Ropen Seen by Duane Hodgkinson

By living-pterosaur expert Jonathan Whitcomb

Over the past thirteen years, I’ve often written about the pterosaur sighting by Duane Hodgkinson. My associates and I consider his sighting report to be one of the more important ones in our field of cryptozoology.

Why do I mention his ropen sighting again? The skeptical writings of Glen Kuban need to be answered, for his recent remarks about Duane Hodgkinson can be extremely misleading, even if Kuban is sincere and even if he has never been dishonest. Indeed, he seems to me to have mislead himself, but I’ll save that subject for later.

“Living Pterosaurs” by Glen Kuban

As of late October, 2017, this web page is enormous: According to Character-Count-Online, it has 229,223 characters, which is more text than is found in many books. At 5.1 characters per average word, “Living Pterosaurs” would have almost 45,000 words, but it seems that Kuban sometimes uses longer words: Character-Counter-Online reveals his online publication has only 36,273 words. Take it in context: Many web pages and blog posts have between 100 and 400 words.

What’s the relevance? This web page is apparently orchestrated to convince people of one or more of the following:

  1. Living-pterosaur cryptozoological investigations have failed
  2. Eyewitness reports of non-extinct pterosaurs have practically no value
  3. “Creationists” who believe in living pterosaurs are wrong
  4. All pterosaur species are extremely likely to have become extinct many millions of years ago

So what’s wrong with those points? In Western societies, mass extinctions of all species of dinosaurs and pterosaurs are taken for granted. Axioms of standard paleontology are trumpeted into our ears since early childhood, so what’s wrong with somebody publishing a web page portraying that all pterosaurs are extinct? It’s the many hundreds of paragraphs. “The lady doth protest too much.”

If the investigations into eyewitness reports of apparent living pterosaurs are as worthless as Kuban portrays them to be, then why did he write and publish a web page that is about 100 times as large as a typical web page on the internet? Why has he gone to such enormous trouble to convince people of what the vast majority of Westerners take for granted: the idea that all species of pterosaurs are long extinct? Surely part of the reason is because somewhere deep down he has come to doubt that extinction axiom and is trying to convince himself that my associates and I are completely wrong.

Duane Hodgkinson — Eyewitness of a Living Pterosaur (LP)

Before reading any part of Glen Kuban’s web page, please be aware of the following:

  • Kuban probably never communicated with Hodgkinson
  • Kuban possibly never interviewed ANY LP eyewitness
  • Kuban is NOT a cryptozoologist

With the above three points in mind, after reading the following feel free to visit Kuban’s “Living Pterosaur” web page, for you’ll then be better prepared to be objective in comparing our differing opinions about the possibility of living pterosaurs.

Garth Guessman and I have interviewed Duane Hodgkinson extensively with independent interviews. Guessman and I understand what this World War II veteran told us about his army buddy, the other man who also saw the huge “pterodactyl.”

To the best of my (Jonathan Whitcomb) knowledge, that army buddy never did anything like deny seeing a giant pterodactyl except within the first few seconds or minutes of their sighting. Nothing in our interviews with Hodgkinson indicate anything other than the following:

The army buddy was adamant about not wanting to talk about the encounter. He never denied that they had seen a pterosaur, in the usual sense of denying something. He never said anything that would suggest there was any bird or any bat involved. He simply insisted that he would keep quiet about what they had seen. In other words, he made it clear that he would never admit that they had seen a gigantic living pterosaur.

In other words, it’s quite possible that, after leaving that jungle clearing, the buddy never mentioned the encounter, preferring to keep quiet about it for the rest of his life.

Now see what Kuban says in the October 7th version of “Living Pterosaurs:”

“Hodgkinson’s friend and fellow witness to the incident was a biologist, and denies that they ever saw a pterosaur.”

Take that in context. Kuban apparently never communicated with either Hodgkinson or the army buddy. Guessman and I have interviewed Hodgkinson, and it was clear to us what the veteran said about the buddy who had no desire to tell anybody that they had seen a living pterosaur the size of a small airplane. The denial was ONLY immediately after the sighting, and nothing was said by that buddy about any possibility of any misidentification.

In other words, that buddy preferred to pretend that they had seen nothing at all. If anyone has interviewed that man, I would be interested to know what he said, but all we have to go on, for now, is what Hodgkinson has told us.

Kuban says, “Whitcomb displays a large degree of confirmation bias here, by fully trusting Hodgkinson’s word and memory, while dismissing without basis the testimony of his more scientifically knowledgeable friend.” Yet Kuban never seems to have interviewed either eyewitness, and Guessman and I have interviewed the only one who has, apparently, ever been interviewed regarding this sighting in 1944.

Kuban seems to have completely missed the point that seems perfectly clear to me and to Guessman: The army buddy had no intention of setting himself up for ridicule. Why would any soldier want to be laughed at and made to look like a fool?

Do Guessman and I, who have personally interviewed Hodgkinson, have a bias that is more severe than that of Kuban, who has apparently never interviewed anyone? Let’s look at this logically:

If the buddy was indeed “more scientifically knowledgeable,” as Kuban says he was, then why is no mention ever made about any possible misidentification? Why did neither of the eyewitnesses, apparently, ever say anything about any misidentified bird or bat? Only one explanation do I see here: Almost any person with education in science who saw a strange bird or bat in a jungle clearing, and who had a companion who said that it was a pterodactyl, would say SOMETHING about the possibility that it was a bird or a bat. Why did that “scientifically knowledgeable” man insist that they had seen nothing? It’s this: Hodgkinson was right and no bird or bat was involved.

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ropen eyewitness Duane Hodgkinson, a World War II veteran

The late Duane Hodgkinson, who was a flight instructor

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A Psychologist saw a Living Pterosaur

Sighting on Bougainville Island, New Guinea, in 1971, and how it relates to the pterosaur sighting by Duane Hodgkinson

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Nonfiction books for LDS

The nonfiction Searching for Ropens and Finding God was written for readers of all faiths, with astonishing eyewitness accounts from around the world, from ordinary persons from different cultures and religions.

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American soldier sees a “pterodactyl”

Duane Hodgkinson saw a living pterosaur

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Confirmation Bias and Living Pterosaurs

Paiva and I have not declared that it [the apparent pterosaur in a photo] 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.

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Books by LDS Authors

This includes the cryptozoology book Searching for Ropens and Finding God (by Jonathan Whitcomb of Murray, Utah).

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Cryptozoology books for Mormons and other Christians

I knew from the beginning that some readers would be LDS, yet I mostly had a broader audience in mind: Christians who had long maintained faith in the Savior of mankind but who had become troubled by the philosophies of the world, in particular indoctrination into the extreme naturalism philosophy . . .

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Peer-reviewed scientific paper on live pterosaurs

Creation Research Society Quarterly scientific article on live pterosaursEyewitness sightings in “Reports of Living Pterosaurs in the Southwest Pacific,” include the sighting by Duane Hodgkinson, the World War II veteran. This excerpt is from Volume 45, Number 3, of the Creation Research Society Quarterly (Winter issue, 2009).

Other eyewitness testimonies are included in this scientific paper; in fact testimonies are divided into “Western” and “Native.”

Western eyewitnesses: Hodgkinson, Hennessy, an Australian couple (anonymous), Woetzel, and Nation. Native eyewitnesses: Kepas, Gideon, Wesley, Mesa, Jonah, and Jonathan. Parts of the Hodgkinson section are as follows:

In 2004 I interviewed Duane Hodgkinson, of Montana . . . He was then videotaped by Guessman in 2005. He and an army friend were in a jungle clearing west of Finschhafen . . . in 1944 . . . when something “huge” took off into the air from the far side of the clearing. The creature ran to their left, taking six to ten steps to get airborne and ascended at an angle of about 30 degrees . . . It then disappeared over the dense brush but soon returned and flew over the clearing, presenting a “perfect side view” of its features . . . .

. . . He estimated the legs to be 3–4 ft (1–1.2 m) long. The top of the back was 5–6 ft . . . above the ground just before takeoff. Although he did not notice details of the tail, he estimated it was “at least” 10–15 ft (3–4.6 m) long. He compared the wingspan to a Piper Tri-Pacer airplane (~29 ft or 9 m). The length of the head, not counting the appendage, was about 3–4 ft (1–1.2 m), similar to the length of the neck. An appendage protruding from the head, above the neck, was about half that length, and both the head and appendage were parallel to the neck . . . During flight, the feet were tucked up to the body. Hodgkinson was unsure of other features. The color was dark but not black. . . .

See also Ropen Pterodactyl American Eyewitness on Youtube (a videotaped interview with Duane Hodgkinson, with Garth Guessman conducting the 2005 interview; edited by Jonathan Whitcomb)

Nocturnal Pterosaurs

When Susan Wooten’s sighting in South Carolina began receiving more attention, one critic proclaimed that a large modern pterosaur would be impossible so near the Atlantic coast of the United States, for thousands of beach-goers would have seen it. That critics seems to assume that any large pterosaur living in South Carolina would have shown up at the beach in daylight, causing news headlines; since he did not see any relevant news report, then no large pterosaur could live there.

How rarely critics consider the whole picture! The overall reports of living pterosaurs around the world suggest these creatures are mostly nocturnal. It’s not just the rarity of daylight sightings. Specific flight behavior at night suggests they are nocturnal.

Then why should they ever appear in daylight? Consider two dramatic daylight sightings in Papua New Guinea, where the nocturnal ropen is believed to fly with a bioluminescent glow at night. Both cases involve a large or giant “prehistoric” creature, with no sign of feathers, flying at low altitude. Both may have been Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs, awakened from sleep in daylight and frightened into flying away from potential danger.

In 1971, in daylight, on Bougainville Island, Brian Hennessy saw something he will never forget. In his own words, “. . . our truck had stopped on our downward journey from the top of the range to the coast way below. . . . I can’t remember why our vehicle had stopped. Maybe we had to wait for another vehicle to pass us. . . . I saw a very unusual creature. Firstly, it was very big . . . a longish narrow tail . . .”

I asked Mr. Hennessy, “Was anything coming out the back of the head . . . a crest,  appendage, horn, or comb?” He replied, “It was like a horn.”

The two vehicles may have startled the creature from sleep. Many years earlier and many miles to the west was another sighting.

In 1944, in daylight, west of Finnschafen (mainland New Guinea), Duane Hodgkinson saw something he will never forget. At the edge of a clearing, he and his army buddy were gazing at some large ants, bigger than any ants in Ohio. Some animal, at first unseen, came running through the grass. Something then flew up from the far side of the clearing, apparently startled by the running animal. Hodgkinson soon realized that it was not a bird, for it was too big and it had a long appendage coming out the back of the head. He then concluded that it was a “pterodactyl.” At about the time it flew away, a wild pig came running past.

I am convinced that both Hennessy and Hodgkinson saw Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs (on Umboi Island, the animal is called “ropen“). The 1944 sighting seems to have involved a large ropen awakened from sleep by a wild pig.

But the ropen is rarely seen in daylight, by Umboi natives. It is said to catch its food at night, on reefs that surround the island. Its described behavior resembles that of the kor, which islanders to the north say catches fish at night. Deep in the mainland of Papua New Guinea a large flying creature is said to fly at night: the indava. These three native names may refer to the same type of animal, for all accounts include a glow that flies at night. Of course intrinsic bioluminescence would not make it impossible for a creature to come out in daylight; it only makes a daylight appearance rare.

See also Pterosaur in South Carolina and also Hennessy Pterosaur

Consider reading more about nocturnal pterosaurs: Cliff Paiva report