“Dragon” or “Big Bird” in Sandy and Draper, Utah

By the modern-pterosaur expert Jonathan David Whitcomb

I interviewed three eyewitnesses in Draper, Utah, two days ago. The sightings were about four miles west of the mountains that are the eastern border of the Salt Lake Valley, near the southern area of the valley. They seem to have witnessed an American Hammerhead Ropen, what my associates and I believe is at least one species of Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur. People sometimes call it a “dragon” or “pterodactyl” or “dinosaur bird.”

One of the three eyewitnesses emphasized the glow of the flying creature, telling me that it was too high for him to make out details that were seen by the other two persons in this neighborhood in Draper. This correlates with other reports of apparent bioluminescence in these flying creatures.

Ropen Sighting on June 21, 2017, in Draper, Utah

After a hot afternoon in the Salt Lake Valley, on the first day of summer, a lady and her 12-year-old son decided to sleep in their backyard in western Draper and look at the stars, at least for the first part of the night. They had no idea that anyone had seen a huge dragon-like creature fly over the neighborhood earlier in the year.

As they identified a star constellation and apparent planet, they saw something else, very different. The boy excitedly asked his mother, “What is that?” She turned and the two of them watched a big featherless creature fly over their backyard, heading south. They could see the tail and the head, for it was only about fifty feet high and almost directly over them.

The boy later compared the head and head crest to the shape of part of a common hammer. The mother described the creature as without feathers and without hair. Later, the phrase “big bird” came to her mind, although it was featherless. It was flapping its wings, ruling out the idea that it was a drone aircraft.

Earlier Ropen Sighting in Western Draper

I interviewed the two eyewitnesses five days later, as I visited them at their home in Draper. Another eyewitness I also interviewed that evening, in that same neighborhood, for he had seen the same kind of flying creature earlier in 2017.

In that sighting, also at night, the man saw the strange flying creature three times within a few minutes, or else he saw more than one of them. I came to understand, during the interviews, that it (or they) were flying higher in the earlier sightings, but the man noticed a glowing outline of the animal, suggesting to me that it was bioluminescent.

The directions of flight were towards the south, east, and south-by-southeast, in that order. The man thought that the flying creature probably lives on cliffs in the mountains just a few miles to the east, and I agreed with that possibility.


Ropen was seen a few miles away, flying towards this area in Utah

Reservoir near Point of the Mountain, southern Salt Lake Valley

Pterosaur Sighting in Sandy (city) area of Utah

Only about two miles to the east, another eyewitness encountered what may have been the same species of flying creature, if not the same ropen. She is a friend of the family of the man who had the three sightings in Draper. Her sighting was near the Dimple Dell Regional Park in Sandy. As of June 28, 2017, however, I have not been able to interview her.


copyright 2017 Jonathan David Whitcomb


Big Bird in Draper, Utah

On June 26, 2017, my wife and I met with several eyewitnesses in a neighborhood of Draper, Utah, (in the southern part of the Salt Lake Valley) a few miles west of the Wasatch Mountains. Each of the four persons we talked with lived within about 300 yards of each other . . . in northwestern Draper.


Living Pterosaurs

A blog that investigates modern living pterosaurs


Pterodactyl not extinct

The origin of the universal-extinction-of-pterosaurs dogma lies partly in the early investigators who found fossils of those creatures in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, long before Darwin’s General Theory of Evolution. Those few men had, apparently, no experience with eyewitnesses of living pterosaurs and probably had never seen a living pterosaur themselves. They assumed that those few species that left fossils were extinct, leaving only bones to reveal their earlier existence. The key is this: It began with only a few species of pterosaurs and with only a few humans, men who may have been ignorant of reports of modern creatures that were similar.


Flying Dinosaur in the USA

Let’s examine what’s been learned from sighting reports that are mostly from North America, with a critical eye on the overall honesty-credibility of eyewitnesses.


Real Pterodactyl in a Civil War Photo

By the modern-pterosaur expert and author Jonathan Whitcomb

What’s the real point of the Ptp photograph? Consider the following:

  1. Two scientists have shown that this is a real animal, with wings
  2. It looks like a Pteranodon, according to some opinions
  3. The Photoshop-hoax conjecture has been shot down, in different ways
  4. Criticisms of the appearances of the six soldiers have been answered
  5. Eyewitnesses, in the 20th and 21st centuries, have seen similar pterosaurs alive


Where is a Photograph of a Pterosaur?

For many years, critics have pointed out that my associates and I had not been able to provide a photograph of an extant pterosaur with an image that showed the form and features of the flying creature. That appeared to be a main point in their criticisms of our investigations in cryptozoology.

Early in 2017, Clifford Paiva (a physicist) and I made a joint declaration: The photograph (now called “Ptp”) has a genuine image of a real animal and it is some kind of pterosaur. That shoots down the idea that nobody has any photographic evidence for a modern pterosaur.


Is it a Pteranodon?

What difference does it make? Paiva and I have seen similarities between what is known from Pteranodon fossils and what is shown in the Ptp photograph, but we do not declare that it must have been some species of Pteranodon. The point is this: It is a clear image of an animal that was an extant species of pterosaur in the 19th century.

We are not alone in the opinion that it may be a Pteranodon. See the page “Unexplained Pteranodon Photo.” Yet that is not the main point: It is a pterosaur, quite likely a species of Pterodactyloid.


sapling tree broken down

Small tree broken down, apparently to allow the animal to be dragged into the clearing


Criticism That the Apparent Civil War Photograph is a Hoax

One critic has written a very long web page that is obviously orchestrated to dissuade people from believing that eyewitnesses accounts of large featherless flying creatures may come from extant pterosaurs. He recently updated the page, adding many paragraphs related to this photo, making the total length of the article at least 60 paragraphs and thousands of words. Let’s look briefly at one of his new criticisms.

In one paragraph, he mentions that I have written many “articles, blog entries, and press releases.” He puts “press releases” in quotes, probably meaning that he has some kind of doubt about the propriety of that phrasing. In reality, some of my news releases are published on my own web pages and others are published on standard press-release sites that many people use for many kinds of news releases.

But it appears that he may misunderstand how press releases are written. He mentions that I use the third person in my writings, which is perfectly appropriate in news releases. In fact, that’s they way that press releases are supposed to be written. Perhaps I misunderstand him there:

He says that my new online publications refer to myself in the third person, but he fails to give any reference to that, so I don’t know what he’s talking about. For my sites, he gives three valid URLs at the bottom of his page, but I went to all of them and they all have my name “Jonathan Whitcomb.” At the bottom of his paragraph (on his own page) he says, “he often fails to provide proper citations,” and he may be right there, but in that case, we may have something in common.

Perhaps this critic is trying to do what other skeptics have done: promote the idea that I have tried to make it look like many people believe in living pterosaurs when it is mostly just me. I have written about that elsewhere, so I’ll leave that alone for now, except to say that a big part of my purpose has been to let people know of the many eyewitness sighting reports that I have received over the past 14 years. From the overall picture that I have constructed, I believe the following:

Of all the persons now living on the earth, those who have had some kind of encounter with an extant (non-extinct) pterosaur, at some time in their lives—those persons number between about 7 million and about 128 million. Only a small fraction of those people, however, realize the importance of what they have encountered, and only a tiny fraction of those will ever contact me.

What is the significance of that? Some critics say that if any pterosaurs were still living, somebody would have seen one.


copyright 2017 Jonathan Whitcomb


The old Civil War pterodactyl photograph

“Introduction to the Ptp Photograph”


Modern Pterosaurs (book)

. . . a quick examination seems to reveal the possibility that one wing-image was used, with Photoshop, in creating the other one. But close magnification reveals something completely different: countless details disproving any Photoshop hoax with wing-mirror shortcutting.


Modern Pterosaurs book review

The point of this nonfiction is in the old photograph that is now called “Ptp,” long known by many cryptozoologists and by those fascinated by the paranormal. Consider the following few quotations . . .


A Pteranodon in a Civil War Photo

Long viewed as a paranormal image, the old photo has now become the subject of a book, a nonfiction publication at that: Modern Pterosaurs. . . . Forget about what some skeptics have said about those soldiers: declarations regarding Photoshop and digital hoaxing. To make a realistic photograph of an extant pterosaur, no hoaxer would paste images of Civil War soldiers onto a background of trees.


Pteranodon in an old photograph (Ptp)

Many sightings are by persons who are driving, making it impractical to try to photograph the flying creature, yet I still find eyewitnesses who, like Hodgkinson and his buddy, don’t even think of looking for a camera until the apparent pterosaur has flown away.


Astonishing Discovery by Two Scientists

The following are taken from the nonfiction cryptozoology book Modern Pterosaurs, but before getting into it we need to be clear about the difference between the genuine original photo (now called “Ptp”) and the more-recent hoax photo for a TV show around the year 2000. [The “Freakylinks” photo is a hoax but not the original Ptp]


Modern Pterosaur in a Civil War Photograph

By the cryptozoology author Jonathan Whitcomb

How to report a pterosaur sighting

Do not Confuse two Photographs

Notice the Civil War reenactors in Figure-1. This is an early-21st-century hoax photo for the Freakylinks television series produced by Haxan Films, the company that also produced The Blair Witch ProjectFreakylinks aired on the Fox Network from 2000-2001. Close examination reveals clues that the photo is a hoax.

Fake pterodactyl in a hoax photoFigure-1: modern reenactment, a fake photo

It’s not very rare for a Civil War soldier to fold his arms while being photographed, but it’s unusual for more than one to do so in one photograph. More telling in the above hoax-photo, however, is the “soldier” on the far left. That man is too heavy-set to button up his uniform; unless you’re a general, it’s unlikely you’ll be that big around the middle as a common soldier in the Civil War. But most important is this: The photo was discovered to be a creation by Freakylinks, and it appears to be imitating a much older photograph.

Now I recommend you look at the original photograph (click on it to see better):

original Ptp photo of an apparent Pteranodon

Figure-2: The original “Ptp” photograph that some people remember from decades ago

Notice that the important subjects of the photo, the strange winged animal and the soldiers—all of them are in reasonably good focus, a characteristic of Civil War photography. Now look more closely at the head. It has a number of similarities to what we might expect of a Pteranodon head. It’s not 100% like what we see in Pteranodon fossils, perhaps, but why should a 19th-century pterosaur be 100% like what we have already discovered in Pteranodon fossils?

The physicist Clifford Paiva, of central California, has examined this photograph carefully, noting a number of factors that point to its authenticity. These include the muscles of the neck, the curve of that neck, and the hump where it connects to the body of the animal. He also found, on magnifying the head, that the eye has a vertical pupil, sometimes called a “slit eye.” Why would anyone go to so much trouble to create a model with a head that is so convincing?

Compare the photograph labeled “Ptp” in Figure-2 with the known hoax-photo in Figure-1. Notice that the Freakylinks hoax has an apparent winged animal that is so vague that it could be just a shaped canvass. And that vague construction was done for a professional television show.

Is the old Photograph a Photoshop Hoax?

A deep analysis of the Ptp photo shoots down the Photoshop conjecture. Paiva has looked closely at the shadow under the boot that is on the beak of the animal. That shadow correlates with shadows on the animal itself. In other words, this is a photograph that has a real man with a real boot on his foot, and that boot is on that apparent beak, whatever the animal is.

But other problems jump up at us from the Photoshop conjecture. There is no Pteranodon-simulation button in that software program. Of course a professional artist could create a pterosaur and use Photoshop, but skeptical criticisms for what we now call “Ptp”—those are usually as vague as the canvass construction for Freakylinks. Those criticisms point attention away from the animal, like a cunning magician trying to get you to look away from what’s important. Look at the apparent Pteranodon.

Another problem with the Photoshop conjecture is that people seem to remember this older photograph from a book or magazine around the 1960’s. That was decades before Photoshop existed. In fact the hoax photo by Haxan Films was created when Photoshop was far less known and used as it is now, and the fake was an imitation of the old photograph. The Freakylinks staged-hoax had little need for a software program like Photoshop, except apparently to make the photo look old. And the older photograph is, without doubt, older; that makes it less likely to have had any manipulation with Photoshop. So what is the origin of Ptp?

The Direct Approach to the Older Photograph

Take the case that a few Civil War soldiers shot down a large modern pterosaur. What would we expect if, within a few days or weeks, a photographer arrived and wanted to record an image of that huge winged monster. Consider the following possibilities:

  1. The animal began to stink, so the soldiers started to bury it by throwing a little dirt on it.
  2. The photographer arrived, asking that the monster be moved into a clearing to photograph it.
  3. The soldiers complied, dragging the animal out from trees and underbrush, into the nearby clearing.
  4. The photographer asked the men to stand BEHIND the monster, so the creature could be seen well.
  5. All the soldier’s complied except one, who insisted that he put his boot on the monster’s beak.

Now look again at Figure-2. Does it look like the soldier’s didn’t bother removing the soil that they had previously thrown onto the wings? Now look at Figure-3, below:

Civil War photograph with drag marks

Figure-3: drag marks on the ground, apparent path of the animal being dragged

Notice that one drag mark points to the general area of the end of the beak of the animal. This could be a drag mark from that beak. These details, and more, support the concept that this is indeed a photograph of a modern pterosaur.


Copyright 2017 Jonathan David Whitcomb


Ptp Civil War Pterosaur Photo

Very early in the 21st century, a stunt-photo was created, apparently imitating Ptp, for one or more episodes of the Freakylinks television series on the Fox network. Freakylinks was produced by Haxan. [Do not confuse the TV-series hoax photo with the genuine Ptp photograph.]

Civil War Photography

The American Civil War was the most widely covered conflict of the 19th century. The images would provide posterity with a comprehensive visual record of the war and its leading figures . . .

Modern pterosaur in South Carolina

‘It looked as big as any car, and had NO feathers, not like a huge crane or egret. . . . it swooped down over the highway and back up gracefully over the pines.’

Civil War Pterosaur Photograph

Answering skeptical comments and criticisms of a direct interpretation of a photograph that some persons report remembering from the middle of the 20th century, long before Photoshop digital imaging processing was generally available.


Modern Pterodactyls in the United States

The following post is by the modern-pterosaur expert and author Jonathan David Whitcomb

Why do I use the word pterodactyl in some of my writings? It’s not from adhering to the scientific definition of pterodactyl but from a common word used by eyewitnesses. When a non-scientist observes a featherless flying creature that looks like a pterosaur, that eyewitness might say “pterodactyl” rather than use the correct name: pterosaur. Yet the following is more to the point:

Regardless of the label applied to the flying creatures, many of the eyewitnesses report details that make sense in the context of modern pterosaurs. On the other hand, a general conjecture about misidentifications of known birds and bats for all sightings—that makes no sense: Many descriptions are not remotely like what one should see with known birds and bats.

For example, natives on the shore of Lake Pung, on Umboi Island, Papua New Guinea (around 1994) would not see a Flying Fox fruit bat flying over the surface of that lake, in the middle of the day, and then later report that what they had witnessed was a flying creature with a tail that was “seven meters” long and a mouth that was like that of a “crocodile.” (expedition of cryptozoologist Jonathan Whitcomb on Umboi Island in 2004: videotaped interviews, words of the native Gideon Koro while answering questions put to him by the American forensic videographer)

The following are a few of the sighting reports sent to me more recently.

“Pterodactyl” sighting in Oregon in September of 2016

On September 13, 2016, I was traveling with my husband from McCall, Idaho, to Winnemucca, on highway 84, through Oregon. I was driving in the early afternoon and saw a large “bird” flying across the freeway from the left . . . the biggest “bird” I had ever seen!

I said it must be a crane, but it looks like a pterodactyl! It was matte dark grey/black with a crest on its head and a triangular shape on its tail. I believe it was at least 5 feet long. It appeared to be a heavy animal.

When we returned home to San Jose, I began to look up “black cranes” on the Internet. I did not see a single bird that looked like what I saw. I then typed in “large black birds near highway 84 in Oregon.” Oh my goodness. Goosebumps. Found your information . . .

Sighting in Massachusetts, reported in August of 2016

I have recently discovered a volume of information about pterosaurs, after witnessing something strange during a camping trip in MA.

My internet research allowed me to conclude that what I saw looks very much like available images / renderings of pterosaurs. I don’t know what other information you are seeking, but I’ll provide a short description:

– wingspan was 3-5 meters long
– matt grey / speckled black coloring from my POV
– the same head shape as the pictures shown on this and other sites/journals on this species
– long, free moving tail that appeared to help it “rudder” its way through the air

“Dragon” sighting in Oklahoma in 2016

I believe I saw one of these the other day. It was two days ago (Tuesday 2/2/2016 @ around 6:00) I was driving down the highway and noticed what first looked like a big bird flying over lake Hefner in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. . . .

I was staring at it for a good three to five seconds before passing by it. . . . It looked way too big to be an eagle or hawk or anything and I couldn’t think of anything else it could’ve been. . . . I distinctly remember no feathers and it’s skin, which reminded me of one of those hairless cats it was all tan and wrinkley, and also the wings were like webbed to its body. I remember it having kind of a long body but not skinny kind of flabby looking, it looked like a mammal and not a bird. I thought it was a dragon.

. . . I remember saying out loud to myself, “did I just see a . . . dragon?” I was alone but It was right beside the highway so there had to be a few if not many others that saw it. . . .


Two living pterosaurs sketched by the eyewitness - Gitmo, Cuba, 1971

Two ropens observed by U.S. Marine Eskin Kuhn in 1971



Sightings of Pterosaurs Reported in 2016

  • Missouri
  • Hawaii
  • Iowa


A modern pterodactyl in the United States

Eyewitness accounts . . . including sightings of large ropens


Living Pterosaur Investigators

Mini-biographies on four cryptozoologists:

  • Garth Guessman
  • Paul Nation
  • David Woetzel
  • Jonathan Whitcomb


Ropen-Pterodactyl in Utah and Arizona

Note that the phrase “flying dinosaur” is technically inaccurate, for pterosaurs are not actually dinosaurs. Some [say] “prehistoric birds” or “pterodactyls,” although that’s also incorrect terminology. The ropen is considered, by some cryptozoologists, … a modern Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur.


Living-Pterosaur Credibility

The critical question is this: “Does at least one report of a pterosaur sighting come from an encounter with a modern living pterosaur?” (It matters hardly at all whether or not all reports are of actual living pterosaurs.) Judging accurately the credibility of a sighting report can take time.


Pterodactyls flying in the USA

  • Nevada
  • Utah
  • West Virginia
  • Louisiana
  • Iowa
  • California
  • New Mexico
  • Idaho
  • Virginia