American audiences have fallen under the spell of actor Hugh Laurie in his portrayal of the misanthropic physician Gregory House on Fox's "House M.D.", but fans of Mr. Laurie's work will surely remember one of his memorable roles as an unnamed, uncredited scientist in the music video "Experiment IV" by the incomparable Kate Bush. The 1985 video, which is closer to a short subject film in its intensity, has Laurie falling prey to a winged humanoid monstrosity - a product of an experiment in sound gone awry - and the viewer only sees the terrified scientist's reaction to the nightmarish entity, and the ultimate lapse into a catatonic state. The fear projected by the actor in that silent scene is gripping and stays with the viewer long after the video is over.
It is precisely this fear that is so well described in the Mexican reported just last week, when "El Heraldo de Chihuahua" published the story of a young man who had been terrified by a vast, winged humanoid form that kept pace with his Jeep even as he tried to outrun it (Mexico: Panic Over "Humanoid" in Chihuahua - March 27, 2009 - www.inexplicata.blogspot.com) We need only watch Hugh Laurie's performance as the terrified scientist to imagine the expression on the student's face as he was confronted by the apparition. An older person would probably have succumbed to a massive heart attack, which is precisely what happened to a Puerto Rican sugarcane cutter in 1995, when giant winged creatures were reported on the island, harbingers to the "Chupacabras" manifestations later that same year.
Despite their markedly different climatic conditions, steamy Puerto Rico and dusty northern Mexico share an unlikely common characteristic. For generations, ranging as far back as the 19th century, they have been the source of reports of winged entities of all sorts - not just "Thunderbird"-type manifestations, but flying anthropomorphic creatures that appear in waves. Popular tradition holds that such beings live in caves, whether in the hot dry Sierra Madre or limestone caves in the Caribbean karst region of northern Puerto Rico, which would offer great shelter for the creatures described. But what would they eat? Are they responsible for animal mutilations, or worse yet, reports of missing humans? It is likelier that we are dealing with a truly interdimensional phenomenon that is able to manifest itself "when the stars are right", in true Lovecraftian fashion.
That said, one must hasten to add that these two locations cannot be said to have a monopoly on these creatures. The Mothman could not come from a more different location, and its background differs widely from that of its southern kin. Other winged humanoids are described as being headless, and the antiquity of these reports is attested by the fact that spellbooks from the late Roman Empire offer magical spells against the appearance of precisely such creatures.
The Watchman and the Winged Ones
On August 31, 1967, José Padrón, a watchman at a construction site in San Luis Potosí, was about to turn in for the night within the cramped confines of the site's guardhouse. At around 1:00 a.m., he found himself stirred from his slumber by a noise --- someone or something large was making its way around the motor pool. Bears are not uncommon in northern Mexico, so one could have come down from the mountains to forage. Intruders, whether ursine or human, did not worry Padrón in the least: the latter were usually small-time thieves after spare parts for quick resale, or local adolescent vandals.
But when the watchman stepped out of the tin-roofed guardhouse, the last thing he was expecting to see was a vast, winged shape heading toward him, striding like a giant. It was the set of wings that etched itself into Padrón's mind. He would later described them as comparable to those of a small aircraft, and the noise was apparently made as the creature tried to fly away from the construction site.
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