That Lost Thunderbird Photo

Posted by: Loren Coleman on May 30th, 2011

In Mark A. Hall’s book, Thunderbirds: America’s Living Legends of Giant Birds, he examines the alleged photographic evidence for these cryptid birds in depth. At the end of his discussion, he writes: “The status of the infamous ‘Thunderbird photograph’ has remained the same for years. A lot of people think they have seen the picture. Everyone wants to see it. But no one can produce a copy.”

Writer Shawn Lindseth over at Awesome Or Off-Putting penned a new mini-feature on Thunderbirds in 2006. Okay, that’s interesting, but what is more intriguing to me is the “photograph” shown with the blog, pictured here:


Is this the long lost “Thunderbird photo”? There is no caption. Why keep all this mystery going with another old seemingly “lost” photograph? From our Cryptomundo commenters, of course, it is just another computer-created “lost Thunderbird photo”. But it does beg the question, how many times are we going to see this photo popping up again and again as “the” lost T-bird snapshot?

The internet has many formerly flying candidates for the “lost photo.” They have included everything from the drawing of what people remember (below)…


…to the confusing “Mystery Civil War Pterodactyl” photo (directly below), in fact produced for the year 2000’s fictional program, “Freaky Links.”


Pterodactyl photograph used with permission of Gregg Hale, Executive Director, Haxan Productions. Credit, Fox TV. The actual object, all 11 feet of it, is now housed in the International Cryptozoology Museum. Another version of the image is below:

What’s in your wallet? Do you have a photograph of the Thunderbird? Or have seen it?

[Old comments on this previously published blog have been retained, because they are, well, interesting and entertaining to read, once again.]

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.

54 Responses to “That Lost Thunderbird Photo”

  1. harlock responds:

    I too remember seeing it in an book. There is another photo called AZ thunderbird.

  2. Opalman responds:

    I just now discovered the topic here. I can honestly state that I have definitely (without any doubt whatsoever) also seen the old tin type looking photo of a leathery Pterodactyl nailed to a barn just as described above. The photo looked like it was from the 1930’s! Like many of you I don’t remember exactly where I saw it. I have a pretty extensive library with several hundred books of this type (Cryptozoology) so it will take me some time to locate the book with photo if I have it at all.

    Along the line of discussing big birds I will quickly relate an incident that took place about five years ago.
    My son who is now an Army aviator, was visiting us on the southwest coast of Florida (at Christmastime) along with two army buddies that had no way to get home for their Christmas vacation, (living on the west coast and I believe, in Hawaii) We were fishing in a very productive mangrove jungle canal (adjacent a 900 acre refuge nearby), along with my Nephew. So there were five of us in the boat. We decided to move from one location in the canal to another—slowly in order to not spook the fish. (Snook and grey trout or weakfish) In doing so we flushed out a huge black bird that looked like a dull black turkey vulture crossed with an eagle, only much, much bigger. The first thing that got everyone’s attention was the very loud squawk (qhaaaaak) followed almost simultaneously with a very loud disturbance in the mangroves approx. 100 feet away. The bird (and it was definitely a feather covered bird, though barely feathered about the grey skinned head area) flew flapping incredibly huge wings very slowly, BUT wind noise could be heard sounding like; whomp……whomp, nonetheless! It was and is difficult to estimate its size while it flew away as there was no sure point of reference. If I had to hazard a guess id say the wingspan was somewhere in the area of 16-18’ We all watched it until it was almost out of sight—and majestically perched on the top of a telephone pole on a dead end, unpopulated street that crossed the canal Northwest of it. The pole had attached to it a transformer measuring approx. 24” in dia. And 38” tall. The bird with wings folded was about the same size not inclusive of its eagle like legs. Tufts of feathers could be readily seen at its stout leg /body juncture
    Three of us had digital cameras but everyone was so startled that we just stood there in the boat flabbergasted. When we came to our senses the bird was atop the phone pole but too far away to get a picture. (3/4Mile)
    I have the witness of my nephew and son but none of us know how to contact the two soldiers anymore.

    So There!

  3. Opalman responds:

    Are you certain the show featuring Ivan T. Sanderson was with host Pierre Berton or could it have been with Desmound Slattery? I don’t recall him being on Berton’s program and I watched nearly all Ivan’s TV appearances. But then again I must have missed any show featuring big bird like creatures except his run in with the olitiua [ropen ?], in Cameroon. Hope this leads somewhere.

  4. oldiron_79 responds:

    I’ve seen a T bird before, when I was driving through IL back in ’04 or so. it looked like a normal turkey vulture except many times bigger.

    The torso was about as big as that of the 8 point roadkill buck deer it was eating on and when it took off its wingspan was wider than the blacktop of a 2 lane highway with shoulder.

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