In 1673, Father Jacques Marquette discovered the murals on a limestone cliff or bluff while exploring the area. He wrote:
"While Skirting some rocks, which by Their height and length inspired awe, We saw upon one of them two painted monsters which at first made Us afraid, and upon Which the boldest savages dare not Long rest their eyes. They are as large As a calf; they have Horns on their heads Like those of a deer, a horrible look, red eyes, a beard Like a tiger's, a face somewhat like a man's, a body Covered with scales, and so Long A tail that it winds all around the Body, passing above the head and going back between the legs, ending in a Fish's tail. Green, red, and black are the three Colors composing the Picture. Moreover, these 2 monsters are so well painted that we cannot believe that any savage is their author; for good painters in
In 1812, a Major Amos Stoddard, wrote "What they call 'painted monsters' on the side of a high perpendicular rock, apparently inaccessible to man, located between the Missouri and Illinois Rivers and known to moderns by the name of Piasa, still remains to a good degree of preservation."
In 1820, Captain Gideon Spencer came up the
The mural was then referred to as the "Piasa Bird" in an article published in 1836 by John Russell . The article was entitled "The Bird That Devours Men." According to the story by Russell, the creature was a flying monster that lived in the cliffs. Russell claimed that this creature attacked and devoured people in nearby Indian villages. The legend according to Russell, claims that a local Indian chief, named Chief Ouatoga, managed to finally slay the monster using a plan that was given to him in a dream from the Great Spirit.
The Legend goes as follows:
Many moons ago, there existed a birdlike creature of such great size, he could easily carry off a full grown deer in his talons. His taste, however, was for human flesh. Hundreds of warriors attempted to destroy the Piasa, but failed. Whole villages were destroyed and fear spread throughout the Illini tribe. Ouatoga, a chief whose fame extended even beyond the
So could the Piasa have been a thunderbird? The description and the mural seem to depict a legendary beast but it does not match the descriptions of thunderbirds . Over time things get distorted and what was painted may not necessarily have been what was seen and of course it could just be a story and have no truth in it what so ever. The mural is interesting though and reminds me of heraldic beasts and who knows what grains of truth may be in a story?