The Spirit of Big Thunder or the ThunderBird is a powerful and ancient spirit from the myths of the native Shoshone peoples who inhabited the land surrounding the Big Thunder Mountain Range, anyone who dared disturb the mountain would be punished by the spirit who would cause storms, droughts and earthquakes in vengeance and defence.
In 1849 White Settlers came to Big Thunder Mountain to mine for gold and ultimately founded the mining town of Thunder Mesa, along with the Big Thunder Mining Company. Eleven years later in 1860 the Spirit took vengeance upon the town by causing an earthquake which sent a large portion of the town into a canyon, killing every inhabitant including the town mayor and the owner of the Thunder Mesa Mining Company, Henry Ravenswood and his wife Martha, as well as causing significant damage to the town's railroad.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
In all park's version of the story the spirit of Big Thunder caused the deaths of several miners and train engineers inside of the mountain but kept their souls trapped as ghosts while also using it's powers to cause natural disasters and make the mine trains run on their own. Paris, Florida and California's versions of the rides each take place in different mining-towns all located at the Big Thunder Mountain Range.
At Magic Kingdom's Big Thunder Mountain, the town at which the attraction takes place is one called Tumbleweed. During the 1880s, the Spirit caused Tumbleweed to suffer from an intense drought. This drought made most of the citizens leave the town. Eventually a con-man and snake-oil salesman named Comulus Isobar came to Tumbleweed in order to sell them his faked "rain-making services". While planning to leave town overnight after being paid, a flash flood hit town and trapped him in town.
In Disneyland the company is also called the Big Thunder Mining Company and the town shown is called Rainbow Ridge which (like Thunder Mesa) was plagued by earthquakes.
In the Disney Kingdoms, Big Thunder Mountain storyline, the spirit takes the form of blue lightning, cave-ins, floods, and explosions within the mine. Here all to ward of Barnabas T. Bullion's Big Thunder Mining Co. in the town of Rainbow Ridge. The spirit is also showed to be a resting place for the souls of it's indigenous American followers who were wrong by white America's greed and prejudice.
- The Thunderbird is a figure from real life Native American Mythology where it is described as a spirit that flies above mountain peaks and flaps it's wings to create storms
- The Disneyland Paris attraction is the only attraction where the spirit is referred to as the ThunderBird.
- A carving of the ThunderBird can be spotted on a rock in Thunder Mesa
- It is possible that the Spirit of Big Thunder was responsible for the Phantom, Melanie Ravenswood and the citizens of Phantom Canyon are all ghosts as it is often alluded to having kept miners as ghosts in it's subsequent Big Thunder Mountain appearances
- The Thunder Bird is included in the logo of the Thunder Mesa Daily Messenger.