Nestled atop a lonely mesa in the stark, arid wilds not far from Battle Mountain, Nevada, four amateur pilots would have an all too close encounter with a pair of bizarre bio-luminescent beasts so terrifying that the eyewitnesses refused to speak about the incident for nearly four decades.
In 1925, less than a quarter century after the Wright brothers made their first famed flight, recreational airplanes were all the rage. Particularly popular amongst sport flyers was a vintage, WWI aircraft known as the Curtiss JN-4 or, more commonly, as the “Jenny.”
Don Wood Jr. and his friends would become just a few of the literally thousands of part-time pilots to purchase a surplus Jenny and with it they took to the air; exploring vast stretches of the Nevada desert and landing on hard to reach plateaus.
It was during one such expedition that Wood — accompanied in the air by a by three other Jenny pilots — had a face-to-maw encounter with the unknown. This run-in with the inexplicable would haunt these young aviators for decades to come and eventually force Wood to reconsider the existence and origins of the UFO phenomenon.
In the October, 1959, issue of Ray Palmer’s ufological periodical “Flying Saucers,” a letter by Wood was published wherein he at long last revealed what happened to him and his fellow pilots — who, justifiably, chose to remain anonymous — way back in 1925. Here is an excerpt from that letter:
“I must write you of what happened to me in 1925, which I think solves most UFO reports. I have never told this to anyone, but can get signed affidavit if needed. Four of us were flying old ‘Jennies’ (OX5 motors) [The OX-5 was a V-8 liquid-cooled aircraft engine built by Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company.] over the Nevada desert. One plane was a two-seater, the one I was in. We landed on Flat Mesa, near Battle Mountain, Nevada. The mesa is about 5,000 square feet and the walls are too steep to climb unless a lot of work is done.”
“We wanted to see what was on top of this flat place. We landed at 1 pm. While walking about the top of this place we noticed something coming in for a landing. It was about 8-feet across and was round and flat like a saucer. The undersides were a reddish color. It skidded to a stop about 30 feet away.”
It’s worth mentioning that this incident allegedly occurred in 1925, a full 22-years before Kenneth Arnold’s June 24, 1947, UFO sightings over Mount Rainier. It was this account which resulted in reporters adding the words “flying saucer“ to our cultural lexicon. No such notion existed in 1925.
This means that Wood likely did not presume (as so many of us would in our modern alien obsessed culture) that this “object” was a technology based craft. In fact, in just a matter of seconds, the perplexed pilots would see this “UFO” give a clear indication of life:
“This next you won’t believe, and I don’t care but it’s the truth. We walked up to the thing and it was some animal like we never saw before. It was hurt, and as it breathed the top would rise and fall making a half-foot hole all around it like a clam opening and closing.”
It was then that Wood and the three other pilots noticed the extent of this entity‘s injuries and that (as if one flying monstrosity weren’t enough) it seemed as if an even larger creature had taken a bite out of this as yet UNCLASSIFIED critter.
“Quite a hunk had been chewed out of one side of this rim and a sort of metal-looking froth issued. When it saw us, it breathed frantically and rose up only a few inches, only to fall back to earth again. It was moist and glistened on the top side. We could see no eyes or legs.”
With what must have been a adrenaline fueled combination of awe, curiosity and terror, the four pilots stared down at the piteously writhing beast for the better part of half-an-hour. It was then that the creature — whose back appeared to be made out of reflective pseudo-hexagonal crystals — attempted to rise again:
“After about 20 minutes rest, it started pulsating once more. (We stayed 10 feet away.) And so help me the thing grew as bright as all get out, except where it was hurt. It had a mica-like shell body. It tried to rise up again, but sank back again.”
The men were perplexed by this bizarre, slimy, bio-luminescent, rock-scaled stingray of the sky, but before they could wrap their heads around what it might be a colossal shadow crept over the mesa. Then pilots scurried backwards and tilted their heads skyward to see…
“Then we saw a large, round shadow fall on us. We looked up and ran. Coming in was a much larger animal 30-feet across. It paid no attention to us, but settled itself over the small one.”
The men had no way of knowing whether or not this Gargantuan Glider was attempting to help a member of its own species or if this was the ATMOSPHERIC MONSTER that had wounded the sky-ray in the first place swooping back in for the kill. Wood would describe what happened next:
“Four sucker-like tongues settled on the little one and the big one got so dazzling bright you couldn’t look at it. Both rose straight up and were out of sight in a second. They must have been traveling a thousand miles an hour to get so high so fast.”
Still mystified by the strange event they had just witnessed, Wood and his cohorts warily approached the area where the airborne aberrations of nature had just lifted off from:
“When we walked over there was an awful stench, and the frothy stuff the little one had bled looked like fine aluminum wire. There was more frothy, wiry stuff in a 30 foot circle where the big one had breathed. This stuff finally melted in the sun, and we took off.”
Unfortunately — though not surprisingly — the rapidly evaporating metallic residue these creatures left behind was not preserved for further scientific study.
Years later, Wood would come to regret not having any evidence of these “animals,” but he also was keenly aware of the fact that to preserve his reputation as a reliable pilot he would have to distance himself from this report, as was indicated in his letter to Ray Palmer:
“So help me, this was an animal. I have never told this before as we knew no one would believe us. I only write now because this animal would be one big 30-foot light if seen at night. I don’t expect belief, but I simply had to write. Don’t use my name, I’m still flying. But write if you want more information.”
Author and researcher, Trevor James Constable, came up with what he called his “Sky Critter Theory,” while investigating aerial biological phenomenon with his collaborator, James X. Woods, during the late 1950s and 1960s. Constable claimed that UFOs hailed from a parallel dimension known as Etheria and that there were two types: machines and living entities, which he dubbed “sky critters.”
Constable was so fascinated by the subject that he went on to write “They live in the Sky” in 1959, and “Sky Creatures-Living UFO’s” in 1978.
In his article, “The Case for Critters,” published in 1975, in“Other Worlds Other Universes” by Brad Steiger and John White, Constable commented on Wood’s encounter:
“Don Wood Jr. may have been the first person to get a close terrifying look at a couple of these critters. He saw them in full physical density and in light-reflecting negative polarity as a result of his hobby of flying. The experience shook him sufficiently to make him keep his peace for several decades.”
Whatever they were and wherever they come from, Wood’s Gargantuan Gliders seem to defy all logical and zoological paradigms. The questions that remain are obvious — What are they? Where did they come from? Are they exobiological or are they indigenous to Earth? Are our skies full of these creatures and, perhaps most significantly, are these things dangerous to humans?
Rob Morphy is an artist / journalist / filmmaker / designer / crypto chronicler / pod host / cult movie lover and co-founder of American Monsters.