Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

The Brazilian “Lost Thunderbird”: False Fortean Memories

lostThunderbird5ywIt’s an old black and white photo of a “Thunderbird”/Pterodactyl shot down proudly displayed by a bunch of cowboys standing. It’s the elusive Lost Thunderbird Photo, which many people including noted cryptozoologists remember seeing, and yet, no one can produce the photo itself. The best people can come up with are illustrations of what the photo looked like.

A fascinating conundrum: is it a “glitch in the Matrix”, where all evidence of the photo has been erased from reality, except for the memories of those who saw it? Or rather an impressive glitch in our own memories, that is, a false memory? One spontaneously created? Is that even possible?

I side with the false memory explanation, and about it, I stumbled upon a very similar case down here south. Yes, we have our own “lost Thunderbird” enigma, and it is a video!

That, you will certainly recognize, is a clip from the movie “Signs” (2002), where one of the stupid “melt-with-water” aliens terrorizes a birthday party supposedly in Passo Fundo, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.

Now, the fascinating bit: many, many people claim this footage is real, that they saw it many years ago on some TV show. “Fantastico”, a prime time Sunday night show is often referenced, as it used to feature many UFO and paranormal cases.

That we can say for sure, didn’t actually happen. The clip was created by Shyamalan, and features many obvious goofs: the car is too old to be in someone’s garage (not for the last 30 years, Brazil is not Cuba); the video quality is too good to be shot on a home camera, some people there speak Spanish (Portuguese is Brazil’s language), and the final and definite nail is the boy screaming “is behind”.

Why would a Brazilian boy suddenly start screaming in broken English? Well, because that’s an American movie. The boy is in fact actor Kevin Pires, credited on IMDb.


When shown evidence that the footage couldn’t possibly be real, some people claim it was rather a reproduction of the original, real footage of an alien invading a birthday party in Passo Fundo.

“Let it be known that the scene that appears in the movie Signs, with Mel Gibson, where an alien appears in a birthday party in Passo Fundo is the reenactment of an ufological event that happened in the end of the 1970s and beginning of the 1980s. In spite of pseudoscientific websites and even seasoned ‘ufologists’ claiming the contrary, the fact happened and was aired by Globo TV in their programs Jornal Nacional and Fantástico. The video, obviously, doesn’t have the same quality as the movie, but the reproduction of the scene was extremely close to the real one. We are searching the original footage, if you can help, please contact us.”

Sounds familiar? By the way, those “pseudoscientific websites claiming the contrary” is a reference to my Brazilian website, where I debunked the claim the movie scene was real.

“I wasn’t on the birthday party, but I lived in that time and have always lived in Passo Fundo. And I heard that news when I was a kid and I believe I saw a UFO myself at that time, or at least, the second half of the 1970s.”

“In another community, someone showed up saying the Passo Fundo case happened in 1992 in the Embrapa village, near UPF.”

Some people even claim they saw Shyamalan in an interview claiming that the scene was inspired by a real Passo Fundo video of an alien. I asked where they saw it, but they couldn’t remember it either. My guess is that that doesn’t exists.

“Signs” is a terrible movie, the plot and the signature Shyamalan twist-ending is revolting. But it does have an atmosphere, and in some level, Shyamalan seems to have convinced many Brazilians that that alleged news footage, with many clear signs of being fictional, was actually real. That, in turn, seems to have inspired a bunch of false memories.

Of relevance is that many people are apparently remember exactly what Joaquin Phoenix’s character is doing in the movie: they saw it on a TV news program. People literally feel thay are part of the movie.

Many people will keep looking for that “original footage” of a birthday party in Passo Fundo a couple of decades ago, a video that, if real, would have certainly have come to the attention of many researchers before the movie was shown.

Say what you want about Shyamalan, that he was able to create a new “Lost Thunderbird” phenomenon, implanting false memories into a bunch of Brazilians is impressive. Pardon the terrible joke, but I can’t help:

That’s twisted.

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Posted in Aliens,Criptozoology,Fortean,Skepticism | 12 comments

12 Comments so far

  1. Peter Johnson November 19th, 2008 5:11 pm

    I was one of the people corresponding with Mark Chorvinsky at Strange Magazine re. the Thunderbird photo. My memories have not changed & I do clearly recall at age 10 or 11 (1966 or ’67) riding my bike to our local Firehouse in Kilmarnock, Virginia, and rooting through the firemen’s huge pile of “men’s” magazines, like Saga, Argosy, True and Police Detective, etc. In one of these we all (Myself and 4 other boys) saw a two-page spread of a pteranodon-like creature, nailed to what looked like a barn door, with a group of miners or cowboys in large hats & long grey beards, all standing in front. Some of the men were in what looked like overalls. I recall this vividly because one of us said “They’re not real cowboys”, as they looked nothing like Gunsmoke or The Virginian on TV. It was a blue tinted picture and the writing — also tinted — obscured part of the photo. I recall the head was upright, and the wings the length of the barn(?) door, much larger than the illustration here. Mark thought the blue-tinting I remember was a dead giveaway to it being in Saga Magazine, but eventually even he started questioning whether I had a false memory. Well, if a false memory — which I don’t discount, given my reading on psychology — it is a remarkably persistent one. I still claim I saw what I saw that day.

  2. […] 2nd — False Fortean Memories — Are you one of thousands of folks who remember seeing a long time ago a picture of a `Thunderbird’ that was being stretched out by a number of cowboys? THS is one of those folks. Well, guess what? The picture possibly has NEVER existed and may be a `false memory’ of all of us. Read more about this amazing possibility here – http://forgetomori.com/2008/skepticism/the-brazilian-lost-thunderbird-false-fortean-memories/ […]

  3. smokejaguar December 26th, 2008 3:05 pm

    I dont know about a photo with a dead Thunderbird with cowboys,but there are at least two different photos on the net of a Thunderbird with what appears to be cival war soldiers.-usdi Agaluga

  4. Paul April 21st, 2009 6:37 pm

    Ok, well I hate to say this because it’ll make me look like a “believer myself” when I am totally skeptic about this things… BUT, yup I am from Argentina originally, and DO remember when the footage was shown on the local news. As a matter of fact I recall telling my wife when I saw th film that I had actually seen that scene in the News many years ago. As you would expect seing something like “that” in the local news at age 7 or 8 is not something you forget very easily. I belive is probably a hoax of somekind, but the film one is later to an original one that was aired some 30 years ago.

  5. Mark Wood May 29th, 2009 9:43 am

    I can say with complete certainty that I’ve seen the thunderbird photo mentioned in the article. In fact, here it is:

    Granted, I have no idea about the authenticity or history of the photo, but I just thought I’d share.

  6. Mark Wood May 29th, 2009 11:06 am

    Well then, the last message seems to have deleted the photo. Here’s the photo link:


  7. AtBeyi September 27th, 2009 6:18 pm

    I remember a photo and a news about a big bird caught by some mine workers in south america. and i am from Turkey. As i remember it was mid 80’s while that news was published in some newspapers.

  8. DON SHORE December 10th, 2009 10:42 pm

    OK, here’s what i remember; when i was a kid in the late 70’s and early 80’s there was a book in the library at the elementary school i went to, fulmar rd. elementary school in mahopac new york and in the book was a picture of three cowboys standing in front of a small barn with a pterosaur nailed to the side of the barn. it’s the same picture that is on the strange web site with the article about the lost Thunderbird photo. i don’t know about the one with the six dudes standing in front of the giant Thunderbird that everyone has been searching for but the one I’m talking about was in the book in the library in fulmar road school. if i remember correctly it had the story of the cowboys shooting the pterosaur down in tombstone and said that that was the picture of the event. i think people are mixing that picture up with some other picture or idea of some other picture and that’s why no one can find the lost Thunderbird photo. as far as the picture with the three cowboys, i don’t know what the deal as far as the background on the picture. is it fake or is it the real deal, all i know is i spent hours looking at that picture in that book. but because i was a kid i never bothered to look at the title of the book. i bet the book is still in that library. if anyone knows the background on that picture i would like to know what the deal is with it, is it real or is it a fake? i think it’s a real photo but that’s just my opinion, i also believe that that is the lost Thunderbird photo.

  9. Luke February 18th, 2010 11:45 am

    Idk how you could fake something like that if they were cowboys lol. It looks sort of like a huge crane, except for the head of course. Who knows, maybe they really did stumble upon a real one.

  10. […] a little bit, just to be sure. Here are a few good links just to start you out: Cryptomundo, Forgetomori, and good old […]

  11. Pedro February 25th, 2011 8:01 am

    I know lots of people who still have Volkswagen Beetles! They’re pretty common in Brazil.

  12. Ben April 16th, 2012 9:38 pm

    I can’t believe people thought the Signs movie actually happened. This actually reminds me of an anime series called “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex”, particularly of the second season.

    In the second season the focus is on refugees and a series of revolutionary essays, written by the same author, called “The Individual Eleven”. Now they could find 10 out of the 11 essays on the web, but never the eleventh.

    Now it’s a very famous collection, but in one episode when they’re searching for a hard copy(that is, a copy that isn’t digital) and they can’t find it, and even check with people who knew they had a copy for a long time.

    The eleven terrorists who claimed “The Individual Eleven” as their holy book were all asked to check to see if they held their copies of it with them. They were all sure they held their personal copy with them, but none had them.

    The fact of the matter was, “The Individual Eleven” did not exist. In the show I guess it would be similar to what they called a ‘standalone complex’. That is, an imitator or imitators without an original.

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