June 14, 2017

Living Pterosaurs and Skepticism

By the modern-pterosaur expert Jonathan Whitcomb

Previous post on this subject: "Modern Pterosaur in an Old Photo"

Criticisms of Living Pterosaur (LP) Investigations

I'm grateful that no recent online criticisms appear to attack me or my associates with accusations of dishonesty. Yet the validity of our investigations have been constantly under attack from a man who appears to be protecting old assumptions or standards of paleontology.

Glen Kuban and I do have a few things in common, although we stand on opposite poles with evidence for modern pterosaurs.

  • Each of us believes the other one is not objective: too biased
  • We are passionate about our perspectives
  • We have each written tens of thousands of words, online, on the possibility of modern pterosaurs (yet we often come to opposite conclusions)

The Size of the Article "Living Pterosaurs" by Kuban

This online publication is longer than many books. Using an online character counter, I found that his June 14, 2017, version of "Living Pterosaurs" has 218,798 characters. Divide that by 5.1 and you'll see the estimated number of words in Kuban's article: 42,902.

Take that in perspective. An average blog post may have about 300 words, although they vary a lot in length, depending on the subject. That means "Living Pterosaurs" is about 143 times as long as an average blog post. The author certainly takes his subject seriously.

Yet take that in perspective: Over the past 14 years, I have written well over a thousand web pages and blog posts about modern pterosaurs, with relatively few of them short, and a significant portion of Kuban's article is about me and my writings. In fact, he mentions my name 405 times in his one long publication (Whitcomb is spelled correctly 404 times). Most blog posts probably have fewer than that many total words.

Factual Errors in "Living Pterosaurs"

Be aware that when I point out a factual error in "Living Pterosaurs," Kuban may correct that error in a reasonable time. But the potential underlying source for those errors does not necessarily vanish when he makes that kind of correction. I suggest he has a major problem with bias, and that it has greatly influenced his long online publication.

1) Wrong quote source and completely out of context

Kuban says that in my book Searching for Ropens and Finding God (the edition published in 2014, which is the 4th edition), it says that "keeping witness identities secret will help avoid 'making life too easy for hoaxers'," and he puts the apparent quotation in quote marks: "making life too easy for hoaxers." But when I did a search process on a pdf version of that book, nothing remotely like those words could be found. It appears that Kuban has made a factual error in this.

I then did a Google search with those six words in quote marks and found only one page that appears to exist online: that place in Kuban's page where he appears to quote from my book. So if he did not get those six words in the book where he says they exist and those exact words don't seem to exist online except where he wrote them, where did he get those six words?

I searched in my most recent book, Modern Pterosaurs, and those words are not there, but when I searched in my book Live Pterosaurs in America (third edition) I found them on page 18. Yet the context is completely different:

". . . the reasonings behind my judgements [sic] of eyewitness credibility are often kept secret, to avoid making life too easy for hoaxers."
It has nothing to do with eyewitnesses being anonymous. The beginning of the paragraph says, "I kept certain facts about the person and his testimony secret," but then the subject changes:

". . . But anonymity of the eyewitness is only one reason for my secrecy. Until the ropen and other pterosaur-like creatures graduate from cryptozoology into zoology, until they are acknowledged and classified in scientific journals, investigators may be vulnerable to a hoax; the reasonings behind . . ."
In other words, Kuban made two factual errors in one sentence, and the result is this: It makes my communications with eyewitnesses, over a period of almost 14 years, appear to be of little value, when someone reads those words in Kuban's article.

Here's an image of part of page 18 from my book:



2) Amateur mistake: NOT a computer generated image

Kuban states that the sketch reported to have been drawn by Susan Wooten "actually appears to be a computer generated digital image." He gives no reason for that conclusion, so my best guess for what he was thinking is this: He found some version of that image, a version that had a pattern in the interior shading of the image. But the outline is critically important, not the inside shading.



The above image was taken from the Amazon page of Live Pterosaurs in America, showing a tiny bit of interior shading

The original image was a line drawing, with no shading inside the lines of the animal's wings and body. Perhaps I should have just left it that way when I published it in the book. But Kuban makes a factual error, for he then says, "raising questions about how it was made and by whom, and how closely it resembled what she actually saw (or originally drew?). In reality, you don't need to read my book (Live Pterosaurs in America) to find much information this: Do an online search with "Susan Wooten sighting" and read her own words and see her sketch without any interior shading.

In other words, there is no question about how it was made (a simple line drawing), no question about who made it (Wooten), no question about how closely it resembles what she drew (she approved the multiple publications of the image). One person with no professional experience with digital image processing might think there was a problem, but no real problem has ever existed here.

3) Not all flying lights are pterosaurs

Kuban says, concerning various flying lights, "Whitcomb suggests that they all may be due to 'bioluminescent' pterosaurs." Yet those are his words; he gives not quote or suggestion for where I said that. Since his statement appears all-encompassing ("all may be due to"), I suggest he made another factual error here, for that is not at all what I have portrayed in my writings.

I believe that SOME of the strange flying lights seen in various places in the world may be from bioluminescent pterosaurs, but many others may be from other sources.

Conclusion

I believe that Kuban has made a significant number of other factual errors in "Living Pterosaurs," but I'll not make my own post any longer here. His factual errors appear to me to be of the kind that come from not just simple carelessness: from a significant bias against the possibility that the LP investigations conducted by me and by my associates have been important and that many eyewitness sighting reports are valid evidence for the existence of modern pterosaurs.

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Copyright 2017 Jonathan Whitcomb ("Civil War Pterosaur Photograph and Skepticism" on modernpterosaurs.blogspot.com)

Civil War soldiers with a modern pterosaur
Before giving a brief history of our investigations of this old photograph, I present a recent discovery related to the source of what we now call “Ptp,” what some people would call the “Civil War” Pteranodon photo.

A reply to Glen Kuban
Scientific skepticism can be useful, when a scientist is criticized on a particular point. It can sometimes allow him or her to make a needed correction and improve the original idea. But when extreme bias exists in either that scientist or the one doing the criticism, problems arise.

A partial reply to Glen Kuban
Unfortunately, in revising “Living Pterosaurs (Pterodactyls),” Kuban added a long string of paragraphs that attacked the possibility that Ptp might be a genuine photograph. I could write a book in response to his web page of 60+ paragraphs, but we’ll have to settle for a short reply here, concentrating on a few details in some of the new paragraphs.
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March 29, 2017

Modern Pterosaur in an Old Photograph

By the extant-pterosaur expert Jonathan D. Whitcomb

Introduction

On January 14, 2017, Clifford Paiva (a physicist in California) and I spoke by phone and agreed that the following photo has an image of a real animal, with real wings. We stopped short of insisting that it must have been a species of Pteranodon, but it has obvious similarities with what would be expected in the head of that species, should one be extant.

Ptp Pteranodon photo from 19th century
Figure-1: Ptp shows an apparent Pteranodon

What we now call "Ptp" has been around for a long time, with some persons reporting that they saw it in a mid-20th-century book, possibly a Ripley's "Believe it or Not."

Do not Confuse Photographs

One well-known skeptic of reports of extant pterosaurs published a long online page that included, for years, a small image of the Ptp photo. It said, "the photo has since been exposed as a hoax—a promotional stunt for a Fox television series." Unfortunately, this has misled readers, for that statement refers to a different photo, NOT this one.

The Newer Photo (not Ptp) is a Hoax

Notice that the following is a different photograph, NOT Ptp:

hoax photo made by Haxan Films
Figure-2: Hoax photograph by Haxan Films

Compare the hoax with the original photo. Notice the vagueness of the "animal" in the fake photo and how little can be distinguished in it, compared with the apparent Pteranodon in Ptp.

Obviously one of them was made to imitate the other, and it's not hard to find out which is which. The Haxan hoax photo was created around the year 2000, and people remember Ptp from around 1950-1975. Yet we have direct evidence that Ptp is very old; we don't need to rely on people's memory of seeing it in an old book.



Figure-3: A branch was used as a prop

Prior to about 1870, props were often used to help persons to remain motionless during the photographic exposures. In the mid-19th century, photography still required many seconds of stillness to avoid blurring.

Notice the tree branch in Figure-3. This was used to keep a soldier's foot steady as he held it on the beak of that animal. This was discovered by the physicist Clifford Paiva, in early 2017. It shows us that this is indeed an old photograph.

In addition, Paiva found that the shadow under this shoe of this soldier is consistent with nearby shadows on the animal, repudiating accusations of paste-on hoaxing. Photoshop was not used in the Ptp photograph, nor was any physical paste-on hoaxing done.

Paiva also found evidence of blood effusion from at least two places on the animal shown in Ptp. These would be expected in the context that this is a genuine photograph with a real animal.

He also found evidence for muscle structure in the neck of the animal in Ptp. What a big difference between that kind of detail and the vague canvass-like "animal" in the Haxan-Films hoax photo!

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Books About Living Pterosaurs
As the cryptozoology nonfiction Modern Pterosaurs nears publication, it seems a good time to list some of the books about these extraordinary cryptids of the air . . .

Pterosaur in a Civil War photograph
Now we delve into a little-known realm of cryptozoology: investigations into sightings of apparent pterosaurs, meaning living flying creatures that appear to be “pterodactyls.”

Pteranodon photograph, Civil War
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, possibly without the long tail that ropens are seen to have.

Civil War pterosaur photo
Notice that the important subjects of the photo, the strange winged animal and the soldiers—all of them are in reasonably good focus, a characteristic of Civil War photography. Now look more closely at the head. It has a number of similarities to what we might expect of a Pteranodon head.

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June 13, 2015

A Flying Creature Called "Ropen"

The ropen flies within the confinement of cryptozoology, at least theoretically. But for those eyewitnesses whose lives have been changed by encountering this flying creature, it is hardly confined to theory, for it is real.

What do we know about the ropen? It is not confined to Papua New Guinea, which makes sense when we consider that the largest ones have wingspans greater than twenty feet. Flying creatures similar to the ropen of the southwest Pacific have been reported in Asia, Europe, Africa, and North America. In fact, many of the sightings have been reported in the United States.

So what qualifies a flying creature to be labeled "ropen?" It is featherless, according to many eyewitnesses, and has a long tail that ends with a structure that has been called a "diamond" or a "spade" or a "triangle" (although other labels have been attached to the end of the tail). Some persons describe a pointed horn-like appendage at the back of the head. In other words, it appears to be an unusual kind of Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur.

A Bioluminescent Flying Creature

One thing sets the ropen apart from most other flying creatures is the glow. Sometimes, when it flies overhead at night, it glows with what some cryptozoologists call "intrinsic bioluminescence." That means it can control the glow that it produces, turning it on and off at will.

Could some sightings of large glowing flying creatures at night be birds rather than pterosaurs? Of course they could, in theory. But examinations of specific sightings reports—those have mostly suggested something other than any known bird, at least classified by Western science.

Some barn owls (Tyto alba) have been reported to glow with what an Australia researcher believes is intrinsic bioluminescence. Fred Silcock has studied reports of "Min min" lights for many years, and has documented instances in which an observer got close enough to see that the flying glowing object was indeed a large owl.

But some eyewitnesses in Papua New Guinea have gotten close looks at a large glowing object that flies around at night, and part of the description includes a long tail. That eliminates barn owls from those particular sightings.

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Big Flying Creature in Utah
Three children, including Devon Roberts and his brother Dallin, saw something huge flying overhead, at about 11 p.m., around the fall of 2001, something very unlike any bird. Devon estimated the flying creature had a wingspan of 15-20 feet.
Apparent Living Pterosaurs
. . . right in front of us about thirty feet away. All of us froze for about five seconds, then it leaned to its left and took off with a fwap fwap fwap sound . . . and flew to its left and disappeared behind trees and terrain.
Glowing Ropen Reported in Papua New Guinea
Paul Nation, of Granbury, Texas, videotaped the lights one night, in November, 2006, in a remote mountainous area of the mainland of Papua New Guinea. Here, the natives call the creature "indava," but explorers call it by the name used on Umboi Island: "ropen."
Ropen of Umboi Island, Papua New Guinea
The ropen sighting involved seven boys. They ran home in terror after this sighting. Wesley, the brother of Gideon, described the ropen to me and I was able to videotape his answers. Likewise, another of the witnesses, Mesa, told me that he saw the ropen at that time.
The Ropen of Papua New Guinea
I believe that Josh Gates did very well in the limited time his team had in their ropen search. The team was successful in videotaping what most other adventurers had failed to videotape.
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June 18, 2013

Griffith Park Pterosaur Sightings

Two eyewitnesses have reported to me their sightings near Griffith Park in Los Angeles. The encounters were just a little east of that park, and over the same freeway.

I investigated the possibility that these two young ladies might have been playing a coordinated hoax, but the more I looked into the matter, the more it became apparent that it was only a coincidence that they were both young adult females driving north on the I-5 freeway in the first few months of 2013.

The similarities in the reports are as follows:
  • Gliding rather than flapping
  • Not bird misidentification
  • Over the Interstate-5
  • Just east of Griffith Park
  • Near the Los Angeles River
  • Reported to me as possible pterosaurs
  • Seen in reasonable lighting conditions (daylight)

The differences include the following:
  • Three "dragons" vs. one "pterosaur"
  • Long tails vs. unnoticed
  • Coloring somewhat different
  • Unnoticed vs. head crest
  • 6:10 a.m. vs. about 4:00 p.m.
  • Gliding in different directions
Related Pterosaur Sightings in Southern California

Until just a few weeks ago, I did not see many related sighting locations in California, no clear proximity in location. The two sightings near Griffith Park were followed by a contact telling me about a second sighting at the Lakewood backyard, two years before the June-2012 encounter.

It now seems obvious that these apparent ropens do return to the same places, at least on occasion. The sightings continue to be mostly in daylight, when humans can see much better. I am still convinced that these modern pterosaurs are nocturnal, rarely coming out in daylight. But there are enough of the creatures (and plenty of humans) to make impressive appearances when they make rare flights in daylight. And a few of the shocked eyewitnesses have the courage and common sense to contact me with their reports of encounters in California. I'll keep praying that people will keep sending me their reports.

Dragons or Pterosaurs Over Interstate-5
Right between the Los Angeles River and Griffith Park—that’s where the three “dragons” were flying on March 3, 2013, at 6:10 a.m., but another driver on the I-5 Freeway saw one “pterosaur” ten weeks later, just a little over a mile south of the first sighting location.


Pterosaurs East of Griffith Park
Two pterosaur sightings in Los Angeles, in 2013, have caused a stir, being ten weeks apart and the second one being just a mile and a half south of the first one.


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January 17, 2013

Alabama Flying Creature

From an eyewitness in Dekalb County, Alabama:
Ok so me and my buddy were outside on the porch . . . this thing flys over tree top level . . . the moon was out and bright tonight and his flood light was on which lit up the belly of this creature. . . . this thing [had] a bat-like shape with the break in the wings like bats have. . . . the belly [was] . . . whitish in color . . . [It had] no feathers . . . more like hair.

There was two [flying creatures]. . . . We heard a call from the other [one], out of sight. The sound these things made was like nothing I have ever heard. It's hard to explain how it sounded really, not a bird-like call . . . kind of a long rumbling growling.

. . . I am positive this thing had no tail feathers on it. . . . sky was clear and moon was bright; the outline was easily seen. . . . The body shape was too elongated to be a owl; it had none of its characteristics. . . . I . . . know the birds very well . . . but I know what it was not and am very sure of what I seen, and I was not the only [eyewitness] so that tells me something.
. . . the wings were solid: no feather points coming off them, just the break I associated with a bat wing, but very big in size . . .

. . . it was not a crane. I am familiar with them as I seen them when fishing all the time. I also know their calls . . . they are very large but none of the features . . . this animal had relates to a crane, neither does the sound . . .
The above was reported on the site "Above Top Secret," beginning on October 28, 2009, from the person labeled "OpTiMuS_PrImE."
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Pterosaurs in Georgia
For years people in Georgia have seen flying things unlike birds, sometimes creatures with long tails and no feathers and too big to be a bat.
 
Manta Ray Different From Pterosaur
A Manta ray fish, of an ocean or sea, may jump as high as ten feet above the surface, perhaps. But all those jumping fish fall back into the sea, demonstrating that they are not strange featherless flying creatures.
 
Pterosaur Encountered in Alabama
"My husband and I saw one in Alabama a few years ago. . . . I have no doubt this is what it was. My husband and I said it looked like a dinosaur. It was flying in front of our car across an open highway. Its wingspan was probably between 8-10 feet."