Have you ever wondered what it feels like to fly? The smallest bird has powers we will never share. But mythic creatures of the air have even greater powers. Imagine a bird so huge it blocks out the sky, or stirs up storms with its wings. In myths and stories, winged horses, dragons and even people all have the power of flight. These stories help express the wonder and awe inspired by looking up at the sky overhead.
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. "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.
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 living dinosaurs. 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. 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. 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 [pre-historic 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.
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 they were.
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 Ages?
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 favorite food. 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 reports of "giant birds" and pteranodons continue to this day from around the world.
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!". . .
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