Tombstone Thunderbird

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The Town Too Tough to Die is a town of legends, but did you also know it's a town with its own, strange mystery too?

On April 26, 1890, the Tombstone Epitaph (Links to Library of Congress Archive) ran a story one would hardly begin to believe was true... yet the story of the Tombstone Thunderbird has endured over 100 years. The story as printed in the paper reads as follows:

A Strange Winged Monster Discovered and Killed on the Huachuca Desert

A winged monster, resembling a huge alligator with an extremely elongated tail and an immense pair of wings, was found on the desert between the Whetsone and Huachuca mountains last Sunday by two ranchers who were returning home from the Huachucas. The creature was evidently greatly exhausted by a long flight and when discovered was able to fly but a short distance at a time. After the first shock of wild amazement had passed, the two men, who were on horseback and armed with Winchester rifles, regained sufficient courage to pursue the monster and after an exciting chase of several miles succeeded in getting near enough to open fire with their rifles and wounding it. The creature then turned on the men, but owing to its exhausted condition they were able to keep out of its way and after a few well directed shots the monster partly rolled over and remained motionless. The men cautiously approached, their horses snorting with terror, and found that the creature was dead. They then proceeded to make an examination and found that it measured about ninety-two feet in length and the greatest diameter was about fifty inches. The monster had only two feet, these being situated a short distance in front of where the wings were joined to the body. The head, as near as they could judge, was about eight feet long, the jaws being thickly set with strong, sharp teeth. Its eyes were as large as a dinner plate and protruded about half way from the head. They had some difficulty in measuring the wings as they were partly folded under the body, but finally got one straightened out sufficiently to get a measurement of seventy-eight feet, making the total length from tip to tip about 160 feet. The wings were composed of a thick and nearly transparent membrane and were devoid of feathers or hair, as was the entire body. The skin of the body was comparatively smooth and easily penetrated by a bullet. The men cut off a small portion of the tip of one wing and took it home with them. Late last night one of them arrived in this city for supplies and to make the necessary preparations to skin the creature, when the hide will be sent east for examination by the eminent scientists of the day. The finder returned early this morning accompanied by several prominent men who will endeavor to bring the strange creature to this city before it is mutilated.
Aside from the fact that this creature made it into the paper, there's also a legend about a missing photograph that is associated with this story that many people have claimed to have seen, but no one seems to be able to locate the photo. I've actually scoured both the Library of Congress archives, and the University of Arizona microfilm archives of the Epitaph for any sort of reference to the photo, but have come up empty-handed. As far as I'm convinced, the photo doesn't exist. But, there are several thousands of people who swear they've seen this photo... y'know, the one where these six guys are holding a giant pterodactyl, wings outstretched, in front of the broad side of a barn. Even now, you're probably thinking to yourself, "hey, I remember that photo..." but, maybe it was a fake you saw? ... a moment ago, you were so sure too-- right?

What do you think? Did the Thunderbird ever really exist or was this an article the paper inserted as filler?

More on the Tombstone Thunderbird here: The Witching Hour, Tombstone Thunderbird


Enjoying these brief stories? I will try to keep 'em coming as I've time to write...

What would you like to hear about next? (Post a Comment)
* A Tombstone ghost story (there are more than a few to choose from)
* An interesting (embarrassing?) truth about the state seal
* Some dark-humor dealing with Tombstone BootHill history
* A historical Murder Ruled a Suicide
* Disappearance of a Park Ranger
* More cemetery pictures


  1. Mr.Chicken's Avatar
    I love a good ghost story! "and if your not careful kids, you might just learn something!"