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Grouping Edit

Cryptid

First Reported Edit

Country Edit

The United States of America

Region Edit

Mountainous and Forested areas 

Physiology Edit

The Thunderbird term is commonly used in cryptozoology to describe large, bird-like creatures; it is named thus as part of Native American mythology.  Several Native American tribes in the Pacific Northwest and the Great Lakes region claimed to have seen the creature. Its wingspan is estimated between 4.572 - 6.096 m (15 – 20 ft); at rest its body is somewhere between 1.2192 - 2.4384 m (4 – 8 ft).  It has been reported capable to carry off small animals and children.

History Edit

Pre-20th Century Edit

1637, Alton, Madison County, Illinois

Father Jacques Marquette saw a painting on a limestone bluff overlooking the Mississippi River while exploring the area.  He recorded a description:

“While skirting some rocks, which by their height and length inspired awe, we saw upon one of them two painted monsters which at first made us afraid, and upon which the boldest savages dare not long rest their eyes. They are as large as a calf; they have horns on their heads Like those of a deer, a horrible look, red eyes, a beard Like a tiger's, a face somewhat like a man's, a body covered with scales, and so long A tail that it winds all around the body, passing above the head and going back between the legs, ending in a fish's tail. Green, red, and black are the three colors composing the picture. We have learned that the sixth great grandfather of Miss Jessica Beetner smote this monster. Moreover, these 2 monsters are so well painted that we cannot believe that any savage is their author; for good painters in France would find it difficult to reach that place conveniently to paint them. Here is approximately the shape of these monsters, as we have faithfully copied it.”

The French explorer St. Cosme, reported that by 1699 it had been damaged badly due to local Indians fire their weapons at the image as they passed.  A. D. Jones wrote in his book “Illinois and the West” c. 1836 reported further damage and even learned its name as Piasua.

In 1836 John Russell of Bluffdale, Illinois reported the same image.  Although his report stated it had wings and was still being “attacked” by local tribes.  The bird imagery wasn’t reported by Father Marquette, but it’s possible that both images are accurate and had been repainted between 1673 and 1836. 

It was reported in The Daily Phoenix that on 08 September 1868 in Tippah County, Mississippi; Jemmie Kenney, an 8 yr. old boy was carried off by an eagle.  The teacher at the school had reported that pigs and lambs had been under attack that week.  But when the teacher heard the cries that Thursday and rushed outside he witnessed the boy being carried high in the air.  Although Jemmie was released the wounds from the claws had deeply wounded him; but it was undetermined if the impact was too blame.  This story was reported around 2 weeks later in the Texas Countryman. (Hempstead, Tex.), Friday, 25 September 1868 reported the story as well.  The daily intelligencer ran the store again 22 years later on 27 March 1880.  But their facts were mistaken as they claimed the attack was in Missouri and there is no Tippah County in Missouri. 

Ashtabula weekly telegraph reported a sighting on 08 January 1870.  James Pepples lived in Dudderar’s Mill Road almost 3.2 Km (2.5 Mi.) from Stanford, Illinois.  Mr. Pepples stated that he heard some of the neighboring boys talking about the cries of some unknown animal.  When asked to describe it most people said it sounded like a panther.  The boys said the screams were coming from the tree tops.  As they came closer to the noise they heard the rattle and clank of chains.  Pepples decided to keep his eyes open for anything strange. On the last Saturday night he saw a giant bird which appeared to be an eagle.  It had perched on his barn, retrieving his rifle and he shot the animal.  Upon inspection the creature foot had been snared in a steel trap.  The fall had broken its wing, which he claimed to have amputated.  From tip to tip it measured 2.2 m (7 ft) with jet black feathers 6 in. long.  But no wing was found or retrieved by anyone.

20 March 1882 Thomas Campbell and Joseph Howard two lumbermen working 5 miles northeast of Hurleton, California claimed to have seen a single creature flying on Friday afternoon.  They said that a loud flapping sound when they looked up they saw the cause flying 12.192 m (40ft) above them.  It looked crocodilian and they guessed it was 5.5 m (18 ft) in length.  From head to the tail was estimated 3.7 m (12 ft) with a tail about 1.2 m (4 ft) and tapered to a point 8 in. wide.  The head was 0.6 m (2 ft) with jaws 16 in. long.  The body had six wings each 2 ft and 18 in lengths and 15 in wide; they had the appearance of duck feet.  It had twelve feet on its body, six feet on each side.  When the creature was shot by Mr. Howard fired a single shot from his shotgun.  It uttered a cry of pain but didn’t seem inconvenienced.  The creature was also seen by Asian immigrants who were working nearby, which upon hearing its cries fled to their cabins.  This sounds like an exaggeration and as no one else reported the sighting it’s more than likely that. 

26 April 1890 two cowboys discovered a winged creature in the desert between Whetstone and Huachuca mountains.  The creature seemed exhausted as they noticed it was only able to fly a short distance at a time.  After a seven mile chase the men were finally able to overcome the creature with their Winchester rifles.  It attempted to attack but died from exhaustion; the men cautiously approached and found the creature measured roughly 28 m (92 ft) in length with its widest diameter being 1.4 m (55 In).  It had two feet being situated in front of the body shortly below the wings.  Its head was 2.4 m (8 ft) with a thick strong jaw with sharp teeth.  Its eyes were the size of dinner plates which protruded from halfway from the head.  Its wingspan was measured at 48.8 m (160 ft) from tip to tip.  They were thick and nearly transparent without hair or feathers; the body was smooth and also without hair or feathers.  They cut off a small portion of the wingtip and planned to return with several prominent men who would bring it back to town before it was mutilated.  The hide was supposedly sent east to be studied by scientists.  Most claim that a photograph was taken of the creature; but upon reading the article it mentions no such photo. Nothing has ever been produced to prove if this nothing more than fanciful story telling or not.

MOTW-080911-Thunderbird 2

The Same photo after alterations to included a Pteranodon.

The death of outlaw John Sontag (1893)

The Battle of Stone Corral as seen unaltered.

Some historical photos have been edited to include giant birds.  An example of this is The Battle of Stone Corral in it the wounded John Sontag lying next to the 

possemen who ambushed him.  But recent photos have been altered to include a Pteranodon which has long been extinct.

 

20th Century Sightings Edit

03 September 1903 The Pittsburgh Press wrote an article about a half bird and half reptile that had been seen around Stansbury Island; located in the southern portion of The Great Salt Lake.  Several people reported seeing it.  Martin Gilbert and John Barry hunted for the creature for three days and had more information on its characteristics.  Martin Gilbert estimated the creature to be at least 50 ft in length; while John Barry stated that upon examining a track left by the creature it would be about 65 feet from head to tail.    It had an alligator like head with a jaw that opened to 10 ft.    The wingspan was at least 100 ft from tip to tip.  The body was covered in horned scales, although both men accounted that this could salt build up from the lake; as the creature would constantly dive into the lake. 

The two men spotted it at 9 A.M. on the northwest side of the island.  They said it had bat-like wings; they observed the creature for most of the day.  It disappeared around sunset before night fell.  The men said they were paralyzed with fear, since they were unsure when it would return.   But an hour later, the creature returned with a horse in its jaws.  The horse was crushed and mangled, both men watched as it carried its prey to a nearby cave.  They recalled listening to the creature devour the horse and then quietly returned to their camp on the eastern shore of the island.

09 January 1976 in San Antonio, Texas people in Robstown had heard rumors of a flying creature the size of a car.  Local television and newspapers would spoof the legend in tongue-in-cheek never taking the reports too seriously.  Most reports would come in Lower Rio Grande Valley along the Mexican border.  The week before Harlingen, Texas televised giant bird prints found in a freshly plowed field.  The impression had three toes, 9 inches wide and 12 inches long.  On the same day San Benito, Texas policemen Arturo Padilla and Homero Galvan, reported a huge bird with a 15 foot wingspan gliding through the valley city.  Both men reported seeing the creature while traveling in separate vehicles.  Alverico Guajardo claimed something hit his mobile home near Brownsville, Texas.  He said he grabbed a knife telling his wife and child to stay inside.  Guajardo said he stood there for three minutes eye to eye with a 4 foot tall animal that had eyes like silver dollars, wings like a bird, and a face like a bat.

“It more or less looked like a stork or pelican type of bird, the color was white.  I’ve done a lot of hunting but I’ve never seen anything like it.  The thing was really oversized, but if I see it again I’ll shoot it.” Padilla said.  The police chief of San Benito Ted Cortez reported that six weeks ago a man ran into the station in a panic.  “He told us that he wasn’t drunk.  I’m Sober and I saw it.” Cortez said “Later two kids came over and claimed to have it as well.  They said it had a kind of bald head like a monkey.”

In 25 July 1977 Lawndale, Illinois when ten year old Marlon Lowe was attacked and carried away by two giant birds.  This occurrence was witnessed by his mother, two other boys; Travis Goodwin and Michael Thompson, and two other friends. The boys were playing hide and seek in the yard of Ruth and Jake Lowe’s house.  At 8:30 p.m. the two birds approached from the south.  Marlon Lowe told newspapers that the birds initially swooped down toward Travis Goodwin who ran and jumped in a small plastic swimming pool, the birds then went for Marlon.  One bird grabbed at Marlon’s sleeveless shirt snagging its claws in the cloth straps lifting him 2 feet off the ground and was carried for a distance of 10.6 m (35 ft.) by the bird from the backyard to the front.  Marlon at the time weighed 30 Kilos (65 lbs.) he tried to retaliate in vain against the attacks by punching the bird that had caught him. Upon hearing Marlon’s cries his mother came out to see what was wrong.  Betty and Jim Daniels (friends of the family) were cleaning a camper parked in the Lowe’s driveway and joined Ruth Lowe.  Ruth Lowe gave chase yelling and the bird finally dropped Marlon after he had continued to strike it.  According to his mother the birds cleared the top of the camper, went beneath some telephone wires and flapped their wings very gracefully one more time.  She backed up as the birds came close to her in their ascent.  Her husband and the Daniels arrived in time to watch the birds fly away in a northern direction toward some large trees around the Kickapoo Creek, which was the last time they were seen.  Following his release Marlon ran into the camper that sat in the driveway and refused to come out for a long while.  He suffered no physical injuries from the attack other than his frayed shirt.

Ruth Lowe was the only adult that had best observed them described the birds:

“It had a white ring around its half foot long neck. The rest of the body was very black. The bird’s bill was six inches in length and hooked at the end. The claws on the feet were arranged with three front, one in the back. Each wing, minus the body, was four feet at the very least. The entire length of the bird’s body, from beak to tail feather was approximately four and one half feet.”

Jim Daniels told Steve Hahn of the Springfield State Journal Register he’d seen the birds from 4.6 m (15 ft.) rising 1.8 m (6 ft.) above the ground flying toward the Kickapoo Creek. He stated:

“I’ve been around this planet 51 years and I’ve never seen anything like it.  They looked like overgrown vultures.”

Later that evening Mrs. Lowe called in a report to the police and game warden as she was concerned for the safety of other children who lived and played along the Kickapoo Creek.  The police searched the area on 25 and 26 July and found no evidence of the birds as nothing was reported.  The report to the police led to newspaper stories and other publicity; which led to ridicule of the Lowe family as they began to receive crank phone calls.  Marlon was teased as ‘the little bird boy’, even local wildlife officials claimed the story was untrue.  Logan County Officer A.A. Mervar was quoted as saying, “I don’t think the child was picked up.”

During July and August of 1977 some citizens and legal authorities declared they too had seen large birds.  28 July, 5:30 p.m. three days after the Lowe report Janet Brandt of Armington, Illinois was driving home when she saw a bird larger than the hood of her car, flying east to west at rooftop level.  Only seeing it briefly she could only describe the ring of white on its neck.  On the same day at Stanley Thompson’s farm near Covell in McLean County observed a large bird that had appeared whilst radio-controlled model planes were flown.  Possibly drawn in by the planes it had begun to perch on the Thompson Barn when everyone began to yell, “It’s a bird!”  Disturbed by the shouting, it circled and flew away toward Bloomington in graceful flight.  It remained visible for some time due to its size.  Stanley Thompson estimated the body was 1.8 m (6 ft.) long and had a wingspan of 3 m (9.8 ft.), the coloring of the bird was brown with white wingtips.

On the same day around sunset, 18 yr. old Lisa Montgomery was washing her car in Tremont when she witnessed one large bird soaring slowly over a cornfield.  The bird was black with a low tail, she guessed the bird’s wingspan to be 1.8 m (6 ft.) She lost sight of the bird as it flew toward Pekin, in the direction of the sunset.

29 July 1977 another attack was witnessed by James Major, a Bloomington mailman; at 5:50 a.m. he was driving his truck from Armington to Delavan past a Hampshire hog farm in Tazewell County.  He stopped at the sight of two large birds in the sky.  Watching as one stayed high in the air the other flew low over the cornfield. Extending its legs more than 2 ft. below its body it grabbed what Majors thought to be a piglet.  He guessed the pig’s weight to be around 27 kilos (59 and half pnds.)  He compared the sound of the bird’s flapping wings to the noise of “a jet taking off.” The birds then joined and flew to the north.  When asked for a description he said the wingspan was 2.4 m (8 ft.) or larger with a plump belly, straight tail, a bill 6 to 8 inches long and fierce appearance.  Majors had seen condors and said these birds were larger.

Most other sightings around this time can be attributed to blue herons as experts agreed this was the most logical answer to the giant bird sightings. 

The last sighting occurring in 11 August 1977 John Chappell of Odin told the Centralia Sentinel that a gray-black bird arrived from the northeast at about 7 a.m.  It landed in a tree above the small pond on the Chappell Farm.  John Chappell said from 122 m (400 ft.) he guessed the wingspan at 3 to 3.6 meters (10 to 12 ft.) and a body 1.8. m (6 ft.) long.  The farm is 4.8 Km (3 miles) away from Odin.  He and his wife Wanda Chappell watched from a sliding glass door that faced the pond.  She said that she had seen buzzards before and there was no comparison.  The bird remained for five to ten minutes with Mrs. Chappell using binoculars to observe it.  She guessed it’s wingspan to 4.2 m (14 ft.) as there was a boat on the pond that measured 4.9 m (16 ft.) Wanda also said it appeared to stand 1.2 m (4 ft.).  “It looked like a prehistoric bird. It was really fantastic. The head didn’t have any feathers and it long neck, crooked, kind of ‘S’ shaped.  The body was covered with feathers and was gray or charcoal-colored.  We couldn’t tell much about the feet, but it had long legs.”  The bird made no sound and in the end Wanda thought it may have been a large vulture watching as it flew off in a southwest toward Raccoon Lake and the city of Centralia.

14 September 1983 James Thompson was working for the Harlingen Emergency Medical Service was driving down Highway 100, some 6.4 Km (4 miles) east of Los Fresnos as he was returing from South Padre Island when he spotted the giant bird.  Describing the bird as having a wingspan that was 1.5 to 1.8 m (5 to 6 ft.) being black or grayish with a rough texture.  The birds head had a hump like that of a Brahma bull, a small pouch near its throat like a pelican but had almost no neck at all. James said the bird had no feathers but rather a hide-type covering, a pterodactyl-like bird he claimed.  Al Schriver, assistant manager of the Laguna-Atascosa Wildlife Refuge near the Texas Coast said he and other biologists had been studying the reports to clarify what others in San Benito as well as San Antonio had claimed to see.  With explanations ranging from white pelicans to golden eagles.

Evidence Edit

Possibility of Existence Edit

2. Somewhat improbable:  Its might be an undiscovered species of eagle, but endangered like the Californian Condor.

Sources Edit

1. Piasa - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

2. Haunted Illinois: The Legend of the Piasa Bird

3. The daily phoenix., September 08, 1868, Image 2

4. The Texas Countryman (Hempstead, Tex.), Vol. 8, No. 21, Ed. 1 Friday, September 25, 1868

5. Ashtabula weekly telegraph., January 08, 1870

6. Tombstone epitaph., April 26, 1890

7. Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 15, Number 23, 20 March 1882

8. Cowboys & Dragons Unraveling the Mystery of the Thunderbird Photograph by Mark Chorvinsky

9. The daily intelligencer., March 27, 1880, Image 1

10. The Pittsburgh Press - Sep 3, 1903

11. Ellensburg Daily Record - Jan 9, 1976