Pterosaur or “Dragon” Sighting in California

A lady in Lakewood, California, saw a “dragon pteradactal” in the middle of the day, on June 19, 2012, only about twenty feet away. She was shocked to see it but she also accidentally frightened the creature. It flew away but not before revealing to the eyewitness a featherless appearance and a long tail with a strange appendage at the end. The cryptozoologist Jonathan Whitcomb interviewed her and her husband late in June and found that the descriptions did not add up to any Frigate Bird.

The cryptozoologist Garth Guessman asked Whitcomb about the possibility that the long tail was actually the legs held back in flight. Whitcomb interviewed the couple again and the lady was sure that it was a tail. She actually observed the creature as it was perched on a telephone line just above her head, and the tail was held back behind the creature as it was sitting.

She also told Whitcomb that the structure at the end of the tail was horizontally oriented, leading the cryptozoologist to conclude that it helped the creature to easily control pitch. He is convinced that this flying creature seen in Lakewood, Calfornia, was a ropen, although not necessarily of the same species as the ropen of Umboi Island, Papua New Guinea. At the time the lady reported the orientation of the tail vane, few Americans were aware of Patty Carson’s report, to Whitcomb, that she was positive about the orientation of the tail flange in the “Gitmo Pterosaur.”

Eyewitness in Lakewood, California, chose one of three tail images

Shape of the tail vane chosen by the eyewitness

More than once, the eyewitness told Whitcomb that the end of the tail reminded her of the tail of a “dragon.” The cryptozoologist had encountered that word before, in reports of modern pterosaurs, also called “pterodactyls.”

About a year earlier, the lady’s husband heard and saw a large branch break down from a lemon tree next door. There was no sign that any person was in that backyard, yet something had pulled down that branch until it snapped. When Whitcomb looked across the fence, he verified that a large branch on a lemon tree was indeed broken, but he found no direct link to the sighting of the apparent ropen nearby.

2012 Daylight Sighting in Lakewood

A middle-aged couple were sitting in their backyard, in Lakewood, California, on June 19, 2012, at about noon, with their dog, but with no idea what was overhead on the telephone line. Soon after the man went inside the house, his wife heard a strange noise. She got up from her chair and walked out from under her gazebo.

Smithsonian Gets “Discovery” but Runs Away From Discovery

"Discovery" Space Shuttle takes off on a night launch

The American Space Shuttle “Discovery” takes off on another mission

On April 17, 2012, the Space Shuttle “Discovery” took its final flight on the back of a modified 747 Jumbo Jet. It will be a museum piece in the Smithsonian, the largest system of museums in the world. But even though they get the “Discovery,” the Smithsonian museums had previously run away from the potential discovery of a modern living pterosaur: the ropen of Papua New Guinea.

To be sure, the Smithsonian’s contributions to scientific knowledge may be immense, but just as none of us as individual humans are perfect, none of our institutions are perfect. I put forth my opinion here that the Smithsonian Magazine blog post “Don’t Get Strung Along by the Ropen Myth,” of August 16, 2010, by Brian Switek, was full of mistakes and missed important things regarding eyewitness reports.

Before quoting Switek, I would like to make it clear that I agree with his position that the Salem-News report by the reporter Terrence Aym was seriously flawed. What’s more, even beyond what Switek says in his criticism, other weaknesses in Aym’s report are either questionable or downright wrong. But I would like to point out weaknesses in Switek’s blog post.

Switek says, “Then there is the problem of Aym’s sources. Both Blume and Woetzel are creationist explorers who have tried to promote the existence of living pterosaurs and dinosaurs.” Here begin Switek’s mistakes. James Blume is a missionary in Papua New Guinea, not an explorer, and he does not seem to have been involved in any promotion of the idea of living dinosaurs, as far as I have been able to determine.

David Woetzel has explored in Africa, searching for a living dinosaur, and has explored in Papua New Guinea, searching for a living pterosaur. But Switek takes this as if it makes Woetzel’s position weak, and the point of all of this is that Woetzel is questioning scientific assumptions that Switek has taken for granted. Putting this in the context of a court trial: The defense attorney cannot prove his case by saying that the district attorney cannot be believed because he prosecutes people.

Switek had best stop ridiculing those with different religious beliefs from his own and start looking at the important eyewitness testimonies that he ignored in his Smithsonian Magazine blog post.

Smithsonian Slams the Door

But where is any real evidence for universal extinction of general types? Why not at least allow for the possibility that valid human experience is not limited to gazing at exhibits in a museum or analyzing specimens in a laboratory?

Demon Flyer of Papua New Guinea

The word “ropen” does not actually come from a literal translation of the word “ropen,” although at least one native tradition on Umboi Island is that the nocturnal flying creature is sort of like a spirit but also sort of like a human. [Be it known that the mythical nature of traditions on Umboi Island do not reflect on the cryptozoological evidences gathered regarding its actual physical existence as a nocturnal bioluminescent flying creature.]

Smithsonian Success and Failure

I am sorry that the Smithsonian has not budged from its dogmatic article that was written by the science reporter Brian Switek.

Smithsonian Attacks Ropen Myth

I do not question the honesty of Mr. Switek; in fact I agree with his point that an amateur video of a Frigate bird is not evidence for a living pterosaur, namely the cryptid called “ropen.” Nevertheless, a number of problems appear and they are serious.

Pterosaur Sighting in Kansas

According to the book Live Pterosaurs in America, third edition, beginning with page 42:

A lady [BEW] had a daylight encounter northwest of Wichita. In early 2006, she found my web site and contacted me.

“My friend and I were talking and I mentioned that I had seen an extremely large bird that resembled a pterodactyl some years ago when [I was] driving . . . between Rush Center and Larned, Kansas. I could not believe my eyes as I immediately thought of a prehistoric bird when I saw it. It must have had a wing-span of 16-20 feet.

“I asked my friend . . . We looked at pictures on the internet to see if we could figure anything out . . . I decided to check further and ran across this site. I was amazed to find a lot written about others who claim to have seen such a bird. I never said too much to anyone about it because, of course, such a claim raises eyebrows . . .

Q: How far was the bird or creature from you when you watched it?

A: I would say 60-100 feet up at the closest.

Q: Could you tell if it had feathers?

A: It did not appear to have feathers.

Q: Are you familiar with the larger birds in Kansas?

A: Somewhat

Q: How was this thing different from larger birds you know of?

A: I’ve never seen any bird in Kansas a fraction of that size or with the appearance of this bird.

Q: What was it doing when you saw it?

A: Soaring slowly towards the northeast.

Pterodactyl or Giant Bat?

Critics have failed to make any convincing argument for the giant fruit bat as an explanation for the many sighting reports of flying pterodactyls in the south Pacific, including in Papua New Guinea.

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Cryptozoology Book

From a reader of the third edition of this cryptozoology book:

“Mr. Whitcomb does a thorough job questioning indoctrination and the close-mindedness of the Western world. Reading so many eye-witness reports of people who have seen living pterosaurs in America was mind-opening, to say the least. Speculation is not an easy thing to address, but Whitcomb does a noteworthy job stringing together testimony and speculation in a scientific, yet personal way. The passion that Whitcomb and the pterosaur witnesses feel about these investigations make this book a great read and keep the pages turning. If you are prepared to question the indoctrination society has imposed on you since childhood, you are ready for Live Pterosaurs in America.” (Amazon review by R. Montgomery, Feb 22, 2012)

Rail Tunnel Pterodactyl Hoax

The Illustrated London News, in an article in 1856, shamelessly proclaimed that a “pterodactyl” had been disturbed from its existence in solid rock, during excavation of a tunnel in France. The creature was said to have exited the tunnel still alive, but soon died, disintegrating into dust in the process. How do we know that the flying creature had come out of a rock prison? According to the story, the impression of the body could be seen in the rock where it apparently had lived for countless years.

This 1856 newspaper story is now commonly believed to have been a hoax. The evidence for that hoax could have been detected long ago, by those who read carefully the details. But recent sighting reports, not often publicized in newspapers, have no such clues about any hoax. In fact, compilations of the data from 98 sightings demonstrate that it is practically impossible for those sightings to have arisen from any combination of hoaxes from purported eyewitnesses.

Pterosaur Sightings in Papua New Guinea

From a scientific paper in a peer-reviewed journal (“Reports of Living Pterosaurs in the Southwest Pacific”):

In 2004 I interviewed Duane Hodgkinson, of Montana . . . He was then videotaped [and interviewed] by Guessman in 2005. He and an army friend were in a jungle clearing west of Finschhafen (then New Guinea) in 1944 . . . something “huge” took off into the air . . . The creature ran to their left, taking six to ten steps to get airborne and ascended at an angle of about 30 degrees . . . It then disappeared over the dense brush but soon returned and flew over the clearing, presenting a “perfect side view” of its features . . .

The top of the back was 5–6 ft (1.5–1.8 m) above the ground just before takeoff. Although he did not notice details of the tail, he estimated it was “at least” 10–15 ft (3–4.6 m) long. He compared the wingspan to a Piper Tri-Pacer airplane (~29 ft or 9 m). The length of the head, not counting the appendage, was about 3–4 ft (1–1.2 m), similar to the length of the neck. An appendage protruding from the head, above the neck, was about half that length, and both the head and appendage were parallel to the neck.

The significance of the above report is that it comes from information collected from two interviewers and the peer-reviewed results were published in a journal of science (CRSQ, Volume 45, Winter-2009, page 200). That is a far cry from publication in a 19th century newspaper.

Why a Hoax Does not Explain Sightings

There seems to be no end of refutations for the “hoax hypothesis,” as it has been called. Statistics from years of eyewitness sighting reports disprove any generalized hoax explanation, for the degree of certainty in descriptions of featherlessness . . . fly in the face of those skeptics who use the word “hoax.”

Pterosaur: Hoax or Real?

Skeptics are correct when they bring up questionable stories, accounts that are obvious hoaxes or misidentifications, but they assume that all accounts must likewise be worthless. They fail to comprehend that when a dishonest boy cries “wolf,” all wolves do not thereby become extinct.

Hoax Explanation for Living Pterosaurs

“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.”

Fossil of pterosaur number one

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