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Bizarre Encounters with the Weird in the Vietnam War
Brent Swancer January 31, 2017
Wartime has always proved to be a wellspring of amazing tales and strange experiences. History is rife with such accounts and it seems that the fog of combat can produce some truly bizarre stories. Often these accounts and reports go well off into the world of the weird, with wars producing their fair share of tales of the odd and unexplained. The Vietnam War was no different, and there among all of the combat, lodged deep within the remote, dangerous jungles permeated by gun smoke, blood, mosquitos, and the cacophony of war are strange encounters with things that should not exist. It seems soldiers deployed to these wildernesses had more to fear than just the human enemy, as the Vietnam War is rife with alleged encounters and sightings of a myriad of strange beasts and entities, ranging from mysterious undiscovered beasts to otherworldly beings, to things which quite frankly defy classification. Here we will take a look at the very strange underbelly of the Vietnam conflict that show sometimes war can be terrifying in more ways than one.
By far the most reported on encounters with strange creatures during the Vietnam War are those dealing with an apparent race of hairy humanoids in the forests which were known locally as the Nguoi Rung, or “the people of the forest,” as well as the Batutut and Ujit. These were hairy, ape-like creatures covered in reddish hair and typically reported as being very muscular and around 5 feet in height, with distinctively ape-like features. The problem is, Vietnam has no wild apes. These creatures were widely reported by both American forces in the Vietnamese jungles, who called them “Rock Apes” due to their purported habit of throwing rocks, as well as by the Viet Cong. The reports of encountering these creatures during the Vietnam War and even confronting them are many, and this is a topic I have covered in some depth on Mysterious Universe before.
Yet Rock Apes are certainly not the only strange creatures to haunt troops during the Vietnam War, and such encounters run the range from the odd to the downright otherworldly. Many accounts are, similarly to the case of the Rock Apes, of a decidedly cryptozoological nature. One such account was reported in the book Very Crazy, G.I.: Strange But True Stories of the Vietnam War (2001), in which combat veteran and author Kregg P.J. Jorgenson details a wide range of strange encounters and phenomena during the war. One of these accounts concerns what can only be described as some sort of sea serpent.
The report comes from a Vietnam veteran by the name of Craig Thompson, from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, who served with the Company B, 2d Battalion of the 503d Parachute Infantry Regiment, 173d Airborne Brigade as a sergeant. Thompson reported that one day he and his platoon had been bathing in the Bong Son River when some startled soldiers pointed out that there was an enormous, serpentine creature swimming through the water in an undulating manner in their direction. The creature was described as being around 30 feet in length, 2 feet wide, with a huge square head and covered with golden scales that glistened and glimmered in the sunlight. Along its body was said to be a dorsal plume of some sort that jutted from the water as it swam and which was a dark reddish color. Considering the bizarre, very large creature was headed straight for them the panicked men hurriedly exited the water, and some of them went for their weapons in an attempt to fire upon it, but the strange beast sunk beneath the murky water and disappeared before they had a chance.
Thompson would spend many years puzzling over this sighting, and would later come to the conclusion that what they had seen was perhaps a giant oarfish that had wandered into the river, with the oarfish being a long, serpentine fish which can grow up to up to 11 m (36 ft) in length and is often mistaken for sea serpents. The oarfish also has a dorsal plume of sorts in the form of a dorsal crest and in some respects seems to match the description given by Thompson. However, the golden coloration in the report is not consistent with an oarfish, and additionally oarfish are deep sea fish which are not known to venture into fresh water and are only very rarely seen near the surface at all. Cryptozoologist Karl Shuker has expressed doubt that what Thompson had seen is an oarfish, partly because of the dramatic habitat difference and coloration, and also because oarfish are not known to swim at the surface with their crests extended above the water. Shuker has suggested that the creature could have been a species of moray eel, which apparently do occasionally venture up rivers and of which some species have a coloration that might be described as golden, but also points out that these eels are much smaller than what was described and do not have any sort of high dorsal crest. The mystery of what Thompson and his platoon saw remains.
There were also reports during the Vietnam War of spiders far larger than any known in the region. One such report comes from a comment on the website Cryptomundo in 2013, in response to a post by cryptozoologist Loren Coleman entitled Camel Spiders and Other Alleged Giant Spiders. The commenter, who goes by the name “mrmaxima,” claimed that his father-in-law had been in a 5-man scout unit during the war and that while out in the jungle had seen enormous spiders described as having bodies the size of dinner plates, with 20 to 30 inch leg-spans. These mysterious spiders were reported as always being found near water sources such as creeks or rivers, and that they were extraordinarily tough. On several occasions it was claimed that the startled men had opened fire on the massive spiders with their M16s but that even when riddled with bullets they’d still be moving around and scampering about. Of course this is a totally unverified report, but it certainly makes one think about what sorts of unknown species could be wandering about out there in this jungle already known to be inhabited by numerous deadly spiders and snakes.
Speaking of snakes, adding to giant spiders are the equally creepy giant snakes. One photographer riding a helicopter in the Vietnam War claimed that they were flying over a patch of jungle when he noticed something unusual down below. At first it seemed to be an extremely large, greenish tube-like thing laying across a winding dirt road out in the middle of nowhere. The photographer then told the pilot to get lower so that he could get a good look at it to ascertain what it was, and that is when he could see that whatever it was was moving in an undulating fashion. They circled the strange creature for some time before it was reported that suddenly the thing rose up above the trees and they could see that it was in fact a gargantuan snake of some sort. The snake was said to have a large, horse-like head with eyes 3-feet in diameter, and it seemed to be coiling as if in preparation to actually strike out at the helicopter. The entire length of the gigantic serpent was estimated as being well over 100 feet long.
Apparently the photographer took several pictures of this strange sight, although what became of them is unknown. The helicopter reportedly vacated the area for some time and then returned later to see if the thing was still there. At this time, the colossal snake was purportedly nowhere to be seen, having wandered back off into the impenetrable wilderness. Apparently, the photographer would later talk to natives of the area about is experience and learn that there were supposedly ancient snakes wandering the wilderness there which were called “Bull Eaters” after their ability to kill and swallow full grown cattle.
Other encounters with strange beasts clearly diverge off into more bizarre territory, presenting creatures that seem to be more than just undiscovered species of some sort, but rather something more mysterious. One such account allegedly occurred on December 17, 1974, when a platoon of soldiers was out on a search and destroy mission along a river just north of the DMZ in the early morning hours. The platoon had penetrated through a heavily wooded river bank to reach a clearing and it is then that they noticed that the area was strangely silent and devoid of the typical jungle sounds and its incessant drone of insects, animals, and birds. Sensing that this was bad news, a scout was sent ahead to see if enemies were in the vicinity but nothing was found, not even any tracks. In the meantime, as the eerie, almost oppressive silence continued some piles of what appeared to be dung from some large, unidentified animal were found scattered about the clearing and as the soldiers examined them there were heard crashing sounds from the thick brush. The platoon allegedly looked up to see several large humanoid creatures come lumbering out of the trees and brush which were unlike anything any of them had ever seen. The creatures were estimated as being around 8 feet in height, with a bright yellow coloration and three-fingered hands that ended in wicked looking talons. The faces of these strange beasts were flat and sported large eyes, with only a couple of slits for a nose.
These giant, yellow-skinned beings were reported as passing right by the platoon, seemingly not even paying any attention to them at all, but when the frightened soldiers began to get out of there the loud sounds of crushing brush could be heard behind them and they realized that whatever the creatures had been were following them. As the increasingly unsettled men picked up their pace and broke into a run the crashing became more frantic and ominous, as if the giants were closing in for the kill. Several of the men reportedly fired their weapons at their pursuers to no apparent effect, with the creatures barely flinching even when hit with armor piercing rounds. The men were now running as fast as they could towards their boat moored at the riverside, sporadically firing ineffectually behind them as the beasts closed in. They finally reached their boat and beat a hasty retreat, and as they left they purportedly saw the haunting sight of dozens of the huge humanoids gathered on the shore watching them leave. What in the world did these men see? We may never know.
An equally bizarre account was given by an anonymous U.S. Army corporal in the Vietnam War, who claims that he had a very strange encounter in 1970 in an region of South Vietnam about 30 miles south of the DMZ. According to the man he had been second in command of a platoon of soldiers and they had just set up a bivouac in a heavily forested area marked with steep hills. After setting up camp, that evening the platoon engaged in a patrol of a small valley near the camp and detected movement ahead. Thinking it might be an enemy patrol, the soldiers hid and waited for around 15 minutes, during which time they continued to witness sporadic, furtive activity through the trees, although visibility was poor and there was not enough light to make out who or what was causing it. The movement eventually ceased and the squad warily continued on their mission, with only the light of the full moon to guide them.
Jungle patrol in the Vietnam War
At some point the platoon supposedly came across a wall of what appeared to be boulders that had been stacked one on top of another smack in the middle of a pass between two steep hills. On the side of this sheer wall was a dark opening that looked as if it could be the entrance of a cave, about 5 feet high and 3 feet wide, and when the men drew closer they could see that the surface of the opening was smooth, as if it had been carefully carved away by hand or bored by machinery of some sort. Although the Viet Cong enemy were well known to utilize tunnels and caves, none of the men had ever seem a cave opening quite like this one. Things got stranger still when they drew nearer and detected a rancid stench coming from the murky blackness within, which was described as being so gut-wrenchingly putrid that some of the soldiers felt strongly sick to their stomachs and backed away in revulsion. Lights shone into the maw of the cave did very little to illuminate what lied within that dank place or what was producing the odiferous stench, and it was finally decided that they would fall back to around 150 feet away from the entrance and stake out the entrance for a time to see what would happen.
As the platoon waited there observing the cave opening, it was noticed that the night was unusually quiet and eerily calm, with a noticeable absence of the usual jungle sounds that should have been all around them. The only thing they could hear was unidentified deep rumbling sounds seeming to come from somewhere off in the distance, and the whole atmosphere was described as being quite unsettling indeed. They would wait there he entire night without incident, and as dawn approached, at 0500 hours and as the first light made a shy appearance, some movement was finally spied at the darkened cave entrance. The soldiers tensed up and what at first was assumed to be a man emerged from the cave to crouch in the clearing in front of the cave’s maw. However, it was soon noticed as it stood up that whoever it was was around 7 feet in height and moved in a very odd manner. The platoon became firmly aware that the thing was not human just as another came stalking out from the cave, and it was at this time that they were both claimed to start making “hellish hissing sounds.”
As they watched on, it could be discerned that the creatures looked like bipedal, humanoid lizards, with scaly, shiny skin described as being so dark as to be practically obsidian black in color. The arms and legs were human-like, but scaly and tipped with claws. The faces had very large, forward-set eyes that were said to look snake-like. No tails were visible and both of the beings were clearly wearing clothing of some sort in the form of dark green robes. What happened next was sudden and abrupt chaos that the witness describes thus:
No one gave the order – it seemed like the entire squad opened fire at once. Every piece of vegetation between us and them was quickly sheared away. I yelled out a cease-fire order – at the same time I was looking in the direction of the cave. There was nothing there. We immediately checked our flank in case these things circled around us – but there was nothing.
As we approached the cave, ready to resume action if needed, it became apparent that the beings had escaped – most likely back into the cave. It was soon decided to set charges and close the cave entrance. When we returned to camp we all seemed to be in a daze. There was little discussion of the incident and we were never debriefed – so I know the sergeant never filed a report. Then again, if he did, it was kept quiet by the brass.
It is hard to know how to classify this particular report. Was this just a tall tale? Was it some sort of subterranean lost civilization? Was it aliens? Who knows? One report that does seem to suggest aliens is another case from 1967. On October 12 of that year, a 6-man long range recon patrol was operating in a heavily jungled region near the North Vietnam border and they set up camp a night defense perimeter that evening, with the men taking turns sleeping as the others maintained a lookout for the enemy. At around 1:45AM, the leader of the patrol was on watch and claims that he saw movement nearby, after which he woke the other men and they prepared their weapons for a potential firefight.
As the patrol geared up and turned their eyes to the dark jungle, a very strange creature emerged from the murk. It was described as looking like a small, grey humanoid with enormous black eyes, a long face, and slender arms, which gave off a faint glow that pushed back the clinging darkness around it. One of the men allegedly did not hesitate to fire at the creature, hitting it squarely in the head to send a “brilliant blue syrupy fluid” spattering the foliage. At that moment three lights appeared in the sky to form a perfect triangle before darting off into the night sky. It would later become known that two other recon teams operating in the area had had similar strange encounters that evening, and that headquarters were claiming that it was hard to keep radio contact due to some sort of communications disturbance. Aliens or a tall tale?
Some strange accounts from the war are a bit harder to classify, and one of these is certainly the case of what has come to be mostly known as the “Bird Woman of Da Nang,” and was most famously recounted by John Keel in his Mothman Prophecies, in which he credits the source as being FSR Case Histories, No. 10, June 1972. In the summer of 1969, a private, first class of the marine corps by the name of Earl Morrison was sitting on top of a bunker near Da Nang with two others on guard duty when they claimed to have seen something unlike anything they had ever experienced before.
At first it started as a weird glow in the sky, the source indiscernible, but as it drew closer they could make out that it was some sort of flying humanoid with bat-like wings. As it slowly moved closer, certain features could be ascertained. The creature seemed to be in the form of a naked woman, with flowing long hair and totally black skin that cast an eery greenish glow around it. The entity was described as being completely silent, and as flying very slowly and purposefully. Morrison would say of the odd sight:
There was a glow on her and around her. Everything glowed. Looked like she glowed and threw off a radiance. We saw her arms toward the wings and they looked like regular molded arms, each with a hand, and, fingers and everything, but they had skin from the wings going over them. And when she flapped her wings, there was no noise at first. It looked like her arms didn’t have any bones in them, because they were limber just like a bat.
The strange entity inexorably came closer as the shocked men looked on, unsure of what to do, until it was hovering a mere 6 or 7 feet above their heads, so close that she blotted out the moon. None of them knew what to do, and all they could do was stare with mouths agape, trying to make sense of what they were seeing. The entire time they could hear no sound from the creature, and it was not until she was continuing on her way that they could make out the faint sound of her wings flapping. The entire encounter was reported as lasting between 3 and 4 minutes. Interestingly, Vietnam folklore speaks of what are referred to as “night fliers,” which are winged humanoids usually described as being women and which are said to swoop down to attack the unwary.
The Vietnam War was certainly a time of great turmoil and horror for the people who served there. Here among all of the wartime experiences there are truly represented the full range of the human emotional spectrum. Yet buried within tales the death and scattered about the numerous accounts of fighting, heroism, and atrocity are some tales that seem to transcend the usual war stories to firmly entrench themselves into the realm of the truly bizarre. Besides the human monsters of war there seem to be these cases which point to very literal monsters indeed. We know that armed conflict can be a turbulent time full of strangeness, but cases like these show that it can be even stranger than we may at first think, and that lodged within the history we know of are dark things that go bump in the night, and which defy explanation to remain conundrums upon the bloody landscape of war.