Pterosaur Hoax or Genuine?


By the modern-pterosaur nonfiction author Jonathan Whitcomb

The following two questions are obviously irrelevant to extant-pterosaur research:

  • Has anyone ever created any hoax?
  • Has anyone ever misidentified anything?

Less obvious but mostly irrelevant to my investigations are the following questions:

  • Has anyone ever created a hoax photo that looked like it had a modern pterosaur?
  • Has anyone ever seen a non-pterosaur but thought it was one?

I mention the first one here because some skeptics have published examples of hoaxes as if that is evidence that any photograph that would show an apparent modern pterosaur is also a hoax. Photographs that prove meteors fall out of the sky are not evidence that no airplane has ever experienced an onboard fire during a flight, no matter how much one of them, at night, could resemble the other.

We’ll not go into confirmation bias or belief perseverance here, for I’ve written extensively on that elsewhere. We’ll not cover misidentification possibilities here, but we’ll look at hoax potential in an old photograph of an apparent Pteranodon.

The apparent Civil-War-era photograph called “Ptp”

In January of 2017, the physicist Cliff Paiva and I agreed that the old photograph now called Ptp has a genuine image of a modern pterosaur. Since January, we have found additional evidence for its authenticity, which is what should be expected for something that is genuine rather than a hoax.


The old photograph Ptp has been declared genuine by two scientists

The old photograph has been confirmed with much evidence for authenticity


Do not confuse this photo with one that was made to imitate it. The Haxan Films Freakylinks TV-show hoax image is a completely different photo.

Partial list of evidences that the photograph is old

  1. A tree branch under the beak is used to keep the man’s shoe motionless
  2. Another prop is seen, apparently to support the left wing
  3. The equipment worn by the soldiers is too realistic for most Civil War reenactors
  4. People remember seeing this photograph in a book in the mid-20th century

Partial list of evidences that it is a modern pterosaur

  1. Both wings are folded in a way consistent with some pterosaurs (wing inversion)
  2. The wings have both apparent biological-general-symmetry and differences in detail
  3. The scientist Clifford Paiva has found apparent blood effusion areas on the animal
  4. The neck curve is consistent with what would be expected of some pterosaurs
  5. The neck shows apparent muscle structure
  6. Although the wings show some interesting structure, it has no feathers
  7. The shoulders have lit/shade details consistent with a real animal (not Photoshop)
  8. Some of the head has structures correlating with what is known about a Pteranodon

Partial list of evidences Photoshop was not used in placing soldier-images onto a photograph

  1. With five of the six men, there’s absolutely no reason to paste their images onto a background of trees. Digital image-manipulation software (like Photoshop) would not be used by a hoaxer to do that kind of pasting
  2. With the sixth soldier (in front of the animal) his shoe on the beak castes a shadow consistent with other shadows seen on the animal
  3. The lighting is consistent from one soldier to another (darkness of shirts, etc)
  4. Pixel-widths of belt buckles and buttons are consistent with apparent distance between soldier and camera, with the apparent front soldier actually closest to the camera

Partial responses to criticisms by skeptics regarding potential Photoshop use

  1. The soldier on the far left is probably holding onto the ramrod of his rifle
  2. Soldier on the far right does NOT have a “halo” (it’s the tree-branch background)
  3. The shirts of the soldiers SHOULD be darker than the sunlit background



Confirmation bias and a photo of a modern pterosaur

Wampp has said, “his own approach and arguments seem to entail large doses of [confirmation bias],” when referring to me, yet he gives no explanation or example of it. I will do so, although he may not like it, for it points in a completely different direction from what he tries to portray in bampp.


Live Pterodactyl

Live pterosaurs? Says who? Well, the eyewitnesses. Sightings have been reported by not only natives but by Australians and Americans; not only at night but in daylight; not only by those who believed they would see a live pterosaurs but by those just lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time . . .


About Jonathan Whitcomb

First page of the scientific paper“Reports of Living Pterosaurs in the Southwest Pacific” (in a peer-reviewed journal of science) . . .


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The Ropen has Survived Skeptical Attacks


By the cryptozoology author and ropen expert Jonathan Whitcomb

Update on October 3, 2017

I have written four nonfiction books about living pterosaurs, in a total of nine editions. For those who cannot or will not purchase one of my paperback books, consider the free pdf download of Live Pterosaurs in Australia and in Papua New Guinea. Here are brief overviews of the other three, which are available for purchase from major online book sellers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble:

Searching for Ropens and Finding God (fourth edition)

This is the longest of my print publications on non-extinct pterosaurs (360 pages). In spite of the title, it’s more of a true-life adventure book than a religious one. I think of it as a cross genre in the following order:

  1. cryptozoology
  2. true-life adventure
  3. Christian living and believing

Live Pterosaurs in America (third edition)

This is mostly devoted to sighting reports in the USA. At 154 pages, it’s easier to read than Searching for Ropens and Finding God.

Modern Pterosaurs

This is the most recently published: April 2, 2017. Everything was ready to be sent in to the publishing platform on April 1st, but I wanted to avoid misunderstandings: I am serious about the subject of non-extinct pterosaurs. At 116 pages, this is the smallest print book.

Original Post:

Sighting reports of apparent pterosaurs continue to come in; the ropen continues to survive skeptical attacks, despite declarations about extinctions. The most obvious extinction, however, is that of a page on Wikipedia.

Around mid-August of 2014, the “Ropen” page on Wikipedia was deleted. Why do I mention this now, at the beginning of 2017? I’ve already written about that unjust deletion, but earlier this week I noticed the “Kongamato” page on Wikipedia, and it includes the following:

The kongamato . . . is a reported pterosaur-like creature said to have been seen by the people of and explorers in the . . . swamps of Western Zambia, Angola and Congo {Africa}. Suggested identities include a modern-day Rhamphorhynchus {long-tailed pterosaur}, a misidentified bird (such as the very large and peculiar saddle-billed stork), or a giant bat.

Notice in that paragraph the suggestion of a modern pterosaur. This is an excerpt taken from the Wikipedia “Kongamato” page on January 3, 2017. This means that the deletion of the “Ropen” page two and a half years ago was not from any concerted conspiracy to eliminate from Wikipedia, over a period of time, any reference to living pterosaurs. It appears to relate only to the word ropen, and I have an explanation.

Article: “There are no Living Pterosaurs and ‘Ropen’ is a Stupid Fantasy”

At about the same time that “Ropen” was deleted from Wikipedia, maybe the same week or a week earlier, a biology professor at a university in Minnesota published a hypercritical blog post about my writings on living pterosaurs and my use of two pen names. For anyone who would like to read his post, which includes one sentence with bathroom language, it’s easy to find online.

He also appeared to bemoan the existence of a “Ropen” page on Wikipedia. He referred to that page as “a perfect example of why I don’t let my students ever cite Wikipedia.” I can understand his position there, but I suggest that an even better example of the weakness of depending too much on Wikipedia is that page’s deletion. For the past two and a half years, anyone searching with “ropen” on Wikipedia would get something like this:

The page “Ropen” does not exist.

I’m not suggesting that this biology professor personally deleted “Ropen” from Wikipedia; that was more likely done by someone who was influenced by the professor’s post. But because the deletion of the page on Wikipedia appears related to that post, some of the weaknesses in some of that professor’s comments need to be examined.

Yet first we need to look on the positive side of his post. I’m glad that Professor PZ Myers did NOT carelessly throw the following words into his post, words found on some other sites critical of the idea that some pterosaurs might still be living:

  • lies
  • deceive
  • dishonest

I’m glad those words are absent from his post. He also did well in actually quoting from some of my online writings, a practice which is sadly lacking from some other skeptics of the ropen investigations. I disagree with Myers on many points, but his inclusion of those quotes makes it possible for some readers to come to some conclusions of their own, rather than just blindly follow the ravings of an angry skeptic. I also believe in quoting those with whom I disagree.

PZ Meyers is the author of the book The Happy Atheist. I’ve not read that book and so make no comment on it except to suggest its title may relate to his criticism of one or more of my online writings that relate to my Mormon beliefs. You can skip this and move down to “The Use of Pen Names” below, if you don’t want to read about religion here.

Professor Meyers wrote:

. . . he’s using his book and web pages to promote the Mormon religion.

I really don’t deserve that unintended compliment. Here’s part of his quoting from one of my cryptozoology web pages:

. . . eyewitnesses of strange flying creatures are from various countries and cultures, appearing to differ from those who have been raised in Western countries in which universal-extinction ideas are taken for granted for dinosaurs and pterosaurs.

page promoting "Searching for Ropens and Finding God" a nonfiction paperback book

Top of the online page referred to by Professor Myers

I would not mention all of this here, except that this professor’s obvious carelessness in this part of his hypercritical post may suggest that other parts of his post may also have been written without careful and thorough research.

Notice two things about my web page that was quoted from by Professor Myers:

  • The URL is and that URL was chosen for Mormons, NOT as a proselyting page to “promote” the LDS faith to non-Mormons.
  • The section quoted by Myers is titled, “Why is SFRFG Important to Latter-day Saints?” and that confirms that it was indeed written to members of our faith: TO Mormons.

I think that if this professor had been more careful he would have noticed that this online page is a promotion of one of my books to Mormons rather than to promote to non-Mormons the beliefs of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I sometimes try to share my faith with those having other religious beliefs, but this is not an example of that, although I can understand how Professor Myers made that mistake.

Different Names for Apparent Living Pterosaurs

People use many words and names to describe these featherless flying creatures. In Africa, one of the native names is kongamato, but of course many other names may be used on that continent. In Papua New Guinea, the following names make a partial list:

  • Ropen
  • Kor
  • Indava
  • Seklo-bali
  • Wawanar
  • Duwas (NOT “duwah”)

The Use of Pen Names

Sometimes the use of a pen name can be done honestly and for a valid reason; sometimes pen names are used for deceiving people. Unfortunately, some of the skeptics who criticize living-pterosaur investigators have carelessly assumed the worst, proclaiming that I have used two pen names wrongfully. Professor Myers declares that I have confessed “to rampant sock puppetry.” I deny that. Let’s look into the details.

The phrase “sock puppet” has a number of definitions; one of those found on Wikipedia relates specifically to editing Wikipedia articles, but that is irrelevant here. Let’s look at a more common definition of sock puppets.

Sock Puppets and the Writings of Jonathan Whitcomb

Some definitions of this phrase relate to unethical, if not illegal, online usage of pen names. It sometimes refers to the dishonest practice of an author who makes up a name and uses it to promote his or her book, making a comment look like a positive reader review. This is not at all how I used two pen names in my online blog posts.

I hope nobody is offended at my quoting Wikipedia:

A sockpuppet is an online identity used for purposes of deception.

Professor Myers does not use the word deception in his post, to his credit. Since he wrote “rampant sock puppetry,” however, I’ll go into more details than he did, for I believe that phrase does NOT fit my past writing practices (I discontinued using pen names in 2014).

“Norman Huntington” on Modern Pterosaur

For a few years, I went by Norman Huntington on the blog Modern Pterosaur. On first glance, people could assume I had been using a pen name to avoid ridicule. After all, who would want to risk having their name become synonymous with crazy? That’s a perfectly valid reason for using a pen name, but it was not my reason.

Before, during, and after using the name Norman Huntington—that’s when I was using Jonathan Whitcomb in my writings on other blogs and on many various online sites, with one notable exception (see “Nathaniel Coleman” below). In addition, I used my regular name with all of my books and with my scientific paper that was published in a peer-reviewed journal of science.

Why did I begin using Norman Huntington a few years after my expedition in Papua New Guinea? My real name was beginning to become abused by some online skeptics. It became obvious to me that some readers could soon be avoiding my writings simply because of my name. One skeptic went so far as to suggest caution when reading about an expedition, in Papua New Guinea, by Paul Nation, because that explorer was associated with “Jonathan Whitcomb.” Yikes! It really was time for me to use a pen name.

“Nathaniel Coleman” on Dinosaurs and Pterosaurs Alive

At about the same time that I started using Norman Huntington, I realized that it too could soon become abused by skeptics. That’s why I started using another pen name: Nathaniel Coleman. But neither of those two names were ever used in any simulation of a reader review that praised any of my books as if regular readers were commenting. In fact, on at least one or two occasions I included critical remarks regarding the writings of Jonathan Whitcomb, pointing out one or more weaknesses in my own words or approach. I did that to distance myself from the potential unethical practice of dishonesty in the use of one or more pen names.

I would not expect many skeptics to notice one of those self-criticisms on one of my older blog posts. After all, I’ve published well over a thousand web pages and blog posts, over the past 14 years, and what skeptic would bother to search through every one of those, passionately trying to be objective? I don’t expect anything close to that from a careless skeptic, but I believe in something more than a species of modern pterosaur: I believe that some persons who discover one of my web pages will search objectively for the truth, learning a good deal more than Professor Myers appears to have learned.

Americans Searching for Ropens

Professor Myers lists six web sites that support the idea that not all pterosaurs are extinct (each site has many pages), and he mentions that he has looked at other pages as well. I believe he may have done more searching than most ropen skeptics, before he began writing, which could be to his credit. But then he says the following:

It turns out that they’re all by the same guy, Jonathan Whitcomb, who’s been busily [publishing web pages] all over the internet to make it look like there is an active community of researchers tracking down the wily pterosaur.

Professor Myers may be close to the truth in the first phrase of that sentence, for even back in the middle of 2014, when he wrote his critical post, I probably already had over a thousand blog posts and other pages published on the subject of eyewitness sightings of apparent living pterosaurs. He may be 97% correct there, but only in that first phrase.

The biology professor then makes a blunder that is, unfortunately, too common among writers that have a variety of educational background and degrees, or lack thereof: He writes about the motivations or objectives that he images are those of the person he criticizes. In this case, he’s not just missing a shot: It’s an air ball.

If I had wanted to dishonestly “make it look like there is an active community of researchers” when I was actually acting alone, do you think I would have used only two pen names? Among my many web pages and posts, how easy it would been to use two hundred pen names! If I had been trying to deceive people in that way, I could have also used countless references from one name to another, making an enormous web of deceptive links, making it look like hundreds of persons were praising the writings of hundreds of other (apparent) persons. But the point is this: I could have created hundreds of fictitious names dishonestly if I wanted to deceive people, but I used two pen names instead, to proclaim the truth about eyewitness reports of apparent living pterosaurs.

I think that if Professor Myers had thought more carefully, he would have appreciated that most of my web pages and posts are about persons (other than myself) who have searched for ropens and other living pterosaurs or about eyewitnesses who have reported their sightings to me and to my associates. Look at all those hundreds of pages and posts and see if any of those names are pen names. No, those are regular names of regular persons.

ropen searchers: James Blume, David Woetzel, Milt Marcy, Peter Beach, Scott Norman, Jonathan Whitcomb, Paul Nation, Garth Guessman

Eight Americans who actively searched, mostly in the 21st century, for living pterosaurs

Quality scientific advancements require specific thoughts and ideas, investigated in specific ways, in other words digging deeply into details. Professor Myers appears to have go astray in a generalization. Let’s look at what is actually involved in living-pterosaur research (although not a complete list).

  1. Interviewing eyewitnesses of apparent pterosaurs
  2. Exploring remote locations, searching for ropens or eyewitnesses of them
  3. Analyzing eyewitness reports of the featherless flying creatures
  4. Publishing online posts and pages, mostly after one or more of the above

Reading only PZ Myer’s post, people can easily conclude that there is no “active community of researchers” in this subject, accept in the mind of me, Jonathan Whitcomb. It seems to me that he is looking only at part of the fourth kind of research. In reality, many persons have been involved, but I seem to be the only one who has devoted over 10,000 hours to a cryptozoological investigation on these animals. More to the point, none of my associates have written nearly as much as I have. That can make it appear that I am working alone. It would be much more accurate to think of me like this: most of the time, I am publishing alone.

Reading only “There are no Living Pterosaurs and ‘Ropen’ is a Stupid Fantasy,” people can have not idea that this biology-professor writer, in ridiculing an interview I conducted with two men, is referring to another biology professor (Peter Beach), who observed a light at night, a light that flew out of the same tree in which another man reported seeing, in daylight, an apparent pterosaur. And that other biology professor himself is a believer in modern living pterosaurs. Who would have guessed, without looking deeper?

Perhaps Professor Myers was unaware that Mr. Beach was also a biology professor, although he does mention “Professor Peter Beach.” But the point is this: The interview he refers to is best understood in context of many sightings of flying lights that many scientists have not yet adequately explained, lights that other researchers have explained by reference to the possibility of intrinsic bioluminescence of flying creatures that are not yet officially classified in Western science.

More than one peer-reviewed scientific paper on modern pterosaurs has been published in a journal of science, over the past fourteen years. Perhaps Professor Myers was unaware of that fact. Be that as it may, eyewitnesses of these featherless flying creatures continue to report their encounters, new eyewitnesses, and that kind of evidence, whether Myers likes it or not, continues to accumulate from around the world. The ropen continues to survive skeptical attacks, in spite of those who proclaim that all species of both general types of pterosaurs must have become extinct many millions of years ago. It seems that a number of species of these wonderful flying creatures did indeed escape extinction, and they keep on flying overhead, mostly at night, occasionally seen and recognized by people, a few of whom are brave enough to report what they saw.



Kongamato flying creature

The kongamato is sometimes compared with the ropen of Papua New Guinea or the long-tailed pterosaur seen in Eastern Cuba in the mid-20th century.

Pen names of Jonathan Whitcomb

Why would he [Dr. Prothero] think that those two television episodes were “all” based on just my writings? Keep in mind that many of my online and book publications were written after those two episodes of Destination Truth and Monsterquest were aired.

Ropen Skeptics

Can a Cryptozoologist be a Pterodactyl Expert?

Hoaxes fail to explain U.S. living-pterosaur reports


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