Rods: Flying Absurdities

Do these invisible flying creatures really exist?

by Brian Dunning

Filed under Aliens & UFOs, Cryptozoology

Skeptoid #03
October 19, 2006
Podcast transcript | Listen | Subscribe
Also available in Chinese | Japanese

From the cryptozoology files, we're going to look today at rods, those magical, mystical living UFO's that inhabit the invisible shadowlands of Earth.

Rods are said to be flying creatures, from a few inches to a few feet in length, that are invisible to humans, but visible to cameras, both film and digital, both still and video. Their bodies are shaped like long thin rods, and their only appendages are wavy wings, one on each side, stretching the full length of their bodies. They move through the air by undulating these wings, like eels swimming through water.

A gentleman named Jose Escamilla claims to be the discoverer of rods. On his web site,, he says that he first captured rods on video in 1994. He says he was taping UFO's when he accidentally filmed the rods as well. Since Mr. Escamilla did not recall seeing any such thing in person while he was taping, he decided the most likely explanation for his video is that he'd discovered a new species of flying creature that is invisible to humans, and only shows up on film or video.

Since then, innumerable photographs and videos have surfaced that purport to show rods. Search the Internet, and you'll find hundreds of them.

If rods are as ubiquitous as it would seem they are, why is their existence not generally accepted? Justification for the existence of rods requires that four basic claims be proven or at least shown to be reasonable:

1. There should be zoological precedents for the existence of undiscovered insects up to a meter in length. New species are being discovered all the time, so I think we should grant this one. It's certainly possible that there are undiscovered flying creatures a meter in length.

2. We must accept the existence of creatures that are invisible, although they're up to a meter in length and perhaps up to several inches wide. Discounting microscopic organisms, the natural world offers no better than transparency, such as that found in some species of jellyfish. Transparency is not invisibility. Supporters of rods have not proven that invisibility in the animal kingdom is possible, and they will need to do so by presenting an invisible animal.

3. Certain images must be visible only in the output of all types of visible wavelength cameras, but not visible to the naked eye. When cameras output their images to the final medium, be it film, paper, or a video screen, we see their output because our eyes see the same visible wavelengths that were recorded and output. We're not talking about thermographic or other non-visible-wavelength camera technologies here, so rod supporters will need to prove that all standard cameras can convert certain invisible wavelengths into visible ones, without affecting the visible wavelengths; which is something those cameras were not designed to do. Only with this proof can it be reasonably accepted that it's possible for a camera to see something that was invisible to the photographer.

4. Even if all of the above can be substantiated, there needs to be a lack of a more likely explanation. If a simple procedure can be shown to easily reproduce the appearance of rods on camera, then we haven't even established that there is a phenomenon to be investigated.

Tip Skeptoid $2/mo $5/mo $10/mo One time

As you might expect, there is indeed an alternate explanation, and a simple procedure to take a picture showing rods. Picture yourself standing with the sun at your back, facing a large shaded area, such as the shaded entrance to a cave. Dragonflies (or other insects) are flying everywhere, darting back and forth at around 20mph, which is about 29 feet per second (dragonflies can hit 60mph). Take a photograph, with a common shutter speed of 1/30th of a second. In that time, the dragonfly will travel about 12 inches. Because your exposure is set for the dark background, the path traced by the dragonfly's transit will be overexposed and will appear solid white. The dragonfly will make one full wingbeat in in that time (some insects would beat their wings twenty times in 1/30th of a second), so the path described by its wingtip on your film image would be one full sine wave period, twelve inches long. There would be one of these sine waves down each side of the twelve-inch-long rod shaped track traced by the dragonfly's moving body.

This phenomenon is so common that most any professional photographer can tell you about being plagued by it while trying to take outdoor photographs or video in similar lighting conditions. Nevertheless, the resulting image is strange enough that someone not familiar with photography basics might conclude that the subject in the photograph was in fact twelve inches long with undulating wings, and the photographer would be absolutely correct in stating that he did not see any twelve inch long flying creatures with his naked eye.

The conclusion from all this is that rods are a well known, well established, and well understood byproduct of photography. The proposed alternate explanation, that they are an unknown and invisible lifeform only seen by cameras, requires that some pretty outrageous claims about invisibility and photography be proven. Until they are, or until a rod is captured and can be studied, I see no reason to suspect that such things might exist.

Brian Dunning

© 2006 Skeptoid Media Copyright information

References & Further Reading

Alexander, David E. Nature's Flyers: Birds, Insects and the Biomechanics of Flight. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002. 89.

Carroll, R. "Rod." The Skeptic's Dictionary. Robert T. Carroll, 8 Feb. 2001. Web. 10 Sep. 2015. <>

Escamilla, Jose. "About Roswell Rods." Roswell Rods. Roswell Rods, 16 Jan. 2008. Web. 31 Oct. 2009. <>

Island, Kal. "Hey, What's all the Bugaboo?" Popular Science. 1 Nov. 1995, Volume 247, Number 5: 83.

Kaku, Michu. Physics of the Impossible, a Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel. New York: Doubleday, 2008. 16-33.

Sol. "Conclusion: Escamilla's "rods" are motion-blurred bugs." Sol's 'Rods' Study. Opendb, 8 Apr. 1998. Web. 9 Dec. 2009. <>

Reference this article:
Dunning, B. "Rods: Flying Absurdities." Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media, 19 Oct 2006. Web. 9 Oct 2015. <>


10 most recent comments | Show all 72 comments

Looking around the corner is one thing, Jeffery, but wildly extrapolating what's around the corner by the shadow it casts or the noise it makes is a different thing entirely!

Darren, Liverpool, UK
February 20, 2013 5:35am

My Location is England. At 14:20 on 30/11/2012 I saw a flying object could not identify. I had just gone through a small gate and turned round to shut it and saw a pure white
object hovering at head height 2 feet away (hovering end on to me).I think it must have been following me. It was about 10 cm long and about 7 mm round. I stood for 10 seconds trying to
figure out what it was but it I could not. I could not see any wings on it, except for some fuzziness by the sides. I could not see any eyes or they were very small. The front end did not seem to any larger than the rest of it (i.e. no head features). I then put my glasses on and just as I did this it shot backward away from me
to about 10 feet away and 2 feet off the ground. The speed it did this was almost instant much faster than a dragonfly. It was so fast I could not see if it turned to fly or just
flew directly backwards. It hovered again end on as if it was still watching me. I still could not figure out what it was. After about another 10 seconds watching it I decided to get a closer look but as I as I took one step closer it just suddenly shot away. Again it was so fast one second it was there and the
next it was not. The colour of the organism I would describe as snowdrop white or the colour of a White Sea anemone. There were no other features on the organism, just completely white except at the front end (by the side) it had some very fine anemone like tentacles 5 or 6 approx 8mm long and pointing upward and slightly forward (about 20deg) tapering down to 3mm like a fan. These were quite still. I could only see these on one side or perhaps that was due to my viewing angle.
The outside temperature was cold approx 5 to 8 deg. The sun was low

Mo, Hampshire,UK
March 13, 2013 3:02pm

I had an experience once that I could not explain. I was standing on a balcony when a strange flying insect came into my view. It captivated me with the way it seemed to glow and as it drift it slowly turned in my direction. When the insect spotted me atop the balcony it shot up towards me at such a fast speed I dropped to my knees to avoid it. As I was on my knees I was awaiting the crash against the glass window behind me, but the thump never came. I could close my eyes and actually see the insects head right before my eyes! As I got up from the floor it was hard for me to realize what I had just seen. It was not until months later that I saw the Monster Quest show that I realized what I had seen. Folks, I'm here to tell you these creatures exsist!!

don landa, nogales
April 21, 2013 6:57pm

Continuing on from my previous post (ran out of space).... and behind my head as I was looking at the object. So I had a very good view. I had a yellow work jacket on with white reflective strips. Perhaps the insect was attracted to the white strip on the back. The environment was in a large field with surrounding concrete pads. There was some building work with a digger that had been breaking up concrete earlier that day. I was the only person around at this time.
I cannot find any reference to the skyrods ever been seen to hover. Just that they are too quick to been seen with the naked eye. I know that is not correct if this is the same object.
After surfing the web (and knowing what I have seen) I cannot relate to any of the other photographs that represent the object. I think most of the photographs of these rods are camera tricks/ shutter speeds (perhaps not all). I have read a couple of reports that might seem genuine.

Mo, Hampshire,UK
April 28, 2013 12:32pm

Rods have two round black frontal eyes, pastel innards that look like mountain peaks and move with peristaltic motion, squid-like fins on the side,silent to the human ear, bend when turing in flight and the light refracts as if they disappear for a brief moment, a living creature. If
you don't believe this then you are fooling yourself because these are the absolute facts. One day in the future, this may become common knowledge. Don't discount the truth.

Chip, Albany?NY
July 1, 2013 8:35pm

And of course... big near..small far.

The father Dougall McGuire short course for cow spottng..
Brilliant Chip!

Magnanamous Dinoflagellate, sin city, Oz
July 3, 2013 12:34am

They are real!

I have video of them playing at night in my yead on my home security camera.

They play in my yard every night!

I have many videos of them. You can't see them with your naked eye, by they show up on my videos.

I am continuing to record them each night. They seem to have an intelligence and communicate with one another. They change shape and can move in the blink of an eye, or less. Or they seem to be able to go in and out of time.

I go out to my yard at dusk and stand there and see nothing. Go up to my camera video monitor and they are everywhere playing, moving at incredible speeds, blinking in and out of time and and space.


No Name for Now?????

No Name, Atlanta
October 1, 2013 6:44am

Please. Read the article again and stop believing in things that defy the basic laws of physics. The simplest explanation is usually the correct one. The explanation of them being photographic and filming phenomenon makes absolute sense. That they are flying rods that we can't see of hear, but can magically be recorded by a common camera is beyond absurd and laughable to say the least!! I know people want there to be undiscovered magic that has no basis in our understanding of classical or quantum physics, but it's folly to pursue! If you can't substantiate it and prove it in any meaningful way - drop it!

Jimbo, Novato
November 14, 2013 9:23am

Cool article. I never heard of rods before.

Just for the heck of it, I'd like to propose a possible way of getting around your #2 requirement. You could have a creature which was invisible to the human eye, but not to cameras, if the creature had a limited range ability to effect our perception, rather than reception of light. Rather than effect the light sensing eye, they might effect either the transmission of messages by the optic nerve (nah, I don't like that one either) OR they could effect the brain's function. If they could prevent you from perceiving what your eye was registering, but not the actual visible spectrum of light, your camera would still record them.

I don't propose a method by which they might do that. It was just a possibility I thought of. I actually agree with your article's conclusion.

Pamela Wright, watertown, NY
January 10, 2014 6:00am

rainy, az
February 12, 2014 1:53pm

Make a comment about this episode of Skeptoid (please try to keep it brief & to the point).

Post a reply


What's the most important thing about Skeptoid?

Support Skeptoid

About That 1970s Global Cooling...
Skeptoid #487, Oct 6 2015
Read | Listen (12:13)
The Flying Saucer Menace
Skeptoid #486, Sep 29 2015
Read | Listen (12:29)
Holocaust Denial
Skeptoid #485, Sep 22 2015
Read | Listen (12:54)
More Unsung Women of Science
Skeptoid #484, Sep 15 2015
Read | Listen (12:56)
Unsung Women of Science
Skeptoid #483, Sep 8 2015
Read | Listen (13:13)
#1 -
Tube Amplifiers
Read | Listen
#2 -
Read | Listen
#3 -
That Elusive Fibromyalgia
Read | Listen
#4 -
SS Iron Mountain
Read | Listen
#5 -
A Skeptical Look at the News
Read | Listen
#6 -
The War of the Worlds Panic Broadcast
Read | Listen
#7 -
Ancient Astronauts
Read | Listen
#8 -
Myths of Alcatraz
Read | Listen

Recent Comments...

[Valid RSS]

  Skeptoid PodcastSkeptoid on Facebook   Skeptoid on Twitter   Brian Dunning on Google+   Skeptoid on Stitcher   Skeptoid RSS

Members Portal


Follow @skeptoid

Tweets about skeptoid

Support Skeptoid

Email: [Why do we need this?]To reduce spam, we email new faces a confirmation link you must click before your comment will appear.
characters left. Abusive posts and spam will be deleted.