by Cole Herrold
During one of the most intense Fortean flaps in history, New Jersey and the nearby states of Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland were in a state of turmoil as a bizarre winged flying freak plagued the rooftops and woods of the states. This flap took place from January 16th- January 23rd, with some sightings occurring into February of that same year and featured none other than that chimeral back woods beast, The Jersey Devil. This timespan known as "Phenomenon Week" or "The Jersey Devil's Finest Hour" was two weeks of absolute terror in which children were kept home from school, wives refused to leave home, and men would be more than hesitant to leave their homes at night. Many skeptical researchers have viewed this timespan of sightings as either a mass hoaxing or an example of mass hysteria, and while certainly some of the "track waves" of the creature might be just that, the sheer number of sightings of a mostly identical creature that were reported seem to indicate to some potential authenticity to these accounts. During the madness of the Jersey Devil, however, there were other bizarre beasts sighted, but only one would take the cake of absurdity and downright unrealness that it is perhaps even more interesting than the Jersey Devil.
With that said, there are several possibilities of what this creature might be. Starting off skeptically, it could have been a case of yellow journalism. The 1800s and even 1900s were known to create elaborate stories to pick up a paper. I'm less likely to believe that in this case, as a witness was named, and as stated earlier, this case took place during the 1909 Jersey Devil flap. You couldn't open up a paper without seeing New Jersey's star cryptid's footprints or escapades, so throwing in another story about an equally bizarre monster at a time where fear filled the streets does not seem to be a particularly good wise decision. Yet being a big fan of classic Kaiju films, I could also see how it would be advantageous to have two monsters in the same paper, and I would love to see the Jersey Devil Vs. Millville Insanity Bird movie. Even with that said, for the time it was written, it seems a little overkill for the time it occurred to be the case.
With what little has been written on this particular creature, there is one hypothesis that always seems to come up, and that is that the creature was a product of Mass Hysteria. Mass hysteria is a term that is thrown out a lot, but most people really don't know what it is, and so I feel it is important to write a little bit about it. Mass hysteria, according to Medical News Today is “Specialists who have taken an interest in this phenomenon say that it is a type of “psychogenic illness” — that is, a condition that begins in the mind, rather than in the body. Physiological symptoms, however, are often not illusory but very much real. Mass hysteria is also described as a “conversion disorder,” in which a person has physiological symptoms affecting the nervous system in the absence of a physical cause of illness, and which may appear in reaction to psychological distress." (Cohut). That being said, most of the effects of Mass Hysteria revolve around more psychological concepts such as mob mentality, sudden group illnesses even though there is nothing officially wrong with the group, and even other behavioral incidents like the case of meowing nuns in a French monastery.
Some researchers have claimed that hallucinogenic images have also been attributed to Mass hysteria, but most cases are more of the kind previously stated. This hypothesis has been used for literally every group encounter with a cryptid, alien, ghost, or any bizarre figure, but the problem with the skeptical mass hysteria hypothesis is that either the icon the witnesses are seeing is either totally different from what could be attributed to a case of mass hysteria or that the figure as in the case of the Flatwoods Monster when the witnesses were interviewed separately all matched thusly adding validity to the sighting. With the Millville bird monster, it was sighted during the Jersey Devil flap, and never once was there a comparison either by the newspaper or the eyewitness, at least from what we can glean, the witness did not think it was the same creature either. This creature, therefore, outside of it being a flying monster, does not fit in the pocket of mass hysteria for the Jersey Devil that well, especially since the sighting was put in the paper on the 22nd. So assumedly, the day of or the day before the second to last day of the flap, this sighting occurred. If this was to be part of a mass hysteria case, there would be more bat or horse-like features since that was one of the main parts of the sightings in the papers that was always expressed. To me, this indicates that this is not part of a collective mass hysteria but a real account. As far as we can tell and then going down a path of speculation, there are some outlets to explore that could explain what this creature could be.
This creature clearly is not part of the known earthly biology that we accept, so it raises the question of what is this bizarre beast. It safe to say this creature is not an extraterrestrial; there is nothing to truly indicate that it is, such as there was no UFO or light or airship reported in connection to this sighting. If this were an extraterrestrial, it would be one of the more bizarre cases as this would be the first time, at least to my knowledge, an ET was concerned with the contents of what was in one’s garbage can. While extraterrestrials have shown interest in what we would consider the mundane such as the Venezuelan Hairy Dwarves or, as I've come to call them, Space Morlocks who focused on abducting rocks instead of people or the countless soil tester extraterrestrials a garbage can would seem of much less importance compared of the official makeup of the planet itself.
The next category would be this is something demonic or spectral which is almost unlikely. This creature, while obviously menacing and able to communicate, does not disappear ethereally or had any quality that would in the very least be considered ghostly. Now, this creatures' appearance as a giant humanoid bird-like creature with the capability of speech is the only reason I mention this as it does bear some resemblance to early Goetia drawings of demons, particularly those that had appeared in the Lesser Keys of Solomon. However, the fact that this creature could feel pain and could have damage inflicted on it from an axe seems to indicate that this is not something from the lower realm but something from our world or an adjoining or similar one.
The next possibility, even though it's a stretch, is that this creature is an Ultraterrestrial. This hypothesis has been used to explain everything anomalous and has been extremely hammered into Fortean circles by John Keel and those who follow his mindset. This idea that there are entities that basically feed on our emotions and whose sole purpose is to mess with us for some sick cosmic game has been expressed to every unknown entity, be they ghost, cryptid, or alien. In many ways, this case would seem to be one of the few ones that do seem to point to this kind of entity. It behaves bizarre, can communicate, and seems to only be there either for garbage or to bother or terrify Dan. In which case, it succeeds in two of three things. This creature, however, while it's easy to rule it as an Ultraterrestrial seems to not be such for the same reason this creature is probably not a demon or spiritual entity, the fact that this creature can be mortally wounded and, in fact, actually lost an eye that remained by Dan after this creature swelled up and became a bird balloon indicates that this is something with a single form, not something that can shape change or be any kind of spiritual or spectrum-based organism.
Another possibility, however highly unlikely, is that this creature is some sort of witchcraft-related creature. In Latin cultures, there are tales of La Lechuza, a witch who has the ability to turn herself into a human-sized owl or owl woman hybrid. Similarly, throughout the United States but with a heavy focus on the South Western United States, there are tales of shamans known as Yee Naaldlooshii or more popularly known Skinwalkers. These shamans have the ability to transform into a variety of animals but are more popularly depicted as being able to transform into wolves or coyotes as well as hybrids between canines and humans. A similar type of cultural figures is seen throughout the United States, and many of them are described in much of the same way. When thinking about the Millville Insanity Bird and this kind of phenomenon is that it does sort of fit but very loosely. The primary reason I would bring it up is that this entity had the capacity for human speech, something that even in animal form these witches and shamans seen around the United States have been able to do. The aggressive nature of the Millville Insanity Bird is also a behavior that is often attributed to the witch and particularly the Skinwalker. However, while there are reports of individuals being able to hurt witches and very rarely Skinwalkers; I can think of only one report offhand of this kind where it took an arsenal of bullets to remove one clump of flesh from one, it's never been as easy as picking up an axe and chopping the entity up as seen in the Millville case. Another more physical attribute that seems to not be attributed to a transformed spellcaster of some variety is that oftentimes the forms they take are of a larger than normal size but not an infinitely ridiculous size like what was reported in the Millville case as the creature stood almost 18ft tall. Now that is not to say such a change for this kind of phenomenon is not impossible but based on the reports we do have, there is nothing indicating that they can become the gigantic proportions seen on the Millville Bird. While it's possible for this to be some kind of shaman or witch, it seems unlikely, yet there are even still other possibilities that would make much more sense.
Another possibility and perhaps the most likely answer to this case, even though it might seem outlandish or even downright ridiculous, is that this creature could be a kind of faerie. Faeries are something that has the potential to be biological in origin as there is more than enough chance for a race of pygmy or diminutive hominids to of developed alongside man. We actually have a relative in the fossil record who has been referred to as the Real Hobbit known as Homo Floresiensis, so the idea is not that farfetched. In regard to the Millville Insanity Bird, however, when I am talking about faeries, I am not referring to the humanoid creatures like Leprechauns, Red Caps, Gnomes, and the like but of a much wider spectrum of bizarre creatures that have been interconnected with the more stylish denizens of the faerie world. In this menagerie, there are creatures such as the Kelpie, a water horse that appears as a pony with an ever-dripping wet mane, the Nuckelavee, a horrific faerie that appeared as a centaur-like horse and rider without skin the horse head bore one single eye, the Nuckelavee's torso which sprouts from the top of the horse body had long extended arms that would be used to capture any unlucky enough to encounter it, and its human head could release a toxic gas that could poison crops. Another bizarre faerie of a more animal-like persuasion is the Phooka, also spelled Pooka and Puca. This creature is a shapeshifter that has appeared as a variety of animals from horses, cats, dogs, rabbits, goblins, and even on occasion, old dark-haired men. So, a creature like the Millville Insanity Bird feature-wise does seem to fit into this world of bizarre creatures.
Yet the reason I am truly connecting it to the faerie world is for the following reasons: for starters, it can speak, there are countless tales and legends of faeries speaking to humans, and some of them are of the animal variety, two the creature asked to see the man's garbage can there is a bizarre habit in many cases where faeries want to take or mess with objects a trashcan, especially for this creature’s size, would fit this quality. However, if this creature sought to be a beneficial aid to Dan as some faerie folk is known to do, it clearly failed in its attempt. The third reason was the creature's body. When Dan proceeded to hack at the creature, it was described as being like splinters. If this is an actual description of its makeup, it would be or stand to reason that this creature has some connection to the earth in a more avatar-based sense. Faeries are depending on interpretation and area of belief, often described as children of the earth or nature spirits, and are believed to be the physical manifestations of the elements such as trees, flowers, or water. Similar ideologies are expressed throughout Europe, North America, South America, and Africa. So, when Dan hacked away at the creature, he revealed the creature's original makeup, so to speak. With all of that said, while there is a very strong case that this creature is probably a faerie folk, it's not definitive, and there still is one other possibility.
A multidimensional being is the final possible outcome of what the Millville bird is if it is, in fact, a real case. The creature could hypothetically speaking be a creature not of this dimension and somehow managed to weasel its way here. It could be that on its plain of existence that this is the normal evolutionary line. Birds evolved more into humanoid forms and, as with almost all descended species, got larger and larger until they became giants. Yet these creatures had an increased brain size and, on their alternative world or dimension, developed English and overcame the lack of opposable thumbs by utilizing their beaks instead. There’s a lot of speculation here, almost to the point that it really isn't worth mentioning but to be completely objective felt inclined to include it in the list of possibilities.
This encounter, if an authentic case, is haunting and unique on so many levels yet has gone unnoticed during a time when a cryptozoological superstar took the front page. This is not unlike the extremely bizarre case of Woodrow Derenberger and his interstellar/interdimensional friend Indrid Cold who was outshined by the Mothman in 1966 and 67. This case is disturbing for the things that were not reported, such as what this enigmatic entity whispered in Dan's ear before he went full Jack Torrance on the creature's face. Why this creature wanted to see his garbage can even though it is a rather humorous request, and why there isn't more of a description of the creature are some of the other elements we are left to ponder on since a follow up certainly cannot be done since the case is over 100 years old. Other monsters of that time were described in lavish detail, yet this creature outside of height and what it could do was described very blandly, yet there are enough details in this encounter to make one wonder what it could be. However, as with most cases regarding the unknown, we will never know what truly happened but let us hope that Dan has made our garbage cans safe for the time being and that this creature if it does, decides to return be less menacing than its previous encounter.