When you’re a ten-year-old kid, summer is a time of adventures and escapades. Some ventures can even be a bit risky and dangerous. Kids are willing to take some hazardous chances. Mark Twain wrote all about that.
During my many childhood adventures and escapades, one thing that never entered my head was the possibility of being picked up by a giant bird and carried down the block.
Not too many miles from where I was exploring caves, playing pirates, and swimming in the Mississippi River, and not too many years later, in the town of Lawndale, Illinois, 10-year-old Marlon Lowe wasn’t thinking of giant birds either.
Late summer. A rousing game of hide-and-go-seek near Kickapoo Creek with friends, steaks on the grill (maybe hotdogs or burgers for the kids), a perfect July evening with family and friends. Ruth Lowe stood at the door of the house and called the kids home to eat at a few minutes after 8:00.
She saw her son, Marlon, come running around the side of the house screaming like he was being chased by Freddy Krueger. Two gigantic jet-black birds with long white-ringed necks and curled beaks, wingspans of more than ten feet, and bodies close to five feet long were right behind and above him. The claws of the enormous black bird that grabbed him and carried him for thirty-five feet would have felt no less painful than Freddy’s talons.
There were several neighborhood witnesses to the attempted kidnapping. Marlon’s mother will never forget the sight of her son’s feet dangling in the air, his little fists hitting at the huge black bird as it carried him in his talons while trying to peck at his helpless body.
Thankfully, the beast dropped Marlon, and the avian pair flew away, although many sightings were reported all throughout the area after the incident.
In my research, I discovered many accounts of children or infants being picked up by birds throughout the United States and Canada for over the last 130 years. Some of the children were badly injured or killed.
One particularly horrible story from the Manitoba Daily Free Press in 1886 told of a two-year-old child whose little brain was devoured by the bird through a hole it made in the small skull.
Most of the accounts I have read attributed the incidents to large eagles or condors. But, many witnesses claim the creatures do not resemble any modern bird believed to be in existence at this time.
In 1836, John Russell wrote of the legend of the Illini and Piasa Bird, a “gigantic flying monster” said to hale from the Alton, Illinois area.
Personally, I think I’d rather the culprits be “gigantic flying monsters” than the good ole American Eagle.
Coleman, Loren. Mysterious America. NY: Paraview Pocket Books. 2007.
Coleman, Loren and Clark, Jerome. Cryptozoology A to Z. NY: Fireside. 1999.