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Stephen Wagner

Long Lost Thunderbird Photo Found?

By October 9, 2013

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Thunderbird and hunters

It has long been rumored that there is a "long lost" picture of a thunderbird taken some years back. Is this it? It was sent to me by reader Lisanne W. and she says:

"Big fan of your site. I check the headlines daily and sometimes post my profound comments under the name El Supercabras. Anyhoo, quite some time ago I stumbled on the attached photo on a website completely unrelated to anything cryptozoological or unexplained. I think it was just someone's personal blog. I've heard of the photo but had never seen it.

"I make no claims to the authenticity of this. I don't even remember where it came from, but I am dying for others to see it and hear what they think."

Thanks, Lisanne. Some of the other alleged thunderbird and pterosaur pictures can be seen in the article, Did Pterosaurs Survive Extinction? And you can read about modern-day thunderbird sightings at The Giant Thunderbird Returns and Thunderbird Sightings.

Please post your comments about this picture in the Comments link below.


October 10, 2013 at 10:31 am
(1) A. N. Warren says:

It’s difficult to make out specific details due to the size of the photo, and nor do I claim to have extensive knowledge of pterosaur anatomy, but the way the arms join onto the wings look kind of strange. Id be interested to see what someone better acquainted with both pterosaur anatomy and also depictions of pterosaurs in, say, books about dinosaurs etcetera in around the same time period as this photo represents has to say about the basic look of the creature depicted.

October 10, 2013 at 12:09 pm
(2) El Supercabras says:

Thank you for allowing me to share this photo! There is a slightly higher-resolution image at http://imgur.com/AlqBICY.

October 10, 2013 at 2:22 pm
(3) sandra W says:

I remember seeing the famous lost photo when I was a child, and this isn’t it. The one I saw was taken out of doors, and showed the dead pterodactyl nailed to the side of a barn. It was so large that it covered the entire wall from edge to edge. Men in Old West clothing ( the real sort, not the Hollywood sort ) were standing in front of it, presumably to give the scale. I was so young that I looked at the picture, but didn’t read the story, nor do I remember where I saw it. It was either in a magazine or a book, probably one of those Strange Mysteries type books.
I have a theory about the strange disappearance of that photo: at some point between then and now, someone used a time machine to go back to the time and place where it was taken, and prevented either the picture being taken or the creature being killed. So we are now living in an alternate timeline in which the photo never existed – except that so many people remember it.

October 11, 2013 at 4:21 am
(4) Suzanne says:

I found a picture on a website called Above Top Secret. It is very blurry but depicts a large bird(?) nailed(?) to the side of a barn. There are some men depicted who appear to be wearing “wester-style” clothes. I would have imported the photo but I’m critically ‘computer illiterate’.

October 11, 2013 at 9:18 am
(5) Cory Albrecht says:

The wings are wrong. It’s kind of hard to tell with how small the picture is, but see how there’s an elbow ‘inside’ the wing, then the arm goes back to the edge and there’s what appears like a second elbow and length after that before what seems to be the fingers?

That skin part in front of the ‘first’ elbow is called the protopatagium and sometimes had the first 3 digits embedded in it, along with the pteroid process from the wrist. Note that there is no pteroid process visible. AFAIK, *all* pterosaur species discovered have had that bone.

When free, digits I-III should be extending from what appears to be that ‘second’ elbow where the wrist would be on a real pterosaur. Instead, they appear to be emanating form part way along digit IV, which holds up the brachiopatagium.

It’s like those annoying mistakes you seen science fiction movies that portray dinosaurs all wrong because the model f/x people didn’t consult a palaeontologist.

October 11, 2013 at 10:39 am
(6) David Hone says:

I am an expert in pterosaur anatomy and that is dodgy as hell for a number of reasons.

It looks like whoever did it has more than a passing knowledge of them so will be quite plausible to a non-expert, but has basically combined several different animals into one form making it look extremely odd to experienced eyes. The proportional length of the distal wing (beyond the hand) is extremely small and charactersitc of a group call azhdarchoids, but the metacarla section is very short and much more like basal pterodactyloids, while the head looks like that of a rhamphorhynchine. The shape of the wingtip is wrong (it should be rounded, not pointed, not just in terms of pterosaur anatomy, but also to actually allow the thing to fly, a pointed wingtip is pretty bad) and the apparent structre of ther wing membranes looks unrealistic.

Well, *obviously* it’s a fake – people would kinda spot 8 m wingspan pterosaur knocking around in the US even during the civil war, but this is no real pterosaur.

October 11, 2013 at 2:36 pm
(7) El_Supercabras says:

Thank you David! There are folks out there with excellent taxidermy skills that love to make composite animals for pranks. That’s a likely explanation.

October 11, 2013 at 11:47 pm
(8) Don813 says:

At the risk of being labeled a crackpot, I’m going on record to state that in my opinion, there is a better than 50% chance that this was a real creature.
I would have liked to have seen the tail, and whether the head had a crest on it, but in all other respects, this seems identical with the reports of modern Pterosaur sightings detailed in Jonathan David Whitcomb’s book “Live Pterosaurs in America”, published in 2011.

October 14, 2013 at 4:12 pm
(9) Rtuh says:

I have to agree with Warren. although I ma definitely no expert on dinosaurs etc. But from pictures I have seen of drawings and fossils, pterosaurs/ pterodactyls appear to have elongated ‘fingers’ stretched across the wings. But of course there could be many different species.
Interesting photo, too bad the source is unknown.

October 14, 2013 at 6:06 pm
(10) Phantom Stranger says:

Real or not…it’s damn cool looking :)

October 14, 2013 at 6:10 pm
(11) Red Bear says:

The above photo was taken in the Delmont, Salem Cross roads area in Southwest PA somewhere around the early 1900 ( 1908 I think )

October 14, 2013 at 9:34 pm
(12) joel ewing says:

I’m 58, and remember when I was around 13-14 driving from our home in Tucson to Nebraska. Just across the Az-NM border, we stopped for a break. I went into this little roadside store and bought one of those now-defunct so-called Men’s Magazines…I’m almost sure it was Argosy. To help whomever might seek out this magazine, one of the articles in it was about how America was soon to be overtaken by Africanized bees coming from south America. This was @ 1969! Inside this edition of Argosy was a full-page cigarette ad. The ad was a collage of many “action” type photos, and FOR SURE one of these photos was this big black teradactyl nailed up against the outside of a barn. If one was facing the barn from the front (at an angle so you could see the side of the barn, the photo of the bird was on the left-hand side of the barn. I worked for a major tobacco company in the early 90′s. I do know that cigarette/tobacco companies had huge advertising firms handle all their advertising. I do not recall which cigarette this ad was for. One thing I can assure everybody, time-travel had nothing to do with this photograph. It existed, I saw it many times.

October 16, 2013 at 9:12 am
(13) Barry Gabriel says:

Fake… so obvious.

October 30, 2013 at 4:28 pm
(14) twas brillig says:

Barry, you’re the fake, it’s so bloody obvious. To all the naysayers and so callled “experts”, Remember the coelcanth!! There’s been many sightings of “pterasaurs” very similar if not exactly like this creature by reputable witnesses over dozens of years at the turn of the century and recorded by native americans who I would trust far more than most so called “experts”. I am a naturalist and keen nature lover and have been for most of my life and I would consider this photo to be a very good possibility for being GENUINE example of a recently extant species. The sasqatch and far more stranger things exist too.

October 31, 2013 at 1:35 am
(15) Rob says:

Looks like a stage and a prop. Why are there so many hunters? Stage hands dressed up? It has the feel of a 1930s Hollywood joke to me. Either way these creatures once existed so its pretty cool to think about and pretty scary too.

October 31, 2013 at 6:21 pm
(16) Tim says:

Apparently this photo has been around, and been discussed, for at least a few years.


November 11, 2013 at 9:31 pm
(17) Mr. Blank says:

Look at the clothes the men are wearing, especially the footwear. I’m pretty sure that’d also debunk this one for being the original.

December 8, 2013 at 3:57 pm
(18) George Purdy says:

I have a vague memory of seeing this photo as a kid. I thought it might have been in a book that was in the local library. However, I have since come to believe that this memory was planted in my mind by the power of suggestion from descriptions written by other people in other books and web sites. I think it’s easy enough to implant a memory like that by suggestion. I agree that the picture here doesn’t look like my “memory” at all, but that means little if the memory is false in the first place. There have been many attempts at making fake photos to fit the story.

January 12, 2014 at 9:29 pm
(19) Tom Schmitt says:

Joel Ewing…I sought out that issue of Argosy magazine. It’s actually from June 1977 (not 1969) and it indeed has the story about the killer bees from South America. It’s on the cover. Sadly, there is no cigarette ad containing any photo of this bird…or any “lost” photo. As far as the photo above, it’s fake and has been debunked. If you look at the feet of the hunter 3rd from the left, you will see deer hoofs. This is an old photo of deer hunters displaying their deer kills that have been replaced by “the bird”. I have no memory of this photo but nevertheless I am very intrigued by it.

April 9, 2014 at 1:56 am
(20) ranadll webb says:

i remember seeing the photo back in ’72. i was in study hall and a kid sitting next to me had a book called trails into the unknown, or something like that. i flipped thru it mainly checking out photos in the mid-section: patty, footprints, loch ness that kinda stuff. one picture stuck in my mind – old photograph six guys with out-stretched arm finger-tip to finger-tip standing in front of old building with huge pteradactyl-looking thing nailed to it. i tried to check out the book from the school library several times, but, it was always checked out.

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