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THE 1977 LAWNDALE, ILLINOIS THUNDERBIRD CASE
As told by the eyewitnesses by Jerry D. Coleman
marlon lowe
Marlon Lowe and his mom soon after the attack

What you are about to read is the events as told by the eyewitnesses of the most famous Thunderbird case in recent years. Free of researcher commentary, free of expert opinions and free of theory. Just their story.


July 25th, at approximately 5:45 p.m.
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Beginning as a normal evening in middle America, Ruth Lowe prepared for the rather routine summer event of having a couple of friends over for a cookout. Ruth's husband Jake had just closed up shop at their Standard gas station in Lincoln, Illinois and was heading directly home after a quick stop at the butcher. Their son, Marlon was down the street playing with his cousins but keeping one eye on the clock - Ruth had told Marlon to be home by seven for dinner.

On the other side of town, in his machine shop Mr. Cox was busy doing some welding on a John Deere combine. Frequently stepping outside to recover from the heat of the torch and enjoy the calm evenings gentle breeze.

Cox was hardly what anyone would consider farmhand tough by appearance but rough in his own way. His friends thought of Cox as an extremely hard working individual and man of his word.


At approximately 6:20 p.m.

Jake pulled into the driveway, followed closely by the arrival of their guests Jim and Betty Daniels. Jim and Betty have been long time visitors to the Lowe residents and all seemed to get along quite well throughout the years. Jim was somewhat quiet but Betty balanced that out nicely.

Jim and Jake started up the grill that was located on the driveway by the camper trailer and Betty ducked inside the house to help Ruth in the kitchen. Ruth called out to Jake and asked him to put some soft music on in the camper and set up the folding table for the kids.


At approximately 7:05 p.m.

Jackie Lowe, Jakes sister came walking down the street with Marlon and her boys in tow. Marlon and the other boys dashed into the house and started wrestling in his room. Ruth yelled, "Marlon go play out back, it's too nice to be indoors and dinner will not be ready for a while." Marlon and the others in turn raced out the back door but of course so equally spaced as to have the screen door "slap-slam" and reverberate throughout the house causing Betty to let out a laugh and Ruth to dive for the aspirins.


At approximately 7:45 p.m.

Jake and Jim were kicked back in lawn chairs next to the grill as the smoke spread the aroma of fresh sizzling beef throughout the neighborhood. Betty and Ruth came out the front door with hands full of fresh potato salad and corn-on-the-cob. Jackie was circling around the house toward the camper after checking on the boys and reporting all is fine, "the boys are playing hide-and-go-seek".

The family dog, a Saint Bernard was tied up to a tree near Jake.

On the other side of town Mr. Cox was wrapping up his shop chores, putting away his tools and washing up.


At approximately 8:05 p.m.

Cox closes the two huge doors on the south side of the building and walks through to the north end and notices a mallet he had forgotten to clean up and put away. After again cleaning up he decides to take one last break before heading home. Cox opens his pick-up trucks tail gate and rests upon it as he lights his pipe and admires the sun heading for the horizon. With only thoughts of another day ending and the beauty of the flat open land before him - his eyes streak left as they catch some movement in the sky.


The time now is exactly 8:09 p.m.

Cox looked intently at the approaching image- he stands, turns, drops his pipe and locks upon the flying object as it comes closer and closer and becomes larger and larger and more distinct. Now he sees it clear, he sees two birds, large birds, flying and descending on the town of Lawndale. The birds past directly over head at an estimated height of no higher than twice his building and as they fly over the shadow blankets his entire pick-up truck!


It is now exactly 8:10 p.m.

At the Lowes all the adults are in the driveway by the tables, grill and camper. The children are still playing in the back yard when like a bullet, Marlon comes running around the far south side of the house screaming bloodily murder - Ruth looks up to see an enormous black bird chasing and grabbing at Marlon. Marlon is then picked up and carried a few feet by the larger of the two birds, which are flying wingtip to wingtip - Ruth runs to Marlon's aid, screaming and swinging at the bird - the bird releases Marlon into the hands of Ruth as they both fall to the ground.

Jake and Jim watch the birds and with one flap of the wings they flew upward and toward Kickapoo Creek. Jackie raced to aid Ruth and Marlon. Betty turned away screaming in horror and covered her eyes. The other two boys that had fled for safety soon joined the group in the front yard.


At exactly 8:15 p.m.

As the sun was now setting and the boys were told to remain inside Jake and Jim shot over to Kickapoo Creek to look for any signs the birds might have landed there for the night - nothing was found. Jackie called the Sheriffs department but found reporting the incident gave little comfort or hope for resolution when the dispatcher [allegedly] laughed and stated, "Now let me get this straight, a giant bird attacked your nephew?"


Days pass:

The story leaks out - The Lawndale Thunderbird makes national news. Marlon is ridiculed at school and dubbed "The Bird Boy". Ruth finds dead birds on her porch, the obvious work of pranksters. At work Jake now hears a redundant joke, "Hey Jake, FLY over here and fix this!" Mr. Cox, once hearing of the jokes, jabs and taunts, reluctantly tells his story but insists his actual identity never be revealed. Ruth and Jake enlist a couple of local men to hunt Kickapoo Creek in hopes of finding and destroying the Big Birds. Ruth throws the county game warden out of her house after the warden [allegedly] laughed in her face and called her a liar.


Ruth's statement
  1. Marlon weighs 56 pounds, is almost four feet tall and has very red hair.
  2. We measured the area and determined the bird carried Marlon 35 feet.
  3. Our Saint Bernard never barked, the dog barks at everything all the time.
  4. The State police came by, three of them and walked around Kickapoo Creeks open bank for less than 15 minutes and found nothing.
  5. The birds description : It had a white ring around it's half foot long neck. The rest of the body was very black. The birds bill was six inches in length and hooked at the end. The claws on the feet were arranged with three front, one in the back. Each wing, less the body, was four feet at the very least. The entire length of the birds body, from beak to tail feather was approximately four and one half feet.

More sightings of Big Birds continue to be reported in Illinois, plus Texas John Huffer now claims to have taped the creatures near Shelbyville and the film was shown on the local central Illinois news broadcasts.


Weeks Pass:

Marlon has now been coming home from school beaten-up. Ruth has now changed her telephone number twice because of crank callers and Jake refuses to ever speak of the incident again.

The Illinois Big Bird sightings continue and are now being reported in Indiana as well as further south.


Months Pass:

Marlon's red hair has been falling out in lumps. He refuses to go outside without a hat on. Once a good student now he finds simply getting to school a major chore. Ruth now keeps a loaded shotgun by the door. Ruth stated the two men they enlisted, found and burnt thus completely destroying a large ground nest at Kickapoo Creek and refuses to give any further details in reference to the nest.

Humiliation takes it's toll; Jake wants to sell the station, retire and move. The Daniels now refuse interviews and Jackie states, "I have nothing to add!"


Years Pass:

Marlon and Ruth's story remains the same!


Decades Pass:

Marlon tells his story on the Discover Channel "Into the Unknown" 1997.



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