“Marfa Lights Hunting”

I hope the scientist James Bunnell, author of Hunting Marfa Lights, takes no offense; I could not resist the play on words “Marfa Lights Hunting.” Mr. Bunnell’s nonfiction book on his years of investigating those strange phenomena in southwest Texas—that book, which I highly recommend, deserves notice here:

Results of an Eight-Year Investigation

This is, to date, the only long-term, extensive study of these phenomena. Reports of unusual lights east of Marfa extend back to the 1800s. . . . the author finds that while most of the observed lights in this area can be explained, about 3 percent are truly mysterious and of unknown origin. In addition to frequent on-site observations and photography, the author installed three automated monitoring stations equipped with a total of nine cameras, to collect nightly video records.

Be aware that Mr. Bunnell’s book says almost nothing about the possibility of bioluminescent flying predators except a brief mention of research into barn owls, and he rejects that idea, the suggestion that birds are behind the flying lights. I agree with Bunnell in the specific Tyto alba sense but disagree with him on the general concept of flying predators.

Communicating with Bunnell

I communicated with Mr. Bunnell early in 2010, by emails, telling him about my ideas about nocturnal bioluminescent flying predators that intelligently hunt bats in southwest Texas. He appreciated my hypothesis but said, “Your concept, interesting as it may be, does not fit my collected observations.”

The following are problems that Mr. Bunnell found in my hypothesis that a group of bioluminescent flying predators are hunting bats:

  1. “ML-IIs are also common and sometimes transition into the ML-IIIs”
  2. “I have observed ML-IIs stay in one spot, pulsing on and off for as much as seven hours”
  3. One ML-II grew to an enormous size. It lit up clouds “to an extent similar to the amount of cloud illumination caused by the city of Alpine when viewed from the same distance with overhead clouds at a similar height” (June 3, 2005). Bunnell estimated the size at probably more than one hundred meters in diameter.

Answering the Objections

The first “problem” appears to me to be irrelevant to the overall concept of flying predators, for the only difference between ML-II and ML-III is that the first stays in one place and the second travels. Sometimes an animal stays in one place and sometimes it travels. There’s no real problem with the biological interpretation in general, only, perhaps, in regard to one form of bat-hunting.

The second problem is also irrelevant to the key concept, for an animal may stay in one place for as long as seven hours. One example is sufficient here: a juvenile ropen may wait in one place for many hours, while its parents are hunting for food. That juvenile may turn on its glow periodically so that the parents can find it.

The third problem is interesting but appears to be based on only instance. Nevertheless, it can be answered. A large group of the flying predators may, on rare occasions, engage in courting that involves competition. Many of the adults may gather to prove who has the brightest glow, who is more fit to breed. This may cause an appearance, at a distance, of a very large glowing structure, even perhaps over one hundred meters in diameter. What may be occurring, if a human could get closer to observe better, is that there are many bioluminescent flying creatures displaying their best and brightest potential, and they have gathered in a group, albeit separated enough that they cover a wide area of land, even over a hundred meters in diameter.


James Bunnell has made great contributions to our knowledge of many details about the most mysterious of what are called “Marfa Lights.” He found several problems with my concept of flying predators hunting bats through a particular hunting technique. But those problems involve that particular technique; they do not distract from the overall concept that a group of bioluminescent flying creatures sometimes search for prey near Marfa, Texas.

Mr. Bunnell admits problems in the (non-living) conjectures or hypotheses that he describes in his book Hunting Marfa Lights. I suggest that bioluminescent predators explain what he has observed in those strange flying lights, and that this explanation is much better than anything that other investigators have been able to come up with.



Near Marfa, Texas




"Searching for Ropens and Finding God" was pubished by the author, Jonathan Whitcomb, in April of 2014

Searching for Ropens and Finding God – nonfiction paperback

From the Introduction in the book:

. . . this is not mainly about religion, not in the usual sense. It’s less likely to take you to church than into the lives of ordinary persons who have encountered extraordinary flying creatures, and into the lives of Christians who have risked their health, even their lives, in searching for living pterosaurs. Our disbelief in the General Theory of Evolution has freed us to search far and near, and for years, with a firm belief that God’s purposes will prevail.


Marfa Lights

According to the late-2010 press release “Unmasking a Flying Predator in Texas,” a group of “bioluminescent  flying predators may be hunting at night and catching a few unlucky Big Brown Bats.”

Marfa Lights Controversy

“Are there mysterious lights around Marfa, Texas, which cannot be explained away as commonplace, like night-mirages of car headlights?” The answer? A resounding “Yes!”

Interview of Jonathan Whitcomb

We did not get into any details about the Marfa Lights of Texas, but we did discuss the bioluminescent-pterosaur concept, and Susan Wooten mentioned her experiences watching the Bingham Lights of South Carolina.



Lions, Pterodactyls, and the Marfa Ghost Lights

Creatures of habit—those include predators like the African lion, and that big cat now bridges the canyon separating flying ghost lights and modern pterodactyls. I know that appears to fly in the face of reason, but please consider the nocturnal hunting habit of the African lion, then we’ll examine how habits of Marfa Lights may relate to live pterosaurs.

On a night when a lion pride hunts—maybe every night somewhere in Africa—the prey can be as big as an elephant; but let’s assume the prey is smaller and confined to a particular area for at least several nights, let’s say because of a need for some small animals to stay close to water in a drought. Would not a successful hunt, by hungry lions on a particular night, compel those lions to return to the same area the next night? If they had ever hunted successfully in the same area, two nights in succession, of course it would. But if a particular area gives no reward on one night, the lions could move quite some distance away on the next night, returning to the first area perhaps later in the year, assuming the lions have a large territory.

How are nocturnal Marfa Lights (in particular the CE mystery lights described by James Bunnell in his book Hunting Marfa Lights) like creatures of habit? In the limited area where Bunnell’s cameras record them, they usually remain absent for many weeks, sometimes many months, before returning. If one or more of the cameras records them on a Monday, for example, they will not be seen on the following Thursday or Friday or Saturday or Sunday . . . But the exceptions, those nights in which they do not stay away for many days or weeks or months, are astonishing, for sometimes the cameras record them on successive nights, and sometimes at about the same time of night.

Take the nights of July 14th and 15th, 2006. On the 14th, the lights appeared at 38 minutes after sunset; on the 15th, 37 minutes. How appropriate for a group of nocturnal predators having successful hunting! In fact, it’s easy to imagine those predators being so anxious on the second night that they arrived at the same general area a minute earlier.

Could those two nights have been just a fluke? Bunnell’s methodical record keeping reveals other pairs of nights that support the bioluminescent-flying-predators hypothesis. Those consecutive nights are rare compared with the usual individual nights that are separated by weeks or months of no camera recordings. But they also show an unusual propensity for appearances at about the same general time of night, uncommon for nights that are not consecutive.

Other circumstantial evidences support the bioluminescent-predator hypothesis. Bunnell’s cameras, on May 8, 2003, recorded a relatively straight and level flight of a CE-III ML: It was an eleven-mile Marfa Light flight. A bioluminescent flying creature, albeit unclassified in Western biology, can be imagined performing that flight, but it’s more difficult to imagine for some unknown or speculative atmospheric energy force. The triangulation by the cameras demonstrated that light flew above the ground, over the desert bushes, not on the ground, not on any road or highway.

Whitcomb Replies to Houston Chronicle

The Houston Chronicle printed “What’s going on in Marfa?” in the Sunday, December 19th, 2010 issue, in response to a press release, “Unmasking a Flying Predator in Texas,” by Jonathan Whitcomb. This is a reply to that Houston Chronicle article about the Marfa Lights of southwest Texas.

I was delighted to receive, in my mailbox on Christmas Eve, the “G” section of the Houston Chronicle. I daresay neither Mr. James Bunnell nor I have received much attention for our nonfiction books (his about strange lights in southwest Texas, mine about eyewitness accounts of apparent living pterosaurs and strange lights in the southwest Pacific and in Texas and elsewhere). My relationship with Marfa, Texas, may deserve more attention here.

Over the past seven years, I have received emails (from eyewitnesses of apparent living pterosaurs) from various parts of the world: Australia, Papua New Guinea, Europe, Africa, and elsewhere. But most of the reports come from Americans: Many sightings have been in California, Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas, Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kansas, and in other states. More reports come from California and Texas than from any other two states.

Most of those persons appear to be credible, notwithstanding their accounts of seeing incredible flying creatures (one eyewitness is a professional psychologist; one is a scientist, several are plane pilots). A significant portion of the sightings have been in Texas.

I believe that Claudia Feldman put far more work and more thought into her Houston Chronicle article than did the writer of a recent Houston-Press blog post, who was only sarcastic. Thank you, Ms Feldman.

I was grateful to read that Mr. Stephan said, regarding the precise causes of the more-mysterious lights of Marfa, “It’s all speculation at this point.” I was also grateful to read that Mr. Bunnell said, “The details we still don’t understand.” And I don’t blame either of them for doubting that my nocturnal-pterosaur hypothesis is worth considering; it does seem extremely paranormal (and neither Bunnell nor Stephan is a biologist who is aware of reports of glowing flying predators in various parts of the world; their specialties are in other areas of science).

I believe I understand Mr. Stephan’s invitation to visit Marfa for six months or say no more “about dinosaurs.” (Actually, I use the technically correct word: “pterosaurs.”) But do we really need another Californian visiting Marfa? We have had so many encounters and reported sightings already. I believe that we need more clear thinking, more close-examination of important sighting reports, than we need more sightings from a distance.

Regarding Mr. Stephan’s suggestion, I will agree to say nothing more about pterosaurs around Marfa when most of the following nine conditions have been met:

  1. When credible, respectable eyewitnesses in Texas stop sending me reports of living pterosaurs
  2. When flying lights (recorded by Mr. Bunnell’s cameras) stop flying, just above bushes, at the same speed (faster than birds but slower than airplanes) as the ropen of Papua New Guinea is reported to fly
  3. When those lights around Marfa, the ones people attribute to intelligent flight (but which are obviously not car headlights or other common things) stop returning to that area near Marfa every few weeks, resembling the roaming-hunting pattern of returning predators
  4. When none of the scientists studying the Marfa Lights ever has any sighting like this: A flying light thrashes about in nearby bushes, like “an animal” would.
  5. (To be general) When a biologist with an advanced college degree in biology carefully examines all data from the many reports of apparently-intelligent flying lights around Marfa, and then proclaims no relationship to any behavior of intelligent predators that hunt as a group
  6. (To be specific) When no biologist (who teaches biology at a college) ever observes, in the state of Washington, flying lights just above the surface of the Yakima River, lights that change in intensity, appear like meteors but under the cloud cover (and sometimes not straight but curving in flight, sometimes up rather than down, mostly parallel to the river)
  7. When no biologist observes, over the Yakima River, a bright flash that causes nearby Nighthawk birds to screech in terror, as if they were being hunted by large flying predators
  8. When no biologist, in the state of Washington, ever observes a nocturnal flying creature (associated with strange flying lights) that has “a bat-like wing” (words of a biology professor) and, according to an associate camped with the professor at that time, that same flying creature (that flies, with bat-like wings, over their heads) is described as having a long beak and a long neck
  9. When eyewitnesses, from various parts of the world, stop sending me reports of large or giant flying creatures with long tails but no feathers, and some of those flying creatures glow while they fly at night

I admit that the hypothesis of bioluminescent predators attracting insects to catch insect-eating bats is speculative (and both Mr. Bunnell and I have found problems with my predator-bat-insect interpretation), but the nocturnal-predator idea in general–that fits the behavior of Bunnell’s CE-III ML’s (a type of “Mystery Light” seen near Marfa) better than anything else. They behave too intelligently to be from anything non-living.

I don’t set myself up as somebody who knows exactly what’s going on around Marfa. But I suggest that some of those Marfa Lights know what they’re doing; regardless of human knowledge or ignorance, CE-III Marfa Lights themselves know exactly what’s going on.

Ghost Lights, Barn Owls, and Pterosaurs

Before the publication of the first edition of Live Pterosaurs in America (the second edition should be published by about Thanksgiving, 2010), who would have tied together ghost lights, barn owls, non-extinct pterosaurs? Indeed, before the twenty-first century few Americans ever thought about non-extinct pterosaurs, except those Americans who were eyewitnesses of those flying creatures. But there is a connection, revealed in detail in my nonfiction book and summarized here.

In the United States, mysterious lights that fly as if directed by some intelligence—those lights are sometimes called “ghost lights.” They may fly down railroad tracks or abandoned rail lines at night; some fly down country roads. When one of them flies like a hunting barn owl would fly, then it is probably . . . well, a hunting barn owl. “But barn owls don’t glow,” you say? Well, actually some of them do glow, though you will not likely find a biology-textbook page containing “barn owl” by looking up “bioluminescence” in the index. You will find, however, in a book by bird expert Fred Silcock (of Australia), many references to glowing barn owls; in fact, the whole book is about glowing barn owls: The Min Min Light, The Visitor Who Never Arrives.

I was delighted when my copy of this book arrived in the mail. I had explored a remote tropical island in Papua New Guinea, to search for a bioluminescent flying creature called “ropen,” so I was already heavily involved in the mysteries of strange flying lights. I noticed, while reading the Silcock book, that the way glowing barn owls fly differs from the way ropens fly: Owls make a slow zip-zag at low altitude; ropens fly straight at higher altitude. In addition, the ropen of Umboi Island glows very brightly but for only a few seconds at a time; barn owl Min Mins glow less brilliantly but for a long time. Most telling, when a glowing owl is seen up close, it is seen to be a barn owl (“Great Owl” is what Australians call it); when a ropen is seen up close, it is seen to be a long-tailed pterosaur (“Rhamphorhynchoid” is what my associates and I call it).

Not all American ghost lights fly down old rail lines, weaving back and forth like hunting barn owls. Consider the Marfa Lights of southwest Texas. The truly mysterious lights of Marfa (not the mirages of car headlights)—those lights behave intelligently, in fact too intelligently to be barn owls, and they are too bright. Indeed, they resemble some of the mysterious lights in Papua New Guinea, although they usually glow much longer than the ropen of Umboi Island. Consider the dancing behavior of the mysterious lights in southwest Texas; that is far from any common behavior of barn owls. My investigation has revealed significant circumstantial evidence that the Marfa Lights are made by bioluminescent flying predators. I strongly suspect that they are related to at least some of the bioluminescent pterosaurs of the southwest Pacific. Yes, there seem to be more than one species of living pterosaurs. Why not read the second edition of my nonfiction book, Live Pterosaurs in America?

Apparent-pterosaur sketches compared

two sketches, by Aaron Tullock and Eskin KuhnWhat can we learn by comparing the sketch by Aaron Tullock to the one by Eskin Kuhn? First we need to compare the sightings and the reporting of those sightings. Then we’ll examine the two sketches.

Aaron Tullock’s 1995 sighting of an apparent pterosaur was in Marion County, Texas. He drew a color sketch, showing a number of details described in his words; he drew in the common style, in which the mental image is not used directly but interpretted subconsiously first: “left brain” drawing. [see top image]

Eskin Kuhn’s 1971 sighting of two apparent pterosaurs was at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. Soon afterwards he drew a sketch in realistic style (but not, apparently, to show realistic color), for he is a talented artist. This technique of sketching has been referred to as “right brain” drawing. [see bottom image]

Mr. Tullock made no immediate formal report of his 1995 sighting, for he was only eight years old; who would have taken him seriously? He reported his sighting to me in 2009 (I interviewed him in January, 2010), and that throws light on the reliability of his experience. Why? Childish imaginings do not usually remain misunderstood after a person grows into adulthood; even what is vividly imagined will normally become revealed as imagination as a person matures. My communications with Mr. Tullock revealed no symptom of any abnormality related to potential hallucination or delusion, and I have had adequate experience with those with that kind of problem. I believe that Mr. Tullock observed a flying creature with features basically the same or similar to those that he described to me.

Mr. Kuhn revealed his sighting years ago, and his sketch (of two pterosaurs) has been online for some time. I surprised him with a phone call early in 2010. His communications with me convinced me of his honesty. I believe that he observed creatures with features basically the same or similar to those that he described to me.

So why do the sketches show details both similar and dissimilar? A long tail on a featherless flying creature is obvious, as is the Rhamphorhynchoid flange at the end of the tail. On the other hand, the difference in the feet are striking, as is the difference between the heads (including teeth and lack thereof), and the general coloration. Although the drawing style is very different, in this case that has little relevance, for the differences reveal much more. Before giving the obvious explanation, I need to explain something.

For six years, I have interviewed eyewitnesses of apparent living pterosaurs. People of various beliefs, languages, and cultures have reported to me what they have seen in various countries around the world. I have written two books on living pterosaurs and a scientific paper in a peer-reviewed journal of science. I dare say that nobody else has written hundreds of web pages and blog posts on living pterosaurs, not that I am more intelligent than anybody else; perhaps I am stubborn and outspoken. But my experiences have proven to me that there are a number of species of pterosaur living in various parts of the world, although they may be somewhat rare and mostly nocturnal.

The creatures seen by Eskin Kuhn and Aaron Tullock represent two distinct species of Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur. The pair seen by Kuhn are probably nocturnal (I believe the coloring was bland and most modern pterosaurs are nocturnal), not necessarily very rare; the one seen by Tullock is probably not nocturnal (judging by the coloring) but maybe very rare (judging by the rarity of sightings). For now, what we most need are more eyewitnesses who are willing to come forward, at least as far as to communicate with me; if they choose to be anonymous, I respect that desire. Any suggestions?

By the way, both sightings were in clear daylight, with no obstructions; both involved only one eyewitness, but that is rather common. Fortunately both eyewitnesses have agreed to have their names revealed. In regard to the differences in the sketches, why is drawing style mostly irrelevant here? The verbal descriptions that the eyewitnesses gave to me differ: teeth, no head crest, long claws on feet, bright coloration; no apparent teeth, head crest, no description of long claws on feet, no description of anything bright.

See also: “Texas Pterosaur” (Cryptid Eyewitness)

Somewhat related to: Marfa Lights of Texas (Living Nightmare: Attack in the Dead of Winter)