The Thunderbird Photograph: Hoax, or a Real-Life Monster?

Back in 1890, news of a strange sighting jarred the people of southeastern Arizona. A local newspaper, the Tombstone Epitaph, reported that two ranchers encountered an enormous, winged creature that they claimed looked like an alligator with wings. They were returning to Tombstone from a stint in the Huachaca Mountains when they came across the animal, which was reportedly visibly exhausted from some long flight, but flew a short ways when it saw the men. Armed and on horseback, the men began chasing the creature, firing at it until it was badly wounded and soon died. Amazingly, they said it measured about 92 feet in length, but was comparatively tiny in diameter at only 50 inches. Its head was an enormous 8 feet long, and each of its wings measured 78 feet in length, with no feathers or hair, just thick, rubbery skin. In short, the animal was massive – it was part bird, part alligator, and completely bewildering.

So did these men make up the story of the other-worldly beast for publicity? It’s entirely possible, since by 1890, Tombstone had turned into something of a ghost town after an earthquake flooded the lucrative silver mines which had provided the town’s only industry. It certainly could have benefitted from tourism that might have resulted from such a bizarre story. But no one seemed to make any effort to exploit the story to reel in tourists, and it was all but forgotten by the 1930s when author Horace Bell unearthed it as part of a book on Old West folklore. Then, in the 1960s, a magazine writer named Jack Pearl claimed that there had been a picture showing the ranchers having nailed the gigantic beast to a wall, and that it had appeared in the original article in the Tombstone Epitaph. In fact, several other people also claimed to have seem the photograph, but no one could locate any copies of it. And somehow, they all seemed to agree that it was indeed the type of photo described by Pearl.

By the 1990s, the search for the missing “Thunderbird Photograph” was in full swing; if so many reputable people claimed to have seen it, then it must exist somewhere. Finally, in 2015, a cryptozoology website, Cryptomundo, published several photos, supposing that one of them may be the lost Thunderbird Photo. But none of them even came close to matching Pearl’s description of the giant creature nailed to a wall (instead, one showed men standing behind a smaller bird-like creature on the ground, one showed men holding a large bird upside down, and the last showed Civil War soldiers and was clearly was not even from the right time period.) If seeing is believing, then we can assume that the Thunderbird sighting was nothing more than a hoax, due to the complete lack of convincing photo evidence. In all probability, the claims of having seen the photo of a creature nailed to a wall were some sort of psychological phenomenon, a “shared memory” of a photo that never actually existed. But, as some cryptozoology enthusiasts would be quick to point out, we also have no clear evidence that this creature didn’t exist, so we can’t be 100% certain that the men fabricated the story. Either way, for many, it’s fun to think about.

Next Article
  • Blue Java Bananas That Taste Just Like Vanilla Ice Cream

    When it comes to mother nature there is no barrier on it providing us with tasty delicious dessert flavored fruits, you don’t need to buy a tub of Ben and Jerry's every night. There is one banana that taste just like ice cream, in fact, it is nicknamed the ice cream banana. [caption id="attachment_4900" align="aligncenter"...

    Read More
  • George Washington And The Huge $15,000 Bar Tab

    If you think some of the modern day politicians commit indiscretions and fraudulent expense claims, well you may be surprised to hear some of the historical heroes were the same. In fact, it was well known that George Washington loved his whiskey. In the late 18th century, Washington was actually...

    Read More
  • The Deadliest Blizzard Known To Man

    During a terrible winter in 1972, on February 2nd, Iran was hit by an extreme blizzard. It was so bad that it lasted for a whole week and ended up wiping whole villages off the map. Reports from the The New York Times estimated that the blizzard dumped over 15 feet of snow in areas...

    Read More
  • America’s First Bank Robber Did Not Have The Greatest Idea

    Picture Philadelphia in 1798, yellow fever was ravaging the state and many people simply abandoned the city though some were forced to stay. In a matter of weeks, over a thousand people would perish from the deadly illness. Patrick Lyon, a blacksmith, was able to escape the turmoil and make...

    Read More
  • Toilet Liners Do Not Help Your Hygiene

    If you are worried when going into a public toilet, only to be reassured by a toilet liner, well you should continue to be worried. A newly published report suggests that toilet liners offer you relatively no protection at all. Because when it comes to hygiene the greatest bacteria risks just happen to fly in...

    Read More