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Sunday, December 24, 2023

Decemystery (2022.3) 24: The Humanoid Phoenix

It’s the eve before the happiest time of the year—or so the saying goes. Indeed, today is Christmas Eve; I wish you all the merriest of ones. I have no idea what I’ll be doing when this post goes up, but I’m sure it will be peaceful. God knows that I need it after writing 64 write-ups one after another.

With those festivities in mind, let us get to the write-up. I love humanoid sightings; stories of Pale Crawlers, aquatic humanoids, and all other manner of human-like creatures fascinate me. Though, arguably the most interesting to me is the winged humanoid, beings like the legendary Mothman captivate me like little else.

So, for today’s story, we’re headed down to Texas. It’s there where we’ll find a report of a winged humanoid that is truly out of this world. It’s not just strange; it’s downright dumbfounding. It’s known as The Humanoid Phoenix, and even though the story is absurdly short, it’s nonetheless worth hearing about. So come along, dear reader, and let us celebrate Christmas Eve with one of the weirdest humanoid encounters I’ve ever read!

A Blaze of Glory

I initially found this story on the Paranormal World Wiki; it’s called A Humanoid Phoenix over there. I shamelessly copied the name because, well, it’s fitting. Also, as I have said in the past, if you like the content on this blog, I highly recommend you check that Wiki out, as the content there is fantastic. As for where this story first popped up, it was on a website called True Horror Stories of Texas, which is dedicated to, well, scary stories from Texas. Ghost stories, UFO sightings, cryptids; it’s all there for you to read and enjoy from the citizens of the Lone Star State! If you’ve had a scary experience with something unexplainable, you can send it there. I, personally, have not, though I consider the continued use of Texas Motor Speedway in NASCAR to be unexplainable and terrifying. So, maybe I’ll submit that and see if they’ll post it.

Dear True Horror Stories of Texas

I had this horrible encounter the other day. I saw my favorite sport at the worst track on their schedule. The racing was atrocious, and there was no worthwhile strategy. The tire wear was inexcusably poor, there was little passing and worst of all, they still refuse to reconfigure it so it can make use of the amazing intermediate package the Next Gen car has.

This track is Texas Motor Speedway, and it is the worst thing to happen to NASCAR since Brian France took over the sport and implemented the playoffs system. As I bore witness to the race, I was left petrified. I saw countless emotionless faces staring at the track; it was like they were all collectively mind-controlled by Moloch’s brother, NASCARloch.

I, however, had the blessing and protection of Dale Earnhardt, Sr., on my side, so I was able to resist his influence. Unfortunately, I was powerless to stop the demonic ritual that was the 2023 Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced in my life, and I fear I will never recover from it.

Signed, Vertigo

I think it’s believable enough; what do you think?

Joking aside, let’s get to the story. It took place in Donna, Texas, which, as of 2020, has a population of 16,797. It’s located in the very southern part of Texas, near the United States-Mexico border; just a random fun fact for you geography fans out there.

Anyway, on August 12, 2018, a person going by “Gavin S” submitted a report to the site about a strange experience he had the previous year in September. Late one night, Gavin was taking a walk. It was around 12:30 a.m., and he was in front of an H-E-B (for those unfamiliar, H-E-B is a grocery store chain). After about 30 minutes, Gavin looked up at the night sky. Exactly why, I don’t know; the number of details given in this account is absurdly minimal, but more on that later.

Whatever the reason for this 1:00 a.m. stargaze, Gavin saw something that he described as being half man, half bird with eyes that glowed red. Its wings were also “aa long as a van.” I don’t know what kind of van, but I’m guessing a minivan. If that’s the case, then its wings were anywhere from 16 feet (4.8 meters) to 22 feet (6.1 meters). By comparison, the bird with the longest wingspan—the wandering albatross—has a wingspan of 12 feet (3.6 meters). So, this thing’s wings were quite large. I guess that makes sense; there’s a saying that everything is bigger in Texas.

That saying must clearly extend to one’s struggles, as Gavin claimed that this winged fiend was having trouble flying. After an unknown period of time, though, it finally took flight. As it did, it burst into flames.

And that’s all there is to the story. Gavin didn’t elaborate on anything else, which leaves me with an absurd number of questions. Though I’ll wait to get around to them, for now, I want to address one thing before we get into the theories.

Over on the Paranormal World Wiki, there’s a tag called Burning Man. As you can surmise, the tag is for stories involving people who are suffering from excessive heartburn; their entire bodies are now ablaze, and they could use something to alleviate their pain. In total, there are five articles (counting that of The Humanoid Phoenix). I’ll quickly go over the other four since I found them extremely interesting.

The first is the absolutely horrifying story of João Prestes Filho, a man who burst into flames and died from his severe burns. I’ve been wanting to cover this story since 2019 but have never gotten around to it; I have no excuse as to why. No one knows exactly why—or how—he caught fire, but some claim that a UFO attempted to abduct him but caused him to get set on fire. Others say it was ball lightning, while a third theory is that it was a case of spontaneous human combustion. Bedtime Stories did a great video on this case; if it interests you, I highly recommend giving it a listen. Just a fair warning, though: it’s a bit graphic. Then again, it’s about a man who basically melted from being set on fire; what else would you expect?

The next three stories I had never heard of until I went over their articles. The second is entitled Rage of the Hardin Monster and took place in 1885 on Diamond Island in Illinois. One night, a duo of fishermen were out, well, fishing, when they encountered a fiery phantom. It was said to have emerged from a lake and floated 120 feet (36 meters) in the air. Both men made it off the island, and the specter eventually departed this world after three years. I might write about this story next year; it’s genuinely interesting.

The final two stories took place in Germany, with the first being from 1125—just under 900 years ago! This one was known as The Railbach Burning Man, and it lives up to its name in the most literal way possible. A multitude of people saw a man running around while on fire; he expelled fire from his nose and mouth as he did so. Some of the witnesses also claimed they could see the figure’s “burning ribs.” This guy’s heartburn is unreal; get him some Tums! Okay, that’s the last heartburn joke, I swear.

These sightings went on for an unknown amount of time until they just stopped. Like, that’s it. There is no concrete timeframe for how long they lasted. My guess is it was seen over a period of time due to it being spotted “for quite some time,” but I don’t know for certain.

Albert Rosales, the author of the outstanding Humanoid Encounters book series, posits that this was an extraterrestrial. The author of the Paranormal World Wiki, meanwhile, theorizes that it was an elemental of some sort. Of those two, I agree with the elemental theory since I question the practicality of a spacesuit that makes you look like you’re on fire. Unless you believe that will ward off people from approaching you, I think there are better ways to go about achieving that. Just my two cents: I’m not an interstellar traveler.

Last but not least is the story that bears the most resemblance to The Humanoid Phoenix. The Paranormal World Wiki article is entitled Burning Man of the Black Forest. Unlike the previous flaming man, the year this occurred isn’t known; the article simply states that it was during “medieval times.” If we go by Wikipedia, that’s anywhere from the 5th century to the 15th century. Well, I have a 1 in 1,000 chance to be right. Those odds aren’t that bad, all things considered!

Once again, over in Germany, the denizens of a village near the Black Forest saw a mysterious humanoid; this one, the Paranormal World Wiki compared to the Fantastic Four character “The Human Torch.” Honestly, it’s a really good comparison, as this mysterious figure was seen flying while on fire. God, I want a good Fantastic Four movie so badly. One of these days, I’ll get it.

The villagers watched the fiery man soar through the sky until it landed atop a Church steeple. Not taking kindly to what they believed to be a demon, the locals began to pelt the humanoid inferno with rocks. This went on for some time until the being flew off and was never seen or heard from again. 

The final story does bear a slight resemblance to The Humanoid Phoenix, though I’m hesitant to take it at face value. It’s possible it was a fable or case of mass hysteria that was documented. Though I digress, I wanted to make a note of these stories due to their categorization on the Paranormal World Wiki.

With all of that said and done, the radiant story of Texas’ Humanoid Phoenix comes to an end. It is, without a doubt, one of the most unique humanoid stories I’ve ever read about. It’s also one of the most vague; I can visualize this thing in a dozen different ways, but I feel no closer to knowing what it looks like. Despite that, there are a handful of theories, so let’s go over them!


1. An interdimensional hothead

I want to start off with this theory because both it and the next one lack much substance in this case. However, they’re often associated with humanoid encounters, so not including them would be almost criminal in my eyes.

There is a very popular theory that the strange humanoid creatures—like Pale Crawlers—are from another dimension. How they appear to us varies from person to person, with some claiming they appear when our reality overlaps with theirs. Others, meanwhile, say that they’ve mastered the art of interdimensional travel. I question how Pale Crawlers are intelligent enough to traverse dimensions, but I digress. Appearances can be deceiving.

In the case of today’s humanoid enigma, this theory can reasonably be applied here. A strange being seen once and only once. Whether it was here of its volition or not, I have no idea; it’s next to impossible to say, given the lack of information given to us by Gavin. Still, it technically works, so there was no point in exempting it.

2. An extraterrestrial bird-man

Much like the theory above, this one technically works. There is a popular theory that many strange humanoids are of extraterrestrial origin. An example of this is that Bigfoot itself is an alien; this originates from when a rash of Bigfoot sightings occurred after a supposed UFO landed in Pennsylvania, I think. It’s a pretty interesting rabbit hole to go down if you haven’t; I’ll try to get around to it in 2024. I make no promises, though.

Now, I know that there is one particular humanoid—one who has a pair of wings and heavy ties to UFO culture—I could mention. However, he has his own theory, so let’s focus on this one as a whole. Realistically, that’s easier said than done. As far as I know, there were no UFO sightings—or a plethora of them—when The Humanoid Phoenix was seen. While the two don’t need to go hand in hand, they often do. I believe it would be odd for this one instance to be an exception.

On top of that, the lack of details on what this being looked like makes it hard to determine if it was at all alien in appearance. Many winged humanoids don’t look human—not completely, anyway. In this case, however, Gavin described it as being “half man, half bird.” If I take this at face value, my immediate thought is it resembles a human male with bird wings. While there are claims of human-like aliens (for example, Nordic Aliens), they aren’t winged beings.

Of course, that doesn’t immediately mean that this theory is bunk. However, due to the lack of details provided, I feel it has a lot of uphill traversing to do. And given Gavin’s never come forward to provide additional information, that traversing is likely to never begin once more. Anyway, onto the next theory!

3. Mothman

Remember when I mentioned that there was a humanoid being with ties to UFO culture? Yeah, it’s this fellow; I’m sure most of you knew that, though.

This theory was put forth by True Horror Stories of Texas. I can kind of see where they’re coming from; people claim to have seen Mothman outside of Point Pleasant, West Virginia. This is true for the New Jersey Devil, too, but I’ve got a write-up planned for next year that will go over those claims in significantly more detail. So, I’d rather focus on Mothman and Mothman alone for now.

Now, I won’t sit here for a few thousand words rambling on end about Mothman, but I do want to address two things. First, assuming that The Humanoid Phoenix was an alien, then Mothman’s ties to aliens do lend some credence to that theory. Of course, your belief in said lore is going to dictate whether or not you buy into that.

Secondly, the claims of Mothman outside of his home turf of Point Pleasant are very iffy. There are a bunch of different cryptids that are said to be Mothman; Owlman and The Black Bird of Chernobyl are two that I can name off the top of my head. The latter is more notorious due to it being seen not long before the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe.

Those two examples, however, are not without flaws. For starters, both stories are from Europe; Owlman was seen in Cornwall, England, while The Black Bird of Chernobyl was seen in Ukraine. Unless Mothman flew across the Atlantic Ocean or was transported there via UFO, there’s no way it got there. I guess it could have also boarded a plane and somehow blended in with the passengers, though I think that’s a tad bit too unrealistic.

There’s also the matter of Chernobyl’s winged-fiend sometimes being described as a literal bird—albeit a very large one (its wingspan was said to be 20 feet—or 6 meters). So, unless Mothman can change his radically alter his appearance, I’m skeptical. If you want a bit more detail on this story, go read the write-up I did earlier this month on The Canadian Spiderbat.

But I digress. Despite all of that, there is one issue that dwarfs all others. That issue is the fact we don’t even know what this thing looked like. Gavin never gave a description beyond it being “half man, half bird.” That’s such a vague description that it could resemble anything from a man with bird wings to an Arakkoa from World of Warcraft.

I’d also like to add that Mothman’s never described as being susceptible to malfunctioning pyrotechnics. If your local cryptid begins to explode unexpectedly, I recommend calling the company you acquired it from and filing a complaint. They aren’t meant to be combustible in any capacity.

So, while I can see why someone may put this theory forward, I don’t think there’s anything to really go on, thanks to Gavin providing no usable details. I’m beginning to detect a pattern here.

3b. A winged humanoid

This theory was an absolute nightmare to write; I struggled for way too long on it. The main reason for that was simple: I had absolutely no idea how to word it. After the previous theory, I felt like I was treading the same ground. It also felt like I’d need to begin to get highly opinionated, which I didn’t want to do. In spite of that, I felt that nixing the theory would be a bad move. So, I’ll keep this extremely brief for the sake of my patience. 

This theory is arguably the one that makes the most sense—barring the one after this. It also doesn’t suffer as much from the lack of details provided by Gavin. At least, not in the same way. I’ll elaborate upon this when we get to my personal take.

Really, that’s all I can say. For whatever reason, I cannot think of anything else to say; this is one time when I feel like I’m at a loss for words with a theory. I’m truly sorry, folks.

4. A hoax

Our penultimate theory is the first one that doesn’t fall victim to Gavin’s lack of details! In fact, it heavily benefits from that.

To keep this theory considerably shorter than the other ones, Gavin’s lack of information on everything is more than a little eyebrow-raising. In fact, I’d argue that it makes this theory the only one that has anything to work with, but I digress.

This theory does have one major issue: the lack of any clear reason for Gavin to fabricate this. My best guess would be he wanted to troll, but I’d rather not play the guessing game with someone’s intentions. It makes me feel like a jerk.

5. The biggest fan of the Phoenix Suns

This is what happens when your dedication to a sports team hits a fever pitch. You become a mascot for them. In this fellow’s case, they turned into a bird-man.

My Take

As I’ve said numerous times this month, I’m hesitant to label things as hoaxes. After all, there isn’t anything to gain from fabricating the story; there is no monetary gain, no publicity, nothing. In this case, however, I have to go against that notion: I fully believe that this story is a hoax.

The first issue I take with this story is the public location where this occurred. As far as I can tell, there was only one witness to this. It was at a park, outside of a grocery shop. I don’t know if H-E-B is a 24-hour store or not, but I would assume that there would be other stores nearby. Presumably, that would mean there would be someone else who would have seen this thing in the sky erupt in flames. That would result in a lot of light because, you know, fire creates light. That’s why fire is used to illuminate places. It’s fire; it doesn’t decrease light—unless you’re engulfed by it. In that case, it’s lights out for you because you’ll be dead, but I digress.

Additionally, if this thing burst into flames, I have to question how nothing caught on fire. Granted, Gavin didn’t describe how high up in the air this thing was (I’ll get into that in a moment), but I find it surprising how nothing ended up turning into a makeshift wicker man.

But, hey, it was 1:00 a.m., so perhaps there weren’t many folks out. I mean, it was the middle of the night. Or perhaps it’s super rural; I’m not from Texas, nor have I ever been there. Even if we accept that I take a lot of grievances with Gavin’s exceedingly short account. I know that not everyone is going to describe things in detail or convey how they felt, but Gavin’s story is offensively short. It’s five sentences long, 71 words in total. Don’t believe me? Here’s the entire thing for your reading pleasure!

I was walking down the park in Donna Texas in front of H-E-B. So, I was walking for a good 30 minutes and it was 1:00 am. As I looked up, I see a man half man, half bird. His eyes glowed red and as he spread out his wings, his wings were as long as a van. He flew but struggled and when he flew he bursts into flames.

Now, here’s a list of a dozen things that I wish Gavin had included so we could get a clearer idea of what this thing was like.

1. How high in the air was this thing? Was it close to the ground, or was it high enough that he couldn’t make out any real detail? It seems like Gavin could tell that it was male, given he used a male pronoun. Admittedly, though, this could have just been his own decision, but I digress.

2. How large was it? This ties a bit back into the previous question, but he gave an estimation of its wingspan. It would be great to know how tall it was. Was it the size of a human? Smaller? Larger? This would actually help with comparing it to Mothman and other winged humanoids.

4. What did it look like? Gavin described it as being “half man, half bird,” but he never elaborated upon what it looked like in that regard. Did it have the body of a human? Was it completely human but with wings? Or was it comparable to a harpy?

5. What happened after it burst into flames? This question, in particular, aggravates me. I cannot believe that anyone who saw something unexplainable would not give details about what that thing—whatever it may have been—did. Gavin, buddy, I need to know: did this thing disappear, or did it fly off? Did any embers remain? Did you run away? I could keep going, but I think you all get the point. 

6. Did anybody else see it? Did you see any other human—an actual human, mind you—nearby? This would be greatly useful to know.

7. Has anyone else seen this thing? As far as I can tell, that’s a no, but it would be nice to know if there were murmurings of a weird creature in the area.

8. What prompted you to look up to the sky? Did you hear it flapping its wings? Was it pure chance? Given you said it was struggling, I imagine something caught your attention. I can understand wanting to stargaze (I like to look up at the night sky from time to time). In this case, however, I’d love to know if you heard this thing before you saw it.

9. Were there reports of an explosion that night? I cannot imagine that this thing erupting in flames went unnoticed by everyone. Then again, maybe it didn’t create a large burst of fire. I don’t know because Gavin didn’t elaborate on the size of it.

10. Did you ever mention this to anybody else? I’m genuinely curious since it would be interesting to know if there were local legends of something like this creature.

11. Did it at all notice you? I’m genuinely curious if it was at all aware that someone else was nearby; a lot of cryptids tend to be timid, and I’d be curious if this was, too.

12. Why didn’t you try to take a picture of it? This took place in the 2010s; did you not bring your phone with you on your late-night walk? I feel that it would be quite important to do so, lest you get hurt while outside, especially during a period when there aren’t going to be as many people out and about.

There you go, dear reader. There are a dozen questions that I firmly believe Gavin should have addressed in his recounting of this experience that, for some inexplicable reason, he didn’t. Make sure you don’t make the same mistake should you write about your own unexplainable experience!

Although Gavin had nothing to gain from making up this story, I cannot put any stock in this story being anything other than a hoax. Though with all of that said, I will echo the Paranormal World Wiki and say that I’m more than willing to accept that I am wrong. If there are other reports like this one—be they from Donna, Texas, or elsewhere on Earth—then I would love to know. I know the story of The Burning Man from the Black Forest is a bit similar, but I’m deeply hesitant to take the word of something from the medieval era at face value, especially when it was only seen once. As for the Hardin Monster, that one sounds more paranormal in nature than physical.

So, as it stands, I do not believe this story whatsoever. I’m sorry, but this one has too many holes in it for me to buy into. That said, it is one of the most eye-catching cases in my opinion. It isn’t often that I see someone claim they saw something resembling a phoenix. Maybe next year, I’ll try to find reports of actual phoenixes.


And so, with that, yet another Decemystery entry comes to a close. This one was an unreasonably large amount of fun to write about; I haven’t the faintest idea as to why, but I had the time of my life covering it. I do, however, wish there was more I could have covered. Alas, it was not meant to be. But, anyway, I would love to know your thoughts on this case. And as always, stay happy, stay healthy, and thank you for reading!

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