Big Bird and Rofens

Ken Gerhard, in his book Big Bird! Modern Sightings of Flying Monsters, examines eyewitness accounts of giant bird sightings, the best known being the report of 9-year-old Marlon Lowe of Lawndale, Illinois. According to reports, in 1977 Marlon was snatched from the ground by a giant black bird, in sight of his mother and other witnesses. He was carried several feet before his struggles freed him and allowed him to drop to the ground (61). Marlon maintains to this day that the event was neither a dream nor the product of his overactive imagination. It was real. This was not the first or the last of the giant bird sightings.

Earlier, in January 1976, Armando Grimaldo of Raymondville, Texas reported an encounter with a giant bird sailing overhead. According to Gerhard,

Grimaldo was smoking a cigarette on his mother-in-law's porch. His estranged wife Cristina was sleeping inside the house at the time. As Armando would later put it, 'I heard a sound like the flapping of bat like wings and a funny kind of whistling. The dogs in the neighborhood started barking. I looked around but I couldn't see nothing. I don't know why I never looked up. I guess I should have, but as I was turning to go look over the other side of the house, I felt something grab me, something with big claws. I looked back and saw it and started running. I've never been so scared in my whole life.' (21)

Grimaldo reported that he could feel his attacker tearing at his jacket and shirt with its clawed talons. He escaped by diving onto the ground and crawling on his belly until he found safety under sheltering bushes.

A similar story was told by Francisco Magallanes, Jr., who described an incident that occurred at around the same time. Gerhard relates the account, though he does indicate that Magallanes admitted to having been drinking at the time:

The twenty-one year old Magallanes told police that he went into his backyard around 12:45 am to investigate a noise and noticed an unknown creature in a stooped position. According to

Francisco, the black, bat-winged £ THE BLACK, BAT-

animal then rose toa height of winged animal then rose six feet and pounced upon him, scratching him badly in the TO A height of sIX FEET

ensuing struggle. Magallanes and POUNCED UPON HIM, s°meh°w managed to break SCRATCHING HIM BADLY 5 free and run inside his house to safety . . . Francisco described the creature as having the face of a pig, with bright, red eyes and pointy ears, long arms, stubby legs, and an eight-foot wingspan. He claimed that the monster made a hissing sound like a snake and when it was touching him, his skin would become hot. (23)

Gerhard offers several theories concerning the possible nature of the big bird sightings. Perhaps, he suggests, 'Big Bird' is a previously undiscovered species, or a species mistakenly thought to be extinct, perhaps a teratorn - a large raptor related to modern-day condors and vultures and thought extinct for the last 6,000 years. He notes that the largest teratorn species was the Argentivas magnificens from South America, with a twenty-seven-foot wingspan (61).

Another possibility is that 'Big Bird' is the same as the Native American Thunderbird. The Thunderbird is a common feature in mythology and has been described as a giant vulture whose presence indicates that fierce storms are soon to arrive. The Thunderbird was thought to be a native of the spirit world as well as the physical, and Gerhard suggests that one explanation for 'Big Bird' sightings might find its source in the world of spirit, rather than science. He writes:

I suppose we might open our minds to the idea that these events really are linked to the paranormal in some way. We should consider the possibility that these entities are, in fact, visitors from a plane of existence beyond our comprehension, somehow stepping through doors that aren't really open. (64)

Gerhard's favored explanation for 'Big Bird,' however, is that Big Bird is some sort of pterosaur, a prehistoric flying dinosaur (66). This would match the descriptions offered by some witnesses, which include bat-like wings, scaly skin, and a long tail. Gerhard theorizes that a 'group of these animals could populate remote parts of Mexico's unexplored mountains, or the marshes and jungles of Central America . . . For reasons unknown these animals may periodically migrate or roam' (68).

Researcher Jonathan Whitcomb also sees the pterosaur as a likely explanation for Big Bird sightings and sees a religious significance for the contemporary existence of physical pterosaurs. Whitcomb argues that dinosaur and pterosaur fossils have long been used as evidence of what he calls the General Theory of Evolution. According to Whitcomb, the General Theory of Evolution posits that primitive creatures such as pterosaurs have become extinct because they have changed into other forms. 'One reason,' he writes, 'people believe in G.T.E. is because of continual one-sided declarations that dinosaurs and pterosaurs are examples of primitive life that is forever gone' (39). Whitcomb began research in Papua New Guinea, site of many Big Bird sightings, to find evidence for the present-day existence of pterosaurs. Such evidence, he argues, should demonstrate that G.T.E. is not a proven fact. He writes, 'The existence of living pterosaurs is more harmonious to a belief in a Creative God than it is an accidental evolution of microbes into all the life now on this planet' (40).

Whitcomb began his search for New Guinean pterosaurs by documenting eyewitness accounts of sightings. One sighting, by a school teacher named Eunice, described an attempted grave robbery by one of the creatures, known by the natives as a 'Ropen.'

One night, in April of 1993, near the northwest coast of Umboi Island, after a large funeral procession arrived at the burial location, a creature with a glowing red tail came from the sea. (The tail was described like the glow of burning embers.) About two hundred mourners were awake when the creature flew overhead. The villagers banged pots and yelled, whereupon the intruder flew into a nearby swamp and the light disappeared. (17-18)

The creature is not only seen in flight. For example, two men reported seeing the ropen clinging to the side of a tree. The creature held itself in an upright position, looking almost like a boy climbing up a coconut tree (20).

Though not having seen the ropen himself, Whitcomb puts together a description based on the testimony of a large number of witnesses. According to his research, the creature has a wingspan of 15 meters, with an inflexible tail some seven or eight meters long. The creature is featherless, has a large head crest, and is bioluminescent, glowing eerily as it sails through the night sky. According to Whitcomb, the conclusion is unmistakable. 'Eyewitness evidence indicates a giant Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur has an established presence in the Southwest Pacific' (132).

Pterosaurs may not be the only prehistoric lizards roaming the earth.

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