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Thursday, 7 July 2011

Thunderbirds in Indiana

[INDIANAPARANORMALRESEARCHGROUP] RE:feather? thunder bird or what ?
Feather length: 28"

Widest part: 4"

Shaft length 7"

Lately I have had some association with the Indiana Paranormal Research group and I found that member Alex Evans had found a very large feather whicch she thought was a possible Thunderbird feather. I told her that I had once had a similar feather in my possession but it was smaller: it was brown (assumedly the juvenile colouration) and so was presumably from an immature bird. On my feather the shaft was nearly as large but the plume was not so long, so that the overall length was perhaps eight to ten inches less. The one that had been in my keeping was found by some girl scout hikers in an area where "Big Bird" reports had been made in the late 1970s, and it came into my possession in 1981, in Bloomington. I had separately had a sighting together with several other family members on a family outing to the Hoosier National Forest in late-summer of 1977, North of Brown County: we were in a car when my aunt who was driving noticed an unusually large "Vulture" bird, pulled over to a rest stop, and we disembarked into an area where a few cars had already pulled over to get a better view of the bird. Going over several submitted possible "Thunderbird" photos, what I saw was most like the (anonymously-submitted) one below except I think its tail was shorter and more squared-off. As the photo shows, the bird did NOT fly as a turkey buzzard does because it holds its wings flat out horizontally and a turkey buzzard holds its wings canted up at an angle making more of a "V" shape instead.
I sent my feather sample in to Loren Coleman in I think 2006, and I heard later that he believed the feather to be from a turkey buzzard. I had previously had two other possible identifications made on the feather and neither one said it was a turkey buzzard: however, the feather being found by hikers also does not DEFINITELY tie it into any particular sightings. Some years earlier, I had previously come into possession of a couple other feathers much like it, both damaged, and there was a claim made against one of them that it had been stolen. I had also heard that there was a farmer that had an entire wing from an immature one, brown like my feather had been, and that the entire wing was larger than an eagle's wing. When I went to follow up on this, the wing had vanished from the outside shed where it had been stored, but the shed was not secured and the owner surmised that the dogs had broken in and carried it off. This would also have been circa 1980. There was a minor "Flap" of reports in Indiana during the middle-to-late 1970s at the same time as there were more famous reports in Illionois, and one report near my neighborhood in Indianapolis had a large (humansized) vulture-like creature perched halfway up a large tree, which was swaying from its weight, The description matches a 2006 sighting from the files of the Indiana Paranormal Research association as reprinted below the photo. I had made a report and submitted it to the SITU when that had been a functioning entity-in fact the Sanderson archives probably have several of my letters describing the "Flap" as it unfolded at the time.

[Another Alleged Illinois Thunderbird Photo]

CRYPTID BIRD SIGHTING 2006Indiana Teen, Encounters Giant Bird in His Backyard

Here's what happened: I woke up about 6 a.m on june 2nd. I live in Lawrence Township of Indianapolis, IN. That's all I feel safe divulging for the moment.

The sun was just starting to come up and I was fixing breakfast. I let my dog outside to pee and went to use the bathroom myself. The bathroom window faces my backyard.

The lights in the bathroom were off because the sun was starting to shine through.

While I was washing my hands the sun was blocked out for a moment, like something ran in front of my window. I looked out and briefly saw something black run behind my garage.

I thought it was a person, so i went to see what it was. I ran to my backdoor and opened it. My dog was on the other side shaking. I thought the person hurt my dog so when I went outside, I grabbed a broom to take with me.

I slowly walked around the side of my garage, and that's when I saw it.

At first, I thought it was a person with something on their back. I asked "What the hell are you doing?!?" Real quick to scare and get it's attention.

The thing turned around and I came face to face with this nasty looking bird.

This thing was completely black. Like a crow. Except it was built like a vulture because of the way it stood and the way it's neck leaned forward.

And it's face looked a lot like an emu except it was all ragged and wrinkled. And it's beak was slightly curved. flew away. That's all I can say.

It's eyes were sort of a maroonish tint. Now, I'm six foot four and I was staring this thing directly in the face.

I felt like I was staring at a human being because it kept eye contact with me. It was bird-like in many ways. It kept turning it's head like it was confused as to what it was looking at. I looked down at it's feet and saw it had feet like a bird.

I was going to hit it with the broom but didn't because I didn't really know what it was or what affect hitting it with a broom would have. So, I let the broom drop.

This scared the hell out of the bird! It opened it's wings, and there was bright red markings on the inside.

It didn't make a noise, but it did flap it's wings really hard. I could feel the wind coming from the flapping and squinted my eyes.

I opened them and this thing was in my face. It smelled awful".

Additional Details

Upon further questioning, Ryan revealed that he is 17 years old. His parents were on vacation at the time of the sighting. He lives in a suburban/rural area in Lawrence Township.

He believes that the giant bird was after his daschund/yorkie mix, which is a relatively small dog. He does not want to ascribe anything mystical to the creature, but said that it was "just a big, dumb bird"--although he goes on to say that he believes that it could have taken him in a fight.

Ryan continues; "This thing also had to be taller than me (6 feet four inches) because I was looking it dead in the face when it's neck was hunched forward. It did not make any noise through it's mouth. The only noise it made was from flapping its giant wings.

When this thing took off, it ran a bit, then flew away. It went up in the air at an angle and just sort of disappeared out of my view".

He estimates the wingspan of the cryptid to have been approximately 25 feet.


Museum Mock=up for the Giant Teratorn. Giant Teratorn and Bald Eagle to Scale

Giant Teratorn Argentinavis to scale with a human being, easily matching Indianapolis witness' description. From Macmillan Book of Dinosaurs and other Prehistoric Animal Life.

A Cryptid bird-Lake Erie, Ohio, ca 2 ft tall, as seen and depicted by Pastor Swope
A Thunderchick? Witness saw no tail and evidently has no flight feathers, yet is already as large as a large hawk or small eagle.

Thunderbirds would normally nest on the rocky ground in the high mountainous areas, but in a pinch could nest in dense forests instead. This would be an unusual occurance, but a baby Thunderbird would be much more likely to be observed near a population center than in its usual habitat in the wilderness.

It seems usual in Thunderbird reports that the younger ones are a lighter (reddish or yellowish) brown that darkens until they are mostly black in maturity. Sightings of adult Thunderbirds often also mention white markings, but no good determination of the pattern can be made at present. Reports arun from Alaska to Patagonia in South America, mostly in the mountainous west, but they can fly over wide areas and sightings are made very rarely all over both North and South America. Sightings typically range from a wingspan of 12 to 25 feet across but some reports make them out to be enormously larger, probably because it is hard to estimate the size of unknown objects in the air without a good reference point to measure against.

The consensus of opinion is that Thunderbirds are relic Teratorns (La Brea Tar pit Giant Vultures) and the best book written about them is the one by Mark A. Hall.

Best Wishes, Dale D.


  1. Fascinating. It would be interesting to see a DNA analysis of this feather, to see if had any clear relation to known species.

    1. Corvas, or Neophron? Something further back? Knee of Orion?

  2. @Ray - My thoughts exactly - this isn't 1950 anymore. These questions can be answered relatively easy these days with modern technology.

  3. That is of course the most desirable thing to do at this point. Such statements should be addressed to Alex Evans, the owner of the feather in question.

    As far as my experience goes it seems that I have submitted feathers or parts of feathers such as this one before and almost invariably the samples would be lost without any adequate DNA analysis done on them: and most often I was not even notified of the situation myself but had to hear of it through a third party.

    Incidentally, there must have just been a traffic jam on this blog or something because I've been trying to get through to reply to your message for the last 15 minuites and I was only just able to get in now by shutting down my computer and regooting.

    Best wishes, Dale D.

  4. Fascinating ! There seems to be quite a bit of circumstantial evidence that such an exceptionally large species bird exist.

    As a countryman I know that it is very easy for 'townies' to get scale and perspective wrong when they are out of their urban environment. However when people well used to the outdoors, especially those living and working in the areas of sightings consistently report large unidentified birds, then it is time to sit up and take notice.

    As to Ryan's account, could I suggest that he take a lie detector test on the subject from some impartial and credible experienced source, not I hasten to add for the purpose of proving him wrong but rather to enhance the account that he has given. A hypnotic enhanced recall if he was a suitable subject could also serve the same purpose.

    A closing comment on the subject based on Ryan's description : if the birds head was forward and down to the extent that only the outline of it's 'human height' shoulders and eyes made the dominant impression with the viewer, is there a possibility that some of these 'close encounters' with this species of bird could account for the 'moth-man' sightings?

  5. I shall pass along your suggestion that Ryan should take a lie detector test. As to the similarity of his description to "Mothman"-That was actually Ivan Sanderson's explanation for Mothman as revealed in his files. The problem is that Mothman's wingspan is supposed to be a relatively puny ten feet across. In the case of this Argentinavis, it is a huge bird that could very well look a tall man in the eye and stoop down to do it. But it also has a colossal twenty-five foot wingspan to go with it. If Mothman had the 25 foot wingspan reported as well, then there would be no problem to it at all.

    Incidentally "20 foot Condors" are listed in South America from the Conquistadore days, and mentioned as such in the old Natural History book. One of my old Natural History book says condors are said to grow to over a twenty foot wingspan and the author doesn't even raise an eyebrow in saying it.

    Best Wishes, Dale D.

  6. Traffic from "The Daily Grail" I would think.

    They have a link on their news briefs today.

  7. David M.....eccentric Yep, bang on target for my meander to here!

    I find the Daily Grail magic as it has just the right mix of mainstream stuff combined with the unusual, eccentric, or bizarre etc to make the content interesting and informative a signpost to some of what is out there.

    Full complements to their dedicated team for a consistently good, often great and sometimes, eccentric, selection !

    PS Posted as 'Irish Dan' above... trying to unify the various commenting ids into this universal one

  8. BTW, this blog has a running Irish Traditional thing going and most recently a blog has gone up on Horse and Hair Eels, next to the last one gone up..And back in the archives you can find various tidbits including the one on the "Irish Hogzilla" that was once our most popular entry, a long time ago (earlier this year).

    Best Wishes, Dale D.

  9. Hi Dale,

    While on Irish related subjects, I find it quite surprising that some of the 'water horse' sightings in Ireland are not more systematically followed up with searches undertaken. Some of the lakes where these sightings have occurred are quite small and should be relatively easy to check out on an organized basis.

    One of the best accounts that I remember reading many years ago was published in a Sunday Newspaper, possibly 'The Sunday World' where one of these creatures came from a lake and had a 'stand off' with a collie dog. The whole local farming family witnessed the encounter that apparently lasted a half hour or more with 'the beastie' ashore.

    It would seem from the account the the family definitely see this water animal estimated at around one meter to the shoulder. The account seem credible and I think that the lake that it came out of in the West Of Ireland was a small one.

    In Ireland of course the number of academic third level institutions are limited and consequently there is a tendency to 'peer consensus' in all areas. Not too many native professional careers would survive a such a search unscathed after the 'Red Tops' had their fun!

    However the fact remains that there have been consistent accounts of such creatures as long as recorded Irish history exists right back to the era of Saint Colmcille. A job crying out for outside intervention perhaps?

    There is from my home area a 'Hogzilla' story to end all stories from the late 19th century, it is hilariously true and it is commemorated in a well known traditional tune based on the event. I think I may have posted the narrative on some other site some time back.

    The tune title..... 'The Pig That Ate The Tiger'

    Get your mind around that one as they say !

  10. The blog which refers specifically to Irish and Scotch Horse Eels is at:

    However the animal you are probably referring to is known as the Master-Otter:

    Back in June and subject of an ongoing string of messages here: The tradition of the Indians of the Eastern US was that it was an otter as large as a mountain lion, Hence "Water-Panther" (And confused as the "Piasa Bird" by a retelling by a White Man who should not have interfered, another recent blog posting here)

    While the article on "The Lough Dubh Monster, The Irish Hogzilla?" was posted back in March:

    Followed up by an article touching on the idea that Leprechauns represented a "Lost Race", I believe.
    Best Wishes, Dale D.

  11. Thanks Dale,

    1.30 am here and the funeral of an old Revolutionary comrade to-morrow RIP so calling it a night ! I will however look these up and get back to you on it.

    At one stage of my life, I was living by a river with a resident otter that had got quite used to a young black setter bitch we then owned. The otter regularly came up on to a mid stream sand bar from where it and the dog in the nearby bank expressed their mutual annoyance about what they see as the invasion of their respective areas by the other for up to an hour at the time.

    Incidently my teen son and a friend once spend a very cold winters night by the stream attempting salmon poaching. They only caught the proverbial cold. I checked out the bank by the otters slide later in the morning and found a fine large cock salmon with only a couple of shoulder bites taken.

    I do not know what the poor otter had for breakfast that particular morning but thanks to it, both myself and the failed teenage poachers dined on prime salmon stakes!

    Come to think of it, the exchange between the dog and the water beast as reported in the newspaper article referred to did seem to follow the same pattern !

  12. If 28" is the feather length including the shaft (making it 21" without the shaft), then this feather is the right size for a California Condor primary. Taking the photo on Wikipedia ( as a guide, the length (not including shaft) of the longest primary appears to be about 3/16 of the full wingspan, which makes the full wingspan approx. (21"/3) x 16 = 112" (or 9'4"/284.5cm). Wikipedia says the wingspan of a California Condor is "2.90 m (9.5 ft) or longer" (as the photo isn't quite straight on to the wings, the bird's wingspan is probably a bit more than it appears).

    The only other bird in North America of comparable size to a California Condor that has black primaries is the American White Pelican, but a quick image search shows that a pelican's primary feathers are much shorter in proportion to its overall wingspan than a condor's are.

  13. As mentioned in the followup blog entry (Alex Evans' reply), Alex sees that one possible outcome for the analysis of the feather could be that it was an errant california condor, and my last expert opinion receieved on the feather I had was thatr it was an errant condor, even though my feather was smaller and possibly from an immature individual. Furthermore, I had stated before and in print that the flight characteristics of the bird I witnessed with my family were consistent with a california condor as I understood them. It would be very unusual to find a california condor in Indiana at the time, since they were considered to be extinct in the wild shortly after that date. However both Alex and I would rather have a fair and impartial; DNA analysis done on Alex's feather if at all possible.

    Best Wishes, Dale D.

  14. In the early 90s, just after sunset at Buffalo Trace Park, Palmyra IN, A very large bird flew just over mine and my friend's heads, and across a lake. We had rode our bikes several miles to the park earlier in the day and were about to make our way home. We had pulled a park bench several feet out into a shallow cove to hang out in the lake. There were other people near by fishing from the bank and it was just after sunset, and the sky was getting dark. Our backs to the bank, then, my ears started humming and I looked up to see nothing but black. As it moves overhead and out ahead of me, I still can't be certain if what I'm seeing is a large bird or a small plane? After sailing about 30 - 40 feet out across the lake, it flaps it's wings and I could feel the force in my chest from the power. That was when the people fishing from the bank began screaming "my god, what is that thing?" and my friend started yelling for it to come back. We watched as it glides across to the other side of the lake and disappeared into the tree-line. The birds were flocking all around and across the lake, but as this thing flew, the birds parted for it to pass. The people fishing left and we didn't get to speak to them, and everyone we told, passed it off as a Blue Herron. For years I half-way believed it to have been a Blue Herron since I could never quite sneak up on one to see in real life. I studied pictures trying to find similarities, but they didn't seem nearly big enough, nor the right coloration. Finally seeing one in a creek years later, and again at a zoo, I realized this was not the bird. Even a large California Condor doesn't seem large enough and we're a bit far from their habitat. Whatever this was, it's wing was at least 5 or more feet longer on either side of 10 foot park bench were sitting on long-ways, and it had to be about 5 feet above our heads. I really don't recall seeing a head or legs and feet, nor did I see coloration or outlines of feathers, but I really wasn't sure what I was looking at since there were no rudders or lights. Until recent years, my friend and I hadn't spoke to each other about this but we were both still unconvinced. We unknowingly to each other, referred to it as a pterodactyl when telling people about it, until recently, I heard of the Native American stories of the "Thunderbird" and I started investigating. This was 20 years ago, there is no evidence or proof, so we only have our story.

    1. Usually I think people are crazy when they post things like this... But In this case I saw the EXACT SAME THING... In Goshen Indiana at the dam/ park that they have! We heard it take off and the whoosh from the flap of the wings made me realize that this damn thing was WAYYYY bigger then any bird known to man! The crazy part was when it took off, we heard a big boom, like someone was shooting at it. Who would be shooting at that damn thing in a public park area late at night? I know it was huge because it landed in a tree not far from us across the lake and the tree sounded like it was about to break in half!!! We ran and never looked back, still to this day I think about that damn thing

  15. When I was little, I remember seeing a large bird shadow over our car, only I saw it. I thought it was my imagination, but now after coming here, Its seems like it could be true. We were between Rochester In and Liters Ford area on the country roads.

  16. Until VERY recently (probably mostly due to this blog!) reports in Indiana were almost always discounted or ignored. Whereas during the 1970s there were "Thunderbird" reports coming out of adjoining Illinois that caught the eye of the press and later got collected up into the standard Cryptozoology books, the reports going on at the same time in Indiana and Ohio were being ignored. Which is a pity but that is the result of not being well organized on the topic.

    Best Wishes, Dale D.

  17. My son expierienced a very similiar incident last night!!! Did not come face to face but there was a HUGE bird like creature in front of our home!!! That is what brought me to this site, I googled "huge bird sightings in Indiana".....hmmmm????

  18. If you would like to donate a version of your son's sighting here, I am certain the blog's readers would enjoy reading about it.Even if you choose not to, thank you for notifying us of the encounter. Indiana is a state usually overlooked when tallying up the reports of gigantic flying birds.

    1. Hello Dale, You are right about Indiana. A couple of weeks ago I was driving down a 2 lane county road that are all over Brownsburg Indiana. Corn and soy beans everywhere! I saw something standing in the middle of the road. I thought it was a man. I was about 40 yards away from it. This "bird" unfolded it's wings and they took up the entire road and about 5 feet of the shoulder of the road. From what I am reading here mine must of been a baby. The one thing I was sure of was I wished I was not driving a Mini Cooper! I told my husband what I saw and he just looked at me like I had lost my mind. OK whatever....about 3 days later he saw it fly over our house. He is now a believer! Denise Larson

  19. Do these thunderbirds have long necks and long tails?

    1. No, they look like the photos and the artwork

  20. The last one looks like PS to me...


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