July 25, 2007

Lawndale Thunderbird Abduction: A New Discovery

Ruth and Marlon Lowe

Jerry D. Coleman was the first investigator to talk to Ruth and Marlon Lowe about the Thunderbird abduction. The description he obtained from the eyewitnesses was exacting.

As I’ve mentioned before, this is going to be a big year for anniversaries. From such events as the filming of the Bigfoot at Bluff Creek in 1967 to the Dover Demon sightings in 1977, decade milestones will be remembered often this year.

The 30th anniversary of the Lawndale Thunderbird abduction is today, July 25th.

On July 25, 1977, as 10-year-old Marlon Lowe played outside his family home along open fields near Kickapoo Creek, near Lawndale, Logan County, Illinois, two giant birds passed over. One suddenly swooped down to grab the boy, carrying him a few feet before dropping him, apparently because of his frightened mother’s screams.

The incident occurred in front of seven witnesses, all of whom described exactly the same thing: two huge, coal-black birds with long, white-ringed necks, long curled beaks, and wingspans of 10 or more feet.

My brother, Jerry Coleman of Decatur, Illinois, had been able to interview Marlon, Ruth and Jake Lowe on two occasions in 1977, within hours of the incident. I returned in 1979, with Jerry, to re-interview the Lowes.

The best materials on the Lawndale incident, from the Coleman brothers’ field investigations, are found in the following sources:

(1) Creatures of the Other Edge (NY: Anomalist Books, 2006). Contains the first, original 1977 notes from Jerry D. Coleman.

(2) Mysterious America (NY: Paraview Pocket – Simon and Schuster, 2007). Chapter Two is partially the revised original Fortean Times article on the first interviews with the Lowes.

(3-4) Strange Highways (Alton, IL: Whitechapel, 2003) and More Strange Highways (Alton, IL: Whitechapel, 2006). These books have chapters on Jerry Coleman’s memories of his interviews with the Lowes in 1977, 1979, and his documentary television experiences.

(5) Thunderbirds: America’s Living Legends of Giant Birds (NY: Paraview, 2004). Mark A. Hall’s overview of the entire Lawndale incident is placed in the context of the other sightings occurring throughout central Illinois and the Midwest in 1977. Hall’s use of original source material sets it apart from other discussions on these matters.

(6) “The 1977 Lawndale, Illinois Thunderbird Case” (2007). Jerry D. Coleman’s timeline on the abduction shares and organizes his detailed footnotes on the incident.

Is there anything new under the sun about the Lawndale incident? Well, yes.

Fortean Scott Maruna has made a discovery of an illustration from California that reinforces the description of the Lawndale Thunderbirds:

Thunderbird Abduction

Click on image for larger version

This picture [see drawing] was published in the Fresno Bee-Republican of Fresno, California on July 18, 1937. The caption reads: “Famous artist Dan Smith’s conception of a giant cousin of a bald eagle carrying off a child, drawn from what was declared to be an ‘eye-witness’ story.”

This is tantalizingly vague though unfortunately as nowhere in the article does it expand upon 1) where and when the sighting occurred 2) who was the witness and 3) how Smith came to be involved in the project.

Smith was a top Americana artist in the early nineteenth century, most famous for his commissioned work for Smith & Wesson and paintings of farm animals….

You might note that the illustration of this “giant eagle” depicts a very large bird with a distinct “white ring around its half foot long neck.” The truly bald (featherless) head of this mystery bird is also reminiscent of other Illinois giant bird sightings of the 1960s and 70s including Joni Grawe’s (1973), John Walker’s (1972) and the Chappells of Odin IL (1977).Scott Maruna, Biofort blog, July 25, 2007

From the beginning, the Lawndale Thunderbird was compared to an Andean condor, a species that does have the white ring of feathers around the neck. Due to the size, speculation next ran to a surviving population of Teratorns to take into account the long history of Thunderbird sightings, and the three principal migration routes: (1) out West, (2) up and down between the Ozarks, through Illinois, into the Wisconsin Dells, and (3) from the Balds in the Carolinas north along the Appalachian Mountains.

Thanks to The Anomalist for their attention to Maruna’s discovery, Mark A. Hall for intellectual exchange, and to Jerry D. Coleman for sharing his insights from the beginning.

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.

Filed under Breaking News, Cryptomundo Exclusive, Cryptotourism, CryptoZoo News, Cryptozoologists, Cryptozoology, Eyewitness Accounts, Photos, Television, Thunderbirds