Soldier saw a Living Pterosaur in World War II

By the living-pterosaurs expert Jonathan Whitcomb

This is a reply to a portion of a huge web page that was written by the living-pterosaur critic Glen Kuban: “Living Pterosaurs (‘Pterodactyls’)”. I recommend avoiding that page.

Introduction to the ropen sighting by Duane Hodgkinson

Around mid-1944, on the eastern edge of the island of New Guinea, after the Japanese military had left that area of the southwest Pacific, two American soldiers obtained permission to hike into the jungle interior west of Finschhafen. While in a jungle clearing that was about a hundred feet across, they witnessed a huge flying creature take off into the air. That sighting in clear daylight, with no obstruction to the view of those two men, has in recent years become known, among at least some cryptozoologists, as an important report among many accounts of encounters with living pterosaurs in the 20th century. To the best of what my associates and I can determine, this was an encounter with a gigantic extant Rhamphorhynchoid (long-tailed) pterosaur.

In the 21st century, the cryptozoologists Garth Guessman and I (Jonathan Whitcomb) interviewed Duane Hodgkinson, one of the two eyewitnesses of that “pterodactyl.” The other soldier, George, we have not been able to interview. Here is part of what was reported by the World War II veteran Duane Hodgkinson:

  • The wingspan of the flying creature was similar to that of a Piper Tri-Pacer airplane
  • The long tail was definitely not a misidentification of the feet of the animal
  • The estimated length of the tail was “at least” ten or fifteen feet
  • The “pterodactyl” had a long horn-like appendage coming out the back of its head

Introduction to Guessman and Whitcomb

I communicated with Hodgkinson by telephone and by letters, and he was very open to answering all of my questions. In addition, my associate and friend Garth Guessman visited the World War II veteran in Livingston, Montana, in 2005. Their interview was videotaped and I later edited it and published it online: “Ropen-Pterodactyl American Eyewitness.” Many of the keys points of the interview, but not all of them, can be seen in that Youtube video.

This was not the first eyewitness that Guessman and I had interviewed, during our investigations of sightings of apparent pterosaurs. Both of us explored Umboi Island in 2004, in separate expeditions, and we interviewed a number of native eyewitnesses on that remote tropical island in Papua New Guinea. In addition, Guessman and I have interviewed eyewitnesses in North America and have searched for those flying creatures in the western United States.

To learn more about us and those we have worked with, or in harmony with, see this:

About us — living-pterosaur investigators

Jonathan Whitcomb, Garth Guessman, David Woetzel, and Paul Nation

Guessman and I are true cryptozoologists, questioning eyewitnesses and searching for the cryptids that we specialize in: apparent extant pterosaurs.

Introduction to Glen Kuban

From his page on Wikipedia, this computer programmer does not appear to have any connection with living-pterosaur investigations, although he is connected with apparent dinosaur footprints. From my experiences in communicating with him, on occasions over a period of many years, I’ve come to see Glen Kuban as an amateur paleontologist. He is certainly not a cryptozoologist, at least not in the usual sense. And in spite of the lack of any indication on Wikipedia, he has been very much involved in reports of apparent living pterosaurs, albeit he was devoted a portion of his life to trying to disprove them.

During the eleven years or so that I have read of his criticisms of living-pterosaur investigations, and from our communications by emails, I have seen no evidence that Glen Kuban has ever interviewed even one eyewitness. He has written an exhaustive web page that appears to be aimed at convincing people that all species of pterosaurs became extinct long ago. His “Living Pterosaurs (Pterodactyls)?” appears to have been written to protect standard models of geology and popular assumptions about Darwinian evolution.

How large is Kuban’s “Living Pterosaurs” online page? It has tens of thousands of words. In fact, it mentions me by name 463 times, yes four hundred sixty three times (“26 Nov. 2017” version). Many web pages, on whatever subject, do not even have a total word count over 400. It brings to my mind a phrase in Hamlet: “the lady doth protest too much.”

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photo by Whitcomb - Finschhafen Harbor, Papua New Guinea

Finschhafen Harbor, Papua New Guinea (image by Jonathan Whitcomb, 2004)

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Living-pterosaur sighting by Hodgkinson — answering criticisms

I think Kuban would have done much better in writing about this sighting if he had simply communicated with me before publishing his criticisms. As they stand, as of the end of November, 2017, his many paragraphs about Hodgkinson’s encounter with an apparent “pterodactyl” have many grave weaknesses.

Is it important for a researcher to interview eyewitnesses? Consider what Kuban himself has said: “Whitcomb admits that he never interviewed George. So, if anyone was overspeculating, it was not me.” (I have never, as of December 5, 2017, interviewed George, the army buddy of Duane Hodgkinson.) I admit that I may speculate, to some degree and at some times, but let’s examine the context here.

Kuban, during the years that he has published online criticisms of eyewitness accounts of living pterosaurs, has never interviewed even one eyewitness. His general practice is to take what he finds online or in books and, without asking me for clarifications, he then finds anything and everything that he thinks might discredit the sighting; then he publishes it. That is what his tens of thousands of words have shown to me.

I admit that I sometimes make mistakes. In one of my earlier editions of Searching for Ropens, I may have said that Hodgkinson’s army buddy was a biologist. If I did, however, I was speculating. In the fourth edition of Searching for Ropens and Finding God, I put it thus: “Hodgkinson was not a biologist but his army buddy was, or at least had some education in biology.” Even there, I may have been speculating. I wrote that, because Hodgkinson gave us some indication that his buddy considered himself to have some knowledge of science in general or possibly of biology in particular. In reality, that is far short of evidence that he actually was a real, dependable expert in biology.

Glen Kuban, however, seems to have taken that mistake that I made and tried to turn it into some significant fact, a practically-given proof, perhaps, that George was either a biology professor or a qualified expert in biology who could be relied on. That is what I consider “over-speculating.” From what Hodgkinson told me and Guessman, it is possible that George had taken one or more classes in biology, if he had taken even one college course in biology.

The point is this: George made it clear, within seconds of the end of that sighting in that jungle clearing in 1944, that he would not tell anybody what he and Hodgkinson had seen. Nothing in Hodgkinson’s testimony gave even a hint that George said anything about the possibility that they had seen a bird or bat. To the best that we can now determine from Hodgkinson’s testimony, George just wanted to keep quiet about the encounter, even if it meant denying that they had seen anything.

That kind of denial does not come from a biologist observing an unusual bird or a huge bat. It certainly can come from a man who would like to be respected as knowledgeable and who has just witnessed a gigantic living pterosaur fly up out of the middle of a jungle clearing in the middle of the day. That kind of man would not want to be laughed at as if he were the greatest fool in history.

Kuban seems to have taken pieces of some sighting reports and criticized an incomplete portion as if they were the whole story, speculating in doing so. Even when he has a fuller account, he sometimes appears to be blind to important elements, and those parts would have answered his criticisms, if he had paid proper attention or had comprehended them.

Let’s take an example. Guessman and I learned from Hodgkinson that the long tail he had seen was definitely not a misidentification of legs; the video makes that clear. He did not focus on the end of the tail, so he could not say whether or not there was a structure there, yet his testimony, available for viewing on Youtube, makes it clear that he did see a tail, for he estimated it was “at least” ten or fifteen feet long. Further testimony from that World War II veteran reveals that he saw the legs moving as the creature was running to get airborne. In other words, he was observing both running legs under the animal and a very long tail trailing behind the body of the “pterodactyl” as it was taking off into the air, so it was clear that the legs and the tail were separate parts of the body.

Kuban says, “Hodgkinson himself says on the video that he did not get a good look at the tail.” In fact, that is not what Hodgkinson said. Consider now what that World War II veteran actually says on the video: “I didn’t pay attention to what the end of his tail looked like.” Why did he not concentrate on the end of the tail? He tells us on the video: He was fascinated by the appendage at the back of the creature’s head. Yet with an estimated length of “at least” ten or fifteen feet, the end of the tail is a great distance from the rest of the animal, even a fair distance from the middle of that tail. In other words, he saw the tail well enough to make a crude estimate of its length: at least ten of fifteen feet.

What does that tell us? Hodgkinson was a weather observer for the field artillery, as I recall from what he told me. I don’t know exactly what that entails, but I think we should be aware of one word: observer. That was his job in the military at that time in 1944. So what can we learn from his observation of a tail that was “at least ten or fifteen feet long?” That flying creature was nothing remotely like any bird or bat known to Western science.

Kuban, on the other hand, appears to prefer to pretend “that he did not get a good look at the tail” (the words of that critic Glen Kuban). I do not accuse Kuban of dishonesty; it’s more likely something like subconscious self-deception. Yet I see an explanation for why he allowed himself to be fooled into the idea of “did not get a good look.” Anything remotely like a tail length of 10-15 feet practically eliminates birds and bats.

The following may be redundant, regarding George, but people need to know the whole truth about what happened in that jungle clearing in 1944.

Kuban, in the Nov-26-2017 version of “Living Pterosaurs,” says that George “denies that they ever saw a pterosaur.” That statement is extremely misleading, for it implies that he told somebody (other than Hodgkinson) that they did not see a pterosaur. In reality, George seems to have never told anybody anything about the incident except to make it clear TO HODGKINSON, within a few seconds of the sighting, that he would say nothing about it. George apparently did not even want to talk about it with Hodgkinson.

I don’t mean to imply that all of Kuban’s writings have had only a negative impact on everybody that reads them, deceiving everybody who comes in contact with them. At least some of the readers of his “Living Pterosaurs” have probably come to see things in a new light, notwithstanding they have come to suspect that some pterosaurs may actually be living after all. With tens of thousands of words aimed at disproving the existence of modern pterosaurs, it can become obvious that “the lady doth protest too much.”

For myself, I have come to feel more confidence in the reality of living pterosaurs, after seeing all the weaknesses in “Living Pterosaurs.” In spite of the possibility of bias on my part, and in my potential for mistakes and misunderstandings, the many eyewitness reports of extant pterosaurs, together with the failings in efforts to disprove them, have given me greater hope that these wonderful featherless flying creatures will soon be officially discovered and acknowledged for what they are: modern living pterosaurs.

In that sense, Glen Kuban has played an important role in the progress of scientific knowledge, albeit his role may differ greatly from what he had expected.

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Pterosaur sighting in World War II

A modern pterosaur!? How could it be? Extraordinary but true, huge flying creatures, with no feathers yet unlike any bat, live among us, although they mostly fly at night.

Pterodactyl seen by Duane Hodgkinson

The kongamato and sightings of modern pterosaurs

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“Pteranodon” in a 19th Century Photograph

By the living-pterosaur expert Jonathan David Whitcomb

On the title page of the recently published nonfiction book Modern Pterosaurs, the species or type is not specified:

On January 14, 2017, Clifford Paiva and I spoke by phone and agreed that a photograph we had been studying had a genuine image of a real animal. We did not insist that this must have been a species of Pteranodon killed during the American Civil War. [although we did suspect that the photo shows a pterosaur related to that type. We suspected it was some kind of short-tailed Pterodactyloid, even if not exactly a Pteranodon.]

This is repeated in my Youtube video “Introduction to the old photograph Ptp,” that I do not say that the animal in the photo was one of the species of Pteranodon that is known by present-day scientists. Paiva and I have never insisted that this large flying creature must have been precisely like what is presently known (by paleontologists, from fossils) about Pteranodons. I continue to use that word because many persons seem to think of that kind of pterosaur when they see the photo. Decide for yourself if it resembles that type:

not a fossil but a recently deceased modern pterosaur

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Long article attacking living-pterosaur investigations

I’ll not comment here on many of the problems that I have found in the online page “Living Pterosaurs,” by Glen Kuban. Since he has mentioned my name 280 times in that article, however, I need to respond to at least a little of it. The total page length is over 30,000 words, as best as I can tell, longer than some books and a hundred times longer than many blog posts. The whole thing is orchestrated to try to convince people that anything seeming to support the possibility of modern living pterosaurs is wrong or unconvincing or based upon bias in favor of that possibility. Let’s take a closer look.

The origin of Kuban’s writings on the Civil War pterodactyl photograph

For years, Glen Kuban’s anti-modern-pterosaurs online page (“Living Pterosaurs”) displayed a small image of the photo now called “Ptp.” (We’ll call his page “GKLP.”) It referred to that photo as being widely acknowledged as a hoax for a Fox television show. I told him of his mistake in the following email I sent to him on March 27, 2017:

I noticed that Figure-4 on “Living Pterodactyls?” shows the photograph that has recently been given the label “Ptp” on a number of sites and in an upcoming book. That is the wrong photograph in Figure-4, however. The correct photo is the one created by Haxan Films, and it was made for one or more episodes of “Freakylinks” (TV show from 2000-2001). Some persons have confused the two photos, so you’re not alone.
[from Jonathan Whitcomb]

Within hours, we communicated in several more emails. After he came to realize his mistake, one of his emails (that same day) included this:

What evidence do you have that it is not a similar hoax, possible [sic] made by the same team?

That statement by itself gives little evidence that Mr. Kuban had any major problem with belief perseverance. But when taken in context with what he soon wrote, in a revised version of GKLP, it appears he had indeed fallen into that faulty type of reasoning.

Confirmation bias and belief perseverance with Jonathan Whitcomb

I seem to have had both of those problems in the past, although I have recovered from them, and they differ greatly from what skeptics would assume. My problems with confirmation bias and belief perseverance may be similar to what skeptics of living-pterosaur investigations have had, yet I’ve recovered from them, which is more than can be said of those skeptics who continue to attack the credibility of the Ptp photograph or who emphasize anything that might appear to make it look like a hoax.

It may have been as long ago as 1968 when I first saw this photograph of an apparent “pterodactyl.” Perhaps it was in a book in the Pasadena Public Library (California) or at the California State University of Long Beach library. Wherever it was, and whenever it was, I was a young man at the time, and I remember certain impressions I had when I looked at that strange image.

Civil War era photograph of a pterosaur

Head of the apparent Pteranodon

The head gave me a creepy feeling, for it looked real to me. The wings, however, seemed like the ends of two canoes or like the two halves of one canoe. And why did the apparent wings change appearance so drastically before they joined the body?

Like Glen Kuban (whom I would not know about for many years), I had assumed that anything like a genuine photo of a modern pterosaur would cause scientists to quickly recognize it for what it was and acknowledge that it was genuine. After all, movies in the mid-twentieth century emphasized the idea that practically all scientists were practically always perfectly objective. Only many years later would I come to better understand the real world of human cultural bias, in particular Western indoctrination into the belief that all species of dinosaurs and pterosaurs had become extinct many millions of years ago.

At some time in my younger years, I had come to a tentative conclusion that the photo was probably a hoax: a model of a pterosaur in which Civil War soldiers had put together one or more canoes to make the wings.

As best as I can recall, it was in more recent years that I noticed something strange about the shoe of that one soldier, the shoe on the animal’s beak. I took that strangeness to be a confirmation that something was wrong with the photo and that my original idea that it was a hoax was a valid conclusion. How greatly I would be shown to be mistaken! I would learn that I had fallen into a confirmation bias.

I also may have had a problem similar to what psychologists call belief perseverance, although with me it seems to have been less severe of a problem.

The true nature of those pterosaur wings

Early in 2017, a canoe expert sent me an email and told me that those wings (in the photo that would soon be labeled “Ptp”) were definitely not from any dugout canoe. In fact, he believed that they were not from any kind of canoe, and he was the canoe expert. That’s when I began a deeper investigation into all aspects of the photograph.

I communicated with the physicist Clifford Paiva, who had been examining the photo for years. He had no doubt that it had a genuine image of a modern pterosaur, although he had not taken a stand on the idea that no tampering had ever taken place with the photo.

For several weeks, early in 2017, we independently examined the photo that I then gave the label “Ptp” (for pterosaur photo). We independently came to an uneasy feeling that those two wings might be digitally manipulated inversions, one being a duplicate of the other, for they had very similar patterns. We each did our own examinations on that.

Although my friend Cliff has made more discoveries than I have in Ptp, this was one of those exceptions where I found something before he did. I found, on magnifying parts of the wings, that the similarities vanished in the smaller details.

left wing and right wing compared by Jonathan Whitcomb

One wing image I inverted horizontally to check for a possible Photoshop hoax

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The following is taken from my nonfiction book Modern Pterosaurs:

Comparing the two apparent wings with each other—that reveals a general symmetry consistent with a natural biological resemblance. Closer examination of the pixels reveals natural differences, consistent with real wings.

I often see similarities before magnification, giving me the impression that it could have been a Photoshop job: inverting one wing to make the other. But every time I magnify the wings those similarities mostly dissolve. The similarities, however, are too many to ignore.

They’re definitely not from any simplistic Photoshop inversion of one wing to make the other, but why does it have many larger similarities? I found an answer, and it shoots down both digital image manipulation and the physical-modeling conjecture: Possible biological structures are seen in both wings, and they can correspond, at least in general, to particular places on the wings. [from page 107 of the nonfiction Modern Pterosaurs]

I was aware that some old photographs have been tampered with, including those taken during the 19th century. But a few counterfeits do not prove that nothing is real. Each twenty-dollar bill needs to be examined individually, and in the right way, to see if it is genuine. I knew that the wings in Ptp needed to be examined with an open mind.

The positive side of a potential mild case (apparently) of belief perseverance

Within a few weeks of my first communications with Paiva, regarding Ptp, I magnified the two wings digitally, having reversed one of the wings horizontally for better comparisons. I found evidence for apparent biological structures in the wings, and with magnification I was able to prove that one wing was not from a digital copy of the other.

During that time, I was nervous about what I would find, but Paiva and I knew that a deep analysis needed to be done, regardless of the consequences. I was prepared to come forward and admit that somebody had messed with the image digitally, probably within the past 25 years or so, if I found that one wing-image was made from the other.

During those few hours of examination, I did not feel nearly so confident in Ptp, yet after my analysis I was relieved to discover that no Photoshop hoax was involved in taking a shortcut to create fake wings. How much easier it would have been for a hoaxer to make one realistic wing and them make a modified copy of it (for the other wing)! That never happened. Yet another benefit that Paiva and I received from that work was this: Our nervousness and desire to get to the truth demonstrated that we were not being carried away with out own bias. We really wanted to know the truth about Ptp.

Although I may not have experienced a full-blown case of belief perseverance, my feelings at that time allowed me to get a feeling for what that could be like. If Paiva and I had fallen into that faulty type of reasoning, we would have just ignored the hoax possibility. We would have thought something like this: “If nobody says anything about it, why worry? Let’s just pretend there is no problem.” Thank God we decided to take the chance of being embarrassed, choosing to be objective regardless of the risk.

Folded wings of a pterosaur

I was informed by Clifford Paiva of the significance of those strange looking wings, why they have such a marked difference between the outer part and the part closer to the body. Like other pterosaurs, ones known from fossils, those wings are folded.

The folding of the wings makes it look strange

Evidence of authenticity: folded wings of a pterosaur

The outer part of each wing is flipped over, so the ends of the wings are reversed: What appears to be a lighter colored top surface of each wing is actually what would be the bottom surfaces during flight. This is indeed evidence that the image is genuine.

So even though a first glance at this photograph can give one the impression that it must be fake because it looks so strange, in reality it fits with what paleontologists know about some species of pterosaurs.

Strange appearance of the shoe on the beak

Years ago, I felt uncomfortable with how that shoe looked on the beak of that animal. Something about it looked strange.

close up of the shoe on the beak and the apparent tree branch used as a prop

Arrow points to what is probably a prop, consistent with a pre-1870 technique

Notice the what the arrow points to in the above magnification of part of Ptp. It appears to be a prop that was used to keep the beak and the man’s shoe stable during photography. This technique was used before about the year 1870, before snap-shot photography was developed. But also notice the shoe on the beak.

It’s the shadow under the shoe that is unusual. If this photo was a modern snapshot, the man could have held his shoe in a more nature way on that beak, placing it squarely on the beak (causing no shadow under the shoe). But older photography needed more care, to avoid having any person or object move during the many seconds needed to take a photo.

That explains the shadow under the shoe. The man held his shoe lightly on that beak, with only the left edge of the sole touching the beak. That would make it less likely that his foot would slip, which would have caused both shoe and beak to move, spoiling the photo.

Kuban uses the word “cheesy” to describe the overall appearance of the animal in Ptp. I see that as an unscientific description. It requires looking deeper to discover relevant truth. I could use the word “cheesy” for the appearance of that shoe on the beak, or I could at one time. Now I know why that part of the photo bothered me when I was younger, and that knowledge has made a big difference in how I now see that photograph.

[This post is copyright 2017 Jonathan Whitcomb]

Confirmation bias and belief perseverance with Glen Kuban

I cannot read his mind, nor do I know many details about what he has done with his examinations of the writings of me and my associates. Yet I have seen evidences that do suggest that Mr. Kuban has indeed fallen into those two types of bias.

I mentioned that he may have fallen into belief perseverance when he sent me an email that included, “What evidence do you have that it is not a similar hoax, [possibly] made by the same [television production company]?” If that was the end of it, we would not have enough to go on. But there would be a lot more.

Within a few days, Kuban began updating GKLP. The first change, to my knowledge, included a correction: He displayed with the Haxan Films Freakylinks TV show hoax photo and the Ptp photo, near each other. But I saw a big addition, many long paragraphs that were orchestrated to create doubt about Ptp.

As best as I can tell, there never was a time, early in 2017, between when Kuban thought that Ptp was a hoax created for a television show and when he believed it was another hoax. In other words, he never considered the possibility that it may have a genuine image of a real modern pterosaur. Even after I pointed out that it was not a TV show hoax, he kept believing it was a hoax, going directly from thinking it was a television-show hoax photo to thinking it was some other hoax.

Since that time, he has more than doubled the size of his “Living Pterosaurs” page. As of early May 23, 2017, it has an estimated 32,231 words. All I can see on his enormous online publication are a variety of apparent reasons why people should not believe in the possibility that any species of pterosaur is still living.

It seems he has purchased his own copy of my book (Modern Pterosaurs) on Amazon, but he does not acknowledge my analysis that reveals, or at least suggests, those six men were actually standing at the same distance from the camera as they seem to be standing (according to apparent perspective). In other words, the man standing in front of the apparent Pteranodon (with his shoe on that beak) was actually closer to the camera than the distances between each other man and the camera. I see nothing about that in his negative comment on Amazon and nothing about that on GKLP.

It seems to me that whenever Kuban sees any possibility for any sighting to be anything other than a modern pterosaur then he concludes that it must not have been that kind of animal. The extraordinary variety of reasons that he gives for non-pterosaur interpretations is so large that it must surely impress some of his readers, calling out to them that the author of this online publication is operating under extreme bias. I wonder how many persons begin reading GKLP disbelieving in modern pterosaurs but stop reading it when they start believing in them. They’re welcome to read what I’ve written.

Another piece of evidence that Kuban has not been thinking objectively

Even as recently as May 23, 2017, he displayed a photo of a heron with a caption that included, “Heron in flight, resembling a Pteranodon-like pterosaur.” In fact, he also said, at least earlier this year, that the Ptp photograph has what looks like a Pteranodon.

But further down the page he gives two lists of detailed differences between what people declare is true about fossils of Pteranodons and what is seen in Ptp. But when we read further, it appears obvious that he published those two lists as if they were evidence that the animal was not a pterosaur or as if investigators are wrong. And he says all that after he himself uses the word “Pteranodon” for the animal seen in Ptp.

And what if scientists have not yet discovered all the fossils there are to discover? What’s wrong with paleontologists discovering, some day, a fossil of a new kind of Pteranodon, one that more closely resembles the animal shown in Ptp? We need to be objective.

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Confirmation bias and the pterosaur photograph

The scientist Clifford Paiva and I have not declared that the animal seen in Ptp must be some species of Pteranodon that is now known from pterosaur fossils. [Yet the skeptic who wrote the long unscientifically critical online article attacking investigations into reports of apparent living pterosaurs—that critic himself uses the word “Pteranodon” for the animal shown in the photograph Ptp.]

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The Pteranodon photograph and religion

Skeptical remarks about the soldiers have been answered and those careless criticisms have been exposed in the new nonfiction book Modern Pterosaurs. . . .

Religion is related to the “Pteranodon” photograph that is now called “Ptp,” but those skeptical comments from critics who assume extreme bias in all Christian supporters of living-pterosaur investigations—those critical comments are incorrect. Paiva and I have looked carefully at this photo, with an open mind about various possibilities of hoaxing. Ptp has survived the close scrutiny extremely well.

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Scott Norman and the Pteranodon photo

This coming July will be the ten-year anniversary of Scott Norman’s sighting of an apparent nocturnal Pteranodon in California. Scott passed away, half a year later, from natural causes, yet the large sizes of apparent extant pterosaurs, reported by some eyewitnesses in North America, may be connected to some of the more mysterious missing-persons cases that have never been solved.

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The Civil War Pteranodon photo

Forget about what some skeptics have said about those soldiers: declarations regarding Photoshop and digital hoaxing. To make a realistic photograph of an extant pterosaur, no hoaxer would paste images of Civil War soldiers onto a background of trees. That’s a lot of work and and total waste of time. We already have many such soldiers with tree backgrounds. The real challenge would be to paste a realistic pterosaur onto an old photograph.

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Modern Pterosaurs

I’m not a professor of paleontology. To be brief, I was a forensic videographer in 2003, when I began investigating these eyewitness accounts of “prehistoric” flying creatures or “dragons.” I recognized, while viewing some amateur video footage, the credibility of natives who were interviewed on a tropical island in the southwest Pacific. Since 2003, I have spent well over 10,000 hours researching, interviewing, exploring, and writing—all within this narrow field of cryptozoology.

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Video about the pterodactyl photo

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Is the Civil War Pterosaur Photograph a Trick?

By the modern pterosaur expert Jonathan Whitcomb

Now we delve into a little-known realm of cryptozoology: investigations into sightings of apparent pterosaurs, meaning living flying creatures that appear to be “pterodactyls.” More than that, however, is the examination of a photograph that appears to have been taken in the 19th century. That photo is now labeled “Ptp.”

What’s the difference between a hoax and a virtual hoax or between a deception and a pseudo-deception? For the person who is led away from the truth, what’s the difference? I’m not accusing anyone of deception, but I see a number of writings online that can lead people away from the truth regarding this old photograph.

Background on the Ptp “Pteranodon” Photograph

Some persons appear to remember this image from the middle of the 20th century, at least before 1980. That makes it less likely that the apparent pterosaur shown in the photograph came from some kind of digital manipulation using Photoshop.

I’ve been trying to find the origin of Ptp, but as of early February of 2017 I have not found the old book that is said to contain the photo. I’ll keep looking. See Figure-1.

not a fossil but a recently deceased modern pterosaur

Figure-1: Ptp photograph declared to have a genuine recording of a modern pterosaur

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Who is Clifford Paiva?

From an online profile paragraph:

. . . has worked for the US Naval Fleet Analysis Center, NSWC Norco Division, formerly Fleet Analysis Center, Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach; US Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC), Dahlgren Laboratory; and the US Air Force Research Laboratory, Propulsion Directorate at Edwards Air Force Base, [California] . . .  is involved with ballistic missile defense, being a regular contributor to the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Missile Conferences, as well as the International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE).

In other words, he’s well qualified to examine and analyze photographs from a scientific perspective. Fortunately, he has agreed to examine, with an open mind, photographic evidence suggesting the existence of modern pterosaurs.

missile defense physicist Clifford Paiva

Clifford Paiva, California

For many years, he has been aware of the photo that is now labeled “Ptp,” and he has found a number of indicators that the animal shown therein was real animal. He’s found that a number of features point to it being a species at least similar to a Pteranodon.

Declaration of Authenticity for the Image

On January 14, 2017, the physicist Clifford Paiva (California) and I spoke by phone and agreed that the image of an apparent Pteranodon in this photograph (Ptp) is a genuine photographic recording of a modern pterosaur. Be aware that we were not declaring that nobody had ever done any manipulation of the original photograph. We simply agreed that the image of that apparent Pteranodon was a real pterosaur that was photographed. It’s obviously not a fossil, and the posing of the apparent Civil War soldiers suggests the animal was shot and killed by one or more of them. Yet the point is the image of the animal itself. That requires the most attention.

Please be aware of my own journey and perspective. Mr. Paiva has believed in the value of Ptp for years, but my own weaknesses kept me from recognizing it earlier. In 2013, I wrote a number of posts on the possibility that the photograph may be genuine, but not until January of 2017 did I come to the firm conclusion of its authenticity.

Can the “Pterodactyl” Photo be a Trick or Hoax?

From Paiva’s communications with me in January of 2017, I would compare our mutual agreement of authenticity with a jury-verdict of guilty: beyond a reasonable doubt. Mr. Paiva and I did not agree to declare that it is impossible for any person to create a hoax that would appear like the image of the apparent Pteranodon in Ptp; it’s just not a reasonable conjecture that a hoax did create that appearance of a modern pterosaur (rather than an actual animal). Please also understand that we’re not saying that the animal must have been a Pteranodon; it may have been just a related type of pterosaur.

Some readers and writers seem to have confused Ptp with a hoax photo that was made to imitate it: the Freakylinks TV-series reenactment photo-hoax. See Figure-2:

fake photograph of "Civil War" "soldiers"

Figure-2: A recent trick to imitate the original (“credit” Fox Network)

Figure-2 shows what appears to be a group of Civil War soldiers standing over a dead winged creature, although the “animal” may be a poor imitation, using canvass or a similar material. The men are not actual Civil War soldiers but reenactors, dressed for the part.

Notice how the positioning of the soldiers resembles that of the men in Ptp. Even the man who stands in front of the “creature” has his boot placed in the same way. The actors shown in Figure-2 were photographed, probably in the year 2000 or 2001.

Was it merely a coincidence that the men are positioned the same as the men in Figure-1? It’s easier to believe that giant Pteranodons are still commonly flying overhead in daylight. You don’t have to be a forensic videographer like me to recognize that the Freakylinks hoax photo was made in imitation of Ptp. Unfortunately, some persons confuse the two, concluding that any photo showing apparent Civil War soldiers standing over a dead winged creature is a hoax.

Why Believe That it’s a Modern Pterosaur in Ptp?

I’ve written much about the Ptp “Civil War Pterosaur Photo” in the past few weeks, mostly in blog posts. I now summarize some of the reasons for believing that this photograph (shown in Figure-1) has a real image of a modern pterosaur:

  1. Shadows are consistent with a real soldier’s boot on the large beak of the animal
  2. Anatomical features of the head and neck, etc, point to it being a real pterosaur
  3. Placement of soldier’s is consistent with a Civil War photographer’s directing it
  4. Ground mark suggests the animal was dragged to a good location for photography
  5. Broken sapling is consistent: They prepared to drag the animal past that sapling

The above five points are direct evidence in the photograph itself. They do not tell us how this old photograph could go unrecognized for so many decades, however: how it could be seen by so many people without it being recognized and acknowledged by scientists as valid evidence for a modern pterosaur. But to properly explain that delayed recognition would require more than a few paragraphs here. Perhaps it needs a whole book.

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copyright 2017 Jonathan Whitcomb

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Pterodactyl Photo

I believe it’s important that people not be deceived when viewing the image that Mr. Paiva and I have declared to be a genuine modern pterosaur. We also need to understand that the more-recent imitation photo is a hoax, or at least a virtual hoax, created for a TV show. Do not confuse these two photos, for on the surface they appear similar.

Modern Pterosaurs

Includes a small image of the “Civil War Pteranodon Photograph”

Ptp Pterodactyl Photograph Proclaimed Genuine

Answering skeptical comments and criticisms of a direct interpretation of a photograph that some persons report remembering from the middle of the 20th century, long before Photoshop digital imaging processing was generally available.

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