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Lost “Thunderbird” Photo

Posted by: Loren Coleman on August 9th, 2011

Cryptomundian momerath brings this photo to the attention of Cryptomundo.

So what is the origin of this photograph of some kind of giant flying reptile (not a “Thunderbird”) with humans?

The appearances are here and here, but they give no info on the actual source.

This image definitely has nothing to do with the Freakylinks image seen around the Internet. The Fox TV/Universal Studio prop now is located at the International Cryptozoology Museum. Pictured below is it in mid-transport from Florida, via New York, to Maine, with Patrick Huyghe and Loren Coleman examining it.

About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. 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.


21 Responses to “Lost “Thunderbird” Photo”

  1. Hapa responds:

    There are several pics like this out on the net, showing either civil war soldiers or some old hunter next to a dead Triceratops/Pterodactyl/Bigfoot. The one with the Triceratops was made and put on a site called something like “a picture’s worth a thousand words”. The chances of this being such a fake photo is, i’d guess, just about 101%. Maybe 2000%.

    The same thing goes for the Thunderbird (which might exist) that goes for Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monsters, Sea Monsters, etc: No body, no proof. Body, proof. So get ‘er Done!

  2. planettom responds:

    upon first glance, it looks like a poor quality Photoshop job to me.

  3. Bob K. responds:

    If that Pteranodon isn’t the real deal, it’s one heck of a nice model.
    Correct me if I’m wrong Loren, but I seem to remember that you are in possession of the Pteranodon model used in the ‘civil war’ photos that created a stir a few years back. If so, you’d be in the best position to say whether or not the same prop was used in this photo. It’s tough to say from a few B & W pictures, but I’m guessing this is a different model [or, just perhaps, the real thing].
    Anyway, it’s a cool photo, and I’d sure hope that one of the subjects in the picture, the photographer, or other witnesses to the event – be it staged or real – would come forward and shed some light on the matter.

  4. NiceGuyJon responds:

    Is this the one that was “lost” for all those years, where hundreds of people remembered seeing it and could describe it but none could produce it, as if it had disappeared? Is this that picture or was that something else?

  5. Redrose999 responds:

    Clever, but I’m impressed. They managed to cover the thing with fur like feathers. Not many folks back then were aware of that detail for these animals. For the most part, even modern media avoids covering the things with their furry insulation, it makes them look less impressive. But these guys managed to cover the thing without it looking like fun fur.

  6. coelacanth1938 responds:

    It’s getting easier to build more complex models. I was looking at a tabletop 3D printer last week. Only $1300 to start.

  7. Loren Coleman responds:

    This one is not a match for the “Civil War” Freakylinks 11-ft prop to be found in the International Cryptozoology Museum, in the least.

  8. JC JOHNSON responds:

    You can still see the deer legs next to the men. The deer that were hanging were photo shopped out for the most part. They missed some legs though.

  9. simianfever responds:

    @JC… nice catch on the deer legs/hooves.

  10. Mnynames responds:

    Another problem with the photo (aside from it being fake) is that the Pterosaur itself would appear to be a Pterodactylus, which was a much smaller animal. Not so impressive when you can show its wingspan with your own 2 arms. In fact, a quick check on Google provides me with this picture, which looks like a match here.

  11. bigfoots responds:

    how do you figure its a flying reptile?
    looks more like a flying mammal..
    like a bat…
    nothing about it says reptile to me..
    since its most likely a fake..its a moot point anyway i guess..

  12. Red Earth White Lies responds:

    It always pays to put even a poor quality JPEG photo with compression artifacts in a Photoshop type program and blow it up 4X to 10X.

    Taxonomically it is large compared to a “described” fossil specimen of pterydactylus… but that would hardly rule it out.

    However old post cards sold a century ago occasionally featured outsized faked creatures – “fish tales”.

    If the photo is the one that Ivan Sanderson had in his possession since the mid 1960s or earlier, a hoax theoretically is considerably less likely than a debunker “hoax” type photo produced in the days of the Internet & computer digital editing programs.

    Unlikely the source photo had just one animal hanging… no reason for all those men to be standing unless fine trophy animals were hanging fom all the ropes or one very unusual animal was hanging in the middle. The long coarse oddly cut dark hair on the belly is not deer fur. The end wing bone on the right side of the pic is longer than the corresponding one on the left side of the pic. The wing membranes look oddly wrinkled… and blown up there seems to be a hem line running at the bottom of the wing membrane on the right half of the pic.

  13. Red Earth White Lies responds:

    Oh and just to point out the obvious, the picture is at least “retouched”(?) because the overall feel-visual impact of the “creature” is flatter than the depth perspective of the men standing in front.

  14. Red Earth White Lies responds:

    That sporterised bolt action rifle in the middle wasn’t invented until the 1920s/1930s.
    Any other depicted “Mauser” type bolt action weapon wasn’t in the hands of hunters dressed in “North of the Mason Dixon Line” attire until around around WWI.

    So a Cowboy Days or Civil War pic it is not. Now fur on fossil flying reptiles wasn’t revealed to the public until the early 70s such as Sordes.

    The head looks like something lifted out of a painting of dinosaurs.

    Interesting if it is Sanderson’s pic from the mid 60s or earlier.

  15. Cryptidcrazy responds:

    I remember seeing the “lost photograph” when I was a kid. I was in the King Library in Hamilton and I was reading a cryptozoological book (I can’t remember the name, I’ve read so many in my lifetime). It’s the standard description that everyone gives. It’s shows a the “creature” apparently nailed to the side of a barn, with several men lined up in front of it. I KNOW it isn’t a false memory, as some have suggested. I saw that photo and no one can convince me otherwise.

  16. Cryptidcrazy responds:

    The top photo screams, “hoax” and as it has already been stated, the second photo was a still from “Freakylinks”. I guess the “Lost” photo is destined to remain that way. It’s beyond weird.

  17. JMcLaren responds:

    I must say, even if it’s fake (as it probably is), I really love the first photo and am tempted to make it my computer screen wallpaper.

    Regarding the “lost thunderbird photo,” could it be the pic halfway down this blog post?

    Either way, it’s quite a nice post pondering the possibility of pterosaurs in Texas, which, though pretty darned unlikely, would be a lovely thing to find.

  18. flame821 responds:

    This isn’t the photo I remember. The one I remember from Primary/Grade school had the creature nailed to the outside of a barn and the men were dressed differently. More like farmers than hunters.

    Although this picture IS pretty good. The face looks likes its been mummified a bit and that fur body was well thought out. The wings look odd though, very wrinkly or like a nylon or sateen fabric that was crumpled. The fellows look period appropriate for 1930-50′s. What are the chances that this was ‘blended’ (sorry, don’t know the correct term – merged, maybe) with a real photo of hunters with their prizes and the bird imposed behind them?

    Knowing that Americans didn’t start getting that big until after WWII, can we guesstimate the wing span of the creature? 12-16 feet maybe?

  19. springheeledjack responds:

    With all of the software out there and the ability to mess with pictures–or create them out of thin air, I think we’ve pretty much established that a picture is no longer worth anything on the crypto front. Sad but true.

  20. cryptozoodles responds:

    Mnynames is exactly right, that photo found on google images shows exactly the same creature. I took the google pic into Photoshop and added it over the main photo – all I had to do was flip it, scale it a bit and the wings and body (including the creases/stretches in the wing material) match exactly. Quite a bit of work has been done to make it authentic; the head has been rotated downwards and a drop shadow has been added for example – nonetheless it’s definitely a fake.

    I would hesitate to call it a hoax – some people use that word too willingly when they something that’s not “genuine” without knowing the background of an image and how it came to be. Perhaps it was an art project, or just an artist trying out his/her skills in digital photo manipulation. Maybe the people in the picture are friends who got together to make their own joke postcard (I used to play in a band, and we would make similarly manipulated images like this for demo covers).

    I’ve saved my (crudely done) overlaid image but I have no idea how to upload it to this site – Loren perhaps I could email it to you and you can decide if it’s worth showing to my fellow Cryptomundians?

    I really enjoy topics like this by the way, and I’m as fascinated as everyone else about the possible “lost thunderbird photo”!

  21. stwolf responds:

    I am aware of other alleged pterosaur photos, including one whose “prop” — if it is one — puts the one in your collection to shame. Nevertheless, I am actually going to endorse this new photos as probably authentic. Why, you ask? The reason actually has nothing to do with the pterosaur in the image.
    Look at those men. There are eight of them, yet not one of them is obese. No random selection of men in Europe or North America, places currently experiencing an obesity epidemic,.would be likely to provide such healthy specimens. So, either the men in the photo were selected in awareness of that fact, or the photo was taken at a time when fewer than one-in-eight men were obese. For that reason, I endorse it as probably authentic.



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