strangers. In 1971, for example, Project Cyclops, a NASA think tank that was created to address the matter of how a gigantic array of radio telescopes might be used to locate extraterrestrial life, had significant input from SETI. Similarly, there is also a link between dark-cloaked, vampiric entities and shocking cases of animal mutilation. When Frank Drake chose to focus his work on a quest for extraterrestrial life, it was a decision that ultimately took him to Puerto Rico and its now-famous Arecibo Radio Telescope, of which Drake ultimately rose to the rank of director. Notably, sometime during the 60s, a security guard at Arecibo reported seeing a black-cloaked figure walking along a narrow trail on the perimeter of the huge telescope. For the guard, this was no local or trespasser; it was a feaster of blood: a fully fledged vampire. Drake, although skeptical, was not about to deny that at least something had prompted the guard to report his experience, and so he requested that a written account be provided to him, which it duly was. Two days later, Drake said:
I really was forced to look into it…because a cow was found dead on a nearby farm, with all the blood drained from its body. The vampire rumor had already spread through the observatory staff, and now the cow incident whipped the fears of many people into a frenzy. (Drake, 1994).
Was it simply chance or random coincidence that cloaked monsters were seen at both the Arecibo Observatory on the island of Puerto Rico in the mid-1960s, and at NASA’s Johnson Space Center at Houston, Texas in 1986—monsters that went on to become forever linked to the violent slaughter of animals whose blood appeared to have been completely drained from their bodies? Should the files on those gruesome cases ever be released into the public domain, maybe one day we will finally have an answer to that puzzling and unsettling question.
Reprinted, with permission of the publisher, from MONSTER FILES © 2013 Nick Redfern. Published by New Page Books a division of Career Press, Pompton Plains, NJ. 800-227-3371. All rights reserved.
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