Locus of Control and its Relation to Skepticism, Pseudo-Skepticism, and Belief in the Paranormal: By Genevieve Reed


Skepticism takes an agnostic stance regarding the unknown, whereas pseudo-skepticism takes an atheist stance. The present study measured participants’ skepticism, pseudo-skepticism, and belief attitudes towards the paranormal, and measured the relationship with locus of control orientation. Questionnaires assessed both the belief orientation, and the locus of control orientation. The hypothesis stated that both pseudo-skeptics and believers would have external loci, and skeptics would have an internal loci. Results did not indicate any significant correlations between locus and belief orientations. However, results did indicate significant negative correlations between skepticism, pseudo-skepticism, and belief, suggesting that such views may correlate with personality traits.

People frequently express beliefs in the paranormal. Researchers indicate an increase in people’s interest in the paranormal, and define paranormal to include experiences which fall outside of rational scientific explanation. (McGarry & Newberry, 1981) Individuals often state that they “just know” that occurrences such as psychic phenomena occur. These people often describe, in enthusiastic detail, experiences which sound irrational and bizarre. On the other extreme, other individuals express an extreme denial of such phenomena, to the point that they will criticize and demean people who do believe in such things. Such individuals defend a staunch science-only attitude, choosing to deny anything which cannot be reproduced in an empirical manner (Kennedy, 2005). Regardless of what anyone may feel regarding the paranormal, current science lacks the ability to either prove or disprove such events. As a result, both believers and skeptics find themselves in a state of conviction regarding something which science cannot verify.

Researchers have conducted numerous studies to determine what correlations may exist between personality traits and belief in the paranormal. Specifically, researchers have measured participants’ internal/external locus of control tendency, and compared it to their belief or skepticism attitude regarding the paranormal. Most research has found that believers gravitate towards an external locus of control, and skeptics gravitate towards an internal locus of control. (McGarry & Newberry, 1981; Newby & Davis, 2004; Tobacyk & Milford, 1983.) Other findings have indicated that scores on the Meyers-Briggs personality inventory demonstrate certain correlations towards belief and skepticism. Kennedy (2005) suggested that skeptics desire more direct control over their experiences, which would also suggest a more internal locus of control.

Tobayck and Milford, (1983) conducted a study which first determined seven subcategories of paranormal phenomenon, and subsequently measured the correlations found between personality traits. The personality correlates included a measure of internal/external locus of control. Findings indicated that, as predicted, individuals with higher scores regarding paranormal beliefs also demonstrated a more external locus of control. Specifically, the subcategories which demonstrated significant findings included traditional religious belief, witchcraft (e.g., black magic and voodoo), and extraordinary life forms (e.g., Lock Ness and Big Foot). Although all of the subcategories showed positive correlations, only the three listed showed significance. Other subcategories such as precognition (the ability to foresee events before they occur) and spiritualism did not demonstrate any significant correlation with an external locus of control.

McGarry and Newberry (1981) took a slightly different approach in investigating the correlations between paranormal beliefs and internal/external locus of control. They measured a sample of students found to have low involvement in paranormal activities, and compared them to a sample of individuals more directly involved in paranormal activities. A psychic fair in the researchers’ area provided the sample of individuals with more involvement. As predicted, the student sample showed a positive correlation between belief and external locus of control, and the involved sample from the psychic fair showed a positive correlation between belief and internal locus of control. In this particular case, involvement correlated with locus of control. Participants’ beliefs alone did not demonstrate any correlations between locus of control, but their degree of initiative in personal interests did. This study may have been measuring participants’ involvement in their interests, and how it related to locus of control, instead of their belief tendencies.

Roe and Morgan (2002) stated that although correlations have previously been found between external locus of control and belief in the paranormal, other confounds may have interfered. They hypothesized that narcissism, instead, predicts belief in the paranormal. They felt that since narcissistic individuals are more prone to fantasy, then such fantasy tendencies would predict more beliefs in the paranormal. Although significant findings indicated that participants with greater narcissistic tendencies also demonstrated greater belief, testing measures may have created a confound. Questions which were geared towards the individual, (e.g., the participant affirms that he or she has psychic ability) were correlated with narcissism scores. Other questions which pertained to paranormal phenomenon, but did not deal directly with the activities of the participant, lacked the correlations with narcissism scores. The testing measures may have simply indicated narcissism, and not paranormal beliefs separate from the personal fantasies which narcissistic individuals demonstrate.

Newby and Davis (2004) also measured correlations found between locus of control and paranormal beliefs. They used Tobacyk’s Revised Paranormal Beliefs Scale, and included the New Age Philosophy and Traditional Paranormal Fears subcategories. As predicted, external locus of control correlated with paranormal beliefs.

Kennedy (2004) conducted a review of many studies regarding paranormal beliefs. He found that certain factors, such as scores on the Myers-Briggs personality typing correlated with belief patterns among participants. Individuals with an intuitive, feeling (NF) personality are likely to demonstrate paranormal beliefs. On the other hand, individuals with an intuitive, thinking (NT) personality, as well as those with sensing, thinking (ST) personalities tend to demonstrate skepticism, sometimes to an extreme degree, with regards to the paranormal.

Kennedy also speculated that NF individuals have a desire to transcend their day to day experience, and are therefore more likely to believe in something greater than and outside of themselves. This perspective correlates with an external locus of control. NT personalities, on the other hand, are frequently found among scientists, individuals who focus much of their energy on empirical research, and advocate a rational approach to their experience. They often display a high degree of self-efficacy, which corresponds to an internal locus of control. ST personalities are often found in positions of power, and frequently seek out materialistic goals. They have strong values which tend to be polar, and they prefer concrete to abstract thinking. They are frequently competitive and authoritarian. These behaviors also demonstrate an internal locus of control.

Kennedy (2004) describes these three personality types, NF, NT, and ST, as transcendent, scientific, and authoritarian, respectively. The three types often conflict with each other, although both scientific and authoritarian share the same skeptical attitude towards the paranormal. Both also demonstrate a desire to control, although the methods for manifesting this desire is very different. The scientist uses reason to solve problems, and applies his desire to control onto the research he or she performs. The authoritarian competes with others, and applies his or her desire to control over other individuals.

Although research supports the correlations found between external locus of control and belief in the paranormal, certain confounds have demonstrated differing results. For example, McGarry and Newberry found that belief did not correlate directly to locus of control. Involvement, on the other hand correlated with the results. Roe and Morgan (2002) found that narcissism correlated with paranormal beliefs, and that locus of control may not have actually been involved. Kennedy (2004) felt that personality types such as transcendent, authoritarian, and scientific, correlated with paranormal beliefs as well as locus of control orientation.

Truzzi (1987) stated that there are in fact two different kinds of skeptics. The actual skeptic takes an agnostic view regarding the paranormal. This individual would not affirm or deny a phenomenon, but simply state that he or she simply does not know. A skeptical attitude works well in a scientific environment, as it allows the scientist to experiment and discover something new which was previously unknown. Truzzi also describes the other kind of skeptic, the pseudo-skeptic. This individual takes an atheist view regarding the paranormal. He or she would simply deny the existence of anything which has not already been proved. In some ways this behavior follows similar patterns to the religious fanatic who insists his or her beliefs are real, regardless of empirical evidence. The distinction between these two is that the religious believer is making an unproven assertion, while the pseudo-skeptic is making an unproven denial. The actual skeptic remains considerate of an idea or hypothesis until it is either proved or disproved.

Previous research regarding the correlations between locus of control and belief versus skepticism regarding the paranormal have only provided participants with two options to choose from: either they believe in paranormal phenomenon, or they don’t. In addition, most studies have also excluded individuals who are actively involved in investigating the paranormal, with the exception of McGarry and Newberry (1981). If one views causality as external, he or she is more likely to make an absolute statement regarding that which has not been proven empirically. The individual would be less likely to experiment with things they cannot or have not confirmed. If one views causality as internal, he or she is more likely to experiment with an interest in the paranormal. If they cannot verify anything, they would remain undetermined about the paranormal. This would most likely encourage the individual to continue experimenting, instead of coming to a conclusion before proper evidence is obtained.

The hypothesis of the present study stated that individuals with an internal locus of control would be more likely to actively pursue their interests, and therefore more likely to consider the possibilities which could result from their choices. They would also demonstrate the true skeptic perspective. Individuals with an external locus of control would be more likely to be passive in their lives’ experiences, and more likely to perceive their experiences as having already been determined and they would demonstrate the pseudo-skeptic perspective.

Participants were given three statements to choose from regarding paranormal phenomenon. The first was an affirmative absolute statement regarding something impossible to prove, the second was a denial of such a phenomenon, and the third allowed the participant to state that although the phenomenon may be possible, there lacks the scientific evidence to back it up. Individuals with an internal locus of control should take the skeptic attitude that it is possible but not proved. Individuals with an external locus of control should either absolutely deny or affirm such a phenomenon.



Forty one students from Metropolitan State College participated in the study. Twenty three were from an upper division chemistry class, and eighteen were from an introductory psychology class. All eighteen psychology students received one credit for a class requirement for participation. The sample included 24 women and 17 men, with a mean age of 23.7 (SD=5.85).


Participants completed two 20 item questionnaires, along with a brief survey of demographic information. The first survey assessed the participants’ locus of control orientation (Ward, 1994) which included phrases such as “When I get what I want, it’s usually because I worked hard for it.” and “My life is determined by my own actions.” Participants scored one point for questions which indicated an internal locus of control, and zero points for questions which indicated an external locus of control.

The second survey assessed the participants’ skepticism orientation. The researcher derived 20 statements from McGarry and Newberry’s questionnaire (1981) which included phrases such as “Everyone has the potential ability to develop psychic powers.” and “It is possible for illnesses to be cured through psychic powers.” Each participant read a statement regarding a paranormal phenomenon, and then chose between three phrases: “This is certainly true”, “This is absolutely impossible”, and “This may or may not be true. More information is required to know for sure.” The demographic information included participants’ age, gender, ethnic background, and religiosity, as well as a question asking the participant why he or she had decided to participate in this particular study.


The researcher read instructions to the participants indicating that they would have two minutes to complete each survey, and read further instructions after each subsequent survey was completed. Participants completed the locus of control questionnaires first, followed by the paranormal beliefs questionnaire. The researcher instructed psychology class participants to place the completed questionnaires face down on the table in front of them as they were finished, and only begin the next one when instructed to do so. The chemistry students received less monitoring, completed the questionnaires at their own pace, and left when they were done. The completed surveys remained on the table until the participants left, when the researcher collected them. The entire study took ten minutes to complete.


The possible range for locus of control scores was 0-20. A high score indicated external locus of control. The actual range was 0-15. The possible range for belief, skeptic, and pseudo-skeptic scores was also 0-20. The actual range of belief scores was 0-16. The actual range of skeptic scores was 2-20. The obtained range of pseudo-skeptic scores was 0-18. Locus of control scores did not correlate significantly with skeptic, pseudo-skeptic, or belief scores. See Table I for correlation coefficients.


Data did not support the hypothesis that locus of control has any correlations with an individual’s locus of control orientation. Previous research was not supported either, in that individuals with a more external locus of control did not demonstrate a greater tendency to believe in paranormal phenomena.

A fairly high degree of internal validity was present in both student samples used. The sample of chemistry students received a slightly less structured environment in which to answer the questionnaires, in that some of them were departing for class as others were participating in the study. Overall, however, internal validity suffered very little compromise. All participants completed the questionnaires in a structured classroom environment.

The sample in the present study lowered external validity considerably, due to the fact that only college students participated. The locus of control scale results indicated a floor effect, which may have been due to the sample used. Future research efforts may improve the current study with a different sample, and different locus of control questions.

The present study did however indicate that participants demonstrate a high degree of consistency in choosing either skeptic, pseudo-skeptic, or belief views with regards to the paranormal. No previous research measured the potential differences between skeptic and pseudo-skeptic, so these differences may have acted as confounds in other studies.

The skeptic, pseudo-skeptic, and belief variables may in fact indicate personality traits among participants, which would explain the significant levels of negative correlations between each. Future research could measure personality traits, and their potential correlations between the skeptic, pseudo-skeptic, and belief perspectives. One possible measure could integrate the Transcendent, Scientific, and Authoritarian personalities Kennedy described (2004). These three types often express high degrees of condescension towards one another. (Kennedy, 2004.) Measures of acceptance and rejection towards skepticism, pseudo-skepticism, and belief attitudes could also demonstrate correlations between an individual’s personal orientation on such a scale.

Further research can now investigate correlations between an individual’s skepticism, pseudo-skepticism, and belief views, and determine what relationship other personality traits or psychological functions may have with an individual’s belief orientation.

Table I

Correlations Between Belief, Skepticism, and Pseudo-Skepticism Scores


Attitude & Demographic Data 1 2 3 4 5 6

1. Belief

r = — **-.464 **-.446 .192 *-.346 *-.314

p = — .002 .003 .230 .027 .046

2. Skepticism

r = — — **-.586 -.175 *.369 .084

p = — — .000 .274 .018 .602

3. Pseudo-skepticism

r = — — — .001 -.056 .202

p = — — — .994 .727 .205

4. Locus of Control

r = — — — — -.173 -.009

p = — — — — .280 .956

5. Age

r = — — — — — .204

p = — — — — — .200

6. Education Level — — — — — —


** indicates significance at alpha = .01 (two tailed)

* indicates significance at alpha = .05 (two tailed)


Kennedy, J. E. (2004). Personality and motivations to believe, misbelieve, and disbelieve in

paranormal phenomena. The Journal of Parapsychology, 69(2), 263-292.

McGarry, J.J. & Newberry, B. H. (1981). Beliefs in paranormal phenomena and locus of control:

a field study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 41(4), 725-736.

Newby, R. & Davis, J.B. (2004). Relationships between locus of control and paranormal beliefs.

Psychological Reports, 94, 1261-1266.

Roe, C.A. & Morgan, C.L. (2002). Narcissism and belief in the paranormal. Psychological

Reports, 90, 405-411.

Tobacyk, J. & Milford, G. (1983). Belief in paranormal phenomena: Assessment instrument

development and implications for personality functioning. Journal of Personality and

Social Psychology, 44(5), 1029-1037.

Truzzi, M. (1987). On pseudo-skepticism. Zetetic Scholar, 12-13. Retrieved February 4, 2008,

from http://www.anomalist.com /commentaries/pseudo.html

Ward, E. A. (1994). Construct validity of need for achievement and locus of control scales.

Educational and Psychological Measurements, 54(4), 983-992.


Strange Animal Deaths in the San Luis Valley: By Alejandro Rojas

Graphic design by Jason Cordova and Heather Jane Metcalf. Follow the link to hear the full episode of the podcast; https://castbox.fm/episode/id2003366-id172579446?utm_source=podcaster&utm_medium=dlink&utm_campaign=e_172579446&utm_content=Strange%20Animal%20Deaths%20in%20the%20San%20Luis%20Valley-CastBox_FM

The March 2009 Colorado Cattle Mutilations. WARNING: This story contains graphic images!

I got a phone call from my good friend and MUFON investigator, Chuck Zukowski. He had seen a KOAA television news report about a heifer that had been mutilated outside of Trinidad, and the local authorities were at a loss to explain how the animal was killed. Chuck is a reserve police officer in Colorado Springs, and was able to get in contact with the Las Animas County Sheriff’s department. The deputy in charge of the case gave him the following information regarding what they had found.

Estimated age of cow, 28 years

Oldest cow in herd had new calf roughly 3 months old

Cow appeared to be lying on its left side, partially in stream near bank est. 8 to 12 inches deep

Reproduction organ removed with anal area still intact

Udder removed

Wounds appeared to be circular in fashion with noticeable cauterizing on edges of wound, no noticeable blood

No noticeable blood pooling except around animal lying in water, possibly due to saturation

Closest cow foot prints to deceased animal estimated 4 feet away towards the East

No noticeable vehicle tire prints of any model or size, no indication a vehicle was nearby

Cow appeared slightly bloated

 Tongue and eyes were still present

Flies were present but the laying of their eggs “larva” was not present

FAA was called asking if any unusual radar contacts were noticed. None reported

Local Military was contacted asking if military aircraft were flown during the weekend of March 8th. Military spokesperson stated none were flown until Monday March 9th which was routine

Deputy stated case was logged as unusual and open

Deputy requested MUFON Investigation tracking number and outcome of any lab analysis for case report

The deputy also agreed to give the rancher Chuck’s cell phone number and ask the rancher to give Chuck a call if it was OK for us to go take a look at the animal and take some samples

Preparatory Research

I knew friends who had investigated cattle mutilations, and have seen the research of investigators such as Linda Moulton-Howe, David Perkins, and Chris O’Brien. Richard Dolan, also did a great investigation on the Sci-Fi Investigates television show on the Sci-Fi channel. The whole Cattle Mutilation mystery started here in southwestern Colorado, so I was excited to be able to take a look at this animal, and see for myself if there was something to this phenomenon.

Looking for brown blood

I immediately called Nancy Talbott of BLT research to get her take. In my opinion she is one of the best when it comes to collecting evidence for scientific analysis. I have worked with her in the past. She gave me an interesting tip, and that was to look for brown flakes on the animal. This has been found on these animals before, and has turned out to be dried bovine hemoglobin. This is a blood plasma, so it is the cow’s blood, but it has been separated in a way that can only be done in a lab. Linda Mouton-Howe also covered this in a story she did on this same case. We worked with her and Chuck provided her information on his findings.
We had brought Nancy to Metro State College to speak before, so I had heard of the hemoglobin findings. But, wow! How weird, blood plasma at a cattle mutilation site? I was definitely going to look hard for some of that. Nancy has taken these findings and put two and two together with other findings to come up with some speculation as to why we might be finding this substance at these sites, but that is another story.

Setting a time to go investigate

The rancher, Mike Duran, contacted Chuck and had heard of MUFON. He was more than happy for us to come take a look. He was at a loss, and welcomed others to come take a shot at identifying what might have killed the animal. Since Chuck and I have day jobs, we decided that the soonest we could get out was the following Saturday, March 14th. It was unfortunate to have to wait that long, but Chuck is an hour and half from Denver, and the site was another two and a half hours from Chuck. We got to work assembling equipment and our team. My first pick is always my cousin, Jason Cordova. You will find that he will be along in my upcoming investigations as well. Jason is a student at Metro State College of Denver, and founded a paranormal club there called the Crypto Science Society. He did five years in the Navy and is very grounded and scientific. He does great work, and with only a slight trepidation will accompany me into paranormal investigations that would scare off many others. I also called my friend, and MUFON investigator, Stace Tussel.With our team assembled, we were ready to rock.

Investigating the Cattle Mutilation of March 2009 in Trinidad, Colorado

Stace and Chuck gear up

On March 14th, we were able to get out to Trinidad and look at the animal. On the way to meet the rancher, Mike Duran, we stopped at a gas station in Trinidad, and the local paper had a front page story on the mutilation. After a long drive, I no longer needed the Monster to get me hyped up, the story was sufficient to make me feel like a Blues Brother, we were on a mission and ready to roll.

The location

When we got to the location, the first two things that caught my attention were how close the site was to the road, and how steep the path down to the creek side was. In the first picture on the left, you can see the road on the right side. In the middle of the picture, you can see a house off in the distance. The animal was in sight of the house, and the road was only about 30 feet away from the edge of the slope leading down to the animal.

In the second picture on the left you can see the path down to the site of the animal. Duran told us that the cows rarely go down there. The lack of cow patties near the animal was a testament to that. His land was covered in them, but there was only one down below. Duran told us the cows don’t wander down there because of the difficulty. There were other places they use to get to the stream that are much easier to reach.

When we got to the site, another thing that struck me was the steep incline behind the animal. In the third picture you can see Jason at the top of this incline taking pictures of us and the animal below. The incline was probably more than 50 feet high.

The immediate question this raises is did the animal fall down this slope? She did have access to the top of it. However, as Duran pointed out, the brush on the slope was not disturbed, nor did the animal show the bruising, broken bones, or other scratches and damage that would have been made from such a fall. Although Duran did feel that the animal seemed to have been dropped from above. His reasoning was that he did not see any sign of struggle or any tracks around the animal.

 Observations of the animal itself

Upon immediate inspection, the body was remarkably untouched. The rancher believed that the animal had died about a week, plus or minus a day, before we had gotten there. However, as Duran pointed out, the animal was virtually untouched by scavengers. An ear was taken, and the side of the animal was nibbled, but it was peculiarly devoid of magpie droppings or damage. Typically magpies will be on a dead animal quickly, not only displaying the damage they leave as they eat, but also dead animals are typically covered in magpie droppings. Upon closer inspection, as noted in the police notes earlier in the story, there were no maggots. We were not able to get inside of the animal, nor did any of us have the expertise to perform a necropsy. However, by closely inspecting the parts of the animal that were open from the extraction of the vaginal area and utters, there were definitely no maggots. You may notice I am not including these more gruesome pictures. I will spare you. You should also be happy you were not subjected to the horrible smell. Luckily our respirators helped muffle the stench, mostly. Next time I am going to try a little trick I heard of, putting a drop of an essential oil in there. Stace sells some of that stuff, in hindsight, I wish I had asked her for some.

The incisions

Being dead for a week, the incisions were not as easy to distinguish as when the animal was first found. Not from scavenger damage, mind you, but from the deterioration of the skin. We still took samples in hopes that a lab would be able to determine more. We were able to confirm that the vaginal area and utters were the only areas removed. You may recall from the earlier stories that often an eyeball, or tongue is taken. Not so in this case. However, like other cases, there also was a lack of blood. Neither the animal, nor the surrounding area had any blood on it. There may have been blood in the animal, but we were unable (or perhaps unwilling) to check that.

The rancher’s thoughts

We asked Duran some questions about his thoughts and observations. His ranch hand also wandered by and answered a couple of our questions. Both of them had grown up in the area and had been involved with ranching their entire lives. They had both seen many animals die throughout the years. However, they were both baffled by what they had seen here. Normally it is easy to identify how an animal had died. In a predator death, there are signs of struggle, there are signs of ripping on the animal from the predator, and there is a lot of blood around. Any animal that is cut bleeds, and if it is killed it bleeds a lot. As we covered early, these animals are typically immediately besieged by scavengers, such as magpies. Coyotes will also have chewed off a limb or so and drug it a few feet away to gnaw on. Not so in this case. They also ruled out human intervention. They felt the animal was not killed on the site by humans, because there were no signs of struggle, a bullet wound, nor was there blood. They also didn’t feel this animal was killed elsewhere and brought here, because there were no tire tracks from a vehicle, and it was a hard place to get to. It would have been very difficult to get down there with a huge animal like this. This also didn’t account for the apparent avoidance of the carcass by the scavengers.

Duran thinks it was extraterrestrials because of UFO sightings

When we asked what they thought happened, Duran’s ranch hand said he had no idea. However, Duran said he thought it was probably extraterrestrials. We asked why he thought this, and he said it was because he didn’t think there was any way a predator or humans could have done it. He also said that he and others had seen UFOs in the area.
Duran said he was told by a local rancher that the night that the animal was probably killed, the he had seen strange lights lighting up a canyon, but he wasn’t sure if it was Duran’s land or not. When Duran asked where it was, sure enough the other rancher pointed to the valley the animal was found in. Duran also said he had his own sightings in the area. He said he had seen a silver, perfectly round object moving slowly over the ridge in the afternoon, during the day. He said the object was shiny and looked like it might have been made out of mylar. However, while he was watching it coast slowly over the ridge, it disappeared. It didn’t shoot off in any direction. It just vanished right before his eyes.

Other readings and samples

We used EMF readers, a Geiger counter, and a compass to measure for any radiation or magnetic anomalies. We didn’t find anything there. We also took soil samples to analyze later, given findings other had found in these types of cases.


So what the flip could have happened here? The ranchers and the police were obviously baffled. That accounts for a lot, because this is rancher country. These people have seen dead cattle, so they know when something strange has happened. If they felt humans were to blame, they would give it their all to figure out who did it. However, the evidence doesn’t support that. It seemed we had a true mystery on our hands. Some people will ask, why don’t the insurance agencies or the police do more work to resolve these issues? Typically it is the rancher who has to foot the bill for the investigation, and a necropsy can cost over $1000. It just isn’t financially worth it. It was great that the police were so willing to work with us. It showed just how baffled they were, and that they were open to any help. Even from the Mutual UFO Network.

So why don’t scientists get involved?

This is a great question, and the one we are here to answer. It is our belief that if we do our job well, and keep level headed and professional, we can hopefully demonstrate that a case is worth the scientific inquiry necessary to solve the mystery, enough so to motivate scientists to help us out. In the next part of the story, you will see how lead investigator, Chuck Zukowski, took our findings and was able to do just that.

The Miller Case. WARNING: Graphic images below!

We continue our story soon after our investigation on Saturday, March 14th. The following Tuesday, March 17th, Chuck received a call about another strange animal death, this time in Walsenburg.  This rancher also welcomed our investigators to take a look and help explain what may have happened. Chuck set a time for the next day and headed out.

Majority of calf’s body missing

The new victim was a one-week-old calf. Rancher, Tom Miller, had last seen his herd intact during their normal afternoon feeding time on Monday. The next morning the mutilated calf was found near the feeding tub, completely destroyed. The torso with the ribs and organs were completely gone, and the ears were cut out in circular patches. The only thing left was the head, the legs, and the spinal cord. Everything else was gone, without a trace. There was no blood in the area of the animal, and what was left looked crushed. There were no signs of struggle. The crushing of the animal looked almost like it had been done by the animal being hit by a vehicle, but it was in a fenced area and there were no tire tracks. The location was also in view of the ranch house. Miller and other local ranchers that he had asked to come take a look were baffled. The only explanation for the crushed condition of the remains they could come up with was that it was dropped from a very great height.

Chuck arrives to take samples

Chuck was able to get there Wednesday, the 18th. The day after the calf was found. The remains of the animal were now on the flatbed of a truck, ready to be hauled off. Chuck and I had discussed the importance of getting the animal to a veterinarian to have a necropsy done, but time and resources didn’t allow for it. So Chuck was going to take samples and pictures and then work on finding a lab that could look at the samples.
Upon Chuck’s arrival, one of the people at the ranch checking on the animal was a Colorado Brand Inspector. According to the Division of Brand Inspection’s website, their primary responsibility is to protect the livestock industry from loss by theft, illegal butchering, or straying of livestock. Brand Inspector, Dennis Williams, agreed with the ranchers that this death was unusual. They all told Chuck they had never seen predator damage like this. In fact, they felt that the incision around the ear appeared to be made by a laser. Once again there were wounds that looked to be cauterized.

And then a third mutilation

The fun didn’t stop there. Already overworked and stressed out from two animal investigations, and hard at work trying to find someone to look at the samples, Chuck received another call on Saturday March 21st. Brand Inspector, Dennis Williams, had received a call from ranch manager, Tim Meyers. Meyers had a strange cattle death that he asked Williams to come take a look at. Williams called Chuck, and they agree that Williams would take a look at the animal, and Chuck would come out if Williams found the death strange. Seasoned Brand Inspector, Williams, called Chuck that evening, and let him know he had another weird one. Chuck jumped in his UFO Nut (that’s the name of Chuck’s website, which he has on a sticker on his SUV) mobile, and headed out yet again. This animal also had its udders removed. Meyers said it looked as though it were surgically removed. He had noticed the animal missing during feeding time Saturday March 21st, in the afternoon. He had last seen her the previous afternoon. He went to look for her, and found her body. He also found that she had given birth sometime on Friday, and the newborn calf was not far away. This was the cow’s first time giving birth. She was about two and a half years old. Meyers was able to rescue the calf. Besides the udders which appeared to have been surgically removed, the only other damage to the animal was in the vaginal area, where predators seemed to have gotten at it. Again, there didn’t look to be any blood from the udder removal. In stark contrast to the predator damage which did produce blood.

Colorado State University able to look at samples

Trying to manage his life as a family man, a microchip engineer, and a reserve police officer, Chuck told me he didn’t know what he was going to do if there was another. He was trying to get preliminary reports out to our colleagues and to Linda Moulton-Howe, a long time cattle mutilation investigator, who wanted to report the findings. On top of that, we found that we truly were not prepared to handle these sorts of cases. We needed to find a lab that would be able to look at the animals and preferably be able to perform a necropsy within a couple days of the animal’s death. Colorado State University is one of the top veterinary schools in the country. Although they are in northern Colorado and these mutilations, and Chuck are in Southern Colorado, his first choice was to give them a call. He was able to get in touch with Colleen Duncan, Professor of Anatomic Pathology at CSU. It was a blessing when she told Chuck she was willing to take a look at his samples. Truly the break he had been looking for. He arranged to drive out there and get them the samples, so they could try to determine how the lacerations were made, and if indeed they found cauterization.

Colorado State University analyzes hide samples from recent mysterious animal deaths

The prospect of getting scientists to look at your findings and give an analysis is always exciting. It is what MUFON strives to do in its investigations. So I was ecstatic to hear that Chuck Zukowski, the lead investigator in these cattle mutilation cases happening in Southern Colorado last month, was able to get help from Colorado State University. It is one of the best veterinary schools in the region. In this field you do run across those who don’t trust conventional institutions. They feel that experts explain away their findings. This often leaves the impression that these scientists either can’t handle the truth, or are part of some sort of conspiracy that runs throughout academia. Many don’t understand that scientists fist look to prove that the conventional possibility is true. It’s standard practice to measure for what you know. If you find a variance in your findings that suggests the conventional answer is incorrect, then you look for the reason for the variance. In the case of these cattle mutilations, you would need to find the cause of death, if possible. Looking for scavenger or predator damage and the method used to cut out the udders, ears, and vaginal areas of the animals Chuck investigated. We already knew that we would be limited on what CSU would be able to discover. The animals were dead for a while before the samples were taken. Unwittingly, we also potentially damaged the samples by placing them in an alcohol solution.

This brings me to an important rule that I have learned when taking samples. Talk with the scientists doing the analyses BEFORE taking samples. This is an important rule, because the scientist or lab technician will be able to instruct you on how to best take the samples, so that it does not interfere with the type of testing they will be conducting. Unfortunately, in this case, we were not able to do so. We only had old instructions from our MUFON manual. Hopefully we will be able to update that section of the manual soon, and now we have some professionals to help us do that.

CSU findings in their words

The analysis was conducted by the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories. Here is what they found, verbatim;

“REMARKS: No histologic lesions were observed within the examined tissues. In consideration of the history, gross description, and histologic examination it may be concluded that the observed lesions occurred antemortem as there was no hemorrhage or evidence of antemortem tissue changes. Fixation with alcohol likely contributed to the poor tissue quality in these cases; however, the fragmentation of tissues may also have been the result of a process that occurred following the death of this animal. Prior to embedding, the ear was examined under dissecting scope and all layers of the haired skin through the auditory canal could be visualized suggesting there was no cautery type process occurring.

HISTOPATHOLOGY: Slide 1. Present on slide 1 are approximately five sections of tissue taken from the grossly observed lesions located within the vaginal area. Histologically all sections are composed of epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous connective tissue. In all sections, but to varying degrees there is disruption of the normal epidermal dermal architecture characterized by loss of epithelium and adjacent connective tissue stroma. Architecture of the disruption is largely superficial and devoid of associated hemorrhage or necrosis.

Slide 2. Present on slide 2 are multiple sections of tissue taken from the grossly observed ear lesions of the Tom Miller case. Slide contains only tissue from the right ear. Histologically sections are composed of skeletal muscle, adipose tissue, salivary gland, and rare islands of cartilage. There is marked artifactual distortion of the tissue architecture characterized by section fragmentation and autolysis of the tissue. Tissue is devoid of hemorrhage or other histologic changes and areas of fragmentation.

Slide 3. Present on slide 3 are multiple sections of tissue taken from the grossly observed lesions of the left ear. Findings are consistent with those described on slide 2. Also present on this slide is food material and bacterial contamination. There are no histologic lesions associated with any areas of tissue.”

That is for you vets and MDs out there who may know how to read in this language.

The results in English

Essentially they were not able to determine how the cuts were made. They also did not find evidence of cauterization, or burning. Sometimes that is found in these mysterious cattle mutilation cases, leading to the speculation that a laser scalpel is used. Due to the deterioration of the hide, and possibly because of the alcohol solution we put the samples in, it was hard for them to determine how the cuts were made. They could not rule out scavengers or predators. However, they also said that the cuts were made after the animal was dead. So the cutting to remove the organs was not the cause of death in these animals.

The cause of death is still unknown.

This is interesting because there was no visible trace of predator damage that could have caused the deaths. It would make one wonder if poison was used. Without a full necropsy soon after death, that is not able to be determined. Now that we have a connection with CSU, hopefully if this happens again, we will be able to get the animal out there quickly to have this work done.

The mystery continues

This lab work is one step towards finding an answer. The relationships built with the authorities in the area, and the connections made with CSU, bring us closer to an answer. CSU’s help, and their willingness to look into this mystery with an open mind, gives us hope for the possibility of getting some answers in the future. While we may not have found proof of lasers being used to cut the flesh or a cause of death that scientifically proved scavengers or predators were not involved, we did not find proof that they were. That fact coupled with the expert opinions of the ranchers and authorities who did not find any signs that predators were the cause of death leads us to the likelihood of foul play. While local authorities also see no evidence that humans were involved in these mutilations, we will need to look further to rule out that possibility, as we search for extraordinary evidence to support a possible extraordinary conclusion. There is one more organization that has thrown their weight into the mix of this mystery. The Humane Society also seems to be under the impression that foul play was involved with the deaths of these cows. They are even offering a reward to help find the perpetrators.

This story was originally posted in the now defunct Denver Examiner. Alejandro is a member of the Crypo Science Society Advisory Committee, the host of Open Minds UFO Radio Podcast, and Co-organizer of the International UFO Congress.


Look To The Skies: An Investigation Into Thunderbirds, From Folklore To Cryptozoology

Graphic design by Heather Jane Metcalf. For the full episode of the podcast go to https://castbox.fm/episode/id2003366-id156991177?utm_source=podcaster&utm_medium=dlink&utm_campaign=e_156991177&utm_content=Look%20To%20The%20Skies%3A%20An%20Investigation%20Into%20Thunderbirds%2C%20From%20Folklore%20To%20Cryptozoology-CastBox_FM


Strictly defined by the Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, a Thunderbird is… “In North American Indian mythology, a powerful spirit in the form of a bird. By its work, the earth was watered and vegetation grew. Lightning was believed to flash from its beak, and the beating of its wings was thought to represent the rolling of thunder. It was often portrayed with an extra head on its abdomen.” (“Thunderbird”)

Woven blanket, Southern Ute Cultural Center, Ignacio Colorado. Photo by Jason S. Cordova

The contemporary cryptozoological usage of the term, however, has deviated significantly from this image; shedding most, if not all, of the mythological and spiritual trappings of supernatural powers in favor of a more materialistic phenomenon. To the typical cryptozoologist a Thunderbird is a cryptid (a biological organism, whether extinct or “new”, thought to exist but which remains unconfirmed by the scientific community) and in this case is believed to be a predatory bird, larger and perhaps stronger than known species, indigenous to the North and South American Continents. Modern sightings and eyewitness accounts of Thunderbirds usually liken their morphology to that of an eagle, hawk, or condor; though a minority of them claims instead, a more reptilian appearance which would suggest perhaps some kind of bat or relic pterosaur.

Cryptozoology.com has this to say:

Dr. Kenneth E. Campbell in front of the 25 ft, wingspan Argentavis magnificens. Display from the Natural History Museum, Los Angeles.

“Modern reports of Thunderbirds arise from various locations in North America, with a large occurrence from Pennsylvania to the Central states. Mark A. Hall, one of the foremost investigators of the Thunderbird story, gives the following description of the avian cryptid drawn from numerous sightings:

“The bird is distinguished by its size and lifting capabilities exceeding those of any known bird living today anywhere in the world. Wingspan estimates are necessarily all guesswork. But observers sometimes have had the benefit of a measurable object for comparison or the benefit of time to observe a resting bird. The results most often provide sizes of 15 to 20 feet. The bird at rest or on the ground appears to be four to eight feet tall. Typically the coloring of the birds overall is dark..”

Remarkably, a bird of 15 feet in size would be the largest bird known in the world today. The largest wingspan known on a living bird is that of the wandering albatross (diomedea exulans) with a wingspan to 12 feet, and while not a predatory bird, it still boasts an impressive span. The Andean condor (Vultur gryphus) and the California condor (Gymnogyps californianus) are among the largest predatory birds in the world, with the Andean condor reaching a wingspan of 10.5 feet and the California condor (the largest North American predatory bird) reaches a wingspan of up to 10 feet. These are all truly marvelous birds and respectable in their majesty.

But consider the Thunderbird, reputedly capable of lifting a deer or a person from the ground. The current predatory birds are not equipped with grasping feet that are strong enough to hold much weight, instead, they live primarily as carrion eaters and are only seldom predatory, and then usually on smaller animals. Reports of the Thunderbird, however, describe lifting deer and humans off the ground.” (“Thunderbird”)


North American First Nations: The Thunderbird is an entity of no small prominence within the mythos of many indigenous North American tribes, particularly those of the Great Plains, Pacific Northwest Coast, and American Southwest. Artifacts depicting them have been discovered at least as early as the Mississippian religious and cultural period of American prehistory (roughly 900 – 1600 CE) in a region known as the ‘Southeastern Ceremonial Complex. Within this social structure, Thunderbirds were believed to be powerful inhabitants of the realm of order and stability, the upper of three tiers into which the Mississippian cosmology was divided.


To the Comanche people of the Great Plains;

“The thunder often appeared as a great bird, somewhat like an eagle, but much larger. The Thunderbird made the thunder and lightning and storm and rain. It was dark blue, or showing the color of cut lead like a thundercloud, with red zigzag markings extending from its heart to the tail and wing tips. It went south at the approach of winter and returned from the warm country with the Sun, bringing the heat and the rain. In its talons the bird carried arrows with which to strike its enemies; therefore, the Indians believed that the eagle on our coins is a Thunderbird. Its shadow was the thundercloud; it produced lightning by rapidly opening and closing its flashing eyes; thunder was the sound made by the flapping of its enormous wings, and the downpour which followed was from the lake carried on its back.” (The Comanches, Lords of the South Plains, p. 198)

Both the Micmac and the Passamaquoddy nations of the Northeastern Atlantic coast tell stories of a type of Thunderbird which beat its wings to produce a powerful wind to agitate the sea, so as to dissipate the slime that accumulated when it was stagnant. The Passamaquoddy, who believe strongly in magic, even tell of a small village of shape-shifting Thunderbird people far to the north beyond mystical mountains which “…drew apart, back and forth, then closed together very quickly.” (Voices of the Winds, p. 317), squashing those attempting passage who weren’t agile enough.

Kwakwaka’wakw totem pole depicting a Thunderbird perched on the top. Thunderbird Park; Victoria, British Columbia.

The Winnebago, or Ho-Chunk, tell a story of an orphaned boy being kidnapped by malevolent Thunderbirds and held captive in the mountain-home of the Thunder Spirits, where they planned to devour him. He was saved from that grisly fate by a pigeon hawk whom he had befriended in his youth.

Numerous First Nations, from the Nuu-chah-nulth, to the Kwakwaka’wakw, Lakoda, Ojibwa and more all tell unique and often exciting tales about this majestic spirit. Regardless of geography and culture however, whether a singular entity or a species, the creature is consistently portrayed as a massive predatory bird which commanded weather and expressed a similar temperament. Cunning, and powerful, it was not to be trifled with.

Wikipedia makes the intriguing claim that “Cryptozoologists also posit that the Thunderbird was associated with storms because they followed the drafts to stay in flight, not unlike the way a modern eagle rides mountain up currents. Noted cryptozoologist John Keel [of Mothman fame] claims to have mapped several Thunderbird sightings and found that they corresponded chronologically and geographically with storms moving across the United States.” It is difficult to find other sources corroborating this statement, but it certainly makes sense when one thinks on it (It should be noted that Forensic Meteorologist Joe Soebel, interviewed on the History Channel program, Monster Quest did confirm that large birds do follow rising currents of air preceding thunderstorms).

Big Names In Big Birds Around The World: Legends of giant birds are not restricted solely to North America of course. In ancient Mesopotamia, for example, there is an Akkadian myth which tells of Anzu, a lesser divinity with the body of a giant bird and the head of a lion who is so large that its wing flaps cause storms and whirlwinds.

Alabaster relief of Anzu as a lion-headed eagle. 2550-2500 BCE, Louvre Museum, Paris.

More well-known is the legend of the Roc, made famous by the voyages of Sinbad the Sailor in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights. That self-same book also describes the Roc twice more in a pair of stories involving Abd al-Rahman. The Roc was reputedly a bird of ridiculous proportions, able to snatch up elephants and eat them or carry boulders large enough to drop on and sink the ships of certain Arabian heroes. Its eggs were so large that Sinbad mistook one for a dome-shaped building.

The Roc of Arabian legend escapes with its elephantine prey.

The Venetian explorer of the 11th and 12th centuries CE, Marco Polo, described Rocs inhabiting Madagascar in his Book of Travels. In one instance he relates the story of the great Kublai Khan receiving a gift of a Roc feather from Madagascarian envoys which allegedly turned out to be the frond (a leaf or leaflike part of a palm, fern, or similar plant) of a Raphia palm.

Also supposedly sighted by the Islamic explorer, scholar, and judge, Ibn Battuta, the mythos of the Roc is likely derived from an earlier legend, that of the Garuda. Hindu stories thousands of years old tell of the solar bird, Garuda carrying off giant snakes and elephants to feast upon, something attributed to the Roc as well, indicating a probable link between the myths.

In The Arabian Nights, a classic collection of stories from the Middle East, Sinbad’s shipmates discover an immense Roc’s egg, with a young Roc and eat it, but soon find themselves attacked by its furious parents. They flee in their ship, but the angry Rocs follow, carrying massive boulders which they drop on the ship, smashing it to splinters. (Mythic Creatures, American Museum of Natural History)


Though nowhere near as commonplace in the public eye as the clamoring reports of Bigfoot and Champ sightings, there has been a relatively steady flow of eyewitness claims concerning oversized ornithological oddities in North America for just over a century now. Some of the more significant ones are described here.

Written In Stone: The first well-known case of recent times comes from the American Southwest in the late 1800’s; it is also perhaps the most controversial incidence, having almost developed a mythos all its own.

The story is that a pair of cowboys in Arizona shot and killed a large avian creature which is sometimes described as a bird and others as a featherless reptilian thing. The pair hauled the carcass back to the nearest town where they secured it by a nail or lash up to the side of a barn with its wings outstretched. Then six men stood fingertip-to-fingertip in front of it to demonstrate the immensity of the beast’s wingspan and a photograph was taken which, according to anecdote, was published in the local newspaper, the Tombstone Epitaph in1886. Those who have scoured the paper’s archives, however, have seen their hopes of rediscovering this photograph frustrated. The closest nugget turned up has been a story printed by the Epitaph on April 26, 1890, about a 16-foot bird found in the desert by some ranchers. The claim that the Epitaph even printed this photograph is a dubious one in and of itself, having been made in a 1963 article of Saga magazine by Jack Pearl entitled “The Monster Bird That Carries Off Human Beings!”

Regardless, the story of this photograph has piqued the curiosity of many people. Owing to its own phantasmal nature the search for the ‘missing’ picture has almost become as big a mystery as the search for a real Thunderbird. Over the last century, several people have claimed to have seen or held the photograph; the most prominent among them being the late Ivan T. Sanderson, a prolific naturalist and writer who’s detailed studies of exotic animals did much to expand our limited understanding of their behaviors and ecosystems during his time. Sanderson had an especial interest in subjects cryptozoological and claimed to have at one point owned a copy of the Epitaph photo which, upon being loaned to an acquaintance in the 1960’s, never found its way back to him.

In the inaugural years of the new millennium the short-lived television program, Freaky Links staged a similar photograph (featured on the cover of this writing) depicting a group of Civil War soldiers standing triumphantly over the cadaver of what appears to be a prehistoric pterosaur which they shot dead. This promotional fake, meant to galvanize interest in the TV series, was intentionally designed to be reminiscent of the legendary Epitaph photo, leading to a moderate revival of interest in the elusive still-frame.

Researcher, Jerome Clark, has suggested that the description of this photograph is vague and evocative enough to possibly implant a sort of “false memory” in people, which would corroborate the idea that no such picture was ever actually taken. In general, the Tombstone Epitaph photograph is regarded as an urban legend.


Lowe vs. The Thunderbird: Quite possibly the most well-known modern Thunderbird sighting is the story of one of the creatures attempting to abscond with a small boy from Lawndale, Illinois. Cryptozoology.com describes the dramatic event, which to this day the protagonist resolutely swears did happen:

“Perhaps the most controversial inclusion of the Thunderbird capable of lifting a human comes from 1977 in Lawndale, Illinois. It was here that on July 25, 1977, towards 9:00 pm a group of three boys was in the backyard. They saw two large birds coming, and as the birds came in closer they went after the boys. Two of the boys escaped, but the third, Marlon Lowe, did not. One of the birds clamped onto his shoulder with its claws and proceeded to lift the ten-year-old boy about two feet off the ground for a distance of at least 30 yards. With screams of distress calling adults outside and coupled with a series of blows by the 65-pound boy, the bird finally released him. The boy was relatively unharmed, with psychological damage instead of physical.” (“Thunderbird”)

This is the only well-known modern account of a Thunderbird actually attacking a human being, barring some ambiguous piece of testimonial stowed away in the filing cabinets of obscurity. For that reason, as well as the unusual strength attributed to Marlon Lowe’s attacker, this account is unique among tales of a unique creature.

The attempted abduction of Marlon Lowe, by Chelsea Sams

Witnesses to the incident described a bird resembling a Cathartidae, a family of bird comprised of seven species of New World condors and vultures. This is especially strange because vultures and condors do not have grasping feet like those of an eagle or hawk, but rather flat feet for walking, like that of a turkey (i.e. the Turkey Vulture).  Various experts interviewed on the mildly sensationalistic History Channel program, Monster Quest agreed that while a large bird of prey is capable of moving relatively large volumes of weight, to actually pick up and carry something as heavy as a 65 lb. boy the bird (with grasping feet) would have to be very large and at least twice as heavy as the object being carried, probably in the 150 lb. range in Lowe’s case (even the Andean Condor does not usually exceed 33 lbs. in weight).  Of course, just such a bird is what Marlon Lowe and eyewitnesses described…

The attempted abduction of Marlan Lowe by William Rabsmen

Footage; Two of a Feather: During the very same year as the reported attack on Marlon Lowe, just 5 days later and in the same state, another man claimed to have captured a pair of Thunderbirds on film. Chief AJ Huffer had been hearing reports of giant raptors and decided to take his video camera out on the hunt. On the morning of July 30, 1977, while rowing the placid waters of Lake Shelbyville he spotted a nesting pair of exceptionally large birds. Huffer managed to capture a 100-foot roll of color film of the creatures which has since become essentially the less-famous Thunderbird equivalent of the Patterson Bigfoot film. A local TV station aired Huffer’s material too controversial reception, with Department of Conservation officials identifying the animals as Turkey Vultures.

The History Channel’s program, Monster Quest managed to get three different experts to examine the footage. The first, Dr. Mike Wallace of the Zoological Society of San Diego was very convinced that the animals were Turkey Vultures. Dr. David Hancock, historian and eagle biologist at the Hancock Wildlife Research Center, also came to the conclusion that the pair were Turkey Vultures. Dr. Patrick Redding, on the other hand, Director of the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota, was presented as being less certain regarding identification. Calling one of the animals “very much larger” then an eagle, Turkey Vulture, or Black Vulture, he could only say that it appeared to him to be closer to the size of a condor.

Illinois had been a relative hotbed of Thunderbird sightings, especially in the ’70s. The footage captured by Chief Huffer is intriguing because it, at the very least, proves the presence within the state of two medium to large sized raptors apparently matching eyewitness descriptions. There were two animals present at the Marlon Lowe incident 5 days earlier, even though only one attacked him. A fully-grown Turkey Vulture or condor would certainly seem massive next to a 10-year old boy.

From the Lone Star to the Land of the Midnight Sun: Since the onset of the new millennium there have been a small handful of noteworthy Thunderbird sightings. Listed chronologically they occurred in Pennsylvania (2001), Alaska (2002), and Texas (2007).

On September 25, 2001, a 19 –year old boy claimed to have seen a raptor with a 10-15 foot wingspan flying over Route 119 in South Greensburg, Pennsylvania. A small handful of other sightings sprang up throughout the state that same year as well.

CNN.com reports a string of sightings in the Alaskan villages of Togiak and Manokotak during 2002. Local pilot, John Bouker claimed that he and his crew while en route to Manokotak saw one of the animals. At an estimated distance of 1,000 feet (300 meters), he called it “huge”, with a wingspan of about 14 feet. Officials of the US Fish and Wildlife Service attributed the sightings to a Russian bird, the Steller’s Sea Eagle, which can weigh up to 20 lbs and have a wingspan up to 8 ft.

Finally, a series of similar sightings were reported in and around San Antonio, Texas during 2007.

The Steelers Sea Eagle can weigh up to 20 lbs and reach a wingspan of 8 ft.


Excluding hoaxes and eyewitness claims made for publicity’s sake, most instances of people legitimately believing to have seen a living Thunderbird could easily have been caused by anything from the power of suggestion, to lack of sleep, to mistaken estimates of the size of real avian animals. History Channel’s Monster Quest actually performed a clever experiment to test that last one out. Creating a kite in the shape of a bird with a wingspan in excess of 20 ft they flew it over a park and asked passersby to observe it and then give them their best guess as to wingspan. Interestingly, not a single participant was able to accurately guess the size. To make matters worse for the Thunderbird mythos the model was flown in a clear line of sight and participants had all the time they needed to observe the thing. Given that some eyewitness accounts are of brief, sometimes frantic glimpses, with the occasional added problem of obscured vision due to tree lines or time of day, this experiment, though hardly conclusive, is a point against the possibility of Thunderbirds.

Certainly, certain circumstances conspire against their chances of reality. In addition to the problems of accurately sizeable sightings, the phenomenon faces another two roadblocks. First, there is the problem of food supply. Angelo P. Capparella, an ornithologist from Illinois State University, contends that there just isn’t a large and plentiful enough trophic base (especially in regions where sightings are common) to support any kind of breeding population of birds that large. She also points out that the legions of competent and enthusiastic bird-watchers in the continental United States would probably have spotted something by now, were these creatures a reality.

Still, working on the assumption that at least some of the sightings are of exactly what they claim; that living, record-breaking raptors are real phenomena, then the most probable explanations are:

Relic Species; the Teratorns: Some cryptozoologists point to the extinct Teratorns as a possible explanation for modern-day Thunderbirds. “Teratorn” refers to an extinct avian family from North and South America called “Teratornithidae”. This family and its three current constituent species are the largest flying birds known to have ever existed. The Teratorns are understood from scattered fossils ranging from the Miocene (23.03 – 5.33 mya) to the Pleistocene (1.8 mya -10,000 ya) epochs. These animals were birds of prey which bore a strong resemblance to modern-day vultures and condors.

The most common and well-understood, Teratornis merriami, known primarily from the Rancho La Brea tar pits in Los Angeles, California, stood roughly 0.75 cm (29.5 in) tall, had a wingspan of 3.5 – 3.8 m (11.5 – 12.5 ft), and weighed roughly 15 kg (33 lbs). (Campbell, 1980)

The most awe-inspiring member of this family is Argentavis magnificens, discovered by Dr. Kenneth E. Campbell and Eduardo P. Tonni in 1980. This Argentinean raptor stood roughly 1.5 m (4.9 ft) tall, had a wingspan of 7 – 7.6 m (23 – 24.9 ft), and may have weighed up to 120 kg (264 lbs), though newer estimates seem to place it around 60 – 80 kg (140 – 180 lbs). (Campbell, 1980)

Argentavis magnificens size comparison with an adult human male.

The other species, Aiolornis incredibilis, is poorly understood due to the highly fragmentary nature of current fossil evidence. However, it does appear to have been larger than T. merriami. All of these specimens offer conclusive proof that avian predators at least as large as the stories of Thunderbirds did exist at one point within the planet’s history (relatively recently in geologic terms, too). Here cryptozoologists point to the possibility that some Teratorns, though rare, continue to exist today. The majority of modern sightings describe animals that match the description of a Teratorn very closely.

Relic species (also known as Lazarus taxon), or species that were thought to be extinct but which later have been discovered to be alive and well, are not unheard of. The poster-child for this kind of thing is the famous Coelacanth fish, an Order of lobe-finned fish that first appears in the fossil record roughly 410 mya in the Devonian Period and thought to have gone extinct at the end of the Cretaceous Period 65 mya until its rediscovery off the coast of South Africa in 1938. There are other examples of course, but none so dramatic. It is tempting to point the finger at the Coelacanth as proof of the possibility, but it must be remembered that a large fish remaining undiscovered underneath the vastness of the ocean is an entirely different thing than one of the largest birds in all of history remaining undocumented on one or two continents. Still, it is possible, if unlikely.

The aptly maned Teratorn, Argentavis magnificens, placed in perspective

The most immediately encouraging thing to take from the Teratorns is that they definitively prove that there is no inherent impossibility of raptors growing as large as the Thunderbirds. The argument that birds “just can’t get that big” is not a valid one. The flip-side to this is that for birds to get that big what they feed on probably does too. The epochs in which the Teratorns lived were rife with what are called “megafauna”; animals which grew to absolutely monstrous proportions such as mammoths, giant sloths, dire wolves, and even the Teratorns themselves. As the millennia passed and the majority of Pleistocene megafauna began to dwindle and die out (possibly due to over-hunting by early humans) there would likely have emerged a tremendous selective pressure on these organisms favoring a smaller size corresponding to smaller food. Again we see that the modern Thunderbird phenomenon begs the question: “What do they eat?”


An alternative version of the Relic Species argument occasionally suggested, is that Thunderbird sightings are actually of Relic Pterosaurs (sometimes massive flying reptiles that lived alongside the dinosaurs during the Mesozoic era). This, however, to be frank, seems somewhat less likely than the Teratorns.

Witton, giraffe, azhdarchid.jpg
Quetzalcoatlus, an extinct pterosaur Genus from the Late Cretacious era, boasted some of the largest animals to have ever flown. Wingspans in some individuals could flirt with 40 ft. It is occasionally suggested that Thunderbird sightings are not of relic Teratorns, but of relic Pterosaurs.

Individual Anomalies; Gigantism: Another intriguing possibility is that Thunderbirds are not a separate unique species or genus, but rare individuals from extant and documented species. Variation in size is common among individuals within populations, but occasionally it goes beyond the generally defined parameters. Gigantism is a “condition in which an animal or plant is far greater than normal in size. … among animals, gigantism is usually the result of hereditary and glandular disturbance.” (“Gigantism”, The Columbia Encyclopedia)

Robert Wadlow compared to his father, Harold Franklin Waldow.

Of course this not an exacting examination of the effects of gigantism, but these simple calculations can serve as a compelling illustration of the potential of the condition. The possibility of gigantism as the culprit behind Thunderbird sightings is a tempting one; both because it does not stumble over the problem of food supplies for breeding populations and it could easily explain the generally elusive nature of this phenomenon.

In humans, gigantism can be caused by excessive growth hormone secretion in the anterior pituitary. When this occurs within a growing and developing child it can lead to startling results, such as the case of Robert Wadlow. Born in 1928 he became the tallest man on record; 8 feet 11 inches tall and still growing by the time of his death at age 22. The mean height of U.S. males from 1960-62 (still roughly 20 years after Wadlow’s death) was 69 inches (5.75 ft). (Ogden et al, 2004) Wadlow was 107 inches at the time of his death, fully 64% larger than a fairly representative average.


If we take the average wingspan of a Turkey Vulture, 67-70 inches (5.58-5.83 ft) (Cornell Lab of Ornithology), and increase that by 64% we would have a wingspan of 110-115 inches (9.16-9.58 ft). If we did the same to a California Condor, whose wingspan is already 109 inches (9.1 ft) (Cornell Lab of Ornithology), then the result would be a wingspan of 170 inches (14.1 ft.). That is as large as the extinct T. merriami (as well as some modern Thunderbird sightings).


This composite, it should be pointed out, is only intended to be a cursory overview of the Thunderbird phenomena and does not go into all the excruciating detail that the author perhaps typically prefers. For those who share such enthusiasm for the minutia, the following sources will serve as good springboards.

  • Wikipedia. It is not as rigorously reliable as more reputable sources. However, it is always a good idea if you know little to nothing about a subject to give it a quick Wiki so as to break into the topic while at the same time often finding links to good references and source material.
  • Thunderbirds: America’s Living Legends of Giant Birds. By Mark A. Hall and affiliated with Loren Coleman, both well-known cryptozoologists, this book should serve as a solid introduction to the phenomenon. Published by Paraview Press (2004).
  • Big Bird! Modern Sightings of Flying Monsters. By Ken Gerhard, another recognized name among cryptozoologists, it should provide another solid overview of the phenomenon. Published by cfz (2007).
  • Monster Quest: Birdzilla. A 45-minute episode of History Channel’s well-known program, it is actually worth a look. There are instances where it falls back on these kinds of programs’ typical sensationalism and “much ado over nothing”, but overall it is actually a solid installment with genuine experts consulted and a refreshingly objective approach.
  • The aerodynamics of Argentavis, the world’s largest flying bird from the Miocene of Argentina. This a very interesting experiment published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2007) in which the Teratorn’s discoverer, Dr. Kenneth E. Campbell, teams up with others to try and determine how exactly this massive bird would have flown. Was it a glider or a flapper? The insight gained could just as easily be applied to possible modes of flight for Thunderbirds.
  • Shadow of the Thunderbird (Cryptids Trilogy, Book 1). By Dallas Tanner, this is actually a work of fiction; but it is well-researched and looks to be a ripping good mystery yarn if you’re looking for entertainment. Published by Trilogus Books (2008).


“All About Birds”. Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Dec. 2008.


Birdzilla. Monster Quest. History Channel. 21 Nov. 2007.

Campbell, Kenneth E., and Tonni, Eduardo P. “A New Genus of Teratorn From the Huayquerian

of Argentina (Aves: Teratornithidae)” Contributions In Science 330 (1980): 59-68.

Edmonds, Margot, and Clark, Ella E. Voices of the Winds: Native American Legends. 1989.

Edison, NJ: Castle Books, 2003.

“Gigantism”. The Columbia Encyclopedia. 6th ed. NY: Columbia University Press,


Heinselman, Craig. “Thunderbird”. Cryptozoology.com.


Howard, Hildegarde “Fossil Birds” Los Angeles County Museum Science Series No. 17

Paleontology No. 10 (1962): 15-30.

“Massive Bird Spotted in Alaska”. CNN.com. 18 Oct. 2002. Dec. 2008.


“Mythic Creatures: Air: Creatures From the Sky”. American Museum of Natural History.

Dec. 2008 <http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/mythiccreatures/air/strike.php&gt;.

Ogden, Cynthia L., et al. “Mean Body Weight, Height, and Body Mass Index,

United States1960–2002”. Advance Data: From Vital and Health Statistics. 347 (2004):


Thompson, Stith. Folk Tales of the North American Indians. U.S.A.: JG Press, 1995.

“thunderbird.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 21 Jan. 2009


Wallace, Ernest, and Hoebel, E. Adamson. The Comanches: Lords of the South Plains. 3rd ed.

Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1952.

Wikipedia. Dec. 2008 – Jan. 2009 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page&gt;.


Haunted History Tour of Estonia

Click on the image to hear the Cryptoscience Society Podcast. Original artwork by Estonian artist, OlevusArt.com Follow the link for the full episode;

On episode 4 of the podcast, Folklorist Savannah Rivka Powell takes us on a haunted history tour of Estonia. Hear tales of Estonian mythology, treasure-guarding spirits, werewolves, runic songs, magic, sauna rituals, epics, and folk legends as she discusses paranormal topics from an academic perspective. Savannah is currently working on a master’s degree in Folkloristics and Applied Heritage Studies at the University Tartu in Estonia. 

Savannah Rivka Powell

Let’s Talk About Bigfoot: By Jim Brown

Click on the image to hear the companion episode of the Cryptoscience Society Podcast. Photo by Jim Brown

Do they exist? I hear all the time, “If they exist, why isn’t there any evidence?” Well, what kind of evidence? Witnesses? Thousands of people who have seen them? Stories dating back to the indigenous peoples of this continent. The fact is, that Native American Tribes all over the continent have names for this creature tells us much. It was seen and interacted with, and the names often tell of the perceptions of the tribes toward this creature. Then, there are stories from trappers and miners and settlers in this country. Even a president.

​Just to show a few of the names:
Zuni Indians-Atahsaia, “The Canibal Demon.”
Dakota (East)/Sioux Indian, Chiha tanka, “Big Elder Brother.”
Seminole Indian, Esti Capcaki, “Tall Man.”
Cherokee Indian, Kecleh-Kudleh, “Hairy Savage.”
Yakama/Klickitat Indian, Qui yihahs, “The Five Brothers.”
Iroquois/Seneca Indian, Ge no sqwa, “Stone Giants.”
Note that these names come from the southeast, the Mid-Atlantic region, the plains, the Northwest.

The response? Academics scientists and skeptics, who simply dismiss the accounts. Somehow they believe that, even though they may have never set foot outside a city, that they know more about the natural world that the ones who live in the midst of it.
What other evidence?

Verbal reports: Besides the above-mentioned reports, there are literally thousands upon thousands of reports of modern people who have seen something. Many come from long before Sasquatch became so iconic, from a time when people had no idea what they were seeing. There are Bigfoot websites all over the internet. Each has its own section with reports. The BFRO website has probably the biggest and best-organized section of reports.

One of my favorites is one about a woman who is camping in southern Colorado. She comes out of her tent and is face to face, twelve feet away from a female and her youngster. They stare at each other and then the creature lopes away. Bears don’t lope. And, just to counter the next comment, she had worked at a bear rescue/rehab facility and knew bears. While I personally don’t know her, a number of my friends do. She is no wacko.

The response? What were they smoking? Were they drinking? Invariably, these are the most intelligent comments that critiques can muster.
Photographic and video: There are hundreds and hundreds of photos and videos. Now I am hard to impress and will not accept any blobsquatch picture or anything where someone has to say, “Look, see, there are the eyes, there is a nose.” No, I don’t buy that. But, even after weeding those out, there are at least a hundred interesting videos. And there are thousands of photos. 

The response? It’s fake. It’s a bear. It’s shadows. It’s pareidolia. (seeing faces in clouds). It’s a bear. A guy in a monkey suit. That seems to be the most common, knee jerk reaction.     

Audio evidence: There are numerous recordings of vocalizations, most notably the Ron Moorehead recordings. These recordings have been studied by linguists from the University of Wyoming. The conclusion was that it is a language with syntax. The response? Pretty much silence or just calling it babble.

Physical evidence:  Hundreds of plaster casts exist of footprints and handprints taken from all over the world, which are remarkable in their similarities with each other. Hair samples and scat samples also exist. These have been tested for DNA numerous times but truthfully, I am not prepared to discuss this line of evidence. This is way out of my realm of expertise. The response? It’s just a bear paw. I don’t know what it is, but it isn’t a Bigfoot because Bigfoot doesn’t exist. 

So what it boils down to is that Bigfoot doesn’t exist because there is no evidence because you discount all the evidence. Perhaps what people are really saying is, “Prove it.” But, the evidence is not proof. But it leads to the truth. But let me lay a bit of wisdom down:  Cynicism is not wisdom nor is it a sign of intelligence. Skepticism, however, is crucial. Let’s look at the famous Patterson Gimlin film. It’s a microcosm of the entire issue. In Geology there is a concept called a “type section.” It is where a rock formation is first formally studied and anytime a geologist has a question as to whether a particular outcrop is, say, the Fountain Formation, the geologist will compare it to the formal type section in Fountain Colorado.

The PG film is the type section for Bigfoot study. Let’s look deeper as to why. These two men, Bob Gimlin, and Roger Patterson went out looking for Bigfoot. Massive perseverance paid off and after a month of riding, they came across one. And they were prepared. More or less as they almost did not get the film. Even though they were looking for the creature, when reality gobsmacked them, they almost did not get it. Roger had trouble getting the camera from the saddle bag. He was running, looking for a better vantage point. He fell in the creek, all while Bob stood by with a rifle at the ready. And, amazingly, to this day, there has not been a film as clear and informative.

It is important to remember that the images from that film have become iconic. They are engraved in our culture. But these two men did not even know what they were looking for, only that they would know it when they saw it. What is remarkable is that so many of the videos taken since have shown a remarkable resemblance to the creature on the film. 

Before we go any further, we need to talk about the claim that the film is debunked, that someone claimed to have been in on the hoax. It’s important to note the fact that even though someone claims to have been in on it does not make it so. And yet, people tend to hang on to those ideas and dismiss any evidence to the contrary. There is a picture out there that supposedly shows the suit that Roger Patterson had made, indicating that he was prepared to hoax a sighting. That Roger was a bit of a sketchy character has never been questioned. He may have even been prepared to perpetrate a hoax. But Patterson and Gimlin actually did find what they were looking for and ultimately it was not necessary! Patterson may well have been sketchy but even sketchy folks can have great moments. Note that the suit, in the picture in question, is BROWN. Look at the film. The creature is decidedly and unequivocally BLACK! Or to put it another way, how could they have had this suit made when they did not know what it looked like?

Author Jim Brown

​Let’s digress for a moment. How many folks have seen a gorilla on a street corner, often twirling a sign to advertise a sandwich shop or a car wash? Has anyone, ever once said, “Oh my God! It’s a gorilla on the loose! Call the police! Or has anyone gone to the primate house at the zoo and lamented all those people in monkey suits? If you have, please contact me. If you haven’t, I ask you, “Why?” The answer is because the proportions are all wrong. Arms too long or too short. Legs are wrong. The posture is wrong. In short, you never did those things because A MAN IN A MONKEY SUIT DOES NOT LOOK LIKE A MONKEY! Or, has anyone ever donned a monkey suit and tried running through the woods? Running gracefully in big old fake feet with a big helmet that restricts your vision is not easy so I would imagine. I have never actually tried it. Again, if you have, let us know. So the most common reply, “A guy in a monkey suit,” just really does not make sense. Not even a little bit.

Now let’s go back to the PG film and the events surrounding it. Within days of the sighting, there were numerous pictures made of the footprints and at least ten plaster casts made of the footprints. These prints told an amazing story, especially connected with the footage. They showed a creature with a foot that was very different from a human. A person would not be able to create a print like it. It flexed in the middle and not at the toe. It did not have an arch. It had what is called a “compliant gait,” where the feet strike the ground in a line, not side by side.

Now, ranchers are smart people. You have to be to do the work that they do.  But could these two have been able to create a whole new kind of foot design and create models to fake the contrived prints? That stretches credibility. Would they have thought to attach breasts to the monkey suit? Maybe, but somehow, I don’t think so.

So, back to the fakery issue. If it was faked, did the hoaxer have a 42-inch stride? And later a 68 to 72-inch stride when investigators tracked it into the woods where it appeared to break into a run. Did the hoaxer have a 14 in barefoot print? Did the hoaxer weigh roughly 700 pounds? That is what it took to make a similar indentation in the sand bar.

Using this film as our type section we compare it to all other videos (and footprints and handprints and other evidence) that come to light. The resemblance between them, from California to Kentucky to China is remarkable. It is, in fact, astounding. 

http://www.nativevillage.org. The list of names above.
Other interesting name websites:
Stabilized Patterson Gimlin Film:
Watch other videos by M.K. Davis
Audio Recordings: 
The suit:
http://www.cryptozoonews.com/morris-obit/ See the pictures especially.


An Investigation Into The Study Of UFO’S And The Possibility Of Extraterrestrial Origin: By Deonne Langley

Graphic Design by Eddie Nouri. Click the image to hear the companion episode of the Cryptoscience Society Podcast.

Unidentified Flying Objects, more commonly known as UFOs, are a fascinating subject for study as they have amassed large amounts of controversy and skepticism over the years. The most controversial aspect of this subject can arguably be expressed as the belief by some that they are extraterrestrial in origin. By definition, a real UFO cannot be identified, and thus the origin of the object must then be considered. If the origin is not extraterrestrial, what other possibilities remain? Should Top-Secret military test aircraft could be considered?  Perhaps the millions of people who claim to see UFOs are simply misinterpreting explainable phenomena. If this is the case, then what is to be said for the thousands of cases that remain unexplained even after rigorous evaluation? What cannot be denied throughout the study of UFOs is that people are definitely experiencing something, and a percentage of those experiences continue to be unexplained.

The case for the extraterrestrial origin of UFOs might begin with some numbers which discuss the possibility of life on other planets. In 1961, Dr. Frank Drake came up with the Drake equation. This equation took into account all the aspects of our galaxy and came up with a number of worlds capable of producing intelligent life capable of technological communication. The number derived from the Drake equation was 10,000 in the Milky Way Galaxy alone, and there are billions of more galaxies beyond ours. The percentage of probability that there is intelligent life somewhere else mathematically exceeds 100%. If we can conceive that there are other forms of life out there, can we then conceive the possibility of that life being able to get here?

One of the most valid arguments skeptics hold against the possibility of existing alien aircraft says that it would simply be impossible for extraterrestrial life to get here. Present day technology does not hold any current knowledge of a working craft that would be able to travel the distances required to make the trip; at least not in any reasonable amount of time. Physics does, however, yield theoretical possibilities of long distance space travel. 

Alpha Centauri is the closest star to our sun and is a distance of 4.2 light years away. At our current technology and at the speed with which we are able to reach the moon, it would take over 100,000 years to get there. Einstein’s theory of Relativity also gives us a universal speed limit, in which we cannot exceed the speed of light. Even if we could near this speed, it would still take over four years to get near this star. One alternative notion of space travel, however, utilizes the theoretical bending of the fabric of space itself. Rather then the conventional belief that the shortest distance between two points has to be a straight line, this type of theory allows us to bend that line as if folding a string to bring the two endpoints together. The equations of general relativity allow for the theoretical possibility to bend the fabric of space and take a shortcut, otherwise known as a wormhole. Although certainly not conventional, the theory is still a mathematical possibility. There have been many scientists throughout history that have publicly claimed their opinions regarding the impossibility of technologies that we now hold today. Who knows what we might be capable of in 100, 500, or even 1000 years.  

Another consideration to be made in the investigation of UFO sightings is the credibility of the source from which they come. UFO investigation in the past has often been greeted with much criticism. Many people claiming to have had experiences which they could not explain have been hesitant to come forward. During an investigation, consideration is taken as to the credibility of the witness, whether at the time of the sighting, Air Force or commercial plane activity in the vicinity, and so on. Once the identifiable activity is insufficient to explain a sighting, then the event, and/ or the object witnessed, can be categorized as unidentifiable.

The majority of reported UFO sightings began after an event that took place on June 24th of 1947. On this date, an American businessman by the name of Kenneth Arnold reported seeing nine separate unidentified flying objects while flying in his private plane near Mount Rainier, Washington. He described the objects as having lights of various colors and moving very fast, much faster than any flight that we were capable of at the time. This report received a large amount of public and media attention and began a trend of many subsequent UFO sightings, including the famous Roswell incident in July of 1947.

The Roswell, New Mexico incident also garnered much hype. The incident began when a rancher named Mac Brazel reportedly found strange material strewn about his property which he could not identify. He brought some of the material homes and reported his find to the authorities. Two commanding officers from the Roswell Army Air Field were sent to investigate; Major Jesse Marcel and Captain Sheridan Cavitt. At first, a press release was issued by Army Command at Roswell stating that a “flying disc” had been recovered. (qt. in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ufo.) Later this statement would be retracted, and the explanation of top-secret weather balloon material would be offered to the public as an explanation for the debris. There was even a picture taken of Major Jesse Marcel holding the supposed weather balloon debris. Most accepted the army’s explanation of a weather balloon at this time, and the hype surrounding the incident largely subsided.

It wasn’t until the late 1970’s that the Roswell incident became an interesting subject to the public once again. Then retired Major Jesse Marcel stated publicly that the weather balloon story was an elaborate government cover-up, and that the material which he is seen within the above-mentioned photograph was not the same as what was recovered from Mac Brazel’s property.  He stated that the army had indeed recovered material that was likely from a flying disc and extraterrestrial in origin. Although often debunked by reports released by the government, the story still holds the attention of many. There have been hundreds of first and second-hand witnesses that have testified to seeing things that support Mr. Marcel’s retracted account of events and an elaborate cover-up orchestrated by the United States government.

Some have hypothesized as to why so many UFO sightings seem to have sprung up at this time, seemingly beginning with the report of Kenneth Arnold. UFO investigators may have two possible answers to this question. First of all, one could argue that the evidence for UFOs stems back much further than 1947. There have been reports of strange sightings in newspapers as far back as at least the 19th century, long before Kitty Hawk and the Wright Brothers had their first flight in 1903. Some of the reports from this time have witnesses describing objects in the sky as “disc-shaped” or “torpedo-shaped” and “flying at wonderful speed”, long before the terms flying saucer or UFO had ever been coined. (qt. in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ufo)

An argument can also be made that people have been seeing strange things in the sky long before even these reports occurred. Older reports are much more difficult to assess then new ones since there is no way to prove or disprove their accuracy. Some reports have been interpreted as being natural phenomena of which we are now aware, such as comets, meteors, or atmospheric phenomena. Others, however, are not so easily explained away. One example may be the April 14th, 1561 incident in which there were reportedly many objects that filled the sky of Nuremberg, Germany that does not fit conventional descriptions of any known astronomical or atmospheric anomalies. There have even been some ancient cave paintings that have been interpreted by some as showing people observing what resembles discs in the sky above.

The second argument that may be made to explain the timing of the multitude of UFO sightings might have to do with what humans were experimenting with at the time. By 1945 the United States had developed operational nuclear weapons, which they then used to attack the Japanese cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima during World War II in 1945. It was a revolutionary and frightening move in the direction of advanced warfare. If indeed an extraterrestrial society with intelligence surpassing ours were aware of our existence, it might then be reasonable to assume that the interest in our species would have heightened during this time.

Not all reported UFOs remain unidentified. In fact, 95% of all reported UFO sightings can be explained by known phenomena. The large majority of these are often uncovered as being hoaxes, misidentified aircraft, or naturally occurring phenomena. Despite these possible explanations, a large number of Americans believe that UFOs exist. According to one poll taken by Industrial Research and Development Magazine in 1979, only 8% of the 100,000 polled said that UFOs definitely did not exist. 27% said they definitely did, 34% said probably, 12% were undecided and 20% said probably not. Of those that considered the possibility of UFOs, 44% believed that their origin was outer space. (Friedman, 209)

Although polls can be notoriously inaccurate, it does bring into question the trust of the government by the general public. Of most known cases of UFO sightings, government cover-up is often alleged.  What conclusions can be made when the government makes allegations to debunk the witness’ claims? If the people having sightings are deemed reliable after investigations, then it is up to us whether or not they are to be believed. If the decision is made that the witness is believable, then it must be concluded that the government’s explanation is not. Indeed, it has become notorious in UFO lore that the government explanation of notorious incidents does not often match the descriptions given by eye-witnesses.

One such incident, which holds much validity in the category of reliable sources and physical evidence, occurred in December of 1980 in the Rendlesham Forest in Suffolk, England. The incident occurred in the vicinity of two military bases; Royal Air Force Woodbridge and Royal Air Force Bentwaters. Both were being operated by the United States Air Force at the time. The first sighting occurred in the early hours of the morning on December 26th by two USAF patrolmen. They reportedly described flashing lights that appeared through the trees. They were joined by others from the base, including a technical sergeant specializing in aircraft accidents. Upon their return, they reported an extremely close encounter with a UFO and statements were taken. 

The next night, strange lights were again seen. Another group of military officials were enlisted to investigate. Included in the group was then Deputy Base Commander Colonel Lieutenant Halt who brought with him a Dictaphone to record their findings. In the area where the UFO had been seen the previous night, the group observed high levels of radiation by a Geiger counter. The men also observed damage to trees and strange indentations on the ground where the UFO was supposed to have landed. Samples of some of the damaged organic material were taken, as well as photographs and measurements of the indentations found at the sight. The group then began to witness anomalous lights, changing colors and weaving through the trees and behaving in a way they were unable to explain. The lights reportedly seemed to be under some kind of intelligent control, and at one point moved high into the sky and shot beams of light back down into the forest and at the base.

After the incident had occurred, Deputy Commander Halt made a report of what they had witnessed. It was then decided by higher-ranking government officials, as stated by Colonel Halt, that no public statement regarding the sightings would be made. Later, it was reported by some of the witnesses that they were forced to sign a paper stating that the lights that were observed that night were nothing more than a lighthouse beacon off in the distance. This was the official explanation offered by the government for this particular incident. In rebuttal to this explanation, Admiral Lord Hill Norton, former Chief of Defense Staff for the UK, stated “One explanation is that it actually happened as Colonel Halt purported; the other explanation is that it didn’t, and in that case one is bound to assume that Colonel Halt and all his men were hallucinating”. (Out of the Blue, documentary interview)

The government has since made the statement that the incident at Rendlesham is of no defense interest. This also reaffirms that the report made by Colonel Halt and the audio recording of the incident were all the result of nothing more than a mistaken sighting of the lighthouse beacon, according to the government. To this, Admiral Lord Hill Norton again refutes, by saying “That the Colonel of an Air Force base in Suffolk and his merry men are hallucinating, when there are nuclear-armed aircraft on base, must be of defense interest. If indeed what he says took place did, and why on earth should he make it up, then surely the entry of a vehicle from outer space, certainly not man-made, to a defense base in this country, also cannot fail to be of defense interest.” (Out of the Blue, documentary interview)

One other case in which the official government explanation does not seem to match witness descriptions is the mysterious Phoenix lights incident of 1997. A number of pictures and videos were taken of mysterious lights above the city. Many witnesses described distinctly seeing a very large triangular craft, with lights on the bottom traveling slowly overhead. Some reported that they were very close to the craft and described it in great detail. By some accounts, the craft was reportedly almost a mile wide. The official explanation given in this case was that the lights reported to be a UFO were actually military test flares. Governor Symington promised the people a full investigation into the matter. When a press conference was called to address the issue, the Governor introduced the “guilty party” and brought in a man dressed in a comical alien suit. (Out of the Blue, 6/19/97 press conference) Many of the people of Arizona reported feeling like this only meant that their concerns had never been taken seriously and that they never would be.

In the myriad of UFO sightings, each case is looked at individually from an investigator’s point of view. Each individual witness’ story is scrutinized and compared with subsequent statements to search for inconsistencies or validating points. Of the millions of Americans that claim to have seen UFOs, most express frustration at the government’s refusal to take their claims seriously. Most also speak of witnessing amazing technology of which we humans are not yet capable. Is this not a subject of which the government should be concerned? Is it also possible, given the many eye-witness accounts, that the government does, in fact, have knowledge of extraterrestrial visitation and has kept it classified all these years? 

​The repercussions on our society of a discovery of this magnitude should not be taken lightly. To prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that intelligent alien life forms exist would perhaps be the most important discovery in all of human history. It is for this reason that investigation into UFO phenomena should continue, and with vigor. To completely deny the possibility of the existence of UFOs is to deny the claims of millions and millions of people, and implies mistrust of what our race has become. If just one of these reports were factual, the implications would be astounding. It is so important, especially in our present state, to seek that trust in our fellow human. It may just be the key to opening doors that could yield a possibility beyond all imagination.

​Works Cited

Friedman, Stanton T. Flying Saucers and Science: A Scientist Investigates the Mysteries of UFOs. New      Jersey: Career Press, 2008

“Unidentified Flying Objects.” Wikipedia.org 2008 Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ufo
“Out of the Blue” UFO Investigation Documentary, Narrated by Peter Coyote. SciFi Channel. June 2008


Matthews, Rupert Alien Encounters New Jersey, Chartwell Books Inc. 2008

Friedman, Stanton T. Flying Saucers and Science: A Scientist Investigates the Mysteries of UFOs. New      Jersey: Career Press, 2008
http://www.merriam-webster.com/ Online Dictionary
“Out of the Blue” – Documentary on UFO Investigation SciFi channel June 2008

The Official Blog of the Cryptoscience Society

Click the image to hear the companion episode of the Cryptoscience Society Podcast. Logo by Jared Stanley.

The Crypto Science Society journal began as a means to document the semester proceedings when the organization was founded as a student group at the Metropolitan State University of Denver. The journal is a compendium of research and writing, submitted and conducted by society members.

Studies may incorporate methodological approaches from various disciplines, reflecting the diverse educational backgrounds of the society members, such as; Aviation and Aerospace, Engineering, Education and Literature, Anthropology and Folklore, Art, Integrated Healing Practices, Curanderismo, Environmental Science, Ecological Restoration, Psychology, and the Occult.  

Members are welcome to submit their research and findings for review by the committee and are published upon approval.