In the quiet town of Alton, near the Dunphy Building where my bookshop resides, a local resident encountered something out of the ordinary. During an evening walk, she reported seeing a large, dark, winged creature with a white human face and glowing eyes soaring through the sky.

She was not alone; her dog accompanied her and seemed to confirm the sighting by growling at the creature, which was later spotted lurking in a corner.

Upon sharing this experience on a local Alton Facebook page, the post garnered various comments and theories. Some humorously suggested contacting a police sketch artist, while others seriously drew parallels between the creature and the legendary Piasa Bird, which, according to Father Jacques Marquette’s 1673 journal, had man-like faces on strange pictographs near modern-day Alton.

The description of the creature also drew comparisons to the Mothman, a cryptid that made headlines in the 1960s for being sighted in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. The Mothman, described as having large wings and glowing red eyes, became popularized by John Keel’s book “The Mothman Prophecies” and a subsequent film starring Richard Gere and Laura Linney. However, there is a distinction; the creature sighted in Alton had black wings, unlike the Mothman’s white ones.

One Facebook friend from Point Pleasant mentioned recent sightings of similar creatures following meteorite activity, and another stated that reports of such sightings are increasing across the United States.

Some comments conveyed a sense of foreboding, suggesting that the appearance of cryptids, or mysterious creatures unconfirmed by science, like Bigfoot and Chupacabra, could be indicative of impending significant events. Supporters of the witness urged others not to dismiss her account.

However, a voice of reason emerged amidst the speculation. A friend from upstate, who identifies herself as an advocate for reason, posited that the creature might have been a large barn owl. She noted that owing to their forward-facing eyes, owls can appear to have human-like faces, especially in the dark. The paleness of barn owls’ faces and their height when perched could have contributed to the description. She added that it was fortunate that the owl didn’t make a sound, as its screech resembles a horrifying scream.

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This article recounts an event that was initially reported here in The Intelligencer.

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