Old Photo of a Pterosaur

By the living-pterosaur expert Jonathan D. Whitcomb

Introduction to the “Civil War photograph of a pterodactyl”

A number of names or labels have been given to this old photo, probably the most practical being “Ptp,” for that helps to distinguish it from the more recent hoax photo that was created to promote the Freakylinks television show produced by Haxan Films at the beginning of the 21st century.

the Ptp photograph of an apparent Pteranodon

The above image is the Ptp photograph (with an apparent Pteranodon)

This is a series of brief reviews of several web pages on the subject of the animal shown in the Ptp photo: an apparent Pteranodon. It also has a brief review of an online page on the nonfiction book Modern Pterosaurs, which I recently wrote on that subject.

Those blog posts (or other online sources of information) that I would recommend—those are given links at the bottom of this post. I do not give a link to one site that is mentioned here, for it can be extremely misleading; still, I give “Living Pterosaurs” a brief review here, for its negative statements need to be answered.

Civil War Pterodactyl Photo

Posted January 23, 2017, on the Modern Pterosaur blog

This examines a magnified view of the head of the apparent Pteranodon in the Ptp photograph, and includes, “. . . the physicist found a correlation between a solar shadow under the boot of the soldier and ones on the animal.”

This post also explains how I, Jonathan Whitcomb, came to change my view about Ptp. This is found in the section “Skepticism of the Civil War Pterodactyl Photo.”

A Civil War Monster Photograph

This I posted on April 21st (and I highly recommend Medium.com for online writing)

This is much longer than my average blog post, getting into how I got involved in the living-pterosaur investigations. Halfway through it, I get into Ptp. Medium.com says this is a 12-minute read, although I think some readers could take longer than that.

An Introduction to the Old Photograph Ptp

This Youtube video, which I uploaded on April 26, 2017, is almost 14 minutes long, and is probably the most useful in presenting the positive side of the possibility that a modern pterosaur was photographed in the 19th century.

If you read none of the other blog posts on Ptp, you would do well to watch this video. It’s not really a substitute for reading my book Modern Pterosaurs, but takes only 14 minutes and it’s free to watch.

“About Us”

This is actually much more about Ptp than it is about me and the physicist Clifford Paiva. In fact, it consists almost entirely of quotations from the nonfiction Modern Pterosaurs (Introduction and chapters one and seven).

Living Pterosaurs (“pterodactyls”)? (by Glen J. Kuban)

This is surely the longest anti-extant-pterosaur web page ever published, at over 60 paragraphs. I will not link to it, for too many readers can be mislead by its attacks against writings that support the possibility that one or more species of pterosaur is still living.

For years, “Living Pterosaurs” included a tiny image of what we now call the Ptp. Yet what little was said about it was misleading, for Kuban had confused two different photos: Ptp and the Haxan Films Freakylinks hoax photo. How many readers may have been mislead by that! I do not imply any deception there, for after I had contacted Kuban, in March of 2017, he revised the page, by late April, publishing both photos.

Yet he added quite a few large paragraphs that attacked the idea that Ptp could be a genuine photograph of a modern pterosaur. Kuban appears determined to hold onto 19th century ideas about universal extinctions of basic forms of life, in particular the life of those wonderful featherless flying creatures: pterosaurs.

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Civil War Pterodactyl Photo

Do not confuse the above photo [the old Ptp] with a hoax made for Freakylinks (Fox network series that was on the air from 2000 to 2001.) The television hoax-photo has Civil War reenactors standing over a vague canvass-like thing on the ground, yet it was made in imitation of the above photo [which is a genuine 19th century photo]. . .

A Civil War Monster Photograph

What a gruesome head! I don’t recall when I first saw the monster photo, perhaps as long ago as 1968, but that long beak and head appendage made me uneasy.

Introduction to the old Civil War Photograph (video)

Clifford Paiva (physicist) and Jonathan Whitcomb declare that this is a genuine photograph with a real animal that is obviously an extant pterosaur.

About Us (under “Pterosaur Photo”)

On January 14, 2017, Clifford Paiva and I (Jonathan David Whitcomb) spoke by phone and agreed that a photograph we had been studying had a genuine image of a real animal. We did not insist that this must have been a species of Pteranodon killed during the American Civil War. . . .

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Real “Dinosaur” in a Civil War Photograph

By the modern-pterosaur expert Jonathan Whitcomb

Introduction

Years ago, a scientist in California began noticing details in a photograph, clues that the image of an apparent modern pterosaur was genuine. On January 14, 2017, I spoke with Clifford Paiva (a physicist) by phone. We agreed that the photo (now labeled “Ptp”) has a genuine photographic image of a modern pterosaur. Some people call this kind of animal a “flying dinosaur” or a “pterodactyl.” Let’s look at this from a scientific perspective, keeping an open mind to various possibilities.

The photo had been known by many people for a long time, but it had been confused with another photo, of a hoax Civil War reenactment, that had been made in imitation of the original. Compare the two photographs in Figure-1:

Ptp on left is genuine pterosaur but on the right is a hoax-photo

Figure-1: Original (Ptp) photo on the left; imitation on the right (click on image)

Comparing the two Apparent Civil War Photographs

Notice that the photo on the right has nothing in focus, which is not normal for Civil-War era photography. The one on the left, however, has both soldiers and the animal in focus.

Several things suggest the one on the right is a Civil War reenactment with actors dressed to look like soldiers of that period. It’s not that any one clue is proof by itself, but when taken together they at least strongly suggest it’s a hoax photo.

Notice one soldier in the photo on the right, the man on the far left of that image. It looks like his stomach is so large that he cannot button his shirt. That can be explained: Perhaps all the other apparent soldiers were regular Civil War reenactors, and one more man wanted to join them. The new man had never played that kind of part before, so he had to borrow at least part of a uniform. The shirt was too small, so he left it unbuttoned.

In addition, the stance of at least two of the “soldiers,” in the photo on the right, is unusual. In old Civil War photographs, one or two soldiers might be seen with arms folded across the chest; is a bit uncommon but not rare. For two soldiers to hold their rifles while folding their arms across their chests, however, appears strange. I’ve never seen a genuine Civil War photo that had two men standing like that.

But we have a direct way of judging the photo on the right: It was leaked out, early in the 21st century, that this was a hoax for the Freakylinks television show. Photoshop or something similar was probably used to make the modern photo appear to be old.

Now notice how the two photos resemble each other. Obviously one of them is imitating the other, but which is the older one? Several persons have reported that they remember the one we see on the left (in Figure-1). They say that it was in a book they had seen around the 1960’s or 1970’s. Some persons may have seen it even earlier. Combining that with the knowledge we have of the Freakylinks hoax, we can see that Ptp is the older one.

Many TV shows entertain with fiction, but in this case it created a problem, for many persons seem to have become confused by the two similar photos. When the subject of a “Civil War pterodactyl photo” comes up, they assume there’s only one photo and that it’s a joke or hoax. In addition, other persons assume, after learning of the hoax, that both photos must be fake. Those persons, however, probably do not look deeply into the clues, that are there for the viewing, in the older photograph: clues to the authenticity of Ptp.

Science and Objective Evaluations

The physicist Clifford Paiva examined the Ptp photo, finding several things that suggested that the image of an apparent Pteranodon is genuine. (Apparently the scientist felt that it was unnecessary to examine the TV-show hoax photo.)

The shadow under the boot of the soldier in front corresponds with shadows found on and under the image of the animal. This gives at least a strong suggestion that no digital pasting was done of a soldier-image being put onto another photograph.

That fits perfectly with what people tell us: This photo (Ptp) was seen in a book many years before Photoshop existed. But another question arises: Why would any hoaxer, who was an expert in modern computerized image manipulation, want to paste even one soldier onto a photograph that had a convincing Pteranodon image? And where would that hoaxer get such an incredible photograph?

Those questions arise because of what Paiva found in closer examinations of Ptp. The head suggests the animal is a Pteranodon or a modern pterosaur that appears much like a Pteranodon. But it’s not just the beak and head crest. The neck and shoulder also suggest it is something like that Pterodactyloid pterosaur.

By the way, pterosaurs are not technically dinosaurs. They’ve just been associated together because of old ideas about “primitive” animals living many millions of years ago.

Why are dinosaurs and pterosaurs not nearly as common today as they were in the past? Look to the one major cause of complete extinction: human interference. Let the present be the key to the past and recognize how easy it would have been, over thousands of years, for humans to have destroyed many species of dinosaurs and pterosaurs.

Most reported sightings of dinosaurs appear to be confined to certain areas of central Africa and Papua New Guinea. Yet over the past 14 years, I’ve received reports from eyewitnesses from five continents, from persons of various backgrounds, who have seen apparent modern pterosaurs. It seems that the “primitive” animals that can fly through the air have survived extinction and expanded their ranges worldwide, although they seem to be at least somewhat rare and mostly nocturnal.

Conclusion

This photograph (Ptp) deserves a much closer look. It appears to support the many eyewitnesses who report large featherless flying creatures in a number of areas of the world, including North America. We need to look past old 19-century dogmas about universal extinctions of all species of dinosaurs and pterosaurs. Keep an open mind to new discoveries.

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Pterodactyl in a Civil War photograph

Someone looking for evidence of Civil War reenactment may have little difficulty noticing one or more problems with the photo on the right. That’s a hoax-photo, made to promote the Freakylinks TV series . . .  The photo on the left, however, is older, apparently seen by many readers of a book in the mid-20th century.

Live pterosaur in a photo

Introduction to the Civil War photograph, comparing it to a hoax-photo, with a short history of living-pterosaur investigations regarding credibility

Ropen-pterosaur or “dinosaur bird”

The photo shown here, recently given the label of “Ptp,” has been declared to have a genuine image of a modern pterosaur. The proclamation was given by the physicist Clifford Paiva and the cryptozoology author Jonathan Whitcomb on January 14, 2017.

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Jonathan Whitcomb's third edition of "Live Pterosaurs in America" - nonfiction cryptozoology genre - sightings of "pterodactyls" still living

Live Pterosaurs in America (third edition), nonfiction cryptozoology book

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North American Dinosaurs Dated by Carbon-14

green dinosaur

In recent years, dinosaur bones have been dated using radiometric carbon-14 methods, something almost never attempted before. Why is this testing relatively new? It was previously assumed by many scientists that all dinosaurs became extinct by at least tens of millions of years ago. Some critics continue to hold onto that opinion.

Yet a number of dinosaur fossils excavated in North America have been 14C dated to well below the ceiling level for those testing methods, with none of the materials over 40,000 years old, according to the rigorous methods used. This deserves attention.

types of dinosaurs dated by c-14

From the newgeology-dot-us web site

Dinosaur Bones Excavated in Montana

Notice the data from carbon-14 dating of two Triceratops dinosaurs: both were found in Montana. The margin for error is mostly small in these test results, most being plus-or-minus 80-200 years. Critical is the general age calculation: between 24,340 and 39,230 years before the present (BP). If these two animals had lived many millions of years ago (in what is now Montana,) there would no longer be any sign of any carbon-14, yet the testing showed the presence of that isotope (14C).

Other dinosaur remains, excavated in North America, show similar results from the radiometric carbon testing.

Scientific Discussion and Censorship

Few critics have said much in direct response to the censored lecture-abstract on the official web site of the 2012 Western Pacific Geophysics Meeting in Singapore. Apparently those who would prefer keeping in the dark of 19th-century ideas about dinosaur extinction (before humans)—those critics write mostly about a very few of the earlier datings (by carbon-14 methods), if they write anything at all. The censorship of the scientific lecture appears to suite them just fine.

They refer to publications in 1991 and 1992, which refer to testing or writings from 1979-1990. Do a Google search for information on carbon-14 dating of dinosaurs and notice two different kind of sites:

  1. Those that support C14 dating of dinosaurs
  2. Those that dismiss that testing

You may notice that the second type of web site, if it has many details, refers to criticisms of pre-21st-century testing or it refers to other sites that criticize those earlier datings. What you may never find is a web site that both opposes dating dinosaur remains and discusses details about the recent carbon-14 dating work done on those fossils. It seems that those who want us all to continue believing in ancient extinctions (many millions of years ago) prefer to say nothing about the censorship of a scientific lecture in 2012 in Singapore.

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Dating Dinosaur Bones by C14 Methods

Some dinosaurs appear to have lived between 22,000 and 39,000 years ago.

C-14 Dating of Dinosaurs

How do we know that dinosaurs lived much more recently than many millions of years ago? It’s in carbon dating, testing which shows that a number of species lived only tens of thousands of years ago, yes dinosaur species.

Carbon-14 Dating and Dinosaurs

Radiocarbon dating is the most accurate and most verifiable of the radiometric dating systems. Dates for carbon material can often be independently verified by testing something that is known historically, from records of human observations.

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Was Jonathan Whitcomb Honest or Dishonest?

I’ve gotten some distinguished attention over the past few years, much of it negative reactions to my writings about the ropen or living pterosaurs in general, much of it including some degree of negative mentioning of my religious beliefs. In recent months, the attention has changed: It’s gotten worse and from a more distinguished paleontologist than I had imagined would take such notice of my writings. The critical point of difference is this: The honesty and integrity of Jonathan Whitcomb, unfortunately, is now the subject, more than the credibility of a species of modern pterosaur.

Jonathan D. Whitcomb on Umboi Island, PNG

Have I been honest or dishonest?

For those who know much about my work in cryptozoology over the past eleven years, this may sound strange. I have written more about the possibility of living pterosaurs in this modern world of ours than any other writer: well over a thousand blog posts and web pages, and I mean original articles, not copy-and-paste duplications. During all those years of attempts to convince people of extant pterosaurs, I admitted that I had never seen anything like a living pterosaur myself, not after my expedition to a remote island in the southwest Pacific and not after I had examined many thousands of game-camera photos at a sighting location. Does that sound like I was being dishonest?

The most prominent attack appears to come from a well-known American paleontologist, Donald Prothero, and the page in question, easily found through a Google search on “Jonathan Whitcomb” states the following:

Donald Prothero considers the marginal story of the “ropen”—an allegedly pterosaur-like cryptid—and the man who has led a one-man crusade to promote it using an army of sock-puppets.

What is this “army of sock-puppets?” Only the following two pen names:

  • Norman Huntington
  • Nathaniel Coleman

Yes, my “army” consisted of those two names. And I continue to proclaim that the use of those two pseudonyms was completely justified and used to declare the truth.

What about my “one-man” crusade? Who were the persons involved in this? I will mention some of the names, the official names, of those men who participated in searching in Papua New Guinea for living pterosaurs. None of the following are pen names; they represent nine distinct persons.

  • Paul Nation
  • Carl Baugh
  • James Blume
  • Nathanael Nation
  • David Woetzel
  • Garth Guessman
  • Jacob Kepas
  • Luke Paina
  • Jonathan Whitcomb

Dr. Prothero mentions none of the above names in his post “Fake Pterosaurs and Sock Puppets,” except my name. Keep in mind, the above names are only a partial list of explorers who have searched for living pterosaurs in tropical wilderness areas of Papua New Guinea, and almost all of the above men did so with religious ideals, with confidence in the truth found in the Bible. Does not that sound like participants in a “crusade?” Why does the page-redirect for Prothero’s post call this a “one-man” crusade?

Television Productions

Prothero does mention the television shows Destination Truth and Monsterquest, referring to the expeditions in Papua New Guinea that related to potential modern pterosaurs. Yet he gives me too much credit, declaring that those two TV episodes were “all unwittingly based on the obsessions of one individual.” What a strange declaration!

Why would he think that those two television episodes were “all” based on just my writings? Keep in mind that many of my online and book publications were written after those two episodes of Destination Truth and Monsterquest were aired. Indeed, many of my writings have been about those two episodes and how they relate to expeditions of many other explorers who were searching for modern pterosaurs. How strange for a celebrated scientist to overlook so many critical details!

I did consult with both production teams before they traveled to Papua New Guinea, but Destination Truth went to Papua New Guinea with knowledge of the 2006 expedition of Paul Nation and Monsterquest went there with Garth Guessman himself among the crew.

Dr. Prothero is not alone in this obsession that I must have been dishonest, but I am also not alone in searching for the truth about reports of living pterosaurs.

“Sock puppets” or proper use of two pseudonyms

My use of two pen names allowed eyewitness reports to be read by those who might not otherwise have paid attention to them, persons like Dr. Donald Prothero himself. I stand by my proper desires to disseminate those eyewitness testimonies.

In the first few years after my 2004 expedition on Umboi Island, Papua New Guinea, critics concentrated on ridiculing the possibility of any extant pterosaur, with limited libel against me. Accusations that I had been dishonest, however, were enough to justify my temporary use of two pen names, so that the reports themselves might become better known (without my regular name causing a distraction).

I do not accuse Prothero of dishonesty in spreading falsehoods about me; he has followed other careless writers of libel. But I am surprised that one with so many credentials in science would write so much in one post with not one mention of the word fossil and nothing scientific. I thought that a scientist who had written dozens of books and scientific papers would be able to write one scientific sentence in a blog post.

This paleontologist did think it worth his while to continue using bulverism by writing about my religious beliefs. Yes, it is strange, but while avoiding writing anything scientific in his post he did manage to write about my religious beliefs, or rather his opinion: what he believes I believe.

I am happy to allow the truth to come out in the end. A modern pterosaur will eventually be officially discovered. If paleontologists then will continue to accuse me of being dishonest, I will then feel sorry for their foolishness.

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Honest or Trying to Deceive?

This past summer, I wrote about a biology professor in Minnesota who criticized me for what he declared were my bad motivations. His post was not like a scientific article, not even slightly like a peer-reviewed paper in a journal of science; it appeared more like a dirty political attack.

Paul Nation, Jonathan Whitcomb, Garth Guessman, and David Woetzel

From 1994 through early 2007, a few American creationist cryptozoologists have explored remote areas of Papua New Guinea, searching for a flying creature called “ropen” on Umboi Island.

Honesty in Searching for a Ropen

“stupid dinosaur lies” – Those are not my words. They are part of a URL that I first saw [years ago] . . . perhaps the first major online attack against those who promote the possibility that not all of these featherless flying creatures are extinct.

Press Releases by Whitcomb

Many news releases on living pterosaurs or “pterodactyls”

Smithsonian and Ropen “Myth”

I applaud writers for pointing out the problem of people mistaking Frigate birds for what they thought were modern pterosaurs or “dinosaur birds.” Mr. Switek was correct in pointing out that error, that embarrassing error, in Aym’s newspaper article. But the blog post written four days later, by Switek, (“Don’t Get Strung Along by the ‘Ropen’ Myth”) is also full of error, not the same kind of glaring blunder as in the newspaper article but still serious error.

Jonathan Whitcomb and Sock Puppets

Soon after my expedition on Umboi Island, in 2004, I found a web site highly critical of the living pterosaur investigations. In fact, the URL included the words stupid, dinosaur, and lies. In the original posting, both my first and last names were misspelled: “John Whittcomb.” . . .

Insinuations and direct statements about dishonesty followed. It came to the point where one skeptic suggested people should take statements by Paul Nation with a “grain of salt” because he was associated with Jonathan Whitcomb. . . .

To publicize details about the encounters with apparent pterosaurs, I needed some way to emphasize those reports without my name getting in the way. I began using two pseudonyms on a limited number of my many blogs: Nathaniel Coleman and Norman Huntington.

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