I’m revising my first book, Searching for Ropens, and expect it will be published before Christmas. The third edition will differ from the second in two significant ways:
- It will have new pterosaur sighting reports and insights, and more about the explorers themselves, including Garth Guessman, David Woetzel, and Paul Nation (and, of course, me: Jonathan Whitcomb). It will also have more details about other expeditions: Destination Truth and the Monsterquest-episode expedition with Guessman.
- The genre will still be a mixture of spiritual-religious and cryptozoology-adventure, in that order, but this will be made clear in the promotions; I have no desire to offend any cryptozoologist who would dislike reading about religious beliefs.
The title will also be revised: Searching for Ropens and Finding God.
Anything I would quote from the new edition may be revised before publication, so I now quote from the second edition:
Acknowledgements (previous edition)
A key to successfully exploring a sparsely populated wilderness is, ironically, people-skills. My father and mother inspired others, lifting self-esteem; following their examples, I’ve tried inspiring others, though I’ve usually been the one encouraged or inspired. In particular, the pioneering investigations of Jim Blume, Carl Baugh, and Paul Nation illuminated the path for my own investigation in Papua New Guinea; the 2004 follow-through of Garth Guessman, David Woetzel, and Jacob Kepas filled in the gaps of previous expeditions, amplifying and supplementing the successes of those of us preceding them; the generosity of Alex Aguila made possible the 2006 expedition of Paul Nation, whose exploring of a remote area verified the location of many of the creatures (and he brought back the first visual images to the United States; the veracity of the images and testimonies were proven through the work of two physicists: Clifford Paiva and Harold Slusher); the eyewitness testimonies of natives, Australians, and an American veteran, contributed priceless evidence; the love of my wife and three daughters strengthened me to leave the comforts of home; the prayers of family, friends, and other Americans were answered when I found Luke Kenda, who became my interpreter, bodyguard, and counselor. By the grace of the Father of us all, Luke and I were welcomed like brothers by those we met on Umboi Island, and by accepting the friendship of humble Christians in remote villages, we were sheltered, fed, and led to those who made this book possible: the eyewitnesses. Thank you; tenku tru.
Lake Pung, Umboi Island, Papua New Guinea (where seven native boys had seen the giant ropen around 1994) - photo courtesy of Garth Guessman, one of those on the second expedition of 2004
Pterosaur Extinction (or not)
In Searching for Ropens, I wrote, “Since no researcher in Europe [when fossils were first being discovered] had any knowledge of living creatures similar to the fossils, it was assumed that they were all extinct. The key word is ‘assumed.’. . if only 1% of the population of Western Europe, in the late 18th Century, had . . . [seen] living pterosaurs, the universal-pterosaur-extinction notion would never have gotten started.”
Eskin Kuhn was a U.S. Marine, in 1971, when he witnessed two large pterosaurs flying over the navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He has maintained his testimony for decades: He saw, in clear daylight, two featherless long-tailed flying creatures with very prominent head crests.
To begin, I do not present Photo #1 as overwhelming evidence for the existence of a huge modern living pterosaur that has a head suggesting a Pteranodon; I interview eyewitnesses, and some of them report sighting details that have convinced me that huge pterosaurs (rare and nocturnal as they may be) live in this modern world of ours.
Of the many nonfiction cryptozoology books written by Michael Newton, one stands out: Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology—A Global Guide to Hidden Animals and Their Pursuers. Of the many hundreds of cryptids mentioned, two jump out for us: ropen and kongamato.
Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology by Newton
We would not expect a large reference book on cryptozoology to contain information about two expeditions late in 2004, when the book was published early in January, 2005. That is not the case here; in fact, so much has been learned about the bioluminescent flying creatures of Papua New Guinea, in more recent years, that much of Newton’s book is outdated in its entry “ropen.” For now, let’s look at what this encyclopedia says about the kongamato.
Flying Cryptid in Africa: Kongamato
The Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology has a major entry for the kongamato of Africa. It mentions Frank Melland, whose memoirs (published in 1923) include reports of a flying creature in what was then Northern Rhodesia.
. . . ‘a lizard with membranous wings like a bat.’ . . . Kongamato’s ‘wing-spread was from four to seven feet across . . . the general color was red. It was believed to have no feathers but only skin . . . [and] to have teeth in its beak . . .’
When Melland displayed a drawing of a pterosaur, ‘every native present immediately and unhesitatingly picked it out and identified it as a kongamato.’
Newton’s book also mentions G. Ward Price, who interviewed an eyewitness of a kongamato in 1925. The native had been attacked by one of the creatures and when shown a picture of a pterosaur, “screamed in fright.” It seems the kongamato at least resembles a pterosaur, if it’s not actually a modern species of that flying creature.
[Answering some statements in Newton's book] Some species of animals continue to grow as they mature, differing from common species of birds which have a particular maximum size; it seems that the ropen is one of those that keeps growing with age. Regarding the “Duah,” there is probably no such name, in Papua New Guinea, for any flying animal; the proper name is “duwas.”
Cryptozoology Book on Live Pterosaurs [not the book mentioned above]
“He has focused on the accounts of witnesses who saw something, and that adds credibility. The writing is easy to read and he adds comments and analysis to make it all more useful. Mostly, the author lets the sightings speak for themselves, which is good. A worthwhile book.” [Amazon review of the first edition of Live Pterosaurs in America - It is now in its third edition]
I live in Lamero, Kentucky. Its a small, rural area located along the Daniel Boone National Forest. . . . a lot of caves . . . seriously like swiss cheese . . . [In July of 2012] It was just a little after sunset . . . we were outside, sitting on his deck . . . I was looking northward when Brandon, my friend, shouted . . . Approaching us from the east . . . were two very large animals. . . . They appeared to be a brownish color and had every characteristic of a pterodactyl, from head to tail. I’d say they were roughly 15+ feet long and were flying at least 40 mph . . . [pterosaur sighting reported to Jonathan Whitcomb]
He was interviewed by Jonathan Whitcomb, who found the man’s testimony credible, even though the sighting was extraordinary: The length of the pterosaur-like flying creature, from end of tail to beak, was about the width of Campus Drive, about thirty feet . . .
Cryptozoology book: Live Pterosaurs in America (3rd edition) by Whitcomb
From the Title Page of Live Pterosaurs in America (third edition):
How are sightings in the United States related to those in the southwest Pacific? How do some apparent nocturnal pterosaurs pertain to bats, and how are bats irrelevant? How could modern living pterosaurs have escaped scientific notice? These mysteries have slept in the dark, beyond the knowledge of almost all Americans, even beyond our wildest dreams (although the reality of some pterosaurs is a living nightmare to some bats). These mysteries have slept . . . until now.
Book Review on Amazon
On April 12, 2013, a skeptic of pterosaur sightings posted a brief review on Amazon, dismissing my recently published book Live Pterosaurs in Australia and in Papua New Guinea. At first, the review appeared to me a mistake or a dishonest attack, for my book examines many sightings of apparent pterosaurs and emphasizes four critical encounters, four pillars of cryptozoological credibility in my opinion, not just “two” reports; I thought perhaps ”WS” referred to a different book, not mine. After looking more closely, I noticed the adjective “intriguing:” The critic wrote, “The book really consists of one or two intriguing reports.” But the other adjective, “really,” can mislead people into thinking my book examines no more than two eyewitness sightings, which is far from the truth.
Perhaps WS gave my book two stars instead of one because the reviewer found one or two of the reports intriguing; WS doesn’t say. But I’ll address some of the criticisms.
I was also struck by the title of the book review, “more religion than investigation,” for I had carefully avoided including any preaching while writing Live Pterosaurs in Australia and in Papua New Guinea (LPAPNG). This is a cryptozoology book that exhorts open-minded examination of eyewitness evidence, nothing like a book on religion. Part of one page refers to the non-religious accomplishments of a few Biblical creationist explorers, their interviews with natives in Papua New Guinea, but that hardly changes the genre of the book: “cryptozoology.”
False “Racism” Statement
I have done a word scanning of this book. The words completely absent include:
Nobody will find any of those words in the book, for they’re absent.
The reviewer wrote the following:
He describes science . . . and even equates it with racism . . .
At first, the comment on racism lead me to suspect the person writing this review had not read my book but some other publication instead, or had read more than one author and had become confused. Never in my life have I written anything that even hinted at the idea that science “equates” “with racism.” I then scanned the book for the word “native” and found nothing supporting the critic’s words, but I found two statements almost relevant:
The natives were not trying to deceive us into believing in a fictional creature, contrary to what some American critics later proclaimed. [from the chapter "Another Expedition on Umboi Island"]
Was WS thinking that accusing natives of dishonesty is racism? I can see that possibility. But why would the critic believe that “some American critics” equates with “science?”
WS says that I complain “that scientists no longer believe in human honesty.” Where did I say that? Searching again in the book, scanning it for “lie,” (equivalent to “deceive” and related to “honesty”), I found the following in the first chapter:
On that point, I have found many rejections of eyewitness testimonies to be far from objective and far from mild-mannered. One skeptic, a non-scientist, built a whole web site to ridicule the concept of modern dinosaurs and pterosaurs, putting the words “stupid” and “lies” into the URL address of the site. [from the first chapter, "How can pterosaurs be alive?"]
Did WS overlook “non” and equate “non-scientist” with “science?” Many readers, including myself, have made that kind of reading mistake, especially when we are expecting a particular point of view in what we’re reading. Was the critic simply careless in reading only portions of the book? WS gives no material explanation and gives no example for his conclusions. Why? The more merciful explanation that I see is that WS was careless; I will not assume the worst.
I sometimes write about pterosaurs and religion, but this book, Live Pterosaurs in Australia and in Papua New Guinea, has almost no religious content at all except for a few sentences about expeditions of creationist cryptozoologists who interviewed native eyewitnesses in Papua New Guinea. This is a cryptozoology book, notwithstanding WS makes no mention of that fact.
I think I know what WS meant when, in the middle of the brief review, that critic wrote, “Maybe someone will give this subject a serious treatment at some point, but this isn’t it.” I suspect WS means that the book is not a “serious treatment” and perhaps the “subject” was eyewitness accounts of apparent pterosaurs. The critic gives no details or explanation. I respond, “Maybe someone will write a more precise review, based on the actual contents of the book, but this review isn’t it.”
Live Pterosaurs in Australia and in Papua New Guinea
You will here find reports of encounters with apparent living pterosaurs, including many accounts never before published in any book. Other sighting reports are condensed from the print book “Searching for Ropens.” The ebook you are now examining is neither exhaustive nor rudimentary, but it explains most of what most Australians, and others, need to know about what might, on rare occasions, fly over their heads at night.
I believe in living pterosaurs and hope they will soon be officially discovered. More important, I believe in you, that you can soar above dogmatic assumptions about extinctions. I hope that you already understand that we are more than a by-product of culture: Our existence transcends the boundaries of the human cultural assumptions that have shaped our beliefs.
Now is the time for us to listen carefully, to think clearly, and to act accordingly rather than simply react when a cultural belief is contradicted: now, not after the official scientific discovery of modern living pterosaurs.
After WS communicated with me about our differing points of view, he agreed to change the title of his review to “More scientific approach would have been more effective.” More recently, I noticed that I had neglected to include the word “cryptozoology” in the Amazon “Book Description.” I have now submitted additional words to make the genre clear. (I’m as human as anyone else.)
Readers have come forward, soon after the publication of this negative review, offering support for my book. A notable comment comes from the prolific author Michael Newton, who wrote one of the most respected nonfiction books of cryptozoology ever published, Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology: A Global Guide to Hidden Animals and Their Pursuers. Here is what he says about my newest book:
“Jonathan Whitcomb’s Live Pterosaurs in Australia and in Papua New Guinea adds important new information to his previous works on this subject. Disputes over theology aside, ‘young earth’ creationists remain the primary dedicated field researchers pursuing reports of these most intriguing cryptids.”
Michael Newton Author of 78 nonfiction books, including many on cryptozoology
I know that an old photograph of Civil War soldiers next to an apparent giant dead Pteranodon (pterosaur) only indirectly relates to the Bible and Christian values, but it does relate to sightings of pterosaurs in North America. Just don’t confuse this photo with a hoax-photo that imitates it.
To begin, I do not present Photo #1 as overwhelming evidence for the existence of a huge modern living pterosaur that has a head suggesting a Pteranodon; I interview eyewitnesses, and some of them report sighting details that have convinced me that huge pterosaurs (rare and nocturnal as they may be) live in this modern world of ours. But for now, let’s examine this apparently very old photograph.
Hoax or Genuine? It’s controversial.
It seems that some people remember the above photograph in a book published around the middle of the twentieth century, many years before the first version of Photoshop was released in 1990. I believe I myself was one of those readers of a paranormal book with this photo. Regardless of our memories and regardless of whether or not those Union soldiers were playing an elaborate prank, there are problems with Photoshop hypotheses and I have found reasons to believe the above photo may be genuine, even though I still have doubts.
Before getting into details, note the photo below, which is unquestionably a hoax:
Hoax and imitation of the top photo
The Haxan production company made an imitation photo for one of their Freakylinks episodes, or to promote the episodes in general, around the late 1990′s; it looks like the top photo because it’s an imitation. Click for a closer look at the above image and notice two clues of a hoax:
- The “soldier” on the left is heavy-set enough to need to unbutton his shirt: a clue that we are looking at Civil War reenacting (20th century actors), for at that time a common soldier (not a general or a colonel) was rarely heavy set.
- The “creature” on the ground appears rather vague in features and the wings look like limp cloth: hardly a convincing giant flying creature.
Of course the ultimate prove that the second photo is a hoax is in the disclosure of the television production origin. In that context, it’s easy to see that it was imitating the older photo.
Return to Photo #1 – Must it be a Photoshop Hoax?
One blog writer (I’ll not mention his name) has been a skeptic, for some time, of reports of modern living dinosaurs and pterosaurs. On one of his posts, he provides what he assumes is valid evidence for Photoshop fakery (in what we here call “photo #1″). He makes no mention of the possibility that some persons say that they have seen this photo around the 1960′s (long before Photoshop existed); I have no idea if the blog writer is ignorant of that critical factor, but let’s look at his evidence.
But he points out apparent Photoshop manipulation, including the following:
I agree with this blog writer on this: It does appear, at first glance, that an unnatural lighter area is just above the head of soldier #6 (the man on the far right of Photo #1), and that this kind of appearance can indicate Photoshop manipulation. But let’s look deeper.
Assume for the moment that everybody who thought they remembered this photo from the mid-twentieth century is wrong in their memories. Assume that this photograph did not exist before the first release of Photoshop in 1990 (for the Mackintosh). Now look at the whole picture, all of Photo #1, and keep in mind the following:
Why would a Photoshop hoaxer paste an image of a Civil War soldier onto a background of tree branches? Would a hoaxer try to convince us that tree branches existed during the Civil War? Does anybody doubt that trees and Union soldiers lived at the same time, in the 1860′s? Why go to the trouble of cutting out an image of a soldier and pasting it onto a photo of trees? Why be distracted from the point of the photograph? How critical is the huge winged creature!
Now look again at this same magnified view of soldier number six.
A closer look reveals a separation from an apparent straight line and the man’s head. This light-colored line is somewhat similar to the horizontal line above the man’s head but it’s obviously not a Photoshop “halo” from a cut and paste manipulation. Actually this background has many light-colored tree limbs, appearing as white lines pointing in all directions. The line above the soldier’s head is probably just another of those branches.
But the critical point remains: A hoaxer would have little, if any, reason to paste an image of a soldier only a background of tree branches. Much more likely he would just paste an image of a monster onto a photograph of soldiers.
I am not declaring that the version of the photo that I have taken from the internet has no evidence of Photoshop manipulations. I do suggest that some of those have other explanations and that this apparent Civil War photograph needs to be researched more deeply.
What’s the Problem Regarding Civil War Pterodactyls?
Photo #2, above, can easily be found in online searches, too easily, and web surfers can easily be led to believe that any reference to a Civil War pterodactyl photograph is this hoax for Freakylinks. Few persons know about the differences between the two photographs and the weaknesses in the Photoshop hypotheses regarding Photo #1, for it takes an open mind and real work to gain greater knowledge and understanding.
I read on one web site that “many” people had seen this photograph in one or more publications “between the 1950-ies and 1960-ies,” but the subject now is Photoshop hoaxes, for it seems that most of the recent skeptics offer that explanation for this photo. Is this a genuine image of an actual pose of Civil War soldiers with a giant recently-deceased pterosaur?
I read a comment somewhere, on some forum thread, about this photo. Somebody said that if some soldiers really had seen a giant pterosaur then it would have gotten into the newspapers. I disagree. Back then, newspaper editors would not take hold of a monster story when there were so many war stories to write about. Some huge bird would not have been nearly as interesting as how the latest battle had gone.
Live Pterosaurs in America (third edition) nonfiction
Part of a review for the second edition (third edition is improved and expanded):
This is an updated review of the book and I am changing my rating to 5 stars. This book has been on my shelf for almost a year now. I pick it up every now and then and a part of me becomes more impressed by the book every time. . . . I highly recommend this. You may find yourself almost believing in it, although that is not even the authors intent! Whitcomb painstakingly reviews every account for credibility and reason. This man is not a crank. He tries to weed out would be hoaxes and miss-identification. This is not a guy looking to create evidence to confirm his own beliefs. . . .
If you are interested in reading about this subject, this is definitely the book to get . . . This is well written and very hard to put down.
[Amazon review of 2nd edition, by "stevie" on October 23, 2011]
The following brief reports were chosen at random, based on their obscurity.
Kansas - Sighting at night
This past Saturday evening (June 2, 2012) at about 10:45 pm, my wife and I were leaving the small town of Hudson, Kansas. We were traveling on a rural 2 lane highway. There was a row of trees along side the road on the North, or right-hand side. As we approached the end of the tree row, something huge took to the air from the top of the tree row. I am familiar with owls, etc, in this area and this thing dwarfed them. . . . “it looked like a dragon.”
Washington State – 2012 Pterosaur Sighting
I don’t want to be insane, but I am SURE I saw this bird/dinosaur, or something very similar yesterday, mid-day, sunny, around 67 F. It made no sound, didn’t flap it’s wings, and was enormous. My recollection focuses on the wingspan which reminded me of the a small bush plane . . . with a shorter wider middle body and elongated ends. I feel crazy saying it, but I am certain.
Kentucky – Rural area with many caves
I live in Lamero, Kentucky. Its a small, rural area located along the Daniel Boone National Forest. I have a friend who lives near Renfro Valley, which is about 12 miles north of me. Its a wooded area as well, with a small fishing lake nearby as well as several caves. . . . a lot of caves, lol. This county is seriously like swiss cheese . . .
[In July of 2012] It was just a little after sunset, so it was still daylight outside. The weather was nice, so we were outside, sitting on his deck . . . I was looking northward when Brandon, my friend, shouted behind me,”what in the blue h*** is that?” Approaching us from the east and flying westward were two very large animals. . . . they didn’t flap their wings very much, about once every second or two, definitely not as fast as a common bird flaps their wings.
They appeared to be a brownish color and had every characteristic of a pterodactyl, from head to tail. I’d say they were roughly 15+ feet long and were flying at least 40 mph . . .
I really really wish that I could have gotten to a camera, but there just wasn’t enough time. However, there is a guy who lives about 5 miles down the road from Brandon who, upon hearing our story, said he saw something one evening outside his home that sounded exactly like what we had described, but he only saw one.
How do Pterosaur Sightings Relate to Belief in the Bible?
Some critics of living-pterosaur investigations have dismissed all the research and expeditions because the cryptozoologists involved have been labeled “creationtists.” But those skeptics fail to realize or at least fail to mention that the testimonies of eyewitnesses generally have no evidence for any religious bias. The sighting reports above are typical, with no mention of the word “Bible” or any reference to Christian, or other religious, doctrines. With very limited exceptions, reports of pterosaur sightings do not come from Biblical creationists.
Brief overviews of encounters in Virginia, California, Papua New Guinea, and near Indonesia
In the first half of the third episode, broadcast in 2007, a Destination Truth team searches for a ropen in Salamaua, Papua New Guinea. I found it interesting that they sometimes used the word “ropen,” even though that word is used by Kovai-speaking natives on the island of Umboi; in other villages in other areas of Papua New Guinea, “ropen” means nothing or something other than a large featherless nocturnal flying creature that glows.
The big problem with memory is in the mundane details that appear to be of little importance, or in details that we did not realize were important during the event itself (sometimes only afterwards do we realize an event was important). Traumatic events, those that we immediately realize are important—those create memories that are much more acute, much more precise, and much less prone to decay over time.
A few weeks ago, I sent emails to many professors of biology at four major universities in the western United States: a survey form about the ropen of Papua New Guinea. The questions were so controversial that I guaranteed each professor complete anonymity and I’ll not now even divulge the names of the universities. Those university faculty members needed to feel secure that their responses could not be traced to them.
It has been many days since the last email was received from a biology professor (in reply to the survey questions), so we can assume no more responses will come in. The overall response was under 2% of the total professors who were sent the questionnaire.
Not one biologist gave any hint of any prior knowledge of cryptozoological investigations of reports of pterosaur sightings. Half of those responding gave no probability of any species of extant pterosaur; the other half, only a very small probability. The average chance was given to be 1.5%. I believe this would have been much higher if all those surveyed had known about what has been done in the investigations over the past twenty years, even though the work was in the realm of cryptozoology.
The critical point is this: Even without knowing about the investigations into pterosaur sightings, those university biology professors who responded did not give a zero probability for the existence of a modern living pterosaur species.
Peter Beach, Biology Professor
One professor of biology who is well aware of the living-pterosaur investigations is Peter Beach, whose experiences in searching for bioluminescent ropen-like flying creatures is recorded in the third edition of Live Pterosaurs in America:
“I went on a short trip to the Yakima River this summer . . . We were unable to get a picture but we saw many . . . flashing lights. . . . One of the flashes took off from a big tree overhanging the river and made a kind of flashing coma turn. Many flashes were parallel to the river. . . . these things fish at night with bioluminescence.
“At first I thought I was just seeing shooting stars, but they were all parallel to the river and close to the horizon. Next I noticed that when the cloud cover came in, I could still see the flashes. They were under the cloud cover. Whatever they are, I suggest that they are at least unknown to science, night flying, bioluminescent, flying creatures about the size of an eagle or big hawk, with a head knot . . . [appears] to be a “weird bird” as it perched in the tree, according to our confidant in Washington [State] who drives by the tree to work. Says he saw it a couple of times this summer, early in the morning.”
(Peter Beach was not one of the biology professors who received the survey.)
Night scene of a river in Washington State
A recent survey of biology professors in the USA reveals not all of them are completely convinced that all species of pterosaurs became extinct by 65 million years ago. Although less than 2% of the professors replied to the survey, the response to the question of the possibility of modern living pterosaurs ranged from 0% to 5%, averaging 1.5%.
Although Mr. Kuban does not suggest that all sightings of “modern pterosaurs” in Papua New Guinea are misidentifications of Flying Fox fruit bats, he says, “It’s likely that at least some southern hemisphere sightings of ‘pterosaurs’ are explained by fruit bats.” He then admits, “Of course, no bats are known to be bioluminescent, or that have wing spans of 25 feet.” He then gives no explanation for the creature’s bioluminescence or giant size.
If Duane Hodgkinson and his army buddy did not see a “pterodactyl” in that jungle clearing west of Finschhafen, New Guinea, in 1944, what did they see? It could not have been any mechanical toy, for it was too big and sophisticated and too early in history. It could not have been a bird, for it had a wingspan of about thirty feet and a tail at least ten or fifteen feet long, even if it had feathers.
The animal I saw had an 8-10 foot wing span, the wings were bat-like in shape, the inside had that wavy type of look. The body was about 5-6 feet in length, the neck about 1-2 feet in length, the head was about four feet in length, and the head was key for me: it has a crest that was about 2 feet in length, fit that of a pteranodon.