They appear out of the sky like the shadow of doom. They have been described as having wingspans of up to 20 feet wide, hooked talons and razor-like beaks. They are the mystery birds of Illinois.
The ancient Indians of Illinois were no strangers to these birds. Two giant petroglyphs once decorated the stone bluffs near Alton, Illinois. The paintings portrayed a huge, winged creature known as the PIASA: The Monster Bird, which is translated to mean the "bird that devours men". The French explorer Pere Marquette recorded the first accounts of the paintings in 1673. He was impressed enough by them to record them in his journals and note that the account of the Piasa involved a terrible creature that preyed on the local Indians. An Indian warrior killed the creature and a painting of it was etched onto the bluffs to recall the legend.
American Indian lore is filled with stories of strange, monster birds with enormous wingspans and the propensity to carry away human victims. They called these creatures "Thunderbirds" because the Legend of the Giant Bird claimed that their flapping wings made a sound like rolling thunder. The birds have been described as having wingspans of 20 to 40 feet or more; hooked talons; razor-sharp beaks; and sometimes descriptions which seem oddly close to Quetzalcoatlus, one of the pterodactyls of prehistoric times.
But not all of these stories and accounts date back to the times of the early Americans. Most of them come from times that are not so long ago.... and are disturbingly close to home.
One modern day "flap" of Thunderbird sightings began in April 1948, according to Loren Coleman in his book, CURIOUS ENCOUNTERS. On April 4, a former Army Colonel named Walter F. Siegmund revealed that he had seen a gigantic bird in the sky above Alton. He had been talking with a local farmer and Colonel Ralph Jackson, the head of the Western Military Academy, at the time. "I thought there was something wrong with my eyesight," he said, "but it was definitely a bird and not a glider or a jet plane. It appeared to be flying northeast... from the movements of the object and its size, I figured it could only be a bird of tremendous size."
A few days later, a farmer named Robert Price from Caledonia would see the same, or a similar, bird. He called it a "monster bird... bigger than an airplane". On April 10, another sighting would take place and this time in Overland. A huge bird was spotted by Mr. and Mrs. Clyde Smith and Les Bacon. They said they thought the creature was an airplane until it started to flap its wings furiously.
On April 24, the bird was back in Alton. It was sighted by EM Coleman and his son, James. "It was an enormous, incredible thing with a body that looked like a naval torpedo," Coleman recalled later. "It was flying at about 500 feet and cast a shadow the same size as a Piper Cub at that height."
Then, on May 5, the bird was sighted for the last time in Alton. A man named Arthur Davidson called the police that evening to report the bird flying above the city. Later on that same night, Mrs. William Stallings of St. Louis informed the authorities that she had also seen it. "It was bright, about as big as a house," she said. A number of sightings then followed in the St. Louis are, but ironically, just when the public excitement over the bird reached its peak, the sightings came to an end.
Sightings of strange birds have not ended in Illinois and in fact continue today. One of the most exciting, and frightening, Illinois encounters occurred in 1977 in Lawndale, a small town in Logan County. On the evening of July 25, two giant birds appeared in the sky above Lawndale. The birds were reported several times as they circled and swooped in the sky. Finally, they headed straight down and reportedly attacked three boys who were playing in the backyard of Ruth and Jake Lowe. One of the birds grasped the shirt of ten-year-old Marlon Lowe, snagging its talons into the cloth. The boy tried in vain to fight the bird off then cried loudly for help.
The boy’s cries brought Marlon’s mother running outside. She later reported that she had seen the bird actually lift the boy from the ground and into the air. She screamed loudly and the bird released the child. It had carried him, at a height of about three feet, for a distance of about forty feet. She was sure that if she had not come outside, the bird had been capable of carrying the boy away. Luckily, although scratched and badly frightened, Marlon was not seriously injured.
Four other adults appeared on the scene within seconds of the attack. They described the birds as being black in color, with bands of white around their necks. They had long, curved beaks and a wingspan of at least 10 feet. The two birds were last seen flying toward some trees near Kickapoo Creek.
A second version of the Lawndale event is as follows:
July 25, 1977 Lawndale Illinois it was around 8:30 p.m. when Marlon Lowe a 10 year old boy was running for his life. He was playing with two friends in his family back yard when suddenly out of no where two huge black birds came out of the sky and began pursuing one of Marlons friends Travis Goodwin happily, Travis managed to escape by jumping into the swimming pool. Then the two switched there attention to Marlon. Marlon ran away as fast as he could but it was not fast enough. As he w as running he felt the talons of one of the birds grip the shoulder straps of his sleeveless shirt. Next the boy weighing 65 lb. was lifted of the ground 10 ft. Screaming and shouting at the top of his lungs as the bird easily carried him 40 ft. through the air from the back yard to the front yard. His parents Ruth and Jake Lowe heard the screaming and ran out side so did two family friends working near by Ruth was the first to see this horrific sight that would froze her blood. There her son was being abducted by a huge black bird resembling a Condor, punching up at its legs with all his might as his feathered kidnapper carried him aloft. Seconds later however, one of his punches must have hit home, because the bird suddenly opened his talons and dropped him to the ground before souring away with its mate. The four adults ran to the boy and discovered to there relief that except for a frayed shirt where the bird had grabbed him Marlon was physically ok. This is just one of the many bizarre accounts on file featuring encounters in North America with giant birds. Birds that should be impossible but yet seem to exist. In the case of Marlon Lowe he and his parents said the bird most closely resembled a Andean Condor, a black vulture like species with a wing span up to 10 ft. this species however is not native to North America. There is however a smaller version called the California condor which was once widely distributed across North America but by 1977 was virtually extinct in either case the structure of the condors feet in incapable of lifting and transporting anything as heavy as a ten year old boy.
Three days later, a McLean County farmer spotted a bird of the same size and description flying over his farm. He, his wife, and several friends were watching radio-controlled airplanes when the bird flew close to the models. He claimed the bird had a wingspan of again, at least 10 feet across. It dwarfed the small planes that buzzed close to it.
The next sighting took place near Bloomington when a mail truck driver named James Majors spotted the two birds. He was driving from Armington to Delevan when she saw them alongside of the highway. One of the birds dropped down into a field and snatched up a small animal. He believed the two birds were probably condors, but with 8 to 10 foot wingspans!
On July 28, Lisa Montgomery of Tremont was washing her car when she looked up and saw a giant bird crossing the sky overhead.
At 2:00 AM on Saturday, July 30, Dennis Turner and several friends from Downs reported a monstrous bird perched on a telephone pole. Turner claimed that the bird dropped something near the base of the pole. When police officers investigated the sighting, they found a huge rat near the spot.
Reports of giant birds continued to come in from Bloomington and the north central Illinois area, then finally further south, from Decatur to Macon and Sullivan. On July 30, the same day the birds were reported near Bloomington, a writer and construction worker named "Texas John Huffer" filmed two large birds while fishing at Lake Shelbyville. Huffer was a resident of Tuscola and was spending the day with his son when they both spotted the birds roosting in a tree. Huffer frightened the birds with his boat horn and when they took flight, he managed to shoot over 100 feet of film. He sold a portion of the footage to a television station in Champaign for a newscast. Huffer said that the largest bird had a wingspan of over 12 feet.
After the footage aired, experts were quick to dismiss Huffer’s claims, along with the reports of everyone else who reported the birds. Officials from the Department of Conservation insisted the birds were "merely" Turkey Vultures of the species cathartes aura. Not surprisingly, these claims were also refuted by wildlife experts and cryptozoologists who stated that no turkey vultures were of the size reported by witnesses. The largest flying bird in North America is the California Condor, which has a wingspread of up to 9 feet. The Condor is also on the endangered species list and is restricted to a few areas in California. There is little chance that a few stray birds traveled to Illinois to attack small children!
Another tale, related by Loren Coleman, involved the killing of a giant bird in December 1977. Strangely, this event also took place near Lawndale. Apparently a woman was on her way to work one morning when she saw something that looked like "a man standing in the road with something over its arms". The woman collapsed and was hospitalized, but later recovered. A group of men, after hearing this report, went to the spot, killed a large bird and then burned the body. The story was kept under wraps for some time for fear of ridicule.
So, what are these creatures? Some cryptozoological researchers like Loren Coleman believe that these thunderbirds may be Teratorns, a supposedly extinct bird that once roamed North and South America. If these prehistoric survivors are still around today, they could certainly account for the reports of the giant birds.
At this point, such creatures remain a mystery but one thing is sure, the sightings have continued over the years and occasionally an unusual report still trickles in from Central Illinois. So keep that in mind the next time that you are standing in an open field and a large, dark shadow suddenly fills the sky overhead. Was that just a cloud passing in front of the sun... or something else??
GIANT BIRD UPDATE: As late as Wednesday October 16, 2002, in an article published in the Anchorage Daily News, and also picked up by the wire services, reported "a giant winged creature like something out of Jurassic Park" sighted several times in Southwest Alaska. (source)
COPYRIGHT 2000 BY TROY TAYLOR. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
TALON AND SCRATCH MARKS FROM THE GIANT BIRD
Why all the fuss about giant flying creatures, giant birds, and giant feathers, and all somehow and in someway related back to the Wanderling?
Basically, the Wanderling's uncle stated many times that he felt the reason for his destiny and fascination regarding all aspects of giant flying creatures went back to an incident that involved the fly over of a giant airborne object that the Wanderling witnessed as a young boy. The object, of an unknown nature and an unknown origin, was seen by literally thousands of people along the coast of California barely three months into World War II. Eventually to be called the Battle of Los Angeles, the incident is mostly forgotten now. However, during the early morning hours of February 25, 1942 the whole city and surrounding communities were in an uproar as thousands of rounds of anti-aircraft shells were expended in an attempt to pull down whatever it was in the sky that night. The slow moving object, said to be as big or bigger than a Zeppelin, was caught in the glare of the searchlights from Santa Monica to Long Beach and seemed impervious to the the constant barrarge of shells. It eventually disappeared out over the Pacific after cruising along the coast and cutting inland for a while. The huge object was never clearly explained and was basically hushed up without response from the authorities.
THE VULTURE AS TOTEM
LEGEND OF THE GIANT BIRD
QUETZALCOATLUS: Dragon of the Clouds
MEDITATION ALONG METEOR CRATER RIM
POWER OF THE SHAMAN: Where Does It Come From, How Does It Work?
Where Is It Now, What Happened To It?
DO YOU THINK FLYING IN
THE SKY IS MAGICAL? (click image)
THUNDERBIRD SITE LIST