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Saturday, 14 July 2012

Giant Owls and Mothman

"Mothman in Manhattan"
Recently this photo has been circulating around Facebook again and I posted a copy of it on my wall. After a good deal of discussion the consensus of opinion is that seems to be a very large bird of pretty much conventional conformation and not a kite or a model of an sort. Unfortunately there is no good way of determining the scale on a photo of this, but it seems to be quite large. Several commentators have mentioned that it does not look so much like a hawk or eagle but it does resemble some sort of an enormous owl, especially at the head end.

Legend of "Lechuza" Possibly Seen In Carrizo Springs

By KGNS News

The legend of the "Lechuza" has been told in this area for years. Now, a recent picture has sparked a discussion the picture is real.
The picture believed to have been taken in Carrizo Springs shows two men holding a white owl with a very large wing span.
Our Lauren Kendrick has more in our top story.
The picture has definitely got people interested whether or not they believe in the myth.
We spoke to one of the owners of Petland who tells us this picture has her baffled when it comes to classifying the type of owl.
"I think people would like to believe it's real just like they'd like to believe big foot's real and the loch ness monster and all the other creatures."
Owner of Petland Laredo, Laura Hatton, gives us her take on the picture that's been circulating social networking sites for the past few days.
The picture was taken in Carrizo Springs.
Many people are calling the big white bird "Lechuza" from the urban legend commonly told in the Mexican heritage where the spirit of a woman or a witch turns into an owl.
"Those wives tales are there for a reason. They are a legend. Perhaps there at one time was a much larger species of an owl that was here."
Hatton says it looks like a barn owl but is way too large. She says it's really hard to determine the exact species by the undercarriage. By looking at the picture, she says it's hard to tell if it is indeed real or fake.
"The head is really out of focus so it makes you wonder about photo shop. But the wings itself look like a barn owl."
“Whether people believe in the legend or not, people have been sounding off on Facebook so we decided to go out on the streets and see what people had to say about the owl"
One thing Hatton says doesn't add up is the size of the bird.
"The size doesn't make any sense for the species of an owl because even the largest...a great horned owl doesn't look anything like it and it's still way smaller."
Just like other legends in south Texas like the chupacabra, there's no way of telling if this is a real "Lechuza" or not.
"I think they'd like it to be the "Lechuza" because I find the culture here to be full of mysticism and people enjoy it."

Photos of "Lechuzas" taken from Spanish-Language sites

by Mike Cox
Mike Cox

At night in South Texas, especially under a big moon, things start moving.

Deer begin grazing, coarse-haired feral hogs emerge from the brush to steal corn from game feeders on the big ranches, five-foot rattlesnakes slide from their lair, the sensors on their arrowhead-shaped heads looking for warm meat. And sometimes, an owl spreads its wide wings and flies from its roost looking for prey.

But some people along the border believe that owls are more than big-eyed night feeders. Among that group are three Zavala County women who vividly remember an experience they had one night on their way home from a shopping trip to San Antonio.

Just outside Batesville on State Highway 57, a large, dark and menacing bird suddenly appeared in the headlights of their car. The bird flew ahead of them faster than the vehicle, swinging back and forth and bobbing up and down.

The woman behind the wheel pressed her foot on the gas to outdistance the bird, which at one point circled back to fly right outside the driver's window. The bird seemed to be mocking the women, but this was no mockingbird.

That's when the car went dead. The lights went dark and the vehicle stalled, slowly losing speed. The driver managed to get the car off the roadway but could not restart it. The women locked themselves in the car, stuck out in the middle of nowhere. The bird, meanwhile, had disappeared.

As mysteriously as it had died, the car eventually restarted. Sure, it could have been a loose battery wire, or any number of easy-explainable mechanical things. But as far as these three women were concerned, the answer could be articulated in one word: lechuza.
Since Spanish colonial times, generations of children in South Texas and across the river in Mexico have grown up hearing stories of lechuzas. Despite that, an internet search shows that the tradition is mostly oral.

"A lot of people believe in lechuza," says Zavala County historian and newspaper columnist Richard G. Santos. Fascinated by stories like the one told by the three women whose shopping trip ended scarily, Santos has been collecting them for several years.

A couple who for obvious reasons did not want to be named told the Crystal City writer this story:

They were on State Highway 191, headed toward Eagle Pass, when their vehicle's windshield wipers suddenly came on.

"It must be a lechuza," said the woman's husband, who reached over and turned off the wipers.

As he did that, the headlights of their vehicle illuminated a big bird sitting on a telephone pole.

"It was big and it watched us as we drove by," one of them told Santos. "It was scary."

Indeed, lechuzas have been scaring people in Mexico and South Texas for a long time.

According to Santos, lechuzas are witches - brujas - who transform themselves into birds. In most stories, the bird is an owl, but sometimes a bruja will turn into an eagle.

Another school of thought holds that not all lechuzas are brujas. Some are merely the spirits of women annoyed for a specific reason, a faithless husband or a widower who has remarried.

Those frightened by the appearances of a lechuza can fall back on four basic remedies: Prayer, tying seven knots in a string or rope, engaging the services of a curandera or blasting the bird with a shotgun or rifle.

One man told Santos he had heard as a boy about a lechuza being shot. No one could find the dead bird, but the next morning, someone discovered the body of a very unattractive, mature woman hanging across a tree branch. Needless to say, many saw a connection between the killing of the lechuza and the corpse.

Santos, a serious historian who moved to Crystal City from San Antonio to care for his elderly parents, says he does not believe in ghosts or witches. But he definitely believes in stories of ghosts and witches.

He has found that lechuzas are particularly active in Zavala County.

A lechuza can appear at any time, but these feathery witches seem particularly prone to spread their wings and terrorize those who have popped a top or two or three. Cars moving down lonely highways also seem a favorite target of lechuzas.

Fortunately, as they say on the border, "Las lechuzas, por regular, no son peligrosas." They are not dangerous. Normally.

© Mike Cox "Texas Tales" October 22, 2003 column

There is the ongoing discussion as to whether or not the sightings of Mothman desribe a large owl. I have gone on record as saying that I believe this to be so. A recent discussion of the matter by "The Cryptozoologist" includes this statement


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


  1. There are no fossil owls with "40-50 foot wingspans".

  2. You are absolutely correct and that has got to be a typo. On the other hand the most of the talk about giant fossil owls in the reprinted articles say 3 to 5 foot tall owls, standing normally and that is really what we are concerned with. Also I don't blame owls for dumping carcasses on top of power lines-something much more powerful must be doing that part

  3. There is a lot of talk about the more recent "Lechuza" photo being photoshopped. Some of the reasons for people saying so are quite valid, but some of them are questionalbe reasons such as "Why does one man holding one wingtip of the owl have a jacket when the other one doesn't?" and I consider that to be something quite beside the point

  4. 'I consider that to be something quite beside the point' So do I. I live in southern California and right now some people are in jackets. I'm in shorts and one dude is topless. It really depends more on how you handle the wind then the actual temperature in this part of the world. Certainly they can find a better reason to shout fake.

    I always thought the owl hypothesis was a good one. I smell a typo in 40-50 foot wingspan, I suspect is was actually 4-5 feet. Quetzalcoatlus itself may not have been that big and the largest flying bird Argentavis had a maximum span of 30 feet. Love that final image though.

    Dale Drinnon wrote that he suspects the culprit is a vagrant great grey owl others blame the snowy. A new species of barn or eagle owl has also been argued for.

    This site has an interesting 'giant owl' sighting and a bunch of the dumbest comments i have ever seen. Thought you might be interested so here is the link:

    Not a giant owl but interesting anyway is this series of pictures of a snowy owl fighting a falcon. The owl was actually mistaken for a man in an owl suit by one commenter. It shows how a big owl could easily be mistaken for a man if the lighting was bad such as at night. Plus you can't help but love that final wink.

    P.S. I wish you good health and hope you are feeling better.

  5. Thank you Tamara, I see you remember my comments on Mothman. Although I am inclining ever more towards the idea of giant owls, sometimes the evidence is hard to separate out from reports of other giant birds: I did always suspect the Chick-Charney of the Bahamas was possibly a giant owl because of the close proximity to Cuba.
    As for my health, that is still a problem. I still do not have a regular doctor and the doctors I havve seen still have no idea whhat is wrong. There has been no cancer detected, thankfully, but I am still retaining water and am bloating, and the glands in my armpits are obviously swollen to the naked eye. So I would really like to know what is going on with that.

  6. Who are the two people holding the bird and the other three in the background? where is the owl now? Like the picture.


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