Terror in the Skies (2019) Movie Script

Why does it begin, this quest
to understand the unexplainable?
For some it's later in life
long after the wide-eyed optimism of youth
has left them and they believe the answers
to all life's mysteries are
easily found in the mundane.
Maybe something happens to challenge
their earth-bound assumptions
and they're compelled to
discover what really happened.
But some fall into the
mysterious at a young age
and truly believe they can seek out
new discoveries, new frontiers.
Some no longer question
whether these boundaries even exist
or new revelations wait to be uncovered.
They know that the universe
still keeps some secrets.
They know because they've
heard the eyewitness stories,
the accounts from good,
honest people of things
that defy explanation.
Or maybe they simply know
because in their search
for legends, they've
seen one for themselves.
We see this blood smear on the road.
There was just a
tremendous amount of blood.
We see off in the distance this shadow,
large, black, sorta hunched over figure.
The thing turns and we realize
it's not a person.
Over the weekend
It's this bird.
out by this ranch
in the middle of nowhere.
A large bird flying in
circles like the size
of a single engine airplane.
Driving and all of a sudden
they said, "Oh my God."
Came into my bed.
And he immediately woke up
I looked over and there was
and catched
and there was
a glimpse of this
a huge bird there,
giant black bird.
so massive it could
take up the whole window.
Largest bird I've ever seen
in my entire life.
In the news today,
yet another sighting of the
infamous Chicago Mothman.
The Tribune is covering this
latest what they're calling
flap about sightings of this
giant winged demonic thing
people are seeing right
here in downtown Chicaco.
A woman walking her dog
claimed she encountered
a creature standing in the park.
"I saw a large man probably
seven feet or taller
"standing on the ground,"
according to the account
published by Strickler.
"It was solid black."
In 2017, sightings
of a giant flying creature
begin taking place
around the city of Chicago.
While the being seen by many
Chicagoans was said to be
simply an abnormally large bird,
the media soon dubbed
it the Chicago Mothman
in reference to a similar
phantom seen in the skies
above Point Pleasant, West Virginia,
in 1966 and 1967.
But what really stood out
were the large, and I do mean large,
pair of wings.
While the Chicago sightings
drew the attention of
local and national media,
unusual occurrences were nothing new
to paranormal researchers
familiar with the Prairie State.
We'll keep following this story
in the days ahead no doubt
so keep it tuned right here
to 97.1, The Lake.
I began in cryptozoology
in the late '50s
and one of the first
things that I investigated
was a report of a black panther.
And I went out with a game warden
and I musta been 12 years old.
They found tracks, they
interviewed the individual
who said they saw a panther-like creature,
got back in the truck with the game warden
and he said, "They just saw a beaver."
And that kind of made me
know what I was getting into
that most people don't
believe these things,
they don't really listen to witnesses.
They go in with a pre-conceived notion
and I wanted to be more open-minded
and that's what I started doing.
My name is Troy Taylor
and I was born and raised in Illinois.
I have lived all over
the state of Illinois.
Currently I live in
Jacksonville, Illinois.
My sole interest beginning in
anything that wasn't ghosts
was because I read Loren
Coleman's book Mysterious America
when I was in high school.
The thing I loved about it
the most is that so many
of his stories were based in Illinois
and I didn't know why till
I saw an article about him
in our local paper and realized
he was from Decatur, too.
You know, it was Loren
who put me on the path
of well, you know, there's a
lotta cool stuff in Illinois.
I rarely meet people who
don't either know someone
or have a family member who
had some sort of encounter
in their life, in their entire lifetime.
Even if they don't believe
in this kinda stuff,
these things tend to happen
or are drawn to people.
And I think that that seems
to make Illinois more haunted
than other states but I
don't think that's the case.
I think they're all very haunted
or all drawn to the paranormal.
It's just somebody's gotta
write this stuff down.
Somebody's gotta collect it.
I grew up in Illinois.
I lived in Illinois most of my life
from 1947 through 1975.
And I really saw Illinois
as a little United States.
The state of Illinois is a
lot bigger than people think.
You try to drive tip to tip in Illinois,
it's about an eight-hour drive.
You have the urban area in Chicago,
then the river area in the
northern part of the state.
You've got Chicago, you've
got a big metropolitan area.
In Northern Illinois,
you have the Illinois River
and all the bluffs and the
wooded areas and the canyons.
And then you get into
the middle of the state
where everything's flat.
There just isn't a lot geographically
across the middle of the
state that's unusual.
To me there's nothing more beautiful
than driving across that flat land
and seeing a thunderstorm come toward you.
But when you travel further south,
then you get into a whole different area.
Once you get to the
southern part of the state,
you will swear you have left Illinois.
And then southern
Illinois, Little Egypt,
is a whole different country.
It's like a little swampy
land, there's rolling hills.
This is the edge of the Ozarks
and there are mountains
and hills and canyons and
rivers and it's a wild region.
And you find that a lot
of these strange
anomalous animal sightings
all seem to come to the
southern part of the state.
And then along the western edge,
you have the Mississippi River
which is completely different again.
The town of Alton,
Illinois, sits on the banks
of the Mississippi at the confluence
of the Illinois, the Mississippi,
and the Missouri Rivers.
Situated in the furthest
reaches of the state,
it's an often overlooked
destination with a rich history
that defines it as one of
the most important pieces
of a century-old puzzle.
Alton was founded in 1818
and, despite its
considerably smaller size,
was conceived as a
sister city to St. Louis.
The region was once home
to Native Americans
who had called southern
Illinois home for centuries
prior to the arrival of European settlers.
Naturally, the incursion into the Midwest
caused a number of skirmishes
between the local natives
and the outsiders.
Over time, Alton became
incredibly important to Illinois' economy
as it grew into an industrial hub
thanks to its location along the river.
This was the start of
a town that's had a lot
of odd things drawn to it over the years.
It's a town that's plagued
by stories of ghosts
and hauntings and strange creatures
and that dates back to
really the beginning.
It's a place where there's
been a lotta death,
there's been diseases,
there's been flooding.
There was a Civil War
prison located there.
And it's become known
as one of the most haunted
small towns in America
because of all the history
that's taken place there.
Alton's geographical location
places it in a historically
significant region
known as the Gateway to the West.
As Lewis and Clark began their journey
across the United States in 1804,
the current location of
Alton would've been an area
they traveled through
during the early days
of the western expansion.
While Alton has a
noteworthy role in history,
it hasn't always been a positive one.
At the Confederate
prison located in Alton,
the Union Army kept as many
as 12,000 soldiers captive
in horrifying conditions that
led to disease and death.
In the years to follow,
the mighty Mississippi
would overflow its banks
on multiple occasions
resulting in catastrophic flooding.
For followers of the strange and unusual,
these aspects of the town's history
might ring strangely familiar.
So I find a lot of connections
between Alton as a river community
and other river communities
across the country
like Point Pleasant in West Virginia.
It's got the same type of
history in that you've got
Native Americans, you've got bloodshed,
you've got diseases, and
you've got this great history.
Point Pleasant is also one of those towns
that, not only has a haunted history,
but also has, of course,
the Mothman legend
connected to it.
So you've go the Piasa Bird in one place,
you've got the Mothman in the other,
and all of this energy
drawn to these towns
with all this water.
And I think any time you
have a river community
you're gonna have more stories.
You're gonna have more ghost stories,
you're gonna have more weird encounters,
you're gonna have more strange legends.
For many years people have
been discussing something
known as the Piasa
which allegedly is
an Illinois Native American
Thunderbird creature.
There's a long history and
story behind this creature.
It first appears
in the work of a Jesuit
missionary name Jacques Marquette.
And in 1673 he was exploring
the Mississippi River and he
saw these giant pictographs,
these rock paintings
on the side of cliffs.
Dating even further
back than before the city
actually started was
when Marquette and Joliet
came down the Mississippi River in 1673
and claimed the entire region for France.
They'd already been primed
for weird things in Illinois.
Well, they come around
a curve in the river
near what's now Alton and
painted on the side of the bluff
is two renditions of this monster.
The Illini Indians used the word Piasa
as the bird that would devour humans.
And the whole story
was that the Piasa Bird
would come down and eat people
or that some of the tribal groups
had to, in some ways, give a sacrifice
of young people
to the Piasa Birds.
One of the major chiefs
decided enough was enough.
I don't wanna do this anymore.
I'm losing a lot of my people
so he actually went on one of the cliffs
where the sacrifice was given
and when the Piasa Bird came down,
he had 11 warriors come out and kill it.
That story's really come
down as the creation story,
so to speak, of the Piasa Bird.
There's always been a question
as to whether or not
the Piasa Bird was a true story or not.
Of course the Native
Americans claimed it was.
And after they painted that mural,
as they passed it on
the Mississippi River,
they would fire arrows at it,
they would fire rifles at it,
they would blow tobacco smoke at it,
all in tribute to its ferocity.
In the 1830s, a professor
at Shurtleff College
in Alton, Illinois, wrote an article
about the Piasa.
And he claimed
that the Illini people told him
that these creatures
were actually giant birds
and that the name literally meant
the bird that devours men.
And in 1836,
he went looking for what he had heard
was a cave that was
connected to the Piasa Bird
in some way.
He hired a young man to
take him up into the bluffs.
They spent the entire day
hunting for this cave.
And after climbing up the sheer face
of one of the cliffs, they entered a cave.
And as they walked inside,
he said he could hear
the sound of something
crunching under his feet.
And when he lit a torch
to see what it was,
he discovered that he was in a cave
completely filled with human bones.
This was allegedly the Piasa cave.
This is where the bird
was taking its victims,
and eating them, and
leaving its bones behind.
The problem is is that no one
else has ever found this cave.
Researchers have uncovered the fact
that this article was
probably highly fictionalized
and that he took a lot
of physical embellishment
because the original Piasa creatures,
the pictographs did not
display wings at all.
There were some people
who even criticized the fact
that it had wings and Marquette and Joliet
didn't make a note of that.
Well, it turns out that
there really were wings
but they were usually only
visible when the bluffs were wet.
The original Piasa Bird mural
was eventually destroyed in the mid-1800s
but was recreated again
in the 1870s
by Professor William McAdams.
This recreation was based on descriptions
of the lost mural by local settlers.
The supposed cave containing the bones
of the Piasa Bird victims was never found.
And whether or not the Piasa Bird was even
a winged cryptid,
remains a debate among
historians and researchers.
One thing is sure, however,
Alton, Illinois, was a town
that seemed to be a
magnet for the unusual.
Really from the 1700s,
there started to be
documentation in this record
that certain people who were explorers,
who were colonists,
who were native peoples
were seeing large birds.
And they would often see
them on the top of mountains,
on bald mountains, in caves,
in different things like that.
They didn't wanna get too close to them
but they certainly knew they
had to deal with these things.
Accounts of giant monstrous birds
actually date back decades.
Even into the 19th century
you have accounts as old
as the 1860s.
In 1868 in Missouri, there
was a group of children
out playing at school.
The school teacher came
out and saw this huge bird
swoop down, grab ahold
of a boy and literally
carry him away and disappear.
Apparently it was well-documented
and it probably happened.
And these sightings
tend to occur in flaps,
that is clusters, many
clusters of sightings
in a concentrated area.
There was a big, what they call, a flap
around the Alton area in the 1940s.
And people were seeing these
large birds in the skies
and didn't really know what they were.
People were calling them Thunderbirds
because, of course, that's the
Native American name for 'em
and what they traditionally called.
But in the 1940s around Alton
and spreading out even into Springfield
and up to the northern state of Wisconsin,
people were seeing these
giant bird-like creatures.
And you can actually
follow some of the paths
of these creatures by following
the newspaper accounts
that each town the
night after would report
people seeing these.
In the small town of Alton,
strange flying creatures
are making a merry mess
of the panicked masses
as more and more reports flood in.
Where do these bizarre beaked
bearers of bad luck originate?
Are they giant birds
or mere mass hysteria?
You be the judge.
In early April of 1948, there began
to be sightings around Alto
of some sort of giant bird.
And everyone described it about the same.
It was gray.
I find with all these
sightings the wingspans
seemed to kind of vary
a little but not much.
The fact that they were all so close
I thought was impressive.
When I was a very young
boy and getting into this,
I discovered that microfiche and microfilm
in libraries, you could
look through old records.
And found all of these stories from 1948
that nobody had discovered.
And I found one story in April
when the whole big flap
in 1948 began.
I found probably
the most convincing of
all of those sightings
were a couple of retired military guys
one of which was the head of
the Western Military Academy
which was in Alton at the time.
And the first that we're familiar with
goes back to April of 1948.
And the first may in fact
have been a army colonel
name Walter Sigmund who
was standing at an airbase
talking to another colonel and a farmer
and he claimed he looked up and saw this,
what he thought at first was
an airplane flying overhead
until he saw this thing flap its wings.
And at that point he
realized that this thing
was an airplane-sized bird literally.
In April of 1948, the St. Louis Dispatch
ran an eyewitness account
told to a mother and father
by their young son.
The boy had spied what he claimed to be
a giant grayish-green bird
over their home in Overland
just 25 miles south of Alton
in January of the same year.
The family was initially
hesitant to come forward
with their story.
However, as the Sigmund
account found its way
into area newspapers,
suddenly other witnesses
who had seen giant birds felt compelled
to add their own reports
to the public record.
Alongside the Walter Sigmund
sighting was another one
from April 9th, 1948.
In this case, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Price
of Caledonia, Illinois, describe seeing
a monstrous bird bigger than an airplane.
They reported seeing enormous wings
and what they took to be massive
legs and feet beneath it.
On April 10th, the winged
monstrosity appeared again
in the sky above Overland,
observed by a couple
and their acquaintance as
it soared over their home.
Their initial assumption was
that they were witnessing
an airplane maneuvering through the sky.
There was a truck
driver named Verle Babb
who was driving one morning and claimed
that he saw this thing, a giant bird
swooping down trying to
pick up a small piglet
at a pig farm.
There's a famous account
from a lady doctor in Alton, Illinois,
who claims she looked out her window
and saw a Thunderbird flying by.
She said that it
looked like a Piper Cub.
A bird, no, a airplane.
She thought it was that huge.
And people started saying
maybe we should pay attention.
And there was also a sighting
of a farmer and his wife,
a man named Charles Pierce who claimed
that they saw this monster-sized bird.
Now, most of the descriptions
were very similar
and people were describing
literally an airplane-sized bird
with a wingspan perhaps
20 feet, 25 feet across.
And this went on for a few weeks
until around the end of the month.
It also showed up across
the river in St. Louis.
Sightings on the Missouri side
of the Mississippi River were
covered with greater intensity
than the Alton sightings
given their closer proximity
to the bustling city of St. Louis.
The St. Louis Dispatch recounted sightings
of an airplane-sized gray-black bird
seen all over the region
during the two-week span.
One of the most memorable
giant bird sightings
took place on April 26th.
This involved a group
of flight instructors
at the Mississippi School
of Aeronautics in St. Louis
who spotted an abnormally
large bird flying
at nearly 1200 above the airstrip.
On April 27th, salesman
Harry Bradford was driving
down the Red Feather Highway
in the late afternoon
when he spotted something
huge flying above him.
He pulled to the side of the
road and shined a spotlight
into the sky.
Using the light,
he could positively identify
it as a strangely massive bird.
In the days to follow,
he would claim to have
three more sightings
of the very same creature.
Things took an even stranger turn
when three St. Louis locals
saw what they described
as a Piper Cub-sized bird in the night sky
around 10 p.m.
They recalled seeing it flap its wings
and move unusually fast
through the darkness
at an altitude of perhaps 3000 feet.
Most unusual was the fact
that the creature seemed
to be illuminated by a dull glow emanating
from within its body.
The hysteria surrounding
the bird sightings
reached a feverish pitch
when the Civil Air Patrol
offered to make aerial
searches for the bird
which was now making national news.
One of the most entertaining parts
of this flap of sightings
was that the mayor of Alton
kept getting all these letters from people
demanding that he do
something about this bird
because for all they knew
it was gonna eat people
like the Piasa Bird.
And so he put his assistant in charge
of trying to track down
this creature and trap it.
Then the mayor got involved
and a heron was caught
and tracks were found on the mud bank.
It kinda got to be a media event
and became what we call nine day wonder
because it really was in
the newspaper nine days.
But in those nine days, people talked
about several months of reports.
But it seemed as soon as
public interest in it peaked,
it just stopped.
Wherever this thing went
it moved on somewhere else.
It moved on, the people forgot about it,
and they went back to living.
So what was it
that people saw in 1948 and does it have
any historical precedents?
While there are occasional
accounts of large bird sightings
around the Prairie State,
they aren't exactly common
and when they do come, it's in waves.
It would be odd for some
sort of natural animal
to only occasionally travel
to a geographical region.
Perhaps the answers as to what
people were seeing in Alton
in those days dwells within
the pages of history.
One of the most
compelling lines of evidence
with regard to quote unquote Thunderbirds
is that you have so many
widespread Native American legends
that refer to these monstrous eagles
or Thunderbirds, giant birds.
These Native American Thunderbird accounts
range from the Pacific
Northwest to the Southwest,
the Great Plains, New England,
and so on and so forth.
So isn't it interesting that we have
all of these widespread different cultures
that refer to identical animals.
Many saw this as, again, bad luck,
an omen, that these creatures
would show up and you
did not want to see them.
Many cultures are even
hesitant to say the name
of these creatures with the
belief that even mentioning them
is enough to put you on their radar.
One of the things that Thunderbirds
are often depicted doing
is shooting lightning
from their beaks or
their eyes or their head.
They're very closely associated,
almost in an elemental aspect,
with thunder and storms.
These giant birds are
associated with storm fronts
that the beating of their
wings sounds like thunder.
I know there may be
a scientific reason
behind this if we
consider that large birds
could take advantage
of the thermal updrafts
that are at the forefront of storms
and that perhaps
it helps them fly and so forth.
It's difficult to define
just where central Illinois
begins but for many
the flat endless acres of
corn, wheat, and soybean fields
define the Prairie State.
Here among the ruins of
the once-vibrant homes
and businesses, small
pockets of civilization
have managed to survive among the decline
of agriculture and industry.
Imagine a Midwest once alive and booming.
These small towns situated
along old highways
which today are shells
of their former glory
were once micro-cities.
Dance halls, grocery
stores, bars, and nightlife
were just around every corner.
Lawndale was no different.
Lawndale, Illinois, is a quiet town
in Logan County, Central Illinois.
Nothing much ever happens there.
Lawndale, Illinois, is located actually
right off Interstate 55.
It is a little north of Lincoln.
It's not easy to find on a map
because it's a very small town.
I believe the population
is less than a thousand.
It's just a ordinary little community
on the side of the road.
I can't give you anything famous about it
because as far as I'm concerned
the only really famous thing
that ever happened there
was the July 25th, 1977,
attack by a Thunderbird.
Nearly 30 years had passed
since the Thunderbird wave
had swept across southern
Illinois in 1948.
While occasional sightings
of large birds in Illinois
were still reported,
giant, winged cryptids
had long since been forgotten.
Despite the tales of small
children being carried away
by Thunderbirds in Missouri,
kids were free to play outside
at all hours of the day and
rarely looked to the sky
with any sense of fear.
All that would change
for one Lawndale family
on July 25th, 1977.
At 8:00 in the evening
of July 25th, 1977,
in Lawndale, Logan County, Illinois,
a young 10-year-old boy named Marlon Lowe
was playing hide-and-seek
with two of his buddies,
Travis Goodwin and Michael Thompson.
They were in his backyard
while his mother,
his parents, and some
of their family friends
were cleaning out a
trailer on their property.
The trailer that had
little black eagles on it.
And these three boys were
kinda playing hide-and-seek
around the front yard.
And right behind them
is Kickapoo Creek.
And all of a sudden flying
down Kickapoo Creek
was two giant birds swooping down.
These two huge birds
fly down over the yard, try
to pick up one of the boys
who dives to safety
Look out!
into a plastic wading pool
and narrowly misses becoming infamous
like Marlon Lowe became.
Marlon began to run away.
He weighed about 56 pounds at the time.
He was kind of a small boy.
But according to all the
witnesses that were present
one of these two birds
swooped down.
He gets caught by
the talons of one of the birds.
It was two birds but
only one of them got him.
Picks him up,
carries him about 50 feet across the yard.
The bird turns, grabs ahold of this kid
by the back of the shirt and picks him up
off the ground.
Well, as these boys are screaming,
Marlon's mother Ruth runs
to the back of the house
to see what's going on and sees this bird
pick her son up three feet off the ground
and carry him about 10 yards
across the backyard
of their house.
Oh help!
As Marlon was kicking and fighting
until the bird finally just dropped him
and let him go.
And then the two birds kind of took off
flew underneath
Oh honey, are you okay?
Are you okay?
a electric wire
right over the trailer home.
Are you okay, honey?
Attempted to roost in a
large tree in their property
but according to the witnesses
they were having trouble
roosting in this tree
'cause they were too big
and then they took off
towards Kickapoo Creek
to the north.
Saw these birds fly
away off toward a wooded area
at the edge of town.
They called the police.
They needed some kind of validation.
And they also thought if
this can happen to one kid,
it can happen to other kids.
And there had been stories
about around that time
of dog disappearing,
of certain little lambs
and other livestock.
So there was becoming a hint
that something sinister was happening.
When I was a kid, I'd never heard
of anything like this before.
And suddenly these people
had had an encounter
with something that you couldn't
even wrap your head around.
I don't think anybody could.
Other things started happening,
other things that were psychological
that happened to that family
because they weren't ready for what impact
this was gonna have on their lives.
Again, it's one of those things
why would you make a story like this up?
It makes no sense as
to why you would invent
something like this.
It affected the family
so much that for many years
they wouldn't talk to anybody.
Marlon, according to his mother,
didn't sleep for nights afterward.
They were being teased
and harassed by neighbors
and people from anywhere
that would show up
at their house, leave dead
birds on their sidewalk.
They started calling Marlon the Bird Boy.
But it made the papers and
people talked about it,
people laughed about it,
but the Lowes swore it was true.
They swore that it happened.
Wasn't until a couple years later
that I went out
to Illinois to interview
the family all over again.
And what struck me was
how Marlo Lowe
really was affected by this.
Kids had started calling him the Bird Boy.
They started killing birds
and leaving dead birds
on their porch.
And he had bright red
hair when he was littler,
when he was 10 years old, and here he was
two years later, gray hair.
The Lowes described
these two birds as looking
very much like Andean condors.
They said that they were all black,
that they had a hooked
beak, but they actually had
a white waft of feathers
around their neck.
Then beyond that, you've
got all of these other people
then for the next several
months seeing one or two birds
exactly like the Lowes described.
The Lawndale incident was
such big news that it really put
the Thunderbirds back into the headlines.
It was essentially the first
sighting of that time period
although there may have been a couple of,
like a week before that
a woman nearby in
Lincoln, Illinois, claimed
that she had also seen these Thunderbirds.
So as often happens in these cases,
there's that one big
incident that really gets
all the publicity and that
creates an environment
where other eyewitnesses feel
a little bit more comfortable
coming out of the shadows
and saying you know what,
I saw those things, too.
I just didn't wanna talk about it.
They talked about a trailer court
couple communities over.
A big, giant bird landed on the trailer
and then took off.
Someplace else in the county
somebody else was seeing it.
And you started hearing these reports
very casually at first
then in the media.
Then the Chicago media got involved,
then the television media, and
it became a traditional flap.
In the days
following the Lowe incident,
the giant birds were seen repeatedly
many times as a pair
occasionally glimpsed alone.
On July 28th, the Thompsons
spotted a massive bird
flying above their farm in McLean County
just to the north of Lawndale.
The creature had a wingspan
of at least 10 feet
and the couple and their visiting friends
would soon recount their
sighting to local police.
Later the same day, a mail
carrier spotted two birds
matching the same description
as those in the Lowe incident
in Bloomington, Illinois,
just 25 miles north of Lawndale.
He witnessed one of the birds soar
into a nearby field
where it snatched up a pig and flew off
as the poor animal struggled
in its massive talons.
The incident left the man shaken
and convinced that what
he'd seen was a huge condor.
Also on the 28th, Lisa
Montgomery was washing her car
when she spied a lone bird
in the sky above Tremont.
She described the wingspan
as being 10 feet or more.
Two more sightings drew
national media attention
on July 30th.
The first of these
occurred when Denise Turner
of Downs, Illinois, and
two friends saw a huge bird
perched on a telephone pole
alongside an intersection.
The witness described
seeing the creature's talons
unfurl and drop something to the ground
which was later identified by local police
as a footlong rat.
At 2 p.m. that same day multiple residents
of Waynesville, Illinois, reported seeing
a massive bird soar overhead.
In the midst of all
of the Lawndale reports
and the other reports from
around central Illinois,
a gentleman showed up
calling himself Texas John.
And in Shelbyville, which
is a little bit further
to the west of Lawndale,
Texas John said,
"I shot some footage of Thunderbirds."
And he went to Champaign,
Illinois, TV station,
showed 'em the footage,
they showed it to me,
and everybody was interested in it.
And he had heard about
these Thunderbird sightings
and he has a Cherokee lineage
so he certainly believed
in the Thunderbird.
And he was in his boat on
the north side of the lake
when he suddenly saw
these two enormous birds
perched in a tree.
And he knew that these
birds were extraordinary.
So what he did was he
blew the horn on his boat
in order to scare them to get them
to take off on these trees
and then he began to film
as they flew off.
To me and to a lot
of researchers it looked
like turkey vultures
sitting in a tree and then taking off.
A number of wildlife
experts have looked at it
and dismissed these two birds
as simply turkey vultures
which are very common in Illinois.
Turkey vultures can be
extremely large-looking.
But I've looked at the film
quite a bit through the years,
analyzed it, and at least in my own mind,
one of the two birds is much, much larger
than any turkey vulture
and really appears to have
the proportions of a bird like a condor
with a wingspan perhaps nine feet across.
In December of 1977, there was a report,
and it mostly showed up in news reports,
we never get to the bottom of it,
a group of men
were going along a road
and they saw a giant bird.
They shot it.
They got very scared and
they burned the body.
And they felt that they'd done
something wrong and illegal.
And that often happens in
those kind of shooting stories
'cause you never see the bodies.
People burn them.
In the weeks that followed,
occasional reports of
abnormally large birds
continued to trickle in
around central Illinois.
However, like the Alton
Thunderbird wave of 1948,
eventually the reports simply stopped.
The birds had disappeared
yet sightings continued
of strange things in the skies.
Loren Coleman and his brother
Jerry would investigate
numerous winged cryptid sightings
in the years that followed
the Lawndale incidents,
not all of them mere birds.
When I'm involved
in investigating cryptozoology,
I usually try to categorize the branches
that I'm going down.
And one large branch is
what I call winged weirdies.
And in that file of winged weirdies,
there's flying humans, there's big owls,
there's big birds, there's pterodactyls,
there's all kinds of different reports.
And you have to look
at them as best you can
just make them all kind of go together.
When investigating
giant winged cryptids, it
all becomes very confusing.
There's a lot of gray area.
And in my research, which
has spanned decades,
I typically get three types
of reports or accounts.
But for example, we have the
sightings of the giant birds,
the Thunderbirds, which
people always describe
as having feathers.
I get a second type of people
describing something more
quote unquote prehistoric.
And then you get people that report
more the flying dinosaurs,
the pterodactyls, something
out of prehistoric times.
And then you also have many accounts
of what we call flying humanoids,
creatures that are composites
or anthropomorphic creatures
with human-like characteristics,
bodies, sturdy legs,
arms, heads, but also wings
attached to their body.
It was still cold out and it was late
and I was possibly driving
slightly faster than I should be.
As I came up Route 51
where this turnoff is
to go to the lake there's a sign
and like a light, pole light.
So as I'm coming down, you
know, it's pretty late,
but I notice a man
standing along the road.
It looked like a man in a trench coat.
And I'm pretty sure that
there's so much road kill
around there it was eating
something alongside the road.
As I came up on it, it was,
I thought it was a man
because it was man height.
It was, you know, five
plus feet, six foot tall.
Very dark, with headlights
on it it looked dark gray.
I bet it was black.
As it opened up and I saw, you could see
the wings, feathers, you
could see what it was.
There was a little bit of
light, like my headlights
were showing a little bit
lighter color than that.
It was the size of a man.
And I saw the wings come up
and take off and he was
standing on the white line
on the edge of the road.
And when it went like this, the wing broke
center line of the road
which was just like
what the heck?
And I kinda, as it went
up, I kinda went under.
It was very startling
because it was, I thought it was a guy.
And when it took off,
it was almost exciting.
I think I turned around
and went back to my house
and woke my brother up and told him.
Shortly after that,
around two weeks, 15 minutes from my house
in a small town called Herrick,
there was another sighting
that was very similar
to I what I seen.
So it kinda helped me,
you know, you always get
that, did that happen?
Or as with everything you try
to rationalize what was it?
Was it too close or too,
you know, but having
that same description, same
size, that close to home
that soon after, was kinda like yeah
there was something around
there at that point.
It was a mid-December day.
It was in the '90s, I think '94.
My friend and I were
going out pheasant hunting
and it was a real cold,
windy, blustery winter day.
We'd stopped at the guy's place
where we were going hunting.
We asked if we could go
and we were hunting a ditch
out in Caybury, Illinois.
That's where we were at.
Our dogs, we had German
Shorthaired Pointer dogs
and we were watching them hunt.
So the dogs were down in the ditch.
My friend yelled, "Look!"
And I looked over at him,
he was to my left.
And I saw him pointing above me.
I'd never saw it.
And I looked up and
there was a massive bird
right over the top of our dogs.
He later said that he
thought that that bird
was coming after our dogs
and that made sense to me
because it was right above us.
It was black and it was
probably, a good guess
is the wingspan was 20 feet.
I noticed that the wings were really long
and they had one bend in the middle.
I distinctly saw that.
And its head, it had a very long beak
and had kind of a long head,
a very big head, long beak,
and like it seemed like
almost like its head
went back behind it, too.
The bird, as soon as he yelled, "Look,"
and it heard us and saw us,
it took a couple flaps and went up
and got up into the sky
and that wind just, and it was just gone.
It was gone outta sight in a minute,
not even a minute.
We both walked over to
each other and we're like
what did you just see?
And we both have talked
about it a lot since.
I'm a lifelong outdoorsman,
I've spent my life out in the outdoors.
I've never seen anything like this.
My boss used to say, you know,
"Danhausen, tell that
crazy bird story of yours."
It was kinda something we told
as it was funny to people.
And it wasn't for years
that I actually figured out
or later discovered that other
people had seen these birds.
It's been a source of laughter for people
for quite some time.
Thunderbirds, winged humanoids,
prehistoric remnants, is there any reason
why rational, skeptical people
would believe these things exist?
The Teratorn was a massive bird
that, as strange as it sounds,
does match descriptions given
by many of the witnesses
particularly when it pertains to wingspan
and the white plumage
around the creature's neck.
The skeletal remains of Teratorns
with wingspans up to 20
feet have been discovered
in much of the United States.
Yet science claims that
these creatures went extinct
millions of years ago.
The Thunderbirds, which are
all over the West and a
little bit in the Midwest,
look like Teratorns.
They seem to be giant ancient condors.
And they were catharaforms.
They were essentially the ancestors
of modern condors and vultures.
A lot of people believe
that these giant birds
that are seen that don't really match
the description of known birds might be
some kind of prehistoric
winged creature, winged bird.
I don't know.
I mean, I would think we
would see them more often
if they were just living out
there roosting somewhere.
I think we'd see them
more often than we do.
Is there something
paranormal about these things?
Are they sort of projections
from the past perhaps
of extinct species
or time slips or something?
And then you hear of reports
of other even stranger things
like lights emitting from these creatures,
which of course, a normal bird can't do.
I've always wondered
if there might be some sort
of at least a paranormal thing
behind winged creatures.
I mean, I think there might be some sort
of dimensional question there.
A lot of sightings people
will think it's just
a gigantic bird, something flesh and blood
that you could hunt, you could kill
if you had to.
But then there are other accounts
whether it's UFO-related
or other phenomenon
where people believe
the creature's exhibiting
supernatural abilities.
But yes, there is a notion
that any of these winged
creatures could represent
tragic or catastrophic events to come,
that they could be omens,
warnings, of dire events.
Course we have the connection
between the famous Mothman
and the tragedy of the
Silver Bridge collapse.
Many people connect those two things
in their minds.
There is certainly a notion
that these winged cryptids, creatures,
whatever you wanna call them
are essentially very negative things
that you do not want to encounter.
Northern Illinois is defined
by the state's largest metropolitan area,
the city of Chicago.
Yet, outside the sprawl
of Chicagoland, lies
large pockets of forest,
vast rolling fields,
and the Illinois River.
In addition to miles
of undeveloped prairie,
this stretch of the state is also home
to two other large cities
and acres and acres
of swamps and farmland.
It's a remarkable Midwestern
mix of uninhabited expanses
and densely populated areas.
The city of Chicago was
built on a swamp essentially.
The beginning of its history
began with bloodshed.
This was a place
where settlers were massacred
by the local Native American tribes
at the beginning of the War of 1812.
And so it already was off to a bad start.
It took almost 20 years
to really develop after
that massacre took place.
But Chicago, thanks to all of the people
and the energy there, its history
has created it's ghosts.
I don't think that it's
the location of Chicago
that makes it so strange.
I think it's all of the things
that have happened there
over the years.
Because you have had
the great fire in 1871.
You've had millions of people come through
what's essentially downtown Chicago
in the last, oh not even quite 200 years.
I mean, you name it, it's had
all of this very violent history
and it think that's
really left a mark behind.
My name is Tobias Wayland
and I am the head writer
and editor for the
Singular Fortean Society.
I began my career
investigating the breadth
of paranormal phenomena
in the true Fortean fashion
of not leaving anything uninvestigated.
In August of 2016,
the winged cryptid phenomenon
returned to Illinois.
This time to the city of Chicago.
As reported to Lon Strickler,
a woman was wandering down Roosevelt Road
in the suburb of Cicero when she noticed
a flash of movement between two buildings.
Upon straining to see what it was
that had caught her attention,
she noticed a large
humanoid figure perched
on top of a streetlight.
The thing shot into the air
and disappeared into the night.
In February of 2017, the
flying, manlike creature
was spotted again by a motorist traveling
down 294 south outside of Chicago.
The driver recalled seeing
a manlike shape
running beside the road
before suddenly unfurling two wings
and taking to the skies over the city.
The man was shaken
as he recalled observing
what he described as the biggest bird
he had ever seen.
In March, a third sighting
took place in Tinley Park.
This time a man and his
dog encountered a being
matching the same description
as the previous two sightings.
It peered at him from a nearby roof.
The man attempted to get a
better view of the creature
by approaching it but it took to the sky
and disappeared before
he could capture a photo.
The initial reports of the Chicago Mothman
or Chicago Phantom were reported
to the paranormal websites
Phantoms & Monsters
operated by investigator
and author, Lon Strickler,
and UFO Clearinghouse
operated by Manuel Navarette.
In early May of 2017,
I had seen three reports
come through the MUFON database.
And they each described
a bat or bird-like being.
And you know, as a paranormal
researcher, journalist,
investigator, it piqued my interest
and so I wrote a short
article about it for our site.
I was following it.
I noticed that more
reports kept coming in.
In 2017, I became aware that there was
seemingly a flap of
flying humanoid sightings
coming out of Chicago and I was like
what is happening.
I was familiar, of course, with John Keel
and with the Mothman sightings
in Point Pleasant, West
Virginia, from 1966 to 1967.
So I was like, could it be
that Mothman is now
pretty much in my neighborhood?
More sightings kept coming in.
Almost immediately after in late April
and early May you had two sightings
near the Little Calument River.
And so both of those were men out fishing
with their sons.
In the first instance,
on April 27th, the witness said
that he heard a sound like train brakes
as a train slows down
like the sound of its brakes.
Just after that he saw what he described
as a giant bat fly overhead.
The second sighting was very, very similar
in that area.
I don't believe
that he mentioned the same shrill noise.
Saw a giant bat.
But in both cases they described
it as being very large,
you know, seven to eight-foot wingspan.
The Chicago Mothman case
is really interesting.
It started about a year,
year and a half ago
and there was a huge rash of sightings.
I think upwards of 70
to 80 sightings by now.
Right now, according
to internet sources,
there have been 71 sightings.
2011, 2017 was the bulk of them
and then a few in 2018.
Lon Strickler who published
the very first accounts,
knowing that I had an interest
in the specific subject
was gracious enough to funnel
me each individual sighting
or account for me to review.
And I did review and go through
the eyewitness testimonies.
And initially the descriptions
seemed very similar
to other flying humanoids
that have been documented
in Point Pleasant, West
Virginia, and other places.
A creature with quote
unquote bat-like wings
and other human-like features.
I have several criticisms
of the Chicago phenomena.
For one thing, to call it Mothman,
I thought was pure and
simple the copycat phenomena.
People were seeing things in the sky
or things near the Earth
that were above them.
Some of them looked like kites.
Some of them looked like balloons,
winged creatures, ravens.
And somebody decided
to label those Mothman.
And I think the problem started then.
And it was all still
very much up in the air.
You know, obviously, there was people
comparing it to Mothman.
There were people who thought it could be
a Halloween costume on a drone.
Some people thought that we're dealing
with a skydiver in a wing suit.
So I've been investigating accounts
of flying humanoids like the Mothman
for many, many years.
And, like the Thunderbirds,
there seem to be
specific areas where they're
reported more than others.
I will say that the
Chicago cases do follow
the basic pattern of,
again, flying humanoid flaps
where you have a short period of time
and on a high concentration
of these flying humanoid creatures
being reported or encountered.
Sightings of the Chicago Mothman
begin to draw local media attention
and soon the creature
was being written about
in publications such as the Chicago Post.
The articles were picked
up by the Associated Press
and ran in newspapers
around the United States
and soon a media sensation was born.
Just as it had in 1948 and 1977,
a winged creature flap was
drawing national attention.
And just as it had in the previous waves,
the brighter the spotlight,
the more the witnesses that came forward.
And this happens
with a lot of cases that
there are originally
very credible stories behind it
and then the media descends,
monster hunters descend,
and all hell breaks loose.
And now the reports
get stranger and stranger.
So I think the original reports
are what should be looked at
and have a lot of credibility to them
but some of the later reports,
just like every other crypto out there,
have to be looked at with a little more,
I think a little more of a critical eye.
And the closer you get
to the actual eyewitnesses,
it becomes clear that everybody's
seeing different things,
that there's different
levels of credibility
in the eyewitnesses.
And if there was 50 sightings in Chicago,
Chicago is an urban area,
all you would have to do
is involve the law enforcement branch
of the city of Chicago
and there's CCTV cameras all over.
Yeah, I'm familiar with
Chicago but I wasn't familiar
with each of the sighting locations.
And then upon going there, my question was
why haven't more people
reported the Mothman
if he, or it, is indeed appearing
in these tremendously crowded locations
where when I went there at
all times of day and night,
I was constantly under foot.
I've spoken quite a bit
in the Chicago metro area
on monsters and legends
and I have yet to encounter
anyone who not only has seen this,
but that has a personal
story from a friend.
I have spoken to witnesses personally.
I've worked very closely
with every investigator
who has spoken to witnesses personally.
And if they think that
any of the investigators
are making it up, they're mistaken.
In the months following the intiial outbreak
of reports, the Mothman
moniker stuck and reports
began expanding outside of the city.
Suddenly, people were
seeing a similar creature
over cities and suburbs
all along the Great Lakes
particularly in the town of Gary, Indiana,
only 37 minutes to the south.
The wave of sightings swept across Chicago
and continued into 2018.
While investigators and researchers
continued to argue over the
possible cause of the flap,
witnesses were still seeing
something in the skies overhead.
But what was it?
The other explanation could possibly be
what if something extraordinary did happen
in the Illinois Chicagoland area?
What if there was a UFO
or even a Thunderbird sighting
and someone knew about it
that didn't want other people
to believe it?
And so they, upon seeing that this account
would be released, flood
the information channels
with bogus accounts?
We've talked to a number
of people in Chicago.
I think there probably were
some credible sightings
but I think a lot of it
might have been exaggerated.
In a big city, you're
gonna have an active sky.
You're always gonna have
things moving overhead.
'Cause of course now we
live in the age of drones
that come in all kinds of
shapes including fixed wing
that are bat-like shapes.
You also have tall buildings
so there's the potential
that there coulda been thrill
seekers doing base jumping
with wing suits.
So there's all kinds of
possibilities you have
when you've got a city versus, you know,
a corn field out in the middle of nowhere.
You know, people may tend
to think of these things
as flesh and blood animals
and why would something like
that be near a big city?
If we consider
that these flying humanoids
may not fit neatly
into the natural world
Okay, man.
so to speak, that they may be something
more spectral or supernatural
in nature, then that would create
no geographic delineations.
These things could appear
at the time and place
of their choosing.
Maybe there's misidentification.
Some of the researchers on
the case like Tobias Wayland
from Singular Fortean
think that, you know,
perhaps global warming is causing
some migrational birds into areas
where you normally wouldn't see them.
When it comes to the Chicago sightings,
I think that there are two disparate
but concurrent phenomena.
And so the first is misidentifications
of large migratory birds.
People started seeing these birds,
they started going online
to try to figure out
what they had seen.
They find websites like
Phantoms & Monsters
and UFO Clearinghouse and us
and they start reporting them.
So even though a lot of
those turned out to be
Great Blue Herons or something similar,
it's actually led to a lot
of potentially paranormal sightings.
While accounts, encounters
with Thunderbirds,
flying humanoids, any of
these weird flying creatures
are considered omens, warnings, harbingers
of tragic events, we must consider
that the word monster
comes from a Latin word
that means warning.
So in a way, all of our
monsters are harbingers.
Illinois is a state defined by its legends.
Like the changing terrain that one finds
when they travel north to
south, the Prairie State
is awash in stories that
capture the imagination.
Perhaps no town within the
state has embraced those legends
more than Alton.
Here you will find a town
that celebrates tales
of giant men, mythical musicians, ghosts,
and winged cryptids all mingling together
just like the waters of the three rivers
on whose banks it sits.
Centuries tend to carry away lies
but a legend is something else entirely,
a tale told to bolster or frighten,
to invigorate or encourage.
Perhaps lost in the passage of time
is the fact that the
tellers were every bit
as important to the story
as the characters or
creatures that populated it.
But where did it begin?
With discovery.
Discovery of a truth,
discovery of an experience
that must be related to others.
Discovery of a story
that, like the mighty Mississippi itself,
can live forever.
Discovery of a legend
still living right here
amongst the vanishing Midwest.
The reason a lot of people
are interested in cryptozoology in general
is because people are
interested in animals
and they're interested in mysteries.
Why should people be interested in,
for instance, Thunderbirds?
Because Thunderbirds could tell
us a lot.
They could tell us a lot about climate,
about the terrain, about
their reactions to people
to unknown animals.
Why are people afraid of animals
that are always above them?
And that is a key.
These animals terrify
because they could come
out of nowhere.
They could kill you, they
can take your children,
they could take your pets.
They don't have a clue about Thunderbirds
and that scares the bejeebas outta people.
Regardless of the objective truth
behind some of these stories,
they have a huge effect on people's lives
and they have a huge
effect on people's outlook.
And I think that it teaches
us a lot about humanity
and I think that it's
sort of our ethical duty
as human beings to help each other
through our experiences.
For me personally,
collecting this kind of stuff
over the years is something
that, historically speaking,
I find it to be very important
because these are stories
that would be lost otherwise
if someone wasn't writing them down.
And I think that, culturally speaking,
this is important to us because this is,
some day this will be the
folklore of our generation.
I think that gathering
tales of ghosts and monsters
and giant birds and whatever
is important to American history,
American culture, and it is something
that future generations are gonna need
to understand what we were doing
in the 20th century and the 21st century.