March 29, 2017

Modern Pterosaur in an Old Photograph

By the extant-pterosaur expert Jonathan D. Whitcomb


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!


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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