One of my favorite obsessions is the legend of the Lost Thunderbird Photo. It’s a convoluted tale that reveals more twists the further you dig, but here is a simple synopsis of the basic story: In the waning days of the American Wild West, two cowboys were accosted by an enormous flying creature and shot it dead. They hauled the beast – described in different versions of the legend as an abnormally large bird of prey or a prehistoric pteranodon – back to town, where the creature was hung across a barn wall. Several men posed side-by-side, demonstrating the monster’s enormous wingspan, and a photograph was taken of this momentous event. This photo has supposedly appeared throughout the following decades in various men’s adventure magazines and books on the paranormal. Many people are absolutely certain they have seen this photo – have you? – but the kicker is that no one can find it today.

Library archives have been scoured, but still the “Thunderbird” photo eludes us. If found, it would surely be evidence of the incredible in our midst, more than a century distant but still documented in one murky, mysterious image. Believe it or not, the first part of this story – about cowboys shooting down a flying beast – has been located in the form of a news story that appeared in the April 26, 1890 edition of the Tombstone Epitaph. The story unfortunately did not include a photo, and ended at the point where the cowboys were planning to bring the creature back to town. The notion of a photo, while potentially implied in the Epitaph report, seems to have originated in the pages of mid-20th Century magazines about strange phenomena.

So what makes this legend so compelling? The original news article is a shocking read, but it’s from an era when editors weren’t unknown to publish tall tales in their papers. Also, why are so many people SURE they’ve seen the Thunderbird photo? I think there’s merit in the idea that it’s a false memory, an example of The Mandela Effect. The description of a tintype photo showing a giant bird or pterodactyl draped across a barn and surrounded by a posse is evocative enough to implant an image in the brain, one that feels very familiar yet years removed. Deep down, we want to believe it’s real. And we desperately want to find it. It’s a key to another, more fantastic version of the universe.

Of course, what if there is a kernel of truth, and the Thunderbird photo is still out there in the dusty pages of a magazine that’s been rotting in an attic for 60 years?

First-hand descriptions of the Thunderbird photo vary. Sometimes the creature’s hanging on a wooden wall flanked by cowboys or men in top hats. Sometimes it’s propped up on a mesa between its killers with monumental rock structures in the background. There are certainly many fakes out there, some of them truly artistic examples of photo manipulation. A couple of (debunked) versions of the photo show the beast on the ground, a trophy for Civil War soldiers. Here is my own version up close, a mix of these legends depicted in my trademark LEGO medium:

The Lost Thunderbird Photo

But seriously, have YOU seen the Thuderbird photo? Let me know in the comments!

More About the Missing Thunderbird Photo –

— This is not an official LEGO comic. This is a tribute.
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