‘Pigeons Are Ancient Wizards’

MrEricSir posted these videos about Swan, AKA the Pigeon Whisperer, who we mentioned a few of days ago. The documentary was directed by one of his best friends and ex-coworkers of 30 years.

Turns out Swan’s real name is John Ratliff. He was once a gifted television news reporter and father of four until schizophrenia overtook his life and moved him into the streets, where he has rejected any help from his family and friends. It’s really an amazing and tragic story that you should set aside some time to watch today.

[via MrEricSir]

3 Responses to “‘Pigeons Are Ancient Wizards’”

  1. T.C. says:


    i’ve always been curious to know the back story of the homeless.

    thanks for sharing this.

    • Catherine Ratliff says:

      More info about John: his father, grandfather, and great grandfather was Methodist ministers. The schizoaffective gene runs in the family – John’s older son is afflicted with it but is a champ chess player. John was the oldest of 8 kids. Born in TX, lived in NH, MA, WI, growing up. Went to SMU and faked being “press” to get into the pink honeymoon home of Actress Jayne Mansfield and interviewed her and her husband. He was always brash and bright. Great imitator. Was an Elvis imitator in HS; sounded like Edgar R. Murrow in his tv broadcasts, wrote poetry like TS Elliott but now his poetry is his own original style.

  2. Catherine Ratliff says:

    John is my older brother by a year. He was a superb newsman for AP, UP, and KELO-TV, then made award-winning documentaries. In the mid 80′s he succumbed to a family gene for schizophrenia/bipolar/schizoaffective disorder and has lived on the streets in the Mission district since then.