No “Ropen Myth” in Washington State

I recently received a detailed account of a ropen sighting in Washington state, near the border with Oregon. This flying creature is no myth in the northwestern USA. The eyewitness had previously given a brief overview of the 2010 encounter that he and his wife had with the flying creature; but this gives much more detail. I quote only part:

. . . it was in the late morning in the summer of 2010 [actually late May of 2010].  My wife and I were coming back from . . . Skamania Lodge on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge.  At the time we lived in the Portland Oregon area, and we were driving back west on I-84 to get home.  When driving West on I-84 in that spot you have high rockwalls to the south of you that are a couple hundred feet and go as high as a couple thousand feet in some spots.  To the north of you when driving west on I-84 is the columbia river.

. . . all of a sudden coming left to right across the highway about 100 yards (give or take) in front of us came the most odd looking thing I have ever seen flying.  My wife and I both immediately said “what was that?”   It was flying pretty low to the ground probably only about 30 feet or so off the ground, and we only had about 2 seconds of visual on it, because it came swooping over the trees on the left side of the highway and went between a gap of trees on the right side of the highway.

It had a longer neck, crested head, big curved wings that connected at the back of the body, and a long tail.  Out of all those things the tail is what really stood out to me.  The tail was longer then the animals whole body from tip of head to base of tail.  It also had a very slow wing flap.  It flapped twice to get across the highway, two big and very slow flaps. . . .

The man was not sure if the flying creature was without any feathers, but his wife was pretty sure that it was showing skin rather than feathers. Nothing in this man’s communications with me hints at any hoax; he appears credible. The North American ropen is no myth.

Columbia River Gorge

Columbia River Gorge, northwestern United States

Smithsonian Attacks “Ropen Myth”

Switek seems to use bulverism rather than reasoning . . . He does not use the word “philosophy,” however, using the phrase “science of evolution” . . .

Ropen Dismissed by Smithsonian Blog Writer

A Smithsonian blog post (Oct 16, 2010) by Brian Switek dismisses both the ropen of Papua New Guinea and any hope for any living dinosaur or pterosaur. He does so with the phrase “ropen myth,” ignoring all major evidences that favor a living animal.

Another Sighting in State of Washington

. . . riding [a bike] down an old country road . . . I looked to my left, and on a wood plank fence were two of the biggest bird-like creatures I could ever imagine! I almost crashed my bike!


cryptozoology book about reports of living pterosaurs in the United States

Non-fiction cryptozoology book Live Pterosaurs in America, by Whitcomb

From the third edition of the book:

“I went on a short trip to the Yakima River this summer . . . because there was a [sighting]. We were unable to get a picture but we saw many . . . flashing lights. I would have assumed that [they] were fireflies but we [don’t] have them in Washington. One of the flashes took off from a big tree overhanging the river and made a kind of flashing coma turn. Many flashes were parallel to the river. The river at that point [has] a crook . . . and there were many fish . . . Only these things [flying creatures] fish at night with bioluminescence. [from a biology professor on an expedition in Washington state]

This book is available from Amazon and other online book sellers.


Ropens Flying in Los Angeles County

As of early August, 2012, the game camera set up over a storm drain in Lakewood, California, has not captured any image of the apparent ropen that was seen a few weeks earlier, in clear daylight. The camera has been pointed at a hole in a fence where the creature is believed to have entered or exited the backyard next door to the sighting location. The problem with the setup (24 hours a day, everyday) is with the triggering delay, for this is a deer camera that is great at photographing deers that walk slowly into the camera’s view: It can take over two seconds from the motion-detection to the photo recording, and a ropen can fly into and out of view in less than two seconds, day or night.

A “pterodactyl” or pterosaur has also been reported from other parts of Los Angeles County: San Fernando Valley, Altadena, and twice in the Santa Fe Springs area.

Nevertheless, I hope that the creature will perch at or near this fence long enough to trigger the camera to capture its image. How dearly we need a clear photograph of a modern living pterosaur!

cryptozoologist looks at storm channel in Lakewood, California

Pterosaur in Lakewood, California

At about noon, on June 19, 2012, in her backyard, a lady in Lakewood, California, saw a featherless winged creature with a tail at least four feet long. . . . “I saw this huge dragon pteradactal looking thing. I scared it because when he saw me he jumped off the telephone wires and when he opened his huge wings they sounded like heavy fabric . . . I watched him fly across to a large tree .  . .”

Daylight Sighting in Lakewood

The possibility of a sighting of a Frigate Bird was dismissed when the lady described the long neck and the “triangle” at the end of the creature’s long tail.

Pterosaur on Destination Truth

Within months of Paul Nation’s successful late-2006 ropen expedition in Papua New Guinea, an American television production company embarked on their own expedition to search for the giant flying creature of the night.

Gates interviews native Baptist minister Jacob Kepas, an eyewitness of the ropen

The Baptist minister Jacob Kepas, a native of Papua New Guinea in the Wau area, answered Josh Gates questions about his sighting and about his beliefs about the ropen.

Nobody expected the Destination Truth team to conduct an in-depth research of reports of the ropen, at least not in the sense that they could then write a scientific paper in a journal of science. But the limited research appeared to lead to an oversight: Josh seems to have been unaware that Pastor Kepas had a recent daylight sighting deep in the mainland of Papua New Guinea, during Paul Nation’s 2006 expedition. Gates asked him questions about an old sighting at night, for that was probably all that the American knew about Kepas’s sighting experience.

Papua New Guinea native Fabian tells American about the "big bird"

Gates asked a native eyewitness about the flying creature that glows at night. Fabian appeared to have significant experience observing that creature, for he described what part of the creature’s body could glow.

Ropen Search by Destination Truth

Early in 2007, several members of their team left Los Angeles for a long flight to the southwest Pacific, eventually arriving in the city of Lae, Papua New Guinea. There they took a small boat south to the peninsula Salamaua. They were following rumors that ropens live in caves in that area.

New Site: Ropen

Countless eyewitnesses, in many countries across the planet, have pondered what it was they had seen.

Ropen Dismissed by Smithsonian

A Smithsonian blog post (Oct 16, 2010) by Brian Switek dismisses both the ropen of Papua New Guinea and any hope for any living dinosaur or pterosaur. He does so with the phrase “ropen myth,” ignoring all major evidences that favor a living animal. In the second paragraph he uses the following words and phrases:

  • self-appointed authorities
  • hucksters
  • overly-credulous wildlife enthusiasts
  • not reputable naturalists
  • showmen . . . standing up to orthodox science

With all those negative comments towards those he disagrees with, I wonder if Mr. Switek has ever heard of the word “bulverism.” In the same paragraph, he also mentions, “young-earth creationists intent on somehow disproving evolution by finding creatures thought to have been long extinct.” But the conflict between extreme origin philosophies is too deep for him to adequately cover in his post. If he had researched this subject more openly and more thoroughly, he would have found my writings about how the discovery of living pterosaurs is related to credibility in the General Theory of Evolution.

In the third paragraph, Switek says, “Sadly, some people still get duped by the fantastic claims espoused by ‘professional monster hunters.'” But he then gives an apparent example, ridiculing the mistake of a writer who supports living-pterosaur research but who is not himself one of the “professional monster hunters.” Switek seems to be trying to put many persons into the same pot, to stew everyone who disagrees with his ideas about dinosaur and pterosaur extinction. In reality, mid-twentieth century explorers, early-twenty-first century explorers, and enthusiastic newspaper writers are different persons, with possibly-different ideas, strengths, and weaknesses, even if they agree in the possibility of living dinosaurs and pterosaurs. And at the end of Switek’s post he reveals something very interesting: He also believes in the possibility that a long-tailed pterosaur might still be living; but the difference is in degree of plausibility, for Switek thinks it highly unlikely.

Switek seems to be attempting to discredit modern living-pterosaur investigators by associating them with earlier persons whom he labels with “hucksters,” “not reputable naturalists,” “overly-credulous wildlife enthusiasts,” and “showmen.” He then seems to be attempting to discredit them by associating them with the recent newspaper writer Terrence Aym. But in Aym’s blog post there is no quotation of modern living-pterosaur investigators, only Aym’s apparently hastily-drawn-up condensation (Aym mentions Jim Blume and David Woetzel, but writes about their work in his own words). The problem is this: Switek makes the same general mistake as Aym, hastily writing up a condensation that is plagued with errors. But in Switek’s post the errors are covered up; in Aym’s post the frigatebird error is blatant.

The difference and similarity, regarding living pterosaurs, in these two blog posts, is interesting. Aym correctly supports nonextinction, but with an obvious grievous error about a detail. Switeck incorrectly supports universal extinction, but with subtle grievous errors from lack of delving into important details. Both jumped into their subjects with enthusiasm; both were too hasty.

What is a Ropen?

The word “ropen” does not have the same meaning across all languages that have that word. In English, it is beginning to mean something like this: “a flying cryptid usually associated with Papua New Guinea and described like a giant Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur.”

On Umboi Island, “ropen” often refers to the glow that flies horizontally between the highest mountains or from Mount Bel to a reef or from a reef to Mount Bel. The glow itself lasts for only about six seconds at a time. The stories about the flying creature seem to never die. Eyewitness accounts strongly suggest the ropen is a real animal, usually but not always nocturnal, that has a long tail, no feathers, and a wingspan much larger than any eagle or fruit bat. Some of the Umboi Island eyewitnesses who have been interviewed by American cryptozoologists are Gideon Koro, Wesley Koro, Mesa Augustin, Jonah Jim, and Mark Kau, among many others.

But in other parts of Papua New Guinea, in villages using other languages, “ropen” may mean something else. In one village near Wau (on the mainland), the word for a large or giant nocturnal flying creature that glows brightly—that is called “seklo-bali.” In that village, the word “ropen” is used for common birds. This is important to understand for anyone who becomes involved in cryptozoology.

So how should we investigate reports of apparent living pterosaurs? Concentrate on the description given by an eyewitness, not so much on the word uses to label the flying creature that was observed.

When investigating ghost lights, like the Marfa Lights of Texas, concentrate on details of descriptions in particular sightings, rather than on words used by the eyewitness to label what was seen.

Cryptozoology Book by William Gibbons

Many wonderful eyewitess accounts fill this cryptozoology book: Missionaries and Monsters. The cryptozoologist-explorer William J. Gibbons has done a fine job with it. I found the report of the Orang-bati (a large humanoid-like flying creature in Indonesia) particularly interesting:

In 1987, Tyson Hughes, . . . [missionary] arrived on the island of Ceram . . . [He gained] the trust of the Moluccan tribespeople. . . . [He] began to hear stories about a fearsome flying creature called the Orang-bati . . . this terrifying creature of the night is . . . up to five feet in height, and possesses huge, leathery wings . . .

Details about the pterosaur-like creatures flying in Papua New Guinea, however, I found at least somewhat outdated. Gomlongon Village (southwest of Mount Bel) is on Umboi Island, not on the mainland. In addition, “Duah” is probably a distorted version of the correct word: “duwas,” and “ropen” and “duwas” do not refer to different sizes or types of flying creatures but to different languages used by various villages and groups in Papua New Guinea.

Nevertheless, I am delighted to have my own copy of Missionaries and Monsters, for those many eyewitness reports of living dinosaurs and pterosaurs (or apparent ones: not every report need be of a genuine dinosaur or of a genuine pterosaur; it takes only one living dinosaur or one living pterosaur to disprove the universal extinction dogma) thrill the imagination.

See also Cryptozoology Books (by Whitcomb and Gerhard)

Evelyn Cheesman, Unwitting Eyewitness

The British biologist Lucy Evelyn Cheesman, according to Wikipedia, “was the first woman to be hired as a curator at Regent’s Park Zoo, in London.” She explored some tropical rain forests in New Guinea (now the country of Papua New Guinea) in the 1930’s, and unwittingly, long after her death, became connected to investigations of sightings of apparent living pterosaurs.

She probably never saw anything resembling a pterosaur, flying over any tropical rain forest; but she saw strange lights flying around in a strange manner. She observed, pondered, and made more observations, never coming to any conclusion about the source of the lights.

Decades later, in the 1990’s and early twenty-first century, a few cryptozoologists explored several areas of Papua New Guinea, searching not for little salamanders and insects but for giant living pterosaurs. Explorers have included the Americans Paul Nation, Garth Guessman, David Woetzel, and me (Jonathan Whitcomb).

How are the lights seen by Cheesman related to ropen lights and indava lights? Just a couple of mountain ranges or so south of where the British biologist observed strange flying lights—that is where Paul Nation, late in 2006, videotaped two indava lights. Many miles to the northeast of Cheesman’s viewing area, on Umboi Island, the ropen lights are seen flying regularly, sometimes from a mountain down to a reef (the creature is reported to catch fish at night). Interesting to tell, the nearby indava lights resemble Cheesman’s lights a bit less than the ropen lights do, at least regarding length-of-glow: about five seconds of glow at a time (indavas can glow longer).