The following is an article by John Keel from FATE Magazine's Vol. 44, No. 3, Published on March 1991. It was later reprinted in the January-February 2002 Issue. It was advertised on the front cover as "The Return of Mothman" and placed under the column name "Beyond The Known":
That missing Thunderbird/ pterodactyl photo is still missing. My recent plea in these pages for information on the publication of a picture of a dead pterodactyl nailed to a barn produced over 20 responses from readers who said they, too, remembered seeing it sometime between 1940 and 1960. Unfortunately, each correspondent remembered a different source. Some thought it had appeared in a magazine advertisement possibly in Life or another major publication in which case it could have been a staged phony designed to sell beer or cigarettes. Others thought it must have been in a "men's" magazine, but there were over 50 such magazines in the early 1960s. (We haven't found a volunteer willing to struggle through all those girlie photos in search of it.) A Canadian writer was sure he had seen it on TV.
People have approached me at lectures, in TV studios and at conventions to inform me that they also remembered it exactly as I had described it in FATE. It is gratifying that so many have a vivid memory of seeing it, but it is disheartening that nobody can remember where they saw it. One cynic even suggested that years from now everyone who read my column will claim that they also saw the picture as the memory does play tricks on all of us.
An Earlier Search
A gentleman in Pennsylvania passed along some interesting clippings about his father's search for the elusive Thunderbird a generation ago. His name was Robert Lyman and he published numerous articles and books about the weird and then unknown. He thought the picture he appeared in True Western magazine sometime in the 1950s. In his book, Amazing Indeed, the following appeared:
"Fred Murray lived in Westfield, Tioga County. He said that in 1892 he saw a flock of giant birds in Dent's Run, Cameron County. He described them as being like buzzards but much larger, with a wingspread of 16 feet or more. The report made news at the time. An ornithologist from Pittsburgh came to Murray's lumber camp to observe them. He said similar birds had been seen in remote parts of West Virginia and Kentucky.
About 1900, two prospectors shot and carried into Tombstone, Arizona, one of these birds. When nailed against the wall of the Tombstone Epitaph building its wingspread measured 36 feet. A photograph showed 6 men standing under the bird with outstretched arms to touching. One of them said: 'Shucks, there is no such bird, never was and never will be.' I saw that picture in a daily paper. Many other persons remember seeing it. No one has been able to find it in recent years. Two copies were at Hammersley Fork only a few years ago. One burned in a home, The other was taken away by strangers"
Author Lyman described one of his personal sightings in the same books. "About 1940 I saw a huge bird I am certain was a thunderbird," he wrote. "It was one the ground in the center of the Sheldon Road, about 2 miles north of Coudersport, Penn.
It was brownish in color. Legs and neck were short. It was between 3 and 4 feet tall and stood upright like a very large vulture. When I was about 150 feet away it raised to fly. It was plain to see its wingspread was equal to the width of the roadbed, which I measured and found to be 25 feet. I will concede it may have been 20 feet but no less. The wings were very narrow, not over one foot wide.
How could such a bird fly through the wood? The bird I saw could have gone straight up the road and missed the trees but it did no such thing. It flew off at right angles to the road, through dense second-growth timber and had no trouble."
Mothman, Come Back!
In 1966-67, over 100 people in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, and the surrounding area reported seeing a giant, winged creature. They called it "the bird", but the press dubbed it "Mothman" (the Batman TV series was very popular at that time). This critter was usually described as being taller than a big man, with blazing red eyes and a wingspan of only ten feet. Yet it was able to fly faster than a speeding car.
Significantly, some of the town's leading citizens, including a banker, the wife of a police officer, and a minister, all reported seeing essentially the same thing. Yet the creature failed to leave footprints, feces or other physicals evidence. After a flurry of sightings over a two-year period, it seemed to vanish forever. This proved one again that eyewitness testimony is of little value when you are dealing with Fortean events. A thousand people could all see the same thing at the same time and it still isn't proof that the object or entity is a real, physical, corporeal resident of our dimension. Years ago I coined the phrase, "distortions of reality" to describe occurrences such as these.
Other Mothmen or pseudo-pterodactyls have been reported since in the area around Brownsville, Texas, In England, and in South America.
Dinosaurs on the March
There is a place in Massachusetts where people have been seeing dinosaurs in recent years. (I'm not going to tell you exactly where. There's no sense starting a stampede to the spot which is on private property anyway.) These huge animals seem to melt into nothingness in a small, wooded area. Other events in the same areas suggest that some kind of time warp may exist there. Dinosaurs have an uneasy habit of reappearing every few years someplace on this planet, as I have noted in previous columns.
We have dinosaur reports from France, Italy, Switzerland, Texas, Ohio, Illinois, and many other place over the past three decades. Local police often take the sightings very seriously and turn out posses and helicopters to conduct vain searches. The dinosaurs vanish into thin air leaving little behind but a cheshire grin.
The truth seems to be that the human eye and the human mind can be tricked into perceiving almost anything. Airline pilots have reported almost as many big birds as UFOs. Bigfoot has left footprints in the dirt of almost every state. Scientists have spent large grants to penetrate Africa where pygmies have long reported seeing dinosaurs frolicking in isolated lakes. Whatever these things may be, they are clearly a lot smarter than we are and they show themselves to us only when they feel like it.
Unfortunately, they don't seem to feel like it very often. And when they see us invading their territory loaded down with expensive cameras and tape recorders they almost always slip into hiding, thumbing their large noses as they go.
The Search Goes On
An old clipping from an unidentified newspaper in Pennsylvania dated March 6, 1972, forwarded by Robert Lyman, Jr., states, "...the actual evidence of the mammoth bird were pictures that appeared in many newspapers about 30 years ago." Lyman wrote not long ago, "No one can find a copy but one man reported he saw the picture only two or three months ago, but can't remember where... Hy Cranmer, who lived at Hammersley Fork, had a copy. It was burned when Cranmer's home was destroyed by fire. That photo seems to be as elusive as the bird itself."
People continued to have random sightings of the big bird in Pennsylvania in the 1960s and early '70s, particularly in a region known as the Black Forest. An old-timer named Bill Burgin insists that the photo appeared in True Western magazine and says, "I can close my eyes and I can see the bird."
We are conducting another search through the files of the previously mentioned Tombstone Epitaph. If any reader out there has a file of old issues of True Western, perhaps he or she can flip through them. Meanwhile I want to thank all those who have taken the time and trouble to write to me about this.