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The Sioux believed that in "old times" the Thunderbirds destroyed dangerous reptilian monsters called the Unktehila.
However, my research on the Indians of North and South America permits a different conclusion. There are many stories and related lines of evidence suggesting that the American Indians may have a long history of encountering creatures reminiscent of pterosaurs, especially the huge Pteranodon or the even larger Quetzalcoatlus (see aside below). The following stories, all on similar themes (even though they generally have obvious legendary aspects, presumably accumulated through retelling), raise the intriguing possibility of a common basis in historical reality.
While exploring the Sonora Desert on 12 February 1699, Captain Juan Mateo Manje, accompanied by Jesuits Eusebio Francisco Kino and Adamo Gil, was told by the Pima Indians that a giant monster lived in a nearby cave in days past. It was a menace to the Pima because it would fly around and catch as many Indians as it could eat.
One day, after the creature had eaten its fill, some Indians followed it back to its cave. When it was sound asleep they closed the entrance of the cave with wood collected for this occasion; then set it on fire. The creature couldn't escape and, growling fiercely, died as it was asphyxiated by the flames and smoke.1
These two photos apparently show Union soldiers standing over the corpses of an unknown species of giant bird. The upper photo is reputed to be of the so-called "Thunderbird" of American Indian myth, while the lower photo has been tentatively identified to show some form of pterodactyl. Unfortunately, little is known about when or where these pictures where taken or what happened to the corpses.
I know the photo was in a book called “Mysteries of the Unexplained”. It was on page 45. I was given this book as a gift in the 1980’s when I was in Highschool. I studied this book, showed it to every one I knew and talked about it all the time! When I met my husband, and started telling him about Fortean Phenom. I showed this book, and the photo of the Thunderbird nailed to an out building/small barn wall.
This is my first post on this forum. As a teen in the late 1980’s, I recall seeing a book of unexplained mysteries with the infamous Thunderbird pic. I seem to remember that it was an old picture of a enormous bird or eagle nailed to a barn, not a Pterodactyl. I remember the pic bothered me because it was nailed to the barn with its wings spread out and it took up the entire side of the barn.
The descriptions are completely in accord with what I saw when I was a kid (in a general fortean-interest book, cant remember the title, but I remember the photo)
I have a book called Mysteries of the Unexplained from 1982.