The Legendary Thunderbird Photo

PeniG

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[rant]Texas took plenty of part in the Civil War! CF the Battle of Sabine Pass, the Red River Campaign, Col. Tom Green, Hood's Texas Brigade, the Battle of Galveston, the Yankee occupation of Brownsville, the all-important cotton trade, etc. etc. etc. You don't have to be completely overrun and devastated by the enemy to take part in a war. It's true that the entire Trans-Mississippi was treated like a red-headed stepchild by the gummit, which acted as if a) only military operations mattered (if that had been true the Confederacy would have won; it was economic stupidity that doomed them from Day 1) and b) the citizens of the western states should be happy to bleed themselves dry of all men and resources and let the Comanches kill all the civilians in support of the culturally superior eastern states, so I can see where you got that impression; but it's not true.[/rant]

Excuse me; I spent most of last year researching the Texas home front for a story and I've got a lot invested in it.

Anyway, the "Civil War" Thunderbird photo with which I am most familiar is an acknowledged fake by the folks who brought us The Blair Witch Project, and is very much in line with their whole artistic approach to producing fictional Forteana. Others have been produced, as have photos of Civil War dinosaur hunters; it's a fairly easy hoax to pull, given the ease with which reasonable facsimiles of Civil War uniforms, faux "old-timey cameras," and so on can be obtained. You don't even need Photoshop.

http://www.cryptomundo.com/cryptozoo-news/c-w-dinos/
 

Bigfoot73

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so I can see where you got that impression; but it's not true.[/rant]

Fair enough , history written by the winners viewed from 5000 miles away.
 

PeniG

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Actually a surprising amount of what people think of as American Civil War history was written by the losers, but that's got nothing much to do with Thunderbirds and could encompass volumes.
 

Moooksta

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Alas it was the Civil War weekend soldiers and their stuffed bird, the book clearly reveals it as a fake for a turn of the century TV show.


As for the other photo...certainly rings bells with me. Big bird nailed to a barn. I thought it was above the open front doors and for some reason I see the barn as being red wood with gaps between the planks...go figure...
 

Bigfoot73

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Everybody remembers this photo in a book - surely it must have appeared in newspapers first? Maybe local ones, then possibly nationals.
Old newspaper photo archives might make a good starting point for any researcher with a good resistance to drug abuse and self injury.
 

stu neville

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gordonrutter said:
...If THE Thunderbird picture was rediscovered there would be a big hoo ha about it!

God yeah. We'd know about it in no uncertain terms. It is a fascinating case though - a big percentage of us remember it like some kind of archetype.
 

PeniG

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Not everybody remembers it from a book. Some people remember it from back issues of a newspaper (I believe most commonly the Arizona Telegraph) and some as a souvenir postcard.

It'd make an awesome postcard. It astonishes me that nobody's made one.
 

Bigfoot73

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Why is it we are all concerned with what happened to the photo ? What happened to the actual bird? Did it get stuffed, made into ornaments, eaten,what ? Does nobody have an old relative's diary recording it?
It seems strange that there is no other remnant or record of it, if it ever actually existed.
 

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Good point, BF73. Unless it looked so delicious the hunters couldn't help but tuck in.
 

PeniG

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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.
 

Bigfoot73

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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.

Posthumous kudos to Mark C.

Since there are plenty of current Thunderbird sightings, following up on them or even going looking for it in Pennsylvania or Michigan might prove more worthwhile.
 

PeniG

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It depends on what you're looking for, thunderbirds or The Thunderbird Picture. Chorvinsky (who I think was probably the single greatest heir to Fort, in America, anyway) was interested less in the subject of the picture than in the fact that everybody remembered it but nobody could ever find it when they went looking for it again. He wanted to establish, as a baseline, the fact or otherwise of its existence. And he did the impossible - proved a negative.

At least to himself. :)
 

Mister_Awesome

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Strangemag's site used to have a discussion about it somewhere, to the point where I think a lot of the recent interest originated there, but I haven't been able to find it the last few times I was on...
 

EnolaGaia

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The recent identification of a fossil seabird with a wingspan between 6.1 and 7.4m (20-24ft) puts me in mind of the Thunderbird ...

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-28164063

It's also interesting in light of the fact this extinct(?) bird's remains were found in North America - location of most Thunderbird (etc.) sightings.
 

RyoHazuki

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Scientists do not yet understand why these giants of the skies died out.

Probably because cowboys kept nailing them to the sides of barns.
 

CuriousIdent

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Given how much I have frequented these boards over the years I'm kind of amazed I've only come in contact with this today. :)

Fascinating thread. As far as I can tell two people mentioned possible sources for publications which may have published the infamous photo, but were never followed up on.

One poster seemed to think it was in an issue of Life magazine sometime in the 1950s. Another a a book they read in public library in Oakhurst, California. But they could not remember what book.

Mysterious as hell.
 

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How about this? Loads of us remember seeing it but it seems the picture no longer exists as far we know. I know I definitely saw it in my teens.
So what if the photograph was taken by a time traveller or something and was actually printed and we've all seen it but something 'subsequently' happened to the photographer before he could take it and the image was never really taken or printed and all we have is a faded shifting memory of an alternative thing we think we've seen? Or something? What if this phenomena is wayyyyyy bigger than an actual picture of a monstrous bird?

I'm claiming a copyright on this as a script idea anyway.
 

Mythopoeika

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I definitely remember seeing it too.
Interesting idea you propose there.
The thing is, surely changing the timeline would also change memories? Unless human thought has some ability to defy the constraints of time and this universe.
 

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Well...something odd is going on. We can't all be remembering a picture that doesn't appear to have ever existed so maybe it's time to explore other possibilities.
 

Mythopoeika

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Another possibility is that it only appeared in one or two publications, and since then somebody (or some corporation) has acquired the copyright and never re-published it.
The problem is, nobody can remember these publications where it originally appeared.
 

PeteByrdie

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Well...something odd is going on. We can't all be remembering a picture that doesn't appear to have ever existed so maybe it's time to explore other possibilities.
I like your time-travel idea. Perhaps alternative universes have collided leaving us with a memory of something from one universe that has never existed in our own. I've read a theory in at least one forum that the image people remember is actually from a book showing a photo of a large bird in the centre, with photos of men either side of it, and that the two things have been conflated in folks' brains to be part of a single picture. I don't actually remember ever having seen the illusive picture, yet remember feeling a strange sense of familiarity when first reading about it (many years ago now), as though I felt I should be able to remember it.
 

Monstrosa

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I still think it could have been this picture.
4422449312_42727299f4_o_zpsce2bb477.jpg
 
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CuriousIdent

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I still think it could have been this picture.
4422449312_42727299f4_o_zpsce2bb477.jpg

I've seen it posted a fair few times. No idea where that came from. Or indeed if it's a genuine bird. I mean, if it *is* that's incredible, in its own right. But all the same...

The image which most have described doesn't quite match this though. That refers to it being nailed to the wall of a Barn, and with multiple people in the photo. Cowboys, in fact. Or at least of that period. And not in American Civil War costumes. It was also less Bird like and more prehistoric, I believe. I could be wrong.
 

CuriousIdent

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Another possibility is that it only appeared in one or two publications, and since then somebody (or some corporation) has acquired the copyright and never re-published it.
The problem is, nobody can remember these publications where it originally appeared.


Not implausible. I wonder (not wanting to get to conspiracy theorist, here) but do certain Native American tribes consider Thunderbirds to be sacred? If so, is it impossible that somebody with Native American ties purchased and suppressed the photograph?

Yeah. That might be pushing it a bit far. :)

The magazine referred to upthread was Life magazine:

Hi guys,

Just for the record, I have a clear memory of the Thunderbird photograph, although I saw it just under 50 years ago. There's a barn, the critter nailed to it and some 12 men or so lined up in front of it, one of the guys wearing an Abe Lincoln type top hat. I saw it in 1957 in "Life" magazine. We were living in a refugee camp at the time and the magazine was in the communal TV room, where magazines tended to lie around for several months, so it may have been in any issue from 1956/7. If by some bizarre chance anyone has access to the magazine from that period I'm sure its there. I sent this info to Mark Chorvinsky a couple of years ago, but sadly, heard he'd died recently.

Did anybody ever look into this? The post was from 2006.
 

PeteByrdie

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I've seen it posted a fair few times. No idea where that came from. Or indeed if it's a genuine bird. I mean, if it *is* that's incredible, in its own right. But all the same...

The image which most have described doesn't quite match this though. That refers to it being nailed to the wall of a Barn, and with multiple people in the photo. Cowboys, in fact. Or at least of that period. And not in American Civil War costumes. It was also less Bird like and more prehistoric, I believe. I could be wrong.
It's a reconstruction of a teratorn, I believe. That such an impressive beast once flew is astonishing. I also don't think that picture is responsible for the thunderbird photo recollections. It doesn't seem to fit any of the versions mentioned.
 

Monstrosa

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I'm sorry, I didn't explain my self very clearly.
I think that many people have seen either this image or one of the marabou stork images as referenced by Dr Shuker when much younger, later they have come across references to thunderbird pictures, this prompts the little grey cells to go rifling through the mental archives and up comes a conflation of the seen image with what is expected (ie barn, people in old american dress) they say to themselves, "yes I've seen that" and Bingo!
It is a reconstruction of Argentavis magnificens.
 
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