Civil War Pterodactyl Photo

By modern-pterosaur expert Jonathan Whitcomb

I wrote about this old photograph here on Modern Pterosaur four years ago. I’ve learned much more about this “Pteranodon photograph,” however, in recent days, especially from communicating with Clifford Paiva, a missile defense physicist.

controversial photograph of what looks like six Union soldiers standing over the remains of a large Pteranodon

Figure-1: “Ptp” photograph examined by a physicist: Cliff Paiva

Do not confuse the above photo with a hoax made for Freakylinks (Fox network series that was on the air from 2000 to 2001.) The television hoax-photo has Civil War reenactors standing over a vague canvass-like thing on the ground, yet it was made in imitation of the above photo, even to the point of having a “soldier” put his boot on the crude head-like thing on the ground. The Ptp image shown above, in contrast, is much older and shows the head of an apparent Pteranodon. That head cries out for a closer look.


Photo enlarged, showing solar shadow zones - Clifford Paiva analysis

Figure-2: close-up of the beak and eye and the soldier’s boot

Notice the magnification in Figure-2, including the vertical-pupil of the eye. Some animals have that kind of eye, cats and crocodiles, for example. It allows them to see in both daylight and at night. Also important, the physicist found a correlation between a solar shadow under the boot of the soldier and ones on the animal.

In other words, the image is consistent with the idea that this is a photograph of an actual soldier that has his boot on the beak of an actual animal.

Skepticism of the Civil War Pterodactyl Photo

I remember seeing this photograph many year ago, perhaps even in the 1960’s. One of my earliest memories of it included my distaste for the wings. At first glance, they look like the ends of two canoes, or one canoe cut in half. I had little knowledge of canoes at the time, but in January of 2017, I got an email from a man who did know about them. Here is part of what he told me:

I’m 67 years old and remember this photo from when I was young. . . . I’ve canoed all my life. I’ve owned several of them. Those aren’t halves of a canoe! . . . Too narrow, too shallow. And definitely not a dugout canoe!

I suspect many skeptics have turned away from this photo for the same reason I did, thinking the wings looked like a canoe. Now the above comments from Tom Payne sinks that skepticism.

Have you ever seen the page “Living Pterodactyls?” by Glen Kuban? I have found many problems with that long online publication, but one applies especially here, his curt remark about the “Civil War pterosaur” (that I call “Ptp”) for which he includes a small image:

“Alas, the photo has since been exposed as a hoax–a promotional stunt for a Fox television series.”

Did you catch the problem with his dismissal? He displayed a cropped small image of the photo that is now declared genuine, but he confuses it with an entirely different photo: The known hoax from the Freakylinks television series that was once on the Fox network. In other words, his conclusion is entirely worthless regarding the image he has displayed. His mini-photo shows the old Ptp but his words refer to the newer hoax-photo.


We’re stilling discovering new things in the Ptp photograph, new evidence that this image of an apparent modern pterosaur is genuine. I have also been discovering that many old criticisms from skeptics are of little or no relevance or value. In other words, Ptp is coming to look more and more like a valid photo of a modern pterosaur.



Possible Pteranodon in a Civil War Photograph

Paiva has found new evidence that this has an image of a genuine modern pterosaur. The solar shadows tie the soldier’s boot to the animal, and a number of details in the head, neck, and other areas—those correlate well with the anatomy of a Pteranodon.

Skeptical Responses to 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 . . .

Civil War Photos

The War Between the States was the first large and prolonged conflict recorded by photography.

Civil War Pteranodon Photograph

Written by Jonathan Whitcomb in April of 2013, long before the detailed analysis that was revealed by the physicist Clifford Paiva (This needs to be taken in that context)


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About Norman Huntington AKA Jonathan Whitcomb

Passionately supporting research into living modern pterosaurs
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