Credibility of Pterosaur Sightings March 27, 2013Posted by Jonathan David Whitcomb in Papua New Guinea, United States of America.
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Sightings in the last two weeks or so, of apparent pterosaurs—that’s not the subject, for it requires some time to get a sense of credibility for a particular report. The critical question is this: “Does at least one report of a pterosaur sighting come from an encounter with a modern living pterosaur?” (It matters hardly at all whether or not all reports are of actual living pterosaurs.) Judging accurately the credibility of a sighting report can take time.
2012 Lakewood, California, Sighting
Many times I have spoken with the eyewitness of the “dragon-pterodactyl” that she had encountered in her backyard in June of 2012, just a few miles from Long Beach, California. I have also spoken many times with other members of the household. Many of our communications have been face-to-face. I am convinced that no hoax was involved in this sighting report.
I have also found it difficult to imagine any misidentified bird. The lady insists there were no feather. In addition, she described a long tail and a structure at the tail end that strongly suggests a Rhamphorhynchoid tail flange (or vane). The eyewitness did not see the flying creature only for a moment; she had plenty of time to take in its features. She also saw it from different perspectives:
- It sat on a cable just above her head
- It flew away
- It flew into a tree
Do worldwide reports of pterosaur sightings come from misidentified birds? To really respond to that possibility, we need to examine each report in relation to one or more species of birds that just might have been misidentified. Grossly oversimplified insinuations about sightings in general and birds in general are worthless or worse.
Critic of a Pterosaur Sighting
The other day, a skeptic replied to the Youtube video of the 1944 “pterodactyl” sighting in New Guinea. He proposed that the encounter (west of Finschhafen, New Guinea) was just a misidentification of a bird:
“So this guy saw a large bird and in hindsight thinks it was a long extinct flying reptile?
“Seriously, anyone with two minutes and a computer can see that a Great-billed Heron in flight exactly matches the guys sketch. All the way down to the crest of the head and the fact that they grow quite large and are found in PNG.”
First, Hodgkinson did not see a bird; it was his first impression, in the first moments of his sighting, that a bird was taking off into the air, but he soon realized it was much too big. Second, it was not “hindsight” that relates to his idea that it was a “pterodactyl,” for that word came to him while he was standing there in that clearing in 1944. Third, he did say anything like “long extinct flying reptile.” Fourth, he did not draw any sketch, although he did choose, from among various sketches, the one that was closest to what he had seen (I had mailed to him a questionnaire).
The Great-billed Heron (Ardea sumatrana) has practically no head crest at all, nothing like what was chosen by Hodgkinson in his responses to the detailed questionnaire. Why does this skeptic use the phrase “exactly matches” with what is practically the opposite? Compare the following photos with a screen shot from the Youtube video in question (“Ropen-Pterodactyl American Eyewitness”):
A Great-billed Heron (where is the pterosaur-like head crest?)
Does the head of this Great-billed Heron look like that of a pterodactyl with a head crest? How imaginative is that skeptic!
Another Great-billed Heron that lacks a pterosaur head crest
Now from the Youtube video (“ropen-pterodactyl American eyewitness”):
Hodgkinson chose #4 in his survey response for head crest length
The World War II veteran chose the longest length (for the head crest) from among four choices I gave to him in the survey form he returned to me. So why did the skeptic refer to the head crest as if it were an exact match for the head crest of the Great-billed Heron?
Traumatic events, those that we immediately realize are important—those create memories that are much more acute, much more precise, and much less prone to decay over time.
Wingspan estimates from 8-13 feet accounted for 30% (17) of those 57 reports, far too many if any significant number of hoaxers were involved with faking long-tailed pterosaur sightings, for 8-13 feet of wingspan is too big for Rhamphorhynchoid-type pterosaurs.
Pterosaur Sightings in Ohio March 2, 2013Posted by Jonathan David Whitcomb in United States of America.
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This past October, I received an email from an eyewitness in Ohio:
[To] whom it may concern,
All these years I’ve told my story to close friends about when I was nine or so (I am thirty-two) I was fishing with my mother and step father in Vandalia, Ohio, on Rip Rap rd., when I saw a pterodactyl up across the river on a tree branch. I went to grab my mother to show her, and when we looked back at it was gone.
No one has ever believed me, but I have always known the truth. Today my best friend in the whole world sent me information on the Ropen. I had never heard of it, and now I feel assured it was not “just a dream” as everyone likes to say. Thank you for having a place I can tell someone who believes me.
I know of other reports of pterosaur sightings in Ohio, the most recent reported encounter from James Boice, but his experiences have been with hearing a flying creature, rather than seeing it. Here is part of the long letter he sent me earlier this week, his second and third experiences hearing a “screaming” sound from something flying at night (in Ashland, Ohio):
. . . there was a storm and you could hear this same sounding creature flying and screaming over the thunder. It appeared to be half a mile away and was still loud. I heard a weather man say once that big birds will sometimes fly in front of a storm, riding the thermals, and the weather man believed a big bird such as a California Condor could get here by this means. . . .
Another day . . . I heard a cackling screaming sound . . . as though it was killing something. It wasn’t an owl. Owls don’t make that sound and you can’t hear their wings flap.
It moved out to the front of our house and to the next door neighbors yard. [My wife] and I went out to check it out. We stood on the sidewalk and listened to it, but as it was dark out and we didn’t take a flashlight we couldn’t see it, although we were only around fifteen to twenty feet from it . . . You could tell it was good size and not friendly sounding.
Cats came up missing . . . I heard this creature several more times over around a three-year period: always traveling from the college by the cafeteria and going towards where Grant School was[that school has since been torn down]. It only came out around two to three times a year.
The earliest I’ve ever detected it was 10:00 p.m. but usually between 2:00 to 4:00 in the morning, never in the day time. . . . I tried to catch the sound on tape but I never could.
To be sure, a report of hearing strange sounds at night is hardly convincing evidence, to most people, of modern pterosaurs, but it blends perfectly well with eyewitness reports of huge flying creatures that are seen not just in Ohio but across the United States. In the context of those visual encounters, a few encounters with screaming sounds at night does support the case for extant pterosaurs, notwithstanding those audio experiences do not stand up well by themselves.
Somewhere in Ohio
Strange Winged Creature in Ohio (James Boice in Ashland)
I heard a sound outside, like screaming. I heard . . . as if a cord cutting through the air, also the sound of a dog fighting with a cat, all these sounds at once.
About 4.5 ft tall, 10 ft from head to end of tail. Long skinny tail with a spade about 3-4 [inches] from end of tail. It had a wing span of I would say 8-10 ft.”
. . . a very large flying creature . . . in Orange County [in clear daylight] . . . north of [UC] Irvine. . . . the dark gray or black animal as 30 feet long, with 15-16 feet of that being a tail.
. . . how much long-tailed pterosaurs seem to dominate reports. Of those eyewitnesses who reported a long tail or the lack thereof, the ratio was 95% to 5% in favor of long tails.
Non-fiction cryptozoology book Live Pterosaurs in America (revised third edition)
From a reader of an earlier edition of this book:
Thank you for writing such an interesting and well-documented book on pterosaur sightings in America! I literally danced down to the mailbox when it arrived, and hardly put it down until I had finished the last page. . . . I loved your cautious, yet enthusiastic writing style. Thank you so very much for all your good work. I read parts of it aloud to my family, and they seemed to enjoy it, too.
From another reader of an earlier edition:
This is an updated review of the book and I am changing my rating to 5 stars. This book has been on my shelf for almost a year now. I pick it up every now and then and a part of me becomes more impressed by the book every time. . . . I highly recommend this. . . .
Whitcomb painstakingly reviews every account for credibility and reason. This man is not a crank. He tries to weed out would be hoaxes and miss-identification. This is not a guy looking to create evidence to confirm his own beliefs. On top of this, I have great respect for a guy who follows his dreams so passionately. He has traveled to Papua New Guinea to search for the creature there and this book is somewhat of a sequel if you will.
Recent Pterosaur Sightings – Arkansas and Kentucky February 11, 2013Posted by Jonathan David Whitcomb in United States of America.
Tags: Arkansas, Kentucky
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Within the past seven days, I’ve received two sighting reports of apparent pterosaurs; both encounters were in 2012: Arkansas and Kentucky. (I made corrections in spelling and grammar, for the following.)
I saw a pre-historic bird . . . this past spring. As I was driving over a small bridge, with a creek underneath, it flew up from under the bridge beside my truck and flew up above my truck and out and over a field. I watched it from the side and the underneath. . . . had no feathers and it was grey skinned with pink undertones. It had three sections to its huge wings and a crown behind its head. It was so huge and heavy that it had trouble flying up high enough to get up over the top of the bridge. . . .
Kentucky, South of Lexington
. . . I live in Lamero, Kentucky. It’s a small, rural area located along the Daniel Boone National Forest. I have a friend who lives near Renfro Valley . . . It’s a wooded area as well, with a small fishing lake nearby as well as several caves. And I’m talking a lot of caves . . . This county is seriously like swiss cheese, a spelunker’s [cave explorer's] paradise.
Last July, I was visiting my friend at his home. It was just a little after sunset, so it was still daylight outside. The weather was nice, so we were outside, sitting on his deck, watching aircraft flying by. . . . I was looking northward when Brandon, my friend, shouted behind me, “what in the blue h*** is that?”
Approaching us from the east and flying westward were two very large animals. They were really moving on. I noticed that they didn’t flap their wings very much, about once every second or two, definitely not as fast as a common bird flaps their wings.
They appeared to be a brownish color and had every characteristic of a pterodactyl, from head to tail. I’d say they were roughly 15+ feet long and were flying at least 40 mph, but these are just rough estimates because we didn’t get a lot of time to evaluate them.
Within five seconds of him pointing them out to me, they were out of sight. I know I wasn’t seeing things because, thankfully, I had another witness right there and we both agreed that the best word we could use to describe what we saw was “pterodactyl.”
These are not the first pterosaur sighting reports that I have received from Arkansas and Kentucky. More eyewitness accounts (of encounters in this part of the United States and other areas) are found in the third edition of Live Pterosaurs in America.
[Taken from a page by Jonathan Whitcomb] “It looked as big as any car, and had NO feathers, not like a huge crane or egret. . . . it swooped down over the highway and back up gracefully over the pines.”
Before the twenty-first century, when had anybody done any research on the pterosaur-extinction concept itself? I’ve communicated with several paleontologists, over the past nine years, but not one of them has mentioned or even hinted at the existence of any investigation of the pterosaur-extinction concept. It’s been taken for granted as an axiom for about two hundred years . . .
“I suddenly saw . . . quite a distance away, a flying object that was strange. . . . we knew it was quite far away, but it was as big as a regular bird would appear up close.”
Honest Skepticism Regarding Live Pterosaur Reports February 6, 2013Posted by Jonathan David Whitcomb in United States of America.
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Finding a skeptic has written about the improbability of a modern pterosaur—that does not surprise me. But I do find it refreshing to read something written by a skeptic who accepts that possibility with hope that it is true. How far afield is the negative skeptic who writes with zeal to persuade everybody possible that a modern pterosaur is impossible! What a difference! Quoting from “A Whole New Level of Weirdness” - a book review of Live Pterosaurs in America, third edition:
I want to believe in big flying dinosaurs roaming the skies, but experience and common sense argue against it. So far I have never been chased by one as I wander through town. . . . First surprise is technically they were not dinosaurs at all . . . Secondly there were incredibly diverse, and many of them looked nothing like the beasties I think of when I hear the word “Pterosaur.”
The reviewer then relates what he found online, that pterosaurs were “definitely extinct,” many millions of years ago. The point I enjoyed reading was about what he did after reading that oft-repeated obituary: He searched for accounts of people who had been “chased by pterodactyls!” That is when he learned about the “’Living Pterosaur’ research community, a fringe even within cryptozoology.” That is when he discovered, ordered, and read Live Pterosaurs in America.
This long book review is more positive than negative (see the link below: “A Whole New . . .”). The reader took a critical look, reading both my writings and those of critics of living-pterosaur investigations. Rather than write more about this book review, I quote from my book:
Introduction to Book
. . . We need to understand why we believe what we believe. When I first began researching these . . . sightings, years ago, I mentioned a word to a kindergartner: “pterosaurs;” he said, “A comet.” Years later, while writing this book, I mentioned my work to a second-grader; she said, “Who will buy your book? Crazy people?” I think better of you. And I think, because of what she and many others have told me, that we must understand indoctrination, for it influences our beliefs . . .
Chapter Two – California Sightings
When I returned from Papua New Guinea, in 2004, I knew almost nothing about reports of apparent pterosaurs, or “dragons,” in California. I was convinced of the reality of long-tailed ropens of the southwest Pacific, but assumed they live there because of the vast tropical wildernesses, providing them warmth, food, and seclusion. I also assumed that the few reports that I had read—apparent pterosaurs in some of the 48 States—were of a few stragglers from Central America. But after publishing many web pages about living pterosaurs in Papua New Guinea, I received emails and phone calls from eyewitnesses: sightings in California, Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland-Virginia border, Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Kansas, and Washington State. I became a believer in American pterosaurs.
The greatest danger facing innovators, rebels, and those who search for living pterosaurs—that’s a newspaper. National newspapers ignored the success of the Wright brothers (their December, 1903, successful powered flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina). News reporters and editors, many of them, assumed that the controlled powered-flight of two bicycle mechanics was a lie, that it never happened. Even as late as 1908, many newspaper professionals thought the Wright brothers “better liars than flyers.” After all, a well-funded government-sponsored flying machine had crashed only a few days before the Wright brothers were said to have first flown. But lack of news reporting and abundance of lie-insinuations can relate to both flying machines and flying pterosaurs, even those called “dragons.”
Modern pterosaur eyewitnesses often report a structure at the end of the long tail of the flying creature, with different witnesses using different words for the structure . . .
I vaguely recall having a book as a child in which there was a picture, daguerreotype style, of some cowboys holding a shot pterodactyl by a barn. Actually I soon found out, chatting about with friends on Facebook, that I may have be suffering from a False Memory . . .
“A huge Rhamphorhynchus-like flying entity . . . grabbed my attention . . . flying . . . close enough it could’ve been shot down. I had ran to the door and about . . . lost my breath in disbelief. Had an estimated wingspan of 8-12 feet and a tail . . . with a large bulb or lump at the tail very diamond shaped. . .”
Pterosaur Sightings and Statistics February 2, 2013Posted by Jonathan David Whitcomb in Criticism.
Extreme Bias Against Living Pterosaurs
Since the two ropen expeditions of 2004 (on Umboi Island, Papua New Guinea), a few biologists and non-biologists have written about investigations of pterosaur sightings . . . very few. But many of those writings have been dismissive, without any admission that the extinction concept itself should be examined. A few of their writings may have mentioned or implied that religious bias influenced those who searched for living pterosaurs and for eyewitnesses. I don’t recall any critic who mentioned or implied that those who support standard models of extinction may have bias of their own.
Survey of Biology Professors
In a recent survey of biology professors in two universities in the western USA, regarding reports of sightings of apparent pterosaurs in Papua New Guinea, the first two responses were as follows:
- “Pterosaurs are extinct and have been for 10s of millions of years. Period.”
- “I would say that I’m between 1-5″ (on a scale of 0-100 for an extant pterosaur).
The survey is still in an early stage, with many other university biology faculty members needing to be included. As of late Feb 1, 2013, about 5% have responded.
Before the twenty-first century, when had anybody done any research on the pterosaur-extinction concept itself? I’ve communicated with several paleontologists, over the past nine years, but not one of them has mentioned or even hinted at the existence of any investigation of the pterosaur-extinction concept. It’s been taken for granted as an axiom for about two hundred years, and has served an apparently useful purpose; indeed, dinosaur and pterosaur extinction has been foundational to Darwin’s writings and modern standard models of biology.
My associates and I have challenged that extinction dogma for years. Those professors who have criticized out conclusions have not addressed extinction itself, preferring to dismiss us without answering that challenge. To be precise, “extinct . . . Period.”
Mathematics and Clear Thinking About Pterosaur Sightings
Let’s apply probability to the two responses of those two biologists who evaluated the possibility of the existence of a living pterosaur. The first professor gave the probability 0%; the second, about 3%. That averages 1.5%. But those two professors appear to have been completely ignorant of the detailed eyewitness sighting reports that have been analyzed over the past nine years, 128 of which have been deemed credible enough to deserve analysis.
I chose those 128 reports because each of them appeared to me to have been probably from an encounter with a living pterosaur. In other words, not one of those 128 sightings was less than 51% in probability of being from an appearance of a living pterosaur. But of course, that is my opinion, and my opinion is not highly regarded among many scientists. So what can be done?
Take the average evaluation of those two biology professors, for a start. Apply mathematically those 128 reports, but use the skeptical 1.5% rather than my own much higher estimates. The probability that none of those 128 sightings was from a living pterosaur is only about 14%. In other words, from a skeptical point of view it is about 86% likely that a living pterosaur was observed. The math is simple, when a scientific calculator is used: 98.5%^128 comes to about 14.4%.
I suggest that the skeptical point of view is based on an extreme bias in favor of the universal-extinction dogma regarding dinosaurs and pterosaurs. When that extreme bias is properly taken into consideration, the 128 sightings make it practically impossible that not one of them was an encounter with a modern living pterosaur.
In Searching for Ropens, I wrote, “Since no researcher in Europe [when fossils were first being discovered] had any knowledge of living creatures similar to the fossils, it was assumed that they were all extinct. The key word is ‘assumed.’. . if only 1% of the population of Western Europe, in the late 18th Century, had . . . [seen] living pterosaurs, the universal-pterosaur-extinction notion would never have gotten started.” (second edition, page 237)
I looked up and saw the Pterodactyl flying (gliding) from the direction of the Koolaus
Hoaxers could not have had any major influence if they had emphasized giant sizes, for the wingspan estimates show a fairly gradual decline in numbers of sightings as the wingspan increases, beginning with a size similar to that of large birds.
I wonder what the natives think of that Western idea, what those eyewitnesses in Papua New Guinea think about the universal-pterosaur-extinction assumption.
Pterosaur Sightings in Florida January 31, 2013Posted by Jonathan David Whitcomb in United States of America.
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I’m delighted when somebody sends me an email about a pterosaur sighting only hours or minutes old (some reports are of sightings years earlier). One of those delightful reports was from a professor in western Florida:
“Today, I was blessed with a sight that will never be forgotton. It was 11:45 A.M. today, solid grey dim overcast- about 60 degrees out—Wednesday November 14 2012—Crestview, Florida . . .”
Professor Steven Watters gave me details on his pterosaur sighting:
“A huge Rhamphorhynchus-like flying entity . . . grabbed my attention . . . flying west to northeast, close enough it could’ve been shot down. I had ran to the door and about . . . lost my breath in disbelief. Had an estimated wingspan of 8-12 feet and a tail as long as its torso with a large bulb or lump at the tail very diamond shaped, no feathers and all colored the same whitish-grey color with a pointed beak. It soared with very slow flaps that were slow . . . [slower than] flying creatures in general.”
Pensacola Sighting in 1995
. . . I was having a yard sale, so I was in the driveway at 5 am. I saw this huge bird with bat wings, at least a 20 ft wing span, flying towards me, I just turned and ran screaming into the house. The shadow it threw covered the driveway. . . . my husband didn’t believe me. . . .
About 2002 in Jupiter, Florida
I was sitting outside my house with a buddy of mine talking (it was about 2 or 3 in the morning) and all of a sudden something caught . . . our attention, above our heads. It was a flying creature that flew over our heads towards my backyard (behind us over the roof of the house) . . . pointed wing tips, no feathers pointed beak and what made me think pterosaur was that long pointed thing protruding from the back of its head . . .
I live in florida so I’ve seen my share of cranes and what not, but this WAS NOT a bird. A second later something made us look across the street where we saw a second one flying over a house flying down into that house’s backyard. We took a real good look of the first creature because the flood light facing . . . down on the driveway, lit up the underbelly of the “thing”. It was only about 4′ long (wingspan)and about 2′ beak to tail which was pointed.
Turkey Creek: one of many places in Florida where nocturnal animals can hide
The men later did some research and found the word for such a creature, a word used in nearby Papua New Guinea: ropen. The pilot contacted me, Jonathan Whitcomb, and gave me the details.
. . . in Orange County . . . north of the University of California at Irvine. He described the dark gray or black animal as 30 feet long, with 15-16 feet of that being a tail.
. . . . it flew directly in front of my car, across the road. . . . As it leapt out from the woods, I saw it from below, and the tail was very long with a shape on the end. Its wings were probably half-spread and I saw several dark thin horizontal bands across the belly.