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Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Decemystery (2021) 28: The Red Devil-Bat of Chester


Bats are not exactly the most appealing creatures on the planet—in my opinion at least. They’re prone to carrying diseases, they look really creepy, and one once got stuck in my chimney and made a racket because it couldn’t get out. Though hey, some folks like them. To each their own, right? Right.


Anyways, let’s get right down to business. Today’s story will bring us a new kind of bat. It’s called the Red Devil-Bat of Chester (heck of a name), and it lives up to its name. Besides being a devilish creature that scared the bejeezus out of those who saw it, it was also red and from Chester. So let’s get this hellish story on the road!

The Story


I originally found this story on the ObscUrban Legend Wiki (I know, what a shocker; not like I haven’t said that before this month). The name was what drew me in because I was expecting something along the lines of the infamous Black Shuck of English legend. That, somehow, wasn’t the case though. This thing is by no means a hellbat—so we aren’t gonna be making memes about a Satanic Batman today.


The main source that ObscUrban Legend Wiki cites for this story is a blog called masksofmesingw. It’s a blog operated by a man named Andrew D. Gable, who wrote a book entitled The Mystery Animals of Pennsylvania. It’s apparently a pretty good book and judging by the other stories Andrew has done (which are primarily from Pennsylvania and Maryland), I imagine that this was something of a local legend for him. I also recommend you check out his blog; it’s got a lot of good stories on there. As for me, I may buy his book. Seems like it could be a good investment; I’m always on the lookout for books that could have stories I can look into.


Anyways, let’s get into the story itself. It begins, and ends, in the early morning hours of August 23, 1928. In the city of Chester, Pennsylvania, a woman by the name of Mary Strichter was awoken because the “devil” flew into her room while she slept. Mary would later describe the creature as being three feet (0.9 meters) broad. It had a “bright, scarlet body” and what appeared to be two horns atop its head. Topping things off, it emitted a perpetual buzzing sound.


Not long after she awoke, her daughter, Mrs. Andrew Turk (I’m not sure if this is just a formal way of saying that she was the husband of Andrew Turk, or if her name was Andrew), awoke and screamed—which woke her husband. The trio could see that the so-called “devil” had opted to hide behind a curtain.


Whatever the husband’s name may have been, he took action immediately. He grabbed a chair and bashed the winged devil to the ground. With the help of Mary and his wife, the devil was wrapped into a rug and thrown out of a window. Yup, just like that, the creature known as the Red Devil-Bat of Chester was defeated. Rather strange, but we’ve got a bit more to go over since Andrew D. Gable’s article (which in and of itself is from a newspaper) provides a fair amount of detail that’ll help to expand upon this short story.


This event caught the attention of the New Chester News, who reported on it. In their article, they claim that the neighbors were insistent that the house the Red Devil-Bat invaded was “haunted”. Supposedly, the prior owner—a single, old woman—kept some of the rooms locked and barred. This led to rumors circulating that the evil bat-devil struck when one of those rooms was unlocked.


After this, Andrew adds a few miscellaneous details; such as the possible address where the event might have taken place. I’m not too comfortable listing it here because I don’t know if the building is still standing and if anyone lives there, and I don’t want to press my luck by putting it out there. Seriously, knowing my luck, I’d list the address and the following day, I’d hear that an amateur monster hunting group would be investigating the area while posting on /x/ about it.


The only thing that stood out to me is that Andrew states that the obituary for Mary lists her daughter’s name as “Anthony” and not Andrew. Again, I’m unsure if her husband’s name was Anthony and this was some formal thing done back then, or if her name was Anthony. A quick search states that both can be given names for women, but the way it’s consistently spelled (the name preceded by “Mrs.”) makes me think it’s something that I’m just dense on. That wouldn’t surprise me because when it comes to things like that, I’m ridiculously slow and tend to not be aware of very common things.


Anyways, with all of that done, the story comes to an end. This was a one-and-done event. The devilish Devil-Bat presumably escaped its rug prison and flew off into the night. Though who cares, it’s probably dead by now. Yet, we don’t know what it was. Luckily, there are a fair number of theories that could offer us an answer, so let’s see what they are!


Theories


1. It was a bat


Talk about a bat outta Hell, amirite fellas?


The first theory we have is probably the most obvious: it was just a bat. Bats are pretty dang common in Pennsylvania (though I imagine they’re common everywhere in the United States), though none of the known species have wingspans of three feet. There are bats that have wingspans of three feet, and some are even larger than that. The Giant Golden-Crowned Flying Fox has a wingspan of 5.6 feet (1.7 meters). Take a look at this bad boy as it sleeps!



Now here it is while it flies!


With that said, there are some decently sized bats in the Keystone State. The largest one that’s native there is—as far as I know—is the Big Brown Bat. It has a wingspan of 13–16 inches (33–40 centimeters). While roughly two feet shorter than what Mary described, it’s still close if you count in the chaos of the situation, plus the potential darkness/minimal sunlight in the room.


Typically, when it comes to a scenario at this, you can mistake something for being much larger than it actually is. If she only saw the creature flying for a moment, its shadow might’ve been more prominent than the actual creature itself. Its wings could have appeared larger than they were and she would’ve taken it for some sort of giant bat.


The buzzing noise can also be attributed to a sound that bats tend to make to “help see the world around them” and to find insects to eat. I didn’t know this until I was writing about this, so I learned something new today. Yay!


The only thing that can’t quite be explained is the fur color. There is the Eastern Red Bat (which can be seen in the header image), but its wings are only 2 inches (5 centimeters). That’s considerably smaller than the Big Brown Bat and as such, I’m a teensy more hesitant to think that this was the culprit. Still, in the heat of the moment, it would stand to reason she could’ve thought it was far bigger and took a shot in the dark as to how big its wings were.



Another image of the Eastern Red Bat.


2. It was some large bird


This is more or less the same as the above theory, only it was a bird instead of a bat. There are a fair number of red birds (such as the Cardinal). It’s a bit flimsier because most smaller birds don’t have wings as large as bats (as far as I’m aware). They also tend to be a fair bit noisier than their winged-mammal counterparts. However, it’s still possible that one got into the house and was mistaken for a massive, demonic bat.


3. It was a moth


This is a theory that was listed on the ObscUrban Legend Wiki and is actually quite fascinating. The idea is that a “Privet Hawk Moth” (scientific name: Sphinx ligustri, which I’m only listing because it sounds really cool) got into the house. Here’s an image of one:



While the entire creature isn’t red, it does have a distinct red coloration to it. Its wingspan is upwards of 4.7 inches (11.9 centimeters) and, above all else: it can make a hissing sound. According to Wikipedia, when one of these critters is disturbed in some way, shape, or form: it’ll “rub a set of scales and spikes” that are located at the end of its abdomen together. While I can’t find a video specifically of the moth in question, I found two on similar moths. One of a Nessus Sphinx Moth as a caterpillar, and one of a “Death’s Head Hawk Moth”. Here they are for your viewing pleasure.




All of this, at first, seemed extremely compelling to me. There’s just one tiny issue with the theory: the specific species of Hawk Moth in question doesn’t live in the United States. According to a quick Google search, it’s located in the United Kingdom, Australia, and other parts of Europe. There are some species of Hawk Moth in the United States, but I’m unaware as to what kind they are and if they can create any hissing sound.


If there are hissing moths in the US of A, then I would rather not meet them because I hate insects. However, it could possibly be an explanation as to what the Red Devil-Bat of Chester was.


4. It was some unknown species of bat/bird


For our fourth theory, we have the idea that it was a giant bat or bird. This is more or less no different than the theories above, only it’s just an unknown species of large bat or bird. There are already bat species with really large wingspans (we just went over this), and there are birds with large wingspans too. None are native to Pennsylvania as far as I’m aware, so it’s possible it’s just one of many undiscovered animal species out there.


With that said, it’s worth mentioning that if something like this does exist, it’s rather surprising it hasn’t been found. Chester’s a decently sized city nowadays with about almost 34,000 people in it. If we didn’t find a bat or bird of that size resting somewhere in the near century that’s gone by since this event, one has to wonder if it ever existed, or if it went extinct. Though still, it could’ve just migrated to somewhere else in the state.


5. It was the Jersey Devil


If you read the Decemystery entry on the Enfield Horror, you might remember the section where I went over the rash of sightings in regards to the New Jersey Devil back in 1909. Well, it just so happens that one of those sightings took place very close to where this story occurred (at least, so sayeth Andrew on his blog).


The story goes that, on January 21, 1909, a man was chased by the infamous Devil; the creature having “wings like a bat” and “a long tail” which ended with what looked like the point of an arrow. The beast supposedly arose from the fog and chased the man before it vanished near some elevated railroad tracks.


The idea that the New Jersey Devil was behind this event is strangely not the most insane thing out there. One of the first things I thought of when I read over this story was the Jersey Devil. That’s mostly because I’m of the opinion the creature is a giant bat and not the hideous amalgamation that Lilith spat out after chomping on a mixture of chewing tobacco and bubble gum.


There are a few things working against the theory though. For starters, it naturally requires the New Jersey Devil to be real. We, obviously, don’t know if it does. While I’m a firm believer it does exist, not everyone is going to think the same way. The next is that\, while some claim to have seen the creature outside of the Pine Barrens, those sightings are very rare.


The biggest thing going against this theory though is the Jersey Devil is said to be big. Not just in wingspan, but the creature itself is said to be anywhere from 3 to 7 feet (0.9 to 2.1 meters) tall. For the record: no, I don’t think the Jersey Devil is that tall (I sure as heck think it’s big, but not gigantic in terms of bat sizes). That aside, this thing couldn’t hide behind a curtain; you’d see it standing there like an elephant under a blanket.


Because of that, I’m really inclined to think that this theory is nonsense. Sure, I may think the creature itself exists, but unless it had a child with the New Jersey Deviless and it ran off from the local Hell-Mart, I’m gonna call shenanigans on this whole thing.


6. It was a demon


Not really sure why this theory exists given I’m unfamiliar with stories of physical demons existing on this plane. Though I could just be forgetting some since I’m a dimwit at times.


The theory goes that the creature was a literal demon from the depths of Hell. It came to Earth because it wanted to cause mischief, suffering, and all sorts of evil things. I’m not exactly sure how a demon was defeated by being rolled up in a rug and thrown out a window, or where it went afterwards for that matter, but that’s basically it. Perhaps it was hiding in one of those locked rooms, or perhaps it arrived from a forest. Whatever you decide, let me know in the comments. Also, please tell me what rugs can contain demons. I’d love to own one just in case.


7. It was a hoax


Just as it says on the tin: this theory posits the entire thing was made up. A strange thing to fabricate when you have nothing to gain from it, but I’m sure people have done more for less. I do question the logic behind throwing a rug out the window though. Seems like a waste of a perfectly good rug, no?


My Take


Personally, I think it was just a regular bat. Mary probably mistook its wingspan for being far larger than it actually was because of the fear that overcame her and gave an estimate based on what she thought she saw later on when questioned about it. I know I’ve seen some terrifying things (like House Centipedes) and thought they were far, far, far larger when thinking back on when I saw them. So the idea that she thought this thing was some sort of giant, demonic, winged creature isn’t far-fetched in the slightest.


The reason I say this is, if it was really a bat with a three-foot-long wingspan, I imagine it could’ve had little trouble intimidating the trio and flying into another room. I also imagine it would’ve been considerably larger than described (which it bizarrely wasn’t). The average bat is rather small. The only bat that I’m aware of which has a three-foot wingspan is the Spectral Bat, which is located in northern South America and parts of Central America. However, the bat itself isn’t that large; it’s only around 6 inches (15 centimeters) long.


So yeah, I personally think it was just hysteria causing someone to believe that what they were seeing was something much bigger, scarier, and eviller than what was really in their house. Sorry, no demonic bats (barring the New Jersey Devil, but that isn’t relevant yet). We can all go home and sleep soundly.


Except maybe not. Almost immediately after I was done with this section, I decided to look up “what bat has a three-foot wingspan” on Bing and got a result from Anwers.com. On there, a fellow from Connecticut stated ten years ago that they saw a bat with a three-foot wingspan fly over him. Why do I mention this? Honestly, only because it caught me by surprise; I didn’t think there’d be another story of someone claiming to have seen a bat with a wingspan of three feet. Make of the story what you will; the person may have been making it up. Then again, Connecticut is a weird state. They have Hartford there!


Conclusion


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