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Into the Weird Part 3

Updated on March 31, 2011


It's time for another installment of Into the Weird, a series dedicated to educating you about pseudoscientific topics. Specifically I try to focus on the more "out there" obscure topics in the realm of spirituality and pseudoscience. This week I have two more fascinating topics for your enjoyment.

Here are some links to past "episodes" of the series:

Part 1 - Hollow Earth, Government Time Tunnels and Time Travelers with a Computer

Part 2 - The Starchild Skull and the "Ghost Box"

Living Pterosaurs and Giant Birds

This is one that started up on the internet some years ago and still pops up on various forums to this day. There are numerous rumors on the internet regarding a pterodactyl killed in Tombstone Arizona back in the 1800s. I'm not sure if these stories pre-date the internet but there is one elusive piece of anecdotal evidence that everyone is searching for... supposedly there was a photo taken of the creature AFTER it was shot.

Back track to the turn of the millennia, the internet was young and viral marketing was brand new, a new Fox television show (Freaky Links) fakes a civil war pterodactyl photo and claims it's real. It spreads all over the internet. Many people begin to believe the photo may be based on an actual civil war pterosaur photo. Memories still persist of there being a photo of a strange creature with several civil war era men around it out there somewhere although descriptions of the photo vary. Most reports describe a bird, thought to be the Thunderbird of Native American legend, with it's wings spread pinned to a barn with several cowboys either standing or sitting in front of it. The reports conflict as to whether it was a bird or a pterosaur.

One thing is for sure though while the photo of the creature has eluded even the most dedicated researchers the actual article from the Tombstone Epitaph of 1890 actually does exist.

The opening text of the article reads:

"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." (full text can be found at the Link below to Strange Magazine 21)

The article never mentions a photo at all and gives the wingspan as an absurd 160 feet, far too large to be strung up on a barn. So perhaps the Tombstone creature is not at all related to the mystery of the legendary "Thunderbird" photo. Thanks to the internet there are now dozens of hoaxed, edited and faked pterosaur photos each exceedingly hard to trace back to its source and many of them hard to tell as fakes.

The original FAKE

The original photo created by FOX as part of a viral marketing campaign
The original photo created by FOX as part of a viral marketing campaign

Another fake

Much cooler than the FOX photo but still clearly fake
Much cooler than the FOX photo but still clearly fake

Artistic representations

In the hunt for the missing photo more than half a dozen artistic renditions and dozens of conflicting reports have muddled the search
In the hunt for the missing photo more than half a dozen artistic renditions and dozens of conflicting reports have muddled the search

Living Pterosaurs and Giant Birds (cont.)

    Of course the legendary Thunderbird isn't the only supposed living pterosaur or giant bird around, of course not. Giant bird legends are actually part of nearly every culture imaginable and for good reason, massive birds did exist quite recently on our planet and human beings were definitely on the menu, at least small ones. Even today small children are still attacked by Eagles and other large birds of prey all over the world. Teratorns for instance had wingspans of up to 12 feet and some species survived up until only 10,000 years ago. Some more ancient species of birds had wingspans of more than twenty feet and may have preyed upon even full grown humans (or human ancestors). Is it possible that instinct or even some collective unconscious influence has caused the prevalence of these myths?

    It seems obvious, from the fossil record especially, that pterosaurs simply don't exist anymore. If they had survived numerous evolutionary changes would have likely taken place so who knows what they might look like today. In the same 65 million year span since the last pterosaurs died out birds have filled the evolutionary niche they once occupied. But I can fully understand the desire by cryptozoologists to keep the idea alive and history has no shortage of strange sightings from men in bizarre flying machines long before the Wright Brothers to two hundred foot sea serpents chasing down sailors.

Model showing off the wingspan of a teratorn
Model showing off the wingspan of a teratorn

Automatic Writing

Automatic writing is a phenomenon during which a person who is not consciously trying to write or not thinking about what they are writing begins writing something. Many who report automatic writing believe that they are being controlled or at the very least that the information they are writing is not coming from them. The phenomenon has thus become closely associated with channeling spirits. While some stick to the spooky others believe that the only thing at work here is the ideomotor effect, the same thing that allows teenage girls to move the pointer on a Ouija Board without actually trying to move it. Still others believe that automatic writing is just a sort of stream of consciousness where a person writes whatever floods into their mind without actually thinking about it.

Automatic writing does not always involve actual words or letters and can instead include symbols and even scribbles. Some symbols have been attributed to Martians. In my youth I can distinctly recall trying automatic writing although at the time I didn’t know much about it and I can attest that it is quite easy to draw seemingly alien characters. It became a hobby of mine to doodle random little “letters” during class in high school.

Proponents of the more New Age aspect of automatic writing however deny that they are the ones directly, even sub consciously directing, the writing instead believing that spirits or even beings from other planets are driving them. During the theosophical boom of the 19th century automatic writing was quite popular and entire books were supposedly written through the process. One such book, A Dweller on Two Planets, was written by a young man who supposedly was quite frightened by how compelled he was to write it. He claimed to be in contact with a spirit or entity known as Phylos the Thibetan (sic). According to some this book went on to be very influential in New Age beliefs.

The idea of automatic writing is one that, as an amateur writer (probably my biggest hobby), has fascinated me for a long time. While even in my hay-day of pseudoscientific belief I never really took the idea of spirit channeling seriously I certainly understand the usefulness of stream of consciousness writing. As a method of self-expression writing what comes to mind without really thinking about it can lead to some great ideas or at the very least help with Cathartic writing. So whether its men from Mars the spirit of your great grandfather or just your own mind causing it feel free to do some automatic writing. In fact why not leave an automatically written comment to this hub ;)


We’ve come to the end of another installment. I hope this has been an educational adventure and I hope that you’ll do some research on these subjects on your own. Even us skeptics have to stay informed on these subjects and a little pseudoscience does add some spice to life now and then - whether you believe in it or not. So join me next time when we will once again journey into the weird and explore the truly out-there ideas, legends and beliefs that human beings latch onto.


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    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 6 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      I'm doing a hub about it tonight. I'll send the link. I've uncovered a wealth of information.

    • Titen-Sxull profile image

      Titen-Sxull 6 years ago from back in the lab again

      That is bizarre, not sure what to make of it at all. If the FBI cryptographers can't crack it and are appealing to the public that's usually not a good sign. Perhaps it's meaningless and just left there to throw the authorities onto a wild goose chase.

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 6 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Speaking of automatic writing. I saw a Yahoo article yesterday

      I wonder if you can make anything of it.