Saturday, April 30, 2011

The first real compendeum of thunderbird stories I've found

Last week, I was able to obtain a copy of Loren Coleman’s book “Curious encounters: Phantom trains, spooky spots and other mysterious wonders,” through Summit. The book came from the library at Eastern Oregon University. It records stories bizarre creature sightings and experiences from around the world and is divided into chapters by the general location that stories take place (The sea, the sky, the city, etc.). The author, Loren Coleman, is a well-known bigfoot researcher who has written a number of books on bigfoot, cryptozoology and other strange things.

Coleman devotes an entire chapter in this book to thunderbird sightings. H
e focuses closely on clusters of reported sightings in Illinois during two periods of time, one in the mid-to-late 1940s and the other in the late 1970s. The chapter goes through report after report, in some instances giving full names of those who spoke about their experiences.

The reports themselves are some of the most detailed I have come across. A number of them list specific locations, dates and the names of the individuals involved. Many of the reports Coleman writes about appear to come from newspaper accounts in local papers. One unfortunate omission is good, clear original-source documentation. The book contains no references in the form of footnotes or endnotes. A lot of the stories sound very interesting, and while it would be great to look them up myself, that may prove difficult (particularly the ones from the 1940s) since in some cases Coleman leaves out information about where he found particular sightings.

You definitely need to take into account the purpose of this book, and Coleman’s work in general. I get the sense that these books are written for a certain type of audience, likely folks that are interesting in cryptozoology and the paranormal. Maybe in the sprit of making his book a good read, Coleman chose not to bog it down with lots of sourcing, footnotes and the like. He does devote a significant portion of the chapter to looking at potential explanations put forth for this historical body of thunderbird sightings.

In terms of good, comprehensive reporting on stories and sightings, this book provides a lot of good material. I’ll probably use it to help with my Wikipedia and Monsterpedia entries. However, assessing the actual validity of what Coleman writes is difficult—so much so that it makes me a little weary of putting full faith in these stories.

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