Mothman image

One of the iconic sightings of a mysterious creature in the UFO era, that of the so-called Houston Batman, was made on June 18, 1953. Hilda Walker, Judy Meyers and Howard Phillips saw a “man with wings like a bat” sitting in the branches of a nearby tree, watching them. After a few moments there was a light display and the “Batman” was gone. The story is a classic in the annals of UFO encounters and associated creature sightings, and is dealt with in full in Ken Gerhard and Nick Redfern’s Monsters of Texas, and Loren Coleman’s Mysterious America, where it is dealt with in connection to that likewise-iconic phantom attacker, the British bogeyman known as Spring-heel'd Jack.

It turns out the likening to Jack and other phantom attackers may be particularly apt. The Lubbock Evening Journal for May 22, 1953 bore the headline “’Phantom Attacker’ Strikes in Full View of Two Officers.” The article told the story of Betty Lee Jamison, a young woman who was walking on Richmond Avenue when a man lunged from a crowd, knocked her to the ground, and fled with four men in pursuit – two policemen and two men coming out of a nearby bar. The man still escaped. Frank Murray of the Houston police department told the newspapers that it was the 13th such attack in the space of a year. I could find no references to the earlier attacks; perhaps some other intrepid CFZ member could, however.

The Mexia Daily News for June 12 (only a week before the sighting of the “Batman”) reported another attack. This time a woman was pulled bodily from a car. Again, the attacker fled. And still the attacks came, even after the sighting of the man in the tree. On May 7, 1954, the Galveston Daily Newsreported that an attack had taken place only two days before, but this was dealt with in no more than a passing manner. Once again, I could find no references in the intervening time, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

Regardless, on May 6, 1954, an underwear-clad man described as a “prominent Houstonian… superintendent of a Houston hospital" was arrested and charged with indecent exposure and vagrancy after police received several calls that he was driving around town fully in the nude. To this he admitted, but he denied any involvement in the Houston attacks when questioned. In true Fortean tradition, though, I’m going to guess the saga of the attacker came to an end there, whether or not the man was actually responsible.

The El Paso Herald-Post, on April 13, 1953, carried the story of another attacker, described as a black man, who robbed, attacked women and in one case, murdered, in the vicinity of Waco. This very well may have been a criminal of the more conventional type (as the one in Houston could have been), but I mention it in regards to reports that he “flashed a light in [his victims’] faces,” a typical Springheel activity.

Whether the “Houston phantom” truly explains away the Batman remains to be seen. At the very least, it should establish that a mindset of fear existed among Houston’s residents at the time. It likely is the explanation for why there were several witnesses to the Batman. Or, it may suggest that there is much, much more to the Batman story than one isolated sighting.