My obscure cryptid sighting: the goblin / devil / mothman / gargoyle.

I have a particular fascination with odd and unusual paranormal creatures. I realize that sounds redundant – paranormal is pretty much defined as odd and unusual – but even among fans of the supernatural, a cryptid’s popularity is based on how familiar a creature is, and how likely we judge its possible existence to be.

In the United States, 36% of people  believe aliens have visited Earth and 29% believe Bigfoot exists. In Scotland, 24% think Nessie is “definitely” or “probably” real.  Of course, ghosts are the royalty of the paranormal kingdom, with 45% of Americans (and a staggering 68% of Brits) willing to admit they believe in hauntings.

Scary Mothman

The Mothman statue in Point Pleasant, West Virginia.

But who believes in Springheel Jack, the Mad Gasser of Mattoon, the Devon Devil, the Phantom of Flatwoods, the Jersey Devil, the Hopkinsville Goblins, and Mothman?

Well, I do. Kinda.

When I was a little girl (probably 8 or 9) my stepfather Chet (a junior-high math teacher) took a summer job cleaning a bar after it closed for the night.

At what felt like random intervals (but was probably every Friday or Saturday night) my mother would come into my room, wake me up, and send me out to the car. I remember my teeth chattering as I stumbled from the house to the driveway through wet grass that clutched at my ankles.

Feeling genuinely cold in the summertime was new to me. My bedtime was eight o’clock; I went to sleep and woke up when it was light out. We had no air conditioning, and my mother thought a fan blowing in my room at night would make me sick. As far as I knew – at least until Chet took that job – summer was just one long, variably hot, variably bright, day.

To me, then, it was a grand adventure when – in the middle of the chill, black night – we’d climb into the car and drive forever along winding country roads.

I was encouraged to lay down in the back seat and fall asleep. I never did. Instead, I watched the trees and the starry sky pass by my open window while the adults talked, argued, played the radio and drank beer.

Eventually, the smooth pavement would give way to crunchy gravel, and a few minutes later, we’d pull into an empty dirt parking lot, lit only by moonlight and a string of yellow bulbs that edged an awning over the back door. On the awning, there was a cartoon image of a winking vulpine face and the words: The Red Fox.

After Chet unlocked the door and flipped on a bank of light switches, my job was to look for lost change. I crawled under every table, and dug in the crevices of  every booth and chair. If I found nickles or dimes, I could use them to play the jukebox, but any other money had to be put into a glass my mother set out for me to fill. Meanwhile, the adults would roll up the big mats from the entryways and the area behind the bar,  drag them outside, hang them over a rickety fence and hose them off. While the mats dried, my parents would wipe down the bar and tables, sweep, vacuum, and mop.

Once the floor was wet, I had to sit in a booth with my feet tucked under me. Usually, they would give me a bag of pork rinds, a candy bar, or a cute little glass (a shot glass, of course) full of cherries or filberts to snack on while I waited for the floor to lose its shiny streaks.

Occasionally, when all the work was done, my step-dad would go behind the bar and mix a cocktail for each of us. (Mine was a Roy Rogers … NOT a Shirley Temple.) Then he would climb onto the stage – where I was usually forbidden to go – wend his way through the maze of mic stands, amplifiers and drums, and turn on the power to one microphone. He’d show me a space where I could be, (not close to any of the instruments) hand me the mic, and make me promise to sing real songs … not kid stuff.

I did a mean Tanya Tucker.

Then it would be time to go for another long ride through the night. We never used the exact same route to return home. My mother, who didn’t have her license, enjoyed going for rides and my stepfather would indulge her after the work was done. Sometimes we’d cruise to, and through, a nearby town where the stoplights blinked. Most often, though, we’d take a slow, winding tour through an area with several small lakes and ponds.

It was on one of those nights that I saw a creature that looked something like this:

Gargoyle

It was crouched high in a half-dead oak tree that stood on the bank of a pond. The moon was full, or close to it, and the wind was still. I had enough time to see the creature, look for its reflection in the polished  mirror of water beneath it, then look back up to confirm what I was seeing. I suppose I was wondering if  it was a weirdly contorted part of the tree itself.

Then the damn thing moved. At first I thought it was going to dive into the pond, but then I realized it was just turning away from the road. As we swept past it, I twisted around in my seat to keep it in sight. I swear, its eyes flared red in our taillights. Then I saw it had wings folded down its back.

Now here’s the thing: I wasn’t scared. Just that week I’d met my first salamander and –  until the day I found one under a rock – I’d had no idea such a thing existed. Every month I received a packet of Safari Wildlife Cards in the mail, which I could then sort and file into a red plastic tray. Each card detailed the characteristics of an animal species. I devoured the information on those cards. Every month, there were animals in the deck that I’d never heard of and that seemed hardly possible.  The variety of animal species that populated the world was astonishing to me.

(Weird kid, I know. Keep in mind, that I was raised on hobby farms – and I studied a wide variety of domestic and exotic animals daily. I think, maybe, I was destined to be a wildlife biologist, until the writing bug bit me.) 

When I saw the creature in the tree, I knew I needed to note as many identifying details as possible.

I estimated it to be about the size of a large dog or a small goat, though the shape was wrong. It was holding itself in a hunched, compact, almost huddled position. It had arms and legs shaped like those of a monkey or lemur, but much thicker and bulkier. (The glow in the creature’s eyes tilted me toward a lemur of some kind – I’d just received my first lemur card and I’d been struck by its red eyes.) A primate of some sort seemed most likely, but I was puzzled because its body didn’t look furry, but rather rough and scaly, like an alligator. When I caught a glimpse of the wings, I thought they looked like a bat’s.

Of course, I tried to tell Mom and Chet I’d seen something, but when I described it they chuckled and refused to go back and look for it.

I thought of the creature often in the following years. As I learned more about animals, I came to realize such a thing couldn’t exist within the animal kingdom as I understood it. Then, when I was 11 or 12, I started to come across accounts of cryptids like the Jersey Devil and Springheel Jack. There were similarities but the encounters didn’t seem right. I got excited about Mothman for a while, but that description was really off when I dug into it.

Honestly it wasn’t until I saw a book on the clearance table at Barnes & Nobel that I saw anything that looked right.

book cover nightmares in the sky

So. Do I think it was a gargoyle? No, not if you mean as in the popular 90’s cartoon. (Though I do sometimes wonder what those medieval carvings were based on.)

Was it Springheel Jack, the Mad Gasser of Mattoon, the Devon Devil, the Phantom of Flatwoods, the Jersey Devil, the Hopkinsville Goblins, or Mothman? I have no idea. If you read the wikis on the obscure cryptids I’ve listed, you’ll see there’s always an expert who comes forward to explain such sightings away by saying that some semi-literate yahoo just mistook an owl for a monster.

I may have  only been eight or nine, but I was literate and precociously familiar with biology. Most importantly, I think, I was unbiased as only a child can be when it comes to the difference between “real” and “imaginary” animals. What I can tell you is this: I saw something alive that night, and it was not an owl.

———————————-

July 2013 WriMoProg: 60+ 34= 94/145
[X + Y = Z / total-hours goal, where X = writing/editing time, Y= other writerly tasks.]

Advertisements

25 Comments on “My obscure cryptid sighting: the goblin / devil / mothman / gargoyle.”

  1. Hunter Shea says:

    By far, this is my favorite of all your posts. You captured that night perfectly! I was right there with you in the back seat of the car and in the bar. Sounds creepy as hell and looking back, I’m sure shaped you more than you’d ever thought it could.

    • I think we would have been good friends as kids … though I’m not sure we would have then survived childhood. (Me: We probably shouldn’t go into that dark, scary _______, should we?” You: Probably not. Me: But we’re gonna do it anyway, aren’t we? You: Damn straight.)

  2. Personally, I think the Mothman incident brings up a lot of serious questions. Cheesy movie aside, there were some mighty strange occurrences when that bridge collapsed. And I believe in curses, so…you never know.

    • I agree, Mark. I find Mothman to be an EXTREMELY unsettling entity, despite the ridiculous monicker.

      As far as I know, btw, my mystery creature was not a harbinger of disaster. I actually checked (as well as I could) years later, by looking through microfiche at he library. Nada.

  3. Patrick says:

    I’ve never been into cryptids. It’s not that i don’t necessarily believe in any of them… for some reason they just don’t hold my attention. Same for aliens. But I LOOOOOVE the Mothman movie. 🙂 And… I loved your story. 🙂

  4. There is nothing wrong with believing. It’s hard to say what you could have seen, but I understand running into something unusual at a young age and having it stick with you so many years later. I believe I ran across a ghost in my early teens – who knows if our minds were playing tricks or we had an actual sighting…but I will continue to believe too.

  5. I, too, have long been fascinated by cryptids, especially Big Foot. I suspect that’s because he/she seems the most likely one to live in my neck of the woods and that “Legend of Boggy Creek” was quite popular during my youth. On my way back from TX in January, I wish I’d known we’d be driving within 20 miles of Fouke, Ark. I’d have INSISTED we stop just to say we’d been there!

    • Oh, that would have been awesome.

      I’d go for a long walk in the woods taking hundreds of pictures, just in case the camera could catch something I didn’t see. And I’d want to mount a digital video camera to my back somehow, and just let it roll. (I figure a bigfoot is more likely to show itself when it thinks you can’t see it.)

  6. […] My obscure cryptid sighting: the goblin / devil / mothman / gargoyle. (theparanormalist.wordpress.com) […]

  7. […] My obscure cryptid sighting: the goblin / devil / mothman / gargoyle. (theparanormalist.wordpress.com) […]

  8. Anonymous says:

    I believe you saw something in the trees. I have seen similar things..

  9. Mark says:

    I found this page during a search as I am looking for answers for something I experienced along with a neighbor when I was around 14 in Indiana. I too was excited when I first heard about mothman, however, it wasn’t what I saw either after I researched it. You are the first person since 1980 I have found that has more than likely seen the same thing. I am in desperate need to understand what it was and why it has become a recent obsession to understand and make sense to what I saw. I wish I never saw it. I wish it never saw me. I often think, why couldn’t I have seen a UFO or something more common? Until this moment I thought I was alone. Thank you for sharing your story. You have no idea how much it means to me.

    • And you’e just nailed the reason that I admit to things like this, Mark, and why I try to write about them.

      On the rare occasions when I’ve had a strange sighting or feeling, I’ve often felt like I must be deluded or crazy, because so few people talk seriously about paranormal experiences.

      (Most commonly, folks deflect possible criticism with humor or by explaining it away. Those who don’t seem to want to sensationalize the experience … I’ve never understood that. If you witness something really odd, there’s no need to make the experience seem “spookier” or more dramatic than it was.)

      I want to believe what I saw was a natural but rare (undiscovered) animal / creature of some sort. We’ve been trained to associate anything that looks like this with evil, but I resist that. We, as a species, are prone to fearing that which is unknown and we (literally) demonize such things.

      I’m sort of amused/horrified by what you said about wishing you’d seen a UFO instead … I’m actually far more phobic about the possibility of aliens than I am of anything that could be native to our planet.

      I’d be interested to hear more about your experience … if you care to share, I’d love to know what the circumstances and environment were like when you spotted your creature. What was it doing? Did it display aggressive or threatening behavior?

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. I, too, very much appreciate feeling like I’m not alone.

  10. Anonymous says:

    When I was 4 or 5, I was spending the night at a friends house. I woke up and looked out the open bedroom door. Crouching on a arm chair outside the door was a grayish, greenish gargoyle looking creature. Its skin looked hard and bumpy kinda like a alligator. I felt unable to move or scream, I just kept looking at it and it looked at me and said, I am going to get you when you croak. Then it was gone. My heart was racing and i could not sleep after that of course. What makes the story so weird and also helps me to know that it was not just a dream in my young mind, is that it was years after that before I found out that croak could mean something besides the noise a frog could make. I was literally scared for a good while that if i made a croak noise that it would come back for me. I don’t remember if it had wings or not, but i do know that when i saw a gargoyle for the first time i freaked out because it looked very similar to what i had seen.

  11. Argon123 says:

    Is there a name to this creature that you saw? Since the commenter named Mark has apparently saw it as well, maybe it’s a real animal/alien/mutant.

    • There’s no particular legend about such a creature in MN, where my sighting happened. Thus no name as far as I’m aware. (Other than those given to similar creatures in other parts of the country, as listed in the article.)

      Contrast that to the rare but existent local belief that there are Sasquatch in the north woods and there was an alien close encounter by a Sheriff, in Marshall County, in 1979. These things are part of local lore, but — as far as I know — no one else in MN has reported a gargoyle-like creature.

  12. Wow, what an awesome thing to experience as a child, or at any age really. Sadly, I’ve never seen any of the cryptids I love so much, but I keep hoping. Bigfoot, being the most likely.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s