Thunderbird (cryptozoology)

Last updated
Thunderbirds
Thunderbird (artistic rendition).jpg
Artistic rendition of a large bird like a thunderbird
Grouping Cryptid
Sub grouping Flying animal
First reportedApril 1890
Country United States

Thunderbird is a term used in cryptozoology, a pseudoscience, to describe large, bird-like creatures, generally identified with the Thunderbird of Native American tradition. While the fossil record does show that giant birds (teratorns) with wingspans between 4 and 5 m (13 and 16 ft) were likely contemporary with early man, the creature is generally regarded as a myth.

Contents

This article deals with modern sightings (the last 200 years) of such a creature, reported as real, as opposed to mythological accounts. However, believers in the phenomenon often use the Native American legends to support their claims.

The historians Adrienne Mayor and Tom Holland have suggested that stories of the Thunderbird were based on discoveries of pterosaur fossils by Native Americans. [1] [2]

Early reports

On April 26, 1890 the Tombstone Epitaph carried a story about two ranchers having killed a "winged monster" resembling a huge alligator ninety-two feet in length, with an eight foot long head, jaws "thickly set with strong, sharp teeth", a smooth hairless body with a maximum diameter of fifty inches, an immense pair of wings composed of a "thick and nearly transparent membrane" (with an estimated wingspan of 160 feet), two feet just ahead of the wings, and an elongated tail. [3]

According to Mark Hall, the Epitaph did indeed print a story about the capture of a large, unusual winged creature on April 26, 1890. [4] Beyond this single story, however, no one has made historic corroboration that this event ever occurred; it is usually considered an urban legend. Completely fictional tall tales were not an uncommon feature in newspapers during this era. [5]

No one has ever produced a copy of the "Thunderbird" photograph, though numerous people, Ivan T. Sanderson being one of the better known, have made claims to its existence. Sanderson claimed to have once owned a copy of the photo, which vanished after he loaned it to an acquaintance in the 1960s. The television program Freaky Links staged a similar photo, giving new life to the "Thunderbird Photograph" legend. [6]

Jerome Clark speculates that the description of the basic image in question (men standing alongside a winged creature nailed to a barn) is evocative enough to implant a sort of false memory, leading some people to vaguely "remember" seeing the photo at some distant, imprecise time. [7]

Cryptozoology

Some cryptozoologists have theorized the ancient Thunderbird myth to be based on sightings of a real animal with a mistaken assessment of its apparent size. Cryptozoologists also posit that the Thunderbird was associated with storms because they followed the drafts to stay in flight, not unlike the way a modern eagle rides mountain up currents. John A. Keel claimed to have mapped several Thunderbird sightings and found that they corresponded chronologically and geographically with storms moving across the United States.[ citation needed ]

Angelo P. Capparella, [7] an ornithologist at Illinois State University, argues that the existence of such undiscovered large birds is highly unlikely, especially in North America. There is not enough food, Capparella says, in many areas where abnormally large birds are reported. Perhaps more important, according to Capparella, is the lack of sightings by "the legions of competent birdwatchers scanning the skies of the U.S. and Canada" who sometimes make "surprising observations" with cameras at the ready (see for example 20th-century sightings of the Eskimo curlew). Were there breeding populations of large, unknown birds, Capparella contends they could not remain unknown very long.

In Mysterious New Mexico , author Ben Radford published the results of his investigation of modern sightings of thunderbirds, ascribing many to sightings of birds such as condors. [8]

See also

Related Research Articles

In North American folklore, Bigfoot or Sasquatch are said to be hairy, upright-walking, ape-like creatures that dwell in the wilderness and leave footprints. Depictions often portray them as a missing link between humans and human ancestors or other great apes. They are strongly associated with the Pacific Northwest, and individuals claim to see the creatures across North America. Over the years, these creatures have inspired numerous commercial ventures and hoaxes. The plural nouns 'Bigfoots' and 'Bigfeet' are both in use.

Cryptozoology is a pseudoscience and subculture that aims to prove the existence of entities from the folklore record, such as Bigfoot, the chupacabra, or Mokele-mbembe. Cryptozoologists refer to these entities as cryptids, a term coined by the subculture. Because it does not follow the scientific method, cryptozoology is considered a pseudoscience by the academic world: it is neither a branch of zoology nor folkloristics. It was originally founded in the 1950s by zoologists Bernard Heuvelmans and Ivan T. Sanderson.

Chupacabra Legendary creature; first purported sighting in Puerto Rico

The chupacabra or chupacabras is a legendary creature in the folklore of parts of the Americas, with its first purported sightings reported in Puerto Rico. The name comes from the animal's reported habit of attacking and drinking the blood of livestock, including goats.

Pterosaur Flying reptiles of the extinct clade or order Pterosauria

Pterosaurs were flying reptiles of the extinct clade or order Pterosauria. They existed during most of the Mesozoic: from the late Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous. Pterosaurs are the earliest vertebrates known to have evolved powered flight. Their wings were formed by a membrane of skin, muscle, and other tissues stretching from the ankles to a dramatically lengthened fourth finger.

Thunderbird (mythology) legendary creature in certain North American indigenous peoples history and culture

The thunderbird is a legendary creature in certain North American indigenous peoples' history and culture. It is considered a supernatural being of power and strength. It is especially important, and frequently depicted, in the art, songs and oral histories of many Pacific Northwest Coast cultures, but is also found in various forms among some peoples of the American Southwest, East Coast of the United States, Great Lakes, and Great Plains.

Roc (mythology) Legendary creature

The Roc is an enormous legendary bird of prey in the popular mythology of the Middle East.

Lake monster monster said to dwell in a lake

A lake monster is a lake-dwelling entity of mythic origin. A well-known example is the Loch Ness Monster. Lake monsters' depictions are often similar to sea monsters.

Folk memory is a term sometimes used to describe stories, folklore or myths about past events that have been passed orally from generation to generation. The events described by the memories may date back hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of years and often have a local significance. They may explain physical features in the local environment, provide reasons for cultural traditions or give etymologies for the names of local places.

Kongamato

The kongamato is a reported pterosaur-like creature said to have been seen by the people of and explorers in the Mwinilunga district's Jiundu swamps of Western Zambia, Angola and Congo. Suggested identities include a modern-day Rhamphorhynchus, a misidentified bird, or a giant bat. No film has ever been taken, nor have any bodies been examined, leaving all of the stories to rely on large wounds and eyewitness accounts.

The Minnesota Iceman is a sideshow exhibit and elaborate hoax that depicts a fake man-like creature frozen in a block of ice. It was displayed at shopping malls, state fairs, and carnivals in the United States and Canada in the 1960s and early 1970s and promoted as the "missing link" between man and Neanderthals. It was sold on eBay in 2013 and put on display in Austin, Texas.

In the folklore of Lee County, South Carolina, the Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp is an entity said to inhabit the swampland of the region. First mentioned in the late 1980s, the purported sightings and damage attributed to the creature yielded a significant amount of newspaper, radio and television publicity.

Yowie creature from Australian folklore.

Yowie is one of several names for an Australian folklore entity reputed to live in the Outback. The creature has its roots in Aboriginal oral history. In parts of Queensland, they are known as quinkin, and as joogabinna, in parts of New South Wales they are called Ghindaring, jurrawarra, myngawin, puttikan, doolaga, gulaga and thoolagal. Other names include yaroma, noocoonah, wawee, pangkarlangu, jimbra and tjangara. Yowie-type creatures are common in Aboriginal Australian legends, particularly in the eastern Australian states.

Champ (folklore) name given to a reputed lake monster living in Lake Champlain

In American folklore, Champ or Champy is the name of a lake monster said to live in Lake Champlain, a 125-mile (201 km)-long body of fresh water shared by New York and Vermont, with a portion extending into Quebec, Canada. The legend of the monster is considered a draw for tourism in the Burlington, Vermont and Plattsburgh, New York areas.

In Malay ghost beliefs, The Orang Minyak is a supernatural creature coated with shiny black grease who abducts young women by night. Orang Minyak literally means oily man in Malay.

Mamlambo is a deity in South African and Zulu mythology, the "goddess of rivers", described as a large snake-like creature.

The giant penguin is a creature allegedly seen in Florida during the 1940s. The legend has no scientific merit and is at least partly documented to have been a hoax.

The Bridgewater Triangle refers to an area of about 200 square miles (520 km2) within southeastern Massachusetts in the United States, claimed to be a site of alleged paranormal phenomena, ranging from UFOs to poltergeists, orbs, balls of fire and other spectral phenomena, various bigfoot-like sightings, giant snakes and "thunderbirds."

Mothman legendary creature

In West Virginia folklore, the Mothman is a creature reportedly seen in the Point Pleasant area from November 12, 1966, to December 15, 1967. The first newspaper report was published in the Point Pleasant Register dated November 16, 1966, titled "Couples See Man-Sized Bird ... Creature ... Something". The national press soon picked up the reports and helped spread the story across the United States.

Ken Gerhard is an American cryptozoologist and author often featured on various television programs. His works include "Big Bird: Modern Sightings of Flying Monsters", "Encounters with Flying Humanoids: Mothman, Manbirds, Gargoyles and Other Winged Beasts", and "A Menagerie of Mysterious Beasts: Encounters with Cryptid Creatures". He is also the co-author of "Monsters of Texas".

<i>Tracking the Chupacabra</i> book by Benjamin Radford

Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction and Folklore is a non-fiction book by Benjamin Radford, an American writer and investigator. The book documents Radford's five-year investigation into accounts of the chupacabra. The chupacabra is said to be a vampiric predatory animal that drains the blood of animal victims while avoiding human detection.

References

  1. Fossil Legends of the First Americans
  2. BBC Four - Dinosaurs, Myths and Monsters
  3. Staff writer (April 26, 1890). "Found on the Desert". Tombstone Epitaph . 11 (151). Tombstone, Arizona: Meek & Madero. p. 3 via Newspapers.com.
  4. Hall, Mark A.; Rollins, Mark Lee (1 November 2008). Thunderbirds: America's Living Legends of Giant Birds. Cosimo, Inc. pp. 132–139. ISBN   978-1-60520-349-2.
  5. Hanlon, Tina L. (2007-05-07). "Tall Tales and Jack Tales: Literature and Writing Activities". Study Guides. Ferrum College . Retrieved 2007-11-27.
  6. "Museum Announcement and Research Requests". The Cryptozoologist. Retrieved 2010-01-20.
  7. 1 2 Clark, Jerome (1993). Unexplained! 347 Strange Sightings, Incredible Occurrences, and Puzzling Physical Phenomena. Visible Ink Press.
  8. Radford, Ben (2014). "Chapter 7 Thunderbirds: Mysterious Giants in the Sky". Mysterious New Mexico. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press. pp. 131–152. ISBN   978-0-8263-5450-1.