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The Birds

by Clyde Lewis

"How come birds don't fall from the sky when they die?
How come birds always look for a quiet place to hide?
These words can't explain what I feel inside
Like birds I need a quiet place to hide.'—Elton John

What you are about to read is based on true accounts that I have gathered this year. The year of 2004 seemed to be a year of overwhelming stories that often turned my blood to ice water. Many stories were piling up in my e-mail folder and many of them I could not get to fast enough. I decided that perhaps some of these stories could be held on to and retold when many people are settling in for their autumnal festivals and celebrations.

Halloween and Christmas always seem to be the best times to tell these stories because most of them are shared near the fireplace or at parties where it is appropriate to spook your friends.

While it is always fun to tell urban legends and old ghost stories, I like to somehow dig out stories that are rooted in reality to illustrate just how scary living on this planet can be. This tale of treachery begins with the tragic story of a cat named Truffle.

Truffle was a neighborhood cat that softly moved his pudgy body uphill to the corner delicatessen. Once he arrived, he paced back and forth like a tiger in a cage until he found the perfect spot to settle into, right under the large window with the flashing "open" sign.

There he would sit watching cars and busses whiz past.

He would lick his fur and then begin his "workday" by rubbing up against the store patrons to see if he could score a crumb or two to eat. He would playfully roll around the sidewalk and do his routines that he knew would win the hearts of those who came to get their morning coffee or bagel, and perhaps get a peek at the world headlines.

Truffle was very picky. He wouldn't just take any crumb. He would take the crumbs of those that he felt were in his league. It seemed that he had all of the old, rich Jewish ladies in the cross hairs of his feline radar and hoped that one would take out a portion of gravlax and throw him a day's jackpot.

Today was a peculiar day and seemed a bit slow for Truffle. There weren't many customers and the chubby cat decided that perhaps he could go back down the street and find a neighbor kid that would give him a charity rub, or even a special bowl of tuna fish.

Truffle took one good long look at the market and then decided to move on. It was not a rewarding day. He moved his 15-pound body slowly down the block and went about his routine in his normally quiet unassuming manner.

Just then Truffle's quiet day ended.

A group of errant blue jays screeched to each other in the trees above Truffle. The sound of their flapping wings could be heard as they screamed from branch to branch of the maple tree outside of a brownstone apartment building.

One of the birds swooped down and grazed Truffle.

The cat reared back and hissed. By the time he could get back around to see what had hit him from behind another blue jay swooped down and with it's talons took a swipe at the now flummoxed cat.

The birds jumped up on the wire above the cat as it tried to move its porcine body to a safe place. After a few seconds the birds screeched with glee as each flew down in dive-bomber fashion stabbing their beaks into their fat defenseless prey.

Truffle was exhausted trying to fight off the blue jay attack.

The blue jays moved together like a legion of well equipped soldiers closing in on their target piercing and eye or biting an ear.

One would fly down while the others observed from a high perch screeching and shrieking as if they were commanding the other bird to maim it's hapless victim.

Truffle wailed. His meows were not just painful yowls, but frantic calls for help.

His little ear had been clipped in the attack and by this time the blood had traveled from his left ear down around his eye. The crimson liquid then traveled down to his nose to gather at his chin.

Truffle saw a drop hit the pavement.

He had never seen his own blood before.

The blue jays sadistically circled around Truffle. It was as if they were mimicking vultures waiting for their wounded adversary to drop dead so that they could dine on his rotting flesh.

Truffle looked up and then fell backward awaiting his fate.

The screeching and shrieking of the birds stopped. The birds fell like stones out of the sky.

They hit the ground one by one with a thud.

Truffle moved very cautiously towards the bodies of the birds. He surreptitiously moved his bloody paw towards one of them. A wing jutted forward and the bird flipped up only to fall down again. It flopped around and Truffle realized that he now had the upper hand in this death match.

He swatted the bird and then moved into a position where he could sit on it and hold its trembling body to the bloody sidewalk. One other bird lay lifeless in the gutter while several others were flipping around. Many of them were choking on their own blood.

Truffles lowered his head, opened his mouth and with his strong jaw bit down hard on he neck of the blue jay.

Death was swift for the bird as its bones crunched in the teeth of the powerful cat.

Then it happened.

It was a very high, powerful shriek and then a deeper wail that rose in a crescendo of desperation that went on for about 30 seconds.

Then, there was silence.

Truffle fell over on to the pavement.

His little paw quivered as he drew in his last breaths. The area around the dying cat was littered with the bodies of dead birds.

About a month or two ago I had stumbled upon many stories that dealt with the disappearances and or deaths of birds. I had touched on a story where a group of homing pigeons were released in a competition. Organizers of the competition were baffled for as to why 1,500 pigeons went missing after being released in Stockholm. Of the 2,000 pigeons let loose in the competition, only about 500 returned home.

On June 12th, 2004, it was reported that 27,000 pelicans had disappeared in Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge in North Dakota. Officials then reported that another 2,000 were missing, leaving behind hundreds of chick carcasses and eggs on an island.

Shortly thereafter, people watched helplessly as pelicans were seen "dive-bombing " headfirst into the pavement. One of the largest heron colonies "vanished into thin air " in Point Robert, Washington. Within days another report was filed about rare brown pelicans in California starving to death from "flying off course, " and not even eating their natural prey, the anchovies that were thriving in the waters at the time.

There is no explanation for this rash of strange bird deaths and the odd behavior they are now demonstrating.

In March of 2001, while doing research on electronic pulse detonations, I read a strange story of bird deaths near Montauk Island, New York, an area that has been rumored to be a place where the Philadelphia Experiment was devised.

Virginia Frati, director of the Wildlife Rescue Center of the Hamptons, who went to the scene to look at the bird kill, said that there is no way to determine what caused hundreds of birds to just fall from the sky.

She estimated that more than 100 dead birds were on the road and the shoulders, so many that any single cause of death would be hard to determine.

Frati said that if the birds had been chased into the path of a truck by a predator such as a hawk, only a few would have been hit. If they had been poisoned, they would have died over a longer period of time, and not all in one place.

Michael Lowndes, a spokesman for the Long Island Power Authority said that the birds were found just east of the LIPA substation in Bridgehampton. This was possibly circumstantial evidence that the birds had perhaps been electrocuted.

Lowndes reported that the only way a bird on a power line could be electrocuted is if it were grounded, and it would be highly unlikely that hundreds of birds would be grounded at once.

One eyewitness, Francis Hernandez of Sag Harbor, said he was driving in the area about 8 a.m. on March 5th, 2001 and saw hundreds of birds spiraling down from the wires and onto the roadway.

"They were just spinning down! Falling down like leaves into the road and dying...I've never seen anything like it . They were still struggling. They were hitting the black top but still moving. I picked one up. They were still warm," —Francis Hernandez reported by Mitchell Freedman of Newsday March 2nd,2001

Virginia Frati looked over the carcasses and there were no burn marks on the feet of the dead birds, but that it appeared every one she looked at had blood in the back of its throat.

Could hundreds of birds falling from the sky be a result of poisoning?

It is highly unlikely.

Starlings are commonly found in the company of grackles and red-winged blackbirds, and none of those species were found at the scene.

Some of the dead birds were collected and sent to a state Department of Environmental Conservation lab upstate for analysis. But test results are not expected for several weeks.

In order to imagine the gravity of the bird kill and how many tiny Starlings fell that day, it was reported that the state department of transportation, which is responsible for maintaining state roads, had to bring in a backhoe and dump truck to remove the carnage.

The story continues to frighten me because of the mental image. Imagine driving on a country road and witnessing a flock of birds just dropping from the sky. The event would be unique and terrifying, because there aren't many people who can claim that they watched a bird, let alone many birds, fall from the sky as if they had hit an unseen wall.

How are we to know, with all of the reports of West Nile infestation that the infected birds don't suffer from a fit of rage before they die? A friend of mine who works for the Northwest Parks and Recreation told me that she was called to investigate the reports of dead pigeons in the area.

With the threat of avian flu and West Nile Virus found in large birds, she had to call the health department for information on how to bag the bird for necropsy. The dead bird had fallen from the sky and was immediately attacked by yellow jackets. The flying pests were hidden in the lower abdomen feasting on the carcass of the dead bird.

We take for granted that wild birds will always fly. They hardly interact with humans. They fly above us without incident. They have an inner directional system that keeps them in the air, and I do not know of anyone who has witnessed the deaths of many birds while in midair. The very thought would probably send most people into a helpless panic.

Imagine a scenario where something triggers the birds to go mad and begin attacking animals or even humans. This, of course, is the premise for the story of "The Birds" by Daphne du Maurier.

The story and subsequent movie had their origins in an incident in which du Maurier was herself attacked by two large seagulls. The gulls circled her as she walked down the beach. Both flew down and tried to bite her dog. Without warning, the aggressive gulls flew into her face. She was forced to flee into the trees for protection. It was assumed that the reason the birds attacked is because they were starving.

However, it is a mystery as to why birds are acting the way they are now. They are now disappearing without a trace. They are losing their way, they are dropping out of the sky, and they attack animals and humans.

As I read the countless stories of "bird falls" I wondered whether this was a rather new phenomenon, or have we seen this before in recorded history?

On a date that has an ominous memory for many Americans, September 11th, fifty-six years ago there was a strange incident where a number of frantic birds seemed to be fleeing from something.

On September 11th, 1948 the Empire State Building, was attacked by hundreds of birds of various species. The birds were believed to be flying off course from Canada.

The same incident happened in 1953 and each time witnesses say that it appeared that the birds were trying to fly away from something chasing them.

According to Charles Fort's "Book of the Damned" a report was posted in the 1917 Monthly Weather Review that claimed that hundreds of birds fell from clear blue skies in Baton Rouge, Louisiana:

"That, in the summer of 1896, into the streets of Baton Rouge, La., and from a "clear sky," fell hundreds of dead birds. There were wild ducks, and cat birds, woodpeckers, and "many birds of strange plumage," some of them resembling canaries."— Monthly Weather Review, May, 1917, W. L. Mc Atee quotes from the Baton Rouge correspondence to the Philadelphia Times

The birds had been scorched by some unknown heat source.

Another incident where birds just fell form the sky as onlookers watched helplessly was in August of 1960. Literally thousands of seabirds, a type of petrel called Sooty Shearings, fell out of the sky at Capitola Beach, California. No cause for the event was ever determined, but the dead or frightened birds were everywhere in large numbers. It was estimated that at least 4000 were dead and around 2000 survived but were unable to fly.

While doing research for this skyfall, the reports struck me once again as chilling. An eyewitness account was given by a city policeman who looked out the window of his patrol car and noticed something strange happening.

He looked and saw something flash in the headlights of the car. Whatever it was, it fell into the street about a hundred feet ahead of him, and bounced a few inches. A second object - a third - a fourth came tumbling down. Then the officer saw that the things were birds - dead birds, and sizable ones at that. He started to get out of his car to investigate this remarkable deluge - and then changed his mind.

Said Officer Cunningham: "by the time I had stopped the car they were raining down all around me. they were big birds and they were falling so fast and hard they would have knocked me senseless. I thought I had better stay in the car and that's just what I did!"

Next morning the citizens of the affected communities were treated to the strange spectacle of power lines festooned with birds. Others were impaled on television antennas, fence posts, and jammed into shrubbery by the force of their falls.— Strange World, Frank Edwards, New York, 1964, pp. 61-63

Charles Fort reports in his books that he believes that there are creatures that live in the skies above us. These creatures are like jellyfish and they move about unnoticed. Every once in a while these creatures attack. They seem to be invisible, carrying with them enormous energy.

The ancient Vedas and the Book of Dyzan reveal to us the advent of the appearance of glowing spheres that appear to be living beings of light. Anciently these orbs were seen in the skies moving about with what appeared to be gossamer wings.

In more recent headlines we read of "invisible orbs" picked up on Infrared sensors and shown on national television. In May of 2004 it was reported that Mexican Air Force pilots picked up on radar 11 orb-like objects. They were not seen by the naked eye but radar was able to find them. The pilots switched on their infrared camera and the objects appeared brightly.

Air Force members caught the objects on videotape in March as they conducted a routine anti-drug trafficking surveillance flight over the coastal region of Campeche. In a taped interview, the plane's radar operator, Lt. German Marin, said he had felt a little afraid because they had never seen anything like it before.

In Cleremont County, Ohio, Fire Officer Louis Spears testified that he and his Pierce Township fire crew were called out to a strange UFO incident in the fall of 1991, in which a truck had collided with a strange object. According to Spears, the accident happened on White Oak Street. The object was not metal; it was a strange blue flame that was stuck between the cab and the bed of the pickup.

He said that he was able to put his hands on it and it didn't hurt him; the object had substance but it could not be felt. The energy began to fade down until nothing was left.

This story is similar to one in 1958 where a Florida detective found a strange object that looked like an energy ball of some kind.

Faustin Galegos found a strange object outside his house. The detective said that he picked up the object in his hands, but could not feel it. He described it as translucent and the size of a soccer ball. The ball was practically weightless in his hands.

He said that after he touched it the object virtually melted in the air. Galegos believed it was alive when he first saw it and then it disappeared and died.

Are these energy balls responsible for "sky falls" of birds? Or is this only a hint at what is out there? Are there creatures that live just above us in the skies? Are they made up of energy? Could there be huge bursts of this energy in the skies and are these bursts lethal to birds and their ability to find their way through the sky to their destinations?

Or are the bird deaths related to something else entirely?

Could there be large creatures that somehow fly high enough not to be seen?

Do flying dragons exist? Could they kill birds by releasing some type of lethal gas?

We could let our imaginations get the best of us.

While it may be a bit far-fetched to suggest that dragons may exist in the skies, it may be important to mention a story recently in the news. It suggests that perhaps some strange creatures may be in the skies and that many people thought they were extinct.

The Siassi Islands have now reported that expeditions are underway to try and locate a creature that is said to have the features of a giant flying fox, with a mouth like that of a crocodile and wings that span up to 7 meters. It has been sighted by many of the locals. Many have told of how the luminous creature comes out in the night, flies toward the coast for feeding and how it liked feeding on the dead.

For decades, there have been stories out of Papua, New Guinea, about a flying "demon" known as "The Ropen." Stories told by missionaries after World War II about the creature were a part of nightmares and legend. The Ropen would swoop down and steal human babies. The creature would flap its two leathery wings like a bat.

Behind the creature was a long tail with a diamond-shaped flange on the end. It had the beak of a large bird filled with teeth, and razor-sharp claws. There was also the story that was told of a creature called the Orang-bati. This creature was described as looking human and having leather wings.

Charles Berlitz, who wrote a book called "Dragon's Triangle", gives a terrifying account of a predatory attack from the air upon human beings. Berlitz claims that researcher Robert Gardner had documented the attack of an aircraft in 1939. A military transport plane took off from the San Diego Naval Air Station. As it moved over the Pacific Ocean it transmitted a frantic SOS call. The plane then fell deathly silent. The plane managed to get back to San Diego where it landed safely.

Ground personnel scrambled to get to the aircraft and eventually boarded it. They noticed that the exterior of the craft was badly damaged and torn open in places.

When they finally got inside they were horrified to discover that out of the 13 men on board 12 were dead. The co-pilot was alive but died before he had a chance to tell the story about what attacked the plane. All the bodies of the crew had massive, gaping wounds.

The pilot and copilot had emptied their guns at something that frightened them. The incident was classified until 1954.

What attacked the aircraft?

No UFO could have done that kind of damage. It was as if something took a bite out of the aircraft.

You may not know this, but even though dragons are considered a myth, there are accounts recorded in history of "birds" and reptiles that have caused devastation over areas.

In Crawfordswille, Indiana, archival records from September of 1891 report that a 70-foot-long fire snake appeared above the town square. Eyewitnesses thought they were seeing a "dragon". A religious cleric recorded that the creature had red eyes and that the heat of its breath could be felt at a considerable distance.

In the early history of the Roman Empire it was written that giant red ravens were seen flying in the sky above Rome in the year 106 B.C. The Birds would carry hot stones in their beaks and would throw them down to the ground. It was reported that they would scorch half of a city.

In the Middle Ages France and Portugal recorded in their histories that fire creatures would send down columns of flame that devastated crops. As late as 1985, fire birds have been seen in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and there have been video recordings made of something called "Hombres Volantes", or flying men, that come down from the sky without parachutes or rocket packs.

Ever since man was able to look up he wondered about heaven. It was an open space that made him feel vulnerable. Whatever came down from heaven was spectacular and even deadly.

I have always thought that if we looked up and our skies changed we would be frightened beyond belief. The movement of the birds and the disappearance of the creatures send a very eerie message. The reports of powerful orbs and attacks by a predatory force in the air leaves us wondering if there are beings that can come down in the dead of night and sneak into our bedrooms and take us away.

The stories are as numerous as the stars in the sky.

There are Sylphs, Rocs, Harpies, and Griffins that fly in mythologies from around the world.

Are they based on some reality?

In the famous epic tale of Beowulf the last creature our hero encounters is a dragon. This dragon, with a fiery breath, is cut in half by the hero. But no sooner does the dragon die than Beowulf himself dies from wounds inflicted during battle.

Which brings us back to the true story of our fat feline and his battle with the birds.

We may try to fight those predators from the sky, or, as in the case of our poor cat Truffle, die trying.