The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

November 19, 2007

History Channel to probe ‘big bird’ claims

DANVILLE — For 30 years, John D. Walker has told people about seeing a giant bird when he was a teenager. Now, his story may be part of a bigger story being told by the History Channel this week.

A program, “MonsterQuest: Birdzilla,” will be aired three times this week, according to the schedule on its Web site.

The promo on the Web site says: “Native Americans have long revered huge birds called Thunderbirds. There was a rash of giant bird sightings in Illinois, Texas and Alaska back in the 1970s. A giant bird with a 15-foot wingspan allegedly attacked a small child in Illinois.

“Could there really be a giant bird or is it mass hysteria? Take a scientific journey and follow the many eyewitnesses’ accounts across the country and examine the most compelling evidence.”

Walker was interviewed for the program last year, but he doesn’t know if his interview actually will be part of the show.

A group affiliated with the History Channel contacted him in July 2006 after reading an article in the Lincoln newspaper about the 29th anniversary of a child being carried a short distance by a big bird. A 10-year-old child, Marlon Lowe, reported a huge bird swooped down in Lawndale and nabbed him, carrying him about 40 yards, Walker said.

Walker was quoted in the story about his own experiences in 1977, when he and a friend were walking along the railroad tracks near Poland Road. They spotted a giant bird in the air, estimating its wingspan at 20 feet.

“The wings were so full you couldn’t see the tail feathers,” he said in an earlier interview.

Walker, who was 17 at the time, and his friend stood still, and the bird glided past, not noticing them.

The boys didn’t tell anyone except their closest friends.

Last year, when someone called him for a History Channel interview, Walker said, “I was really surprised. I was caught off guard. I didn’t expect anything like that.”

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