Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. He is the author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), Dragons: A Natural History (1995), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), The Unexplained (1996), From Flying Toads To Snakes With Wings (1997), Mysteries of Planet Earth (1999), The Hidden Powers of Animals (2001), The Beasts That Hide From Man (2003), Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), Dragons in Zoology, Cryptozoology, and Culture (2013), The Menagerie of Marvels (2014), A Manifestation of Monsters (2015), Here's Nessie! (2016), and what is widely considered to be his cryptozoological magnum opus, Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors (2016) - plus, very excitingly, his first two long-awaited, much-requested ShukerNature blog books (2019, 2020).

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Saturday 27 June 2009


Painting of a close encounter between a thunderbird and a light aircraft (William Rebsamen)

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE - 3 August 2012

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

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

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

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


  1. I want one. Where can i buy one and what size cage do i need..........

  2. It sure would be nice to study a specimen. I am sure if that giant stuffed bird is out there, it'll turn up. Maybe someone will find in in their grandparents' attic..

  3. I wonder if Big Bird off Sesame Street was a thunderbird chick! (Certainly responsible for helping thousands of British children say "zee" instead of "zed"!)

    I expect you've already heard about this, but on the off chance you haven't... (Utterly disgusting, and not for dinner time, but of cryptozoological interest)


    "There's something horrible lurking in the sewers beneath Raleigh, North Carolina. Sinister, pulsating, fleshy mounds of ichorous slime, which seem to be breathing in and out, and occasionally clench like a traumatised sphincter."

    - Ray Bell

    p.s. Yarnbuns - that would have to be a big attic! Surely warehouse somewhere?

  4. Maybe they will find it in an old antique/curiosity shop???
    One wishes...:)

  5. The professor should also check w/our local natives at Thunderbird Falls AK & see what they have in their archives or artifacts. Too many sightings up here to ignore. It's about time someone gets these villagers to release more info so we can better understand these birds & their cycles.

  6. That aircraft is a Cessna product, probably a 172. Accuracy counts...

  7. Hi there, Thanks everyone for your comments, which I greatly appreciate. As I'm not an aeroplane boffin, I'll pass on the comments as to its specific type to Bill Rebsamen, the artist who painted this blog post's beautiful picture and also supplied me with the info re it, so that he can respond if he so chooses. All the best, Karl

  8. Hello Karl.

    I asked my friend who lives in Ontario, she will try to ask there (via phone). Her friend's mother lives near and this is what she e-mailed my friend: "Called my mom and asked her and she said she doesn't ever recall hearing anything about this. And she went through Spanish quite often and never
    saw anything. Sorry."

    She also sent me these three links:

  9. I live in Sault Ste. Marie Ontario.. approximately an hour and 30 minutes north of spanish ontario. This seems too unreal to be true, but i remember when i was roughly 7-9 years old, which would be 1997-1999 my friend and I witnessed a massive bird which looked like the size of a small plane in the sky. We marvelled over it for months, but we were young so we werent taken seriously about it.. which could be justifiable, although I did research that because of that incident and came across that site. If there in fact was a thunderbird killed in spanish, can someone confirm that?

  10. that painting is either photoshopped of a condor in flight because no bird would be that comfortable near something as loud as that plane no matter how big you are he wouldnt fly that close or is a remote control plane and either way thats a condor not a thunderbird...as aggressive as stories are about thunderbirds being it wouldve either kept a better distance or it would have knocked the plane out of the air thinking it was easy prey,,,plus who has a camera lens that big on hand when they just happen to see a plane being trailed by a giant bird no...thats photoshopped or its remote control plane and staged to make it look bigger than it should be

  11. Hi Joshua, Thanks for your comments, but please note that the above illustration is NOT a photograph, but an actual original painting, i.e. artwork, created by extremely talentd American artist William Rebsamen. Bill's artwork is famous for its lifelike appearance - I've lost count of the times that I've been asked where the blue tiger snapped in his blue tiger photos can be seen, when in reality his blue tiger photos are, of course, paintings! All the best, Karl

  12. awesome.. really cool.. i dont believe it that its real.. great work..