No-Joke Pterosaurs in San Diego

This past November, on a clear evening at about 8:00 p.m., in the middle of San Diego, California, two men saw something flying in from the west. At first, they assumed it was a bird, but when it got closer it was obviously no ordinary bird, if it was a bird at all. It was much too big and had a long tail. One of the men reported the sighting to the cryptozoologist Jonathan Whitcomb, who lives just up the coast, in Long Beach, California.

Nocturnal Pterosaurs in San Diego

“I was at my friend’s house. Well it was a really clear night, because it had rained the day before. We were standing in the street and I couldn’t keep my eyes off the stars, they were really bright. Then from the west came this dark object in the sky. It was right over us about, I say, 40 yards [high]. As it got closer we both yelled, “What the hell is that?” It looked like a huge bird. It was gliding . . . I was stuck looking at it the entire time. I began yelling at it, then it turned around and it stood still in the air. It was flapping its wings while it was there. Then outta nowhere here came another one. It was waiting for it; as it got close to the other one, they both went east.”

The eyewitness who reported the sighting thought the wings were each ten to fifteen feet long, making a wingpan of at least twenty feet. He could not be sure whether or not the ropen-like creatures had feathers, but he remembers that the tails were long and straight. He also reported that he could see the color of the underside of the torso, describing it as “kinda goldish brownish.”

The problem with notifying the news media, in this case, was that just three months previously somebody had played a practical joke. A statue in northern San Diego County was found to have a model “pterodactyl” fixed onto the top. This was carried in the news, becoming well-known in the San Diego area. What news reporter would thereafter give serious consideration to a report of two giant pterodactyls flying over the middle of San Diego? Even if a reporter believed the story, how could it be presented to the editing supervisor of the newspaper?

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Omens and The Alchemist

Warning: Don’t read the end of this posting if you are about to read The Alchemist, for it gives away the ending of that story.

I’m usually wary of signs or omens, at least when the person interpreting them may be subject to personal subjective influences. But sometimes coincidences can at least be interesting. Such is the case with the following two facts regarding an allegorical novel by the Brazilizan author Paulo Coelho: The Alchemist.

Jonathan Whitcomb, author of Live Pterosaurs in America, is a volunteer editor for Wikipedia, one of many thousands of writers who try to keep that online giant well oiled and up to date. He recently noticed that the page on The Alchemist gave that book credit for sixty-five million copies sold worldwide. He researched it and found the actual number was twenty-three million, so he corrected the Wikipedia mistake.

Well, by coincidence (or by an omen, if you like the story of The Alchemist) sixty-five million is highly relevant to those who pursue modern pterosaurs, or to those who write about eyewitness encounters with the “flying dinosaurs” or “pterodactyls.” Sixty-five million is the number of years that many biologists mention regarding the most recent time when the last pterosaurs lived on earth.

The second fact is in regards to the story itself, in The Alchemist. The traveling boy goes all the way from southern Spain to the Pyramids of Egypt, taking a long time to do so. When he gets there, he does not find the treasure he sought but is given a clue to return to his own country. There, in his own land, he finds a treasure.

Regarding the explorers who sought living pterosaurs in Papua New Guinea, years ago, they failed to get any clear view of a living pterosaur there but returned home to the United States to discover many eyewitnesses of modern pterosaurs in their own country. Some of the American explorers have even seen modern pterosaurs in the USA. Just like the shepherd boy in The Alchemist, those Americans returned home to find a treasure “buried,” so to speak, where they never imagined it.

Wikipedia off by 42 Million

Apparently not all mistakes on Wikipedia are minor. The allegorical novel The Alchemist, by the Brazilian author Paulo Coelho, has sold twenty-three million copies worldwide, not sixty-five million, as was recently proclaimed on Wikipedia. It exaggerated by forty-two million.

I have heard that Wikipedia is sometimes off with numbers but this is an extreme example of how far off it can be.

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Three Books by Independent Authors

Three nonfiction cryptozoology books on modern pterosaurs in North America are now available on Amazon. The three authors, Ken Gerhard, Jonathan Whitcomb, and Gerald McIsaac, have independently written their books, with no apparent collaboration between them. I don’t claim complete objectiveness in evaluating these three publications, as evidenced by the ad below, but I would like to present these books in some degree of comparison in some ways.

Each of these three nonfiction books contain eyewitness sighting reports of modern living pterosaurs, but there are significant differences in style and emphasis. I’ll do my best to explain.

Big Bird

Published February 1, 2007, Ken Gerhard’s book has too many English mistakes for my liking. If I recall correctly, for it’s been awhile since I’ve read Big Bird, there is also at least one sentence that was chopped off, with the second half missing, perhaps between pages, I don’t recall exactly. I also found a technical mistake that put into question, however slightly, the accuracy of the book as a whole. With that in mind, Big Bird has reports in Texas that may not be available from other sources, for Gerhard has traveled around and interviewed people who have seen what they believe were modern pterosaurs.

Live Pterosaurs in America — third edition

Published November 2, 2011, Jonathan Whitcomb’s book is likely the most extensive in eyewitnesses sightings across the U.S.A., and at 154 pages is more substantial than the other two books. His objectiveness has occasionally been brought into question by critics who bring up the religion question, to be precise the Creationist connection, but for those who have read both his books in their most recent editions, he is seen to be not a Young Earth Creationist in the usual sense, for he does not believe in a 6,000 universe or even a 6,000 year old earth.

Bird From Hell — second edition

Published April 21, 2011, McIsaac’s book may not be entirely about sightings of pterosaurs. I admit that I have not read the book in its entirety, however. But the “Look Inside” feature of Amazon has given me a peek into this nonficion book, and I like what I see. It probably has only a fraction of the number of sightings as Live Pterosaurs in America, but the old traditions of native Americans give this book a special flavor. Modern pterosaurs are supported by not only recent sightings in North America but by old traditions of American Indians. Like Big Bird, this book probably has reports that are not available from any other original source. But this book is only about cryptids in British Columbia, Canada.


For those new to this fascinating field of cryptozoology, I recomment purchasing all three books on, for you will probably get free shipping in the bargain.


Cover of the third edition of "Live Pterosaurs in America" by Whitcomb

From the Amazon page on the second edition of this book comes this review:

“I couldn’t put this book down. It is absolutely fascinating to read about eyewitness accounts of the people who have seen these creatures. To learn about these testimonies from such an open minded perspective is refreshing in the extreme! The way that our school systems and scientists alike are indoctrinated is sad. There is so much money out there being used for research, if only they would use it for good. I highly recommend this book to anyone! People should know the truth about what is going on. No one ever hears anything about this unless they conduct extremely specific internet searches, even then, information is minimal. Jonathan Whitcomb needs to write more books!”

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Recent Tracks in Mexico

A large number of potential pterosaur tracks, apparently recently formed by one or more animals, has been reported around northeastern Mexico, although the exact location is secret. It is speculative to say that they are pterosaur tracks, even though indirect eyewitness testimony suggests they may be from a strange flying creature that has frightened at least a few Mexicans in recent years, in this general area.

area where prints were found in Mexico - maybe from modern pterosaur

The more recent observations, by a man who wishes to be anonymous at present, were one or two years ago, in a remote area that may be close to the border with southwest Texas.

Not all fossilized pterosaur tracks clearly show toe indentations, and the recently reported tracks evidently do not show any such marks at all. This is hardly conclusive in dismissing the apparent footprints as being irrelevant to any modern pterosaur, however. Some extant pterosaur in North America may be able to make a track without indenting the soil with toes.

Pterosaur Tracks in Mexico, Maybe

. . . the footprints in this remote area of Mexico were not all clear impressions; in fact, most of them were more scuff marks . . . They were separated by 15-20 yards where there was no evidence of any creature on the ground. This might be dismissed if the marks were few in number, but the man walked for a long distance, following the intermittent footprints.

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A Hoax in Wingspan Estimates?

I know that I recently wrote something closely related to this subject of wingspan estimates in “Pterosaur News for Early December.” I there gave a brief statistical analysis of the 57 wingspan estimates that now need further examination. This comes from another blog, one I often quote.

More on Pterosaur Wingspans

Look at the raw data for the left and middle of the graph (wingspan in feet):   2 2 4 4 4 4 5 5 5 6 6 6 7 7 8 8 9 9 9 10 10 10 11 11 12 12 12.5 13 13 13 13 15 16 16 17 17 17 18 — According to standard ideas in paleontology (and that is mostly what is mentioned in Western media when it is mentioned at all), only a small percentage of Rhamphorhynchoids attained wingspans over eight feet. But the data on wingspan estimates does not show any sharp decline above six feet, more of a gentle downward slope (fewer eyewitness estimates) into sizes much larger than standard ideas about Rhamphorhynchoid fossil wingspans. If a significant number of hoaxers made some of these fifty-seven estimates, and a significant number of those hoaxers were trying to portray Rhamphorhynchoids, there would have been a steeper decline above seven feet. But in fact, 26% of reports involved wingspans estimated at 9-13 feet, completely out of line for this particular hoax conjecture.

I will not duplicate the display of that graph here, for it gives too much emphasis to a peak that is less significant that what it appears to be on that graph. Sufficient is part of the raw data of the above numbers.

Most of the 98 sighting reports, from which the 57 with wingspan estimates were taken, suggest flying creatures that have long tails like Rhamphorhynchoids. That is where the idea comes from for the possibility that hoaxers may have tried to conjure up that type of pterosaur in their hoaxes. But the data shows something far different from what is commonly believed about Rhamphorhynchoids, for the size-estimates do not fall sharply at around five-to-seven-feet, but gradually decline at huge wingspans, far larger than what is standard-size for even the largest flying birds of modern times.

A Hoax Suggestion in the Opposite Direction

On the other side of the graph, what about hoaxers who may have tried to convince people that they had seen giant pterosaurs? The Live Pterosaur post also shows up this conjecture, for the gentle slope from small wingspans, and the great number of those small wingspans, counts against any significant hoax pollution of the data.

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Another Pterosaur Sighting in Pennsylvania

The blog “Live Pterosaur” recently featured a preliminary report of what seemed to have been a glowing pterosaur in Pennsylvania, seen by two eyewitnesses on one night:

Afterwards she did some research and told me, “I have found that a pterosaur is identical to what we saw.” She has not yet told me any details about her research nor what image she may have seen that looked like what was encountered; but it is sufficient to consider that it was a possible American ropen. The sighting was in Pennsylvania, and I believe it involved bioluminescence.

I make mention that one of the comments was critical, questioning the wisdom of publishing an account that had not been thoroughly investigated yet. Another comment in reply answered that objection well, in part as follows:

This is one of many recent sightings I am now investigating. When I said, “it is sufficient to consider that it was a possible American ropen,” I did not think anyone would take that to mean that I was insinuating that it MUST have been a ropen or pterosaur. After all, this is a blog with recent news, not a repository of scientific papers that have been peer-reviewed and analyzed for months (although I have written, not many years ago, a scientific paper that was published).

While we are on the subject of pterosaur sightings in Pennsylvania, I refer to what I have already written about a different sighting in that state:

A Real Pterosaur in Pennsylvania

This “bird” also seemed to have a long tail . . . As it was almost directly over us we all agreed we couldn’t see feathers anywhere and my student Carrie said “It looks like pterodactyl . . .  doesn’t it?”

It flew over top us and landed in the water behind the school . . . We could here it splashing around, and Carrie ran around the building to see it. There are always ducks in that water as well as rats and other things. When she came back . . . she said it had taken off, Carrie said it was in the water splashing and eating or grabbing something in its mouth.

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Is “Demon Flyer” Correct?

Numerous web pages and one MonsterQuest episode use the phrase “demon flyer” as if it were a literal interpretation of the word “ropen.” It is not. I propose examining what natives of Umboi Island, and other areas of Papua New Guinea, believe about this mysterious nocturnal flying creature.

Interviews with native eyewitnesses, including the 2004 interview with Mesa Agustin, can reveal a fear that natives have of the ropen, but that does not necessarily mean that those eyewitnesses believe that the creature is an evil spirit or monster. I recommend the following post:

Ropen: a Demon Flyer?

The second Umboi Island expedition of 2004 (a few weeks after mine) turned up an interesting perspective on the word “ropen.” Jacob Kepas, the native interpreter for the American cryptozoologists David Woetzel and Garth Guessman, knew the word but was puzzled. Why go to such trouble flying on a small plane to Umboi Island to search for a bird? In his village near Wau (mainland Papua New Guinea), “ropen” is the word used for a common bird. The large nocturnal flying creature that glows—that frightening creature they call “seklo-bali.”

So in those two small areas of Papua New Guinea (villages of Umboi Island including Opai and Gomlongon, and at least one village near Wau on the mainland) the meaning of the word “ropen” differs greatly. An examination of the expedition reports from American cryptozoologists who have searched for living pterosaurs in Papua New Guinea in the 1990′s and early twenty-first century—that reveals that the Western-world usage of ”ropen” comes from the Kovai-speaking islanders of Opai and Gomlongon.

Umboi Island Sighting in 2009

Rex Yapi is an accounting student at the University of Technology in Lae, Papua New Guinea. Around July of 2009, he was on a banana boat in Bunsil Bay, Umboi. Those on the boat became alarmed at a large creature that was mostly under water but approaching them. They stopped the boat as the creature passed, for apparently it was catching fish or something. Only the tail of the creature was above water, but what a tail! Rex estimated the length at six or seven meters, with a “diamond shape,” which may refer to a Rhamphorhynchoid tail flange.

The natives on those islands of Papua New Guinea where ropens are seen are sometimes afraid of what some Westerners call “demon flyer,” but that phrase does not seem to be a reasonable translation of the Kovai-language word “ropen.”

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Pterosaur News for Early December

Pterosaur Wingspan Estimates

Recent data collected from eyewitnesses from around the world include 57 estimates of wingspan, ranging from two feet to forty-six feet. According to Live Pterosaur blog:

A number of species of pterosaurs (more than two) live in many areas of this planet, with at least most of them being at least mostly nocturnal and with some of them being witnessed by people in counties in which universal dinosaur and pterosaur extinction is taken for granted . . . For Westerners unfamiliar with the past seventeen years of cryptozoological investigations of apparent living pterosaurs, this perspective can appear too incredible to consider, but the data on wingspan estimates is in harmony with it and out of harmony with any reference to potential hoaxes.

For those interested in statistics:

Five-number summary is  2, 7.5, 13, 21.25, 46

Grubbs’ test (to find outliers)

significance level
Alpha = 0.05 (standard)

Mean: 15.579
SD: 10.162
# of values: 57
Outlier detected?  No
Significance level: 0.05 (two-sided)
Critical value of Z: 3.17989844604

Recent Pterosaur Sighting Report from Minnesota

Three of us seen it as it was gliding across the highway in northern Minnesota, in an area of dense cedar swamps. It was early morning and during the winter. It had reddish brown leather type skin with no feathers, bat like wings, a crest on it’s head, a mouth full of small teeth in the back and larger in the front, all very sharp . . . The tail was long, with a spade shaped thing at the end of it. It was about as big as one lane on the highway.

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Darren Naish Comments on Pterosaur Fossils

On the Live Pterosaur post “Pterosaur Extinction Revisited,” the well-known pterosaur fossil expert Darren Naish has given two comments in twelve days. Few paleontologists give much attention to cryptozoological investigations, at least until recently.

First Comment (excerpt):

By the end of the Late Cretaceous, it seems that only two or three pterosaur lineages were still in existence – there were not, so far as we know, 100s of species representing numerous lineages. Those Late Cretaceous pterosaur lineages persist to the end of the Maastrichtian age of the Late Cretaceous, but are absent from the fossil record of the entire Cenozoic. There is thus every reason for thinking that pterosaurs (a) were already at low diversity at the very end of the Late Cretaceous, and (b) died out during the mass extinction event that occurred at the end of the Late Cretaceous. There is no evidence for post-Cretaceous pterosaurs . . .


How many pterosaur fossils have been discovered and dated in the Cretaceous?

Answer (excerpt of second comment):

. . . Pterosaurs are not numerous fossils for several obvious reasons, but we’re talking about 1000s of specimens (Bennett, in his 2001 osteology of _Pteranodon_, refers to 1100 specimens of _Pteranodon_ alone). Nevertheless, there are several key references that at least give a good idea of the taxa involved, most notably…

Barrett, P. M., Butler, R. J., Edwards, N. P. & Milner, A. R. 2008. Pterosaur distribution in time and space: an atlas. Zitteliana B, 28, 61-107.

What I would ask is this: “Related to the statement ‘there is no evidence for post-Cretaceous pterosaurs,’ was there any evidence for post-Cretaceous Coelacanths before the discovery of the living Coelacanths?”

I would also ask, “Is it possible that at least a few of those thousands of discovered pterosaur fossils actually prevented the strata from being dated as post-Cretaceous?” Could there have been any inadvertant circular reasoning in this assumption that all pterosaur fossils have been from ancient life?

The problem with getting an objective evaluation of this fossil dating is in the deeply-entrenched assumption of pterosaur extinction and the assumption that they only lived many millions of years ago. That could have influenced the dating of some of the strata from which the pterosaur fossils were taken, invalidating the claim that all those fossils had been proven to be ancient.

If Mr. Naish is correct, however, in the claim that popular axioms of paleontology make modern pterosaurs extremely unlikely, then the discovery of one or more species of living pterosaur would strongly support Biblical Creation axioms and repudiate Darwin’s. You cannot have it both ways, claiming one thing contrary to what your opponent predicts, then saying it means nothing when your opponent’s prediction turns out to be correct.

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Pterosaur Expert

Of course we don’t mean “fossil expert” when we use the phrase “pterosaur expert,” for this is not a paleontology blog but a cryptozoology blog. In regard to the ropen of Papua New Guinea, I think that Paul Nation and Garth Guessman are the most experienced explorers who have searched for living pterosaurs in that part of the world. But others have made great contributions.

I quote from Whitcomb’s Pterosaur Eyewitness blog, in particular the post titled, “Experts on Living Pterosaurs.” By the way, although Whitcomb does not have as much experience exploring remote areas of the world, he may have more access to eyewitnesses around the world than any other cryptozoologist, in regard to sightings of what seem to be modern pterosaurs, even though his interviews are mostly by emails.

About Paul Nation

Paul was instrumental in helping organize the two ropen expedition of 2004, both of which were searches on Umboi. He was unable to go along that year but had his own expedition with Jacob Kepas, late in 2006, deep in the mainland of Papua New Guinea. That expedition resulted in one daylight sighting of a giant indava by Kepas and several nighttime indava-light sightings by Nation. The video footage recorded by Nation in 2006, showing two glowing objects near the top of a ridge near Tawa Village, was found to be strange: not any camp fires or airplane lights or flash lights or meteors any other commonplace explanation.

About Garth Guessman

Guessman’s knowledge of Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur fossils allowed him to notice an important clue . . . [Guessman and Woetzel] learned that the native traditions describe the ropen‘s tail as being stiff, never moving except near where it connects to the body. Guessman recognized that this relates to the stiffening extension rods of Rhamphorhynchoid vertebrae: all but a few vertebrae are locked into stiffness; the few that are flexible are near where the pterosaur’s tail connects to the body.

Others have made contributions, over the years, including Professor Peter Beach, James Blume, Jacob Kepas, and Phillip O’Donnell.

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