Cryptozoology Strange Xenophilia

Rods (Sky Fish): Fact or Fiction?

Mysterious Creatures: Rods/Skyfish

Xeno with a skyfish, Amy Anne and Hence
Xeno with a skyfish. So fake, right? Read on…

Welcome to the first chapter our free e-book: the Reasonable Person’s Guide to Strange Ideas. Our journey begins in the area of Cryptozoology, the study of strange creatures. “My dog is strange,” you say. Dogs are indeed strange, but not in the right way.

Cryptozoologists study creatures that are experienced by some people yet are not generally thought to exist. This article contains an interview with someone who claims to have held and released a strange flying animal known as a Rod or Skyfish.

The Power of the Net

Before we tackle the mystery of Rods, consider this. You now have access to more information than any other human in history via web SEARCH ENGINES. There are billions of web pages on all topics with more added each minute, more than exists in print in all the libraries of the world. Finding information on most topics is now easy. Filtering wrong information, however, is still tricky. The Reasonable Person’s Guide (RPG) is here to help.

Steps ... to Solve a Mystery

How do we separate the unknown from the unknowable?

What are Rods?

Step 1: Summarize the Mystery – Rods were discovered in 1994 with the advent of high speed video cameras. They appear on video stills as long objects with undulating fins along the side. Rods have been captured on video tape by many people as they fly through the air indoors, outdoors and under water. One individual (see interview below) claims to have held one. The mystery is that we have no physical evidence of these flying animals living or dead as proof of their existence.

Who Discovered Rods?

Step 2: Identify Primary Information Source(s) – You may have heard Jose Escamilla speak about Rods on the Art Bell radio show. Jose was the first person to make rods known to the world. Visit his web site: Roswell Rods. In this article we include as a source a first hand witness, Daniel Bethel, the only person we know who claims to have captured and released one these creatures.

When solving mysteries bias of and possible deception by sources should always be considered. For example, is a wine maker the primary source of information for a new study that shows a glass of wine per day will add years to your life?

What Might They Be?

Step 3: Collect Different Theories – Some say that RODS or SKYFISH are 1. aliens, 2. autonomous machines, 3. inter-dimensional beings, 4. spirits or ghosts. They do fly and they are unidentified. Therefore, rods are UFOs, 5. unidentified flying objects. When we first heard about rods, we wrote a song about them called, “If you move fast enough, nothing can eat you, evolutionarily…”

Later, we found an even simpler theory: 7. Rods are motion blurred bugs. Our blurred bug theory was challenged when we met a sincere person who claims he once examined a living rod up close.

Key Questions

Step 4: Create Questions that Narrow Theories – To choose between the several competing hypotheses, decide what would prove or disprove each one and generate a list of questions to investigate.

For example, consider the possibility is that rods are ghosts. If we decide that, by definition, ghosts are not solid, we could rule out this theory if we had evidence that rods are solid. According to Dan, who claims to have held one, rods are solid. (See interview below). John, of the now defunct web site, was not sure if the rods in his video actually are rods because they “came out of the ground and out of midair”. This effect, however, may be due to changes in direction of flight in relation to the camera. The Roswell-Rods people have been very clear: rods do NOT pass through solid objects. No evidence currently shows that they are not solid. We also know of no verifiable evidence that ghosts exists. All of this information lowers our score for the ghost hypothesis.

Are they bugs? Prehistoric dragonfly Meganeura, lived about 250 million years ago and was probably the largest insect ever with a wingspan was over two feet (or 24 inches). Today the largest dragonfly is in South America and has a 7 inch wingspan. Anything over a foot would not be a known insect. Dan says the one he held was about a foot long. John and the Roswell Rods people say that some rods are as big as baseballs or larger so they could not be bugs. If they were very close to the camera, however, they could be much smaller than they appear.

Other Rod-like Videos

Step 5: Match Against Data from Unrelated Fields – This next step is very powerful. Find and apply information from other fields to your mystery. It helps to have a very broad education, to be constantly learning and to have wide interests. For example, when researching ghosts, we found some video that shows rod-like creatures in a Graveyard (Video #1) at night, but they are not called Rods. More here: Video #2, Video #3. These videos were edited from small clips at the MAJDA site. John Cox from the site is aware of and has researched rods. In fact, he sent people a video, but they didn’t reply. Is the fact that these videos were filmed in a graveyard evidence that they are ghosts? Are there any non-ghost creatures that fly around in graveyards at night?

Are They Motion Blurred Bugs?

Step 6: State Favorite Theory and Evidence – State your case clearly with supporting evidence. To the left is a composite showing how the phenomena of Rods may be created in the “blurred bug” theory.

A single video frame from a CCD camera has an exposure time of about 1/60th of a second.

That means there are up to 60 snapshots per second. If a bug’s wings flap a few-hundred times per second, then there are more wing flaps than snapshots. The result is that each of those 60 snapshots per second must contain a blur of several wing beats. The forward moving body of the insect will create the rod-shape on the video still and the wing beats will appear as undulating fins.

High Shutter Speeds?

Step 7: Try to Disprove Favorite Theory – Many otherwise careful researchers fail at this step. Don’t get too attached to ideas because you may be wrong!

Jose Escamilia says rods are not bugs. He claims to have used shutter speeds of ’1/10,000 of a second’. If true, he should not see blurred insect wings. ( However, if light conditions are low, the shutter speed on most CCD cameras will automatically change to a slower speed to deal with the reduced light. )

New Key Question: Are there any high shutter speed videos in full sunlight?

Insect and Bird Wing Speeds

The speed of insect wing beats varies from about two (2) beats per second (large tropical butterflies) to over 1,000 beats per second (midges). A dragon fly is fast and can reach burst speeds of 35 miles per hour. Any shutter speed of 1/1,500th and above should show no blurring of insect wings. By comparison humming birds flap at 20-200 beats per second.

Michael, who read this article corrected the idea that dragon flies are the fastest insects. Male tabanid flies, he wrote, are considered by entomologists to be the fastest. “A male (tabanid fly) spotting a potential fertile female will leave the group of males, accelerate to 100-120 mph and intercept the female, knock her to the ground, mate and fly back to the pack. No kidding. This has been documented by high speedcamera by researchers at LSU and other institutions. So, the idea that something could fly fast enough not to be seen easily is not entirely impossible.”

If you think a 120 mph insect is bad, it gets worse: Some tabanids also bite, drink blood and may transmit diseases such as anthrax and tularemia.

Wing Blur Illusion

Here is another verifiable related fact. Look at the above picture. Does a humming bird have a fin on it’s back? No. But it sure seems to have four different wings in the above picture from the now defunct web site You KNOW that a humming bird has only two wings, yet in the picture, it seems to be some strange mutant with four wings. Could it be that the blur of speed makes both the rod and the humming bird seem to have more wings or “fins” than they actually do?

Ancient Rods?

Step 8: Evaluate Red Herring Possibilities – In your search, you may find information that is irrelevant, misleading, or false. Always consider the motivations of those providing the information. If you throw out one conflicting item, does everything else fall into place?

The Art Bell radio show makes money from its sponsors by hosting interesting shows. Motion blurred bugs are not going to hold two million listener’s attention for very long. It could be argued, therefore, that the Art Bell show (which I love, by the way) benefits the most from NOT solving the mysteries it presents.

The following pictures from the Art Bell Rods page (now removed) include the caption “1000+ year old rock drawings of rod shapes from Argentina.” Rock carvings that depict rods carved more than 50 years ago would rule out the motion blurred bug theory.

Art’s site also contains MPEG and RealPlayer videos of Rods. The video below is my favorite. It looks like a rod flies around a kid in a back yard. After the video has run, they zoom in on the rod itself with some editing. A fine bit of work! I do not think this is a hoax, but the settings of the video camera may have simply made an ordinary bug or bird look like a rod. Check this out: ROD VIDEO


Experiments with Rods

Step 9: Design Experiments, Test Theory – This the heart of science. Get out there and get your feet wet. Try stuff. Learn from experience. Then again, perhaps you find someone else to do it for you. Memorize Xeno’s Law:

“Nearly everything you think of has already been thought of … and acted upon!” (XENO 2000)

Ironically enough, Xeno’s Law is a restatement of the old saying, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done there is nothing new under the sun” (ECC 1:9 RSV).

This means you can often skip the step of designing your own experiment and simply look on the web for the results from someone who has already done it.

EXPERIMENT: Film a flying bug and try to make a rod.

“Gary Davidson of San Diego MUFON believes he knows what they are. After consulting with a video expert Gary was able to capture rods in about 1/2 hour based on the idea that they are just bugs. … here is what he has caught on videotape. ”

The final animated gif image below / right (hit reload to view) shows a rod that becomes an insect when the dragonfly slows down. Henrik Herranen has also created rods with paper.

The principle of parsimony (AKA Occam’s razor) underlies all scientific modeling and theory building. It says this:

Given a set of otherwise equivalent models of a given phenomenon, choose the simplest or the most obvious explanation.

If the phenomenon of Rods can be exactly re-created by motion blurred insects, (such as in the photo to the right of Tiphiid Wasps) then the most simple explanation is: Rods are motion blurred insects. They still look pretty cool to me, even if they are only insects.

You may be convinced, but you should always consider what evidence might disprove your theory in the future: A photo of a nonmoving rod, a physical sample of a dead rod, or a rod captured in an enclosure, for example, would cause me to change my mind.

I still don’t have any of those things, but I do have this: An interview with an eyewitness who held a rod.

Interview: Kid Captures Rod in Alturas, CA.

Interview with Daniel “Dan” Bethel, drummer of the now defunct heavy metal band Sinfest.

X: I think the information you have is going to shock people. Until I spoke to you, I was 99% sure that Rods were motion blurred bugs. When we spoke in person you told me you had seen the Xenophilia (now on True Strange News) article about Rods. You said you know they are real animals because you held one as a kid! You and your brother were throwing wood chips in the air, you heard a smack and this thing landed on the ground. You picked it up, looked at it, and then it flew away?!

D: It was in the summer in the year 1979-82. I was a young boy living with my parents in Alturas California, and on the summer day I was playing with me younger brother Joe, outside of our house by the wood pile. We where taking turns seeing who could throw objects higher than the other….. we threw dirt clods…. rocks…. and the small wood from the wood pile…. Alturas is cold so most families keep stores of wood near their homes. On one of multiple throws….. my brother and I watched the stick I threw sailed up into the air and at its peak we heard something hit it…. the stick deflected away from the house and we looked at each other… like how did the stick fly off like that? Being kids we thought that some wind had hit it…. and blew it off course. I looked down to grab another piece of wood when I saw something moving on the ground…..

It was about 12 inches long and about 6 inches wide at its widest point. There was a finger sized rod running down the center of the “rods” full length. From the points at both ends a flap of skin like membrane ran tapered from the ends and widened towards the center of the “rod”. Basically it was the size of a flattened football. I picked up the “rod” and noticed that it had the feel of freshly washed up sea weed, our father took us to the ocean quite a few times….. so it is spot on the feel of fresh sea weed. The rod itself looked like the rubber band from a wrist rocket sling shot…. and the flaps where transparent……. and small veins where visible……. and at one end of the rod where a set of teeth like a lamprey…. or like a leach….

I let one of my fingers pass over the mouth… and felt a coarse grinding sensation. My brother leaned in for a closer look…. and a raised up from a crouched position, to a standing one…. and was going to throw it in the air to see if it would fly….. after all I was a kid and the thing looked like an airplane…. so I threw it. The second it hit the air…. it flew away from us quickly… then spun around…… buzzed us both….. then flew away….. I ran inside to tell my Mother…… drew pictures….. but was so young that it was hard for me to convey to other what I had seen……. upon me retelling her the story she remembers me telling her of it…. As far as eyes go…. I didn’t really see any….. I do remember 2 black dots towards the end with teeth….. but it could have easily been dirt or small particles of wood from the pile.

X: Anything else you can remember about the physical appearance?

D: … It looked like it was wood colored on the ground… but when it took off it seemed to fade to light white.

X: Why did you say it made you think of a squid?

D: A coddle fish….. because of the wings that surrounded the rod… they moved like the facial wing of the coddle fish…… and just in case I am naming the fish wrong…… it looks like a squid but has a larger eye and can change into multiple different shades of color where the squid may change from white…… gray…… black……. does that make sense?

X: What was it like when if flew away?

D: When it did fly away you couldn’t look fast enough to see it…… only when it buzzed by us could we see it…… it did make a very light humming noise as it flew……. but unless you pay very close attention for the noise a person wouldn’t hear it…….. similar to the sound dragon fly wing make when they are in flight……. and don’t get me wrong… the wings of the rod did not feel like insect wings…… they felt like skin….. more like bat wings. And it was warm to the touch like any mammal on the planet.

X: Other eyewitnesses? What were their names and approximate ages?D: My brother is 3 years younger than me….. I was between 6 and 9 years old when it happened…….. My mother didn’t see it but recalls the story we told her after it happened… she looked at us a the time like we where making it up! HA

X: Do you have contact info for anyone else who saw it (your brother) or anyone you told about it at the time?

D: We all still live together… the 3 involved that is.

X: Did you ever draw it? Do you have any of drawings of it made close to the time you saw it? Could you draw it now and perhaps send me a copy?

D: Is attached with Email.

X: Any other comments?

D: I think I described it all…. I know that they move fast….. have delicate bodies….. and in no way are they like insects…….. Alturas is a small town and it is ingrained in us at an early age to identify local animal species….. and insects…… so I know the difference. I do remember that when it was on the ground it couldn’t get up….. there where no legs or arms so the wings flapped on the ground……… when it did fly off the wings made a hill and valley motion….. like up and down but in a wave pattern from front to back…… I can say the way to capture one of the rods……. I don’t think they can see as good as we can……. and they don’t seem to be able to stop completely……. like a shark in that respect of constant motion. I would rig a motion sensor to a net that raises at break neck speeds slightly ahead of the sensor….. they are flexible but I don’t think that they can maneuver fast enough in a tight area.

X: Thanks for the interview Dan! — End —

For the record, I don’t know Dan, but our bands played one show together recently. My gut impression is that he is not making up the story. The reply from his mother is fascinating as well. She narrows the date down to 1980 and includes some more detail:

When Danny was age 7 which was in 1980, he and his brother were out in the back yard near the wood pile. He came running in with his 4 year old brother stating he was throwing a stick up in the air and hit a fish. I asked him if he meant he hit a bird? He stated,”No Mom, it was a fish like thing”! I asked him if it was a large bug? He was very excited and he said, NO, NO, it was not a bug it was a fish”! I asked him what color it was? Danny stated it was a clear whitish color. I asked how big it was and he showed me with his hands. The creature was approximately 8 to 10 inches.

He stated it was flying really fast. I asked like a Humming Bird? He stated, “Yes”. I asked him why he thought the creature was a fish and not a bug or bird. He said the creature did not look like a bird it had no feathers. The creature was not a bug it did not have shell or antennae. He kept saying it was a fish. He told me when he hit the creature with the stick it fell out of the sky out in the back yard. It was fluttering and he said he touched it with his finger and it felt cold not wet. His brother was also excited and stated, “Yes Mommy it was a fast fish that Danny was holding”.

Within seconds after picking the creature up it was no longer stunned and fluttered out of his hand and flew off. I looked at his hand concerned that whatever the thing was that he had in his hand, perhaps bite Danny. He had no discoloration, welt, or puncture wound.

I made him wash his hands and then asked Danny to draw a picture of the creature. He took out a crayon and drew a cylinder type thing with a v shape head with side short wings. I looked at his drawing in hopes I would identify what he was saw. I could not identify the creature. I kept asking him if the drawing was correct? He was again excited and stating, “Yes Mommy this is it”.

I tried to tell him that Modoc County did not have flying fish. That in the Ocean there are fish that can fly. He was very upset with me and kept insisting that he saw a flying fish. I went out side and whatever was on the ground was no were to be found and nothing in the sky.

I do believe he saw something. What ever the creature was it was not from his imagination, he was truly excited and wanted to tell me of his experience. Danny was not in a habit of telling wild stories. He saw something, I just wish I would have seen the thing he was holding in his hand.

(Dan’s Mother)

Alturas California is about a 6 hour drive north of Sacramento. I’ll drive up and take some picture of the area one of these days.

What do you do with detailed seemingly valid statements like this? The Reasonable Person’s Guide suggests that you just watch and wait, knowing that some have had one time experiences which run contrary to popular beliefs. In short, you say the magic words: I don’t know yet.

Pictures of Rods

This link from James Bratter has some interesting pictures of Rods. Here are some more from around the net:



To summarize our steps for solving a mystery, get clear on who, what, where and when.

  1. Summarize Mystery – Who, what, where, when
  2. Identify Primary Information Source(s)
  3. Collect Different Theories
  4. Create Questions that Narrow Theories
  5. Match Against Data from Unrelated Fields
  6. State Favorite Theory and Evidence – Why and how
  7. Try to Disprove Favorite Theory
  8. Evaluate Red Herring Possibilities
  9. Design Experiments, Test Theory

With these steps in regard to rods, we conclude that the visual phenomena of rods captured in video stills may be duplicated by motion blurred bugs. It would be reasonable to conclude that all rods are motion blurred bugs were it not for one seemingly credible eye-witness who reports stunning, holding and releasing a rod that was not an insect. If the eye-witness report on these pages is correct, then there is indeed an as yet undiscovered flying animal aptly named “skyfish.” The reasonable person should consider both possibilities and watch for new evidence.

Next Article

If you enjoyed this page you may also enjoy reading about another mysterious creature: Bigfoot. If so, continue to Chapter 2 of the Reasonable Person’s Guide to Strange Ideas. It’s around here somewhere … ah, here it is.


Always cite your sources! Without knowing where your information comes from, you can’t judge its validity.

  14. Private email and in person interview with Daniel “Dan” Bethel, drummer of the now defunct heavy metal band Sinfest. 9/29/2003
  15. Email from Dan’s mother. Fri, 07 Nov 2003′

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