The monsters that come by land and by sea are fairly well documented, and if it is true that mankind has an innate need to trust in otherworldly creatures it's not surprising they reportedly come by air as well. The signs, however, is less than persuasive. Mythology has supplied some fascinating species. The ancient tales include flying dragons that are flying, the fearsome roc of the Arabian Nights, the rapacious winged Harpies of Greek mythology, and the awesome Thunderbird of American Indian lore.
The best case for airborne beasts is created by the fossil remains of the pterodactyl, a sharp-toothed reptile with a wingspan of over 25 feet. If mankind has, indeed, a racial memory, here, then, is a flying monster fit to the most lurid nightmares. But is a sufficient explanation for the persistent reports of flying monsters? Or could such atavistic creatures-- whether big or not so large--be a current reality?
In New Jersey there were periodic reports of the Jersey Devil as noted in Janet and Colin Bord's Alien Animals. This unlikely critter, said by some to be the size of a large crane, is variously described as having a long, thick neck; long back legs with cloven hooves; short front legs with paws; batlike wings with about a two-foot spread; the head of a horse, dog, or ram; and a long, scrawny tail.
In his book In Witchbound Africa, Frank H. Melland reports hearing repeatedly of a fearful creature known as the Kongamato that resembles a flying lizard with smooth skin, a beak full of teeth, and wings with batlike skin and a period of four to seven feet. This sounds suspiciously like a cousin of the pterodactyl. People who tell of seeing Kongamato or the Jersey Devil are doubtless sincere about it. The sightings are too few to create a convincing case. But if they become as frequent as those of Nessie and the Sasquatch, we will have airborne candidates for the Society of Probable Monsters (SOPM).
From places as far removed as Washington, Texas, and West Virginia have come reports ofMothman, as noted in John A. Keel's book The Mothman Prophecies. This strange winged creature is reputed to be man¬ shaped and gray in color, which accounts for the name. Most people who say they've seen it agree that it emanates a feeling of bone-chilling fear. One witness, confessing to unreasonable terror during his encounter with Mothman, describes his reaction as follows:
I have never had that feeling before, a bizarre sort of fear. That fear gripped you and held you. The best way to describe it would be to say that the whole thing just was not perfect. I know that may not make sense, but that is the only way I can put into words what I felt.
This strange gray flying guy could, however, be associated with well-documented phenomena of sightings of unidentified flying objects. If mankind has need of airborne monsters, the UFO's may have to suffice.