The 13th Floor

Panic in The Skies! The Flying Terror of the Giant Thunderbirds

The annals of real-life monster hunters brim with tales of hairy hominids, aquatic monsters and anal probing UFO-nauts but there are also those who soar through the skies that may hail from the Jurassic era — the fabled Giant Thunderbirds — and no, we don’t mean that US Air Force stunt team.

This winged terror is said to be a throwback to the legendary Thunderbird of Native American lore while many claim its Pterodactyl-like appearance may be evidence of some lost world. It may even be a Roc of the Arabian Nights lore — that fiendish fowl, you may recall, menaced the sea-faring swashbuckler Sinbad in Ray Harryhausen’s masterpiece THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD.


While archaeologists point to grim-looking fossils which confirm that giant birds of prey with colossal wingspans of 18 feet across may have once coexisted with Early Man, these Thunderbirds are said to have menaced areas of the American Southwest.

In April 1890 two cowpokes in Arizona reportedly killed a weird, birdlike thing with a vast wingspan. The flying creature was said to have smooth skin, bat-like featherless wings and a hideous face that resembled an alligator. According to the local newspaper The Tombstone Epitaph they dragged the foul carcass back to town where it was pinned to a barn for all the town to see — its wings outstretched across the entire length of the barn.  Sadly, the only known photograph of the incident is said to have vanished.

Thunderbird sightings persisted into the late 1940s. Three Illinois witnesses claimed to have seen a passing plane but they described it as having flapping wings. Weeks later a man and his boy saw a giant bird-like creature with a body resembling a naval torpedo. These Thunderbirds remained airborne and did not venture close to the ground. Lucky for the witnesses, they might have ended up a tasty snack!


When a series of sightings panicked the residents of St. Louis, they implored the mayor to take action. Local authorities set a series of elaborate traps throughout the Midwestern metropolis but the alleged pterosaur eluded capture.

In July 1977 in the thick of a mosquito-laden summer night a group of young boys were playing in the backyard. Suddenly, from out of the night sky, shrill shrieking could be heard as two large mystery birds swept from the skies, attacking the unwary lads. Two boys escaped the deadly talons but a third wasn’t so lucky. Reputedly, one bird dug its claws deep into the shoulder of ten-year-old Marion Lowe.

The flapping menace lifted the boy off the ground and attempted to carry him off into the night sky. But the boy was no pushover and desperately fought the aerial interloper off — his fists pounding his way to freedom. The bird then dropped him to the ground and flew off.


Now, in the 21st Century, the giant Thunderbird sightings have persisted. In 2002, a bird with an enormous wingspan of 4 meters across was spotted trawling for victims in Alaska. According to The Anchorage Daily News, witnesses describes the creature “like something out of JURASSIC PARK!”

Pennsylvanians were also startled by the Giant Thunderbirds in the South Greenburg region.

One witness recalled his anxiety as he described the colossal bird “horrifically flapping its wings very slowly, then gliding above the passing big rig trucks.”

The creature then landed onto the outstretched branches of a dead tree, which nearly broke under the weight of the mystery fowl.

Unlike Native American myths, these Giant Thunderbirds did NOT shoot lightning from their eyes. Nor did they create thunder claps when they flapped their vast wings.

Last summer, a video of a reputed Thunderbird said to be a pterosaur was captured over the dark skies of Idaho. It can be see slowly flapping its vast wings and its head general body appearance do resemble a flying dinosaur. Hoax or hallucination? CGI or OMG? You be the judge!

Whatever these Thunderbirds sightings are – pterosaurs from THE LOST WORLD, or anti-matter creatures from another dimension à la THE GIANT CLAW, or just plain old South American giant condors way off their flight path, one thing is certain: we haven’t seen the last of them!