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).

Dr Karl Shuker's Official Website - http://www.karlshuker.com/index.htm

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Thursday 22 October 2020


Mystery Cats of the World Revisited (© Dr Karl Shuker/Anomalist Books/William M. Rebsamen (cover artwork))

Published in 1989, Mystery Cats of the World was my very first book, but it swiftly became a classic addition to the cryptozoological literature, lauded by cryptozoologists and mainstream zoologists alike – not to mention a Nobel Prize-winning authoress by the name of Dame Doris Lessing – for what has been described as my scrupulously scientific, objective analysis of the numerous cases documented by me. Even today, it remains not only the undisputed definitive work on mystery cats but also the only one to survey the subject globally. Having been out of print for many years, this book has also become extremely sought-after and highly collectable – but now, three decades since its historic debut, Mystery Cats of the World has finally been republished, as an updated, greatly-expanded new edition aptly retitled Mystery Cats of the World Revisited.

For it not only investigates many new mystery cats but also revisits those previously featured in its 1989 version that in my opinion remain cryptozoological today. Conversely, those that I no longer consider pertinent to the subject have been deleted or dramatically reduced in coverage in order to make way for the dazzling diversity of present-day feline enigmas requiring examination and discussion. Moreover, it also contains many new, rare illustrations, and a substantially enlarged bibliography, plus the truly spectacular front-cover artwork created by esteemed cryptozoological artist and longstanding friend Bill Rebsamen – thanks Bill!

From blue tigers, water leopards, rainbow jaguars, king cheetahs, Transcaucasian daemon cats, and Sumatra's cigau, to spotted lions, black cougars, Mexico's onza, Madagascar's fitoaty, surviving sabre-tooths, feline mega-marsupials, and so much more – the book that set the standard for a whole new generation of cryptozoological writing is back!

Mystery Cats of the World – the iconic book that launched my lifelong career as an author and cryptozoological researcher (© Dr Karl Shuker/Robert Hale Limited)

Yet how swiftly the intervening years and life itself have flown by. It seems like only yesterday that my little box of six complimentary copies of Mystery Cats of the World, sent to me by its publisher, Robert Hale Limited (now no longer in existence), arrived through the post one sunny morning in June 1989, and how excited my mother Mary Shuker and I were to see them, hold them, browse through them, and later see copies in the shops – my very first book!

How proud once again she would be now to know that it has risen like a veritable feline phoenix 31 years later – my 32nd book in 32 years – and that it will, I hope, be enjoyed by a whole new generation of readers, not to mention my loyal, ever-expanding, ever-faithful following, some of whom date back with me right to the early 1980s and my debut within the cryptozoological community. God bless you, Mom, how I wish that you were still here to share this day, and all days, with me.

Mystery Cats of the World Revisited can be purchased from Amazon.co.uk in the UK, from Amazon.com in the USA, as well as from numerous other online bookstores and directly from its publisher Anomalist Books. It can also be ordered at all good high street bookstores. Finally, please click here for more details concerning this latest book of mine on its dedicated page on my website.

The full cover for Mystery Cats of the World Revisited, whose alternate yellow and white front-cover text pays faithful homage to the elegant front-cover style of its illustrious predecessor (© Dr Karl Shuker/Anomalist Books/William M. Rebsamen (cover artwork))



Saturday 17 October 2020


Mark Chorvinsky (© Mark Chorvinsky – photograph specifically made available to me by Mark for inclusion in this interview)

During the early years of my cryptozoological research and writing career, one of the most influential figures to provide me with constant encouragement, soon becoming one of my best friends too, was Maryland-based Mark Chorvinsky. Not only a fellow Fortean investigator, Mark was also a well-respected cinematic special effects specialist, stage magician, and founder/publisher of Strange Magazine – whose pages contained some of the most comprehensive and intelligent research into mysterious phenomena of many kinds, including unexplained beasts, that has ever been committed to print. Consequently, I was both delighted and extremely honoured when, after having already published in Strange Magazine a number of detailed articles by me on various cryptozoological subjects, Mark offered me the opportunity to pen a regular column too, 'The Menagerie of Mystery', which soon blossomed into a major multi-page feature in each issue.

By the late 1990s, I was writing articles for a number of publications both in the USA and in my native U.K., including a British partwork entitled The X Factor, devoted to mysteries of many kinds (and therefore totally unrelated to a certain TV talent show for upcoming pop stars that would be screened some years later!). As it had already published some interviews that I had conducted with various notable figures in the worlds of the unexplained and Forteana, I decided to conduct one with Mark, which, with his permission, I then sent off to The X Factor, where it was duly accepted for future publication. Sadly, however, The X Factor came to the end of its run before it was able to publish my interview with Mark, but I retained the original transcript.

Tragically, after having being stricken with cancer, Mark passed away in 2005, aged just 51, a terrible loss to his family, his friends (of whom I am very proud to have been one), and to the entire Fortean world. Mark has rightly been called a Renaissance Man, because he did indeed possess extraordinary talents in a vast range of fields, and his countless contributions in so many varied subjects are still and always will be remembered. Recently, I found the printed-out transcript of my interview with Mark on file, so now, in a ShukerNature world-exclusive, I am publishing it here, as my tribute to a truly remarkable man and one of the kindest, most supportive friends I have ever known, or am ever likely to. God speed, Mark, and thank you for so much, for so long.



Mark Chorvinsky is one of America's most renowned Fortean investigators, and an expert in cinematic special effects, thus enabling him to conduct professional, significant analyses upon purported photographic evidence for mysterious phenomena. He is also the editor of Strange Magazine, published twice-yearly in the U.S.A. (P.O. Box 2246, Rockville, MD 20847), which is well-respected worldwide for its meticulously-researched articles, and also has an award-winning website (at www.strangemag.com). Here, in a rare interview, Mark talks exclusively to The X Factor concerning some of his many, diverse fields of Fortean study.

Q1: How did you become involved in what must surely be your most unusual current area of research, investigating alleged encounters with the Angel of Death (aka the Grim Reaper)?

A1: I was writing a column for the American magazine Fate, and from time to time I discussed weird encounters that readers had shared with me. One correspondent of mine described an encounter with a hooded, robed figure. When I wrote about this case, I received a good deal of mail from people who had also seen such a figure. A number of the cases involved an entity that we know of as the Angel of Death or the Grim Reaper. The figure often carries a scythe, has a skeletal appearance, and is associated with a death in some manner.

Strange Magazine #18, depicting the Grim Reaper on its front cover and containing Mark's in-depth investigation of this uncanny subject (© Mark Chorvinsky/Strange Magazine – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis for educational/review purposes only)

I have studied this phenomenon for some years now, and find it fascinating, as it was not previously known in the field of the study of Forteana/strange phenomena that there was a Reaper Phenomenon. Consequently, although the motif is centuries old, most of us never thought that it was anything but a cultural image. Who knew, for example, that nurses occasionally see the Grim Reaper at the bedside of a dying patient? I am collecting accounts of Grim Reaper sightings and am working on a book on the subject. I will also be speaking about it at the Fortean Times Unconvention in London in April 1998. If any X Factor readers have had any encounters with a Reaper-like entity, I would like to hear from them [Mark can be reached at strange1@strangemag.com].

Q2: As a renowned bigfoot researcher and special effects authority, what is your opinion concerning the Patterson bigfoot film footage?

A2: Since 1958, bigfoot has become a part of the American cultural landscape, cemented by the film taken by rodeo rider Roger Patterson in 1967. After investigating this film for many years, I must say that the facts point to the hoax hypothesis. There are too many problems with the film for it to be genuine. Primate experts have major problems with the creature's anatomy, and Patterson was under tremendous pressure to come up with something on film. In fact, there was a warrant out for his arrest for non-payment on his rented camera!

Patterson–Gimlin bigfoot film, frame 352 (current © owner unknown to me – reproduced here in low-resolution format on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis for educational/review purposes only)

Investigations by bigfoot investigator Peter Byrne have clearly demonstrated that the film could not have been taken at the time that Patterson claims it was. Why lie about the date and/or time if everything is on the level? The location of the Patterson film is Bluff Creek, California, which has been the site of various bigfoot hoaxes in the past, including the highly tainted 'Birth of Bigfoot' case. Also, there are many rumours of a person in a suit, all of which I am currently investigating. The most prominent of these rumours is that Hollywood make-up artist John Chambers, who worked on the film 'Planet of the Apes', made the Patterson suit. I personally feel that there are many reasons to think this may be true, including the fact that some of Chambers's closest associates believe that he made the suit. Chambers denies involvement, but to my mind there is growing evidence to the contrary, both on and off the record.

Q3: One of the most famous figures of legend that may have actually existed is the Arthurian arch-mage, Merlin. Based upon your own findings, what conclusions have you drawn regarding the erstwhile reality (or otherwise) of Merlin?

A3: One cannot conclude anything definitive about Merlin: to paraphrase San Marte: "Merlin comes to meet us as if from a fog." The fog is a thick mist that has accumulated in the 13 centuries that have passed since Merlin may have lived. However, I feel from my 22 years of research into this subject that there probably was a Merlin, or Myrddin as he is referred to in Welsh, and that he should be afforded a rightful place in early British history.

In recent years, there has been a movement in the direction of accepting the historical reality of Merlin, but the Merlin that is being discussed has been stripped of his magical aspects and turned by rationalists into a Northern bard. I have done extensive research at the British Library, the National Library of Wales, in local libraries throughout Wales, and on location in the major Merlinian locales. Merlin was most certainly a druid-bard and was adviser/prognosticator for a number of heads of state in the fifth and sixth centuries.

Vintage depiction of Merlin carrying the infant who would become King Arthur (public domain)

Certainly, if such personages as Arthur, Vortigern, Hengist, and Horsa are accepted as historical figures, then Merlin should not be excluded, since he is mentioned in a number of early British manuscripts in a context that clearly depicts him as a real person of some importance. In the Annales Cambriae, the Welsh Annals, there is an entry for the year 573 AD stating that Merlin went insane at the battle of Arderydd (Arthuret). There is corroboration for the approximate date and the event, and we know the historical context for the battle. Thus, we accept everything in this entry except for Merlin, who is excluded out of an academic prejudice against things magical, anomalous, Fortean. Merlin has been excluded from history just as many Fortean phenomena are excluded from science due to aspects of their existence that do not easily fall into today's scientific fashions. I consider my study of Merlin to be my life's work, and I hope to spend some time in Wales working on a biography of Merlin based on everything that we know about him from all sources.

Q4: Since its inception in 1987, Strange Magazine has deservedly become one of the world's most widely-respected Fortean publications. As its editor and publisher, what do you personally consider to be its single greatest achievement?

A4: Strange Magazine's greatest achievement is following through on its policy of undertaking in-depth investigations into various strange phenomena. My feeling is that Fortean studies have traditionally been at their weakest when it came to actual investigations. Without serious, objective investigation, we will get nowhere in this field.

Most investigators are either believers or disbelievers, but neither of these groups is usually objective, despite their (often transparent) claims to the contrary. While there are occasional exceptions, most believers use their investigation to try to prove the existence of their favourite phenomenon. The disbelievers, meanwhile, are generally using the facts of their investigations to disprove the existence of the phenomenon that they disbelieve in.

Front cover of the very first issue of Strange Magazine, published in 1987 (© Mark Chorvinsky/Strange Magazine – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis for educational/review purposes only)

When we investigate a case for Strange, we are often able to add a good deal of significant information to the field, and in some cases a conclusion is reached. Investigations are difficult, expensive, and time-consuming. They are also often thankless, as many people would rather hear the myth than the reality behind it. We are rather tough investigators, in the sense that we like to leave few if any stones unturned. There is no room for credulity in Fortean investigations, but one should not have a closed mind about strange possibilities either.

Q5: One of your most well-known, and tenacious, research pursuits is seeking the elusive thunderbird photograph. Bearing in mind, however, that it has evaded discovery for many years, how likely do you think it is that this picture really does (or did) exist?

A5: I think that it most likely does not exist, but if it does not there is still much to be learned from the phenomenon of a missing photo that so many credible witnesses believe they have seen. For those who are unfamiliar with it, the thunderbird photograph is a missing photograph that many have described as variously depicting an exceptionally large bird or pterodactyl, with outstretched wings across a barn and a number of cowboys or professor-type figures standing in front of it. The photo was alleged to have been published in Arizona's Tombstone Epitaph newspaper in 1886, but this has been disproven.

Many of my Fortean friends and colleagues, including Mark Opsasnick, David Robbins, David Walley, and the late Vincent Gaddis, all are absolutely certain that they have seen the photograph, and these are not people prone to wild first-person claims. Why would so many people be certain that they saw it if they did not? But on the other hand, if the photo does not exist, how valuable are first-person accounts, which are the foundation for the widespread belief in many phenomena? If the t-bird photo is merely a false memory, how many other recollections of various phenomena are too?

Widely disseminated photograph of a marabou stork that may have inspired some false memories of having seen the thunderbird photograph (public domain)

My current investigation into this case involves magazine and newspaper research at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., a study of reports and alleged sightings of supposed thunderbirds and living pterodactyls, and an attempt to list and compare all known recollections of the location of the thunderbird photograph. At least once a week someone contacts me concerning their recollection of the photograph. So far, none of the leads has panned out, but it is a fun search as it is very different from my other endeavours. It would be great if someone found the photo, but it would have to be provided in a verifiable context - such a photo would not be difficult to fake today. In fact, there have been several very lame attempts in that direction. Luckily, our staff at Strange Magazine is very film/video/photography savvy as we are all film-makers/cinematographers/photographers, and have all worked on special effects for film and television.

I predicted a while ago that the thunderbird photo would be one of the top mysteries of the immediate future, which it now is, and I think that we will still be talking about it into the next millennium.

Q6: Looking to the future, as a major figure in Fortean research what do you see as your greatest challenge?

A6: My greatest personal challenge is to keep all of the balls in the air at the same time. At any given time, I am in the midst of a dozen on-going investigations and a number of articles and books, and there is always another issue of Strange Magazine to put out right around the corner. I would like to see all of the classic Fortean cases investigated, and all of the information gleaned put into print without regard as to whether or not the data supports any particular hypothesis. Most of the better-known phenomena are constructed like houses of cards that quickly fall apart when subjected to the weight of close, impartial scrutiny.

My favourite Strange Magazine front cover (Strange Magazine #9), depicting the mysterious glowing mummies of Peru (© Mark Chorvinsky/Strange Magazine – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis for educational/review purposes only)

One of my goals is to train other people to do what I do and to have them work in their respective regions. I have started doing this over the past few years, but with mixed results. The biggest problem is that some investigators are approaching a given case as if there is little chance of hoaxing and a great chance that the phenomenon is "real". In fact, the opposite has turned out to be true in many of the cases that we have investigated. While there are certainly some notable exceptions, most cases have proved to be hoaxes or misidentifications of some kind.

Certainly, with film and photo cases, the vast majority are hoaxes - indeed, it is more probable that a film or photo is a hoax than not. This does not necessarily mean, of course, that any phenomenon that is the subject of hoax films and photos cannot be real itself (i.e. there may be, for example, a fake photo of a sea monster, but this does not rule out the possibility that sea monsters do exist). However, it does imply that the investigator should be prepared to look for red flags and ask the right questions, and to reserve judgement until enough information is in for a conclusion, tentative or not, to be drawn. There are many Fortean investigators in films and on TV, but there are very few in real life. It is hard to be sceptical and to retain a Fortean sense of wonder tempered by investigative experience.

My other great challenge is to get our archives in order, as we have newspaper clippings and personal accounts that have been sent in from all over the world. Data is both the love and the bane of the Fortean researcher.



Q1: North America lays claim to numerous water monsters, so why do you consider Chessie - the sea serpent of Chesapeake Bay - to be of particular interest?

A1: Chessie is of interest to me largely for selfish reasons - it is the closest alleged sea serpent to where I live in Maryland. I can drive for an hour or so and be in Chessie territory. I enjoy studying Chessie because most of its reports are not known to Forteans or cryptozoologists, and because Chesapeake Bay presents an interesting zoological situation. The bay is partly fresh and partly salty water - thus there is a great array of creatures that live in or find their way into here. Some of them might be mistaken for monsters, and many are in fact quite unusual.

Chessie colouring book published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1986 (public domain)

There have been a considerable number of accounts describing close sightings of a giant eel, but some sightings are of a classic Nessie-esque plesiosaur-type form. Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States and is connected to the Atlantic Ocean. Whales, tremendous leatherback and green turtles, porpoises, manatees, giant rays, sharks, huge sturgeon, and lots of eels live in or have made it into the bay. Consequently, if there are such things as sea serpents, perhaps they have made their way into - and back out of - the bay too.

There are also a lot of wild but fascinating accounts of Army experimentation at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, including the area near Pooles Island, on the Chesapeake River. In this restricted area, very bizarre fish and other strange creatures have been sighted.

I was surprised to see a very old map of the United States in the National Museum of Wales's Welsh Folk Museum in St. Fagans. On this map, and heading straight for the Chesapeake Bay, is a sea serpent fitting Chessie's description! Chessie is a world-class mystery creature(s) but understudied, and is therefore very deserving of attention.

Q2: There has been much renewed interest lately concerning the crystal skulls. As a longstanding investigator of these enigmatic artefacts, what is your view as to their origin and possible authenticity?

A2: The crystal skulls were the objects of my first full-blown investigation, and I still find them amazing artefacts, despite the fact that so much myth surrounds them. Whereas the most famous example, the Mitchell-Hedges skull, is of highly questionable origin, the British Museum skull appears to have come from Mexico or Central America. There have always been a number of smaller skulls that are in various collections, including those of the British Museum and the Smithsonian Institution; but while my investigation was in full swing, there were only two known, confirmed, life-size quartz crystal skulls.

The late Anna Mitchell-Hedges with the Mitchell-Hedges crystal skull that she allegedly discovered (© Mark Chorvinsky)

In recent years, however, there has been a sudden proliferation of crystal skulls. These newer entries in the field appear to a veteran crystal skull student like me to be very different from the "classic" crystal skulls, and may well be modern in origin. There is nothing to stop any lapidary expert from carving a crystal skull from a large piece of quartz. Frank Dorland, who had the Mitchell-Hedges skull in his possession for several years, told me that he could create a duplicate of the Mitchell-Hedges Skull in under a year.

Some academics have suggested that there is a crystal skull "factory" somewhere in Europe, and that the skulls are originating from there. This is supported by the fact that occasionally someone comes to the Readers' Room at the Museum of Mankind in London and asks about a crystal skull of European origin that they have in their possession. The recent New Mexican skull turned out to be a fake - the sculptor came forward after the skull was being taken too seriously.

One thing is for certain - the crystal skulls are very attractive objects with a great deal of lore attached to them. We may never know their true origins, and they will forever be items of mystery.

Nowadays, there are indeed numerous mass-produced crystal skulls in existence, which do not exhibit anything remotely approaching the extreme craftsmanship of the famous earlier ones investigated by Mark. Here is one such modern-day example: (© Dr Karl Shuker)




Tuesday 13 October 2020


The fake thunderbird photograph exposed in this present ShukerNature article (photo-manipulator(s) unknown to me – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis for educational/review purposes only)

The case of the missing thunderbird photograph is unquestionably one of the most tantalizing – and tormenting – cryptozoological cases on file. I have already documented it in detail here on ShukerNature as well as in my two prehistoric survivors books, which should all be consulted for comprehensive coverage. However, serving to set the scene for this present article's subject, here is a concise quote from my afore-mentioned ShukerNature account of this elusive (or illusive?) image:

It all (allegedly) began back in 1886, when an Arizona newspaper called the Tombstone Epitaph supposedly published a very striking photograph, which depicted a huge dead pterodactyl-like bird with open beak and enormous outstretched wings, nailed to a barn and flanked by some men. This bird was reputed to be a thunderbird, and judging from the size scale provided by the height of the men standing alongside it, its wingspan appeared to be an awesome 36 ft! In other words, it was three times greater than that of the wandering albatross Diomedea exulans - the bird species currently holding the record for the world's biggest modern-day wingspan.

Since then, countless people claim to have seen this same photo in various magazines published some time during the 1960s or early 1970s, but no-one can remember precisely where. Those publications thought to be likely sources of such a picture include Saga, True, Argosy, and various of the many Western-type magazines in existence during this period in America, but searches through runs of these publications have failed to uncover any evidence of it.

Nor has anyone come forward with a copy of this photo as published elsewhere, and the archives of the Tombstone Epitaph do not have any copy of it either.

A number of photos claimed to be this evanescent, iconic image have been aired over the years, especially online, but these have all been exposed as hoaxes.

I should also point out here that some people have claimed that the ostensibly-vanished photo seen by them actually portrayed a bona fide pterodactyl, not merely a pterodactyl-like bird. However, just a few years after the thunderbird photo was supposedly first published, another story of a huge winged wonder began circulating, and in the same geographical region. This one concerned a huge bona fide pterodactyl having been shot in an American desert, i.e. a totally separate storyline but which has subsequently been conflated with the missing thunderbird photo's storyline, especially in online accounts. Consequently, this may explain those eyewitness reports of having seen a photo of a dead pterodactyl, rather than of a dead bird, pinned with wings outstretched to a barn door.

As will be seen if you search my ShukerNature blog, I have personally exposed a number of hoax thunderbird photos, because I feel that it is very necessary to remove from further consideration such fakes, as they serve only to confuse and detract from serious investigations being made by various researchers (myself included) regarding the original, genuine thunderbird photograph, if indeed such a picture really does exist. And now, yet another fake thunderbird photo has emerged, but one that I was able to expose very quickly, as now fully revealed here.

During the early hours of yesterday morning (12 October 2020), longstanding Facebook friend Randi MacDonald (aka Randi Mosasaur) brought to my attention via a private message on FB the following photograph that she had found on Pinterest, but with no details concerning its origin. I reproduced it at the opening of this present ShukerNature article of mine, but here it is again:

The fake thunderbird photograph found on Pinterest by Randi (photo manipulator(s) unknown to me – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis for educational/review purposes only)

As seen, it has the outward appearance of being a very old, sepia photograph depicting what looks initially like a dead pterodactylian pterosaur pinned with wings outstretched to the front of a barn, in front of which are standing a number of human figures that may conceivably be cowboys or soldiers, or some of each. In short, it closely matches verbal descriptions that have been given by those people claiming to have seen the original, missing thunderbird photograph but alleging that the creature in question was a pterodactyl or at least a pterodactyl-like entity rather than an unequivocal (albeit extremely large!) feathered bird.

However, even the most cursory of glances at this photograph revealed straight away to me that it was a hoax, due to the unambiguously fraudulent nature of the thunderbird portrayed in it. Even if we choose to ignore the scarcely inconsiderable fact that the most recent pterodactyls known from the current fossil record are at least 65 million years old, with no scientifically-confirmed modern-day living example known, thereby rendering as decidedly remote the likelihood of the thunderbird in this photo being genuine, the latter entity is instantly recognizable as a fake, because of its readily visible composite nature. For whereas it sports the crested, beaked head of a Pteranodon-like pterodactyl, the bone structure of its wings as seen through the wing membranes is diagnostically that of a bat!

Pterosaur wing's bone structure (top) and bat wing's bone structure (bottom) (© National Geographic – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis for educational/review purposes only)

As shown above, a pterosaur's wing only contains a single greatly elongated finger, the 4th, which runs along its outer edge within the wing membrane. Conversely, a bat's wing contains three greatly elongated fingers. These are the 3rd, which runs along its outer edge within the wing membrane, plus the 4th and the 5th, both of which are contained further down within the wing membrane. In addition, the less elongated 2nd finger is contained within the wing membrane above the 3rd finger. This bat wing structure is precisely the version exhibited by the fake thunderbird's wings.

Yet even though within just a few moments of having first seen it I knew categorically that this photo was a fake, I decided to see out of sheer curiosity whether  I could uncover the major original components in it that had been utilized and converted via digital manipulation to yield its image. I began with the barn, and using a combination of search engines I soon discovered the original, unmodified barn photograph that had been used. A full-colour modern-day photo, it appears on numerous websites, of which the earliest that I could find was in a 11 August 2010 post by Texas-based photographer Nancy Wingo Ridley (username = Rustic Images) on the Foundmyself website (please click here to access its site), being one of numerous attractive countryside-themed photographs that this website offers for sale. Please click here to see this photo on the Foundmyself site (where it is described as "Old barn and wagon near Fredricksburg, Tx"); and please click here to see Nancy's Foundmyself page containing her many exquisitely beautiful photographs that are available on this site.

When I compared this genuine full-colour modern-day photo of a barn with the fake thunderbird photo, it was immediately evident that the former had been used by the faker as the basis of the latter, as can be seen here:

Comparison of the fake thunderbird photograph (top) with the genuine full-colour modern-day photo of a barn (bottom) that was digitally manipulated by person(s) unknown to help create the fake thunderbird photo (creator(s) of fake thunderbird photo unknown to me / (© Rustic Photos – reproduced here in low-resolution format on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis for educational/review purposes only; please click here to visit the excellent Rustic Photos page of images where the original full-colour barn photograph is just one of numerous beautiful countryside-themed pictures produced by her that can be purchased)

As can also be seen, only three major changes have been made via digital manipulation to the actual structure of the barn. The barn door has been widened, the wheeled contraption in front of it has been removed, and the triangular section on the lower right-hand side of the barn roof has been digitally raised, i.e. stretched vertically, so that its outer edge is now tucked just underneath that of the barn roof's upper right-hand side. The effect of this is to make the barn horizontally wider at that particular point – but why would the faker choose to do this? The answer is quite simple – to make the barn wide enough at that particular point for the right-hand wingtip of the wings-outstretched pterodactyl to fit fully on it and thereby match the descriptions of claimed eyewitnesses of the original missing thunderbird photo. Had the faker not done this and had simply used the original full-colour barn photo unmodified, the pterodactyl's right-hand wingtip would have projected quite a way over the edge of the barn roof's lower right-hand edge instead of being contained entirely within it.

Added to the very decent job that the faker has done in converting the modern-day colour barn photo into an aged-looking, purposefully slightly blurry, sepia-tinted photo that one might indeed assume to be 150-or-so years old (as the original, missing thunderbird photo will be by now if it truly exists), this digital widening of the barn in order to make the pterodactyl fit upon it was, I felt, was a clever, well thought-out additional modification of the original full-colour barn photograph – or it would have been, were it not for one massive oversight that again instantly exposed the thunderbird photo to me as a hoax.

Enlarge the two photos, look at the trees surrounding the barn in the original full-colour barn photo, then look at them surrounding the barn in the thunderbird photo. As you will see, they are not just similar, they are identical in every way – every leaf, every twig, every angle of foliage in the original full-colour barn photo is duplicated exactly in the thunderbird photo! An exact match in every way.

One can only assume that either the faker had been careless and had not thought to modify digitally the trees and their foliage in the thunderbird photo so that they were visually distinct from those in the original barn photo, or had chosen simply to ignore this aspect of the photos in the hope that their identical nature would not be spotted (or perhaps the faker did try but found the process too difficult, so decided to leave this aspect alone?).

How long has this fake thunderbird photo been in existence? By using a combination of different search engines once again, the earliest instance of its presence online that I could find was 27 March 2017, on the website tunepk.me (but a link to it no longer operates), which was thrown up by the search engine TinEye. Here is a screenshot of that latter result:

Earliest search result for the fake thunderbird photo discovered by me, thrown up by TinEye (© TinEye – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis for educational/review purposes only)

In contrast, its 11 August 2010 appearance on the Foundmyself website for Rustic Images is the earliest appearance online that I could find for the full-colour barn photo, i.e. a full seven years before the fake thunderbird photo.

Turning my attention away from the barn and its surroundings to the composite pterodactyl-headed bat-winged thunderbird, I then decided to see if I could trace online the original photo from where the latter's wings had been obtained by the faker. This again proved surprisingly easy – I soon found a photo of a fruit bat in flight whose wings were identical to the thunderbird's, as readily revealed when this bat photo was simply rotated so that the orientation of the bat's wings lined up with that of the thunderbird's wings in order to make easier direct comparisons of the two images.

Of particular note is that a small notch, presumably the result of some injury, can be discerned at the edge of the section of membrane extending between the very elongated 4th and 5th fingers of the bat's dark brown right-hand wing. It shows up very well in the bat photo because of the pale blue sky visible through it. When these dark brown bat wings were added by the faker to the thunderbird photo, however, the notch is no longer so readily spotted because now it is the dark brown barn that is showing through it (rather than the much more contrasting pale blue sky in the original bat photo), but if you enlarge the thunderbird photo you can then detect the notch.

Here for comparison purposes is the fake thunderbird photo alongside the bat photo, the latter having been rotated by me so that its wing orientation corresponds with that of the bat-winged pterodactyl-headed thunderbird in order for direct visual comparisons to be more easily made:

Fake thunderbird photo (top) and bat photo (bottom) (photo-manipulator(s) unknown to me / (© 945ontwerp/cdc.gov – reproduced here in low-resolution format on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis for educational/review purposes only)

I discovered that this bat photo had been snapped by a photographer with the screen name 945ontwerp, who had first uploaded it onto a Getty Images website named iStock on 5 June 2007 (please click here to browse through his portfolio of spectacular photos available for purchase), but it has since appeared in numerous online publications. In particular, it opens an article written by Linda McIntosh and entitled 'Meet bats, creepy night critters' that appeared on the same day, 18 October 2016, in a number of different American newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune (click here to access it) as well as the Morning Call, San Diego Union-Tribune, Baltimore Sun, and New York Daily News (and in which the photo, oddly, is credited to cdc.gov).

Finally: the feet of the bat in the bat photo do not match those of the thunderbird, indicating that a separate photographic source was used by the faker to yield these. Sure enough, while seeking the photographic source of the bat wings, I actually came across several different bat photos in each of which the depicted bat's feet were sufficiently similar to those of the thunderbird that some only very minor digital modification and enlargement would be needed in order to create the latter appendages. Incidentally, after some consideration I decided not to expend any additional time on this photo, as would be required were I to seek out the original image sources for the men standing in front of the thunderbird, because as can clearly be seen here, I have already presented more than sufficient evidence to confirm that this photo is a fake. However, if anyone reading this ShukerNature blog article of mine does have the time and the patience to do so, I'd certainly be very interested to learn if you succeed in tracing them online.

Another cryptozoological fake conclusively exposed, Case solved.

My sincere thanks to Randi MacDonald/Mosasaur for kindly bringing this fake thunderbird photograph to my attention.

An extensive documentation of alleged modern-day sightings and encounters with thunderbirds can be found in my book Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors.

Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors (© Dr Karl Shuker/Coachwhip Publications)