Turkey Tales (pt 2): The Attack Turkey of Martha’s Vineyard

For the second installment of my special Thanksgiving series, I wanted to tell a story about a turkey who killed someone. (Hence my recent Google searches for “turkey who killed someone,” “turkey kills man,” and “murder turkey.”) Unfortunately, reality refused to cooperate with my aspirations. Never in recorded history has a turkey been someone’s primary cause of death. The closest I came was this glancing reference to a Bay Area man who died after accidentally riding his bike into a flock of turkeys, and even then, you could make a strong case that it wasn’t the turkeys’ fault.


The lack of fatal turkey stories surprised me. I grew up in an area that had wild turkeys, and let me tell you, those bastards were mean. They used to chase kids around at the bus stop, fluffing their feathers and gobbling with malicious intent.

Perhaps, I reasoned, they only seemed deadly in the eyes of a child. Surely no adult has felt seriously menaced by one of the walking holiday entrees.

Then I saw this video:

That’s News 10 reporter Duffy Kelly being chased by a wild turkey in Arden in 2010. As funny as the premise of this video is, you have to admit that it’s a bit unnerving to watch. The thing just keeps coming, even after being nearly run down by a mail truck. When Kelly seeks safety inside her car, the turkey circles the vehicle, looking every inch the modern day dinosaur. I’m assuming Kelly got away eventually…but we’ll never know.

(Unless we look at her LinkedIn profile, which seems to show that she’s still alive. Or is that what the pro-turkey lobbying syndicate wants us to think?)

Still, Kelly’s attacker has nothing on Tom the Turkey, the terror of Martha’s Vineyard.

Tom the Turkey
Note: There is an excellent This American Life segment about Tom here, replete with first-hand accounts of the turkey’s antics. I encourage you to give it a listen!

Baby Turkey

Tom the Turkey began life as a wee fuzzy baby–orphaned, along with his sister, and taken in by a kindly Martha’s Vineyard couple. They named him Tom, nursed him back to health, and eventually released him back into the wild. He continued to visit them throughout his life, even after he grew into a massive bird the height of an adult woman’s waist. The couple liked having him around.

The neighbors, however, were less enthused. Tom, it seems, was something of a psycho. Here are some of the things he did:

  • Chased people as they went from their homes to their cars and back again (to the point where one vacation-home owner had to escort his renters to and from their vehicles).
  • Pecked at people’s legs.
  • Thrust his head through the crack in a man’s front door and tried to bite him. (The man managed to kick Tom’s head out through the crack before slamming the door shut.)
  • Hurled himself against occupied vehicles, pecking at the body and tires.
  • Chased cars down the street, keeping pace with them for up to a block.
  • Faced down brooms, bats, rakes, and a hot soldering iron.
  • Led a gang of 40 feral turkeys, which would occupy people’s porches and leave them unable to escape their own homes.
Crazy Turkey


The day of reckoning came when the police got called in by a local business owner trying to deliver baby equipment to a customer’s home. When they arrived on the scene, Tom chased them back and forth across the property, forcing one officer to take cover on the hood of his car and the other to hide behind the aforementioned baby equipment. Finally, one of the officers opened fire on their attacker. And here’s the really metal part of the story: it took four bullets to halt Tom the Turkey’s murderous rampage.

Or possibly five. It depends on who you ask. Jonathan Haar, one half of the couple who took Tom in as a baby, claims that there was an additional round fired and that said round put his wife’s life in danger. That’s his excuse for charging out of the woods and trying to punch one of the officers in the face. Well, also, he considered Tom a pet, and the officers were allegedly laughing at the turkey’s dead body and saying, “It’s done.”

The authorities kept Tom’s corpse in a freezer for six months, at which point the Haars managed to obtain the body and give it a proper burial. Tom’s headstone reads: “Tom the Turkey. He died as he lived.”


1 thought on “Turkey Tales (pt 2): The Attack Turkey of Martha’s Vineyard

  1. jenhaeger

    I for one actually do think that turkeys are more than slightly terrifying, and if you have never experienced an actual turkey sound, I assure you that they do not say “gobble, gobble”. In fact, they sort of scream at you. Also, if one screams, all the rest will also scream, which is disconcerting when many turkeys are present. However, that being said, the turkeys at my in-law’s house seem to think that I am their queen. One summer morning after they were released, they surrounded and followed me around the yard for at least 30 minutes until my father-in-law distracted them with some wild grapes and I was able to sneak away. Sadly, I didn’t take the opportunity to go inside and when they were done eating the grapes they spotted me again and literally came running until they had surrounded me again. True story. There are pictures. 😉


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