Posted by: Loren Coleman on July 26th, 2006
Lawndale’s big bird returns – in print
by Erin Clark
The Lincoln (Illinois) Courier
Lawndale resident Marlon Lowe traveled nearly 40 yards – by bird.
The then 10-year-old was picked up in giant talons and nearly carried away 29 years ago today.
According to The Courier’s account from July 26, 1977, two birds with wingspans of 4 to 6 feet attacked Lowe, and one of them caught the boy by the shirt and lifted him about a foot into the air.
"He’s probably the luckiest kid in the world" that the bird only grabbed onto his shirt and not his flesh, said John Walker, a Danville resident who told The Courier Monday he also saw the bird.
Marlon’s mother told The Courier at the time that the 65-pound boy screamed and punched at the bird until it dropped him. She and other adults who witnessed the attack said the birds were black with bands of white around their necks and long, curved beaks.
She said local law enforcement agents didn’t believe her after she called them out to investigate.
Several other sightings of a pair of giant birds occurred in the area over the next few days. A Tuscola man, "Texas" John Huffer, even captured a giant bird on film as he fished at Lake Shelbyville five days after the Lawndale attack. A still frame from the film ran in the Tuscola Journal Aug. 2 of that year.
"These birds are a very prehistoric-looking bird," said Walker, who spotted one in 1972. "You’re absolutely not believing what you’re seeing because of what you’ve been taught about evolution."
Walker was hunting with a friend one afternoon in 1972 near Danville. As they walked along the railroad tracks in the still afternoon air, the giant bird floated on the breeze ahead of them.
"There was no mistaking what we saw," Walker said. "The bird that I saw, the wing was so wide it blended in with the tail feathers."
A "giant eagle" was the closest Walker could relate the creature to a known species.
"This is just the most bizarre thing that ever happened to me in my life," he said.
Walker has copyrighted a drawing of the bird, and he’s also in the process of writing a book about them.
Walker said he and his friend didn’t tell anyone about the giant bird they saw at first. They were teenagers at the time, and he said they didn’t think anyone would believe them.
"The only reason I’ve come out with this story now is I believe I have all the facts," Walker said. "I’ve had some health problems over the last few years and I thought, ‘I’m not going to be around forever and people need to know about this.’"
Walker said the giant birds migrate to this area from South America in the fall of the year, and people should be careful letting small children play outside at this time.