The mysterious thunderbird photo. Do you remember it?
November 26, 2007 9:26 PM   Subscribe

Do you remember an old photo of a thunderbird/pterodactyl, nailed against a barn wall, with men standing in it for scale? So do many others (including myself). But since that photo has entirely disappeared, are we all victims of a form of mass hysteria? Or victims of a massive reality-altering conspiracy (ctrl-f for 'Birdzilla')?
posted by Kickstart70 (102 comments total) 63 users marked this as a favorite
Ooh! Cue the "In Search Of" theme music!

/creepy 70s childhood nostalgia
posted by retronic at 9:42 PM on November 26, 2007

Eminent Fortean researcher Ivan T. Sanderson also remembered seeing the photo and in fact, even claimed to have once had a photocopy of it that he loaned to two associates, who lost it.

Sanderson also claimed that the stop motion effects seen in the old movie The Lost World were actually chickens in dinosaur costumes. From his book More Things:

Even in the late 1920s the "dinosaurs" in the film of Conan Doyle's The Lost World were utterly realistic--close-ups of their heads showed drooling saliva, nictitating membranes, and flashing eyes. (Incidentally, these "dinosaurs" were wearing skillfully constructed "suits" made by a man who had a degree in paleontology, and were fitted over live chickens!)

Sanderson also believed in 15 foot penguins. (self link)
posted by Tube at 9:46 PM on November 26, 2007

It's right over there.

*returns to shrooms thread*
posted by dreamsign at 9:49 PM on November 26, 2007

I think that a lot of people saw a bunch of weird photos that were extremely similar to the one described, and they're all getting confabulated together to become The One Missing Picture. I'm going to guess that there are lots of "this is the creature that pa found" photos that take place in a farm/barn setting, and apparently there are also some "giant bird creature" photos floating around.

The descriptions I'm reading of the photo are so spooky and vivid that I can picture it quite clearly myself, and I know I've never seen it.

Or, time travel. Could be time travel.
posted by lemuria at 9:50 PM on November 26, 2007

Awesome post.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:50 PM on November 26, 2007

That's about what I was thinking, lemuria. The way you have a dream about a woman you don't know, and then see her the next day! Except there's a very real chance that you've altered your memory to accommodate the experience. Memory is a fluid thing.
posted by dreamsign at 9:52 PM on November 26, 2007

or you could be a refugee from dark city with a subliminal recollection of the past before the evil overlords took away your conscious memories.
posted by bruce at 9:54 PM on November 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

No, I don' t remember it. But since you bring up creepy 70s childhood memories, does anyone else remember waking up in the dead of night, like around 2-3 am, with the inexplicable feeling that someone was standing outside in your front yard? You'd try to just ignore it and go back to sleep, maybe even going so far as to pull the covers over your head, but you never could. Finally, you'd just give in and do what you knew you had to do - you'd get out of bed and tiptoe over to the window and gather up the courage to look outside.

And that's when you'd see Him. Standing there, dressed in a black suit with a black trenchcoat and black fedora, staring right back at you. You could never actually see his face, the way the streetlight lit him from above. He seemed like mostly shadow. He'd just stand there, staring back at you as you tried to catch your breath...and then he'd start walking towards the front door.

But he never got in. Sometimes you had to run to the front door and hold it closed, but he never got in.

At least, not that you remember.
posted by zylocomotion at 9:57 PM on November 26, 2007 [56 favorites]

I got scared
posted by lemuria at 10:00 PM on November 26, 2007

Actually, remembering the photo means that you're all a bunch of replicants.

I asked a question about phenomena like this not long ago.
posted by Avenger at 10:02 PM on November 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

Wow, I don't remember that, zylocomotion, but I do remember being chased around the house by enormous (3ft long) brightly colored wasps, and entreating help from my father, (who was manning the barbeque at the time) but he did nothing. This was a dream I had when I was probably about six. In my memory of that dream, I used a door in my parents house which was not added until several years after the dream. So I probably added that door into my memory in later years. OR I psychically predicted our remodel of the deck. OR this wasn't a dream at all, and I was the only one able to see these enormous, brightly-colored cryptobiota. Who knows, really?
posted by agentofselection at 10:04 PM on November 26, 2007

zylocomotion. Some of us read MeFi in bed before we go to sleep...
posted by chasing at 10:06 PM on November 26, 2007

Ooh! Cue the "In Search Of" theme music!

There were some scientists
Tried to figure out the sasquatch riddle
Then they figured out it was a missing link

In search of sasquatch
That was a kickass In Search Of...
With Leonard Nimoy
Kickin' out the jams
posted by secret about box at 10:07 PM on November 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Standing there, dressed in a black suit with a black trenchcoat and black fedora

My god...

It was....


(pulls covers over head, clutches thesaurus to pounding chest)
posted by maryh at 10:12 PM on November 26, 2007

I do, in fact, remember seeing such a photo, but it looked different than the mockups. Does this make me any less crazy?

Also, @zylocomotion: Luckily, I live on the second floor! Whew!
posted by Phyltre at 10:13 PM on November 26, 2007

Strange Magazine has a Mystery of the Thunderbird Photograph article in Issue #23 which was published shortly (well, several months) before the venerable Mark Chorvinsky died of cancer. Somewhere in a box I have a copy of Strange Issue #12 which contains Strange's first official introduction to the Thunderbird Photo.
posted by christopherious at 10:17 PM on November 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

I live on the second floor, too, but I still turned on all the lights and checked underneath the bed and behind the shower curtain.
posted by lemuria at 10:18 PM on November 26, 2007

Also, I think this post deserves a forteana tag.
posted by christopherious at 10:19 PM on November 26, 2007

Phyltre: My memory of it is also different, with a grainy photo of perhaps 5-7 men standing in front of the creature. I can even remember the face of and off-kilter hat of the man on the far left in the photo.

It's all so very weird.
posted by Kickstart70 at 10:23 PM on November 26, 2007

posted by loquacious at 10:29 PM on November 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Just a bug in the simulation we're in.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 10:32 PM on November 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

Very strange/cool post.

On a sidenote, whatever happened to that white dog poop from the 70's?
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 10:46 PM on November 26, 2007 [5 favorites]

I'm thinking that the picture was an entry in one of's photoshopping contests. That's probably not much help, though. Finding stuff on that site isn't easy.
posted by dws at 10:49 PM on November 26, 2007

zylocomotion: Yes.
posted by kenlayne at 10:51 PM on November 26, 2007

Sanderson also claimed that the stop motion effects seen in the old movie The Lost World were actually chickens in dinosaur costumes.

This killed me, really.
posted by Wolof at 10:53 PM on November 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

On a sidenote, whatever happened to that white dog poop from the 70's?

I was positive that Cecil Adams had answered this and said the cause was lower-quality dog food, but when I went to search his website the column had been "disappeared".
posted by lemuria at 10:53 PM on November 26, 2007

Could this be what you're looking for?
posted by dws at 11:03 PM on November 26, 2007

I saw some white dog poop the other day. It's because people are made to pick it up these days. Back in the seventies it lay there to dry and bleach in the sun. I know entirely too much about dog shit.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 11:03 PM on November 26, 2007

No, no, It's 'cause people used to let dogs gnaw on bones. The extra calcium turned 'em white. (At least that's what I heard, or this one guy told me)

The Enigma of White Dog Wastes is surely good FFP material.
posted by Tube at 11:28 PM on November 26, 2007

People *still* let dogs gnaw on bones.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 11:32 PM on November 26, 2007

/slaps Tube on head
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 11:33 PM on November 26, 2007

Perhaps we are both correct.

*rubs first white dog poop welt*
posted by Tube at 11:55 PM on November 26, 2007

Strange, I just searched YouTube for In Search Of yesterday.
posted by strangeguitars at 11:57 PM on November 26, 2007

Its funny, now that you mention it, I remember alot of white dog poop from when I was a kid (early 90s) but haven't seen any in years. And I work at a kennel, so I see quite a bit of dog poop all the time. Never white like it used to be.

Maybe we all just saw two or three white dog turds when we were all kids, but looking back we remember it because it was unusual, so it gives us the impression of some kind of white-dog-poop-epidemic from our childhoods.

Also, I've been thinking about the "thunderbird" photograph and I wonder if it's some kind of subliminal archetype -- much like zylo's Dark Stranger standing on your lawn. An elemental, instinctual "memory" that we all share.

Think of it this way: Where do cats "learn" to hunt? A cat raised entirely around humans will even learn to hunt and leave dead rats on your front porch. Where did that information come from? How are they "remembering" it?

Maybe the Dead Thunderbird and Dark Stranger are pieces of a long forgotten instinct that had been programmed into us. Maybe the Thunderbird represents some kind of predator/prey drive on our part, while the Dark Stranger is an instinctual threat-avoidance program. Keeps us on our toes, so to speak.
posted by Avenger at 12:08 AM on November 27, 2007 [4 favorites]

Related: Didn't Jack Palance already die?
posted by bunnytricks at 12:33 AM on November 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

I just remembered this.
posted by strawberryviagra at 12:39 AM on November 27, 2007

Luckily, I live on the second floor! Whew!

That just means it'll take you longer to reach the front door when he tries to get in.
posted by Tenuki at 12:50 AM on November 27, 2007

To me, this photo:
is almost certainly fake. 5 of the 6 men in the picture I can see clearly look somewhere between overweight and obese. I've read through my great^5th grandfathers' civil war diary and I can tell you that having too much food was not often a problem.

Compare to this picture for reference:

Not only that but they all appear to be clean-shaven. Not everyone had a beard or mustache, but it was extremely common. It could just be the odds, but this many hairless fat civil war soldiers seems quite unlikely.
posted by BackwardsHatClub at 1:47 AM on November 27, 2007

You could do all that deductive work BackwardsHatClub, or you know, you could read the bit of text above the photograph that tells you it's a fake.
posted by oh pollo! at 2:12 AM on November 27, 2007

I second BackwardsHatClub about that photo. In addition to what he mentioned, the kit seems strange, and the exposure just doesn't look quite like that of any civil war photo I've seen, and I've spent a lot of time looking at a lot of them because I'm a nerd for old photos.

As for the mysterious photo, I think lemuria and dreamsign are almost certainly right. What we have here is a case of the misinformation effect.
posted by moonbiter at 2:13 AM on November 27, 2007

What oh pollo! said is also highly recommended.
posted by moonbiter at 2:14 AM on November 27, 2007

zylocomotion: I don't know what planet you're from but that is about the coolest comment I've ever read here.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 2:43 AM on November 27, 2007

Sure, I've got this photo in my motel room out there at the Sunshine Motel just outside Gallup, New Mexico. I'll go get it, be right back. (BTW anyone seen my pen?)
posted by Smedleyman at 2:46 AM on November 27, 2007

"Standing there, dressed in a black suit with a black trenchcoat and black fedora, staring right back at you."

Oh that guy. I'll just go let him in for you, shall I?
posted by Smedleyman at 2:49 AM on November 27, 2007

Henry C. Mabuse is entirely correct about the white dogshit. I have watched this process to completion, and it's definitely an aging of normal-looking shit. Takes a couple of months. You don't see it any more because people pick it up when it's fresh.

I never heard of the Thunderbird Photo before this thread.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:05 AM on November 27, 2007

I have a bad habit of opening my eyes when I am asleep.

Rather, my subconscious has a bad habit of opening my eyes in my sleep, and then making me never want to sleep again. My brain receives visual input from my eyes, but does not stop dreaming. So I see dreamthings superimposed with my physical location; a waking dream.

Every time it happens, I see zylocomotion’s man standing in my room. He is Caucasian, roughly 6’3” and 180 lbs. with a gaunt, clean shaven, aquiline face and livid, pale skin. He doesn’t bring his fedora when he visits me, but rather sports a top hat with a rose in the brim. His eyes are a pale gray, and sometimes I can see all the ancient cities he has burned reflected in his pupils. In his black-gloved left hand he holds a meat hook; his right is ungloved and hangs at his side. I have never seen him move, except to tilt his head slightly to the left as he slowly delivers his message: always dark, always confusing, always in that half logic sleep English that takes me all the next week to decode.

Most recently he informed me that “You are a pebble dreaming he is a comet.”

He has come to me about twice a year for the past four. The only time he remained silent I was staying at a friend’s house and I watched him stand over her for a full 2 minutes, just looking. After that dream I noticed I stopped sleeping between her and the wall. I told myself that it wasn’t to protect her from him.

When I have these dreams I am completely incapable of moving, speaking or closing my eyes. After he has said his peace there is always the loud sound of rushing water and I sit upright in my bed and try my best not to yell.

When I first had this dream, my hallway door was open and he was standing about 20’ from my bed at the end of the hall. He waited a few moments, did his head tilt and then asked me, “How safe do you think you really are?” He was not reflected by the hall mirror. It was only this fact that kept me from calling the authorities.

In every instance of that dream since the first he has gotten progressively closer to me. The most recent episode (about 3 months ago) he was within arms reach.
posted by Faux Real at 3:23 AM on November 27, 2007 [28 favorites]

My most vivid childhood memories are of being taken from my bed and carried outside to look at the stars by a very pale naked man whose arms just sort of terminated in stumps - he lifted me like a forklift might. He was very gentle, and quite cold to the touch.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 3:38 AM on November 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

"The most recent episode (about 3 months ago) he was within arms reach."

Would you like a flaming sword?
(Lots of threads here contain stuff about lucid dreaming. Might be a way to shut those guys down)
posted by Smedleyman at 4:02 AM on November 27, 2007

About ten years ago I used to write for Fortean Times. I remember a conversation in which someone else on the magazine (Joe Macnally?) introduced me to the idea of the Thunderbird picture, and I said no, I have never seen this photograph but what an intriguing idea.

When this thread popped up two things sprung into my mind: that conversation, and a very grainy, probably late-1800s photograph of 5-6 men stood in front of a low wooden building, to which is nailed what looks like a flying dinosaur, wings outstretched. Most of the men have rifles. The background is flat, bleak land, like a desert.

I know I have never seen this photograph, but it is clearly in my mind's eye. Intriguing.
posted by Hogshead at 4:04 AM on November 27, 2007

I.... I remember this photograph, too. The grainy black and white, the barn, the figures of the men. You couldn't quite make out their features.
posted by jokeefe at 4:21 AM on November 27, 2007

You are in the photograph.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 4:26 AM on November 27, 2007 [10 favorites]

I can't believe I have something to contribute to a thread that's (partially) about white dog poop, but when life gives you white dog poop you just gotta make white-dog-poop-ade:

When I was a young and stupid kid in Tennessee in the early 80s, some older boys filled me in on a big secret: white dog poop was just the first step in the creation of diamonds, and if you let it sit for a while longer you could collect the diamonds and become rich! Certain I had hit upon a way to easy money, I gathered up all the white poop I could find and proudly delivered the lot to my mom, knowing that she'd be very proud of me and my cleverness. Much to my surprise, she didn't seem to think the family was in for a financial windfall, and instead of congratulating me she said "What in the hell are you doing with that?!" I explained the poop-to-diamond phenomenon and she laughed herself silly.

On the plus side, I think this was a key step in the development of my cynical side. However, even still on the rare occasions I see white dog poop I do a bit of a double-take. "DIAMONDS!!... err, white dog poop. Yes. Yes, I am still an idiot."
posted by barnacles at 4:40 AM on November 27, 2007 [6 favorites]

It reminds me of the Hilfiger legend. In the mid-90s, a friend of mine claimed she had seen the infamous, non-existent Oprah episode herself.
posted by xmattxfx at 4:48 AM on November 27, 2007

It's 'cause people used to let dogs gnaw on bones.

People still do, as stated. However, dog food companies are no longer keen on fortifying entirely your dog's chow with bone meal, as consumers have grown wary and with good reason. It's the bone meal that led to that classic weathered calcification.
posted by grabbingsand at 4:48 AM on November 27, 2007

This is seriously intriguing. Thanks for the post. Time travel? Perhaps the photo was removed, but our memories are not entirely subject to such a change, and so we remember, to one degree or another. Perhaps faded, like the memory of a dream. Perhaps very clearly, so that the absence of the photo becomes a palpable hole in reality.

I have 'memories' that can not be verified, and seem impossible. I began to recognize them when I was only about 9 years old. Dreams? Maybe. Previous lives? Who can really say? They don't trouble me, they are just what they are. At this point, more like memories of a memory.

The only thing certain is that reality is far stranger than we can imagine.
posted by Goofyy at 4:49 AM on November 27, 2007

Next year everyone will be wondering what happened to that picture they all remember of a man in a black fedora holding up a massive white dinosaur poop.
posted by Phanx at 5:12 AM on November 27, 2007 [4 favorites]

This post is awesome. I love Ivan T. Sanderson.
posted by DU at 5:25 AM on November 27, 2007

When I started reading this post I didn't recall the picture, but then as I read the articles I started to think "oh yeah, that sounds familiar", and now part of me thinks "yeah, I remember that picture." I think lemuria's explanation makes the most sense
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 5:41 AM on November 27, 2007

Very interesting post.

When I first read it, I thought, "hang on! I know the picture they're talking about! I've seen it!" Men 19th-century garb examine what is certainly a pterodactyl ... and I stopped to think about where I had seen. And I remember: It was an illustration from Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World, an edition I had as a child - the story opens with the examination in London of a wing, apparently from a pteradon, which is the only thing that came back from a disastrous expedition to South America. The story ends with Professor Challenger routing the sceptics in the most direct way imaginable: by unveiling a live pterodactyl to an audience in the Albert Hall. That was were my memory came from, fogged through dozens of half-remembered urban legends.

Civil War cryptozoologists may be interested to know that camels served as pack animals in the American west at about that time. And a camel accompanied the Soviet Army all the way from Stalingrad to Berlin in the Second World War. That concludes my pitch for "Our Wartime Friend The Camel", a National Geographic feature (NOT COMMISSIONED).
posted by WPW at 6:02 AM on November 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

I like the suggestion in the comments of one of the links that Ripley's may once have published an illustration fitting the description of this photograph. Like Slack, I've never seen the supposed photo, but in reading about it I was conscious of the compulsion to remember having seen it. Ripleys + Mass Hysteria sounds like a suitably credulous explanation to me.

Note that none of the above in any way diminishes for me the intoxicating romance of the mystery.
posted by kowalski at 6:10 AM on November 27, 2007

I had the photo, it was right next to this one black sock. Now I can't find it.
posted by sfts2 at 6:16 AM on November 27, 2007

You are in the photograph.

You have always been in the photograph, Mr. Torrance.
posted by Koko at 6:43 AM on November 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

Great post, great comments!

I have no memory of a photo of the thunderbird, or ever dreaming the man in black, or even seeing white dog poop. But I will be keeping my eye on Faux Real for the next couple of years, to make sure he stays with us.
posted by taz at 6:45 AM on November 27, 2007

I have no memory of this photo but I bet if you ask me in another year I’ll remember it.

I remember white dog poop.

Several years ago someone said to me “do you remember, back in the early 70s, road construction was marked with little flaming balls?”

As soon as they said it, I remembered seeing little burning tennis ball sized flaming balls on the side of the road. To this day I’m not sure I actually remember it or if hearing it put a false memory in my head. Did these things really exist? I’m not talking about cylindrical road flares.

A similar collective memory is when the Challenger broke apart. Everyone remembers watching it live on TV but according to what I’ve read, very few people could have actually seen it live because nobody carried it.
posted by bondcliff at 7:08 AM on November 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

My dog poops white if I feed her bones.

If I feed her the bones of thunderbirds, I collect the white poo, harvest the diamonds within and pay the man in the black fedora when he knocks on my door at midnight. The payment made, he leaves for another month.
posted by tomble at 7:08 AM on November 27, 2007 [8 favorites]

Faux Real, that sounds like sleep paralysis.
posted by Rangeboy at 7:09 AM on November 27, 2007

You could use AskMetafilter to start one of these. "I am trying to find a photograph I saw years ago, in some sort of strange-but-true book, of a bigfoot that some hunters had killed somewhere in the Pacific Northwest in the 1890s. I remember the picture almost perfectly [insert vivid details]. Does anyone know where I can find a copy?" You would get a ton of posters remembering that they too had seen the picture.
posted by LarryC at 7:37 AM on November 27, 2007

I remember the (non-existant) photo. Quite vividly. So I'm a bit confused too.

Maybe it was a drawing instead of a photo, but I'm fairly certain I remember what I saw accurately. Weird.
posted by agregoli at 7:43 AM on November 27, 2007

I don't know if zyclomotion is kidding, but the first time I killed someone in a lucid dream it was a black suit, white shirt, black tie with a fedora, but no body inside, with uncomfortably long arms, who ran down a street to get to me. I can vividly recall this dream like it was a memory, including the sickening fwap fwap sound of the legs of the suits ans they ran towards me.

Since that time, I have only killed people by running over them in reverse in an old car that I used to have. I am slightly uncomfortable with the fact that killed the antagonists in my dream almost immediately ends the typical nightmare panic and replaces it with euphoria.

As he wrapped his hands/sleeves around my neck, I produced a knife and stabbed him repeatedly.

And Faux Real, it does sound like sleep paralysis. My own personal recurring hypnogogic demon is Man On Fire, recalled here.

As an aside, I think I would make an excellent drug addict.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:45 AM on November 27, 2007

When I was a young teenager I was sitting in my room, on my bed (in my memory this was not as a prelude to falling asleep or waking up, but I can't say for sure, I was not asleep and what happened next was not a dream in any sense that I was aware of) and I was suddenly attacked with great force and totally overwhelmed by an invisible presence. I remember not being able to breathe, being terrified (to a degree that I had never experienced before and never have again, thus far) and having two clear thoughts "This is a witch*" and "It is going to kill everyone I have ever loved and then kill me." The air seemed to solidify somehow around me, to become like solid glass and I was sure I was going to die.

I had no notion of time in this condition, no way of knowing the duration of the event, but it couldn't have been more than a minute or two. After it passed, I obsessed about it for a few days, but never told anyone about it and for many years the memory of it would come back to me from time to time.

It was not an event that I could fit into my concept of the world, I was raised in a very rationalist manner, no spirits, gods, boogums, creepers, mothmen or devils in my upbringing. It was just kind of lodged in my mind and it would pop up every now and then and say "Well, explain me then you clever fucker."

Then one day (bless you internet) I read about sleep paralysis and "night hags" and there was that. Even now though, I can recall that event as something wholly "other" to my experience of the world, truly alien and horrible. The source of it doesn't matter to me really, I just never want it to happen again.

I remember seeing that photograph as well now, but seriously I don't think I ever have, that's pretty strange.

*What's funny about that and what made it so much more scary is that the idea "this is a witch", was not something I would come up with in my conscious mind, as a consumer of science fiction, I'm sure it would have been so much more likely that I would have thought "this is an alien." I was really conscious of the fact that the thought did not come from my own mind.
posted by Divine_Wino at 7:50 AM on November 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

"When I was a young and stupid kid in Tennessee in the early 80s, some older boys filled me in on a big secret: white dog poop was just the first step in the creation of diamonds..."

That story was completely adorable.

What a cracking thread indeed.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 7:50 AM on November 27, 2007

I remembered seeing little burning tennis ball sized flaming balls on the side of the road. To this day I’m not sure I actually remember it or if hearing it put a false memory in my head. Did these things really exist?

Yes, they did, and I've got a scar to prove it. Before the blinking orange lights on sawhorses and barrels, construction sites used the oil pots. They were more like softball-sized. The flames came out a little turret in the top. My good buddy decided to steal one on a night out drinking and wandering around. Just as he picked it up, a car appeared. He unloaded it into the bushes. The bushes that I'd just hidden in. Ouch.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:54 AM on November 27, 2007

The photo in Strange Magazine doesn't really match the description of the "actual" picture. This particular story has been an interest of mine for a very long time since reading about it in one of those Reader's Digest "Strange Facts" books when I was a little kid.
posted by erikharmon at 8:04 AM on November 27, 2007

You are in the photograph.

Aaand off I go to check under the bed again.
posted by lemuria at 8:21 AM on November 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

When I was a kid, I used to have the creepiest dreams, much like other people in this thread, of a darkly attired man sort of menacingly standing in my room. One time, he was standing in my room and staring at something away from me, off in the corner. I was almost paralyzed with fear and didn't dare to look where he was looking. The fact was that I don't think I could have moved if I'd wanted to because I felt the way I often feel in nightmares, which is to say restrained and too lethargic to struggle against whatever invisible bonds are holding me. As though my muscles simply wouldn't respond. As I stared at him, too frightened to make a noise, I remember he slowly crouched down and held one bare and almost luminescently white hand out in front of him, palm up. He waited there for what seemed to me like an impossibly long time, as if months were passing during the course of one night. Finally, with a terrifying wheeze he spoke, and I'll never forget what he said:

"Oh, aren't you the cutest wittoo puppy dog. Yes you are! You are the cutest wittoo puppy dog. Cutesy Wootsey poopy shmoopy puppy poo!"
posted by shmegegge at 8:29 AM on November 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

As an ex-monster-under-the-bed I've met a lot of strangers-with-the-hat-outside-the-window on the workplace. They really are nice guys, very subtle and professional: they often leave a business card made of dark secrets buried in your garden.
posted by darkripper at 8:32 AM on November 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

My TerrorMan is an old fashioned hag. I suspect it's the same one who inspired Ringu, an old fashioned Banshee come up from the water dripping wet on my bedroom floor.

Or it might just be my grandmother.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:41 AM on November 27, 2007

This thread is creepier than that one episode of Doctor Who with the angel statues.

I am so sleeping with the lights on tonight.
posted by dipping_sauce at 8:56 AM on November 27, 2007

Is this it?
posted by feloniousmonk at 8:57 AM on November 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

Thunderbirds are one of those things I'd like to think at least existed at some point (post dinosaur age).
posted by drezdn at 9:13 AM on November 27, 2007

First, thanks for all the white dog poo references. Now I've got that Sarah Silverman song stuck in my head.

Second, while I respect all your fedora'd terrormen, I think my sick 5-year-old mind had you all beat. You see, my parents are artists, and so they had the bright idea to hang one of my dad's paintings in my bedroom. No Thomas Kinkade, he -- Dad paints some pretty twisted stuff. So once, in the middle of the night, I wake up and start freaking out because something in the painting is moving.

Mom comes in, tells me to chill, and goes to get a sheet to put over the painting. Except, this being a hippie household and all, it's blue and white batik. She leaves.

A few minutes later, I see (moving in the patterns of the sheet) a short little twisted deformed dwarf-man with a giant skull head, and he's motioning to me. Think the priest who almost marries Winona Ryder to Beetlejuice, except this is years before that movie came out.

I still can see that nasty little bugger.
posted by at 9:17 AM on November 27, 2007

Why do we have to talk about this kind of stuff the week my boyfriend's out of town?

Anyway Faux Real and zylocomotion, et al, if you guys are serious, I drew a picture of that guy once. I just sat down and drew a picture of him (I can't remember if I had dreamed about him or if he just popped into my head and I can't remember how old I was when I drew it, I may have been an adult or a teenager, I only know it was a time in my life where I didn't draw much, which leads me to believe it may have been more recent). In my picture he had a top hat and he also had this weird cage-like thing over his suit. At the other end of the page I drew myself with my hand over my mouth in terror. I kept the drawing for a long time cause it was actually kind of good for someone who doesn't draw. In fact, I may still have it...
posted by Jess the Mess at 9:33 AM on November 27, 2007

bitter-girl, that reminds me of that one scene from Roald Dahl's The Witches where the little boy can see the animals in the painting move from day to day and sometimes there's this girl looking at him (I think that's how it goes). I remember that being a very weird and creepy scene in an otherwise hilarious book.
posted by Jess the Mess at 9:49 AM on November 27, 2007

Seriously though, I saw a thunderbird a few years ago. Now let me preface this by saying I was doing lots of drugs during this time period. Anyway, I was outside of work smoking a cigarette and I looked up and saw this giant bird-like thing kind of gliding in the air. At first I thought my perception of its scale was off, but I worked maybe 5 miles away from a small airport and watched planes fly in and out of the place all day so I thought I had a good sense of scale for airborne things. I thought it might have been some kind of kite or glider or something. It glided in a circular pattern like a vulture for a long time. I kept staring at it and I could see the wings flapping every so often. That was the kicker for me. Once I realized it appeared to be a living thing I was paralyzed from fear I guess. I kept watching it glide and slowly flap in a circle and the cigarette I started smoking earlier started burning my fingers because I was like totally stunned and had forgotten about it and so I dropped it and put it out and when I looked up I saw fucking 2 of them circling each other. This is pretty much the point when I realized that my brain had been damaged somehow. Like something was seriously wrong with me and so I stood out there and watched these two things circle each other higher and higher. This whole time its appeared to me that they were as high as a plane but I could still see them clearly. I estimated them to be the size of like a Cessna single pilot deal. As they kept going up I glanced away again and they reformed and I was like, "Oh shit, I've got to go to a psychiatrist because I am fucked up!" So after it reformed it stops its circular gliding and starts flying across the sky to some destination unknown. As I watched it fly across the sky I kept perceiving it as an eye. I can't necessarily describe what I mean other than it basically had a different shape. And it was still really slow. much slower than a plane would be going across the sky. Like I said I was kind of freaked out and that could of changed how I perceived time but for me there was still no getting around the idea that I saw something gigantic and alive. So anyway I went to a psychiatrist like a month later told him what I saw and he said that I really shouldn't worry about it because if it were say, Scooby Doo up in the air then that would be cause for concern because it would indicate that I had some sort of schizophrenic break but because it was a GIGANTIC BIRD that it was most likely just a hallucination caused by excess weed. I also think I had a run in with the Mothman so don't take what I have to say too seriously because there's obviously a flaw in my cognition. Oh, once I woke up in the middle of the night and heard a what sounded like the flutter of wings as a bird takes off in my bedroom. The history channel just had a decent show on this topic. It's called MonsterQuest and they search for all the cryptozoological menagerie.
posted by landock at 10:23 AM on November 27, 2007 [3 favorites]

Great thread, and I'm really glad I don't remember the photo -- in fact, I'd never heard of thunderbirds until a couple of years ago. Cryptozoology was never my thing, though I was obsessed with paranormal when I was like 8 -- so if this had been a thread about some creepy ghost photo that (probably) has never existed, I would have likely remembered it, and obsessed about it, the obsession making the memory more vivid, the vividness increasing the urgency of the obsession, and oh, you know how goes. So, like I said, I'm glad I don't "remember" the photo.

I do remember the white dog poo, though! I have way too many memories of white dog poo to ever doubt that all dog poo did in fact turn white when left to bake in the sun. I thought it was like clay or something -- you heat it up and dry it out, and it changes color. The dog food explanation is interesting.
posted by treepour at 10:52 AM on November 27, 2007

Metafilter: now let me preface this by saying I was doing lots of drugs during this time period.
I had some bogeyman dreams when I was a kid. My dad (unwittingly) started me along the path of lucid dreaming (which I’ve since given up). I said the bogeyman hides in the closet or hangs outside the window when he comes in and tries to get me when he leaves. So, my dad said, what is tougher than the bogeyman? I said The Hulk. He said “Be the Hulk”
That night, I pounded the crap out of the bogeyman with huge green fists. (He doesn’t like me when I’m angry). Most of my coherent dreams now are pretty nice, I even enjoy the nightmares. I suspect that’s due more to meditation than hulking out. If you’re used to maintaining your breathing and keeping yourself emotionally stable, nightmares become interesting conceptual insights (your body doesn’t create a ‘threat’ response to the emotional stimuli, so your body doesn’t panic and you can just watch)
The only unsettling dreams I have are akin to sleep paralysis where I know I’m dreaming but I’m more aware and nothing is going on. Almost like I’m a Cartesian brain in a jar without the demon trying to trick me. It usually takes me a bit to go back into unconsciousness. I understand some folks strive to attain that sort of meditative clarity. I can’t imagine why, it’s damned boring.
The aforementioned “stranger” stuff could be one of the ingredients of the MIB legends.
Given the archetypal nature of the thunderbird (Native American worship, I’d suspect a similar convergence of conscious and unconscious elements in its reiteration.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:20 AM on November 27, 2007

"Standing there, dressed in a black suit with a black trenchcoat and black fedora, staring right back at you."

You sure it wasn't the Undertaker?
posted by puke & cry at 11:36 AM on November 27, 2007

Ph and here you go, dipping_sauce.
posted by puke & cry at 12:19 PM on November 27, 2007

puke & cry: Ph and here you go, dipping_sauce.


... if I don't look away it can't eat me
posted by dipping_sauce at 12:38 PM on November 27, 2007

Thunderbirds = Great Blue Heron

I was driving through the night a couple years back and was listening to the Art Bell show, whatever it's actually called and with some guy as host as Art Bell is on the run from the greys or something. Anyway, it was a show on thunderbirds and people kept calling in with these stories and every one was a perfect description of a great blue heron. The host did at one point wonder if perhaps people we seeing condors. Yeah, that's it.

I did a quick search on the internets and my theory of herons is being dismissed as "it is also a fairly common bird throughout its range, which includes most of the United States and southern Canada, and might well be familiar to most people who would have such sightings."

Um, right. People don't see birds unless they know to look for them. Where I live is thick with eagles, egrets and herons. Until I knew they were there and how to look, I never saw them. It's kind of like "Start Seeing Motorcycles". So how many ornithologists or even common birders are reporting thunderbirds?
posted by misterpatrick at 12:41 PM on November 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

oh pollo!: Haha touche! Boy is my face red. In my (somewhat weak) defense, I wasn't terribly interested in the topic and was just glancing around when that popped out at me. But, yes, I imagine reading one sentence above the photo probably isn't too much to ask.
posted by BackwardsHatClub at 12:46 PM on November 27, 2007

Was it coincidence, or did bruce's comment spur zylocomotion's memory?
posted by moonbiter at 12:59 PM on November 27, 2007

I have a fairly vivid memory of seeing this picture. Only in my memory, it's not a photograph, it's a "Ripley's" cartoon.

I'm not joking. Really.
posted by lodurr at 2:05 PM on November 27, 2007

(or perhaps it’s Jack Abramoff)
posted by Smedleyman at 3:31 PM on November 27, 2007

The kids in my writing class this morning wanted to write a story about a pterodactyl.

The universe is sending a message
posted by lemuria at 3:49 PM on November 27, 2007

This is one of my favourite MeFi threads in a long time! I love all that sort of thing, the fortean stuff, the pictures on

I don't believe in any of this sort of thing, but I used to as a kid, and I'd really like some of it to be true. Still waiting for that really good UFO video to come along, so far, no good.
posted by tomble at 9:17 PM on November 27, 2007

Pterodactyls, you say?


(if I could use the blink tag above, I totally would!)


This link is presented only in the interest of pterodactyls everywhere, whose reputations have been sullied, and who would like to disassociate themselves from the making of this film. They thank you for your time. Carry on.
posted by at 6:09 AM on November 28, 2007

Fascinating. I have not seen the photo, but there's something bizarrely familiar about it, like I want to have seen it, but I can't put my finger on why.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:31 AM on November 28, 2007

As soon as they said it, I remembered seeing little burning tennis ball sized flaming balls on the side of the road. To this day I’m not sure I actually remember it or if hearing it put a false memory in my head

Real. Smudge pots. Photo of a modern version here.
posted by bitmage at 12:04 PM on November 28, 2007

Smuge pots in the orchard next door.
posted by Tenuki at 1:00 PM on November 28, 2007

This has obessed me since I first read this thread, because I became certain that I had seen that "men standing in front of a pterodactyl nailed against a barn wall" photo before. I emailed a few friends and one of them solved the mystery - at least as it relates to me. Here's his response:

One possible explanation though, is that everyone--including me--is thinking of a picture that probably appeared in the Guinness Book of World Records (ca. 1972 or 1973) showing maybe three men holding the outstretched wings of an (I assume) Andean Condor, the largest flying bird still alive. It has a wingspan of up to 12 feet.

Now I am certain that THAT is the photo that I'm actually thinking of, but my mind associated it with the pterodactyl concept when prompted.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 6:24 AM on December 1, 2007

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