Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. Author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), and more recently Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), and Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), his many fans have been badgering him to join the blogosphere for years. The CFZ Blog Network is proud to have finally persuaded him to do so.

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Showing posts with label thunderbird. Show all posts
Showing posts with label thunderbird. Show all posts

Saturday, 10 May 2014


Zdeněk Burian's famous artistic reconstruction of Diatryma [=Gastornis] giganteus (© Zdeněk Burian)

It was back in July 1997 when a curious snippet that apparently featured a while earlier on the internet (possibly in the Virtual Bigfoot Conference website) was brought to my attention by English palaeontologist Dr Darren Naish. However, its mysterious claim is still unverified today, so I'm posting it here on ShukerNature in the hope that readers may be able to help me finally resolve this very curious but highly intriguing crypto-dilemma.

As far as Darren could recall, the snippet claimed that several sightings had been made, the most recent during 1975, of a 7-ft-tall bird in the Mount Adams area of Washington State, USA, and which had been likened to a giant brown bird, called the pach-an-a-ho' (variously translated as 'crooked-beak bird' or 'rough-looking bird'), from traditional Yakima legends.

Two Diatryma giganteus models photographed in Reutlingen, Germany, in 2003 (© Markus Bühler)

In addition, a party of Native Americans apparently visited a certain American museum not long before the snippet appeared online, and became very excited when they saw a life-sized reconstruction of a giant species of flightless, putatively predatory anseriform bird from prehistoric (mid-Eocene) North America called Diatryma [aka Gastornis] giganteus, because they claimed that this was the pach-an-a-ho'.

Sources informed me that issue #20 (August 1992) of the Western Bigfoot Society's newsletter, The Track Record, may include details concerning all of this. However, in April 2010 I learnt from American cryptozoologist Chad Arment that in fact this issue does not contain any mention of such a bird.

Diatryma giganteus (© Justin Case aka HodariNundu/Deviantart)

As for Diatryma reconstructions, the only one that I am aware of in the USA was a diorama featuring two adults and a chick that was housed at the California Academy of Sciences, but it is no longer on display there.

Needless to say, I don't believe for one moment that there is a contemporary Diatryma dynasty stalking the slopes and environs of Mount Adams in scientifically-undisclosed seclusion, but the whole saga is undeniably intriguing - curiouser and curiouser, in fact, as Lewis Carroll's Wonderland-exploring Alice might well have said, had she been aware of it. Consequently, if any ShukerNature readers can shed further light upon this mystifying case, I'd greatly welcome any details.

Diatryma giganteus portrayed upon a postage stamp issued by the Yemen Republic in 1990

For an extensive chapter devoted to Diatryma and other gastornithids plus the formidable phorusrhacids or terror birds, see my latest book The Menagerie of Marvels: A Third Compendium of Extraordinary Animals, to be published this coming summer by CFZ Press, and featuring a spectacular front cover by internationally-renowned Dark Artist Sam Shearon showcasing a monstrous terror bird in all its magnificent ferocity!

This ShukerNature blog post is an expanded, updated excerpt from my book Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (CFZ Press: Bideford, 2010).

Friday, 18 September 2009


Naga king, from Finding Out (Angus McBride)

Scottish cryptozoologist Alan Pringle has brought to my attention a very intriguing mystery of the cryptozoologically-related kind. Back in 1970 or 1971, at a friend's home, he saw a complete set of a magazine partwork series containing at least 30-40 issues, on an encyclopaedic or scientific theme (possibly aimed at children), and entitled Finding Out.

However, it was not their contents, but their covers, that attracted his particular interest and attention, because each issue's back cover featured an animal or entity from the myths and legends of the world, including a number that have cryptozoological relevance. A very dramatic, full-colour illustration of the creature occupied one half of the cover's page, with accompanying text occupying the other half.

The creatures that Alan can definitely remember appearing in this set of covers included the western dragon, eastern dragon, siren, tokoloshe, leshy, thunderbird, Midgard serpent, Assyrian winged bull, minotaur, centaur, bunyip, Egyptian ammut (soul eater), sphinx, and harpy. Others that he thinks may have been present include the werewolf, vampire, unicorn, cyclops, zombie, and banshee.

Alan has never seen this partwork again (and has long since lost contact with the friend who owned it), but he can still vividly recall some of the back covers due to their very eyecatching nature. I have certainly never seen them, and despite their dramatic appeal they do not seem to have been reproduced in any other publication. Moreover, in a letter to me from Phil Hide of Aylesbury, I learned that he actually owns most issues of this partwork up to volume 11, and that it was published by Purnell & Sons. Unfortunately, none of those particular issues' covers has any cryptozoology painting!

Happily, however, I have also received a letter from Alex Lamprey of Cardiff, who owns seven issues from volumes 16 and 17, and each of these issues' covers does depict a mystery beast or legendary entity. These are: sea serpents, bunyips, the cailleach-bheur, morrigan, gnomes, the Little People, and lamassu. Obviously, therefore, this series of illustrations did not begin until sometime after volume 11. The artist responsible for them was Angus McBride.

If there is anyone else out there who has seen this partwork (or, better still, owns an edition of it ior at least a run of those issues with cryptozoological back covers), or can offer any extra details, I'd love to hear from you.

STOP PRESS: 20 February 2011.

I'm delighted - and extremely grateful - to say that Alex Lamprey has very kindly donated to me his above-mentioned seven copies of Finding Out. They arrived this weekend, and their Angus McBride back-cover illustrations are every bit as spectacular as I'd hoped for! Needless to say, these near-legendary magazines (at least in my eyes!) now constitute a greatly-treasured addition to my library and images archive, and I shall be keeping a sharp lookout for the remaining 23 issues with McBride zoomythological back covers in order to complete my collection. Meanwhile, a massive THANK YOU!! to Alex for fulfilling a long-held ambition of mine to own at least some of them.

STOP PRESS: 3 March 2011.

Click here to read the fully-illustrated version of my ShukerNature blog post containing today's very exciting news! Thanks to the kindness of correspondent Ivan Waldock, who owns all 36 issues of Finding Out that possess cryptozoological/mythological back cover illustrations, and has sent me a scan of every one of them, I have been able at long last to provide the full set here online!

Saturday, 27 June 2009


A close encounter between a thunderbird and a Piper Cub aircraft (William Rebsamen)

Following on from last week's rainbow cat posting, here's another of my 'open' (i.e. still-unresolved) cryptozoological cases for you to read - and, hopefully, pursue yourself if possible.

In 1998, I received the following fascinating information of possible relevance to North America's ongoing thunderbird or 'big bird' mystery. And this time it involves something much more substantial than a missing thunderbird photo - nothing less, in fact, than what may be a missing stuffed thunderbird!

In an email to me of 19 October 1998, Canadian correspondent Prof. Terry Matheson from Saskatchewan University stated:

"Years ago, a friend of mine who had lived in northern Ontario told me that in the town of Spanish, Ontario, there is a stuffed specimen of a huge bird that no one has ever been able to identify. The bird had (I presume) been sighted locally and killed. I wrote the town hall asking about this, but received no reply, and, although I vowed that I'd investigate whenever I happened to be in the vicinity, I've never had occasion to be there. Who knows? Although I got nowhere, an inquiry from a person with genuine credentials, an acknowledged expert such as yourself, might elicit a response. It might be worth pursuing."

Indeed it might, which is why I lost no time in following Prof. Matheson's lead in contacting the town hall in the Ontario town of Spanish noted above, but received no reply. And email searches for additional info have failed to uncover anything either.

So if there is anyone out there with info or the opportunity to shed any light on this tantalising mystery, I'd love to hear from you!

UPDATE - 3 August 2012

Today I received the following email message from Facebook friend Rebecca Tosh Xayasith, who has been very kindly investigating this case on my behalf:

"An update on the stuffed Thunderbird in Spanish, Ontario. Couldn't find much info. I did however find out, through a friend, that the nearby Massey Area Museum had never heard anything about it. He e-mailed the museum, and they did respond back. Also, the local library has heard nothing about it either. Spanish is a small town, population around 650+ people, and it is on the decline. They lose more people every year. If indeed there IS a stuffed bird, I'm wondering if it is a bird that is known to the world, but, maybe not known to the people of that area. And this town is slowly dying. I would imagine, if they had such a thing as a stuffed Thunderbird, they would use it to the town's advantage. They would attract MANY tourists if they had such a thing, and it just might save the town. So, I seriously doubt there is anything there, or anything that is unknown to the world."

Rebecca makes some very valid, pertinent points - after all, there is little doubt that a stuffed thunderbird, or any spectacularly large bird, would help in attracting tourism to any town possessing one. So, sadly, it appears that the bird has flown - at least figuratively!

If the thunderbird were the giant extinct teratorn Argentavis, this is how it would compare in size with a human (Tim Morris)