THE "BIRDMAN" OF MADISONVILLE, TENNESSEE?
Alternate Perceptions Magazine
“That was what we called him,” Mark Boring, editor of the Monroe County Buzz of Madisonville, Tennessee, replied in regards to the mention of the “birdman” stories I had heard about from his area. He said that he had been “fairly skeptical” of it back then. He remembered how at the time a local radio station had mentioned it, made fun of it, and thinks the local paper might have run one story on it. “The Appalachian mountains to our east run northeast and southwest and you get into a valley here as you come out of the Smoky Mountains. In the valley here are north and south ridges. Coming out of the mountains they will run maybe 5 or 10 miles apart, and you’ll travel east and west and you’ll have another ridge line. One of the ridge lines is known as the Hiwassee Knob. That’s an old Indian word. It has an old fire tower on it that was built years and years ago. A lot of kids, back in the late 1960s and 70s, used to gather out near this old fire tower and build bonfires. It was a place just to go and hang out.
“As I remember, the first time there were maybe 10 or 12 kids who reported after one weekend that there was a bird-like creature in the knobs, and so, they didn’t say a whole lot more about it, but then it got my interest and that of a couple of my buddies, and so we started going to the bonfires and traveling around, and then one day a buddy of mine and I were driving in the knob area and actually caught a glimpse of something, you know, a huge bird that was actually too big to be a regular bird. It’s wings were outstretched, and it was soaring into the woods.
“Then some other people spotted it on the ground and chased it, reported that it ran like a man. These were buddies that I went to school with, and then I saw it again actually flying over the knob. There were several more sightings, and another buddy of mine actually took a picture of it on top of the town water tower, but he has since disappeared somewhere in the wilds of Utah and I guess taken the picture with him.
“There was a mother and some children that saw it, and of course it terrified them. It was along about maybe 1964 or 1965, until maybe 1971, 1972 or so. I left and went to work in New Orleans in 1970 and some of them that I communicated with told me that they saw it, and I came back and went to work in Chattanooga in 1972 or ’73, and there were a few more sightings, but by 1975 nobody was talking about it anymore. Nobody saw the ‘birdman’ anymore. So maybe for a ten year span you would see maybe two or three sightings a year.”
I asked about a story that I had heard about someone shooting the creature with an arrow. Mark replied: “Yes, and there was a guy who shot at it with a pistol too. One of the guys actually claimed to have shot part of the foot off of the ‘birdman’ with a bow. Either a piece of a toe or foot. He claimed that the Smithsonian came down and asked to take it and investigate, and he never heard from them again. Or so he claimed. You know, a lot of this is kind of metamorphosized into legend, you might say, or into the realm of a tall tale. Some of it we have told time and time again and so it’s kind of taken on an aura of a tall tale is all. My boys now just laugh at me now when I talk about it, so I’ve further enlarged the story from time to time with them, but not too many people believe that this ‘birdman’ happened. Some do. The lady who is next door to us, to my office, has a restaurant and so when we mentioned the ‘birdman’ in the paper she came over one day and said, ‘I remember that. I had forgotten all about that.’ You know, we’re looking back at 30 years or so.”
I asked Mark how big it generally appeared to be. He said, “A lot of people, and me, ah six or seven feet. It was as tall as a man. Like a tall man. I know some of the people said he was at least seven feet. I don’t know. It could have been. You don’t really get a chance to stand there and measure the ‘birdman.’ You see it and it just looks like a huge creature.”
I remarked that it must have had a real wide wingspan, and Mark responded, “Yeah, I would say 6 or 7 feet.”
At the conclusion of our interview I mentioned about the Mothman of West Virginia and how that was back in 1966 and on, and he paused and stated, “Oh, it was wasn’t it. That’s right. (laughed). I don’t know. It’s a strange world. I guess the older I get the more accepting I am of things and the more open I am for certain things to be real or not.”
I asked Mark about the mysterious “lights” I had heard about that were seen around the Knobs, similar to the Brown Mountain “lights” of North Carolina. “I never did see any of the lights. I know that I heard about them. There’s another line of Knobs maybe 8 or 10 miles away to the east called the Notchey Creek Knobs that have more life and activity than the Hiwassee Knobs.”