Pterosaur News for the Beginning of November

The first news is about a new site called “Zyc Pterozaura,” which is Polish for “live pterosaur.” It’s mostly about Whitcomb interviewing the three Lake-Pung eyewitnesses. The news is not in details about that sighting in the early 1990’s. It’s the fact that a site in the Polish language is mostly about this sighting of the ropen. If you’re interested in seeing this in that language:

Zyc Pterozaura

W 2004 roku Jonathan Whitcomb zbadać wyspę. Umboi Island ma zwierzę latające. Nazywa się “ropen.” Większość świadków widać tylko światła latające. Kilku świadków było bliżej do zwierząt, że leci.

W 2004 roku Jonathan Whitcomb wywiady wielu naocznych świadków, w Papui Nowej Gwinei.

Cryptozoology Book News

The third edition of Live Pterosaurs in America is now published. The extra pages added since the second edition have been at the back of the appendix, but they are significant. They are about the sighting by Patty Carson in Cuba, and one page has her sketch of what is coming to be called the “Gitmo Pterosaur.”

The book has a number of related sightings that were long ago published as news in at least one or two newspapers in central California. The following is taken from the book:

I cannot prove all the accounts were genuine, for they were recorded secondhand in the early 1890’s. . . . In the summer of 1891, southeast of Fresno, several eyewitnesses reported two featherless flying creatures with wingspans of fifteen feet. Reportedly reputable residents around Reedley described the two “dragons” for the newspaper: broad heads, long bills, and large eyes. “On the night of July 11 . . . their peculiar cries and the rustling of their mammoth wings were heard as late as 10 o’clock.” Two nights later, the “monsters” were held responsible for attacking chickens, with “many of the hens being bitten in two and left partly devoured.”

It could be difficult to sort out the truth from the fiction in those 19th century accounts in the newspapers. The feasibility of modern pterosaurs living in California is strengthened by recent eyewitness reports, however. I know of some news about possible pterosaurs being sited in San Fernando Valley, just a few years ago. The sightings were at night.

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

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Dracula Vampire Conjecture

Regarding this press release, I don’t dispute this possibility for the origin of the Dracula myth in Transylvania, that it involved one or more observations of a large pterosaur standing on the ground at night. But it is speculation. Perhaps a closer examination is called for.

Tales of Dracula and Pterosaurs

The cryptozoology author Jonathan Whitcomb, of Long Beach, California, has written many press releases on the subject of modern pterosaurs. This is the latest, dated October 26, 2011. The full title is “Author Jonathan Whitcomb Asks if Tales of Dracula Come From an Animal.” For the company contact information, I guess few people would know what “PSL” means. It stands for “Pterosaurs Still Living.” But he does not use that URL on this press release contact box, instead using the “Live Pterosaur Media Center” home page.

The release has two sightings, both from Texas, the first from San Antonio:

We noticed something flying around across the road . . . the creature was flying just above the phone lines. It would go one direction, turn, and swoop back. The shape was wrong for any large bird of the area, and the size was much too large to be any bat I have ever seen . . . anywhere from 6-10 feet across.

The second sighting is from Brownsville, Texas, with an approximate date of 1995. Brownsville is in the most southerly portion of the state. The witness involved was a 12-year-old girl at the time.

“Next door, in the neighbor’s backyard, was what she first thought was a tall man . . . He was ‘draped in a long black coat or cape,’ facing away from her. ‘Dracula’ came to mind as GR tried to understand what she was looking at. The ‘man’ turned, and revealed a face that terrified the child: It was non-human.

The girl became confused when the thing turned its head and revealed a head like a “pterodactyl.” To make the story short, she ran into the house as the thing glided towards her. In terms of cryptozoological credibility issues, I see nothing especially wrong with anything in either of these reports. Both eyewitnesses mentioned the word “Dracula” in their reports to Whitcomb. But there is something speculative with that.

The Dracula myth about a “vampire bat” transforming itself into a human form, and visa-versa, may be different in Transylvania than is known in Texas. This means there may not be much of a connection between those two sightings in Texas and the European myth.

On another subject is a new web site that ties together the ropen sighting of a Mr. Cottingham with the “Cheesman Lights” observed in the 1930’s:

Cottingham Sighting

One night, near Lab Lab on the southeast coast of Umboi Island, he saw a flying light that lasted four or five seconds . . . The ropen light of Umboi Island has been compared with the flying lights observed by the British biologist Evelyn Cheesman in the 1930’s, but her expedition was on the mainland of New Guinea, many miles to the west. According to what she wrote in her book The Two Roads of Papua, the flying lights she observed lasted about four or five seconds.

Now that is what I call a correlation.

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More on Pterosaurs in Cuba

The sketch of the “Gitmo Pterosaur” has been updated, for it seems that the eyewitness Patty Carson was not satisfied with the eye on the earlier sketch.

sketch of pterosaur seen by Patty Carson in Cuba in 1965

She is still not satisfied with the sketch, in particular with the mouth and where it connects with the skull, but she likes the eye on the above sketch.

But what may be equally important, Patty’s brother Tom has come forward with his own sighting, a sighting in 1966, one year after his younger sister’s. The creature flew overhead at about a hundred feet high, appearing for only about three seconds before becoming  hidden by the trees. It was larger than a pelican and seemed to have no feathers, although Tom was not 100% certain about the absence of feathers. The creature he saw was a greyish tan color.

In one sense, Tom’s credibility seems pretty high. He was not trying to convince the interviewer, Jonathan Whitcomb, that he saw the same kind of creature that his sister had seen. He was satisfied to leave it at that, without any attempt to prove that he had seen a modern pterosaur.

Gitmo Pterosaur of Eastern Cuba

A new web site has come up, made for news media professionals. I’ll quote from the Gitmo Pterosaur page:

“We were engaged during the day in physical training, close order drill, gun drill, cleaning and maintenance, classes and other sundry routine common to service life, including a break for lunch with its attending rest period or free time.

“It was during such a free time period, in the middle of the day, that I was outside and witnessed the pterosaurs. “Most of the platoon was in the new barracks hanging out. I was looking in the direction of the ocean when I saw an incredible sight . . .  “I saw two pterosaurs (or pterodactyls, what’s in a name?) flying together at low altitude, perhaps 100 feet, very close in range from where I was standing, so that I had a perfectly clear view of them.

“The rhythm of their large wings was very graceful, slow, and yet they were flying and not merely gliding . . . “The pterosaurs I saw had the short hind legs attached to the rearward- most part of the wing, and they had a long tail trailing behind with a tuft of hair at the end.”

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New Sketch of Gitmo Pterosaur

Patty Carson, as a child and with one or more other children, saw this flying creature about six years before Eskin Kuhn’s 1971 sighting, also at the Guantanamo Bay military installation. The following sketch may not be complete, for it is still undergoing revisions. In some doubt is the final color selection and the precise shape of the beak. I am very fortunate to have a connection that allows me the privilege of having access to the images.

Gitmo pterosaur of Cuba preliminary sketch 15

We are indeed fortunate that Patty Carson has both a good memory and a talent for sketching what she has seen, in this case surely the same species that Eskin Kuhn saw at that same military installation in Cuba. Jonathan Whitcomb has been interviewing Carson and has interviewed Kuhn.

Carson has been clear about both the absence of feathers and the presence of teeth. That eliminates, for practical purposes, any misidentification of any bird. This sketch, in the beak and the head crest, eliminates any misidentification of any bat, even if the huge size of the flying creature is not taken into account. That leaves, outside of a hoax or hoaxes, only one logical choice: a modern pterosaur.

Regarding the cryptozoologist Jonathan Whitcomb, I have already written about the hoax possibility. See below. I don’t know if anybody has disputed his 2004 expedition, insinuating that he never even traveled to Papua New Guinea. As I had written, that expedition surely took place, for reasons mentioned. If he had any inclination to perpetrate any hoax, surely he would not have taken so much trouble, and at such expense, to travel to Papua New Guinea. He would also not have returned with an admission that he never saw anything like a modern pterosaur. He made it clear that he did not even see the flying ropen light, although his interpreter saw it when Whitcomb was asleep. Surely he has not been perpetrating hoaxes.

Kongamato Pterosaur and Hoax Possibility

To find out if Whitcomb has been carrying out a hoax, we need to go back to when he first became involved. His 2004 expedition in Papua New Guinea . . . If he were carrying on a long hoax he would probably have invented a trip to Papua New Guinea as well. But Garth Guessman and David Woetzel had their expedition to the same island . . . and it was only a few weeks after Whitcomb’s . . . explorations there. The difficulty with proving Whitcomb has been carrying on a hoax, including a false expedition on Umboi Island, seems to be insurmountable when we consider that the other two Americans talked with natives who had remembered Whitcomb’s recent visit. In addition, Whitcomb videotaped many interviews on Umboi, with his own voice in the audio track of those videos.

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Accuracy in Writing About Sightings

I think it generally positive when writers take up the subject of modern pterosaurs. That said, some of the online writings I have noticed to be inaccurate, with those inaccuracies being multiplied through multiple quotations and quotations of quotations. I will quote but one here.

But before mentioning problems, I recommend the following:

Ropens

Duane Hodgkinson, now a flight instructor in Livingston, Montana, in 1944 was stationed near Finschhafen, in what was then called New Guinea. After he and his buddy walked into a clearing, they were amazed as a large creature flew up into the air.

Now to the problem of lack of accuracy:

The Ropen of New Guinea

Duane Hodgkinson was stationed northwest of Lae, near Finschaven, PNG as part of the Army cavalry in 1944. About noon one day in August he was walking down a trail through a clearing in the forest when he was startled by a crashing in the brush. As he watched a large bird-like creature ponderously rose from the ground, circled and flew away. Hodgkinson, a pilot, estimated the wing-span to be about 20 ft. He clearly recalls the dark-gray coloration, long serpentine neck, beak, and distinctive head crest.

On first glance, this appears to be a quotation from A Pictorial History of Sea Monsters, 1972, p. 42, by James B. Sweeney; I have not read that book. But a giant flying creature seems out of place in a book about sea monsters, so I suspect that only the end of Woetzel’s first paragraph comes from Sweeney’s book. I suspect that the many details about the 1944 Hodgkinson sighting come from a somewhat casual remembrance by Woetzel. I have not heard about any interview that Woetzel has ever done with Hodgkinson, so let us compare the above with what has been learned from Guessman-Whitcomb interviews with the World War II veteran:

  1. He was not walking down a trail through a clearing; he was standing with his army buddy on one side of a clearing.
  2. They heard a crashing in the brush, that is true, but they then saw a wild pig run through the clearing. After they saw the running pig, the flying creature then appeared to their view, probably startled out of sleep by the running pig.
  3. Hodgkinson did not say that he “watched a large bird-like creature.” At first, he saw something flapping its wings, so he assumed that it was a bird. Very soon, however, he saw that it was something else, not a bird.
  4. He said that the creature ran through the clearing, taking several steps before becoming airborne. He did not say “rose from the ground,” which may cause some readers to think that it flew away mostly vertically.
  5. What does it mean, “circled and flew away?” If I understand correctly, Hodgkinson told Whitcomb and Guessman that it flew out of view for a few seconds, then returned, meaning it changed its course by 180 degrees when it was out of Hodgkinson’s view. But that point is of little consequence.
  6. He did not say that he was a pilot in 1944. He has been a pilot and flight instructor for many years now, however.
  7. The wingspan Hodgkinson estimated to be similar to that of a Piper Tri-Pacer, which is just under 30 feet. This is considerably longer than “20 ft.”
  8. He did not say that he clearly remembers the color of the creature. It was dark but not black, is what he told Guessman.
  9. I don’t know of any interview in which Hodgkinson mentioned a “long serpentine neck.” Where does Woetzel get that description?

David Woetzel is to be commended for his courageous expeditions in Africa and in Papua New Guinea and elsewhere. His sighting report of his own encounter with the flying light on Umboi Island is of great importance, in my view. His description of that light, especially where it was going (towards Lake Pung) is noteworthy and valuable.

His talents, however may be more in exploring and promoting expeditions, more than in writing, at least in terms of accuracy in details for sightings other than his own. I believe the world is a better place because of Woetzel’s writings. That said, it will be even better when he uses more accuracy in the details about sightings by other eyewitnesses.

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Do Pterosaurs Eat Bats?

I don’t recall any eyewitness report of a clear case for a modern pterosaur grabbing a bat with its mouth in mid-flight. I do know of a large bat in Europe, a species that catches some birds in flight, at night. But a pterosaur catching a bat is still highly likely, based upon a number of indirect evidences.

Pterodactyl Eats Bats

What allows predator to catch prey? Whether with greater speed, or with greater team work, or with greater intelligence, predators must use an advantage. And whatever elevates the predator above the prey will also make it appear different, to some degree. Of course a careless glance may not reveal any difference between a shark and the fish it eats. Falcons and sparrows are small birds; ant lions and ants are small insects. I know some exceptions: a few strange mammals eat only ants, and a few large spiders eat small birds; nevertheless, many differences are subtle, allowing predators to run or swim or fly alongside prey. . . .

Pterosaurs sightings are often around where bats are seen at night. Eskin Kuhn has mentioned finding many bats in caves at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I know of a brother and sister who once watched a giant flying creature at night, flying back and forth where bats fly. Professor Peter Beach has seen a pterosaur-like flying creature in Washington state, where Knighthawk birds and bats fly. I know of a few cryptozoologists who have searched the sky at a secret location: a place where large pterosaur-like creatures are seen to fly at night, at the same place where much smaller bats, in much greater numbers, also fly.

A clue in this situation is this: Some daylight sightings of what seem to be modern pterosaurs have involved them catching smaller birds like sparrows and mud hens. This gives credibility to the conjecture that pterosaurs eat bats, at least in some areas.

Marfa Lights Analysis

Over a period of months, some of the nocturnal hunting excursions may be especially successful, even if the prey is a species of small animal like a bat, in particular the Big Brown Bat that is common in this part of Texas. This bat is “big” only when compared with other bats in this area of North America, for it is only about half a pound in weight. What can we predict after an especially successful hunt? The next night may see those predators hunting in the same area or a nearby area.

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More on the 1965 Sighting in Cuba

The Gitmo Pterosaur, as it has been called, is again in the news, at least among some cryptozoologists. A sketch has come forth, although with many remarks about its being only a preliminary drawing: It has many modifications that the eyewitness artist feels are necessary before she is comfortable with it. This eyewitness is Patty Carson, who saw one of the flying creatures at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, around 1965, when she was a child.

The following shows where Patty’s home was located in relationship to where the pterosaur sighting took place.

Cuba Gitmo Pterosaur sighting of 1965 by Patty Carson

Yellow dots signify pterosaur flight. Purple dots signify eyewitnesses walk.

There have been a number of changes in this area in the last 46 years, but the blue circle shows the house where Patty’s family lived and the red circle shows where the children saw the Gitmo Pterosaur, what Patty at first called a “dinosaur” or “pterodactyl.”

I don’t want to publish the preliminary sketch of the pterosaur, for it may lead to some people believing it to be very accurate in its present form. For those who are unfamiliar with this sighting, I provide the following:

Gitmo Pterosaur Revisited

I noticed something interesting in Patty Carson’s testimony. She said, “It had little teeth, a LOT of them.” Well, Rhamphorhynchoids had teeth and long tails, generally, and the Gitmo pterosaur does as well, even though Eskin Kuhn did not see any teeth in the mouths of the two that he saw. That does make sense. Carson saw a winged creature on the ground, and she thought it had been eating or resting just before it stood up to look at her and her brother; she saw teeth in a mouth that was slightly open. Kuhn saw two winged creatures flying with their mouths closed; he saw no teeth.

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Modern Pterosaurs in Central America

With great anticipation, I await the cryptozoological examination of a video of three flying creatures reported to have flown over a beach, in 2006, just south of Belize City, Belize. The circumstances surrounding this video make it extremely unlikely to be related to any hoax. Of course, there is a possibility that the three flying objects were three large birds that held their legs behind them, making them look like they had long tails; but careful examination of the video should reveal the truth, pterosaur or not, for it was recorded by a professional film crew member who used a high-definition camera. I quote from the Live Pterosaur blog:

Beliz Pterosaur

The apparent pterosaurs were high and rather far off, but Kobliha had the impression that they were not ordinary birds. Videotaping three apparent living pterosaurs with a professional camera—that set this sighting apart from other sightings. I [Jonathan Whitcomb] hope to have a copy of his video soon, so that I can analyze the footage.

Sightings in Mexico

[This sighting] is by “Stew,” who was visiting Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, in 2000 (“pterodactyl” sighting details) I hope that he will someday get in touch with me.

” . . . about one and a half miles away, a huge black bird-like creature came from the more mountainous region to my left, and flew toward the ocean . . . wingspan about equal to the length of the taller palm trees, I thought about 30 to 40 feet. The wings moved very slowly, almost touching on the downward swing . . .”

I believe RM-2 has information about another sighting in Mexico.

Getting back to the Belize sighting in 2006, the cryptozoologist Jonathan Whitcomb, who is a friend of the eyewitness, showed him the sketch that Eskin Kuhn drew of the two pterosaurs Kuhn had seen in Cuba. The Beliz-2006 eyewitness told Whitcomb that it did resemble what he had seen, but he was not sure if it was exactly the same.

Kuhn Pterosaur Sighting in Cuba

I saw 2 Pterosaurs . . . flying together at low altitude, perhaps 100 feet, very close in range from where I was standing . . . I had a perfectly clear view . . . The rhythm of their large wings was very graceful, slow . . .

They had a long tail trailing behind with a tuft of hair at the end. . . . The head [had] a long crest at the back, long bill, long neck with a crook in it. The chest of the creatures was similarly prominent, protruding forward like the prow of an old ship . . . their wingspan [was] roughly 10 feet.

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Old Dragons in Great Britain

On the subject of a modern pterosaur, I have done only a little reading about sightings in Europe, but I know that some cryptozoologists have researched this subject: David Woetzel in the U.S.A. and Richard Muirhead in England.

I have not yet had the pleasure of reading the book published in 1909 by Marie Trevelyan. According to the book Live Pterosaurs in America, second edition, which I have read, someone “interviewed an old man who remembered ‘winged serpents’ that lived in the mid-1800’s around Penllyne Castle, Glamorgan, Wales.”

To continue quoting from Live Pterosaurs in America:

“The woods around Penllyne Castle, Glamorgan, had . . . . winged serpents . . . An aged inhabitant of Penllyne, who died a few years ago . . . said it was ‘no old story,’ invented to ‘frighten children,’ but a real fact. His father and uncles had killed some of them, for they were ‘as bad as foxes for poultry.’ This old man attributed the extinction of winged serpents to the fact that they were ‘terrors in the farmyards and coverts.’”

Pterosaur Sightings in Europe

In England, in 1987 or 1988, a ten-year-old girl saw “a glowing object which seemed to open up to what I thought looked like a dragon.” She was shocked and told nobody about it for many years. She told me, “I do still remember what I saw and think that it may have been a pterodactyl that decided to ‘glow.’”

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Why Must a Modern Pterosaur be Nocturnal?

To begin, I’ll back track: I believe that a species of modern pterosaur could be diurnal but it would be likely a rare species living in a remote area. It would be an exception.

The general rule points to nocturnal pterosaurs, with daylight sightings being quite likely the exceptions. We might review the two daylight sightings in Georgia a few years ago. The eyewitness saw two apparent pterosaurs flying early in the morning, but after sunrise, the first sighting being very soon after a major storm passed through that part of the United States. It seems likely that the storm had disturbed two nocturnal pterosaurs enough that they made themselves known in daylight, by flying over a highway.

More on Two Pterosaurs in Georgia

To review what these sightings entailed, the lady saw two different flying creatures, two weeks apart, late in the summer of 2008. They were obviously of the same species but different sizes. The tail was long, with a “heart” shape at tail-end. Even the smaller one was larger than any ordinary bird. The wing flapping especially caught her attention, for it was different than anything she had ever seen in the flapping of bird wings: “The wings ‘pumped’ in a ‘scooping’ manner, as the motion rippled along the body and through the tail.

Perhaps the most significant evidence for the general rule that modern pterosaurs are nocturnal is the connection with bioluminescence. Many of the repeated-sighting areas are where flying lights are observed, for example, in Papua New Guinea. But strange flying lights at night are also seen in North America, including Texas.

Are Marfa Lights Nocturnal Scavengers?

Could Marfa Lights be nocturnal flying scavengers? I don’t mean to put down the bat hunting hypothesis, regarding the splittings and rejoinings that may have given rise to the comment from residents about “dancing devils.” That may have a place, during seasons when bats are about around Marfa, Texas . . . But bats are unlikely to be about during the colder winter nights, and some of the stranger Marfa Lights are seen on some of those nights.

Since the kongamato of Africa and the ropen of Papua New Guinea are known to scavenge at least on some nights, according to some reports, similar modern pterosaurs could do the same in North America.

Pterosaur Flying at Night in Spain

One night, whilst sitting on the ground by the tents . . . I saw what I at first assumed was an owl gliding over the campsite (I assumed that because it was night time, and obviously no other birds would be out-bar things like nightjars-which this was not!) – it passed right over us, probably about 30-40ft high, and as I watched it, I realised it was definitely no owl I’d ever seen before. It was the colour of suede/sand, looked like the same sort of texture as suede (i.e no feathers), had a long thin tail, and didn’t flap once.

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