“Monster” in a Civil War Photograph

By the extant-pterosaur expert Jonathan Whitcomb

I don’t know if the Ptp photograph was from Vicksburg in 1864; that appears to be just an online rumor. But Clifford Paiva and I have examined evidence that it was recorded before about the year 1870, according to the photographic practice of using props to keep people motionless.

Paiva and I have not made any statement supporting the idea that the photo was taken during the American Civil War or that it was in Vicksburg, Mississippi. We do maintain, however, that this is valid evidence for an extant pterosaur in the 19th century.

I can see how somebody would call the animal in Ptp a monster, for that head is indeed frightening, at least it was to me many years ago, before I started investigating the eyewitness accounts of apparent pterosaurs that appear worldwide.

possibly genuine photo of a 19th-century pterosaur

The Civil War “Monster” photograph Ptp, declared genuine by Paiva and Whitcomb


Confirmation Bias and Modern Pterosaurs

A critic recently wrote that my writings exhibited significant amounts of confirmation bias, yet he gave no example, no evidence to support that. He did point out that I had once had my doubts about the authenticity of the Ptp photograph but that I had changed my stand in 2017. That looks to me like evidence of absence of confirmation bias on my part, since he wrote that in the middle of his paragraphs attacking the possibility that Ptp is genuine. In other words, on the subject of the Civil War pterosaur photo in question, I displayed a significant lack of confirmation bias.

How is that? It requires an introduction.

I saw the Ptp photograph many years ago, possibly as long ago as 1968 (although it was not known by the name of “Ptp” until early 2017). I began investigating eyewitness reports of apparent modern pterosaurs in 2003. Since then, I have written a scientific paper in a peer-reviewed journal of science (on the subject of reports of modern pterosaurs), four nonfiction books (in nine editions) on the subject, and well over a thousand relevant web pages and blog posts.

In other words, I was aware of Ptp during those many years of writing in support of the concept that some species of pterosaurs are still living. Yet I had doubts about Ptp, doubts that went back many years: I got the impression that those long pointed wings looked a bit like two canoes or a canoe that had been cut in half. That image was shot down, however, early in 2017, and the canoe idea no longer holds water.

How does that relate to confirmation bias? I wrote a few blog posts on Ptp, in 2013, expressing my feelings: I was in limbo, about halfway between believing it had a genuine image of an extant pterosaur and believing it was some kind of hoax. If I was subject to confirmation bias, during those many years in which I wrote in support of the reality of extant pterosaurs, surely that tendency would have caused me to find some little clue that Ptp was genuine, and I would have completely supported the idea. In reality, I came to change my mind only after a canoe expert had convinced me that the wings of the animal in Ptp are not halves of a canoe.

Did I immediately rush into a writing campaign in support of the idea that Ptp had an authentic image of a modern pterosaur? No. I contacted the physicist Clifford Paiva, who informed me of the research he had been doing, over a period of years, on that photo. Then I looked more carefully at the photograph, coming to my own conclusions before writing about my convictions that Ptp is not a hoax.

In other words, I was not at all acting under confirmation bias in coming to the conclusion that Ptp has an authentic image of an extant pterosaur. If I had no confirmation bias then, when did I have it? The critic gives no details, failing to provide even a clue that would support his idea that I have acted from confirmation bias.

Do an online search with “apparent pterosaur” (in quotes). Notice that hundreds of results come up with Google. The first few pages show blog posts and web pages over a period of years, almost all of which were written by me. Yet look deeper and you’ll see that the phrase “apparent pterosaur” is used by me when referring to eyewitness reports that I have received, over a period of years. In other words, when I get a report from a person who has seen what that person believes could have been a living “pterodactyl,” I keep an open mind, referring to it as an “apparent pterosaur.” That means I am not subject to confirmation bias in my investigations in general, for my work in living-pterosaur investigation relates largely to those sighting reports.



Potential Bias in a Photograph of a Modern Pterosaur

. . . when my associates and I were beginning our research, even before our two ropen expeditions in 2004, we were acting from a larger set of eyewitness reports than a typical skeptic would have imagined. Whatever bias we may have had many years ago, the skeptics’ declarations about it were greatly exaggerated.

Monster or pterosaur in a Civil War photograph

The Ptp photo has been around for a long time, apparently long before Freakylinks episodes and decades before Photoshop existed. The physicist Clifford Paiva (California) has examined this older photo in detail, finding a number of clues that this was a real man with his foot on the beak of a real animal.

The Bible and the pterosaur photograph

Clifford Paiva, a scientist living in California, this past January suggested I write a small book about what we have discovered in an old photograph. I just finished writing the nonfiction Modern Pterosaurs, which supports a Biblical timetable regarding the Flood of Noah.

Six American Civil War Soldiers and a Pterosaur

For the past three months, I’ve been looking carefully at the old photo that we now call “Ptp,” which has what appears to be six Union soldiers from around the time of the American Civil War. More important, it also has what appears to be a recently-deceased Pteranodon, which is a type of Pterodactyloid pterosaur, supposedly extinct.