An Overview of Popular Explanations for the Chicago Flying Humanoid

Bat Creature over City.png

Update 9/25/18: Information gathered over the course of this investigation has led us to believe that some of the sightings are misidentified herons and cranes. See our Lake Michigan Mothman Timeline for more info.

There have been thirteen sightings in Chicago this year of a large, bat-like creature with humanoid features.  All of the sightings have taken place in the lakefront area within a few miles of Lake Michigan.  The sightings generally occur in the evening or at night, and often take place in or near a park.  So far no pictures or videos have been forthcoming.

We've taken some of the more popular explanations being bandied about and collected them for you below.

  • It's a hoax. Investigators are confident that the witnesses with whom they're speaking are telling the truth about having seen something strange, but what exactly that thing was is very much up for discussion. A theory that's been gaining traction online is that the sightings are being orchestrated by clever pranksters, perhaps by using a figure fashioned out of a Halloween costume like in this video from YouTube.

A prank like this wouldn't explain the strangest reported sightings, like the woman who saw a weird, winged being take flight from Oz Park, but it could explain those cases in which the witnesses only saw a strange flying creature in the sky.  If any of these sightings are the work of hoaxers, then we expect at some point they'll either be caught or choose to reveal their prank.

  • It's a misidentified animal. Skeptics are saying that the creature might be a misidentified bat or owl, especially since those are the animals most often used to describe the being. However, there aren’t any species of bat or owl in the world as large as what witnesses are describing.

The giant golden-crowned flying fox, native to the Philippines, is the world’s largest bat, with a wingspan of just over five and a half feet.  That’s still much smaller than witnesses are describing, even if one had somehow found its way to Chicago.  

Similarly, the world’s largest owl, the great grey owl, finds its home across the northernmost parts of the northern hemisphere, but is also far too small to be the creature as described, standing at under three feet in height.

It's possible that people are catching a quick glimpse of an out of place animal and a paranormal narrative is being applied to it, but the witnesses themselves tend not to create their own explanation, preferring to simply try and describe what they think they saw.  One would think a simple animal sighting would likely go unreported in the first place.

  • It's a paranormal manifestation. Fans of forteana are speculating that these sightings might be the result of an entity similar to that which haunted Point Pleasant, West Virginia, from 1966 to 1967. It certainly has a lot in common with the Mothman of that era. Witnesses report feelings of abject fear, and eerie, glowing red eyes; both popular qualities associated with the Mothman. We spoke to Lon Strickler of Phantoms and Monsters in June, and while he admits he can't be sure, during the interview he did say that he felt it could be an interdimensional entity; especially considering the UFOs reported recently over Lake Michigan.

There are certainly other possible explanations, but these three are by far the most popular we've found.  Time will tell what this turns out to be, of course, but until then we'll continue to cover the story and enjoy the mystery.

To report a sighting reach out to us directly at The Singular Fortean Society through our contact page.

You can view a timeline of the sightings so far here, and an interactive map here.