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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Flying Dinosaur Still Flies in Cuba

Gitmo Pterosaur (“Gitmo” refers to Guantanamo Bay Naval Base)

I have recently learned that Eskin Kuhn is not the only eyewitness of a large long-tailed pterosaur (Rhamphorhynchoid) at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. On May 4, 2011, I interviewed, by phone, Patty Carson, who now lives in Southern California but who witnessed a “flying dinosaur” at Guantanamo Bay, in 1965. Although she was only a child at the time, she immediately told her family about the frightening encounter, and although her family disbelieved her at the time, her testimony of the appearance of that flying creature now verifies the plausibility of Kuhn’s 1971 sighting. Patty verified that the sketch drawn by Kuhn is very similar to what she had seen in 1965.

Confirmed: Modern Pterosaurs in Cuba

The wings connect with the legs in a strange way, perhaps not exactly orthodox according to what would be proper for a fossil of a pterosaur, but the detailed sketch by the U.S. Marine Eskin Kuhn has recently be validated by another eyewitness of a modern pterosaur: a registered nurse in California, who had seen the same type of flying creature in Cuba, a few years before Kuhn’s sighting. Both encounters were in daylight, at a close distance, and at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba.

Rhamphorhynchoid Pterosaur

After eliminating any reasonable possibilities of hoax or misidentification, the obvious explanation for these two sightings is that a large modern Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur (long-tailed “flying dinosaur”) lives in the Caribbean, or at least did live in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Misidentification of a known bird, for either the 1965 or 1971 sighting, is eliminated by the many teeth observed in 1965 and the sketch drawn by Kuhn in 1971 (in addition to the noted abscence of feathers in both sightings). Misidentification of a known bat, for either 1965 or 1971, is eliminated by the huge size and long tail in both sightings.

What about one or two hoaxes? That explanation also fails upon detailed examination of the reports. Eskin Kuhn has maintained the truthfulness of his sighting for decades, even enduring ridicule from some thoughtless critics; he is not a hoaxer. Patty Carson has only recently revealed her own sighting (she has only recenly learned about Kuhn’s sighting, so she is not alone), but has told us that she was only about six years old at the time: a very unlikely detail for a hoaxer to invent.

Some critic might try to dismiss her sighting because of her young age, and the many intervening years, but she told her father (the commander at Guantanamo at the time) about the huge flying creature just minutes after the encounter, and Daddy dismissed the account immediately; if such a creature existed, an adult would have seen it (six years later an adult saw the “pterodactyl”). Youthfulness cannot be used to dismiss an experience that is shared by someone who is not so youthful.

There are now a number of online sources for more about this 1965 “flying dinosaur” sighting by Carson.

Corroboration for Kuhn Pterosaur in Cuba

I was around six years old. . . . We were walking down near the boat yards, headed home. . . . where it was sandy underfoot, sparse scrub vegetation around four feet tall . . . suddenly it sat up, as if it had been eating something or resting. . . . right in front of us about thirty feet away. All of us froze for about five seconds, then it leaned to its left and took off with a fwap fwap fwap sound . . .  and flew to its left and disappeared behind trees and terrain.

It did have a tail and it had a diamond shaped tip . . . The skin was a leathery, brownish reddish color. It had little teeth, a LOT of them . . . It was as tall as a man when it stood up on it haunches.

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?

Are the ropens always nocturnal?

In August of 2009, a university student in Papua New Guinea sent me an email. Here is part of it: (minor English corrections for grammar and spelling, etc)

Hi. My name is Rex Yapi. I’m a second-year business-accounting student at the PNG University of Technology in Lae City. [The city of Lae is on the mainland, many miles from Umboi Island (called by these people “Siasi”), where this sighting took place and where I, Jonathan Whitcomb, explored and interviewed eyewitnesses in 2004.]

I just want to [tell] you of the current sighting of the dragon named “Ropen.” I was on an out-board motor as early as 9 a.m., when we saw a giant creature floating along the coast line near Bunsil Bay.  Its body was submerged under the sea but its tail was emerged. I saw that its tail is about 6-7 meters long with a sharp diamond-shape. It was an awesome scenerio and I started pointing to the others towards the object. It was floating 10 meters away from the boat and its color was brownish-dark without any form of hair.

Being in fear, we stopped the boat to let it pass by. Later I was told that Bunsil Bay Coast Line up the Goosh River is the normal route which Ropen takes when it’s coming into Umboi Island from the mainland of PNG. . . .

It seems that the ropen does appear in daylight, on rare occasions. Thus we have eyewitness accounts with detailed descriptions, including detailed estimates of tail length. This consistent description of a long tail refutes the criticism that the ropen is just an unclassified species of bat, rather than a pterosaur. Critics consistently ignore reports of long tails.

Around 2004, the paleontologist Glen Kuban wrote a web page (revised, apparently, through 2007) criticizing the belief that any pterosaurs are still living. He says, “A number of large birds, as well as large fruit bats, can present pterosaur-like shapes, especially if seen from a distance or in silhouette.” But his web page says nothing about any long tail reported on an apparent modern pterosaur. A sketch of a long-tailed pterosaur he displays, as well as two photos of the giant Flying Fox fruit bat (those bats appear to have no tail at all). Why speculate about sightings in the dark? Some daylight sightings of ropens reveal a long tail.

The only instance of the word “tail” on Kuban’s web page is on a caption of a photo of a pterosaur fossil. Why ignore the testimony of the American World War II veteran Duane Hodgkinson? He made it clear that the creature that flew up from the clearing, in plain view in daylight, had a tail “at least ten or fifteen feet” long.

Why did Mr. Kuban write a long web page, with dozens of paragraphs, to disuade people from believing in reports of living pterosaurs? He seems to be most concerned about protecting the standard models of geology. He did not, apparently, conduct any objective research to evaluate and report the most relevant details from the eyewitness reports that so strongly suggest that Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs live in Papua New Guinea.

See also: The nonfiction pterosaur book about sightings in the United States

See also: Problems with a bat interpretation

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)

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