Who is Norman Huntington?

Pen Names

Both “Norman Huntington” and “Nathaniel Coleman” are pseudonyms. Who is behind them and why were those names used? That requires an introduction.

Can a writer legitimately and honestly use a pseudonym, AKA a pen name? A variety of conditions can validate this old practice, including getting attention to the writing itself rather than the gender or ethnicity of the writer. Samuel Clemens would probably have been successful using his real name, rather than “Mark Twain,” but some writers have had better reasons, for using a pen name, than just a whim.

If a common bias among readers might prevent a writer from getting noticed, the use of a pen name can be perfectly honest. This was common in past centuries, when writing in general was considered a male occupation. A lady writer would simply change her name to hide her gender.

Example of a Pseudonym

In 1968 a new star burst upon the science fiction scene. James Tiptree Jr.’s stories were literate, brilliant, thought-provoking . . . Tiptree was a former CIA intelligence agent and doctor of experimental psychology named … Alice Sheldon. No stranger to disguise, Sheldon had decided to hide her gender within the male-dominated field of science fiction . . .

No dishonesty seems to have been involved in the use of “Tiptree” for “Sheldon.” The quality of the writing needed to be made public; the technical accuracy of the writer’s name was unimportant in the beginning.

But bias in readers is not restricted to matters of gender.

So Who is the blog writer Norman Huntington?

Probably only a few of the readers of posts on the blog Modern Pterosaur have wondered about the writer Norman Huntington. The content was the key. Who is he? It’s me, Jonathan David Whitcomb. The first post I published on that blog was in May of 2010. Why did I use a pen name? It was simple.

In the early years, after Garth Guessman and David Woetzel and I had explored Umboi Island, in two expeditions in 2004, a problem emerged at home in the United States. If you had Googled something like “live pterosaur” in 2005, the first page may have included a site that included the words “stupid,” “dinosaur,” and “lies” in the URL. Yes, it was libel, and that site is probably still out there; but try searching on “live pterosaur” today and you won’t see that libelous site listed on the first three pages of Google. You will find that most of the pages are positive about the possibility of modern living pterosaurs. The few that are negative are at least not libelous.

My purpose in using the pen name “Norman Huntington” differed from that of Alice Sheldon, but is was equally valid. I got around potential bias in readers by using that name instead of my own. The difference is this: I was trying to attract attention to the basic idea of modern pterosaurs, not to my own writing ability. (In fact I altered my writing style for those blog posts using “Huntington.”)

I chose “Norman Huntington” in memory of our beloved late associate Scott Norman, who was an eyewitness to a large flying creature that we believe was a pterosaur. “Hunting” seemed appropriate to use in a name, although of course my associates and I have never used guns while searching for pterosaurs. I was also thinking of the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens (Los Angeles County), when I chose the name.

Who is Nathaniel Coleman?

That’s also me, and I’m still Jonathan David Whitcomb. The reasoning is the same: Readers needed to get used to the possibility of extant pterosaurs, without getting distracted by negative comments that could be attached to my real name. “Nathaniel” was chosen because “nathan” is part of my first name and Coleman was chosen because I was the founding writer of Coleman World many years ago (a family history newsletter).

Nathaniel Coleman is associated with the blog Dinosaurs and Pterosaurs Alive.


"Norman Huntington" and "Nathaniel Coleman" are pseudonyms for the nonfiction author Jonathan David Whitcomb


Book Review of Live Pterosaurs in America (3rd edition)

A blog post by a skeptic of living-pterosaur investigations need not be negative. Here is one by a British writer who has been skeptical but would truly be delighted to someday see an image of a modern pterosaur:

. . . it occurred to me – were there not in 19th century America reports of real live flying Pterodactyls over Texas, originating as journalistic yarns and in the infamous lying contests? I vaguely recall having a book as a child in which there was a picture, daguerreotype style, of some cowboys  holding a shot pterodactyl by a barn.

I wanted to read about people who had been chased by pterodactyls! . . . I started to Google for any eye witness testimony . . . and then suddenly found that there actually was a “Living Pterosaur” research community, a fringe even within cryptozoology. Even better, there were several books. Most of the research appears to be on “Ropens”, allegedly living Pterosaurs in Papua New Guinea.