Lawndale’s Big Birds

Posted by: Loren Coleman on July 26th, 2006

Lawndale’s big bird returns – in print

by Erin Clark
The Lincoln (Illinois) Courier

Lawndale resident Marlon Lowe traveled nearly 40 yards – by bird.

The then 10-year-old was picked up in giant talons and nearly carried away 29 years ago today.

According to The Courier’s account from July 26, 1977, two birds with wingspans of 4 to 6 feet attacked Lowe, and one of them caught the boy by the shirt and lifted him about a foot into the air.

"He’s probably the luckiest kid in the world" that the bird only grabbed onto his shirt and not his flesh, said John Walker, a Danville resident who told The Courier Monday he also saw the bird.

Marlon’s mother told The Courier at the time that the 65-pound boy screamed and punched at the bird until it dropped him. She and other adults who witnessed the attack said the birds were black with bands of white around their necks and long, curved beaks.

She said local law enforcement agents didn’t believe her after she called them out to investigate.

Several other sightings of a pair of giant birds occurred in the area over the next few days. A Tuscola man, "Texas" John Huffer, even captured a giant bird on film as he fished at Lake Shelbyville five days after the Lawndale attack. A still frame from the film ran in the Tuscola Journal Aug. 2 of that year.

"These birds are a very prehistoric-looking bird," said Walker, who spotted one in 1972. "You’re absolutely not believing what you’re seeing because of what you’ve been taught about evolution."

Walker was hunting with a friend one afternoon in 1972 near Danville. As they walked along the railroad tracks in the still afternoon air, the giant bird floated on the breeze ahead of them.

"There was no mistaking what we saw," Walker said. "The bird that I saw, the wing was so wide it blended in with the tail feathers."

A "giant eagle" was the closest Walker could relate the creature to a known species.

"This is just the most bizarre thing that ever happened to me in my life," he said.

Walker has copyrighted a drawing of the bird, and he’s also in the process of writing a book about them.

Walker said he and his friend didn’t tell anyone about the giant bird they saw at first. They were teenagers at the time, and he said they didn’t think anyone would believe them.

"The only reason I’ve come out with this story now is I believe I have all the facts," Walker said. "I’ve had some health problems over the last few years and I thought, ‘I’m not going to be around forever and people need to know about this.’"

Walker said the giant birds migrate to this area from South America in the fall of the year, and people should be careful letting small children play outside at this time.

Source: Lincoln Courier, July 24, 2006, Lincoln, Illinois.

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.

24 Responses to “Lawndale’s Big Birds”

  1. ZenBug responds:

    Anyone know where we can see this Lake Shelbyville footage – or the still from it – taken by “Texas” John Huffer?

  2. jayman responds:

    Is this a misprint? A wingspan of 4 to 6 feet is hardly “giant” and is in the eagle or turkey vulture size range. A bird this size could not possibly lift 65 lbs.

  3. One Eyed Cat responds:

    Good question Zenbug

  4. planettom responds:

    ZenBug, I Googled the term “Lake Shelbyville giant bird” and came up with several links to articles and a few poor quality stills of the photograph. Interesting articles none the less. Give it a try!

  5. Sharm responds:

    I found a website before where you can buy the video..

    If you like, I’ll try searching for the site again. I think I Googled “thunderbird footage” or “thunderbird video” or something similar..

  6. Sharm responds:

    Here’s the link:

    I think this is a different footage by a different person. Anybody knows more about this footage?

  7. Robert Galo responds:

    That video footage was shown on the Discovery Channel’s show “Into the Unknown” and they also interviewed Huffer, as well as him showing where he was when he saw the two birds. I haven’t seen this special in a very long time though.

  8. t3hbigv responds:

    jayman, exactly my thoughts.

  9. Ken Gerhard responds:

    I have an 18 second version of the footage on my computer, but I’m not sure how to post a link here. I’ve watched it many times and the subject’s wingspan does appear to be considerably larger than any common North American raptor.

  10. greywolf responds:

    Could we be looking for a North American Condor or a South American Condor. They have very large wing spans and are known to be a very large bird. Although the North American bird is almost extinct but they still live in the Mountains of Peru ?

  11. Robert Galo responds:


    May I suggest you go try YouTube for uploading the video?

  12. jayman responds:

    Arguing against the condor hypothesis is that condors are New World vultures, which all have weak feet unsuited for carrying.

  13. twblack responds:

    I have seen the video on the Discovery Channel, it does look very large.

  14. shovethenos responds:

    I wonder if anyone local can get their hands on that edition of the Tuscola Journal and get permission to scan and post that still.

    By the way someone by the name of “Chief AJ” has a still posted and a video for sale here:

  15. shovethenos responds:

    Regarding classification the Thunderbird does seem to be some kind of raptor or close relative since it seems to pursue live prey. Although from descriptions the beak seems to be longer than other raptors, maybe it has some physiological adaptations (in addition to being big) or is something different altogether.

  16. ZenBug responds:


    Some people think wingspan means the length of one wing, rather than wingtip to wingtip. So perhaps it was actually a 12-footer?

  17. shumway10973 responds:

    I’ve read some of the accounts and I do believe that thunderbirds are very much alive today. One account said that the bird swooped down right in front of his car and the sound of the wind blowing thru its wings (I believe it’s the wind interacting with the individual feathers) sounds like a jet. No wonder the natives called them thunderbirds.

  18. harleyb responds:

    I gotta check that video out if I can find it.

  19. Sky King responds:

    The still looks very, very much like a bald eagle’s profile. Also, the outline of the bird has a different quality from the outline of the trees – almost as if it were cut and pasted.

    I’m not going to cry “hoax”, but that’s pretty close to what I think. Unless that 10-year old boy was a runt, it’d take a truly HUGE bird to carry him along, something roughly the size of a Piper Cub.

  20. Ken Gerhard responds:

    In response to Robert, Thanks for the YouTube suggestion, but since I don’t own the rights to the footage, I probably shouldn’t be posting it anywhere. I got it from the recent “Flying Things” Animal X… the season with the really bad Shakespearean actor.

  21. crypto_randz responds:

    It also could be a stork like creature because their wing spans can be pretty large. I wouldnt mind it being a pterosaurs though would love to see alive one.

  22. ahandzus responds:

    Im in the Mattoon area about 10 minutes from lake Shelbyville IL. A friend of mine and his brother went down to a secluded pond to fish when they were younger and saw one. They thought at the time it was a Teridactile (prob spelled wrong) but later in life conluded it was a thunderbird and havent braged about it since.

    Im a big fisherman / hunter and I know 9 out of 10 guys that see “weird stuff” will not talk about it. Im sure if these things do exist the best way to get close to them is with a conoe or kayak prpbably on a lake or pond. Ive been 10 ft away from golden eagles on the banks of the yellowstone river while in a Kayak and cant get within 100 yards on land. Ill have to do some yaking on shelbyville early in the morning this fall. Ill try to get better footage than that lol…who knows maybe a feather.

    Also I think there are some new sighting out there people around here all talk about them at Shlbyville lake its a huge lake with lots of wooded coves. Then you have the Shawnee National Forest thats a quarter million acers a hour or so south.

  23. Blank_Face responds:

    I found an article that contains some sightings around Pennsylvania and other areas. The Wingspan claimed by witnesses was usually 15 feet. You can read the article here.


    Some people think wingspan means the length of one wing, rather than wingtip to wingtip. So perhaps it was actually a 12-footer?”

    If these people are thinking wingspan means the length of one wing…wow..maybe it could carry a child..

  24. sheena responds:

    i have seen a thunderbird. can you post a sighting somewhere here?

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