By David Hatcher Childress
March 30, 2005
Forward courtesy of Jack Lancaster <email@example.com>
"He's huge, he's huge, he's really, really big."
So said pilot John Bouker about the gigantic bird the size of a small airplane
that he and several others reported seeing flying over southwest
Alaska in October 2002. According to the Anchorage Daily News
on October 15 that year, Bouker had been skeptical when he had heard other
reports of giant birds. Then he and his airplane passengers saw it for themselves.
Scientists still are not sure what Bouker and others observed.
Such sightings are not as rare as you might think. They have
been reported in many places from ancient times to today. Sightings vary.
Some of the giants resemble known birds, such as eagles, but in sizes unimaginable.
Others look very much like the long-extinct pterodactyl or pteranodon.
Could living dinosaurs exist? David Hatcher Childress, author
of the following article, is convinced that they do. He even thinks pteranodons
might be the explanation for another mysterious monster, the chupacabras,
or "goatsucker," a small, vicious beast with kangaroo-like back
legs and glowing red eyes that came to public attention in 1995 when it
was declared responsible for a rash of livestock killings in Puerto Rico.
In the following excerpt, Childress describes giant bird sightings and discusses
his reasons for believing that these mysterious monsters might indeed be
Childress is the founder of the World Explorers Club, located
in Kempton, Illinois, and publisher of World Explorer magazine. He has spent
years traveling the world, tracking down ancient mysteries, and he has written
numerous books and magazine articles on such topics.
Reports of strange flying reptiles, some quite large, have
continued well into modern times. As we shall see, reports of pteranodons,
dragons, thunderbirds, and other similar monsters, are relatively common.
Could the sudden rash of Chupacabras attacks and sightings be related to
the occasional rash of pteranodon sightings?
Many of the aspects of the Chupacabras and living pteranodons
seem to match. They are both monsters and flesh eaters. Pteranodons may
well drink blood and gorge themselves on internal organs, which are easy
to eat. Carrion birds such as vultures and condors eat the exposed softer
flesh first, lips, eyes, underbelly, etc. It would seem natural for pteranodons
to do this as well. Admittedly, the Chupacabras' supposed habit of draining
all the blood from two small holes on the neck, similar to the familiar
vampires of lore, seems more fiction than reality. In Chile, animals were
actually disappearing or being half eaten. Pteranodons are vicious meat
eaters with very sharp teeth and claws to rip open victims. They apparently
feed at night, much like owls. Their survival in the mountains of northern
Mexico and the southern Andes has been theorized for decades by cryptozoologists.
Giant bats, huge super-eagles called "pteratorns"
and weird "mothmen" have all been put forward as explanations
of these various reports. Now I come forward to state, unequivocably, that
I believe these legends and sightings can be attributed to still-living
flying dinosaurs-to pterodactyls or, more precisely, pteranodons.
We know that these creatures once existed because of the fossil
record. Sightings have continued to this day, and legends abound, but where
is the physical evidence that these creatures still exist? One thing that
must be first understood is that fossils are anomalous geological artifacts,
typically made because of some cataclysm or volcanic disaster. Most animals
when they die, naturally or by a predator, simply decay and return to dust.
The point here is that a pterodactyl that died in a desert or jungle or
mountain crag 1,000 years ago (or even 10) would not have left a fossil
behind for us to prove to us that it had been there.
The second thing that must be understood about these amazing
flying animals is that they are nocturnal and live only in extremely remote
and uninhabited areas of the earth. Even so, there are literally hundreds
of reports of giant birds and flying lizards showing up around the world.
The most amazing pteranodon fossil ever discovered was at Big Bend National
Park in Texas. The park was the site of the discovery of the skeleton of
a giant pteranodon in 1975. It had a wingspan of 51 feet and is the largest
fossil of a flying reptile so far discovered. Other pterodactyls were much
smaller and had wingspans from 8 to 20 feet.
Though pteranodons are believed to have become extinct about
65 million years ago, this may not necessarily be the case. Many creatures
which lived at that time are still alive, such as crocodiles, turtles, and
the famous coelacanth prehistoric fish. Even the date of the fossil of the
giant pteranodon found at Big Bend is in question. Since fossils cannot
be dated by any known technical method, their age is guessed at from the
geological strata around them, and since the current dating of geological
strata is based on the prevailing Uniformitarian theory of slow geological
change, the date of many fossils may be radically closer to our own than
65 million years.
Legends of Flying Reptiles
The Chinese have had legends for thousands of years of flying
reptiles called dragons, and flying snakes as well- something apparently
different. Flying reptile dragon images in China are so prevalent, they
can easily be considered amongst the most common of motifs. Are they stylized
depictions of real flying animals? The ancient Chinese certainly thought
Similarly, most countries of Europe and the Mediterranean
have myths and legends of heroes battling flying reptiles-or dragons. Often
depicted as winged snakes or winged alligators, these dragons were a common
image as well, and are still used in the crests of royal families. Did dragons-flying
reptiles-pterodactyls-still exist in small numbers, even up to the Middle
Almost every Indian tribe from Alaska to Tierro del Fuego
has legends of a gigantic flying monster so large that, ". . . it darkened
the sun." The clapping of these giants' wings created thunder, so they
were known as "Thunderbirds." The Navajo Indians still perform
their Thunderbird dance, and tell the legends of the "cliff monster"
which lived in a high craggy roost, descending to carry people off to feed
to its young. The Haida natives of the Queen Charlotte Islands of British
Columbia believe that some Thunderbirds were so large that they could literally
pick up small whales from the sea. Much of their art and woodcarving depicts
exactly such a capture by a Thunderbird.
Some South American Indians believed that the bird was constantly
at war with the powers living beneath the sea, particularly a horned serpent,
and that it tore open large trees in search of a giant grub which was its
It has been suggested that the Thunderbird is in fact a living
fossil-a pteranodon. Though few in number, especially these days, pterosaurs
may have survived in small numbers in remote desert and mountain areas.
Though it seems incredible, as I have stated, reports of "giant birds"
and pteranodons continue to this day from around the world.
Pterodactyls in South America
Persistent legends and stories abound in South America of
giant winged creatures. These stories have been told since before the Conquistadors
arrived, and some seem to be based on far more recent sightings. The following
article appeared in a magazine called The Zoologist in July, 1868, dateline
Copiapo, Chile, April 1868: "Yesterday, at about five o'clock in the
afternoon when the daily labours in this mine were over, and all the workmen
were together awaiting their supper, we saw coming through the air, from
the side of the ternera a gigantic bird, which at first sight we took for
one of the clouds then partially darkening the atmosphere, supposing it
to have been separated from the rest by the wind. Its course was from north-west
to south-east; its flight was rapid and in a straight line. As it was passing
a short distance above our heads we could mark the strange formation of
its body. Its immense wings were clothed with something resembling the thick
and stout bristles of a boar, while on its body, elongated like that of
a serpent, we could only see brilliant scales which clashed together with
metallic sound as the strange animal turned its body in its flight."
Also in South America, a Mr. J. Harrison of Liverpool said
that when he was navigating an estuary of the Amazon in 1947 called Manuos,
he and others observed from the boat's deck a flight of five huge birds
passing overhead and down the river in a V-formation. But they were no ordinary
birds, said Mr. Harrison in a letter: "The wingspan must have been
at least twelve feet from tip to tip. They were brown in colour like brown
leather, with no visible signs of feathers. The head was flat on top, with
a long beak and a long neck. The wings were ribbed." He said that the
creatures "were just like those large prehistoric birds."
A similar incident in South America was published in 1992
by the Australian weekly magazine People. In this encounter, a small commuter
aircraft nearly crashed into a giant flying lizard over the mountain jungles
of Brazil. A U.S. anthropologist named Dr. George Biles was supposedly aboard
the plane of 24 passengers and was quoted as saying, "This was a classic
case of a white pterodactyl with a giant wingspan. Of course, I've heard
the rumors for many years that these prehistoric creatures still roamed
the Amazon. But I was skeptical like everybody else. But that wasn't an
airplane or a UFO flying beside us. It was a pterodactyl."
The People story says that the pterodactyl was flying alongside
the plane as it was preparing to land and that the pilot veered away to
avoid colliding with the "giant bird." A stewardess named Maya
Cabon is quoted as saying, "Here was this giant monster flying right
next to the plane. He was only a few feet away from the window-and he looked
right at me. I thought we were all going to die." No actual size is
given in the story, and tales like this start becoming suspect when the
pilot is quoted as saying ". . . he was coming straight at us and he
was mighty big!". . .
The Feathered Serpent
In the mythology and religion of Central America there is
the very real tradition of Quetzalcoatl, of the Feathered Serpent (While
Quetzalcoatl was a man, or series of men, he was named after the "feathered
serpent."). Was there such an animal at one time-a flying reptile?
Biologists say yes, pterosaurs or pteranodons, but they have been extinct
for millions of years. Or have they? And could they be one possible explanation
for some of the Chupacabras sightings?
Film of a pterodactyl flying over the Yucatan was widely viewed
in the early 1970s, according to famous cryptozoologist Loren Coleman in
his book, Mysterious America. Carvings of what appear to be pteranodons
can be found in Mayan ruins at Tajin, located in northeastern Vera Cruz
state in Mexico.
Under the title "Serpent-Bird of the Mayans," Science
Digest published a brief article in its November, 1968 issue on the subject
of a pteranodon being possibly carved into a wall at the pyramid of Tajin.
Says the article, "An ancient Mayan relief sculpture of a, peculiar
bird with reptilian characteristics has been discovered in Totonacapan,
in northeastern section of Veracruz, Mexico. Jose Diaz-Bolio, a Mexican
archaeologist-journalist responsible for the
discovery, says there is evidence that the serpent-bird sculpture, located
in the ruins of Tajin, is not merely the product of Mayan flights of fancy,
but a realistic representation of an animal that lived during the period
of the ancient Mayans- 1,000 to 5,000 years ago.
"If indeed such serpent-birds were contemporary with
the ancient Mayan culture, the relief sculpture represents a startling evolutionary
oddity. Animals with such characteristics are believed to have disappeared
130 million years ago. The acrhaeornis and the archaeopteryx, to which the
sculpture bears a vague resemblance, were flying reptiles that became extinct
during the Mesozoic age of dinosaurs.
"And since man did not appear, according to current geological
charts, until about one million years ago, there appears to be a 129-million-year
discrepancy. The twain (Mayan and serpent bird) never should have met. But
Jose Diaz-Bolio is continuing his investigation, and he says that he knows
of the existence of a serpent-bird skull that may hold a clue to the mystery
once it has been identified."
The idea that the "feathered serpent" of the Mayas
was a real animal has been a popular subject over the years. The concept
that the Mayan feathered serpent was a long-necked flying reptile was used
in the 1946 film The Flying Serpent starring George Zucco (featured in the
Adventures Unlimited video Dinosaurs Alive!) and more recently in the 1982
David Carradine film Q-The Winged Serpent. The "Q" stands for
the Mayan word Quetzalcoatl, or "feathered serpent." While these
grade-B movies have made little impact on audiences, they do show that the
idea of flying serpents- also called pteranodons-are a popular belief along
the Mexican border.
The Lost Pterodactyl Photo
According to the Fortean investigator John Keel, more than
20 people have written to him claiming to have seen a photo of a dead pterodactyl
nailed to the side of a building in Tombstone, Arizona. Keel claims that
he has seen this photo, too, but no one can remember where!
In his column "Beyond the Known" in the March 1991
issue of Fate magazine, Keel discusses this intriguing photograph at length.
He also quotes from a letter from the son of a Pennsylvania man named Robert
Lyman who had written numerous articles and books about the weird and the
unknown. Lyman wrote about Thunderbirds in one of his books entitled Amazing
Indeed: "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 six
men standing under the bird with outstretched arms 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.". . .
"Officer, There's a Pterodactyl in My Backyard!"
That there were sightings of pterodactyls in the 1800s, I
have no doubt. In fact the sightings in the Sonora Desert continue to this
day. In the early months of 1976, a rash of "flying reptile" sightings
were reported in the Rio Grande River Valley along the Mexican-American
One of the first encounters was in the early hours of December
26, 1975 when a rancher named Joe Suárez discovered that a goat he
had tied up in a corral in Raymondville, Texas (about 30 miles north of
the Rio Grande in southeastern Texas), had been ripped to pieces and partially
eaten by some unknown assailant. The goat had been mauled from the right
side and was lying in a pool of blood with the heart and lungs missing with
the snout bitten away. The blood was still wet and warm when police officers
examined the carcass. They could find no footprints around the goat and
concluded that a flying creature of unknown origin had caused the death.
Then, in the same town, on January 14, 1976 at about 10:30
in the evening on the north side of Raymondville, a young man named Armando
Grimaldo was sitting in the backyard of his mother-in-law's house when he
was attacked by a strange winged creature.
"As I was turning to go look over on the other side of
the house," said Armando to the Raymondville press, "I felt something
grab me, something with big claws. I looked back and saw it and started
running. I've never been scared of nothing before but this time I really
was. That was the most scared I've ever been in my whole life."
This strange flying attacker had dived out of the sky-and
it was something Grimaldo described as being about six feet tall with a
wingspread he estimated as being from ten to twelve feet. Its skin was blackish-brown,
leathery and featherless. It had huge red eyes.
Grimaldo was terrified. He screamed and tried to run but tripped
and fell face first into the dirt. As he struggled up to continue running
for his mother-in-law's house, the beast's claws continued to attempt to
grasp him securely, tearing his clothes, which were now virtually ripped
to shreds. He managedto dive under a bush and the attacking animal, now
breathing heavily, flew away into the sky.
Grimaldo then crashed into the house, collapsing on the floor,
muttering "pájaro" (Spanish for bird) over and over again.
He was taken to the hospital, treated for shock and minor wounds, and released.
Blazing Red Eyes
A short time later, in nearby Brownsville, on the Rio Grande,
a similar creature slammed into the mobile home of Alverico Guajardo on
the outskirts of town. Alverico went outside his trailer to investigate
the crash into his house. When he noticed a large animal next to the crash
site, he got into his station wagon and turned the lights on to see the
creature, which he later described as "something from another planet."
As soon as the lights hit it, the thing rose up and glared
at him with blazing red eyes. Alverico, paralyzed with fear, could only
stare back at the creature whose long, batlike wings were wrapped around
its shoulders. All the while it was making a "horrible-sounding noise
in its throat." Finally, after two or three minutes of staring into
the headlights of the station wagon, it backed away to a dirt road a few
feet behind it and disappeared in the darkness.
These were just the first of a number of bizarre encounters
with seemingly prehistoric "birds." Also in January of 1976, two
sisters, Libby and Deany Ford, spotted a huge and strange "big black
bird" by a pond near Brownsville. The creature was as tall as they
were and had a "face like a bat." They later identified it out
of a book of prehistoric animals as a pteranodon.
The San Antonio Light newspaper reported on February 26, 1976,
that three local school teachers were driving to work on an isolated road
to the south of the city on February 24 when they saw an enormous bird sweeping
low over cars on the road. It had a wingspan of 15-20 feet and leathery
wings. It did not so much fly, as glide. They said that it was flying so
low that when it swooped over the cars its shadow covered the entire road.
As the three watched this huge flying creature, they saw another
flying creature off in the distance circling a herd of cattle. It looked,
they thought, like an "oversized seagull." They later scanned
encyclopedias at their school, and identified the creature as a pteranodon.
The sightings of flying reptiles over Texas subsided for a
while, but then on September 14, 1982, James Thompson, an ambulance technician
from arlingen, saw a "birdlike object" pass over Highway 100 at
a distance of 150 feet or more above the pavement. The time was 3:55 in
the morning, and this huge flying creature was obviously a night hunter.
"I expected him to land like a model airplane," Thompson told
the Valley Morning Star, the local Rio Grande newspaper. "That's what
I thought he was, but he flapped his wings enough to get above the grass.
It had a black or grayish rough texture. It wasn't feathers. I'm quite sure
it was a hide-type covering. I just watched him fly away." It was as
the others had described the same flying creature: a pterodactyl-like bird."
Diving "Big Bird"?
Fortean writers Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark made extensive
investigations of the "Big Bird" sightings in Texas and later
published their results in the book Creatures of the Goblin World. They
chronicle all of the above incidents, and a number of others. They even
obtained fecal matter from what was hought to be a pterodactyl. Although
they report that the fecal matter was being analyzed, they do not give the
Coleman and Clark also tell the strange story of James Rowe,
a retired Corpus Christi newsman, who recalled the story of a man who ran
a grocery store along Corpus Christi Beach. The unnamed man was fishing
along the Nueces River before the Wesley Seale Dam was built (1958) when
something grabbed his hook and took off downstream. The thing almost took
all of his line before he got it turned around, then it headed upstream
just as far.
"He fought it and fought. Then finally the thing just
climbed out of the water on a sandbar across the river from where he was
standing. It was this creature with fur and feathers and it just took the
hook out of its mouth. Then it climbed up a tree.
"The fellow had a pistol in his tackle box, so he took
it out and started to shoot at the animal. Then as he took aim, the thing
just flew away."
While this may sound like a Texas tall tale, it is curious
to note here that tales of the Kongamato in aire/Congo/Angola also mention
that the animal goes underwater and can fly as well, similar to loons, grebes,
pelicans and other birds. It sounds bizarre, but then, why would people
make up this unusual bit of information concerning these "monsters"?
The above stories aside, other tales were taken more seriously,
even by the police. Unlike most of the others, one incident took place in
daylight hours on January 1, 1976, near Harlingen, Texas. Two children,
Tracey Lawson, 11, and her cousin Jackie Davies, 14, were playing in the
Lawsons' backyard while their parents slept off the excesses of New Year's
Eve. The two children were playing in a large backyard that faced a plowed
field five miles south of Harlingen along Ed Carey Road.
Suddenly, Tracey noticed something standing a hundred yards
away. Dashing inside, she picked up a pair of binoculars and returned to
focus on a "horrible-looking" huge black bird. She described it
as over five feet tall with big, dark red eyes, with wings bunched up at
its shoulders, which were three
feet wide. Its face was grey in color and "gorilla-like." It had
a beak, however, that was sharp, thick, and at least six inches long. The
head was bald. On one occasion during the sighting the thing made a loud,
shrill "eeeee" sound.
The children were amazed and frightened. The creature suddenly
disappeared, apparently flying low over a quarry or "borrow pit"
along an irrigation canal, and then reappeared on the northeast corner of
the property, its head poking above a small clump of trees. The children,
more and more frightened, went inside the house and stayed. Later, the parents
were disinclined to believe the story they were told upon awakening, but
the next day Jackie's stepfather, Tom Waldon, went to the Lawson property
to look for tracks to satisfy his stepson. To his surprise, he found several
three-toed tracks from some unknown creature.
The first three tracks were close to the fence behind the
house. The fourth print was 20 yards out into the field, and the fifth 20
yards beyond that. The tracks were three-toed, eight inches across, square
at the head, and were pressed an inch and a half into the hard ground. Later,
after the police and Stan Lawson arrived, the entire group examined the
prints and decided that the children had been telling the bizarre truth.
Stan Lawson, who weighed 170 pounds, pressed his own foot
down alongside the bird print and found it made practically no impression.
"That thing must have been pretty heavy," he said later.
Coleman and Clark also mention that Stan Lawson had noticed
something strange about their dog's behavior. All day it cowered inside
the doghouse leaving it only once, at suppertime, when Lawson went to feed
it and it bolted through the door into the main house. It had to be dragged
back outside. And that night, around 10:00, Lawson heard something like
large wings scraping across his bedroom window screen, but he saw nothing.
In the morning he found that the screen was torn.
One puzzling part of the information is the frequent report
that these strange, flying creatures have a face like a gorilla, monkey
or a man. Even with a beak, it seems to have a short, flat face, rather
than a long narrow pointed head as we typically associate with pterodactyls.
However, some pteranodons had short, flat faces, and some had no beak whatsoever.
For instance, a pterosaur known as the Anurognathus had a stubby face and
sharp teeth; the Batrachognathus had a flat face, forward claws and extremely
sharp teeth. Such a creature was perfectly suited for eating a goat, or
even a larger animal. It would also have the appearance of a gorilla with
a beak. . . .
Remote Nests in the Desert?
It seems likely that if Thunderbirds/pterodactyls live in
this day and age, they must be nesting in some pretty remote and probably
mountainous area. The most likely area for any concentration of flying lizards
still surviving would have to be in the Sonora Desert in Mexico, just south
of Arizona and New Mexico. From this area it would be quite possible for
pterodactyls to still live largely undisturbed and unseen by civilization.
Mexico's Sierra Madre Oriental, only 200 miles east of the Rio Grande sightings,
is one of the least explored regions of North America. Flying reptiles or
huge birds could still live in such a region, especially if they were mainly
Creatures of the Goblin World, Jerome Clark and Loren Coleman,
1978, Clark Publications, Chicago.
Lost Cities of North &Central America, David Hatcher Childress,
1994, Adventures Unlimited Press, Kempton, IL.
Megagods, Jim Woodman, 1987, Pocket Books, New York.
The Mothman Prophecies, John Keel, 1975, Signet Books, New
Mysterious America, Jerome Clark and Loren Coleman, 1983,
Faber &Faber, Boston.
Mystery in Acambaro, Charles Hapgood, 2000, Adventures Unlimited
Press, Kempton, IL.
All information posted on this web site is
the opinion of the author and is provided for educational purposes only.
It is not to be construed as medical advice. Only a licensed medical doctor
can legally offer medical advice in the United States. Consult the healer
of your choice for medical care and advice.