Tag Archives: Civil War photograph

A Ropen by any Other Name

By modern-pterosaur researcher Jonathan Whitcomb

One skeptic, writing a very long online article, mentions what I have written about related words in some of the many village languages in Papua New Guinea. He says that “ropen” means bird in one language but fruit bat in another. He then writes, “Well, there you have it,” as if it supports his declaration that a significant number of sightings of apparent pterosaurs in that area of the world could be from misidentified birds or bats. But he misses the point:

“The complexity of hundreds of languages and dialects however, makes research challenging.” [from Ropen on creationwiki]

The critic who referenced that page on Creation-wiki did not take into account the purpose of that paragraph: We cannot reasonably rely on a multitude of languages and expect that any particular word, apparently for a particular flying creature, must relate to a particular species.

During the past fourteen years of my investigation into reports of apparent extant pterosaurs observed worldwide, I have relied on the descriptions in those eyewitness reports more than on the labels used for the animals people have seen. In fact, I generally give very little thought to the label an eyewitness gives to what was seen, especially regarding how I might interpret the possibility that it was a modern pterosaur.

I suspect that the critic himself was overly concentrating on word usage in various languages. I believe that he has an extreme bias against the possibility that one or more species of pterosaurs has survived into the present and that my associates and I have found significant evidence for their existence. This bias has caused the skeptic to make a number of mistakes, including errors of fact in his writings.


Look at a Photograph of a Modern Pterosaur

Even better than words of description may be a photo or a sketch drawn by an eyewitness. Consider the following old photograph that has been verified authentic by two scientists:

recently deceased pterosaur ("pterodactyl") in an old photograph

The photograph now called “Ptp” – That’s a real animal, according to two scientists


Please be aware that Clifford Paiva and I (Jonathan Whitcomb) do not say that the animal photographed was some kind of ropen, but it is obviously a modern pterosaur (or else the most incredible fake model of one ever constructed in history). We say that it was more likely some species of Pterodactyloid rather than a long-tailed ropen.

Regarding the skeptical speculation that those soldiers constructed an elaborate model, a fake pterosaur that had wing folding suggesting what scientists would not discover until many years or even decades later, consider this: How do you account for the estimated number of persons now living who have had some kind of encounter, during their human life times, with a modern pterosaur? That number of persons is between about 7 million and about 128 million.

Old speculations that have appeared like scientific declarations—those have been shot down, especially the popular “Photoshop” conjecture. The following are from the first edition of the nonfiction book Modern Pterosaurs:

Notice the missing fingers in Figure-11. CLK suggests that this is evidence for a hoax, using Photoshop. But how could digital manipulation cause those fingers to disappear? How else except in pasting a rifle-image onto an image of a soldier holding his arm to one side?

Notice the problems that jump out like the clown of a jack-in-the-box. Why would any hoaxer search for some old Civil War photo that might have a soldier holding out his arm as if holding a rifle but without the rifle? Why would any American Civil War soldier stand for a photograph while holding out his arm as if holding onto his rifle but without the rifle? How could any soldier in military history be so foolish as to hold out his arm, as if holding his rifle, when he had forgotten to bring the rifle for the photograph?

That missing-fingers point suggests CLK is unqualified to testify about a potential digital hoax. [Ptp was NOT created through the use of Photoshop.]


The Underwood & Underwood Photograph Discovered

I had seen the Ptp image with a border around late May of this year, but on June 2, 2017, I recognized the words “Underwood & Underwood” printed on the border. I soon recognized how important this discovery was: evidence that Ptp is indeed a very old photograph, for that company went out of business many decades ago, decades before Photoshop existed.

modern pterosaur photo with a border that includes "Underwood & Underwood"

The border on the left side gives the name of the company that published this photograph: Underwood & Underwood. They distributed this photo probably before the 1920’s and may have received it from an independent photographer who could have recorded it before about the year 1870. Evidence within the photo itself suggests it was before about 1870, for an apparent stabilizing prop was used under the beak of the animal.



copyright 2017 Jonathan Whitcomb


Ropen eyewitness

American World War II veteran observed a very large ropen in New Guinea.


Photo of a Modern Pterosaur

Notice that the important subjects of the photo, the strange winged animal and the soldiers—all of them are in reasonably good focus, a characteristic of Civil War photography. Now look more closely at the head. It has a number of similarities to what we might expect of a Pteranodon head. It’s not 100% like what we see in Pteranodon fossils, perhaps, but why should a 19th-century pterosaur be 100% like what we have already discovered in Pteranodon fossils?


Ropen of Umboi Island

“How greatly have eyewitnesses on Umboi Island helped in our investigations of apparent nocturnal Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs in Papua New Guinea!” Jonathan David Whitcomb


Civil War pterodactyl photo

The following are taken from the nonfiction cryptozoology book Modern Pterosaurs, but before getting into it we need to be clear about the difference between the genuine original photo (now called “Ptp”) and the more-recent hoax photo for a TV show around the year 2000.


Discovery of a modern pterosaur in a photograph

The most vocal skeptic of this photograph has suggested that it was a physical model, constructed to look like a pterosaur. Since the discovery of its publication by Underwood & Underwood, however, that idea now appears to have serious problems, far more serious than the skeptic had imagined.


Eyewitness Duane Hodgkinson

Answering a Critic of Modern Pterosaurs

By the living-pterosaur expert Jonathan Whitcomb


This is a response to an attack, by a vocal critic, against the credibility of recent investigations into reported sightings of apparent modern pterosaurs, yet we can here cover only a small number of problems in the lengthy publication by that skeptic. In fact, we have space to closely examine only one problem: one aspect of the testimony of Duane Hodgkinson.

I do not mean to imply that everything in “Living Pterosaurs” by Glen Kuban is without merit. In particular, the following points made in that long online article can be useful, when taken alone:

  1. The mid-19th century newspaper article in the Illustrated London News was surely a hoax
  2. Some sightings of frigate birds have been misinterpreted as modern pterosaurs
  3. Most scientists [as of early 2017] believe pterosaurs became extinct long ago

The big problem with Glen Kuban’s “Living Pterosaurs” (GKLP), however, is that the article as a whole was apparently written under a cloud of confirmation bias and belief perseverance. It is riddled with both factual errors and misleading statements.

I do not accuse him of dishonesty, but those mistakes and misleading declarations need to be addressed, for they are numerous. I acknowledge that he has made corrections in the past, when one or two errors of fact were pointed out to him (perhaps more often), but he then added many new paragraphs that were misleading.

A lengthy page of skepticism

I can here respond to only a fraction of the errors in GKLP, for that online publication is very long and full of mistakes. The version that he published early on May 22, 2017, appears to have over 31,000 words, longer than some print books.

I’m glad that GKLP does not include the word liar, for my name (Whitcomb) is mentioned 262 times. By comparison, some other online critics have accused me of dishonesty or insinuated that I have not been honest. Kuban does not sink to that unwholesome approach.

Compare the length of GKLP to other skeptical online publications on this subject: Kuban mentions my name (Whitcomb) 262 times, while some critical web pages may have a total word count of less than that. In other words, GKLP is over 100 times longer than some sites that have a similar purpose.

The general nature of the skeptical “Living Pterosaurs” publication

GKLP is not specifically aimed at modern-pterosaur investigations of recent years, nor about mistakes or potential errors by those who have recently written about sightings. It is a multi-shotgun approach to cutting down anything that seems like it could give credence to the possibility that not all species of pterosaurs became extinct millions of years ago.


Eyewitness Duane Hodgkinson

Duane Hodgkinson – eyewitness of a ropen, a modern pterosaur


1944 ropen sighting in New Guinea

The late Duane Hodgkinson (DH) reported his “pterodactyl” sighting long before Garth Guessman and I began interviewing him. Concerning our interviews, many details can be found online and in my book Searching for Ropens and Finding God. In that book, I mentioned that he had remained silent about his sighting for many years, yet that deserves more explaining: He told people about his sighting at first but got so much ridicule that he stopped mentioning it for many years. In 2004, Guessman and I began communicating with him.

The following problems are found in the early-May-22-2017 version of GKLP:

  1. “he did not get a good look at it” is a poor description of the actual view of the tail
  2. The other witness was NOT a biology professor
  3. That other man did NOT deny seeing a “pterosaur” but refused to talk about “it”
  4. [Whitcomb] never said that man might have been distracted (and so saw nothing)
  5. There apparently never was any “testimony” from the friend of Duane Hodgkinson
  6. Kuban seems to imply that DH’s friend was a scientist, which is very doubtful
  7. Kuban seems to ignore that the friend never said that it may have been a bird
  8. GK never mentions the fact that DH was a weather observer for the field artillery
  9. Do scientists always accept and celebrate reports of “living fossils?” No.
  10. [Whitcomb] was not hiding any “denial” in the video (regarding DH’s friend)
  11. No coverup was involved, in online publications [by Whitcomb]
  12. “less than objective” fails to take into account what was actually done
  13. No heron or other bird can reasonably account for a wingspan close to 29 feet
  14. GK fails to mention [Whitcomb’s] explanations involving a comic strip
  15. GK fails to mention the close relationship this has with the Hennessy sighting
  16. GK fails to take into account how this could relate to the Lake Pung sighting
  17. He also fails to consider how it could be tied to the Perth, Australia, report
  18. He seems oblivious to how it could relate to Jonah Jim’s ropen sighting

I do not imply that Kuban almost always reports inaccurately what my associates and I have written. On the contrary, he often correctly reports what we have said. But the nature of the above mistakes is consistent with the kinds of errors I have seen in other area of his long online publication. They point to confirmation bias and to one or more other problems in reasoning.

Misleading account of Duane Hodgkinson’s sighting

Let’s here focus on one aspect of the 1944 sighting that was just west of Finschhafen, New Guinea: the reaction of the army buddy of DH. We’ll call this American soldier “BDH” (buddy of Duane Hodgkinson).

The most reasonable explanation for the depth of Kuban’s mistake in this area is that he suffers from an extreme case of confirmation bias, for I have explained this before, and I believe that he has had access to that explanation.

I never said that BDH was a biology professor, even though Kuban declares that it is in my book Searching for Ropens and Finding God (SFRFG). Kuban (GK) needs to search again. “Professor” is not in that part of the book, and nowhere in SFRFG does it say he was a professor.

Since BDH seems to have never spoken to anybody about that encounter in the jungle clearing, after the day it happened, we need to examine what actually took place immediately after the sighting. That’s when BDH said something. All we have is what Hodgkinson (DH) said about his communication with BDH right after the sighting, so let’s look at that.

Contrary to what GK may imply in his long skeptical page, BDH never said that they saw something other than a pterosaur or “pterodactyl.” The two soldiers had an argument, right there in that jungle clearing, right after the animal had flown out of sight for the second time. The nature of that argument reveals much more than GK admits. The following is from SFRFG, page 26:

For Duane Hodgkinson and his friend, seeing-is-believing proved only half true, for when Hodgkinson mentioned the word “pterodactyl,” the other soldier’s response was complete denial. According to Hodgkinson, his friend was “so steeped in conventional thinking,” that he denied they had seen what they had seen. “Well, George, we saw it,” was answered with, “No, we didn’t!

Kuban never interviewed DH. Guessman and I, on the other hand, interviewed him a number of times, each of them being independent interviews. Never did DH mention anything suggesting that his army buddy had ever suggested that they had seen something other than a pterosaur.

When that is taken into account, the meaning of the brief communication between those two soldiers, in that jungle clearing in 1944, becomes obvious to me. BDH had not the slightest desire to tell anybody that they had seen a living pterodactyl with a wingspan of a small plane.

Kuban portrays my approach to that subject as if I were hiding a soldier’s “denial” of a sighting of a modern pterosaur. In reality, it always takes me many sentences to properly explain that concept, so I don’t usually include that when I report the 1944 sighting. Consider the next paragraph in SFRFG:

Later the apparent benefits of denial became obvious: When Hodgkinson told his story, listeners thought it sounded crazy. Somebody asked, “What were you drinking?” He was not drinking; he has never been a drinker.

That makes it clear why BDH wanted to keep quiet about the sighting: He did not want to be ridiculed. I have found, after getting eyewitness reports from around the world, including Western countries like the USA, that people hate to be ridiculed. BDH choose the easy way out.

How else can anyone reasonably account for that argument in that jungle clearing in New Guinea in 1944? Any possibility of a misidentified bird would have made it easy for BDH to say, “bird.” Any fruit-bat possibility would have allowed BDH to say, “bat.” Anything other than an obvious pterosaur the size of a small airplane—that would have allowed the army buddy of Duane Hodgkinson to say it was that. The fact that BDH insisted that he would deny that they had seen anything at all—that fits perfectly with the testimony of Mr. Hodgkinson.


copyright 2017 Jonathan David Whitcomb


Attacking the credibility of the Civil War photo

This is a long post that defends the living-pterosaur investigations against an attack from a much longer anti-modern-pterosaur online article.


Pterosaur sighting by Duane Hodgkinson

At one time, he owned a Piper Tri-Pacer, an airplane with a wingspan of twenty nine feet. In an interview with cryptozoologist Garth Guessman, in 2005, Hodgkinson answered questions about his 1944 sighting in New Guinea . . .


Ropen – Hodgkinson and Hennessy sightings compared

The cryptid seen in New Guinea, by Duane Hodgkinson in 1944 and by Brian Hennessy in 1971 . . . Similarities between the descriptions given to me by these two eyewitnesses struck me as too much for coincidence. In each of our interviews (in different years), they both responded to my visual survey-forms, resulting in composite images of the heads of the creatures observed.


Kuban and Whitcomb disagree on living pterosaurs

We acknowledge each other’s writings, having greatly disagreed on many points. We sometimes communicate, always in friendly terms, but our basic perspectives do not seem to change much over many years: He believes that no species of pterosaur has survived into the past few centuries; I believe that a number of species live today.




Nonfiction cryptozoology book on a photograph of an extant pterosaur

Nonfiction cryptozoology book Modern Pterosaurs

“Skeptics have found apparent faults with the old photograph that we now call Ptp, the “Civil War pterodactyl photo.” Yet under closer examination, those supposed weaknesses evaporate. It seems that either confirmation bias or belief perseverance (or both) has played a role in how some persons have interpreted the photograph.”


recently deceased pterosaur ("pterodactyl") in an old photograph

Bible Timetable Verified in Pterosaur Photo

By nonfiction author Jonathan Whitcomb

Clifford Paiva, a scientist living in California, this past January suggested I write a small book about what we have discovered in an old photograph. I just finished writing the nonfiction Modern Pterosaurs, which supports a Biblical timetable regarding the Flood of Noah.

The book answers the following questions:

  1. Why did it take so long for scientists to get a photo of an extant pterosaur?
  2. What supports the idea that some pterosaurs are not extinct?
  3. Why believe in eyewitnesses of these flying creatures?
  4. How many persons, worldwide, have seen living pterosaurs?
  5. Have the American researchers been honest?
  6. What have the two scientists discovered in the Ptp photo?
  7. How does the evidence greatly favor an extant pterosaur in Ptp?
  8. Why do Paiva and Whitcomb believe in modern pterosaurs?
  9. Why are finger-tips missing on the hand of one of the soldiers?
  10. How do we know that Photoshop was not involved in the photo?
  11. What dinosaurs have been Carbon-dated at only tens of thousands of years old?
  12. Is the animal seen in this photo a ropen?
  13. Who has seen a large featherless flying creature in the United States?
  14. Why are skeptics and critics wrong about the Civil War photograph?
  15. How is mathematical probability related to belief in modern pterosaurs?
  16. Why do some persons immediately reject the photo, before looking at it closely?
  17. What other nonfiction books have been written about extant pterosaurs?
  18. What is confirmation bias, and how does it relate to Ptp?
  19. How have hallucinations been eliminated in the great majority of sighting reports?
  20. Who has searched for living pterosaurs in Papua New Guinea?
  21. How do the two scientists know the photo is older than about 1870?
  22. Who made a hoax photograph that imitated the older one?

. . .

That is only part of what is covered in this little book of 115 pages: Modern Pterosaurs.

The genre is nonfiction cryptozoology, with only brief comments on the Bible and the Flood of Noah, yet the Biblical perspective is clearly supported. This is about the wonderful discovery made by two Christian scientists: a modern pterosaur in an old Civil War photograph.


recently deceased pterosaur ("pterodactyl") in an old photograph

The American-Civil-War photograph now called “Ptp” is verified authentic by two scientists


Nonfiction cryptozoology book on a photograph of an extant pterosaur

Modern Pterosaurs – nonfiction cryptozoology book




Civil War pterodactyl photo

. . . a scientist (Clifford Paiva, a physicist) has found a number of evidences for the authenticity of the image of the apparent Pteranodon in the older Ptp photo. These include consistent shadows under the boot of the soldier who stands in front of the animal, shadowing consistent with those found on and under the animal.


“Flying Dinosaur” Shot by Civil War Soldiers

. . . we agreed that the image of an apparent Pteranodon, in an old photograph, was a real animal. That photo, now called “Ptp,” is the subject of that nonfiction cryptozoology book.


Biblical Creationist Book

The nonfiction cryptozoology book Modern Pterosaurs . . . supports a Biblical Old Testament point of view . . .


Civil War Pteranodon Photo

The dead flying creature seen in the “Pteranodon photograph,” (Ptp) although it may be called a “pterodactyl” by some Americans and a “ropen” by others, could be a pterodactyloid pterosaur . . .