More “Pterodactyls” in North Carolina

By living-pterosaur expert Jonathan D. Whitcomb

This answers some of what is found in two newspaper articles published online, both of which reported, in mid-January of 2018, sightings of apparent living pterosaurs, or “pterodactyls,” in North Carolina. They also commented on my writings on these flying creatures. Because of mistakes and weaknesses in these two newspaper stories, I don’t want to make them too dominating in search engine results: I won’t provide links here, but both articles should be easy enough to find.

“Are there flying dinosaurs in NC? One woman says she’s seen them 3 times in Raleigh” — in the News & Observer, January 11, 2018 (N&O)

“Flying Dinosaurs Sightings Are On The Rise in North Carolina” — in Charlotte Stories, January 12, 2018 (CS)

I don’t mean that publishing those two news articles did more harm than good, not at all. People in North Carolina, and in other states of the USA, need to know that these sightings are taking place. It’s just that accuracy and fairness were far from perfect.

Definition of “Cryptozoology”

I’ll give my own definition:

Cryptozoology is a collection of human activities, each of which involves some degree of positive thinking about the possibility that a potentially real animal, one that has not yet been accepted as real by Western scientists in general, is a real animal.

I suggest that the above definition is more accurate than many others, especially the one on Wikipedia. Unfortunately, the writers of the N&O news article chose to use something like the Wikipedia definition.

Using the above definition, however, can help people to understand that cryptozoology is not pseudoscience, not unscientific, and is not a branch of zoology. The Wikipedia article is not 100% wrong, yet it is far from accurate and completely wrong in saying “it does not follow the scientific method.” It could be more accurate to say that scientists do not follow the scientific method in their common daily routines.

In reality, any cryptozoologist can use the scientific method as much or as little as he or she chooses. For example, I have used wingspan estimates from a compilation of sighting reports and came to conclusions based upon the shape of that overall numeric data. That was only one step in a process, however, for the scientific method involves a number of processes. The final stage came to this: the overall data from the 128 more-credible sighting reports points to these encounters being with real animals, and most of the sightings, if not all of them, were most likely of modern living pterosaurs.

wingspan estimates for modern pterosaurs

Seventy-four of the eyewitnesses made estimates for wingspan

From the book Searching for Ropens and Finding God (cryptozoology book)

Am I (along with my Associates) Crazy?

The News & Observer article may not be far off when it says, “Dismissed as lunacy by paleontologists and other academics, Whitcomb’s work . . .” In reality, however, only a tiny fraction of the paleontologists of the world, or even in the United States, are likely aware of my work. Among those limited numbers who know about my living-pterosaur investigations, a few have been vocal in criticizing my work and writings or ridiculing the religious beliefs of me and my associates. In reality, only a tiny fraction of my writings have been about religion, and the critics have usually written as if they knew my religious beliefs. In other words, they write about what they imagine I believe rather than about what I have actually written or about what I actually believe.

Why do I mention that kind of belief here? Many of the scientists who criticize the ideas of me and my associates often write about our religious beliefs, something even mentioning religion more than they mention anything scientific.

If my associates and I are in the minority, among Western scientists and researchers, regarding religious belief in scriptures (like those about the Flood of Noah in the Bible) that does not make us crazy. It may, however, make us resemble Sir Isaac Newton much more than our critics resemble him, in terms of belief in the Bible.

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Smoky Mountains of North Carolina

Smoky Mountains in North Carolina

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4th edition, front cover: Searching for Ropens and Finding God

Fourth edition of Searching for Ropens and Finding God, by Whitcomb

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Pterodactyl sighting in Raleigh, 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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Apparent Living Pterosaurs in North Carolina

Where do these flying creatures appear? They have been reported in Raleigh, Durham, Asheville, Wilmington, and in other areas of N.C.

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Talk-show interview of Whitcomb early in 2018

Whitcomb wrote nine editions of four nonfiction books, one scientific paper in a peer-reviewed journal of science, and over a thousand web pages and blog posts on sighting reports of featherless flying creatures described like pterosaurs.

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Living Pterosaurs

Glen Kuban (GK) and I have a few things in common. We’ve both been writing about reports of apparent extant pterosaurs (or those who believe in them) for a long time, and we’ve written a lot. I started late in 2003; and GK, in 2004. We differ, however, in how we interpret those reports.

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Living Pterosaurs Declaration on “Clear Thinking”

The second part of PLP goes into more details, regarding encounters with apparent extant pterosaurs, compared with DLP, and there is limited overlapping of what sightings are covered.

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Living Pterosaur in South Carolina

I may have included the following eyewitness report of a living pterosaur in one of my nonfiction books, but it seems that I have not previously published the account online, so here it is . . .

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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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Pterosaur Sighting 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. That’s what we got earlier this year, on a musicians’ forum called “The Gear Page.” The sighting was around March 24, 2013:

Ok… so I saw a Pterodactyl up close tonight. Not joking. . . .

I was driving along on I-540 in Raleigh at sundown tonight, cruising at about 70 mph, heading to my weekly jam session with my buddy. All of a sudden I see the HUGE bird looking thing fly across the overpass I was on, maybe 20-25 feet in front of my car and about 7 or 8 feet off the ground. . . .

. . . it had an enormous pointed beak, with a pointed top of its head. . . . the wingspan was probably about 5-6 feet . . . bony wing structure ending in points (almost like sails) with what looked like small claws in the middle . . . the body looked like greyish fur or dark skin. . . .

The eyewitness also reported what appeared to be two legs that were held out behind the creature and a long tail that had “a spade at the end.” Perhaps the most critical factor in the observation was that the legs were separate from the long tail that had a structure at its end, for that suggests a non-extinct Rhamphorhynchus-type pterosaur.

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Interstate-540 highway near Raleigh, North Carolina --- photograph by Dougtone

Highway I-540 near Raleigh, N.C. – photo by Dougtone

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Remark by a Critic-Skeptic

More than likely what your brain remembers that you saw, is not what [occurred] in reality. . . . [Eyewitnesses] are the most unreliable source of information that I know of.

I understand that eyewitnesses sometimes appear to remember one or more details that turn out to be completely wrong; in fact, this is common. I myself have encountered that human mental weakness after answering police questions about my observations of a man who was running away from the scene of a homicide in Pasadena, California, many years ago. After that, and after other personal experiences with misinterpretations, I have learned to be more careful about drawing conclusions about what I remember about an experience.

But the skeptic who made the above remark appears to be unaware of a human weakness that has even greater potential for error than eyewitness error: interpreting another person’s experience according to our own pre-conceived assumptions.

What is Even More Unreliable Than Eyewitness Testimony?

To best understand this problem, let’s examine what can happen with eyewitness error. We’ll use a true-life example from years ago, in a usually peaceful neighborhood, not in North Carolina, in Long Beach, California. I don’t recall all the details, but what I add does not change any relevant principle: In the basics, this really happened, although it has no direct relationship to any pterodactyl sighting.

Brad brought his daughter home from high school one afternoon and walked with her into the house; she was crying, obviously upset about something. They soon left, leaving the house with nobody home.

Later that day, Brad returned but entered through the back door, or at least entered where the back door used to be. He called the police to report the door that had been broken down. The police officer was embarrassed in answering the report. Here’s why:

While Brad was gone, a neighbor had reported to the police that a strange man had taken a young lady captive at gun point, taking the girl into that house. You know the rest.

So what happened in the mind of the eyewitness? He saw a man, with something in his hand, walking with a young lady who was in tears. The eyewitness unconsciously used his imagination to fill in the appearance of a gun, or saw only just enough that he believed that it could have been a gun. Also critical in this misunderstanding, he did not recognize that the man was his neighbor, not a stranger to the neighborhood. If he had recognized the man as father to the young lady, the eyewitness would not have allowed his imagination to run wild.

But what about the police officer who received the report? Would it have been appropriate for him to assume that no gun was involved? Of course police officers must be prepared for the worst and respond to that kind of report.

What if a police officer received a report of a man with a gun, a man who had a Nazi swastika emblem on his shirt? If the police officer had been raised from childhood with the believe that all Nazis had become extinct in 1945, would that justify ignoring the report and assuming there was no gun involved? This reveals another weakness in reasoning.

What is less reliable than eyewitness testimony? It’s imagining that somebody did not experience what was described because it does not fit well into the assumptions of the person who received the report. Changing a report to be more in harmony with our own assumptions is far more likely to result in errors than reporting a personal experience.

Both the eyewitness and the one receiving the report are human. Both are subject to the human weakness of mentally manipulating what is experienced to become more harmonious with deeply held assumptions. The different between these two persons is that the eyewitness directly experienced what was reported; the other person has no direct experience, only the report and his imagination.

Changing details in a report of another person’s experience is like looking out a window smeared with rain drops and observing what is happening in the living room of your neighbor’s house across the street. You do so by looking through two windows that are both smeared by rain drops. The eyewitness, on the other hand, looks through only one window smeared with rain drops. Beware of trying to peer into another person’s mind to manipulate things to harmonize with your own assumptions.

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Why Pterosaur Extinction may be Wrong

At about sundown, but with sufficient light, on March 23, 2013, the eyewitness . . . was driving on the I-540, in or near Raleigh, North Carolina, when he had his encounter.

Little Known Pterodactyl Sightings

I saw [it] in October 2009 in Charlotte, NC . . . it was at night. I was standing outside my car on the phone when I saw the creature emerge directly over the three-story building I was standing next to. . . . It looked like what I had seen in a Jurassic Park movie . . . [I got] my cousin, who was in my passenger seat, out the car so I didn’t see it alone. He did . . . I know what we saw. [North Carolina pterosaur sighting in Live Pterodactyl blog]

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