Wednesday Weirdness: A Missing Photo and the Mandela Effect

pathway between large, gnarled trees with words "on the a path of Wednesday Weirdness" superimposed over image

Today’s Wednesday Weirdness piggybacks off last week’s post about Thunderbirds, and the disappearance of a Pennsylvania farmhand named Tom Eggleton. If you missed it, you can find it HERE. Many of the townspeople where Tom lived were convinced he’d been carried off by a Thunderbird. Why?

Perhaps they’d seen a photo supposedly circulated in 1890. I say supposedly, because no one—up to the present time—has been able to find the photograph despite thousands of people who remember seeing it, and numerous publications which insist they published it.

If you’re scratching your head, let me backtrack.

In April 1890, two Arizona cowboys (or prospectors, depending on who is doing the telling) shot and killed a pterodactyl-like creature. The enormous bird was featherless with smooth skin, a head like an alligator, and a wingspan of one-hundred, sixty feet. The two men loaded the creature into a wagon and hauled it into Tombstone, where it was nailed, wings outspread, across the entire length of a barn.

The Tombstone Gazette ran an article about the incident on April 26, 1890. No photo.

In 1963, a writer by the name of Jack Pearl—while recounting other large bird sightings in Saga magazine—stated the Gazette published a photo of the “Tombstone Thunderbird” in 1886. Notice the discrepancy in the dates.

Also in 1963, a correspondent for Fate magazine would claim the photo had been published by the Gazette—and countless newspapers across the country. Still others claimed to have seen the photo in Saga or Fate. Others in magazines devoted to the Old West.

Grit was one of the newspapers thought to have published the Thunderbird photo. This is the Grit office as it looked in the 1890s: Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons unknown; uploaded to the English language Wikipedia by Pepso in February 2006 (file log). [Public domain]

Biologist and writer, Ivan T. Sanderson said he loaned a photostat of the image to an associate who lost it. Mothman Prophecies author, John Keel, was certain he’d seen the photograph in a magazine; there was even talk of it having been shown on a Canadian television show devoted to the supernatural. With more and more individuals claiming to have seen the photo, staffers at the Gazette searched their archives. Other newspapers and magazines did as well, but the photo has never been found.

So how could so many people have such distinct memories of something that doesn’t exist?

The “lost” Thunderbird photo is an example of a shared false memory most commonly called the Mandela Effect. Named for former South African President and philanthropist, Nelson Mandela, the phenomenon occurs when a large group of people recall something that never happened. Nelson Mandela passed away in 2013, but many people distinctly remember him dying in prison in the 1980s.

Author and paranormal researcher, Fiona Broome, coined the phrase in 2019, and runs a website devoted to it. Here’s a list of some cool “Mandela Effect” items that may make you realize you’ve shared a false memory.

And, finally about that thunderbird photo…I can’t find one in free use, but you can check out an example of it HERE.

When you’re all done browsing around, come back and share your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to know you think about the lost photograph and the Mandela Effect.

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!