The small boy looked up into the sky just as a giant shadow pounced from above, striking the seventy-pound child so fast and violently as to knock the wind out of his lungs. Before poor Marlon knew what was happening, he was lifted off the ground even as he struggled against his attacker with repeated blows to a massive feathered torso, who eventually gave up the fight with a fierce cry of rage as it flew away…
The legend of the Thunderbirds is found in a plethora of indigenous cultures of North America and beyond, however most prefer to confine these mythic beasts within the realm of cautionary stories and tall tales to be shared after dark around the crackling fire. But could such giants exist in the skies above during our modern times? Science has accounted for the existence of massive birds with wingspans ranging between 25-40 ft., sizes unheard of in species today (the largest of which tops out at 10 feet). These giants included the pterosaur family of the Cretaceous period ending approximately 66 million years ago which would have most likely been featherless species such as the pterodactyl, but also the more recent Pleistocene era species including the Teratornis Incredibilis, a skeleton of which was uncovered in Argentina in the 1970’s.
Most skeptics point to the evident extinction of these species as proof that large birds such as these could no longer exist in modern times, but eye witnesses continuously prove otherwise with reports of flaps (pun intended!!) occurring across North America from down south in New Mexico all the way to northern Alaska. Many try to discount these sightings as sheer inaccuracy of size estimation, but this becomes tricky when, for example, even skilled pilots with thousands of recorded flight hours are being discounted on the grounds that they would be unable to determine an accurate wingspan while flying with no reference points.
Some of the most compelling sightings of Thunderbirds occurred in Texas in 1976, where a string of witnesses described a featherless, leather-skinned giant soaring above the skies. The most graphic account came from a pair of sisters who were visiting a local lake in broad daylight and reported seeing a large featherless creature with the face and wings of a bat. A pair of cops, a rural homeowner, and a trio of teachers driving to work one morning all corroborated the description put forth by the sisters.
Little over a year later, the famous incident of Marlon Lowe in Central Illinois brought Thunderbirds into the spotlight again. In one way, the case of Lowe heightened the divide between the sightings of Texas involving a distinctly featherless leather-skinned species and the dark feathered, white-necked species of Condor that Marlon later identified as his attacker.
The question quickly becomes, are we dealing with two species of giant flyers?
Science has documented two families of ancient flyers that could be responsible for modern sightings of giants: the Pterosaurs of the Cretaceous period that ended approximately 65 million years ago and the Teratorns of the Pleistocene era ending about 11,700 years ago. Both families of flyers have their unique characteristics that do correspond to the majority of sightings reported across North America, but could both of these species have persisted through periods of extinction to remain in the periphery of modernity mostly hidden in the remote areas of mountain ranges, coastal cliffs and volcanic craters where favorable conditions exist?
There is no doubt in my mind that what happened to Marlon that day was a real incident involving a real animal – however, one must take into account the possibility of subliminal (non-intentional) fabrications resulting from the consequent nightmares and psychological distress that Marlon was greatly affected by because of this event. His mother described how her child would not leave the house for weeks after the attack occurred, and how he suffered from recurring nightmares prompting her to say that he son had been fighting these birds for months, even years after the incident in 1977.
The terror these creatures evoke is most definitely real, as is evidenced by the unfortunate case of Marlon Lowe – but are we really dealing with animals unknown to science, or simply vast exaggerations of the human mind…
Written by Amber Rae Bouchard