Pterodactyl Photograph With Civil War Soldiers

By the living-pterosaur expert Jonathan Whitcomb

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.


On January 14, 2017, the physicist Clifford Paiva and the cryptozoologist Jonathan D. Whitcomb jointly proclaimed that the old photograph herein labeled “Ptp” contains a genuine image of an actual modern pterosaur. Some Americans and other Westerners call these “prehistoric” featherless flying creatures “pterodactyls.”


Image of an actual modern pterosaur in an old photograph

Figure-1: The original “Ptp” photograph that was declared genuine in early 2017

Two similar photos exist, both showing a similar scene, although the newer one is a known hoax, created for the Freakylinks television series that was on the Fox Network from 2000-2001. The newer one can be recognized by the heavyset appearance of the Civil War reenactors and by the canvass-like appearance of the fake flying creature. The Ptp photo shown in Figure-1, however, has an animal with a head suggesting a Pteranodon.

We’ll now examine only the Ptp photograph.

A Small Portion of the Evidence for Authenticity

The following is not the most important evidence, in my opinion, that supports the declaration that Ptp has a genuine image of a modern pterosaur, but it is the kind of evidence that some persons appear to value. For some skeptics, however, the apparent lack of such evidence in earlier online writings on the subject—that may appear to suggest that this kind of evidence does not exist. It does exist; we’ll cover some of it here.

I’ve spoken with the missile defense physicist Clifford Paiva on more than one occasion during the past six days, enlightening conversations to say the least. He has done considerable study of this photograph, finding things that I had never thought of before. Let’s consider some of them, with some of the images he has analyzed.

1) Vertical Eye Pupil and Solar Shadow Zones

Paiva's analysis of solar shadow zones and a vertical pupil

Figure-2: The “Reptilian Eye” image is not from Ptp but is an example

First, take note of the eye on the apparent Pteranodon, but not the eye surrounded by green in the upper right, for that’s for comparison. Highly magnified, we see that it has a vertical pupil. That is hardly something that a typical hoaxer would have thought about trying to create on a model of a constructed pterosaur.

And even if a group of persons were working together to create a hoax model and one of them thought of that detail, why would they go to so much trouble to actually construct a simulated cat-like (and crocodile-like) eye slit? In the photograph, it’s almost invisible without great magnification. How much easier it would be to just make an indentation in the head and call it a closed eye!

Mr. Paiva has also pointed out the consistency in the shadows under the soldier’s boot and in and around the apparent Pteranodon. This indicates that this is a photograph of an actual man with his boot on the beak of something like a Pteranodon. In other words, it is unlike what we would expect of a Photoshop hoax, even if the photograph were recorded in recent years. By the way, a number of persons have reported seeing this photo in a book or magazine around the 1950’s or 1960’s. That correlates with the above evidence that this was not a Photoshop hoax with a paste-on soldier image.

2) Inverted wings

Mr. Paiva pointed out something that I never previously considered. The wings, or a portion of the wings, are inverted or twisted around. The lighter colored area of both wings is actually the underside of them, if they had not been twisted around after the animal died. What hoaxer would have thought of that? It correlates quite well with what scientists now know about the wings of some pterosaurs.

3) Hump Where the Neck Connects to the Body

And what hoaxer would have thought to take much trouble to make a hump at the base of the neck? That correlates with the anatomy of some pterosaurs.

Other Evidences for the Authenticity of the “Civil War Pterodactyl” Photo

In my own investigation of Ptp, I have found significant evidence that the image of an apparent pterosaur is actually just that: It was a modern pterosaur, possibly recently deceased and possibly related to a Pteranodon. But that needs to be covered elsewhere.



Old Civil War Pteranodon Photograph

The physicist Clifford Paiva and the cryptozoologist Jonathan Whitcomb jointly agreed that an old photograph (“Ptp”) contains an image of an actual modern pterosaur. Neither of them are declaring that this is a ropen (long-tailed) or that it must be a Pteranodon.

Civil War Pterosaur Shots

Includes both photographs, one of which is a known hoax and the older one being imitated by the hoax.

Pterosaur Sighting in South Carolina

Ropen sighting by Susan Wooten


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