Sunday, January 13, 2008

Lawndale "Thunderbird" Should Have Been Déjà Vu

The article below is from 1929: A sad truth exists in the anomalistic portion of the world: Those individuals who report that they were witnesses to extraordinary events are destined to be subject to extraordinary ridicule.

I am certain that the whole Lowe family of Lawndale, Illinois - who witnessed the extraordinary event of a giant bird attempting to carry away their 10-year-old son - would now all ask the same question: "George Meece...where were you in 1977?". How much grief could have been spared had he spoken up for little Marlon?

For you see, the case of Lawndale's famous giant bird attack became a renowned story - the standard for its genre - largely due to the quick interviewing done by Jerry Coleman, an anomalist then of Illinois, and the wide-spread reporting of the event by his brother, author Loren Coleman. Poor little George Reece did not benefit from such publicity (though "benefit" may be the wrong word, as still today - 30 years later - Marlon Lowe, the attempted avian abductee, struggles and strives to live an anonymous and normal life in the little hamlet of Lawndale).

When analyzed, contrasted and compared, the events in Marlon Lowe's fitful day were simply eerie replications of another scary day forty-eight years prior in Ruth, Kentucky, as recounted in the above article from the September 24, 1929 edition of the Columbian Missourian. Consider the many similarities:
  • Ruth, Kentucky, like Lawndale, Illinois was and is a rural village so small as to not appear on some maps
  • George and Marlon were both mid-age youth, 8 and 10 respectively
  • Both victims were similar is size, small for their age - George 50 lbs and Marlon 65 lb
  • Both were playing with friends when attacked - George 4 friends, Marlon 2
  • Both were grabbed by their clothing, different and respective for each era - George his overalls and Marlon his tank-top
  • Both were physically lifted off the ground by the bird, before screams spurred the birds to drop each child
  • Both birds were estimated to be of tremendous size - George's at 10' and Marlon's at 8-10'

Perhaps the sole variation in the stories was the taxonomic family to which each bird seemed to belong. Meece's bird was distinctly described as a bald eagle (no distinction being given here for whether this was a mature dichromic adult or a brown immature, which of course makes me ponder the outside possibility of this being a Washington eagle - Audubon killed his type-specimen near there), while the Lowes identified their bird as a large vulture or condor-like species.

In the days subsequent to their 1977 report being filed with the sheriff's department and the Department of Conservation, the Lowes were subject to what can only be described as "extraordinary criticism". A series of dead birds, including an eagle, were left on their home's door step and poor Marlon - L. Coleman reported - was so tormented at school that he suffered physically with hair loss and even temporary color change.

What if Meece had heard of Lowe's case though the AP in 1977? How much easier could life have been had Meece - he would have been around 58-years-of-age at that point - written to the Bloomington-Normal Pantagraph or the Lincoln Courier (the two closest towns with newspapers that thoroughly covered the events of 1977) and attested to his incident and asked others to believe the Lowes?

The world is full of "what ifs", though. Where were you George Meece?


Rick said...

Thank you so much for this amazing newspaper find.

Loren Coleman said...

I couldn't agree with you more.

Additionally, I have an extended reaction, expressed here: