War itself is a monster.
However, across the centuries there have been reports by soldiers of actual monsters in the theatre of war. Some experienced fighters even claim that they have been reduced to primal panic and dread when faced with creatures that, in their mind, should not exist. According to the following accounts, it seems that soldiers deployed on the battlefield may just have more to fear than simply the human enemy.
5 – Afghan Monster
A relatively recent report of a wartime monster sighting comes from an anonymous US Army special forces squad member, who was tracking a Taliban person of interest in the mountains of Afghanistan. The squad’s objective at the time was to observe a village for several days, in the hopes of witnessing suspicious activity or persons, which was hoped would inform and lead to a successful raid. The team comprised six men at the base, with two others whose job it was to observe the village at closer quarters.
Over the course of a few days, suspicious activity was indeed witnessed by the squad – just not the sort they were expecting.
Almost immediately, the team experienced technical problems: they had trouble maintaining radio contact due to static. Believing the magnetic content of the rocks to be the issue, the eyewitness describes leaving the squad’s base with some of the other men to reposition the sat-com, in an attempt to get a better signal. It was around dusk at the time. As they neared the sat-com one the soldiers spotted a man in a white robe, running through the rocks outside the village.
Lacking reliable communication, and worried about the mission being compromised, the men packed up their equipment and got ready to move. They were all on high alert as they trekked back to their outpost.
Covering their tracks as they moved through the darkness, the witness stresses the carefulness with which they retreated. Regardless, every so often, he claims that he would catch a fleeting glimpse of something white moving in the distance. After a short while, he reported what he had seen to the others. An officer said that he had seen the same thing. They were being followed.
The sense of urgency and panic increased: they were a small unit, completely exposed, without a means of communication. Not only that, the witness reports that “Everything felt strange. The air felt heavy, and sort of sweet. The silence hummed loudly.”
Now enveloped in the darkness of the night, the team put on their night vision goggles. With the world cast in a perfect green haze, they scouted their surroundings. The men could see nothing and no one moving behind them. However, the danger of the night was far from concluded.
What the witness describes as having happened next is chilling.
“Hallucinations happen. But what happened was beyond comprehension. First, we heard a sound like a huge airplane taking off. A loud low buzz that slowly increased in pitch. We had to yell over comms to hear each other. Everywhere I looked, I kept seeing what looked like glowing eyes staring back at me, but once I would center my focus on where I saw them, they would disappear. We were […] panicked. Everyone was holding their rifles at the high ready, we were expecting some kind of ambush attack […] Then it all just stopped. Everything got dark. The only thing I could hear was my breath and the blood pumping in my head. We stopped, dug into the side of the mountain, and performed SLLS [Stop, look, listen, smell] for about 10 minutes. Nothing. Not even bugs. The air and the land were silent.”
The team was thoroughly spooked and overcome with fatigue – and eager to get back to camp. However, they were very aware that something waited in the darkness for them: something which, very possibly, had intentions to harm them. They moved quickly through the scrub, until they were met by the sight of a man dressed in light-coloured robes. The man was slowly making his way towards them. According to the witness, the way that he moved was “unnatural”. He seemed to pass through any and all obstacles in his way as though they were made of air.
In the eyewitness’ own words:
“He seemed to melt over and around the rocks […] Through the NODS [night vision goggles], his eyes glowed. I scoped up on him, and saw that he was looking directly at me. It was pitch black, there is no way he could have seen us from that distance without any kind of night optics. Suddenly, he stopped. He picked up one of his limbs and held it in the air, almost like he was waving at me. Then the arm melted back into his form, like it wasn’t an arm at all, but some kind of extendable proboscis that was meant to look like an arm from a distance. I was about to ask the guys if they could see him, when he suddenly disappeared.”
After he disappeared, the team – shaken and weary beyond words – were able to finally make their way back to base. In the distance, they saw lights flickering near the village. They all but forgot about both this and the strange, otherworldly man, until a few days later.
According to the witness, on that very night, the village they had been observing was raided. However, it was not the raid they had been working to inform.
As he describes:
“Apparently, the team that moved into the village found it completely abandoned. They also found several men in the area where I had seen the lights [that] night […] The corpses had been ripped to shreds, and based on the sheer amount of blood, the general consensus was that there were more men that were killed there than just the bodies that were found. It went in the official records as a successful raid with several enem[ies] KIAs [killed in action]. Unofficially? No one has any idea what killed them. All I know is whatever it was…it chose…. it chose those men and not us.”
Whatever the men saw that night, and whatever happened to the village, remains unknown. 1
4 – Cynocephali
The Lombards were a powerful Germanic tribe that ruled much of Italy from the 6th to the 8th century AD. Paul the Deacon, a scribe of the Lombards, tells of a strange story in their history.
In their early days, the Lombards were confronted by an overwhelming tribal army, whose numbers greatly surpassed theirs. Their passage was barred. However, the leader of the Lombards thought of a plan. He spread a rumour that amongst his allies were a pack of savage dog-headed man-beasts that waged unyielding warfare, drank human blood and cannibalized themselves if they could not reach their enemy. The opposing army, not wanting confront such an enemy, let the Lombards pass unmolested. 2
With our modern sensibilities most of us would look back upon these tribal peoples as being foolish for believing such a seemingly obvious lie. Yet, at the time, and for much of human history, the existence of a race of dog-headed men was almost seen as a matter of fact.
Various Ancient Greek writers, including the father of history, Herodotus, wrote of dog-headed men living in the mountains of India and Ethiopia. These canine men, also known as Cynocephali (pronounced “sigh-no-sef-a-lee”), have been described as hunting for a living, and communicating by barking with one another.
Writing around 400 B.C., the Greek physician and historian, Ctesias, had this to say of the Cynocephali:
“They speak no language, but bark like dogs, and in this manner make themselves understood by each other. Their teeth are larger than those of dogs, their nails like those of these animals, but longer and rounder. […] They cannot be defeated in war.”
St. Augustine suggested that these dog-headed men descended from Adam. Other saints, including St. Andrew and St. Bartholomew, have described such creatures as well, whose hound-like appearance disappears after baptism. For several centuries, theologians debated whether such dog-headed men – assuming they were real – had a soul, and thus needed the gospels taught to them.
In the legend of King Arthur, it was told that he defeated a great army of dog-men on the hills of Edinburgh.
Several medieval explorers have also claimed to have witnessed these dog-men. Writing in his Travels, Marco Polo described encountering them on the Andaman Islands:
“…[they] have heads like dogs, and teeth and eyes likewise; in fact, in the face they are all just like big mastiff dogs! They have a quantity of spices; but they are a most cruel generation, and eat everybody that they can catch, if not of their own race.”
Arguably most peculiar of all is the legend relating to the patron saint of travelers, Saint Christopher. There are many different origin stories relating to Saint Christopher. However, one story places his origins at a battle between the Romans and a savage North African tribe called the Marmaritae, fought around 300 AD. This tribe was renowned for their ferociousness in battle, their cannibalistic tendencies and – most strange of all – their heads being those of dogs. During the battle which the Romans ultimately won, a giant beast of man was captured: he had a dog’s head and was named Reprobus. Whilst the legend takes many forms from there, all agree that the warrior Reprobus converted to Christianity and took the name Christopher. After being a soldier of Christ for some time, he was Martyred in Syria, and was eventually sanctified.
According to the medieval Irish Passion of St. Christopher, “This Christopher was one of the Dog-heads, a race that had the heads of dogs and ate human flesh.”[footnote]“Irish Passion of St. Christopher”.
While this story is undoubtedly odd, the Saint’s canine head was such a well-known attribute that it inspired religious iconography for centuries.
Stories of fearsome, Cynocephali can also be found in Eastern sources, with the Buddhist missionary Hui-Sheng describing an entire island off the east coast of China being filled with a race of dog-headed men.
Tales of dog-headed men, it seems then, were commonplace. Everywhere around the world people believed that there was indeed a savage race of men with the heads of dogs, bent on murder and cannibalism. It is possible that many of these tales had their roots in ignorance and prejudice. However, when the enemies of the Lombards heard the rumour of Cynocephali that day, there was much for them to fear.
3 – “Old Green Eyes”
The Battle of Chickamauga – which was fought on the 19th and 20th of September, 1863 near Snodgrass Hill, on the Tennessee-Georgia border – was one of the bloodiest battles of the American Civil War, second only to the Battle of Gettysburg in regards to number of casualties.
Indeed, it is said that so much blood was spilled on the battlefield that a creature of great malice was drawn to the devastation.
A beast with green, glowing eyes is claimed to have haunted the land long before the arrival of the Civil War. After the Battle of Chickamauga, some reported seeing such a creature moving among the corpses near Snodgrass Hill. Such reports allegedly described the monster as being human-like, with eerie, green eyes and a huge, deformed jaw, from which terrifying fangs protruded.
In the centuries after the Civil War, visitors and rangers at the Chickamauga National Park have reported encounters with the same green-eyed creature. Some say that the entity is a ghost of a long-dead warrior. Others say that it is something else – something inhuman. Whatever the truth of the matter, the creature is known by those who report encountering it simply as “Old Green Eyes”.
In the 1970s, two different and unrelated people had accidents near the same location in the park, having driven their cars off the road, wrecking them, after seeing a pair of glowing eyes.
However, one of the most notable encounters involved Edward Tinney, a park ranger. Speaking during an interview in 1981, he explained how he was walking through the park at around 4am, sometime in 1976, when an inexplicable chill rushed over his body. The very next moment, he watched as a green-eyed being stepped out of the darkness. In his own words:
“When it passed me, I could see his hair was long like a woman’s. The eyes – I’ll never forget those eyes – they were glaring, almost greenish-orange in color, flashing like some sort of wild animal. The teeth were long and pointed like fangs. […] I didn’t know whether to run or scream or what. Then the headlights of an approaching car came blazing through the fog, and the thing disappeared right in front of me.”3
Unfortunately, like so many sightings of unknown creatures in wartime, the original accounts of “Old Green Eyes” have become obscure and largely forgotten, lost to the tides of time.
2 – Vietnam Rock Apes
Of all the sightings of mysterious creatures in wartime, none is more widely reported than the “Rock Apes” of Vietnam. Throughout the Vietnam War, fighters on both sides of the conflict regularly encountered large bipedal apes in the dense jungles. Bizarrely, Vietnam is home to no such wild apes.
Even before conflict found its way to the jungles of Vietnam, there had been a long local tradition of strange creatures lurking in the wilderness. Various names have been assigned to the creatures by local peoples, including Batutut, Ujit, or “forest people”. Particularly sighted within the Vu Quang Nature Reserve, such stories describe muscular, bipedal beings with ape-like features, around 6 ft tall, and covered in reddish-brown hair, excepting the knees, soles of the feet, hands and face. 4 A commonly reported trait on the “forest people” is their displays of boldness, and on occasion, aggression. In Borneo, where the creatures are also claimed to exist, witnesses state that they do occasionally kill humans. 5 Whilst the locals of these regions consider the creatures to be a fact of life, the Batutut was relatively unknown to the outside world. That was until war pushed its way into the creatures’ supposed habitat.
Among American soldiers, the creatures were known as “Rock Apes”, supposedly because of their propensity to hurl rocks at soldiers.6 In the decades after the Vietnam War, veteran testimonies of encounters with these creatures are commonplace.
One such veteran, who served as an “Airborne Infantry Squad leader with the 101st Airborne in 1968 and 1969”, described seeing “numerous brown and reddish brown rock apes” around the Ashau valley. Although sightings of the creatures were common, “they were likely never killed”. As silence was the rule of the jungle, unnecessary gunfire was to be avoided at all cost. According to the eyewitness, the higher echelons of command wanted confirmed body counts, and not mysterious creature sightings. As such, “many rock ape sightings were unreported” at the time. 7
Another testimony comes from Michael Kelley, who served from 1969 to 1970. In the year 2000, he described how eight “Rock Apes” surprised a squadron of his platoon, resulting in open-fire being launched at the creatures. At first believing the mysterious apes to be the enemy (being the correct height, they looked very much like soldiers in khaki), the firing “had been non-stop” as the creatures hurled themselves through the trees. In Kelley’s own words:
“All except one was light brown to reddish brown in color, and about 3 1/2 [to] four feet tall. One dark, almost black, male remained fighting to protect the others retreat and he was flying through the branches and rushing the men with his teeth bared.”
Despite the large amount of gunfire, when Kelley searched the site, he could not find a single drop of blood. 8
With such a multitude of spectacular reports, one cannot help but wonder just what the “Rock Apes” were – and, if they are still around today.
Over the years, a wide variety of unconvincing theories have been proposed, from the widespread use of highly hallucinogenic drugs like LSD by soldiers, to mass confusion of mysterious 6 foot tall, bipedal so-called “Rock Apes”, with Vietnam’s largest native primate species, the critically endangered, 3 foot long, Tonkin snub-nosed monkey.
It seems that, for now at least, the answer to this mystery will remain hidden deep within the dense jungles of Vietnam.
1 – Flying Humanoids
In the Pacific Theater of World War II, troops reported witnessing peculiar, flying humanoids.
Described as possessing a pair of large, leathery wings like a bat, these creatures were said to have been spotted close to military installations on numerous occasions. Silent and shy as they were reported to be, military eyewitnesses could not escape the unnerving feeling that these unearthly beings were somehow observing them.9
Many of the alleged sightings date to around the time of the Battle of Okinawa in 1945.
Years afterwards, reports of flying humanoids in the Pacific were still being made by soldiers. One such report came from Sinclair Taylor, a U.S. Air Force Private who was on guard duty at Camp Okubo, near Kyoto, Japan, in 1952.
The sound of the creature’s wings first drew the Private’s attention. To begin with, he thought he was looking at a giant bird. However, as it flew closer, it became clear that it wasn’t.
According to Taylor’s testimony, the enigmatic being had the body of a man about seven feet tall. It also had a seven foot wingspan.
After having flown closer to the Private, the creature stopped and hovered in the air.
Panicked, Taylor began firing his weapon at the flying creature. When he looked back at the spot where the winged beast had been, it had vanished.10 No blood, cadaver or any other physical evidence was left behind. 11
“…when I looked to see if my bullets had found home there was nothing there.” 12
Even more bizarre is the fact that Taylor was not the only witness to this creature. It has been reported that, when he declared the incident to his sergeant, it was revealed that another guard had witnessed the exact same creature the year before. Although Private Sinclair Taylor had no knowledge of the previous sighting, and had had no contact with the other eyewitness, the two descriptions of the winged creatures were astonishingly similar. 13
Theories as to what Taylor and others saw include secret military projects and the misidentification of local wildlife. Misidentification suggestions include crows, which are reported to be much larger in Japan than in other parts of the world. Certainly, in some countryside areas, crows with a wingspan twice the size of the typical carrion crow are described by rural farmers. These super-sized birds are also reported to be more reserved and less vocal than the common crow, which fits with descriptions of alleged flying humanoids. 14
This being said, misidentification of crows or other large birds does not account for the alleged human characteristics of these creatures. Nor does it explain their seemingly unnatural ability to survive rapid gunfire, as reported by Sinclair Taylor. As such, the true nature of the flying humanoid creatures of Japan remains a mystery.
MORE: 5 Mythical Creatures That Could Actually Exist
- The Travels of Marco Polo
- Spirits of the Civil War, by Troy Taylor (2007)
- Unexplained!: Strange Sightings, Incredible Occurrences & Puzzling Physical Phenomena, by Jerome Clark (1998)