Mothman, Garuda and Indonesian Air Crash

Posted by: Loren Coleman on March 7th, 2007


When discussing the strange episodes of interactions between humans and that winged weirdie seen in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, in 1966-1967, John A. Keel didn’t carry around in his head the psychological icon of Mothman, which, of course, didn’t exist yet. No, his concept of what was the source of the foreboding and tragedy was much more ancient.

A detail often forgotten is that John A. Keel’s The Mothman Prophecies was initially to be entitled The Year of the Garuda. The title Keel wanted was his way to connect the ancient Indian legends of the Garuda, an unknown flying cryptid, with the modern Mothman events.

For Keel, his sense of the underlying weirdness, subtle spookiness, dramatic danger, covert sightings, plus the sinister Fortean reality of the collapse of the Silver Bridge, were linked in his mind to the image and idea of Garuda, more so than any realization of what Mothman was or was becoming. To Keel, Garuda was the key.

Now comes a startling reminder of that name for it is being noted in the news that the tragic crash in Indonesia was of a Boeing 757, an aircraft of the Garuda Airlines:

Indonesia jet explodes on landing

An Indonesian jet has crashed and burst into flames on landing at Yogyakarta airport in Java, killing 22 people. The state-owned Garuda Airline, which operated the Boeing 737-400, confirmed that 118 people had survived. Indonesia’s president immediately announced an investigation into the crash in Yogyakarta, 440km (270 miles) south-east of Jakarta….

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said there were nine Australians on board, four of whom were missing. They included officials and journalists covering his planned visit to Java for a counter-terrorism conference. Prime Minister John Howard said the country should be “prepared for bad news” as there could well be Australian fatalities….BBC News, March 7, 2007

What is the Garuda? The Garuda is a large legendary bird or bird-like creature that appears in both Hindu and Buddhist mythology, a cryptid to many. Garuda is usually described as having a golden body, white face, red wings, and an eagle’s beak and wings but a man’s body. The Garuda is the national symbol of both Indonesia and Thailand.


Garuda postcard found by Fortean writer Doug Skinner in his neighborhood soon after visiting John Keel, during Keel’s recovery from a heart attack last fall.

John Keel

John A. Keel during the 1970s, in the midst of investigating and writing about Garuda and Mothman.

For those that own the rare Saturday Review Press first edition (1975) of The Mothman Prophecies, the creature depicted on the white dust jacket is a Garuda, not a Mothman.


Thanks to Stuart Ferrol.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

10 Responses to “Mothman, Garuda and Indonesian Air Crash”

  1. daledrinnon responds:

    That is not the best representative depiction of a Garuda.

    From the coloration indicated, Garuda is a large fish eagle like our bald eagle in the USA. One feature is that some depictions of the feet of Garudas (and Tengus) match bald eagle feet.

  2. MattBille responds:

    I can imagine no reason whatever to tie the air crash to the cryptid or the Garuda legend. We are supposed to be doing science here.


  3. elsanto responds:

    I don’t see how Garuda can be considered a cryptid. Garuda is the vehicle of the god, Vishnu. Hindu and Buddhist teaching made manifest through imagery can be approached at several levels. Ultimately, when working in those contexts one is working with intricate symbology that illustrates not only religious dogma, but psychological and metaphysical principles as well. Only the most uneducated and simple believers would consider that Garuda can manifest himself physically.

  4. daledrinnon responds:

    Actually, a LOT of Cryptozoology acts as if witness’ fantasies are somehow relevant.

    There is a train of thought that ‘The Loch Ness Monster must be supernatural because the witnesses react with such unreasoning terror, etc.’
    The reactions of the witnesses is basically irrelevant to ANYTHING that is being witnessed. The sightings cited by Bord and Bord in Alien Animals supporting this idea are elsewhere interpreted by critics as being swimming deer, otters and the like. If the witnesses (including Greta Finlay,the Spicers, etc.) actually WERE seeing such mundane objects, then it goes to point out the absurdity of assuming that panicked, irrational fears actually have some sort of an actual reason for existence.
    Irrational fears do not need to be explained and do not need to be considered as evidence. Mere coincidence in names (as in Garuda) are also not actually evidence of anything.

  5. mystery_man responds:

    MatteBille- I think the plane crash is maybe just to illustrate that the term Garuda is a name for an airline being mentioned in the news and use this as a jumping off point to talk about this cryptid. I don’t believe there is any physical connection between the two being implied.

  6. Mr.PassiveAggressive responds:

    Although it may wander into the realms of the paranormal and far from the fields of cryptozoology, there is a definite connection between names and of incidents of high strangeness.

    Looking through lists of incidents, the occurrance of ‘devil’ish names has been commented on frequently.

    Science can mean many things, but it should not preclude using data from sources that, at first, might seem off-base. It’s that attitude that has kept CZ from ‘accepted’ fields of exploration for far too long.

    If paranormal events manifest themselves disguised as cryptozoological phenomena, then it certainly bares some investigation from the CZ end, even if just to eliminate the event.

    The Garuda ‘connection’ might be just coincidence and the garuda creature just a cryptozoological disguise for a paranormal event, but if certain names create focal points of paranormal energies that can turn destructive, I’d certainly want to know about it. Even if it doesn’t strictly fall under cryptozoology.

  7. shumway10973 responds:

    Remember folks, most of what we consider cryptids, most natives think of them as real or with the stories of their ancestors where a majestic animal became some messenger or something to the spiritual realm. Case in point, think of what the native americans of the Dakotas think of bigfoot. There was probably a large bird matching the description (except for the human body), but it was so big that most people thought something like they were as big as a person, therefore they must have the body of a human.

  8. Rillo777 responds:

    Maybe I’m just missing something here. I didn’t read Keel’s book on the Mothman Prophecies (primarily because I tend to shy away from books on prophecies delivered by cryptids. I mean, what’s next? The Bigfoot prophecies? The Loch Ness Monster Prophecies? The Leprechaun Prophecies?) And what exactly does Hindu or Buddhist mythology have to do with an event that happened in rural america anyway? Sorry for the ignorance here but I don’t get it.

    (And yes, I saw the movie with Richard Gere and, outside of the Mothman name, I didn’t get it, either.)

  9. springheeledjack responds:

    Once you start throwing the supernatural or spiritual in with cryptids and cryptozoology is that most people shut the “open mind” door all together. Links between cryptids and mythology are all too common, but you have to be careful the terms you throw around with them.

    The Garuda is an interesting idea that I had not been aware of before with Mothman (no I didn’t read the definitive work on that one…Mothman has always been kind of abstract and too intangible, even for me:)

  10. daledrinnon responds:

    John Keel’s book The Mothman Prophecies comes with the subtitle relating Mothman to ‘The Mysterious Feathery Garuda’.

    This was Keel’s attempt to link Mothman reports to an underlying archetype. It was perhaps an unfortunate choice. Garuda is the vehicle/mount of the Hindu supreme God Vishnu. As such, it is commonly portrayed in religious art.

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