Appalachian Winged Weirdies, 2007-2008

Posted by: Loren Coleman on June 4th, 2008

Pennsylvania researcher Stan Gordon has passed along this report to me for sharing at Cryptomundo:


More Huge Flying Creature Sightings In Pennsylvania by Stan Gordon, 6/4/2008

This past February, I wrote about a man who reported a very close observation of a giant bird in neighboring West Virginia in late September or early October, 2007. The man was driving on a rural two lane roadway outside of the town of Clendenin, at about 8 A.M. when he had to step hard on his brakes, to avoid hitting a giant flying creature in the middle of the road. The giant bird was only a few yards ahead of him, and was feeding on road kill. The witness, an avid hunter, was startled by the size of the creature, which stood at least four feet tall, with its head extending above the roof line of his vehicle. 
The bird was covered with very dark brown or black feathers. The head seemed dominant, but not over proportioned to its body. The neck seemed long and slightly crooked. The beak was very long and large, and the eyes were very dark. But the feature which stood out was the massive wingspan of the bird. The wingspan was easily as wide as the two lane road. The witness stated, “The wings were as I can remember, as arms of a human are attached. It had shoulders. It had a very muscular upper torso and the wings were as if they were its arms.” 
The wing tips stirred the dust and gravel on both sides of the roadway as it ran to become airborne. The witness later returned to the site and measured the distance across the road from edge to edge. It was 21 feet. The witness stated that he was in a slight state of shock as he watched the creature fly off. The witness later tried searching for the identify this bird, but the closest creature he could find in a book was the drawing of a terratorn, an extinct bird. (For more details on this case, see “Was This A Close Encounter With A Thunderbird.”)
Rick Fisher, a researcher from Lancaster County, and Director of the Paranormal Society of Pennsylvania received a report from a witness who also saw a strange flying creature. Rick indicated that the witness appeared to be very credible and sincere, and wanted to remain anonymous due to his profession. This sighting was believed to have occurred about June or July of 2007, near the community of Granite Run. The witness was driving through the area at about 1:30 A.M., when he stopped to get some gas. 
While pumping the gas, he heard a scratching sound which appeared to be coming from the roof of a nearby building. The man observed a dark shadow which he described as a being which stood from 3 to 4 feet tall, in a hunched position. He was able to observe that it had wings, but no feathers. The wings were above the creatures head. The witness felt that the creature was observing him, and from what he could see from the shape, it didn’t appear to be that of a bird. 
The witness left the location for a brief time, and when he returned, he heard a whooshing sound and wings flapping, and could see that the creature had flown over to another nearby structure. The man had to be somewhere, and he left the area, still wondering about what he saw. When Rick interviewed the witness, he was certain that this was not a bird, owl, or anything he was familiar with. 
Rick Fisher also received another giant flying creature report, which occurred about 8 miles outside of Harrisburg, in a very rural area. This sighting is believed to have taken place during the early morning hours of February 23, 2008. The driver said that he was driving about 35-40 miles per hour, when a huge bird like thing appeared from above the trees, came down and seemed to hover above his vehicle. The witness made Rick aware that he is an active hunter and angler, and had never seen anything like this before. He stated that the thing was huge, but wasn’t sure that he could call it a bird. The shadow of the creature covered his entire truck. 
The driver who had a gun permit, and had the weapon with him, stopped his truck, and got out to get a better look at the creature. Whatever it was, had now flown above the trees and was moving away. The witness who has watched many birds in the woods, said this thing kind of soared or glided without a flapping motion. The witness admitted that he was quite scared during the observation, and stressed how huge the creature was, and stated,” like prehistoric almost.” The witness went on to say that he knew what he saw, and if people want to call him crazy that is fine. 
Another more recent sighting of a giant winged something, just came to my attention. Jim Brown, an experienced paranormal researcher from Fayette County, provided me with details about this case which he is currently investigating.
This incident occurred on May 20, 2008, at about 2 P.M. in Washington County, Pennsylvania. The weather was in the 50s, and partly sunny at the time. The location of the sighting was about two miles north of US Route 40, from the southbound lanes of PA Route 43. The roadway is a four lane divided highway, two north and two south, with a grass median between them. The witness who Jim interviewed, was traveling south on the four lane roadway, about two miles from the Route 40 interchange. The communities of Brownsville and California were off to his left, across from the Monongahela River. 
As the man traveled down the road, his attention was drawn to what he thought at first was an aircraft moving over the trees. He soon noticed that the wings were moving. The flying thing was moving in the direction of his car, so he pulled off the road, and got out to get a better look. The winged thing passed over the car and moved behind the witness, about 100 feet overhead. At that point this creature appeared to be gliding, and getting lower, and it looked more like a giant bat than a bird. 
The witness could see no feathers, only short dark gray or black hair on the body. The wings appeared to be a membrane stretched over bone. It was a little difficult to see the details due to the sky being so bright. The witness commented that a small amount of light could be seen through the membrane. He emphasized that it was not solid like metal. As the man watched, the creature dropped lower from the sky behind his car. Apparently other motorists also caught sight of the huge flying animal. 
One car stopped down the road, and a person got out. That driver had a camera with him, and was seen taking pictures of the flying creature. As they watched, the creature glided down to no more than 20 feet above the road surface, and was seen flapping its wings once or twice. With each wing flap, the creature appeared to rise about 20 feet higher above the roadway. 

Since the creature was flying so low, its huge wingspan was very evident to the witness. The man told Jim that when the creature spread its wings,they extended beyond the one edge of the pavement, to the other side of the two lane road. That would be about 20 feet or more in length. 
The creature flew off towards the west, and was lost from sight over the trees on that side of the road. The man with the camera was seen running into the woods following the creature. The witness expressed to Jim that he was not going to stay around that location any longer and decided to leave. He was concerned that he could be attacked. He commented that this flying creature was big enough that it could easily pick up a man. There were no sounds or other effects reported as the creature moved over. The entire observation was estimated to have lasted about 45 seconds to one minute. 
We are hopeful that the person who took the pictures of this creature will contact Jim Brown or me, Stan Gordon. If anyone else has had a similar encounter, I, Stan Gordon, am interested in hearing from them.


Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

20 Responses to “Appalachian Winged Weirdies, 2007-2008”

  1. youcantryreachingme responds:

    Hmm. All very interesting. A bit unusual for a flying creature that size to go unnoticed and then have four separate sightings within a week or two, isn’t it? What’s the distance between these locations for non-state-side readers?

  2. Aztec Raptor responds:

    I hope the pictures are real and that they be given to a Cryptozoologist or be shown on the internet so every one can see them.

  3. Artist responds:

    “A bit unusual for a flying creature that size to go unnoticed and then have four separate sightings within a week or two, isn’t it?”

    So. A prehistoric (or totally unknown) flying whatever slips thru a tear in the fabric of time-space and appears in ours for a short period, then disappears – sound familiar?

    Out-of-place-and-time creatures of myriad types have carved strange niches in crypto history for as long as we have been keeping records – and that doesn’t even include all the “resident” beasts.

    Don’t be surprised if the photos show blurred nothings, and if this flying fantasy tears off to Neverland, never to return.

    But… never say never.

  4. wayne_cramp responds:

    Really interesting reports. I know that the sight of one of these birds can be very frightening for some. I, myself, saw what I presumed to be a Thunderbird when I was 13 (about 27 years ago). I was at my grandfather’s farm, and I was walking out in his back pasture when I noticed something large at the top of a tree. The bird was enormous, and the wingspan looked to be about 12 feet or so. Solid black, the bird glanced at me and sent a shiver down my spine then flapped his wings and took off. I watched to make sure that he was heading away from me then I high-tailed it back to my grandfather’s house, running under the trees on one side of the pasture the whole way so the bird, it it turned, couldn’t swoop down on me.

    I think the feelings I had must be some kind of ancient, built-in fear of large birds left over from the distant past when birds of this size did attack humans. Ever since that encounter I have been almost obsessed with reports of T-Birds.

  5. Andrew Minnesota responds:

    Perhaps it has gone largely unnoticed until recently because this creature (or creatures) are migrating and until now they have been in more remote areas. Just an idea.

  6. justlooking responds:

    Two days ago I saw a massive bird just north of Gettysburg PA. It’s always hard to get a good estimate on size when a bird is in the air, but this bird was with some turkey vultures so I could at least make a comparison. Rough estimate, it was at least 2x the size of the turkey vultures, and it’s shear size was startling and it caused me to stop and try to get a better look. Unfortunately the vultures and this bird all disappeared over a hill and I lost visual contact with them in a few seconds. It was a large dark colored bird, with lighter/white stripes on the back of both wings. I tried really hard to look for legs dangling behind thinking it might be a sandhill crane, but none were obvious. I’m not suggesting this is a cryptid by any means, but I’ve never seen this bird around here before and I’m just wondering if anyone has any ideas on what it might have been?

  7. cryptidsrus responds:

    Looks like we have ourselves a genuine Thunderbird “flap” going on. Great.
    Hope more are seen.

    I agree that more are being seen right now because of the migratory patterns.

  8. portergraphic responds:

    I was going to suggest an escaped marabou stork. With a wingspan of around 10ft and standing around 5ft tall it could seem much larger. I know I would be freaked out by something that large.

    The short black and white feathers could appear to be hair like, but it doesn’t explain the bat like description of the wings.

    Hopefully a picture will surface.

  9. Rogutaan responds:

    Hmm, thunderbirds have always interested me. There’s something about giant aerial creatures that I find more interesting then terrestrial beings such as Bigfoot.

    We can always hope for pictures, but I doubt anything will turn out.

  10. mantis responds:

    I live along the James River in VA. Several miles west of here, huge birds can be seen along the roadways all the time. Standing, they must be at least 3-4 feet with a 10ft+ wingspan. Folks call ’em turkey buzzards. Most will even stay over their road-kill meal as you drive by. That area is becoming more developed now, and I wouldn’t doubt if “thunderbird” encounters will start to creep into the media around here.

  11. Aztec Raptor responds:

    Where I go to school, Maine East High School, I though I saw what was a large, golden colored bird. It was near where my bio class is. I was the only one who saw the large bird. The weird thing was that It was very large, bigger then the tree next to it.

  12. sschaper responds:

    With solar cycle 24 just plain not starting up, throwing us into some severe cold weather, in sync with the Pacific Decadal Occilation, it could be that migratory patterns are messed up, or at least changed. Out-of-place birds, such as that Marabou Stork suggestion, oughtn’t be ruled out, or even cryptids from South America.

  13. CamperGuy responds:

    Saw a great horned owl. It was huge. Fierce looking. Easy to understand the uneasiness of folk seeing even larger birds.

    Is there a norm for Thunderbird descriptions?

    How widespread are Native American stories of Thunderbirds?

    Wasn’t there a fossil discovery of an incredibly large Condor type bird last year in South America?

    How much weight could a bird that large carry? Isn’t there a problem with size having diminishing returns on being able to fly?

  14. portergraphic responds:

    I was looking up more information about birds and found a site that has records for various things. Here are a few:
    heaviest flying birth: great bustard at maximum 21 kg (46.3 lb)
    greatest wingspan: wandering albatross at up to 3.63 m (11 ft 11 in)
    greatest wingspan of landbirds: Andean condor, marabou stork tied at 3.2 m (10.5 ft)
    greatest weight-carrying capacity: bald eagle lifting a 6.8 kg (15 lb) mule deer

    I was most surprised by the last number because the Bald Eagle is smaller than the Stellar Sea Eagle, the Harpy Eagle and the Philippine Eagle.

    Just making small talk while we wait for the pics 😉

  15. semillama responds:

    Mantis’s post illustrates a great point about the common problem of humans perceiving a larger bird than what it’s actual size is. Turkey Vultures are big birds, no doubt, but actually have wingspans of just under 6 feet, not ten feet, and are just over two feet in total length, so can’t actually stand 3-4 tall. Similarly, some rather small birds can be perceived as much bigger than they actual are, such as Sora rails, which I always imagine as being about a foot in size, but are really about 8 inches long and close in size to a Swamp Sparrow.

    Justlooking’s massive bird in with the kettle of Turkey Vultures is likely a juvenile Golden Eagle, which is rare in the eastern US but can occur annually pretty much anywhere.

    In regards to the overestimating of size, I think that something similar goes on with a lot of megabird accounts. However, that has no bearing on sightings of creatures that resemble extinct pterosaurs!

  16. edgar responds:

    “This past February, I wrote about a man who reported a very close observation of a giant bird in neighboring West Virginia in late September or early October, 2007.”

    So, in February, the date couldn’t be determined as closer than “late September or early October”, but the witness remembered all those other details? Pardon me if I get a bit dubious here. We have a wealth of other details (time, description, color, even a measurement against the width of the road), but the date of the sighting couldn’t be pinned down any closer than that only 4 months later?

    Now, add in “a picture of a teratorn” as the closest match, and I immediately ask “which picture of a teratorn”? Was it one of the condor like reconstructions, or one of the others, which look more like big hawks or eagles, or something else?

    The simple combination of a multitude of other details but an extremely fuzzy date raises the red “hoax” flag to me.

  17. Cryptzilla responds:

    In July, 1977 My family and I were returning from vacation from Myrtle Beach. We stopped in High Point, NC for the night. We witnessed two extremely large birds circling one of the rocky crags outside of the town. I am from the hills of SEKY and have seen both black and turkey vultures, various hawks and eagles perched and on the wing at home. These two birds were larger than all of these. We looked at them through binoculars two get a closer look they were charcoal gray in feather with lighter underneath they had the soaring bird tips to the wings.

  18. Spinach Village responds:

    I have kept my browser on this page for at least 2 days (I’ve been exhausted from so many cereal eating competitions and have not really wanted to read).

    but this post is like top 5 easily (for me) that i have read here thanks alot!
    It’s hard to get a lot of information on pterosaur sightings, this is awesome. A lot of the characteristics in this post definitely mirror other reports that i have read about.

    This makes me want to look up more often. I mean seriously. Anyhow, I’m left with legitimate hope that i might see an actual pterosaur one day.

    FYI, umbrellas are handy in case a large bird or flying animal attacks you. 😉

    If I were a Hollywood producer, I would insist on a new movie entitled “Mary Poppins verse the Pterosaur”.

    Anyhow, thanks again 🙂

  19. Akualele responds:

    I would like to respond to Edgar´s comment of June 5th.

    It might seem that forgetting the date of any incident would be reason enough to pause and reflect on the validity of the information offered by a witness. But this is not necessarily true. With anomalous events, it is the event itself that has priority. It is the event itself that provides the focus for memory. The more anomalous the event, the greater the stress placed on memory. The actual date of the event becomes secondary. As time passes the exact dates may recede, but the energy for the event may remain intact.

    Inexact or poorly remembered dates do not necessarily imply hoax or deception. To the contrary, a hoaxer would probably have an EXACT date to support his fabricated story.

    In my case I have had anomalous experiences. The dates I remember mostly because I have written them down, but my experience is strong . . . and remain distrubing to me.

    Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain

  20. sketko responds:

    To justlooking –

    Congratulations, you were lucky enough to see an immature Golden Eagle! They are huge birds, truly magnificent, and the young have white patches on the wings. Check out this image:

    Golden Eagle

    As for the mystery “birds” in the original post, obviously they are not all birds – if it doesn’t have feathers, it isn’t a bird, end of story. No feathers + wings = bat, extinct flying reptile, insect, or human in a costume. I dearly want to believe in extant ‘Thunderbirds’ (birds that large did exist in the not-so-distant geological past), mainly because that would mean North America has enough large mammal carcasses and pristine mountainsides to support a population of giant scavengers. Unfortunately, I know how easy it is to misjudge the size of impressive, normal raptors and even non-raptors (e.g. storks and herons, actually quite intimidatingly large critters). I cannot tell you how many times I have seen birds like Turkey Vultures with people who are non-bird watchers, and hear these people say the birds had wingspans as large as roads or stood as tall as the car. If I hadn’t been there and seen the birds myself, I might allow myself to believe their stories. Of course, I am certain that there ARE eyewitnesses who are not exaggerating the size of the birds they’ve seen, but until we can get some CONCLUSIVE proof, I have to insist that these reports might just be misidentified known species. We need a specimen, or at least a photo that isn’t photoshopped or taken at such an angle that size estimation is impossible.

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