Wherever a camera may appear, the Rods may lay in silent wait. The jury’s out on whether they are the product of photographic illusion or genuine unidentified organic entities.

Fast, elusive, and virtually invisible. Beings that fly, in some cases even swim, and that surround us if only we could see—they are as ethereal as the air itself. Known as “Rods,” “Sky Fish” or “Solar Entities,” these photographic anomalies have been a mystery since the Mexican film director José Escamilla presumably discovered them in 1994.

While Escamilla was recording a documentary in Midway, New Mexico—just outside Roswell—he discovered what looked like strange life-forms appearing frequently throughout the film. They were off-white in color and oblong in shape, dashing through the picture and interfering with the artistic goal of the director.

Later, Escamilla employed a more detailed analysis—a specially developed filming protocol—to produce “smoking-gun” video evidence. Escamilla believes that the insects were a heretofore-unknown form of organic life, only perceptible through cameras.

Thus, the phenomenon of the Rod was born.

Around the World

With news of Escamilla’s finding, film aficionados around the world quickly set out to discover their own Rods in photographs and videos. The purported life-forms seemed to appear with regularity, in contrast to the majority of orbs (which are often dismissed as dust) or other pseudo-cryptoids that enthusiasts had been accustomed to. Rods were uniquely photogenic and filmed extensively, but not one of them could be seen with the naked eye.

New Mexico, Indiana, Connecticut, in the films of the Iraq War—when pictures were examined closely, every camera seemed to have discovered more and more of these strange creatures. Even during the filming of Mel Gibson’s “Braveheart,” it is said, the Rods seemed to have left their mark.

Rods, Quasi-Beings

As the years passed, the Rod phenomenon began to catch more attention from Ufologists as scientific skeptics showed an interest. As evidence of these specimens grew, a catalog of their anatomy, “physiology,” flying strategy, and countless other details became an obsession for hundreds of Rod investigators around the world.

Based on their proximity to other elements in the images, the creatures were found to be from a few inches to 3 feet in length. All possessed a fine membrane on both sides of the body that facilitated their travel through the air like a cuttlefish; and they all moved at apparently “supersonic” speeds, such that they could only be captured on certain grades of film, at velocities not visible to the human eye.

Some people even alleged to understand the secrets behind these miniature shooting stars, affording them supernatural powers, with origins from parallel universes. The History Channel added to rod lore earlier this year as the channel’s “Monster Quest” program labeled the phenomenon “creatures from the fourth dimension.”

As the Rod fervor continued, even Escamilla himself, once believing that the strange shapes were simply insects or birds, began to re-examine whether these creatures could really be something otherworldly.

Fall of the Rod, Rise of the Moth

Yet despite so much film of these flying creatures, much of the evidence was unable to prove that Rods were anything more than optical phenomena caused by the cameras themselves. Skeptics argued that the photos and videos were merely a product of optical illusions, and insisted that the phenomena failed to materialize any concrete proof of existence.

Some debunkers demonstrated how the rapid passing of large insects in front of cameras produced a union effect among two, three, or more trajectories of the same insect, giving the optical impression of a long body with various pairs of wings. In 2005, investigators in Jilin, China, unmasked numerous Rods they had monitored on a security camera, which turned out to be nothing more than run-of-the-mill moths.

However, not all of the evidence from the Rod phenomenon can be so easily explained. In fact, many cryptozoologists and Ufologists say that other footage that features rods taken from ultraviolet or infrared cameras can’t be so easily dismissed as being optical illusions or common insects.

As evidence continues to be collected and reviewed, many await the proof that will either legitimize the existence of these mysterious creatures or reveal a photographic fluke that made imaginations run wild.