OK, so… what’s up with this murderbird thing?
If you want it in spoken form, I’ve told the story a couple of times, most recently Episode 127.
If you’d prefer a storybook format, well, then, gather ’round, kids.
Once upon a time, there was a fairly nasty crime involving Michael Peterson and his wife, Kathleen. There are lots of excellent descriptions of this case, including on the Getting Off podcast, “The Staircase” on Netflix, and all over the internet, so I won’t go into that now. Suffice it to say, Kathleen did not survive… something. Lots of possibilities have been posited as to what that was, but her husband was convicted for beating her about the head and shoulders with a blunt instrument on the stairs at their home.
Several years later, a guy in their neighborhood stepped forward with a theory that the actual culprit was an owl. An owl. Inside their house, or maybe immediately outside… because the head injuries looked like talon injuries and because somehow it seemed reasonable that two or three micro-feathers would be on one of her hands but no actual feathers anywhere in the area. OK. Sure.
I totally believe the husband did it. Because I do. Because I’m a big proponent of Occam’s Razor. And because he just oozes skeeve and I’m allowed to speculate wildly and engage in overt asshattery on my own show.
But fine. That’s the Owl Theory.
The next chapter in this story happened a few months after I heard the Getting Off summary of the case. It was a lovely, bucolic afternoon in rural New Hampshire. I was driving home, and had to stop while two horse people — equestrians, not centaurs — crossed in front of me. I had the sunroof open, and suddenly there was a movement overhead.
Before I could look up, there was a Really Big Bird standing on the hood of my car. At least two feet tall, because we were eye-to-eye. It perched there, and looked at me, and looked at the horse people, and looked at me, and looked at them, all without actually moving its body.
My brain, as it is wont to do in times of high stress or excitement, shut all the way off. I just lose words. So instead of, “Oh, my goodness, that is an extremely large owl. How odd, for it to be out in the middle of the afternoon. It sure looks menacing,” I went, “Oh my gawd, what the, it’s, that’s a, oh shit, I’ma die, that’s a, it’s, that’s a, it’s, it’s a thing… it’s a MURDERBIRD.”
And that is what it has been, from that day since.