Thunderbirds on film

Lights! Camera! Action! I expect to make the cover of People magazine. I want a star with my name on it embedded on Bellefonte Avenue. Because soon, I’m going to be a movie star!

Okay, actually it’s probably not as exciting as I’m making it out to be. To be completely accurate, I am going to make an appearance in an independent documentary filmed by Foeshig Productions. Jess Torres of New Jersey, who makes these, contacted me for some of my expertise.

Of course it’s the paranormal. Nobody contacts me to find out how to write a newspaper column. No, Jess is making a documentary on Thunderbirds.

The Thunderbird is an old legend that has become a kind of cryptid in America. They are huge, oversized birds that the Native Americans believed caused thunderstorms. Jess, who has already awesomely made a documentary about the Jersey Devil, has moved on to Thunderbirds. As often happens, she found one of my articles, and contacted me to make an appearance. She’s also looking for witnesses, so if you’ve ever seen a Thunderbird, let me know and I’ll hook you up.

Don’t laugh. Plenty of people have seen these things — large birds that they couldn’t explain, possibly not native to the area. I personally followed up on a sighting in the Swissdale area around 2010; a woman saw a giant bird with a long beak swoop over her house and disappear into the mountains. I didn’t find anything offhand, but you know how these things go.

Hiram Cranmer was a Thunderbird witness. He was also a witness to ghosts, UFOs, and a couple of buried treasures. Cranmer was the postmaster in Leidy Township, and he loved telling stories about the paranormal. This one is reported in Robert Lyman’s book “Amazing Indeed.” Cranmer claimed to have seen Thunderbirds in 1922, 1957, and 1962, huge birds with wingspans measuring 35 feet.

This may be why Kettle Creek is such a wonderfully paranormal spot, with legends of ghosts, psychic activity, UFOs, and of course Thunderbirds, too. There have been reports of oversized birds flying above Kettle Creek, apparently there to give the water monster known as the Susquehanna Seal some competition.

Thunderbirds were blamed for the disappearance of Barney Pluff in November of 1943. He disappeared from Hyner, and may have fallen into the river — A girl heard coughing and choking sounds underneath a bridge, but when she checked, nobody was there. Thunderbirds, however, were one possibility that was discussed — some of the locals pitched the theory that a Thunderbird had carried him off, which was about as plausible as anything else.

It seems that the north end of the county is really the best place to spot Thunderbirds. Two girls who were camping in Chapman Township back in June of 2012 claimed to have spotted one. It was described as having no feathers on its head and a 14-foot wingspan, which would be alarming enough, but then it swooped low over the girls, sending one running into the cabin and crying.

My late friend Matt Connor wrote a column about Thunderbirds sometime around 2008. It just happened to get into the Express on the same day as an article about the Lock Haven Paranormal Seekers, the ghost-hunting team I’d recently joined. Another local columnist wrote a sarcastic-sounding column lampooning us both because of our interest in the paranormal. I didn’t take this as hard as I might have, though. I’d recently begun my career in local history, and suddenly the local media was making fun of me. It was how I knew I’d made it big.

And now, here I am, appearing in a documentary. You want to make it big, too? If you’ve seen a Thunderbird, I can arrange that. Have your people call my people. Let’s do lunch.


Lou Bernard is a Lock Haven resident with a keen interest in the history of this area. He is adult services coordinator at Ross Library and may be reached at loulhpa@gmail.com or 570-660-4463.


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