Real Dragons?

On April 1, 2011, in fiery flying serpent, by Jonathan Whitcomb

The English word “dragon” has been used for many old stories and legends, from languages around the world. But regardless of what word was translated into “dragon,” the stories themselves may give us clues about what people encountered long ago. Some critics of live-dinosaur and live-pterosaur ideas suggest that ancient people may have found fossils and then invented stories, pure fiction, about dragons, based on the old bones they had found. That may sound logical on the surface, but where is the evidence for such a speculation? I have seen no evidence of that. What we have are the stories themselves and something else in addition: the Bible.

Set aside the word “dragon,” for the moment, as we consider the fiery flying serpent of the Old Testament. A common explanation includes a “burning” wound from a venomous bite and a “snake.” But what does the record actually say about “fiery serpent?” Those animals bit many of the Israelites and many died from those bites. What scripture makes a direct reference to any detail about any bite or detail about those bites in general? I have never seen any such scripture. “Fiery” is used for the animal, not for the bite on a victim. Why should anyone object to the suggestion that bioluminescence was involved, with small long-tailed winged creatures that glowed while they flew at night? Many accounts suggest bioluminescent Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs still live, albeit nocturnally, in a number of areas in this modern world.

Marfa Lights, Dragons, and Pterosaurs

Dragons in southwest Texas? If a new conjecture about Marfa Lights is correct, a group of bioluminescent flying predators may live in these mountains, visiting the Marfa area every few weeks, as part of a large area that the predators cover in their hunting. One part of their diet may be the Big Brown Bat, although scavenging for dead animals, at night, may be a part of their mysterious nocturnal behavior.

Seklo-bali Dragon

Some investigators believe that this creature [the seklo-bali] is similar to or the same as the wawanar (dragon) around the Pilio Islands or the ropen of Umboi Island. It could also be the same as the indava. The bioluminescent glow at night probably inspired at least some of the dragon legends in some areas of the world.

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Throughout history and across the planet, come reports of featherless flying creatures that glow at night. They have been called dragons, fiery flying serpents, ropens, and pterosaurs. What about Marfa Lights? Those that fit into what Bunnell calls “CE-III” mystery lights characteristics—those lights behave like they were intelligent. Perhaps the old legends of crafty dragons are not 100% fictional.

Consider some things written about Marfa Lights within the past year or so. It seems that the circumstantial evidences supporting this flying-predator (even pterosaur) idea continue to mount. If there were nothing to it, why would new circumstantial evidence accumulate?

Marfa Lights to Monstrous Heights

How do mysterious lights flying in southwest Texas relate to the concept of modern pterosaurs living in North America? To be brief, the coorelation is indirect and questionable; it would be better to say “unclassified bioluminescent flying predator,” possibly similar to the ropen of Papua New Guinea. But observations around Marfa, over many years, indicate some of the strange lights flying in this area of Texas seem to fly together in complex ways, in ways that suggest the lights are directed by intelligence or intelligences. In addition, the one-or-two-night limitations of those particular lights, and their returning about once a month, suggest the roaming habits of a group of predators.

Marfa Lights and Barn Owls

Much of this post on Cryptid Eyewitness relates to barn owls, explaining a bit about the research done by Fred Silcock of Australia. Some barn owls, at least sometimes, seem to have an intrinsic bioluminescence.

The ghost story of a headless man searching for his head sounds like the story of the Bingham Lights of South Carolina and the Maco Lights of North Carolina and the Gurdon Light of Arkansas and . . . well, headless ghosts searching endlessly for their heads, especially down railroad lines—those stories seem endless. But with a little knowledge of the bobbing, weaving Min Min of Australia, only a little brain power can enlighten us: Australians describe the same thing.

For a nocturnal rodent, how far is it exposed while crossing railroad tracks? Too far to be comfortable in daylight. But in the dark of night, why worry? Take your time. A midnight snack, for a rat, can be easy to find; humans throw trash near the tracks. Dine where you find it . . . until . . . oops.

. . . The dance patterns of Marfa Lights resemble no flock of hunting barn owls. No, our old friend Tyto Alba cannot compete here and it dare not try. But it has illuminated part of the answer to the puzzle. The predators of Southern Texas show greater intelligence than most birds and some of them may be larger than any owl. This cryptid may be related to the ropen of Papua New Guinea . . .

That post explains that the Marfa Lights behave like a group of flying predators that are more intelligent than a flock of barn owls. The point about the barn owls (Min Mins) is that there is a species known to science that has an apparently intrinsic bioluminescence that may not have yet been documented in a scientific journal.

Skepticism and Marfa Lights

What an extraordinary idea! Marfa Lights come from glowing pterodactyls? How could such a wild idea have any merit? Consider what critics have written about that idea; you may be surprised. When the sarcasm is brushed aside, as we eventually must do to all sarcasm, the arguments against the bioluminescent-pterosaur idea appear weak, once they have been examined.

What a far cry from scientific skepticism! How convenient, when “hundreds” of witnesses experience something contradicting ones idea, to say it came from drinking whiskey!

To be fair to Mr. Dunning, we need to remember that some of these sighting reports are quite strange: flying lights that seem to fly in ways related to each other. These flights are too complex–I believe “complex” is the word used by James Bunnell–to be easily explained as an ordinary phenomenon. But the strange reactions some person might have to consuming alcohol does not mean that all strange experiences should be dismissed with “whiskey.” We can admit that not-yet-explained things may exist.

Indeed, and it would have been poor reasoning, on the part of physicists of the early twentieth century, if they had dismissed Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity as something coming from drinking whiskey.

Indava of Papua New Guinea and Marfa Lights

This post compares the strange flying lights deep in the mainland of Papua New Guinea with the strange flying lights in southwest Texas. Those similarities should be noted. It also mentions that critics of living-pterosaur investigations rarely, if ever, have mentioned the sighting of Pastor Jacob Kepas, during the Paul Nation expedition of late-2006. Kepas saw an indava in daylight, a large winged creature sleeping high on a cliff (that was confirmed by a native man who climbed higher up to get a better view).

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Frigate Bird Misidentification

On February 23, 2011, in Sighting in Papua New Guinea, by Jonathan Whitcomb

You would think the humble Frigate bird incapable of masquerading as a featherless pterosaur with a wingspan of a Piper Tri-Pacer airplane, but some skeptics appear to be ignorant of the 1944 “pterodactyl” sighting by the U.S. serviceman Duane Hodgkinson. Whatever he saw flying up from that jungle clearing, just west of Finschhafen, New Guinea, it was no sea bird, for the head alone was about three or four feet long, not counting the appendage at the back of the head.

Let’s look at the details in this sighting by Hodgkinson, in relation to the conjecture that Frigate birds have caused people to think that they have seen living pterosaurs. Two army buddies were standing at one side of a jungle clearing (1944, west of Finschhafen, New Guinea); a large creature flew up from the ground of the other side of that clearing. The soldiers had a perfectly clear view of the “pterodactyl,” as it ran to their left and took off into the air. Hodgkinson still remembers how the vegetation swayed from the wing flapping. How critical is the size of that clearing! At about one hundred feet in diameter, that field was small enough to prevent any major distortion in estimating the size of the flying creature. An estimate of twenty-seven feet for the wingspan makes it impossible for it to have been a Frigate bird in masquerade.

Why did I choose Duane Hodgkinson’s sighting as an example? A certain ornithologist (I presume he is a bird expert; at least he purports to be one) who goes by the pen name of “PNG Wantok” has declared,  “The Ropen myth has taken a life of its own, started on no evidence and some local boys pulling the leg of naive visitors to their village.” Look carefully at his comment (on a blog post titled “Caught on Video: Dinosaur or Common Bird”); notice there is not a gram of evidence for his conjecture about how the living-pterosaur idea got started in Papua New Guinea. He says nothing about Duane Hodgkinson, probably because he is ignorant of that eyewitness account. But that American World War II veteran, along with his army buddy, were on the way to a local village, when they had their sighting of the giant “pterodactyl.” They were not leaving a village where natives had told them stories.

Is it Misidentification of Bird or Bat?

Eyewitnesses are seeing  ‘flying fox’ fruit bats or Frigate birds.” Nothing is easier than ignoring what passes through our hands, packing everything away while labeling the box with one word: “misidentification.” I suggest examining each eyewitness report. Duane Hodgkinson described a flying creature with a tail that was at least 10-15 feet long: obviously not any known bird or bat. Brian Hennessy described a beak that was indistinguishable from the rest of the head, a long tail, and no sign of feathers: not likely any bird or bat. Many eyewitnesses describe a bright glow from a nocturnal flying creature: not likely a fruit bat or a Frigate bird. How much better to examine descriptions rather than ignore them and only imagine what someone else has seen!

Marfa Lights on “Live Pterosaur” Blog

Why consider that American “ghost lights” relate to live pterosaurs? Consider the ropen light of Papua New Guinea. From them we can learn that at least some living pterosaurs are bioluminescent, in particular the apparent Rhamphorhynchoids of the Southwest Pacific.

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Marfa Lights to Monstrous Heights

On December 30, 2010, in sighting in North America, by Jonathan Whitcomb

My recent press release (Unmasking a Flying Predator in Texas), to promote my new book (second edition, that is) Live Pterosaurs in America, received indirect attention from the Houston Chronicle, the largest-daily-circulation newspaper in Texas. It’s about Marfa Lights. But although my press release elicited the newspaper article, the staff writer, Claudia Feldman, wrote more about the scientific findings of James Bunnell, an aerospace engineer; Bunnell’s research shows that truly mysterious lights do fly above the desert bushes around Marfa, Texas. I am grateful that his findings were given credit in this article; Bunnell’s years of work have provided us with a treasure of data to analyze, enough to keep me busy at least.

How do mysterious lights flying in southwest Texas relate to the concept of modern pterosaurs living in North America? To be brief, the coorelation is indirect and questionable; it would be better to say “unclassified bioluminescent flying predator,” possibly similar to the ropen of Papua New Guinea. But observations around Marfa, over many years, indicate some of the strange lights flying in this area of Texas seem to fly together in complex ways, in ways that suggest the lights are directed by intelligence or intelligences. In addition, the one-or-two-night limitations of those particular lights, and their returning about once a month, suggest the roaming habits of a group of predators.

A recent post on the blog Modern Pterosaur mentions how my hypothesis about Marfa Lights was dismissed by the Houston Chronicle staff writer because of my lack of direct experience with both Marfa Lights and the living  creatures described like pterosaurs. The blog post points out something important:

The writer of the Houston Chronicle article, Claudia Feldman, seems to have overlooked an important part of science: the theoretical scientist. Like a detective who questions eyewitnesses and pieces together ideas based on what eyewitnesses have said, the theoretical scientist does not necessarily need to be an eyewitness, especially when eyewitnesses are plentiful or especially trustworthy. One name that comes to mind is Albert Einstein. He had limited, if any, training in physics; he had never been to an area where there was a total solar eclipse; he never saw the physics experiments that caused him to work at his theories. But he trusted the data from the experiments of those scientists who worked hands-on with scientific equipment.

Of course there was no intent to compare me with Einstein, but the nature of indirect experience (coupled with intense or prolonged thought) can be critically important in scientific investigations. Here is a paragraph from the Houston Chronicle article, the words that sparked the above comment:

[Whitcomb] acknowledges that he has no scientific training, has never been to Marfa and has not seen the creatures whose patterns and habits he attempts to describe. He did make a trip to Papua New Guinea to investigate flying predators there but saw none.

Looking at this from another perspective, since Ms Feldman has written an article, giving an obvious opinion (that Marfa Lights are not caused by bioluminescent flying predators), what scientific training has she had? Has she ever seen any Marfa Lights? Her indirect experience (interviewing those with certain experiences) do not cause us to question her opinions; why should my indirect experience (interviewing those with certain experiences) cause her to question my opinions? She seems to have missed the critical point that my position as a writer is similar to her position as a writer: We both interview persons, then write about what we have learned. The main difference may be this: I have years of experience researching reports of living pterosaurs and flying lights that are coorelated to some of those apparent pterosaurs (and a few months experience researching Marfa Lights); Ms Feldman has a few days of experience researching Marfa Lights.

But what about Mr. Bunnell and one of his associates, both of whom are educated scientists? Ms Feldman’s article is mostly about them and their ideas. But the subject that elicited the Houston Chronicle article is the possibility of nocturnal flying predators around Marfa, and neither of those scientists appear to have had any training or apparent interest in biology.

So we are left with only one thing that appears certain in Texas: A major newspaper is not likely to print an article that promotes the monstrous possibility that glowing pterosaurs are living and flying above remote areas of Texas.

Some interesting asides:

Ms Feldman turned down my suggestion that I send her a complimentary copy of my book, Live Pterosaurs in America, for she was short on time. I now realize that she probably has no idea that my book has an account of a sighting that should be especially interesting to readers of the Houston Chronicle: Two eyewitnesses in Texas, years ago, saw an apparent pterosaur between Pasadena and Houston.

That same staff writer for the Houston Chronicle asked me questions about the creationist connection with living-pterosaur investigations, but she mentioned nothing about creationism in her article (I guess that might not mean much).

The newspaper article had more about Bunnell’s work and ideas than about mine, concerning Marfa Light research, but that in itself is not surprising, for Marfa Lights are his specialty. What is surprising is that I told Ms Feldman about the biologist Peter Beach, who has done living-pterosaur investigations; she wrote nothing about any biologist (the article was elicited by my press release on the bioluminescent-flying-predator hypothesis).

Much of my work in living pterosaur investigations has resembled that of a newspaper reporter, for I interview eyewitnesses; that fact seems to have escaped the notice of Ms Feldman, who emphasized my lack of personal experience observing Marfa Lights and living pterosaurs. If she had been able to spend the necessary time to interview eyewitnesses of living pterosaurs, or examine the details in the data accumulated by Mr. Bunnell, she would have had a wider perspective, not that her superiors in that major newspaper would have allowed her to turn against American culture regarding extinction assumptions.

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