The Legendary Thunderbird Photo

MercuryCrest

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This?
Moth616.PNG.png

Definitely not, but thank you, I haven't seen that one before, so I hope you don't mind but I've added it to my collection.
 

Mythopoeika

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Definitely not, but thank you, I haven't seen that one before, so I hope you don't mind but I've added it to my collection.
Blessmycottonsocks posted a slightly larger version of that earlier in this thread.
 

Ogdred Weary

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As I recall, it was a huge bird (not a pterosaur). It was I think hung on the side of a barn with a bunch of people posing in front of it. The image (IIRC) was sepia-toned or black & white.

How big was it roughly?
 

Ogdred Weary

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If I had to guess (it's been a long time), wingspan was mayhap 25-30 feet.

Interesting, I'm curious do you. @Cochise and @Nosmo King feel like you've all seen the same photo? You are giving accounts with similarities and differences, you might all have seen the image and remembered it differently.
 

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Ooooh, I've got a set of those, I'll have a look through tomorrow, see it I can spot it!
I haven't been through every page (yet), but I've looked up every relevant article I can think of and there's no sign of it (yet ;) ).
 

Nosmo King

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Interesting, I'm curious do you. @Cochise and @Nosmo King feel like you've all seen the same photo? You are giving accounts with similarities and differences, you might all have seen the image and remembered it differently.
The photo I saw the bird was definately being held up by some old timer prospector types rather than being nailed to a barn. I believe it could be the same one @Cochise has seen but I cant know for sure.
 

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It didn't. Somewhere in my back issues and rumor books I have the late Mark Chorvinsky's story of his search for The Thunderbird Photo. He went through every page of every issue of every newspaper, magazine, or identifiable book that anybody who contacted him ever remembered seeing it in.

Of course, since I don't have the article to hand, this may also be a false memory...

This is why so many people are so quick to offer make up explanations and accept them rather than looking deep into their own memories and perceptions and how unreliable they are at the same time that we have nothing else to rely on. While the true Fortean finds bungee jumping through the universe with no firm reference points exhilarating, for most people, it's terrifying.

Ok, responding to a ten year old posting (but hey we live in Forteanaland, in which time is very elastic):

There are a number of different photographs, from different eras and different publications.

I suspect that different persons remember a different photograph as the original one, when there probably is no one original photo. So, we currently have several different photos which may be original to someone, but not to most or everyone. With time, and viewing different competing photos, the memory of what that original photo looked like may be changing, so that it will not be recognized if it is actually ever viewed again!

I know that my memory of something evolves over time, especially when I have similar competing experiences or memories: a conflation of memories.

This conflation of memories is known and dealt with in education and training. In developing formal training, these similar, competing constructs must be noted and the differences between the actual and the competing made excruciatingly clear for the learner, so the focus can be on, and only on, the actual learning objective.

I put forth for my fellow Forteans' consideration that this thread may be the world’s largest compilation of dead-thunderbird-with-person-or-persons photos. And yet, no conclusion is reached, or can be. Even the earliest published photo may not be what was the “original” for some of us.

So, carry on :)

ps - could someone please tell Karl Shukar?
 

Ogdred Weary

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Ok, responding to a ten year old posting (but hey we live in Forteanaland, in which time is very elastic):

There are a number of different photographs, from different eras and different publications.

I suspect that different persons remember a different photograph as the original one, when there probably is no one original photo. So, we currently have several different photos which may be original to someone, but not to most or everyone. With time, and viewing different competing photos, the memory of what that original photo looked like may be changing, so that it will not be recognized if it is actually ever viewed again!

I know that my memory of something evolves over time, especially when I have similar competing experiences or memories: a conflation of memories.

This conflation of memories is known and dealt with in education and training. In developing formal training, these similar, competing constructs must be noted and the differences between the actual and the competing made excruciatingly clear for the learner, so the focus can be on, and only on, the actual learning objective.

I put forth for my fellow Forteans' consideration that this thread may be the world’s largest compilation of dead-thunderbird-with-person-or-persons photos. And yet, no conclusion is reached, or can be. Even the earliest published photo may not be what was the “original” for some of us.

So, carry on :)

ps - could someone please tell Karl Shukar?

I have wondered about this too and have thought it was an onion (no real centre) or a lot of smoke with no fire to swap metaphors.

It sounds like three posters here have all seen something very similar, whether are the same is another question, whether any is the "original" is another and whether said original is "real" is a third.
 

Nosmo King

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I have wondered about this too and have thought it was an onion (no real centre) or a lot of smoke with no fire to swap metaphors.

It sounds like three posters here have all seen something very similar, whether are the same is another question, whether any is the "original" is another and whether said original is "real" is a third.
Its interesting that all but one of the reported 'Thunderbird' photos are of a pterodactyl type creature, unlike the raptor type I remember.
 

Ogdred Weary

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Its interesting that all but one of the reported 'Thunderbird' photos are of a pterodactyl type creature, unlike the raptor type I remember.

Reported? Do you mean the faked ones?
 

Ogdred Weary

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You may say that, I couldn't possibly comment :p

It's just that you said "reported" which suggests written accounts but it seemed you were referring to the photos.
 

Nosmo King

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It's just that you said "reported" which suggests written accounts but it seemed you were referring to the photos.
Indeed, however all the photos that I have seen recently are captioned to say they are of the legendary 'Thunderbird', rather than captioned to say they are of a prehistoric pterodactyl, hence my comment on the photos being reportedly of the Thunderbird.
 

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I have wondered about this too and have thought it was an onion (no real centre) or a lot of smoke with no fire to swap metaphors.

It sounds like three posters here have all seen something very similar, whether are the same is another question, whether any is the "original" is another and whether said original is "real" is a third.
Well, at leas the thunderbird aficiandos have unblurry photos to work from. I am a hairy man ape follower (like a fav football team) so always hope in vain.
 

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This is probably covered in earlier posts, but I'm a very busy and important person so I can't be arsed to do a search. Seriously though, I find it interesting that the first I ever heard about the legendary thunderbird photo included the common belief that the image appeared in one of those old Time-Life book series with all sorts of spooky or mysterious topics. The content got recycled many times over the years, so there are more versions, all slightly different, of the Ancient Mysteries, Mysterious Places, Legendary Creatures (and so on) type of books than can be counted, it seems, and no one could ever find the one that had the image. That was long ago.

I don't recall seeing such an image "in the wild", that is before it became legendary, but when I heard about it, it was easy to picture such a thing in those books. I have a few random volumes from various series, mostly stuff with one or two page treatments of UFO reports. For many years, I've looked in any such books I've seen at libraries, book sales, and thrift shops. Of course I've never found anything resembling the image described. If I ever do, I'll buy the book even if it costs a quarter all by itself!
 

blessmycottonsocks

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I'm just curious as to when the North American legend of the Thunderbird - a very large, eagle-like bird that supposedly caused thunder by flapping its huge (but definitely feathered) wings, first became conflated with pterosaurs.
 
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Nosmo King

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I'm just curious as to when the North American legend of the Thunderbird - a very large, eagle-like bird that supposedly caused thunder by flapping its huge (but definitely feathered) wings, first became conflated with pterosaurs.
Indeed, I was quite surprised when I started reading this thread, and did some online research, that so many images supposedly show a dead pterosaur, attributing it as the 'Thunderbird', it was always a huge raptor in my memory. There are plenty of images of Totem poles and petroglyphs of the Thunderbird online showing it as feathered, so historically it was always a bird, not a pterosaur.
 

Ogdred Weary

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Indeed, I was quite surprised when I started reading this thread, and did some online research, that so many images supposedly show a dead pterosaur, attributing it as the 'Thunderbird', it was always a huge raptor in my memory. There are plenty of images of Totem poles and petroglyphs of the Thunderbird online showing it as feathered, so historically it was always a bird, not a pterosaur.

We are falling for semantics here, the photo is referred to as "The Thunderbird Photo" partially because of the legend, however, no such bird - one so large it caused storms with it's wings, ever existed. Equally The Roc from Middle Easternlegend, which could pick up an elephant in its talons, didn't exist either.

The largest known flying birds lived in the prehistoric Americas: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teratornithidae

There are contemporary stories of various living giant flying creatures in the modern US (and further afield too) so it's unsurprising that these sightings have been conflated with the Thunderbird myth. Some people feel surviving teratons might be the Thunderbird. Equally, some flying cryptids are described as pterosaur-like, so they've got mixed up in there too. To some people the Thunderbird is an extant pterosaur.

Ultimately I suspect that The Thunderbird is a myth that grew amongst Native Americans and other people have partially co-opted it and partially projected things onto it. If you're going to fake said photo a pterosaur is maybe more fun to do than simply a giant bird.

So the Thunderbird needn't necessarily be a bird.

 

EnolaGaia

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O.k. Here is the Tombstone legend as I have heard it.

In April of 1890, two cowboys claim to have sighted a giant flying creature in the Arizona desert. Apparently it had the body of a serpent, face of an alligator, and two clawed feet. ...
Eventually they killed it.
The body was smooth, with a wingspan of 160ft and a body length of 92ft +. More bat than bird.
According to the Tombstone Epitaph, the cowboys cut off a piece of wing and brought it into Tombstone. ...
Two decades after this was posted, people are still hoping to find the legendary thunderbird photo ... :roll:

Let's start from the beginning ...

The legend of the thunderbird photo is - and has always been - linked to a rumored photo that would serve as evidence for an 1890 article in the Arizona newspaper Tombstone Epitaph.

Here is the full text of the article. If you'd like to see the original specimen, follow the Library of Congress link below.

Tombstone Epitaph., April 26, 1890

FOUND ON THE DESERT.
A Strange Winged Monster Discovered and Killed on the Huachuca Desert.

A winged monster, resembling a huge alligator with an extremely elongated tail and an immense pair of wings, was found on the desert between the Whetstone and Huachuca mountains last Sunday by two ranchers who were returning home from the Huachucas. The creature was evidently greatly exhausted by a long flight and when discovered was able to fly but a short distance at a time.

After the first shock of wild amazement had passed the two men, who were on horseback and armed with Winchester rifles, regained sufficient courage to pursue the monster and after an exciting chase of several miles succeeded in getting near enough to open fire with their rifles and wounding it. The creature then turned on the men, but owing to its exhausted condition they were able to keep out of its way and after a few well directed shots the monster partly rolled over and remained motionless.

The men cautiously approached, their horses snorting with terror, and found that the creature was dead. They then proceeded to make an examination and found that it measured about ninety-two feet in length and the greatest diameter was about fifty inches. The monster had only two feet, these being situated a short distance in front of where the wings were joined to the body. The head, as near as they could judge, was about eight feet long, the jaws being thickly set with strong, sharp teeth. Its eyes were as large as a dinner plate and protruded about half way from the head.

They had some difficulty in measuring the wings as they were partly folded under the body, but finally got one straightened out sufficiently to get a measurement of seventy-eight feet, making the total length from tip to tip about 160 feet. The wings were composed of a thick and nearly transparent membrane and were devoid of feathers or hair, as was the entire body. The skin of the body was comparatively smooth and easily penetrated by a bullet. The men cut off a small portion of the tip of one wing and took it home with them.

Late last night one of them arrived in this city for supplies and to make the necessary preparations to skin the creature, when the hide will be sent east for examination by the eminent scientists ol the day. The finder returned early this morning accompanied by several prominent men who will endeavor to bring the strange creature to this city before it is mutilated.

Tombstone Epitaph. (Tombstone, Ariz.), 26 April 1890. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn95060905/1890-04-26/ed-1/seq-3/
 

EnolaGaia

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... There are contemporary stories of various living giant flying creatures in the modern US (and further afield too) so it's unsurprising that these sightings have been conflated with the Thunderbird myth. Some people feel surviving teratons might be the Thunderbird. Equally, some flying cryptids are described as pterosaur-like, so they've got mixed up in there too. To some people the Thunderbird is an extant pterosaur.
... If you're going to fake said photo a pterosaur is maybe more fun to do than simply a giant bird.
So the Thunderbird needn't necessarily be a bird.
As it turns out, any photo validating the 1890 Arizona story wouldn't be of a bird at all. The creature allegedly killed by the two cowboys had no hair or feathers, and it was summarily described as being a "giant alligator." The originally alleged monster was more akin to a dragon than a bird.
 
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EnolaGaia

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This 2007 article from the True West website is as good a summary as any I've found for what happened - and when - between 1890 and the present day.
Tombstone’s Flying Monster
The Old West cold case on the Thunderbird photo is solved in our eyes.
June 1, 2007 Jana Bommersbach

One of the West’s most fascinating cold cases involves a flying monster, a dying town and a disappearing photograph.

For decades, people have been trying to solve the mystery of the “Thunderbird photograph.”

True West doesn’t pretend to have all the answers, but we have some, and they give a pretty clear picture of what happened to the picture that has been the source of such angst and wonderment all these years.

Let’s just say that it is a mystery to us that the Thunderbird photograph is still a mystery. ...

Tombstone had fallen on bad days by 1890 and was a town in trouble. An earthquake had shifted the earth’s plates and flooded the silver mines that had once brought so much wealth. Several attempts to pump out the water and revive the mining interests all failed. While there were still several bars in town, the population was declining and business was way off. Everyone feared the town’s heyday was past and would never come back.

But Tombstone still had two daily newspapers, as did nearby Tucson. It doesn’t take much imagination to realize a flying monster would be big news, both to curious tourists and studious scientists. And any Chamber of Commerce guy worth his salt would have instantly seen the economic possibility in such a creature—this was better than a circus coming to town. ...

But alas, that’s not what happened. ... There wasn’t even a mention in the competing Tombstone daily, The Nugget.

In fact, and this is most telling of all, there never was another story in the Tombstone Epitaph about this fantastic discovery. ...

And it’s important to know this: There was no photograph printed in the Tombstone Epitaph of this flying giant. From reading the one and only article ever printed in Tombstone about this incident, it is clear that no picture had yet been taken ...

All of this would end there except for the marvels of Western lore. Horace Bell first reminded everybody of the story in his 1930 book On the Old West Coast. With his reprint of the Epitaph story (slightly different from the original), Bell never mentioned a photograph. Nor did he claim one existed.

It wasn’t until 1963 ... that the notion of a photograph was advanced by a writer named Jack Pearl in Saga magazine. He not only claimed there was a photograph of the creature, but declared it had been published in The Tombstone Epitaph in 1886. He stated the picture showed the bird “nailed to the wall. The newspaper said that he had been shot by two prospectors and hauled into town by wagon. Lined up in front of the bird were six grown men with their arms outstretched, fingertip to fingertip. The creature measured about 36 feet from wingtip to wingtip.”

Another writer, H.M. Cranmer, contended in Fate magazine in the fall of 1963 that the picture had been published in newspapers all over the country. Ivan T. Sanderson ... claimed to not only seeing the photo, but once having a photocopy he unfortunately loaned out and never got back. Someone later came forward and remembered seeing Sanderson display the photo on Canadian television, although no copies of the show have been found.

In the late 1990s, the search for the Thunderbird photo had become an obsession. ...

Let’s go back to how this “Thunderbird Photograph” story got started. It was 1963 and Jack Pearl’s article in what some call the “sensationalistic men’s magazine” Saga. He claimed the Epitaph printed the photo in 1886. He was wrong on all counts.

The Tombstone Epitaph staff members went back in the late 1960s, searching for the photo so it could solve this Old West mystery. They couldn’t find one. One wasn’t printed with the original article, and the paper didn’t publish a follow-up article. Plus Pearl is wrong on the year—the incident didn’t even happen until 1890. ...

The bottom line seems clear: The evidence is overwhelming that this “photograph” just never existed. ...
FULL STORY: https://truewestmagazine.com/tombstone-epitaph/
 

Ogdred Weary

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As it turns out, any photo validating the 1890 Arizona story wouldn't be of a bird at all. The creature allegedly killed by the two cowboys had no hair or feathers, and it was summarily described as being a "giant alligator." The originally alleged monster was more akin to a dragon than a bird.

That's a separate story though isn't it? Granted it may have inspired the Thunderbird photo story or hoax? If it is a hoax.
 

Cochise

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Given all the years searching I doubt that we well ever get to the true origin. The Thuderbird legend - as opposed to the Arizona story - is definitely of a bird.

Here's a sample originally published in 1898 - feathers are specifically mentioned.

https://pnsn.org/outreach/native-am...e-stories/the-thunder-bird-a-tillamook-legend

It might indeed be race memory of Condors if their range ever extended into North America

On the other hand even normal big hunting birds are pretty impressive.

At some point obviously two or three different legends and (probably) hoax stories have become conflated, hence pterodactyl looking creatures - which presumably would have been completely unknown to the Native American makers of the legend.

I'm as convinced as I can be, given we are talking a sighting in a book that was lost to me 45 years ago when I left home, that the photo I saw was of a very large bird, not a lizard/pterodactyl. The book was something like the Readers Digest Book of Wonders (I just made that up, I mean it was a typical mass market coffee table book of the time).

It's as surprising that no-one seems able to produce one of these books from the 60's or 70's as the fact that no-one can trace the original photo - if there ever was one.

Perhaps the universe skipped a groove somewhere (as we've discussed in Mandela Effect, I think).
 

EnolaGaia

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That's a separate story though isn't it? Granted it may have inspired the Thunderbird photo story or hoax? If it is a hoax.
The term 'thunderbird' is applied (sometimes quite loosely or even unwisely ... ) to multiple historical / folkloric topics or entities such as:

- a mythical creature in Native American religion / folklore;
- prehistoric giant birds; and
- sightings of giant birds reported to this day.

Even though these applications of 'thunderbird' are often thrown in the mix when discussing the MIA image, they are not necessarily relevant to the topic of the 'thunderbird photo' per se.

The photo is a legendary piece of evidence for a specific incident involving the killing of a huge flying creature. The photo is an image of the carcass and people (presumably including the killers) illustrating its size and how real it was.

The story of the killing-a-'thunderbird' (whatever ...) traces back to the 1890 Tombstone newspaper article. The story of the MIA photo derived from the story of that particular incident. As far as anyone's been able to establish, the first claims there'd been a photo taken back in 1890 didn't surface until the 1960s. No one's identified any account from the original 1890 article up until Pearl's 1963 article in Saga that claims there ever was a photo.
 

EnolaGaia

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Here's the 1963 article that seems to have been the origin of the thunderbird photo legend:

“Monster Bird That Carries Off Human Beings!”
Jack Pearl
SAGA, May 1963, p. 28 ff.
 
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