It seems that when you start a snowball rolling, that it just gets bigger. Now, I really didn't know I was dealing with a snowball when I announced--in my last entry--that a new 1970's giant bird witness had stepped forward, but the list of witnesses to these magnificient, monstrous birds of days gone by keeps increasing, by one more here because of that entry. Yesterday, I was contacted by a gentleman who has generously allowed me to reproduce his original email here:
This is the first I have ever heard of other people seeing an unexplainable large bird. For me, it happened so long ago that some of the facts of day and year might not be correct, yet I can still see everything in my mind's eye.
I was returning to Nashville, Tennessee, alone from a visit to my parents in New Jersey in either 1977 or 1978. It was between spring and fall because the tress had all there leaves. I was on Interstate 81 southbound between Bristol and Knoxville, TN. It was early morning; the sun had been up for about an hour. There was a very, very slight ground mist, but visibility was at least a couple miles. There were very few vehicles on the highway and we were running in groups. We were all very conscious of the Tennessee State Police who loved to catch their quota of speeders in those early morning hours.
The highway at this point had cut through an old growth forest. So the tall tress created a natural tunnel vision down the highway. In a long, slight downgrade and just as I had hit the low point to a long slight uphill grade, about a half mile in the distance, a very, very large bird flapped once and flew perpendicular across the highway from southeast to northwest just below tree top level. My first thought which I can remember to this day was “What the hell was that.” I remember thinking about all the birds I had ever seen. I grew up in the Virginia Shenandoah Mountains; been all over the country and been in many nature museums. I had seen plenty of eagles, herons, buzzards and large owls. Then I thought about a condor which I have never seen, but the condors are native to the west coast only. This thing was at least twice as big a wingspan as an eagle. I kept replaying the short sequence of events over and over in my mind.
I slowed down to see if I could look off into the woods and see it again. At that point I noticed a tractor trailer in the northbound lane pulled over onto the shoulder, I also noticed the car in front of me and the two tractor trailers behind me pulling over also. By the time I stopped there were four other cars and five trucks pulled over onto the shoulders, doing the same thing I was doing. Everybody that joined our little gathering asked the same thing, “What the hell was that.” I think everybody was at first happy that they were not the only ones to see this thing. We all gathered at the point where it entered the woods. There were comments like “did you see that thing?”, “what do you think it was?” “where did it go?” “how big do you think it was?” “that thing could carry off a full grown man?”. One guy mentioned a condor, but another guy said the same thing that I knew, condors are on the west coast. After a few minutes people started to leave. One truck driver was going to see if he could follow it on foot, but another truck driver cautioned him that this was black bear country and whatever it was it long gone by now. I know for a fact that everybody was nervous and apprehensive and started making silly jokes, but were happy that they were not the only ones to see this thing. I do not know what it was, and can not to this day even speculate. All I can think of is a picture I recently saw about a skeleton of a “Thunder Bird” found near Tombstone, AZ. But the thing I saw was a bird, not at all resembling a prehistoric bird or flying reptile. I can not say if that skeleton was real or faked but this thing I saw was at least that big.
Thank you for letting ramble, but this is the first time I have ever mentioned this event in writing, although I have told very close friends about it.
C. H. [Last name withheld upon request]
The two witnesses I have so far introduced to the Fortean community for the first time have nothing to gain--at all--from their sightings. I am uncertain as to the origin of his reference to a thunderbird skeleton in Arizona. It is possible he is referring to the controversial "lost" thunderbird photo claimed by John Keel and Robert Lyman (or a contemporary reinactment of it), or he could have been referring to the 1975 discovery of a giant pteranodon skeleton in Texas. Either way, he makes his point as to this being a VERY large bird...big enough to cause ten commuters to stop and pull over. It would take quite a sight in this modern world to trigger such a gathering.