Wednesday Weirdness: The Disappearance of Tom Eggleton

pathway between large, gnarled trees with words "on the path of Wednesday Weirdness" superimposed over imageHi, Friends. Welcome to another Wednesday Weirdness. Thanks for visiting today as I roll out a post about a mysterious disappearance—and thunderbirds.

These enormous winged creatures have long been an integral part of Native American folklore, but original Thunderbird legends date back thousands of years and can be traced to Egypt and Africa. With wingspans of twelve to fifteen feet or more, the Thunderbird has been known to carry off small animals, children, and even adults. It is a formidable avian spirit, able to shoot lightning from its beak and summon the roar of thunder with a clap of its powerful wings. A storm spirit, it is a harbinger of change.

Dramatic sky with clouds backlit by fiery colors, black on the opposite side, with lightning bolts severing sky

Surprisingly, there have been numerous sightings of Thunderbirds in the 20th and 21st centuries. My home state of Pennsylvania is abundant with them. The story I’d like to share, however, dates back to the late 1800s, a bizarre tale that beings on a hot summer evening in August 1897.

On that date, nineteen-year-old Thomas Eggleton decided to hike to nearby Hammersley Fork in order to mail his mother a letter. He told his employer, a farmer, where he was headed, then set out on his evening trek. It was a walk he’d undertaken numerous times in the past without incident.

But Tom never arrived in town, nor did he return to the farm the next day. Worried by his absence and fearing he could be injured, the farmer traced Tom’s footsteps in the dirt, following the path he’d taken toward Hammersley Fork. When he lost Tom’s tracks outside of town, he enlisted the help of others. Bloodhounds were added to the effort, and the dogs tracked Tom’s scent to the middle of a bridge where it vanished.

Old Wooden Bridge through Heavy Forested Path

Fearing the worst, the people of Hammersley Fork dragged the river, but Tom’s body was never found. Spooked by the odd circumstances, murmurs of thunderbirds erupted. Several locals insisted they’d seen a massive bird in the vicinity shortly before Tom’s disappearance and grew convinced it must have carried him away. With the flames of fear stoked, schools closed for two full weeks until the panic eventually passed.

Four years later, the farmer who’d been so worried about Tom received a letter from him. Tom stated he had recently awakened in a South African hospital with no memory of his past or how he’d come to be there. All he could recall was that he had worked for a famer outside of Hamersley Fork.

Had Tom been abducted by a Thunderbird? Could he have been snatched off the bridge as many locals speculated, or had he somehow slipped through a hole in time? The mystery of Tom Eggleton has no definitive answers, but whispers and rumors of Thunderbirds remain.

This story was relayed in the book, Monsters of Pennsylvania by Patty A. Wilson. Want more weirdness? There are “Monster” books available with the strange denizens of various states on Amazon. Check them out! After all…

Who knows what creatures and beasties lurk in your neck of the woods!

57 thoughts on “Wednesday Weirdness: The Disappearance of Tom Eggleton

  1. I had never heard of Thunderbirds – except the children’s puppet show I used to watch. I wonder how the rest of Tom’s life went? I have wondered in one of my stories if Aliens abduct people and accidentally leave them in the wrong place or time!

    Liked by 2 people

    • That sounds like a cool story! It is interesting to think about these things.

      I find it odd that Tom’s tracks stopped in the middle of a bridge. He might have fallen into the water and been swept away, but it’s still really odd. 4 years and South Africa?!?! That’s the part that I find truly puzzling.

      I have another Thunderbird related story for next week as well. Thanks for visiting!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thunderbirds is a new one for me. Very interesting but poor Tom! To be walking into town and wake up in South Africa. I wonder if the bird was supposed to have flown him the whole way or if there was some kind of portal.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m glad you’re enjoying these, Balroop. There are so many “odd” things that defy explanation. I just love thinking about them and spinning what if stories.
      Thunderbirds definitely go back a far way in folk records!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You do such a great job of describing the spooky events to put the reader right in the middle of the mystery! Thunderbirds are dear to me because of something that happened years ago. A few of us had joined a meditation group in which we would “receive” messages for each other. I received an image of a thunderbird as a message for one member. Afterward she told me that as Native American blood, the thunderbird was the “key” she had decided on beforehand to prove a message real for her.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thundebirds is new to me as is the story of the farmer. That would be crazy to wake up four years later with no memories how you got there. I always wonder if these creatures could be left over from the dinosaurs age, and the only logical explanation I can come up with:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like to think there has to be some kind of prehistoric connection. After all, there are several ocean-going species that are just a hairsbreadth removed (if at all) from prehistoric creatures. I like to think that perhaps these great birds still exist out there—maybe in the same areas as Bigfoot, LOL. Whatever their existence, and wherever they may be, it’s certainly fun to think…..what if! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • I was always mostly familiar with them as part of Native American culture, too, Joan. It was astounding to realize there are/were many sightings of them in Pennsylvania, including Tom’s tale. I hope after he awoke in that South African hospital, he had many good years afterward!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow, Mae! My first thought was that perhaps the bridge is some sort of vortex, but if there were no other strange occurrences on the bridge, then that theory falls through. Fascinating! I have Thunderbirds all over the house as it was one of Rick’s favorite symbols to paint. Thank you for sharing this bizarre story!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That would have made for a great theory, Jan. If anything odd was involved, a vortex of some sort does seem to make more sense. You’d think a giant bird carrying off a man would have been spotted by SOMEONE 🙂

      I think the thunderbird is such a cool symbol. How fabulous that you have all those paintings of Rick’s!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Mae, these thunderbirds are new to me and wow, what a story! I get goosebumps from reading your post and wonder what did happen to Tom and if he ever returned from South Africa? I’ll be looking up into the sky with unease!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Annika, it surprises me how many readers were unfamiliar with thunderbirds. I thought this was an interesting story and would love to have learned what became of Tom afterward. And as strange as it may seem “large bird” sightings are still going on in this century!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad I could introduce a new legend to you, Robbie. Thunderbirds are mostly commonly associated with Native American culture and also the American West. I was surprised to find out many sightings there are in my home state of Pennsylvania, located in the east.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’d also love to learn what happened to Tom afterward, and if he ever got his memory back of those missing four years.
      When it comes to Thunderbirds, I always think of Native American culture, too. I was surprised to learn how much they factor into other legends and myths. Thanks so much for visiting and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Wednesday Weirdness: The Disappearance of Tom Eggleton — From the Pen of Mae Clair | Ups and Downs of Family History V2.0

  8. Pingback: Dark Shadows Event 2020 GoFundMe Campaign – February 27, 2020 | Ups and Downs of Family History V2.0

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