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The Weiser Field Guide to cryptozoology
Werewolves, Dragons, Skyfish, Lizard Men, and Other Fascinating Creatures Real and Mysterious
By Deena West Budd
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 2010 Deena West Budd
All rights reserved.
It's difficult to imagine that there might be creatures flitting about in the air around us, ordinarily undetectable by the naked eye. Yet many people believe that organisms, often called skyfish or rods, flying snakes, or serpents, and occasionally referred to as solar entities or atmospheric beasts, are swimming or undulating through the air around us right now.
These amazing cryptids have been captured on film numerous times in various places around the world, even under water. They were first discovered in this medium in 1994 by producer/director Jose Escamilla while shooting a documentary in Midway, New Mexico.
In November 1996, at a deep pit called Solano de las Golondrinas, in the Cave of Swallows in Mexico, some rods were inadvertently videotaped by Mark Lichtle, who was recording some BASE jumpers. It was not until after several trips to the area, when a segment of the Lichtle video aired on television, that Escamilla noted the rods on the video. A television crew from San Diego TV station KFMB accompanied Escamilla to the Cave of Swallows in 1999 and filmed what might be a colony of skyfish.
Escamilla believes the anomalies captured are living creatures that dart through the air at speeds so fast that they are barely discernible by the untrained human eye. Escamilla (actually, his wife) coined the term rod because of the creatures' cylindrical shape.
Some observers contend that the rods are three-dimensional and seem to operate in an intelligent or instinctual manner, controlling their own flight paths. Often appearing playful, chasing each other around and even interacting with birds. Rods sometimes come out of nowhere for a fraction of a second, only to disappear.
Rods range in size from a few inches to as long as 100 feet. Some have appendages that resemble fins or wings along the length of the cylinder. Many times, multiple sets of wings are observed, or a thin membrane of wings is wrapped around the length of the body. It is reported that the torso undulates as it travels. Escamilla identifies the three types of rods as "centipede rods," which have several pairs of fins or wings; "white rods," which appear to have no fins and are more ribbon-like in shape; and the colorful "spears," which can be yellow, white, or brown. These last ones are thinner and faster than the other types of rods and do not have fins.
Theories about the origins of rods vary considerably; their sources are thought to range from aliens and interdimensional beings to atmospheric beasts. Some think they are some kind of secret military weapon. There is one theory that they might be distant relatives of the anomalocarids or "strange shrimp," early marine animals believed to be extinct.
Although Jose Escamilla is credited with being the "discoverer" of these flying creatures, other reports precede Escamilla's; there are 1,000-year-old carvings in Argentina that resemble rods or skyfish.
Although Escamilla believes that with patience and practice we can learn to see rods with the naked eye, most are detected on video. Some scientists speculate that our ancestors might have had better eyesight than we do because of our modern habits of reading and watching television. Our ancestors' eyes would have been better trained for self-protection and to see far distances.
Accounts from China dating back to a.d. 747 describe serpents flying in the air. In September 1891, in the town of Crawfordsville, Indiana, a flying "serpent" was seen by several witnesses. It was "swimming" about 100 feet in the air. It appeared to be 20 to 30 feet in length and 8 feet wide, with at least one pair of wings or fins attached.
Trevor James Constable, author and researcher, photographed what he called "critters" or "sky creatures" in the 1950s using infrared film. Skyfish have been filmed by photographers for the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, and the Learning Channel. During the filming of the movie Braveheart in Scotland, a rod was seen in the blue sky passing by Mel Gibson's head. They've also been captured in a music video made in Mexico.
Escamilla has collected more than 2,000 images of rods from as far back as a 1910 sporting event. He has footage, taken in 1957 by a naval official with a 35mm camera, that shows the cryptids leaping straight up out of the ocean into the sky. Escamilla was amazed at their speed, estimating that they travel from 150 to possibly 1,000 miles per hour! Escamilla often observes the skyfish high in the air, streaking by at "extremely high velocities."
On an overnight flight from Dallas to Denver, CO, Escamilla claims he saw a dark rod entering the cabin through the airplane window. He saw it pass in front of people as it "darted down the aisle toward the front of the plane."
In May 1999, a rod was observed flying through a rare and violent F5 tornado near Oklahoma City. It seemed to emerge from a cloud. Or perhaps it was "phasing" in and out, appearing and disappearing, materializing and dematerializing. This is the sort of behavior that might be typical of an interdimensional entity. However, most rod sightings are of them flying, not popping in and out of space.
In late October 2002, Brandon Mowry, a photojournalist for Fox News in Albany, New York, saw an odd cylindrical object zooming past an airplane while he was editing some tape he had taken at the airport. He was very curious about what he was seeing. Was it a missile, or an unidentified flying object (UFO)? Mowry notified airport security, but it had not been caught on radar. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was contacted. An agent interrogated Mowry and confiscated the tape. No further comment or reply has been heard from the FBI regarding this evidence.
In 2003, a rod was seen in Baghdad after a huge explosion of a Swedish tank at the test firing range, leading to speculation of a possible connection between rods and secret military weapons. Many rods have been spotted near military bases, operations, and aircraft.
On a July 31, 2003, episode of Coast to Coast AM with George Noory, Escamilla made the claim that there is new evidence of skyfish from the United Kingdom. He tells of a home video showing a rod flying into the open mouth of a girl singing at a wedding. He claims she is seen to pull it out of her mouth! Escamilla also tells of footage of how a football referee is shown to flinch when a rod runs into his body at a game.
At a Minnesota Zoo in 2005, an ape was recorded who seemed to be aware of a rod nearby, although the photographer did not notice it.
If you know what to look for, and you have enough patience, it is possible to observe skyfish without the use of any video equipment. When our pets react to something that we aren't seeing, Escamilla says it could be a rod. He believes that when we see something out of the corner of our eye, it is often a rod rather than an insect or bird. Speculation that the creature might be a bird or an insect has led to the examination of the Escamilla video by experts in those fields. Ornithologists have determined that there are no birds resembling the entity found on the video.
Professor Wooten from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom states that the way the rod propels itself through the air does not fit in with any known method. He believes that it is "not inconceivable" that a rod might be some kind of unknown bug, but there is "nothing particularly insect-like about the images."
One very odd finding is a rod with three pairs of wings discovered by Escamilla. We are not aware of any insect in existence with three pairs of wings.
Suggestions regarding the lack of evidence of rod carcasses bring up the possibilities that their bodies are absorbed up into the atmosphere, that they instantly decay upon death, or that they morph into something unrecognizable.
Escamilla offers some tips on how to catch the creatures with video equipment: It is easier and less costly to capture the skyfish on video cameras rather than still cameras. Adjust the camera's shutter to the higher sports setting. When you aim your camera at the sky, be sure to include a frame of reference, like a tree. Don't use a wide-angle zoom. Adjust it so that it looks like what you are seeing with your naked eye. Be patient. Escamilla recommends recording for at least ten minutes before readjusting angles. When you play back your video, if you see an anomaly, slow the speed down to replay.
There is a company in Japan that advertises "Spoodles," traps for catching rods. Amazon Japan sells a DVD entitled How to Catch the Skyfish.
For me, the jury's still out on this one. There just isn't enough information available at this time to make any determination as to what these anomalies might be, but if they do exist, and they are "alive," my question is: What are they eating?
Mongolian Death Worms
Although they're not nearly as large as the worms in the movie Tremors, a rooftop would still be as good a place as any to come across the acid-spitting, electricity throwing Mongolian Death Worm. Of course, a rooftop might be rather difficult to find in the Gobi Desert.
Approximately 1,000 miles by 500 miles, the Gobi Desert is one of the largest deserts in the world and has more rocky areas than sand and dunes. Considered a "cold" desert, its temperatures range from freezing at night to sweltering in the daytime.
An inhabitant of the southern Gobi Desert, the Mongolian Death Worm is first mentioned in 1926 by Professor Roy Chapman Andrews, a paleontologist, in his book, On the Trail of Ancient Man. Mongolia's nomadic tribesmen called the creatures Allghoi or Olgoi-Khorkhoi, which means "intestine worm" or "blood-filled intestine," because that is what the cryptid resembles.
The Mongolian Death Worm is usually described as blood red with darker spots, although it has been said to change color to match its environment. About 2 feet in circumference, it ranges from 2 to 5 feet in length. The invertebrate doesn't appear to have eyes, a nose, or a mouth, so it is difficult to tell its head from its tail. Spiked projections appear at both ends.
Czechoslovakian author/explorer Ivan Mackerle believes the creature hibernates most of the year, only coming out of its underground chamber in the hot, rainy months of June and July. The worm moves in a sideways motion across the desert floor, similar to the sidewinding motion of some desert snakes.
The worm is considered to be extremely dangerous because of the toxic acid-like substance it spits as a defense mechanism. It is easier to tell which end is its head when it is spitting at you! It also has the ability to discharge a lethal jolt of electricity from several feet away. For this reason, the worm has been compared to an electric eel. But electric eels don't spit and they don't live on land. Some spectators state that the worm "raises half of its body up" and "inflates itself," emitting a "bubble of poison from one end." The poison corrodes everything it touches, even metal. However, the toxin loses its effectiveness as the creature's time of hibernation approaches.
Often seen in the vicinity of the saxaul plant, it has been considered that the worm might obtain its poison from the plant's noxious roots or from the goya plant parasite found on the roots.
A witness currently working as an interpreter for an exploration team remembered an incident from his childhood when a visiting geologist was killed instantly by a "huge fat worm" that emerged from the ground. A native ranger tells a story from the 1960s of an entire herd of camels killed by a worm lying below the surface of the desert. The locals tell the story of a worm hiding inside a yellow toy box and killing a little boy instantly when he reached inside. It then killed the child's parents when they tried to exact revenge.
There is another tale about two friends riding on horseback on a hot July day. One fellow and his horse both suddenly fell down dead. The other fellow saw a "big fat worm slowly crawling away."
To the west of Mongolia, in the neighboring country of Kazakhstan, the Death Worm is called bujenzhylan. Similar worms have been reported in other countries, although they aren't known to be dangerous. The Megascolides australis of Victoria reaches lengths of 13 feet; the Didymogaster sylvaticus of New South Wales is a "squirter earthworm" that spews harmless internal fluids into the air out of its pores; and a Microchaetus rappi of South Africa found in 1936 measured 22 feet!
Michel Raynal, a cryptozoologist from France, suggests that the worm might be some kind of burrowing serpent or cobra, although the creature is said to have smooth blotchy skin, not scales.
Similar to an earthworm, the cryptid makes its way to the Earth's surface after a rainfall. It also appears to respond to terrestrial vibrations. Usually, though, an earthworm requires a damp, moist climate, not the arid environment of the desert.
During the past few decades, a few exploration teams have ventured into the Gobi searching for the Mongolian Death Worm. They have used various techniques, such as bucket traps, ground "thumping," and sending shock waves through the ground in attempts to roust the creature out into the open. A team led by Dr. Chris Clark in 2005 was driven out by a sandstorm. Prior to that, following a rainstorm, Dr. Clark had found that "the whole desert floor was covered in burrows."
This is one cryptid I'd advise not trying to find. The Gobi Desert is full of ticks, biting flies, and vicious spiders; that's enough to deter me!
Ahool and Other Giant Bats
I have always loved bats. I have one tattoo, and it is a little bat on my shoulder. Maybe my infatuation with these flying mammals has something to do with my lifelong love of vampire movies and exploring caves. Of course, I might not feel so affectionate toward them if I encountered a bat with a 12-foot wingspan and a face like a monkey!
The Indonesian island of Java contains numerous volcanoes and some amazing cave systems. Usually, where there are caves, there are bats. A giant bat called the Ahool, named for the sound it makes, has been sighted numerous times throughout western Java since 1925, when it was first seen by the naturalist Dr. Ernest Bartels.
Using the claws on its featherless wings, the Ahool is able to capture large river fish for its food. It is said to be dark gray in color, with a flat face that looks like a monkey's (a macaque or a gibbon) and huge black eyes. The form of the Ahool's feet indicates that the creature is likely to hang upside down, as most bats are known to do.
Cryptozoologist Ivan T. Sanderson believes the Ahool is related to the species of insect-eating bats called Microchiroptera. Further, he thinks the Ahool is an Asian version of the Zambian Kongamato or the Olitiau of Cameroon.
Although there are similarities, the Kongamato is not quite as big as the Ahool; it has reddish fur, and its snout is long rather than flat. Kongamato means "breaker or overwhelmer of boats," and the flying pterosaur-like creature is said to attack small boats and is considered to be extremely dangerous, according to Frank Melland in his 1923 book, In Witchbound Africa.
In 1956, in what is now Zambia, an engineer spotted two Kongamatos flying quietly through the sky. The creatures circled around and flew overhead again, allowing Mr. J. P. F. Brown a thorough look at them. In addition to the standard description of the Kongamato, Brown noted a long, thin tail, narrow head, and a "mouth full of sharp teeth." In 1957, near the same location, a man with a bad chest wound showed up at a hospital, saying he had been attacked by a creature fitting the description of the Kongamato.
The Olitiau ("forked one" or demon) of Cameroon looks much like the Kongamato, although its body fur is black and its wings are blood red. It has large serrated white teeth, a 12-foot wingspan, and a monkey face. Cryptozoologist Ivan Sanderson encountered the cryptid bat near a mountain stream in 1932 when it dived at him before flying off.
Excerpted from The Weiser Field Guide to cryptozoology by Deena West Budd. Copyright © 2010 Deena West Budd. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
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