Living Pterosaurs in England

By the modern-pterosaur researcher Jonathan Whitcomb

My investigation, over the past fourteen years, of reports of apparent living pterosaurs verifies what other researchers have learned: These extraordinary flying creatures are nocturnal, at least most of them and for most of the time. Let’s now look at one of those apparent exceptions.

Pterosaur Sighting in Shropshire, England

This is not a rumor I found on the internet or a third-hand account related to me by one of my cryptozoology associates. The lady sent me an email, just last week, and here is a small part of what she said (I’ve made some changes in punctuation, etc):

First let me introduce myself, my name is _____. I am a mother of four and I am 32 years old. I live in Britain on the Welsh border in an area called Whitchurch, Shropshire. I may now add that I am in the best of health mentally, I do not take any form of narcotics nor prescription pills and I do not drink. . . .

With that out the way, I will now tell you what I have seen and the reason as to why I have contacted you. Two weeks ago . .  [mid-morning] I went into the garden to play with my cat, a usual occurrence for me as I love my cats. Anyway, we live near a wildlife reserve which has an abundance of birds and wildlife, including eagles and hawks, heron, geese, swans etc. its usual for them to fly overhead and I see them flying . . .

I saw two pterodactyls, side by side, flying past the tree. . . . [with at least one of them she noticed] a giant-sized beak and the wings had no feathers. . . . [The two flying creatures were] grey in colour . . .

She was stunned. After devoting some time to research all the birds she could find, birds in England and elsewhere, apparently nothing seemed to fit what she had seen. But the most impressive difference, to her, was the sound of the screech of the two apparent pterosaurs that had flown through that area of Shropshire in September of 2017. No bird call was close to that sound.

I suggest that these two flying creatures may be related to the ropen of Papua New Guinea: a large Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur. Like the ropen, the two seen in daylight in Shropshire may actually be mostly nocturnal. Perhaps they were disturbed in daylight and so flew into the air when they would normally be sleeping.

landscape photo - Shropshire, England

A lovely rural area of Shropshire, England

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Other “Pterodactyl” Sightings in England

The blog post linked above appears to have been published online before October 21 of 2012. I’ll summarize two of those reports of apparent pterosaurs:

Near the town of Glossop, Paul Bennet  saw something like a bird, but it had leathery
wings. He mentioned the word pterodactyl in his 1982 report.  At about the same time, Jean Scofield reported, from about 35 miles to the north, in the town of Yeadon, a huge “bird” and estimated the wingspan to be about ten feet.

Could These Flying Creatures be From Africa (Kongamato)?

I can see how some cryptozoologists might speculate that these “pterodactyls,” what some would call “dinosaur birds,” are like the kongamato of Africa and might even be from that continent. I would suspect, however, that such speculation would include the assumption that large flying creatures like these could not have been living in England for centuries without being discovered by scientists. That’s another subject entirely.

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Live pterosaur in Africa

A few years ago, a man from Africa sent me an email about his encounter one night in July of 1988, when he was a boy in Sudan. . . . he noticed, on the roof of his uncle’s house, a strange winged creature. It was about four to five feet tall as it perched, and only about ten feet from a light bulb . . .

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Discovery of a 19th Century Living Pterosaur

In January of 2017, the physicist Clifford Paiva and I talked by phone and agreed that the photograph now called “Ptp” has an authentic image of a modern pterosaur.

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Living pterosaur on Umboi Island

. . . our investigations of apparent nocturnal Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs in Papua New Guinea! . . . Gideon Koro related how he was terrified at the sight of the giant ropen that flew over Lake Pung (around 1994). He and his friends were only children (or in their early teens) when they had climbed up to the crater lake on Siasi (Umboi) Island, Papua New Guinea.

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Dinosaur Birds

The pterosaur is known by several names in the United States: “dinosaur bird,” “flying dinosaur,” and perhaps the most popular “pterodactyl.” In Papua New Guinea, it is known by many names: “ropen,” “duwas,” “indava,” and “kor.” But what shocks many Americans and Europeans are eyewitness reports that these supposedly “ancient” and “extinct” flying creatures are alive . . .

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Kongamato of Africa

Introduction to reports of living pterosaurs in Africa

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Flying Creature

You have seen a flying creature unlike any bird or bat. It’s more like a pterosaur but alive, a “flying dinosaur.” What do you do?

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Recent Sightings of Modern Pterosaurs

By the living-pterosaur cryptozoologist Jonathan Whitcomb

For several months, I have been busy studying and writing about the Ptp photograph (which was apparently recorded before about 1870; I’ve recently written a book about it: Modern Pterosaurs), but I continue to receive eyewitness reports of apparent pterosaurs, especially from the USA. Just yesterday (June 1, 2017) a lady from North Carolina sent me an email, including the following:

I live in Raleigh, North Carolina. I just left . . . when I saw the shadow of big wings on the ground, so I looked up and I saw a winged, brown, species of [pterosaur] flying in the sky in the afternoon around 6 pm while me and a guy was standing at the bus stop.

It was pretty big! It was flying away from us, it had a long tail with a crest on its head that resembled a Rhino-horn-Bill bird. I’m in shock!!

I replied:

Thank you . . . for telling me about this. Could you give an estimate for how far away it was from you?

She answered:

. . . it was probably between 80-100 feet off the ground. I stand at that bus stop almost everyday so if I see it again, I will get my phone out! It was gliding slowly while slightly flapping its wings. My life has been changed forever. I hope I see it at again, I was a skeptic at first, but not now. [her mother and uncle had reported something similar, when they were children, but their mother did not believe them.]

I asked:

You mentioned a long tail. Did you notice [any] detail in it?

She answered:

Yes, the tail looked like it was in the shape of a lions tail, or a (paint brush) if you know what I mean? The tail was brown, long, and at the end of it; there was a diamond shaped bulb. . . . The crest was long enough that it matched the length of its beak.

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Whitcomb photo of the Los Angeles River

Los Angeles River, a little east of Griffith Park (photo by Jonathan Whitcomb)

Pterosaur Sighting North of Los Angeles

I got an email in mid-May of 2017 regarding an apparent pterosaur seen in the San Fernando Valley of California. Here is part of it:

I had the weirdest sighting just recently, maybe 10 days ago approx. . . . saw it when driving towards Encino, somewhere between 134 and 101 [freeways]. I’m a perfectly sane 31 [year-old] man.

I was VERY fond of dinosaurs when I was a kid and . . . know a lot of the
subject. However, I could’ve never expected to see a pterosaur flying
over Los Angeles…. I’m from [northern Europe] and live partly (about half the year) in LA. It was a clear day. I know it was not a bird. Contact me
in my mail, I’ll give you a full story! Thanks . . .

I replied:

Thank you very much for telling me. . . . Yes, I would very much like to know about your sighting, thank you.

He continued:

Maybe May 8th or 9th I was driving on 134 towards Ventura and 101. It was a perfectly clear and sunny weather and the traffic was heavy at maybe approx 10-12 am. The traffic was slow, creeping speed at the point where I was, and I kinda was just lookin around in my car when I saw something oddly large flying in my left corner of the eye. When I looked directly to it,
the very first thing that came in to my mind was that it was not a bird.

It was quite large, bigger than ie. an eagle. Its head and neck resembled
clearly that of a pterosaur more than a bird, and the most remarkable thing that I noticed right away and saw very clearly, is that it had a tail of
some sort. The tail was quite long and seemed to have some sort of wider
part at the end of it.

It moved very differently than a bird would. It just glided through the air effortlessly but in a very straight line at first. It looked like it was moving slow, but then suddenly it was already way ahead of me and i was looking at it from behind. It may have moved quite fast actually.

It flew across 134 heading somewhat to the same direction with the freeway and then I saw it flap it’s wings; the movement of the wings looked somehow different than when birds flap their wings. It was
kinda slower, but maybe because of the size of the wings. The movement was different. I don’t know the words to describe it well enough since English is not my mother language.

. . . The traffic started moving and I had to start paying attention to driving and I lost sight of it. At no point did I start to reach for my phone to take a picture, since I was driving and also I felt it would be futile to try and capture it from such a long distance, keeping a steady hand and operating the car at the same time in the freeway traffic where it’s stopping and moving constantly.

. . . I must say that I’ve never thought that there could be pterosaurs still living, it never occurred to my mind. . . . Never thought of it. But this sighting made me google “pterosaur sightings Los Angeles” to see if anyone else had had this type of weird experience around this city. And to my greatest surprise I found some similar sightings, and to my even greater surprise, in the very same area, near Griffith [Park]! . . .

I replied:

Thank you very much for the many details that you provided. You are
correct about sightings in California, for we do have many there,
including many in Los Angeles County. I’ll pass along this sighting to my associates.

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Modern Pterosaur in North Carolina

Universal extinction is the assumption, in Western culture, regarding pterosaurs, so when somebody reports a pterosaur sighting in Raleigh, North Carolina, we can expect objections from skeptics.

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Civil War Pterodactyl Photo

It seems that either confirmation bias or belief perseverance (or both) has played a role in how some persons have interpreted [and then wrongfully rejected] the photograph.

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Pterosaur sighting in San Fernando Valley

A report of a large flying creature in Sherman Oaks, California, suggests similarities to the ropen of Papua New Guinea. A man reported the creature after he and his girlfriend observed it while taking a walk at about 10:30 p.m., on September 21, 2009.

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Pterosaur Sightings near Griffith Park (Los Angeles), California

The most recent California pterosaur sighting report that I have received is from a flyover of Interstate-5, on May 13, 2013, just southeast of Griffith Park. It was south of Los Feliz (at the I-5), in Los Angeles, just a mile and a half south of where another eyewitness observed three “dragons” flying over the same freeway, two months earlier.

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Confirmation Bias and Living Pterosaurs

By the modern-pterosaur author Jonathan Whitcomb

Glen Kuban has written a long online article: “Living Pterosaurs (Pterodactyls)?” I now acknowledge that he often revises that page, and details that I publish, including quotations, may be seen by him, resulting in corrections that he will make in it. If things continue as they have, in the months of March, April, and May, of 2017, however, the most serious problems in “Living Pterosaurs” will not be much affected by his changes. Why? He continually falls into confirmation bias.

In keeping with his tendency to fall into this kind of error, he has recently fallen into confirmation bias in his writings on the Ptp photograph that the physicist Clifford Paiva and I have been examining. He mentions that the animal in this photo resembles a Pteranodon (apparently meaning it gives some persons that impression), but he gives two lists of reasons why the animal differs from what is now known to paleontologists from fossils of the Pteranodon. He gives those two lists as if they were evidence against that animal being a modern pterosaur.

In reality, Paiva and I have not declared that it must be a species of Pteranodon. We simply suggest it appears similar. In other words, we have stated something very similar to what Kuban states or implies: It gives some persons the impression that it is like a Pteranodon. In compiling those two lists, Kuban believed he was giving people evidence that the animal seen in that photo was not a modern pterosaur. In reality, his two lists are completely irrelevant.

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possibly genuine photo of a 19th-century pterosaur

Kuban himself uses the word “Pteranodon” in his page of criticisms

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The Nature of Confirmation Bias

When a person wants an idea to be true, he or she can be misled by wishful thinking. The person may stop gathering information when the evidence already gathered appears to confirm the views or prejudices he or she would like to be true.

From an objective perspective, a piece of evidence may have a number of possible interpretations, but when someone falls into confirmation bias, that person looks only at an interpretation that fits what he or she wants to be true.

Even when one piece of evidence is actually more likely to fit a person’s desire, it can lead to confirmation bias if that person then refuses to look at any other evidence that could contradict what he or she wants to be true.

Let’s look at one example:

“Very Relevant” Blunder in Glen Kuban’s “Living Pterosaurs” 

The skeptic mentions the use of the word ropen in the village language of the PNG native Jacob Kepas, a Baptist minister. Papua New Guinea has hundreds of local languages. In the village tongue of Pastor Kepas, “ropen” means  bird.

But the skeptic Glen Kuban makes a big mistake in his online article: “This seems like a very relevant piece of information.” It’s more like the opposite: totally irrelevant, unless you believe that a hippopotamus must be a horse that lives in a river.

In the real world, one language often takes a word from another language, but that word can easily change its meaning in the language doing the borrowing. That seems to have happened with the Kovai language of Umboi Island and the local language of the natives of the village where Kepas lived as a child. Which language was first to use the word ropen is unknown, but the other one likely did the borrowing, unless a third language was involved.

For anyone wanting to carry Kuban’s insinuation to its destination, answer this question: Do almost all trees have human hands growing out of them? The answer: No. Since “ropen” in one language means bird, must the word ropen in another language mean bird? No.

As a bird very slightly resembles a modern pterosaur of Umboi Island, a human hand very slightly resembles a branch of a tree. In the Tok Pisin language of Papua New Guinea, the phrase “han bilong diwai” means a tree branch, but word-for-word it appears to say “hand of a tree.” (Han comes from the English word hand.) In other words, that connection between two languages is not evidence that the nocturnal flying creature that glows as it flies over Umboi Island is a species of bird. It is completely IRRELEVANT to the controversy in the Western world over interpretations of eyewitness accounts of apparent modern pterosaurs.

Glen Kuban has again fallen into confirmation bias, expecting to find evidence against extant pterosaurs in modern times, finding something that looks like it may be such evidence, and jumping to the conclusion that it is. Publishing it online, in the long article “Living Pterosaurs”—that practically proves that he did fall into confirmation bias, regarding the word ropen existing in two different languages.

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Confirmation Bias in a Skeptic of the Ptp Photograph

I suggest the writer of that page [BAMPP] has fallen into both confirmation bias and belief perseverance. The combination of the writer’s bias and the extreme length of his online page can cause readers to assume that there must be serious problems with living-pterosaur investigations.

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Pterosaur in an old photograph

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 . . .

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Skeptical responses to the Pteranodon photograph

The winged creature with a Pteranodon-like head shown in Figure-1—that was officially declared to be a genuine pterosaur by Clifford Paiva* and me, Jonathan Whitcomb, on January 14, 2017.

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Photograph in the book Modern Pterosaurs

My friend and associate Cliff Paiva suggested I write this little book, after we agreed that the image of an apparent Pteranodon, in an old photograph, was a real animal.

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“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

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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.

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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.

 

Don’t Shoot Down That Pterodactyl

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.

possibly genuine photo of a 19th-century pterosaur

“Ptp” photograph, now declared genuine

Don’t shoot down that photo yet, however, just because it shows what many Westerners assume is impossible. Also, don’t be distracted by those who make careless criticisms of the images of the soldiers, taking attention away from the animal. Even if those skeptics don’t intend to employ a magician’s trick (distraction), the result is the same. We need to first look at that apparent Pteranodon.

The head of that apparent pterosaur (what many Americans would call a “pterodactyl”) is indeed like what would be expected of a Pteranodon, although not exactly so in every detail. But why should it be 100% like what paleontologists know from Pteranodon fossils? There is no scientific reason that a 19th century pterosaur should be exactly like what is known from fossils, so why should any skeptic object?

Compare Ptp with the Haxan Films Hoax Photo

Now compare Ptp with the television-show fake photo:

fabricated photo - Civil War reinactment

“Freakylinks” hoax photo (imitating Ptp)

The television-show promotional photo is a hoax, made in imitation of Ptp. It was made to look old, probably with something like Photoshop, but the Haxan Films trick-photo actually originated around the year 2000.

Shadows Under the Shoe

One skeptic has said that the shoe (of the soldier standing in front of the animal) does not make any shadow on the beak. That is contradicted by the physicist Clifford Paiva, who has shown us quite clearly that the shoe does cast a shadow on that beak:

shadows in this photo show this is real

Shadows (especially shown by the lower arrows) in Ptp photograph

Yet that skeptical remark caused another web site to mention an apparent lack of a shadow under the shoe. The original non-shadow comment is totally false.

What also see, from magnifying that area of Ptp, evidence that the photograph is indeed old. Paiva noticed a tree branch under the animal’s beak, indicating it was used as a prop. When was that technique used in photography, to keep a person or object still? Before about the year 1870.

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A Shocking Discovery: Nonfiction Modern Pterosaurs

The scientist Clifford Paiva suggested, in January of 2017, that I write a little book about a photograph that has been around a long time. I wrote Modern Pterosaurs in a nonfiction-cryptozoology genre, although it supports a Biblical time-table . . . Yet religion is almost entirely in the background, with an emphasis on what some persons call the “Civil War pterodactyl photo.”

Credibility of a Photo of a Modern Pterosaur

Until four years ago, I had mostly avoided using the “Pteranodon photo” in my writings. Part of my reluctance was in thinking that it appeared too good to be true: After all, for this to be genuine, it would have to have been around since about the middle of the 19th century.

Book About the Pteranodon Photograph

Before getting into the new book, Modern Pterosaurs, about the Ptp photograph, let’s consider the hoax image that has caused confusion: The Freakylinks photo.

Glen Kuban, a critic of living-pterosaur investigators for years, made a mistake regarding Ptp in his long online publication “Living Pterodactyls.” (He also made many other errors in that page, so it will not here be linked to.) As recently as March 26, 2017, one paragraph includes, “Alas, the photo has since been exposed as a hoax—a promotional stunt for a Fox television series.” Alas, that paragraph is next to a small image of Ptp, the photograph that is NOT associated with that television series (Freakylinks).

Civil War pterodactyl or hoax

Someone looking for evidence of Civil War reenactment may have little difficulty noticing one or more problems with the photo on the right. That’s a hoax-photo, made to promote the Freakylinks TV series that aired on the Fox Network from 2000-2001. The photo on the left, however, is older, apparently seen by many readers of a book in the mid-20th century.

Pteranodon in an old photo

On January 14, 2017, Clifford Paiva (a physicist in California) and I spoke by phone and agreed that the following photo has an image of a real animal, with real wings. We stopped short of insisting that it must have been a species of Pteranodon, but it has obvious similarities . . .

Photographie d’un ptérosaure moderne

(in the French language): “Deux photos sont similaires. Un seul est une blague.”

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A Pteranodon in a Civil War photo

“Uncommon bits of information” certainly fits a 19th century photograph of a recently-deceased pterosaur. Long viewed as a paranormal image, the old photo has now become the subject of a book, a nonfiction publication at that: Modern Pterosaurs.

Was a Pterodactyl Shot During the American Civil War?

The [photo] on the left, labeled “Ptp,” has been declared by me and by the scientist Clifford Paiva to have an authentic image of a real animal. In other words, we proclaim that a real animal was photographed, notwithstanding the head greatly resembles that of a Pteranodon . . .

Modern Pterosaurs

Who am I to write about the overall credibility of sighting reports of living “pterodactyls?” After all, this kind of flying creature is said to have become extinct by many millions of years ago.

Live Pterodactyl

Modern living pterosaurs are not confined to remote jungles or wildernesses, although many sightings are reported in Papua New Guinea.

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Credibility of a Photo of a Modern Pterosaur

By the living-pterosaur expert Jonathan Whitcomb (started this post about Jan 13, 2017)

Introduction

By about 2006, at least one or two skeptics had criticized our investigations with words that included this:

If it’s big and flies then it must be a pterosaur

Yet even 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.

Please bear with me, for this introduction is essential to understanding the value of photographic evidence for modern living pterosaurs. The credibility of an individual piece of evidence is one thing; overall credibility is something else. We’ll get to a photo of a non-extinct pterosaur soon enough.

After my Umboi Island expedition, I returned from Papua New Guinea with a determination to publicize what I had learned from the native eyewitnesses. I had always disbelieved in Darwin’s philosophy that life originated from evolution, yet my own perspective on eyewitness testimonies of apparent living pterosaurs—that did gradually evolve a bit. But that particular limited evolution was not toward overall doubt or belief: It was partly an increased awareness that I did not need to come any firm conclusion with every sighting report. I became completely convinced that some pterosaurs are still living on this planet, regardless of the credibility issues with new eyewitness reports.

I came to see the difference between the credibility of one eyewitness report and the overall evidence from all the reports. Early in 2013, I finished compiling much data from some of the more-credible sighting reports up until the end of 2012. Each eyewitness account I judged to be more than 50% likely to have come from an actual encounter with a modern pterosaur. That’s when I came to understand why I had become so firmly convinced of the reality of non-extinct pterosaurs: Those were 128 reports. Using my judgment that each report was more likely than not to have come from a valid sighting, the overall case was overwhelming. From a statistical perspective, it was practically impossible that none of those 128 sighting reports were from an actual living pterosaur. It’s basic math.

I know that a skeptic may attack my judgment regarding the value of individual reports. But this is cryptozoology, after all, not a biologist stooped over a laboratory table, measuring the wing of a recently-deceased Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur.

No matter how a skeptic may feel about it, I am one of the world’s leading experts on sighting reports of apparent pterosaurs. A skeptic may assume, consciously or not, that he or she is objective while ridiculing me, but I am the expert here. Along with all the skeptics, I am human. Yet I have spent over 10,000 hours, in the course of over thirteen years, investigating this controversial subject, with eyewitness reports coming to me from five continents, mostly in emails but with some significant phone conversations and face-to-face interviews.

With all that said, it’s now time for a photo.

A known hoax-photo: non-pterosaur

Let’s begin with what we know, practically for sure. The following image is from a television production, a staged performance that has been said to be an imitation of another, possibly much older, photograph.

fabricated photo - Civil War reinactment

A staged performance, NOT actual Civil War soldiers

Once we know that the men shown above are actors, it easier to see that the thing at their feet is not actually a dead animal but a cheap imitation of one. Details about the television-show episode have little relevance here, but the production decisions that caused this particular staging—that can be important: This appears to be an imitation of an older photograph. I may go into details in another post.

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possibly genuine photo of a 19th-century pterosaur

Photo of a possible 19th-century Pteranodon (although maybe labeled “monster”)

Until four years ago, I had mostly avoided using the “Pteranodon photo” in my writings. Part of my reluctance was in thinking that it appeared too good to be true: After all, for this to be genuine, it would have to have been around since about the middle of the 19th century. Most people in the United States appeared to still believe in ancient dinosaur extinctions, and pterodactyls are thought of as flying dinosaurs. If we got through all the 20th century still believing that way, despite this old photo, then how could this image be what it appears to be? How could it be genuine?

Then I started looking deeper, and guess what: The “Pteranodon photo” is actually far more credible as evidence for modern pterosaurs than we had assumed. It really does deserve a closer examination.

Skeptical Look at the “Civil War Soldiers and Flying Monster” Photograph

One skeptic mentioned a man who pointed out three evidences that this was manipulated using Photoshop. One big problem jumps out here: Some persons report that they remember seeing this photo in the 1960’s or 1970’s. That was long before anything like Photoshop existed.

But it’s the first “red flag” that especially caught my attention:

“. . . the lack of fingers grasping the rifle held by one alleged soldier” [spelling corrected]

Woops! That detail (appearing on the surface to damage the photo’s credibility) actually might shoot down all three of the red flags, indirectly strengthening the case for the authenticity of this photo. The skeptic accidentally shot himself in the foot.

If anyone wanted to create a realistic hoax, for whatever reason, that appeared to be a photograph of a modern pterosaur, what would be needed? Create a realistic-looking pterosaur. The people standing around a recently-deceased pterodactyl—they would be far less important, hardly worth any trouble.

Why would anyone paste an image of a rifle onto a photograph of Civil War soldiers? Those guys already had rifles. Look at the whole picture, noticing the six soldiers holding rifles. It shows eight hands grasping those six rifles. What is the best explanation for that one hand that apparently has no fingers in front of the rifle? Take your pick, but it’s definitely not from anybody trying to create a fake pterosaur.

Notice that this hand is by far the closest (of those eight hands) to an edge of the photo. Maybe the development process had not become completed near that edge. Maybe better photographic development would have allowed those fingers to show up. But we have other possible explanations.

Is it hard to imagine that one out of eight hands holding rifles would actually have no fingers going around a rifle? Maybe one soldier had a blister on one hand.

A skeptic has pointed to those missing fingers as if evidence that the whole photograph is a hoax. If it proves anything, it is more likely the opposite. But coming to a knowledge of the truth sometimes requires digging into the details, using “the little grey cells.”

Look again at the soldier on the far left. Why would any man hold his arm out like that, as if he had a rifle, if he did not have a rifle? It doesn’t matter if he’s a real Civil War soldier or an actor imitating one. The man obviously had a gun when the photo was taken, regardless of where he put his fingers.

The skeptic said that this apparent Civil War photograph had multiple red flags indicating the “almost certain work of photoshop.” The first “red flag” is that hand that does not show any fingers. Now consider why a person would manipulate a photograph in such a way that those fingers would accidentally go missing. The obvious purpose would be this: to remove those fingers from a genuine photo so that it could be made to look like a hoax photo.

The implication we get from the skeptic who mentioned that “red flag” is this: that the fingers were in an original photo but Photoshop manipulating accidentally made those fingers disappear. How does that work? Pasting a rifle onto the image. Why would the careless Photoshop hoaxer ever paste a rifle onto a photograph that had a man holding out his arm? Because a rifle was missing and needed to be put there artificially. And that brings us back to the critical question: Why would any soldier ever put his hand out to his side and only pretend that he was holding a rifle?

When the impossible has been eliminated, what is left, however improbable, is the truth. What appears at a casual glance to be damning evidence of a fraud is, in reality, evidence of shallow thinking, and the most impressive case against the authenticity of this photograph of an apparent Pteranodon—that skeptic’s case—falls apart.

Those men, appearing very much like Civil War soldiers, and their rifles—those are genuine, with no significant doubt. But it brings up something else, a double-agent sort of counter-hoax possibility.

If Photoshop was used to tamper with this photo, it was most likely done to make the genuine photo look like is was tampered with. In other words, a genuine photo was messed with in a way to allow a person to “disprove” it by showing that Photoshop was used. I am not saying this is what happened, but it shows how weak is the skeptic’s “red flag” and that he should have thought about this more carefully. If he continues to insist that Photoshop was used with those missing fingers, then he may find himself becoming a suspect in a different kind of hoax: Messing with a genuine photo of a modern pterosaur to try to deceive people into disbelieving the photo.

So how does shooting down the first of three “red flags” shoot down the other two? The first shell was explosive, not blowing off human fingers but decimating the credibility of the skeptic. The other two “red flags” have their own problems, but that has been covered in one or two of my previous posts.

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Pterosaur Sightings and Photos of . . . Whatever

A critical support for the concept of modern living pterosaurs is the accumulation of sighting reports of those flying creatures. Direct eyewitness testimony of a pterosaur sighting is essential, even if we have to wait many years for photographic evidence.

Pterosaurs Alive

The account in the book continues, “I know what it was. It wasn’t a heron; it wasn’t a vulture; it wasn’t an albatross.” The eyewitness was shocked to see that the creature had both a head crest (common in Pterodactyloids) and a long tail with a “diamond tip” (common in Rhamphorhynchoids).

Ropen Sightings

  • The Big Picture of Modern Pterosaurs
  • Reply to Misidentification Conjectures
  • Rhamphorhynchoid Pterosaurs and Ropens
  • Ropens in Western USA
  • Big Flying Creature in Utah
  • Recent Ropen Sightings
  • Non-Ropen Pterosaur Sighting in Papua New Guinea
  • Van Meter Flying Creature

The Fiery Flying Serpent and Living Pterosaurs

. . . How does all that relate to “The fiery flying serpent and the geologic column?” It’s the dogmatic assertion that all species of pterosaurs should have become extinct many millions of years ago. If the problem were with only one paleontologist, I would not delve into the matter. But the problem is much deeper.

Introduction to Living Pterosaurs

Jonathan Whitcomb introduces basic concepts in living-pterosaur investigations

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When a Child Sees a Pterosaur

I got the following email early in May of 2016 (quoting most of it here, with only a very few spelling corrections):

Mr. Whitcomb,

Three of my children, [up to age eight] are quite sure that they observed a pterosaur above our home in Pottstown, PA, today, mid-afternoon. . . .

Today, while I was at work, my wife contacted me about this. She said that she heard the kids suddenly start screaming in the back yard, and rushed out to see what it was. She is accustomed to the kids playing loudly and such, but said that this was very different–that there was a mix of sincere terror and excitement which was not playing. They were screaming that they just saw a pterosaur. My wife did not see it.

There is no doubt in my mind that they truly believe that they saw a pterosaur. That doesn’t mean that they did–but they truly believe that they did.

When my wife first told me, my first thought was that this was probably a heron. I’m concerned that cryptozoology be credible, and I don’t want to gullibly believe every report just because I want to believe it. But as I interacted with my kids about this, I grew to suspect that they may really have seen something unexpected.

I know that perspective in the sky is very uncertain, but I wanted to get my kids’ impressions of size nevertheless:
They guess that the body was “about as long as a lion.” They guess that the wingspan was “one and a half of our
bathrooms…maybe a little less.” Our bathroom is eight feet long. They guess that the tail was as long as “one and a half broomsticks.”

They emphasize repeatedly that the tail had a knob at the end.

I thought that perhaps, if this were a misidentification, the “tail” might actually be legs, and the “knob” the feet. BUT they insist that they saw short legs and feet BESIDE the tail. THAT is what I find most curious. . . .

They agree that it was tan colored, and that it did not seem to have feathers. “Like elephant skin.” They say that the knob at the end of the tail may have had some kind of fur on it . . . it seemed different, but they weren’t sure what it was.

If they were imagining things, they probably would have mentioned a head crest, since they’re familiar with that image. But, interestingly, they all agree that they did not see any head crest. My oldest noted that it flew directly overhead, so he could not have seen a head crest if there were one. . . .

It was flying east. We live on the west outskirts of town, so presumably it flew over Pottstown.

My younger two saw it flap several times, then glide. My oldest did not see any flapping–he looked up a few seconds later than they did and only saw it glide overhead.

Anyway, the features which most impressed them were the “snout,” the long tail with a knob at the end, and the hands/feet besides the tail. They are very excited about these features. . . .

Thanks.

So what do you do when a child sees a pterosaur? For me, it’s the same as when an adult sees one: get the details like the following:

  • Where was the sighting?
  • When was the flying creature seen? (date and time)
  • Did it have a tail? (if so, was it long?)
  • Were there any feathers?
  • Did it have a head crest?
  • About how big was the wingspan?
  • How many persons were eyewitnesses to it?
  • What did the flying creature do? (flapping wings?)

In this sighting report, much of the information was given to me by the father, who provided many details from what he learned from questioning his children, so I had fewer questions to ask. According to the three eyewitnesses, we have the following:

  1. It was in Pottstown, Pennsylvania
  2. In the first week of May, 2016, mid-afternoon
  3. It had a long tail, maybe six feet long
  4. “It did not seem to have feathers” – maybe fur
  5. It flapped its wings a bit then glided

But should the testimonies of three children be summarily dismissed because of their young ages? Definitely not in this case, for we have three children who were interviewed soon after the sighting, by a father who carefully questioned them. I feel that this father was objective in trying to determine what the children saw.

I believe that they saw a ropen, a long-tailed pterosaur, and I’ll be looking for others to come forward with what they saw flying overhead in the Pottstown, Pennsylvania, area in the first week of May.

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Pterosaur Sightings in the United States of America

On a pleasant day in June of 2012, I walked into the Sheriff station in Lakewood, California, two miles northeast of my home in Long Beach. I knew better than to tell a police officer of my concerns about the safety of family pets now that pterodactyls had invaded the community. . . .

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Duane Hodgkinson saw a "pterodactyl"

YouTube video: interview of a World War II veteran (eyewitness of a pterosaur)

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Mysterious Ropen Lights

Another report of flying lights has surfaced, this one from a wilderness area of Oregon. It seems that the mysterious lights that have been reported to fly over the Yakima River in the state of Washington—those are also seen to fly over a river in Oregon, reported by two cryptozoologists from the Portland area.

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