The Lightning Bird and the Moonfire

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The following is an extract from an interview I conducted on behalf of the Psychical Research and Investigation Society* with one Ms Edith Cohen, a Northamptonshire resident.

The interview took place on the 20th of June 2000.

‘It was a few weeks ago. The 5th, I believe. I was walking my dog, Bobbins, in the Green Norton Park. It was a clear day; really sunny, not a cloud in the sky. I had my camera with me. I like to take pictures of Bobbins, he’s such a handsome young man. A golden retriever, you know. And he’s so photogenic.’

‘I was tossing a stick for Bobbins to fetch, then getting some shots of him running back to me. It’s his best angle.’

‘Anyway, I’d thrown the stick, and I was down on one knee, and suddenly there was a huge flash of light and this massive crack, like thunder. But, like I said, it was a clear day. The sound was so loud, Bobbins ran away and hid.’ 

‘I was calling out to him to come back to me, when I heard this sound from above, a bit like a crow cawing, but, sort of ‘strangled’. I looked up, and there was this massive black bird soaring above me. It was enormous. I must’ve watched it for a bit, before I remembered I had my camera.’

‘I managed to get a single shot of the giant bird before it flew away.’

‘The picture is a bit blurry, and everyone I’ve shown it to says it’s a stork or a crane. But it definitely wasn’t. I’ve seen those before. What I saw was far too big. And cranes aren’t black, surely?’

I will attach Ms Cohen’s photograph to this file. The picture is indeed blurry, but it does show something in the skies above Green Norton Park, even if that thing is rather difficult to identify.

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Jessica Drummond was born in 1982 in Towcester, Northamptonshire. An only child, she was a conscientious and practical individual, and she excelled at school, particularly in the fields of mathematics and physics. In the summer of 2000, she left Huxlow Science College with four ‘A’ levels and secured a place at the University of Bristol to study mechanical engineering. A fan of the literary works of Jayne Mansfield, she also had rather a poetic streak.

By all accounts Jessica was quite shy and reserved for her age, and her parents insist that she was not the kind of person prone to dabbling in narcotics or drinking to excess.

On the week beginning the 5th of June 2000, she began to experience what her local GP, Dr Kahn, describes as a quite severe case of somnambulism, more commonly known as sleepwalking.

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1st December 2008

I meet Dr Josef Kahn in the The Halt, a quaint little pub tucked away in Chapel Brampton.

A diminutive fellow, with a shock of bright white hair and a surprisingly deep voice, Dr Kahn was the Drummond family doctor, and had been since before Jessica was born. Now retired, it is quite obvious that the events of that first week of June 2000 have taken a toll on him, both professionally and personally.

Over a pint of dark ale, he tells me of his recollections of that summer.

‘I remember Jessica, yes. She was a lovely girl. Very, very intelligent. It was such a shame what happened to her.’

‘Her parents bought her to see me on the Wednesday. She looked terrible; large dark rings under her eyes, the poor thing looked like she hadn’t slept in days. Her father said that they’d found her in the kitchen the last two mornings, and she’d taken all the pots and pans out of the cupboards and laid them out in the garden.’  

‘I examined her, and appeared she was somewhat lethargic, presumably due to the lack of sleep.’

‘It was strange seeing her like that. She’d always been a little reticent to talk, but that day… well, that day it was different.’

‘I spoke to her parents and asked them if she was under any stress, but they assured me that she wasn’t, so I could only assume it was the thought of going away to university that was troubling her.’

‘I wrote her a prescription for some sleeping tablets and advised her parents to keep an eye on her. If it continued, I told them to bring Jessica back and we would look at some other possible forms of therapy.’

‘I wished them luck, said goodbye and then went about my day. I’ll confess, I didn’t expect to see them again.’

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But Jessica’s sleepwalking continued.

The next morning, a local police officer responding to a call found Jessica locked inside the town library, wearing just her pyjamas and surrounded by open books. There was no sign of any forced entry, and the officer was at a loss to explain how the teenager had gained access to the building.

When she was found, Jessica was apparently in a fugue state, muttering to herself about ‘the lightning bird on high.’

She was taken to the local police station and her parents called. Her mother and father were shocked at the news; they were under the impression that Jessica was still in her bed at home.

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Dr Kahn continues:

‘I went to their house once the surgery had closed, and Jessica’s parents were beside themselves with worry. As for their daughter, she had no memory of her escapades the previous night.’

‘I asked to speak with her alone. She seemed lucid, but also a little ‘detached’. She just kept saying how tired she was.’

‘I told her that she could tell me if there was anything bothering her, anything at all, something she thought she couldn’t tell her parents. She said was that when she closed her eyes, all that she saw was a giant black bird in front of her.’ 

‘I gave her some stronger sleeping pills, something that would really knock her out, and sent her to bed. I advised her parents to lock her door from the outside, just in case she went for another nocturnal ramble.’

‘I also told them to call me first thing and let me know how the night had gone.’ 

‘When I didn’t hear from them in the morning, I was under the impression that everything was okay.’

‘How wrong I was.’

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According to the police report, Jessica’s father slept outside his daughter’s door that night. He was apparently awoken at about 3am by two loud claps of thunder accompanied by bright flashes.

No storm was recorded in the area that night.

On hearing his daughter scream from inside her room, Mr Drummond unlocked the door and entered.

Jessica was nowhere to be seen. The small section of window in her room that would open was closed and locked, and a number of large, coarse black feathers were strewn across her bed.

No trace of Jessica Drummond was ever found.

Analysis of the feathers revealed that were from a type of crow, but the exact species was never determined. Their size suggests a wing span much greater than any on record.

There was one another unusual item found in Jessica’s bedroom. It was a picture of a bird, drawn in thick black pen. Underneath it, in Jessica’s handwriting, were the words ‘she comes with the moonfire.’

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There are many perplexing aspects to this case. Jessica Drummond was apparently not the kind of person who had any inclination to run away; indeed, she had her whole life ahead of her. And even if she did, how did she manage to exit her house without alerting anyone? I have seen her bedroom, and I find it difficult to believe she could have crawled out of the window and into the night.

And what of Ms Cohen’s photograph, and the over-sized feathers?

I must confess, I have struggled with this investigation: giant birds and curious meteorological effects preceding the disappearance of teenage girls is a new one, even to me. The only thing I could drag up from the archives was the Native American myth of the Thunderbird, a legendary creature that would beat its wings and throw lightning at the beasts of the underworld.

But surely the appearance of a Thunderbird in Northamptonshire that week in 2000 is too great of a leap of logic?

Sadly, it seems that Ms Drummond’s disappearance will have to remain a mystery.

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Oddly enough, writing up this report made me recall a trip I took a few years ago, to the Museo Thyssen-Boremisza in Madrid. There hangs a picture titled ‘The Lightning Bird Blinded by Moonfire.’ It is an abstract piece, painted by Joan Miró in 1955.

In its jagged lines it is possible to detect a similarity to the drawing found in Ms Drummond’s bedroom.

Perhaps señor Miro was inspired by a similar encounter.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

* This is the same group the good doctor mentioned in An Encounter on the Midland Mainline. I have contacted them , and the chap I spoke to could find no record of a Dr Gotobed having ever worked for them, but he did say that their records were ‘patchy’, at best – C.R. 

A Colossus of the Deep

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In the late November of 1861, just off the coast of Tenerife, the French steamer Alecton was cruising its way toward Cayenne when the lookout on duty called out.

Beside the ship, partly submerged beneath the waves, was what appeared to be a giant sea monster. It had several long arms, and a large, torpedo-shaped body.

The captain, one Commanduer Bouger, ordered his crew to open fire with the boat’s cannons.

Over the course of the next two hours, the Alecton scored several direct hits on the creature’s rubber-like body, which they estimated at over six metres in length.

Whilst the aquatic beast did react to the blows, it was not put off by them, merely diving several times and each time resurfacing closer to the boat.

Eventually the crew were able to harpoon the creature and lasso a rope around its body, but when they attempted to haul it aboard, its weight was so great it caused the rope to tighten and cut the beast in two.

Only the tail end of the creature made it on-board the Alecton, the rest sank beneath the waves without a trace.

Commandeur Bouger took the section of tail back to the French Consulate on Tenerife. From there it travelled to the French Academy of Sciences, accompanied by the Commandeur’s report on the incident.

The representatives of the Academy resoundingly mocked the tale of the crew of the Alecton. To them, serious men of serious science do not believe in the existence of such creatures. As one member stated: ‘it is against the very laws of nature herself.’

But in these more ‘enlightened’ times, it is possible to surmise that this fearsome creature the crew of the Alecton did battle with was, in fact, a colossal squid.

Though they are rarely sighted, and little is known of their habits, it is widely accepted in scientific fields that such squid exist.

The only example ever captured alive was caught in 2007 in the South Pacific Ocean, and measured a total of five metres from its posterior fins to the tips of its two longest feeding arms.

Whilst this in itself is impressive, the beak of this specimen was significantly smaller than the beaks of other colossal squid that have been found in the stomachs of adult sperm whales, one of the creatures few predators.

This suggests that these squid can grow much, much larger.

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In the March of 1978, the USS Stein left San Diego, California and embarked on a journey around South America, calling at ports in Peru, Ecuador, and Panama.

Somewhere along its journey, the USS Stein collided with something very large in the ocean waters. Immediately after the impact, the ship began to experience massive technical failures, culminating in the ship’s sonar system being rendered useless. Aware of the danger of attempting to carry on without it, the captain ordered the vessel to head for the Long Beach Naval Dockyard.

The ship was sent to a dry-dock so maintenance could be carried out. A highly skilled team of engineers set about repairing the damage, but when they reached the sonar dome they found considerable damage to its thick rubber coating. By their estimates, ten per cent of the dome was covered in deep scratches. Within these cuts were curved hooks, like those found within the suction cups of squid, but substantially larger.

A leading marine biologist was summoned to examine these gashes and hooks. She concluded that they did indeed come from a squid, but a squid much larger than any ever seen before.

By her estimate, the creature would have to be at least 70 metres long.

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There has been tales of monstrous cephalopods in the murky depths as long as there have been men out on the waves, and I believe cases like these validate my opinion that, just because the majority of evidence for something is merely anecdotal, it is not automatically true that such things do not exist.

Indeed, time always reveals the truth.

It is interesting however to note that the crew of the USS Stein were under the impression that they had collided with a submarine that fateful day, and even when confronted with the gashes in the rubber covering the sonar dome (an extremely resilient substance, and one not easily damaged) and the US Navy’s own report, refused to believe that they were, in fact, attacked by an unseen monster from the deep.

This may be the only example in recorded history of the government backing the more ‘fantastic’ explanation, and the actual witnesses on the ground, so to speak, siding with the mundane.

In 1992 the USS Stein was transferred to the Mexican Navy and renamed the ARM Allende. One can only speculate as to whether this was some bored naval administrators cheeky homage to one Carlos Allende, of Project Rainbow and the Philadelphia Experiment* notoriety.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

* Once again, the Philadelphia Experiment pops up! The good doctor also mentioned this in his report on A Figure on Hack Green – C.R.