top of page
  • Writer's pictureJohn Wick

The Chernobyl's Blackbird

During the tragic nuclear disaster of Chernobyl, many people alleged to have seen a mysterious blackbird which had a sinister appearance and brought bad omen to the people who had witnessed it. In this post, we explore the legend of the Blackbird of Chernobyl.

A day after the disaster, the scenes witnessed by the helicopter pilots as they flew over the stricken facility were akin to something out of a horror movie. Several hundred feet below, rubble still smoldered the cross the broken power plant, producing dense plumes of acrid smoke which they were forced to skirt around as they were guided into the target area. On the ground below, a combination of rescue workers and military personnel could be seen running to and fro, Many of them well aware of the risks they were exposing themselves to, but carrying on regardless of the dangers simply because there was a job that needed to be done. For the sake of not just hundreds, but thousands and perhaps even millions of people.

High above, the pilots themselves were no safer from the invisible cloud of radiation that had contaminated the area. Without video cameras or any other form of specialist equipment, each aircraft was forced to fly in at high speed. Their crews blindly dumping tons of boron, sand and clay, in the hope that the fires inside the reactor itself would finally be extinguished.

Sergeant Valeri Semenov stared down impassively at the hellish landscape, and reflected on the fact that no matter how much water he gulped down, the sickening metallic taste in the back of his throat refused to go away. Like the majority of his fellow airmen, he had little faith in the safety guidelines they were working to. It was the fourth and final sortie of the day and as the pilots signaled that they were once again on final approach, Semenov prepared to manhandle yet more heavy sacks of sand and chemicals down onto the deadly ruins below.

As he reached across to open the aircraft's side door, his whole world instantly seemed to turn upside down. Without warning, the chopper banked sharply and suddenly, sending the flight engineer crashing against a pallet of sacks, before rebounding banging his head hard against the side of the cabin. The sergeant cursed loudly, checking there was no blood coming from where he had smashed his head against the airframe, before making his way forward to vent his anger at the pilots. Even amidst the loud thrumming of the helicopters rotor blades, Semenov could hear shouting as he stomped towards the cockpit.

Forcefully yanking the entry door to one side, he was momentarily stopped in his tracks by the terrified expressions on the faces of the two airmen. All his angry questioning produced was a helpless look and some animated pointing in the direction of the wind screen. As Semenov peered out into the smoke filled skies ahead of them, there was a sudden movement. A jet black shape hurtled out of the blackness, right across their flight path. He caught a momentary glimpse of curved talons, shark-like teeth and luminous red eyes, before with a shriek and a wing flap the monster disappeared back into the smoke.

Semenov would not be the only rescue worker to see the creature that day, but he would be one of last. The awful vision he had witnessed in the skies was one he would take to his grave, which would be much sooner than he'd anticipated, due to the severe radiation poisoning he had unwittingly received. Within hours of the disaster, the beast would already have been given a name, the Blackbird of Chernobyl.

Chernobyl's brutal history

The Ukrainian city of Chernobyl had already experienced more than its fair share of human suffering, even before the tragic accident occurred with which its name would forever be associated. Huge numbers of the largely Jewish population were rounded up and massacred during the Stalinist purges of the 1930s, only for the survivors to fall victim to the brutal Nazi occupation that would take place during the following decade.

The end of the Second world war would find the city placed firmly back under communist rule, and it was eventually chosen as the administrative center for the first nuclear power station to be constructed on Ukrainian soil. Between 1972 and 1983, four separate RBMK reactors were built at a site approximately 10 miles Northwest of the town, with two more planned for construction in the near future. For nearly 15 years, the facility quietly and efficiently went about the business of generating power for the people of the Ukraine. That was until early in 1986, when the site managers started to receive strange reports from some of their employees.

Several staff members claimed to have seen a shadowy figure hanging around the perimeter fence during the small hours, apparently watching them leave when they had finished their shift. The incidents were largely dismissed until one evening, when a terrified female worker came running into the security office, screaming that she had seen a strange looking creature near one of the car parks. In floods of tears, she explained that she had been walking over to her vehicle when she heard a rustling sound up in the branches of some nearby trees. A pair of glowing ruby red eyes had suddenly opened up in the darkness. Then she heard a hissing sound as a gigantic bird like entity had emerged from the branches and flown off into the sky.

Within days of telling her story, others began to come forward to give similar accounts. Two caretakers who were arriving for an early morning shift had witnessed a dark figure with enormous wings circling the power plant in the dawn skies above them before it had shrieked and flown away. A worker driving home on another evening had nearly crashed his car as he swerved to avoid a huge creature that had come swooping out of the darkness, suddenly framed ahead of him in the light from his head lamps.

The facility officials were highly skeptical of such stories as there was little in the way of actual evidence to support them. But then the nightmares began. A significant number of workers started to either turn up late for their shifts or go home early reporting that they felt ill. It became clear that the majority of those involved would claim to have had trouble sleeping their dreams haunted by a dark figure, with glowing red eyes and a 20-foot wingspan.

Staff members caught openly discussing the strange visitor were threatened with suspension, and those who had called in sick again to receive phone calls at home, ordering them to return to work and stop spreading rumors and disinformation. Some of the callers identified themselves as KGB agents or members of other intelligence services. Nevertheless, the reports steadily continued.

Dyatlov's carelessness

In the early hours of April 26th, all of the safety protocols for reactor number four were deliberately disregarded by the deputy chief engineer, Anatoly Dyatlov, during a pre planned exercise, the purpose of which was to simulate a loss of power. Because the reactor had been running at half power for 10 hours, it became choked by Xenon, which in turn caused power output to drop to almost nothing, a state that was useless for the test.

In order to get the power levels back up, Dyatlov ordered the engineers to remove nearly all Boron control rods and stop pumping coolant into the core. This caused reactivity inside the core to increase at a rate that was unsafe and the engineers panicked and tried to shut the reactor down by reinserting the control rods. Unfortunately, those control rods were tipped with graphite, a fatal design flaw, which cause reactivity to skyrocket resulting in a huge explosion.

It was the worst accident in human history, immediately contaminating the surrounding area with disastrous levels of nuclear fallout. Chronically short of any specialist equipment with which to combat the disaster, the Soviet authorities could do little more than turn to the military in a somewhat short-sighted effort to try and contain the growing danger. Brave, but poorly equipped infantrymen were ordered into the ruined buildings to clear radioactive debris, limited to just 90 seconds of activity on site in order to avoid fatal doses of radiation.

Military and civilian helicopters were drafted in from as far afield as Siberia and ordered to douse the smoldering reactor with thousands of tons of absorbing materials. With their aircraft lacking any form of effective shielding, many of the 600 pilots and airmen would die far earlier than expected from illnesses that has arisen from the radiation poisoning they had received.

Within days, it became clear that some of the Personnel involved in these efforts had apparently, also encountered the same creature, that had previously been harassing the staff at the power plant. Military commanders received a number of reports from soldiers and pilots, that a large winged entity had been seen circling the area, weaving in and out of the plumes of toxic smoke, and sweeping down low over the heads of those working on the ground.

As the fires were eventually extinguished, these reports steadily dwindled and during the aftermath, no further sightings occurred at the location. No images of the creature exists, but in the eight months it would take to successfully construct a concrete barrier around the damaged reactor, a shocking realization gradually came to the fore. All of the people who reported having any contact with the so-called Blackbird whether military or civilian, had died as a result of radiation poisoning caused by the explosion.

Given the absence of any definitive evidence which might support the existence of this mysterious cryptid, it is easy to dismiss the story out of hand as some form of the urban legend. But it is a tale that has stubbornly persisted despite the deaths of those who are allegedly involved. The high number of apparent witnesses would also seem to suggest that something unnerving must have happened in order to form the basis that the myth was constructed upon.

Similarity to Mothman sightings

Another factor that strengthens this argument is its similarity to the Mothman sightings that occurred in West Virginia during the 1960's. People living in and around the area of Point Pleasant reported eerie encounters with an insect-like nocturnal figure, very similar in appearance to the Blackbird. This frightening creature chased pedestrians and cars, even reportedly killing a pet dog during its 12 month reign of terror. The last sightings of the Mothman took place immediately prior to the collapse of the nearby Silver Bridge, which span the Ohio river and tragically buckled under the weight of rush-hour traffic on December the 15th, 1967 killing 46 commuters.

There were no further appearances by the Mothman after this event, leading residents to theorize that the beast was somehow associated with the incident and may have somehow been trying to warn people about the impending disaster. Commentators have speculated that the creature encountered at both Chernobyl and Point Pleasant may have been one and the same and could in fact, be some form of portent or curse, inexorably linked to tragedy. Sightings of the entity prior to the reactor failure have been interpreted as an attempt to warn workers of the coming danger.

On the other hand, appearances to those involved in the rescue efforts in the aftermath of the accident have been interpreted as a sign that they would not survive. The Blackbird is far from the only Supernatural story to have emerged from the chaos of the Chernobyl disaster. Following the accident, a 30 kilometer exclusion zone was set up around the power plant, which has since expanded to cover an even wider area. During that time, the few soldiers and scientists who were allowed access to the zone reported that they had seen mysterious figures moving around on their night vision and thermal cameras, which would simply vanish when challenged or approached.

In 1997, a team of physicists based at an American University were granted access to the exclusion zone in order to assist in assessing the effectiveness of the safeguarding measures that have been put in place there. There were concerns that the structural Integrity of the sarcophagus-the name of the containment structure built over the exposed core-was failing, which could lead to a further leak of radiation.

One of the academics, Andrei Kharsukhov, reported that he had been alone, inspecting the exterior of the thick concrete structure when he became aware of sounds coming from within. He maintains that he could hear what sounded like human voices screaming for help and shouting that there was a fire inside, but when he called the escorting soldiers over to listen, nothing more was heard. Regarding the sightings, it is possible that there was already some leakage taking place at the plant prior to the reactor explosion and that its effects caused members of staff to experience nightmarish visions and dreams.

In fact, there had been a partial meltdown of reactor one in 1982, which was covered up by Soviet authorities. It is thought that as soon as these haunting stories about a strange prowler came out into the open, they naturally began to influence the thinking of those around them and suddenly everyone was seeing the Blackbird. Similarly the pilots and soldiers may have overheard these stories when they arrived, their mental state is deteriorating under the pressures and dangers of their tasks.


The official explanation put forward by the Soviet government about the reports is that what the witnesses were actually seeing was a local bird, the black stork. This is a large form of endangered species that can grow up to three feet tall, possessing a six-foot wingspan.

When observed fleetingly in darkness or in the poor light of the smoke filled skies, it may be that it was mistaken for something far more sinister, the human brain filling in the gaps and adding nightmarish details because it was strange to see such a thing in the first place. Finally, the most likely possibility is that the creature is nothing more than an internet legend, created in the decade since the disaster, and associating itself with the Mothman sightings, not only to strengthen its credibility, but also to enforce the original sightings back in Point Pleasant.

Despite the fact it is still notoriously difficult to receive any information from ex-soviet archives, there really is very little to go on or to support the claims. With no surviving witnesses to question about the creature and the alleged sightings of it or any physical evidence, it's likely that the whole story is fictitious. But then again, who knows? Perhaps there is something more to these tales and whilst it is fun to speculate about the creature itself, we must remember that the Chernobyl disaster was a very real tragedy in which countless people lost their lives in horrifying ways and the effects of which are still reverberating to this day.

It is a story of indescribable recklessness, followed by incredible courage, sacrifice, death and ultimately re-emergence. It is both chilling and inherently disturbing on its own without the need of throwing monsters or strange creatures into the mix. To the brave souls who died helping to contain the incident, to those who died saving others and to the many innocents who lost their lives in the decade since, may their soul rest in peace.


Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page