Winston Churchill said, “those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” although he may have borrowed the idea from George Santayana (in The Life of Reason, 1905): “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The concept is not restricted to famous events in history. Farmers often learn from experience, and large flying creatures that are said to have attacked domesticated animals in previous centuries might return to attack farm animals in the present. That deserves attention.
From the book Dark Highway
Much of the paranormal book Dark Highway, by Dan Kenyon, seems to be about UFOs and ghosts, although lake monsters and Bigfoot have been thrown in. The subtitle is “Utah’s Strange Tales,” and some of the stories are indeed strange.
Here is the contents page:
Table of Contents in the paranormal book Dark Highway
The chapter on dragons appears, at first glance, to be more about monsters that swim than monsters that fly. Chapter five, however, is about cryptids, and here is where a dragon flies into view.
On page 48, it tells of a large black figure sitting on a rock, witnessed by a father and son who had been watching for deer. (The sighting was reportedly in the “Mahogany area” of Utah, wherever that may be.) But what was supposed to have been a black bear suddenly stretched out a pair of wings and flew up into the air. The man estimated the wingspan: around fourteen feet. When the creature was on the ground, it appeared to have been four to five feet tall. Nothing was mentioned about any tail, but the dark color and big wingspan bring to mind the ropen.
Yet a full reading of the fourth chapter of the book reveals a sighting that is far more astonishing, so shocking that many readers may dismiss the report as a complete fabrication. I believe the author got the story from an old newspaper article, so let’s look at a small part of that:
Half Bird and Half Reptile Carries Away Live Horses
A terrible, nameless, unclassified creature of the animal world is exciting the curiosity, wonder, and fear of occasional visitors to Stansbury Island, in the southern portion of Great Salt Lake.
This monster, for it can be called nothing else, has lately, is it said, been seen by several persons, but the best account [of] its characteristics and movements is given by Martin Gilbert and John Barry, two hunters who this week returned from an expedition over the island, in the course of which they studied the habits of this hitherto unheard-of-creature for three days.
. . . In size it is simply tremendous . . .
Its wings were bat-like . . .
. . . we saw that it carried in its great jaws a large horse . . . badly crushed and mangled. . . .
From a newspaper article in the Pittsburgh Press, September 3, 1903
I’m not suggesting that this old newspaper story is an accurate account, but in light of a more recent sighting of a flying creature, a few miles south of this island, perhaps the old story did not come entirely from an imaginative invention in the mind of a bored newspaper professional. It now seems that the old tale may have originated from a real encounter with a flying creature in this area of Utah. Whether or not it is the same species as the animal seen in the “Mahogany area” of Utah is a matter of speculation, but something strange has been flying over this area south of the Great Salt Lake.
A large hill on Stansbury Island, Great Salt Lake, Utah (Flickr photo courtesy of Andrey Zharkikh)
Sighting Eight Miles South of Stansbury Island, Utah
Almost a century after the above extraordinary report, three boys were playing in a yard one night, in the farming community of Grantsville, Utah, about eight miles from the southern end of Stansbury Island. At around 10:30-11:30 p.m., the nearby farm animals became greatly disturbed, making alarming sounds, as if they were in danger.
That was about the time that 12-year-old Dallin Roberts saw something very strange in the sky. At first, he could not understand what he was observing. He soon realized that it was a flying creature. Two things struck him as very odd, however: the enormous size and the glowing body of the flying animal.
The other two boys soon got a look at the flying creature, and all three of the boys were astonished. The light coming from the flying creature did not always remain on. I turned off for a short while, but it soon turned on again, revealing that the creature had flown up much higher into the night sky, while the light had been off. It was a dark night, so the boys could not see the strange creature except when it was glowing.
I recently got a question from a member of a Facebook group: “Living Pterosaurs of the World.” It was in response to a Youtube video of two interviews I had with eyewitnesses last year. These two young men testified that the local farm animals went “crazy” with fright, making a lot of noise, when a very large glowing flying creature flew overhead one night.
Do pterosaurs still live? In the 21st Century? Don’t rush to any conclusion; get the facts, then judge credibility. . . . Soon after interviewing Gideon [a native eyewitness on Umboi Island in Papua New Guinea], I learned that two of the other witnesses were present with us. Wesley is a brother to Gideon and answered my questions without hesitating. . . . We also need to realize that the islander-eyewitnesses who answered our questions, did not repeat the legends of the ropen. They simply answer our questions as to what they saw.
What could be worse than any nightmare? In the dead of night, you are awakened by what you fear most, glaring down at you. . . . Race out of your bedroom; it’s after you. Race out the front door; it follows. Search for a place to hide; it’s too late. You are exposed, surrounded by many monsters ready to feast. You have fallen into their trap. Your family is scattered, chased across the freezing countryside. You are alone. You are Eptesicus fuscus, a Big Brown Bat.
From the cryptozoology book Live Pterosaurs in America (Acknowledgements section) Whitcomb says: “To the eyewitnesses who’ve bravely come forward, telling us of apparent living pterosaurs, I dedicate this book. They deserve to be heard.”
So who do you call? I hope you’ll contact me, Jonathan Whitcomb. As far as I know, I am the only person on earth who has devoted anything like a full-time effort, over years, to interview eyewitnesses of apparent living pterosaurs or ropens, promoting the idea that these flying creatures are not extinct but very much alive.
I tried phoning Duane Hodgkinson last year, in the summer or early fall as I remember; nobody answered. I have just learned that he passed away on September 19. He will be missed.
His sighting in New Guinea in 1944 (before these islands became the independent nation of Papua New Guinea) deserve attention. Yet I feel we need to see his report in the context of other sightings of large flying creatures in the southwest Pacific. Consider what I now quote from the nonfiction book Searching for Ropens and Finding God, fourth edition:
By telephone and letter, Hodgkinson told me more [about his sighting]. . . . while the native guide was ahead of them on the trail, he and his friend stopped in a clearing. The two soldiers heard a “crashing” noise in the brush, and when they looked toward the uphill side of the clearing they saw the creature take off into the air. Before this takeoff, it was unseen. A wild pig, which had caused the noise, then ran to the downhill side of the clearing, into the taller brush; apparently, it had startled the “pterodactyl,” which then circled above the clearing. [page 25 of SFRFG]
. . . [Duane Hodgkinson] revealed that he had noticed no detail of the long tail he had seen, but the tail was indeed long. [in 2005, in an interview, he revealed his rough estimate for tail length: “at least ten or fifteen feet”] . . . The creature, which Hodgkinson first assumed was a bird, flew up from the edge of the clearing and, as it circled, fifty to one hundred feet above the men, presented a “perfect side view” of itself—obviously no bird. [page 26]
Sighting in Perth, Australia
(Continued quoting of the nonfiction book on ropens)
Soon after I had questioned Hodgkinson, an Australian lady told me about a flying creature she and her husband . . . had observed near the coast of Perth. . . . [top of page 31]
Soon after the sighting, the lady was open about it and tried to spread the news, but people accused her of dishonesty, people who did not know her, so she kept quiet about it for years. When she realized my work was serious, she replied . . . “Whatever people may think, the fact remains that my husband and I both saw that creature. My husband, being a scientist, took in things from the sighting that I [did not] take in.”
I requested her husband’s account and he soon replied: [page 32]
“As I am to understand that my wife has been corresponding with you concerning a certain sighting we witnessed near the coast of the Indian Ocean in Perth, Western Australia, she has encouraged and prevailed upon me to add my perspectives . . .
“We had been walking in the evening and had just crested a hill and were on the down slope along a major thoroughfare. In the distance, I perceived an object in the sky. . . .
“Soon I was able to determine that it was some sort of flying creature, and my first thought was that it must be some very large bird. I was very new to the area at the time and unfamiliar with the native creatures . . .
“. . . its progress had brought it closer and while its shape did resemble a bird, I thought by now that from its apparent distance, it must be the largest bird I had ever witnessed. . . .
“Within a minute or so it had reached our position and was about 250 or 300 feet above us and slightly inland. The area was moderately well lit and I saw that it seemed to be a light reddish-tan color. It did not appear to be covered with feathers but had a leathery texture.
“Soon after it passed us, it flew over a more brightly lit sports area which highlighted even more the leathery appearance, also bringing more detail to view. The wings were the most definite leathery feature. They were shaped in a triangular arch, similar to a very elongated shark fin.” [This man estimated the wingspan of the strange flying creature at 30-50 feet.]
Ropen sighting by seven natives of Umboi Island
We rested while someone went for Gideon. These curious villagers rarely see a Western visitor: probably their first encounter with a ropen hunter. [page 74 of SFRFG]
Gideon arrived . . . the same Gideon I saw and heard in Paul Nation’s video . . .
[Question by Whitcomb] “You told them about when you went up to the mountain where there was a lake . . .”
Gideon nodded many times.
[Whitcomb] “All right. . . What lake was that?”
He appeared surprised at my ignorance and said, “Pung.”
[Whitcomb] “Did you notice . . . did it have wings?”
With a smile, Gideon said, “Yeah.”
[Whitcomb] “It had wings. OK. About how large were the wings . . .”
Gideon said, “Sefan meeta.” . . . [seven meters is about 23 feet]
[Whitcomb] “OK. Did it have a tail?”
[Whitcomb] “It had a tail. OK. How long was the tail?”
Gideon looked at the ground to his left for five seconds; from the way he glanced back and forth at the ground a few times, I concluded that he was imagining the tail and estimating its length. He looked back at me and said:
“Sefan meeta long.”
One year later, I would analyze this interview and realize the weakness of trying to communicate with villagers about “wingspan.” . . . Gideon meant that one wing by itself was seven meters long.
When I asked about feathers, he gave me the puzzled look.
[Gideon] “There’s no feathers.”
Eyewitness of a ropen: Duane Hodgkinson
Other ropen eyewitnesses could be mentioned, but these two from western Australia and this native from Umboi Island support the testimony of Mr. Hodgkinson. The ropen is a real flying creature, seen by natives and Australians and Americans, on occasion, in the Southwest Pacific.
Within the past twelve years or so, the testimony of Mr. Hodgkinson has been vindicated by reports from other eyewitnesses in the southwest Pacific, many others.
A study by an American cryptozoologist suggests that the “pterodactyl” described by the World War II veteran Duane Hodgkinson was a real creature, of a species living in coastal areas of Papua New Guinea.
We do not yet have enough eyewitness reports to determine variations of species of the long-tailed featherless flying creatures that we call “ropen.” The Perth creature may be a different species than the ones observed by Duane Hodgkinson (1944) and by Gideon Koro (~1994), based upon the apparent differences in rations between wingspan and length of tail.
A different kind of attack has been launched, as an American paleontologist has dismissed the ropen as a “fake” pterosaur and dismissed me, Jonathan Whitcomb, as one who practices deception. [A reply to accusations]
Where the Kanawha River of West Virginia joins the Ohio River—that’s where we find the community of Point Pleasant, and that’s the center of a strange series of sighting reports of the Mothman. That’s also where three persons in one family saw, in October of 2014, what was probably a glowing ropen. I doubt that it was a coincidence, but the Mothman stories let’s put aside for the moment.
Before getting into the ropen sighting, consider the countless caves and abandoned mines in West Virginia: countless places for strange nocturnal flying creatures to hide in daylight.
One of many entrances to old mines in West Virginia (not all of them are impassable)
Facebook message from Ricky:
I don’t know any [cryptozoologists] personally so I’m resorting to you guys because you guys know about something that was closest to what I and my family saw tonight.
This happened to me about an hour ago. My dad, my baby sister, and I were outside in the hot tub. We were just talking and my sister was counting the stars . . . she spots this giant winged creature flying across the sky . . . It was WAY UP in the sky, and it’s wings were flapping slowly, so explaining that it was a large creature high up rather than a small creature flying low. But it was glowing.
Looking back on the experience, Ricky was upset that he did not run to get his cell phone and capture a video or photo of the flying creature, but at the time of the sighting he assumed that he would eventually be able to find some commonplace explanation. After the creature had flown away, Ricky came to realize that his family had witnessed an incredible event.
Continuing Ricky’s Facebook message:
I live just a couple miles from Point Pleasant, so my first guess was to resort to reading Mothman articles. But I mean, it just didn’t match what I saw. I need help determining this. I was doing research about “flying, glowing creature sightings at night” and came across you and these creatures, but these are all the way on the other side of the country? I have no explanation and that’s why I’m scared, open minded (which isn’t usual), and curious to figure this out. . . . it was way high up, definitely bioluminescent, a light orange. . . . I’d say it had at least a 25-30 ft wingspan. But it was so high up that that’s all u could make out were the wings, and that they were flapping so slowly.
Message (on a Facebook group-forum) that I, Jonathan Whitcomb, sent to Ricky:
Hi, Ricky. Thank you for sharing your experience with us here. Many other eyewitnesses have seen similar flying creatures, probably even the same species. Some of them fly in your part of the country.
Another man reported a large flying creature, maybe the same species, in West Virginia a few years ago. He saw that it was catching bats. His email address was not working, however, when I tried to contact him, and he has not contacted me since.
Email that I sent to Ricky on October 21, 2014:
I think I understand something of what you have been going through. Have you been looking online for a report of a large glowing creature that was seen close to your part of the country? Ropens can fly long distances and have been reported across North American. Some reports are of daylight encounters and others are at night. One clue that might help you: Some of the sightings do not include any appearance of the glow that we know the creature is capable of producing. They do not glow all the time.
I later asked him about how long the sighting was and if a tail was visible. He replied:
[Length of sighting was] at least a minute. I mean it came into sight at least a half mile from us and we watched it until we couldn’t see it anymore. I guess I didn’t take any pictures because one, we were in the hot tub and didn’t have my phone but [now] I wish I jumped out instantly and went inside and got it. And two, at the time, I didn’t think it was [a] big enough deal to go get my phone. Like I thought I’d figure out what it was as I looked at it longer.
Taken in the context of many eyewitness sightings across the country, including reports from Ohio, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, I believe Ricky and his family did see a bioluminescent flying ropen.
Caves and Mines of West Virginia
From a brief online search, I see that West Virginia has its share of caves. It also is said to have thousands of abandoned mines, since the coal industry is well over a century old there. Probably nobody knows all the openings to those countless abandoned mines, leaving countless potential hiding places for the ropens to sleep in daylight.
Also sightings in two other states: New Mexico and Oklahoma
Expect references to the Biblical fiery flying serpent and the Flood of Noah. I added “finding God” to the title of the third edition to avoid offending anyone wanting only cryptozoology, a reader who would be offended to find a little religion, however limited; it’s continued in this fourth edition: finding God. Yet this is not mainly about religion, not in the usual sense. It’s less likely to take you to church than into the lives of ordinary persons who have encountered extraordinary flying creatures, and into the lives of Christians who have risked their health, even their lives, in searching for living pterosaurs.
Many species of bats live in countless caves around the world, but what about larger flying creatures, the ones long thought extinct according to generations of Western traditions? What about ropens, called by some persons dragons?
. . . the mud caves of the Badlands are exposed. Some of the caves, according to the video, are “more than a mile” long. Yet even if that length is exaggerated, many openings, including ceiling holes, would make the caves ideal for a family of nocturnal flying predators or scavengers, an ideal bedroom to hide in the daylight.
Stopping to refuel at Kampalap, they learned that villagers occasionally see the ropen as it leaves a cave, most recently three weeks earlier. . . . The creature flies to a promontory north of the village, landing and waiting on a tree top before flying out to the reef.
The first-season television broadcast of an episode of Destination Truth (on the SyFy Channel), in 2007, involved a search in a jungle in Papua New Guinea, looking for a dinosaur-like animal that somebody suggested might be an iguanodon. That was on the island of New Britain, just east of the smaller island of Umboi (home of the ropen).
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.
Josh Gates seems to lead all the expeditions, in all seasons of Destination Truth, and he often does well in working through problems that would cause most people to give up entirely. In the ropen episode, the expedition team began searching for a promising cave on the eastern coast of the mainland of Papua New Guinea. At first, they were led up into a jungle by a native guide who eventually admitted that he was not sure where the cave was located: the trees were the wrong size. Josh took charge and led the team out of that jungle, and they discontinued using that guide.
When the explorers did find a cave, Josh led the camera operator in exploring it. They found bones, eventually many human bones, and quickly exited that cave. To their credit, the team then set up four video cameras to continuously monitor what was around the cave, in four directions.
They located a distant flying light, something far beyond the cliff, something quite bright (considering the distance). The video recording of that flying light was later taken back to the United States for analysis. The two video experts found nothing common about the image: not a camera aberration, not anything that would discredit the bioluminescent-flying-animal idea. I praise the Destination Truth team for that successful episode.
Josh finds many bones, possibly human, in the cave
Flying light image from one of the video camera recordings in Salamaua
I’m thinking about a particular native who was interviewed by Josh Gates, during the Destination Truth expedition of 2007: Fabian.
But what do all those numbers mean? What can we learn? Perhaps the most important is that no hoaxes played any significant role in the sighting reports.
David Woetzel and Garth Guessman succeeded in their 2004 expedition on Umboi Island, even though they failed to get a clear view of a ropen, for their interviews with native eyewitnesses proved of great worth in their cryptozoological investigation. To the expedition of these two American creationists, I devoted a chapter, in my nonfiction book Searching for Ropens (this book is in its second edition, with the third edition now being written). Woetzel and Guessman deserve more credit than a brief reference in Wikipedia, so I quote from the book, although only in brief summary:
Kepas [interpreter] accompanied Guessman and Woetzel to Umboi Island, but rather than take a boat, as I had, they flew in a small plane, searching the landscape as they passed over the center of the island. . . . they flew directly to the northern coast which they followed to the air strip at Lab Lab.
Here the three ropen investigators met Peter (Pita) Ake, magistrate of Mararamu Village, and the four men took a banana boat along the northeast coast. . . . Stopping to refuel at Kampalap, they learned that villagers occasionally see the ropen as it leaves a cave, most recently, three weeks earlier. . . . The creature flies to a promontory north of the village, landing and waiting on the tree tops before flying out to the reef.
Guessman, Kepas, Peter, and Woetzel continued on the banana boat northwest, leaving it near Aupwel, where they were greeted by many local villagers. An older man, Patrik Sual (whose ancestors lived near or on Mount Sual) told the investigators that he sees the ropen once a month, only from a distance; it flies from mountain to mountain. . . .
[In the first major trek on foot] . . . passing between the mountains Barik and Sual, they arrived at Arot Village where they made friends with local men and prepared for the excursion up to Bono, the crater lake of Mount Sual.
Guessman interviewed Jonathan Ragu, of Mararamu Village, who saw a ropen in July of 2004, when he and his daughter were at a beach. Between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m. . . . it flew away from the northwest coast of Umboi Island, heading toward Tolokiwa Island (northwest of Umboi). Glowing brightly red and white from the head and trailing edges of the wings, it flew fast, at tree-top level. . . . nose-to-tail length was eleven feet. From thirty-four silhouettes of bats, birds, and pterosaurs, Ragu chose the Sordes Pilosus, a Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur.
They had many more interviews with eyewitnesses and explored some of the central areas of Umboi Island. They stayed for a few more days than my own two-week expedition, which was a few weeks earlier than their expedition. Woetzel had a sighting of the ropen light one night, briefly and at a distance. That deserves another quote from the book.
Woetzel reported to me, “My sighting was so quick that it was impossible to get a video–maybe two seconds. The light was very different from what Garth and Pastor Jacob saw. I suspect theirs was a meteor. I also saw some meteors while on night watch. They were whitish in color and had a tail. But this thing was different. It went about as fast as a meteor, but it was very different in coloration . . . almost golden and shimmering around the edges. It looked like an old-fashioned street light in the fog. There was no tail and it was flying horizontally from Mt. Barik toward Mt. Tolo.”
Woetzel continued, “I . . . saw it streaking across the horizon and disappearing behind Mt. Tolo. The size, color and speed made it immediately stand out as unlike any other thing I’ve ever seen in the sky. . . . Woetzel estimated the angular size to be 20%-25% of a full moon and said, “. . . larger than any meteor I’ve ever seen.”
For an introduction to ropen expeditions in Papua New Guinea, read “Basics on Living Pterosaurs . . .” (It includes a correction to a mistake about Woetzel’s ropen-light sighting.)