There is something particularly insidious and terrifying about nuclear fallout, and radiation sickness. It is invisible, it is deadly, it renders the surrounding area uninhabitable, and it lasts for centuries. And there is no cure.
Nuclear accidents loom large in our consciousness. The severity and long-lasting impact of the Chornobyl* Nuclear Power Plant’s radioactive contamination, the worst nuclear accident in history, horrifies and fascinates us.
Knowing that such a disaster occurred during a safety check and was unexpected is terrifying. There were no signs of the impending catastrophe in Pripyat when the plant’s employees clocked into work on April 26, 1986.
It turns out there might have been a sign that something bad was going to happen, but supernatural signs aren’t given a lot of credit. Were the sightings of a creature known as the Blackbird of Chornobyl a warning of the impending disaster?
*Before learning more about the Blackbird of Chornobyl, we need to discuss the variation in spelling. When Ukraine became independent from the Soviet Union, the government re-established its own language and original spelling. The Russian name is Chernobyl, but the Ukrainian name is Chornobyl. Since the location of the power is in Pripyat, Ukraine, and in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, this article will use the correct Ukrainian spelling of Chornobyl.
Чорний дрізд Чорнобиля (The Blackbird of Chornobyl)
The Blackbird of Chornobyl, or the Chornobyl Mothman, was a cryptid that was seen prior to and following the 1986 Chornobyl disaster. In the months before the Chornobyl disaster, several of the employees at the nuclear plant said they saw a “large, black, headless creature with gigantic winds and fire red eyes.”
Workers in the control room of reactor #4 reported seeing a large black creature in the sky only days and hours before the disaster. Based on the description of the Blackbird of Chornobyl, it sounds a lot like another cryptid cult favorite, the Mothman from Point Pleasant, West Virginia.
For those who may not be into cryptozoology or paranormal folklore, the Mothman was a large humanoid creature with large wings and glowing red eyes that was seen in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, from November 1966 to December 1967. The first sighting of the Mothman was near a road that led to a former World War II munitions plant in the woods.
The sight of a seven-foot tall winged beast with eyes that glowed so hypnotically that the creature’s face was undiscernible sent the witnesses speeding away, terrified. The Mothman chased after the witness’s car and made “screeching sounds,” and flew after the car until it reached Point Pleasant city limits.
Those who doubt the existence of such a creature claim that the witnesses saw a sandhill crane or heron that was out of its usual migration patterns. If you have ever seen either bird, you know that the screeching sound and being chased by the bird is common, but they are not seven feet tall or shaped like humans. The Mothman, most famously, was seen on the Silver Bridge just before it collapsed, killing 46 people.
The Mothman today is a beloved folk figure in Point Pleasant, and you can find many Mothman-inspired activities, public statues, and even pizzas that depict the mysterious beast. Mothman’s Ukrainian relative, the Blackbird of Chornobyl, seems to share many of the same characteristics.
The Blackbird of Chornobyl has been described in a way that sounds very similar to the Mothman, which is why some people believe that the Blackbird of Chornobyl is simply the Mothman on vacation.
The workers who saw the Blackbird of Chornobyl reported experiencing terrible dreams and that their phones would ring only to have no one on the other line, or they received threats from what they assumed was the KGB. Another story about the Blackbird of Chornobyl says that people working in and those around the power plant experienced “a series of strange events” that began after they saw a large dark bird-like creature with glowing red eyes.
It was said that the workers of Chornobyl were so unsettled by the creature and the strange experiences that had occurred after seeing the beast that several employees reported the sightings to their supervisors. There wasn’t much a supervisor of a nuclear power plant could do about the Blackbird that was terrifying staff, and even if they could have done something, disaster struck.
On April 26, 1986, reactor No. 4 exploded and then was on fire for over a week releasing radioactive contaminants into the air at levels that permanently altered the environment. The city had to be evacuated, but tragically this did not occur immediately.
The people of Pripyat were not alerted of the danger. The risk however was clear to the authorities: 134 emergency response workers were hospitalized with acute radiation syndrome, and 28 of those individuals died within the following three months.
The Soviet government launched a major cover-up of the disaster, and when the incident was acknowledged, very little detail was released, and the state-owned news service chose instead to focus on the Three Mile Island Accident, a nuclear accident in America. Such attempts to distract from the truth at hand are sadly still in evidence today, from Russia’s coverage of the war in Ukraine to Donald Trump’s increasingly shrill tweets about being the target of a witch-hunt.
But the explosion had apparently not scared away the creature. Workers tasked with removing debris from the explosion spotted the Blackbird of Chornobyl rising over the devastation of a toxic and abandoned city.
Many people who believe in the Blackbird of Chornobyl consider the monster to be a bad omen, a harbinger of death and destruction. This idea of the creature being a bad omen is not exclusive to the Blackbird of Chornobyl; the Mothman is also considered a bad omen.
Mothman was spotted on the Silver Bridge in the moments before it collapsed, and people believe that the creature is attracted to or causes disasters resulting in the deaths of humans. If the Mothman and its Slavic cousin are harbingers of destruction, the sightings at Chornobyl before the nuclear disaster are incredibly disturbing.
One archeologist has worked at and within the Chornobyl exclusion zone, Dr. Robert Maxwell. Maxwell visited the site and conducted research in 2010 and again in 2012.
No other archeologists have been brave enough to visit the radioactive landscape even 37 years since the disaster occurred. Maxwell said that he heard many stories about the Blackbird of Chornobyl while he was visiting the site but noted that because the individuals who were said to have seen the Blackbird of Chornobyl died from radioactive contamination, the story has evolved into “one of those myths that are challenging to trace.”
Tales of the Blackbird of Chornobyl must be taken at face value since no physical evidence supports the claims of its existence. And ultimately it is not relevant to the disaster: whether a monstrous cryptid provided a warning of impending doom or not, that warning was ignored.
Why do People Believe?
The Blackbird of Chornobyl is another cryptid that some people believe exists, while others see the creature as a myth. People are drawn to the idea that there are creatures who share the planet with us who are beyond imagination, and the desire to spot one of these elusive creatures is an obsession for some that results in spending hours in the woods searching for Bigfoot.
Much like the creatures from folklore, the Blackbird of Chornobyl can serve as a “warning” for those who hear stories about it. Slavic folklore tales served as a way for parents to scare children from wandering too far into the forests, swimming in secluded ponds, or doing anything against their parent’s wishes.
Don’t wander too far into the woods because you will encounter the unpredictable Leshy, or come across the home of Baba Yaga located at the end of the earth, and she will eat you. Stories like that serve as both entertainment and practical warnings for children who believe in monsters, magic, evil creatures, talking animals, and mythical creatures.
The desire to discover the unknown and find proof that legendary creatures like the Mothman, BigFoot, and the Blackbird of Chornobyl start to develop in childhood and continue to draw people into believing such creatures exist. There is nothing wrong with believing in these figures as long as it doesn’t result in the death or injury of yourself or others.
Top Image: Some believe the Blackbird of Chornobyl was warning about the accident, just as the Mothman did with another disaster in the United States. Source: GARETH / Adobe Stock.