Cheesman Lights and Pterosaurs

Evelyn Cheesman, a British biologist well-respected for her discoveries of new species in the southwest Pacific, early in the twentieth century, also discovered a strange flying light deep in the mainland of New Guinea, north of the area where Paul Nation videotaped indava lights seven decades later. In recent years, both lights have been suggested to be from the bioluminescence of ropen-like flying creatures that some investigators believe are living pterosaurs.

The lights observed and analyzed by Cheesman were, according to her conclusion, not from any human origin. This reminds me of investigations of Marfa Lights of Texas, where investigators like James Bunnell, Edson Hendricks, and others are convinced some strange lights are not from any car headlights.

The Marfa Lights, in their duration (sometimes remaining on for many minutes) perhaps resemble the indava lights more than the brief Cheesman lights, which remain on for only a few seconds, like the ropen lights of Umboi Island, Papua New Guinea. Unlike the ropen lights, Cheesman lights and indava lights and Marfa Lights are often seen as a group.

Some people might ask how unidentified flying lights connect with living pterosaurs. They connect in three ways. The more-direct way is that pterosaurs or pterosaur-like flying creatures are sometimes seen to glow. A recent example is from a lady who was on a cruise in the Caribbean, with family members. Her daughter brought her onto the deck one night, anxious for her to see what was flying over the sea. The mother, who had not been drinking, saw two apparent pterosaurs, glowing and flying back and forth, sometimes closer to the ship. Other examples are found from the writings of explorers, like Paul Nation, Jonathan Whitcomb, Garth Guessman, and David Woetzel, who interviewed eyewitnesses in Papua New Guinea.

The less-direct way that strange flying lights connect with living pterosaurs is that they are seen in some of the same areas. Marfa Lights are in southwest Texas, and reports of living pterosaurs come from Texas. The least-direct connection is that no large flying creature classified by modern biology is recognized by biologists to be bioluminescent. Some cryptozoologists believe living pterosaurs are bioluminescent. That third connection is tenuous, to be sure, but there it is.

Marfa Lights Still in the News

According to the blog Modern Pterosaur, in the post “Marfa Lights up in the Houston Chronicle,” the staff writer could have done better with a recent newspaper article about the Texas Marfa Lights.

The article was elicited by a press release by Jonathan Whitcomb, part of a national promotion for his new book, the second edition of Live Pterosaurs in America. The Houston Chronicle gave no details about that press release, giving no quotations from it. It mentioned two scientists, James Bunnell and Karl Stephan, both of whom seem to have dismissed the possibility of modern pterosaurs. Neither Bunnel nor Stephan is a biologist.

I think that both the original Marfa Lights press release and the Houston Chronicle article need to be read by the reader who would be well informed in this matter. I recomment chronological order: first read the press release and then the Houston Chronicle article. But neither the blog post nor the press release nor the newspaper article mentions an important name: Peter Beach, a biologist who has taught biology at the college level. We need to pay attention to his experience with flying lights and a strange flying creature seen over the Yakima River in Washington state. From the second edition of the book Live Pterosaurs in America, we read the words of this biologist:

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. . . . [Professor Beach later had a close sighting of a strange flying creaturel] The shape of the flying animal I saw was 3-4 ft. wingspan, 2-3 ft. long, with a bat-like wing. The neck/head was obvious but only in silhouette.

Headlights and Hard Heads Knocking Marfa Lights

It seems that some writers are encouraging people to ignore any reference to strangeness regarding Marfa Lights. The stumbling block to potential expansion of human knowledge in this phenomenon results from a careless look at car headlights, namely a misunderstanding of the significance of a study done by some college students.

According to a post on the blog Live Pterodactyl:

What are Marfa Lights? James Bunnell, in his book Hunting Marfa Lights, has examined, scientifically, the various lights around Marfa, lights that could be called “mysterious.” He has listed quite a few categories. The point is that car headlights, made mysterious by night-mirage atmospheric conditions, are only one type of mystery light near Marfa. Other classifications of what Bunnell calls “ML” (mystery lights) are seen where there are no highways and even no roads. Some ML have combustion-like properties (Bunnell is literally a rocket scientist), very unlike car headlights, even in the most bizarre atmospheric conditions that could create night mirages. Remote automatic cameras have captured the flights of some lights as they soar just above the bushes south of the Marfa Lights Viewing Platform. Indeed, the explanation of “car headlights” fails miserably with some of those flying lights.

So why do some blog writers and blog-post commenters still insist that all mysterious lights seen around Marfa are from car headlights? What could it be other than careless thinking? For those who would like to really learn the truth about what is known and about the possibility (however probable or improbable) of Marfa Lights coming from large bioluminescent flying predators, read one or both of these nonfiction books: Hunting Marfa Lights by James Bunnell and Live Pterosaurs in America, second edition, by Jonathan David Whitcomb. Both books are the result of years of research and investigation.

New Book and New Ideas About Marfa Lights

The new second edition of Live Pterosaurs in America has one chapter devoted to the mystery of the weird flying lights that are seen at Marfa, Texas, several times each year: Marfa Lights. Here are some excerpts from that chapter of the cryptozoology book:

[Early in 2003, an automatic camera recorded] time-exposed photographs of a light flying west; the wind may have died off by 8:20 p.m., but it was coming from another direction. The light resembled rapid on-off states of chemical combustion: starting to burn, almost dying off, then starting up again, with occasional outbursts of greater intensity. Nothing in Bunnell’s description of this event contradicted what might be expected of a ropen-like flying creature periodically secreting something that causes extreme bioluminescence. Of course the degree of brightness is extraordinary, but true science allows for the possibility of discoveries extraordinary.

The May 7th pair of lights remained together for only a short time; the one on the right moved off to the right and traveled for awhile. The traveling light was joined by another that followed it. Those two continued to the right for awhile but eventually reversed course, going back toward the stationary light that was not completely still: That first light was “dancing.” The flying lights went out before reaching the dancing light.

The author, Jonathan Whitcomb, has been ridiculed, even by some cryptozoologists, for continuing to promote the possibility of modern living pterosaurs. Yet how few of those critics seem to have read much that has been written by this lone cryptozoologist.