“Big Bird” in Draper, Utah

ropen sightings were near here in Draper, Utah

By the modern-pterosaur author Jonathan D. Whitcomb

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 and a little south of the Swire Coca Cola complex, which is in northwestern Draper. These four wish to be anonymous, at least for now.

The flying creature involved, which may be more than one animal, appears to be an American Hammerhead Ropen. Some of the words that came to the minds of eyewitnesses, after the sightings in this neighborhood, were these:

  • dragon
  • hammer (shape of the head with a crest)
  • big bird

Bioluminescence appears to be involved, as in many ropen sightings worldwide. The June 21st sighting seems to be not an isolated encounter but part of a general flight pattern in Western Draper. Consider some of what each of these four persons told me and my wife.


Between 35 and 55 years old, she is the mother of two children who also have had some kind of encounter with the flying creature at some time within the past few months, either seeing or hearing it. I gave her a copy of my recent nonfiction cryptozoology book, Modern Pterosaurs (about the Civil War photograph of an apparent Pteranodon that was living in the 19th century).

At about 11:00 p.m. on June 21, 2017, she saw the strange thing fly over her house. She was baffled, unable to come up with a sensible-sounding explanation. It reminded her of what her children had seen with her in movies: not something that is supposed to be still alive.

She might have dismissed it as some kind of drone aircraft, except that it was flapping its wings. She was struck by the lack of feathers and lack of hair on the tan-colored creature, which flew about 50 feet above the ground, over her backyard. She later searched online and found what looked very much like her “big bird.”

Perosaur Sketch by Eskin Kuhn
Kuhn saw two pterosaurs in Cuba, in 1971

The above sketch was seen by Eyewitness-A, after her sighting. It’s very much like what she had seen.



This twelve-year-old boy was on his back in his backyard in western Draper, Utah, on a warm night in mid-June of 2017, when the huge creature flew overhead. He later learned that his uncle, who lives nearby, had also seen the same animal flying over that same neighborhood, earlier in the year.

The boy told me (Jonathan Whitcomb) that the flying creature had a head that reminded him of a hammer. After he drew a sketch, I realized he was referring, at least in part, to the angle of the head crest. This led me to conclude that he had seen an American Hammerhead Ropen, similar to what was seen by Patty Carson in Cuba in 1965 and probably by Eskin Kuhn (also in Cuba) in 1971.


This man lives in the same neighborhood as the first two eyewitnesses mentioned above (A and B). It flew over his backyard three times in one night, early in 2017, appearing to be searching for something. I believe it was hunting, for many family pets are kept in backyards in this neighborhood.

He described a glowing outline of the animal, suggesting to me that the flying creature was bioluminescent. It was flying too high to have been lit up from ground lighting.

Hearing a Screech

I talked with a teenage girl who also lives in this neighborhood. She heard what she believes were the sounds of a cat being attacked in the large yard next to her backyard. But the cat cry was quickly cut short as the girl heard a terrifying screech, a sound she compared with the screech of a velociraptor from a movie. She was sure that the sound was not from a raccoon. She also compared it with a girl screaming very loudly.


Copyright 2017 Jonathan Whitcomb (“Big Bird in Draper, Utah”)


Big bird-like animal in Hawaii

I am glad to find this website that shows others have seen something similar to what we saw– we thought we saw a pterodactyl on the Big Island of Hawaii!


Ropen critic and the Ptp photograph

One skeptic, writing a very long online article, mentions what I have written about related words in some of the many village languages in Papua New Guinea. He says that “ropen” means bird in one language but fruit bat in another. He then writes, “Well, there you have it,” as if it supports his declaration that a significant number of sightings of apparent pterosaurs in that area of the world could be from misidentified birds or bats. But he misses the point . . .


Objectivity and bias with the Civil War pterosaur photograph

. . . he [the critic] seems to have fallen into a severe combination of bias issues including both confirmation bias and belief perseverance, regarding his ideas about the old photo that is now known as “Ptp.”


Civil War Soldiers and a Monster Pterodactyl

Before giving a brief history of our investigations of this old photograph, I present a recent discovery related to the source of what we now call “Ptp,” what some people would call the “Civil War” Pteranodon photo.


Apparent Civil War era photograph

In January of 2017, the physicist Cliff Paiva and I agreed that the old photograph now called Ptp has a genuine image of a modern pterosaur. Since January, we have found additional evidence for its authenticity, which is what should be expected for something that is genuine rather than a hoax.



More Pterosaur Sightings in Mexico

canyon in Chuhuahua, Mexico

Within the past few weeks, I’ve received two reports of apparent pterosaurs in Mexico, one in the north and one around Mexico City. Both reports were in Spanish. Here’s part of the report from northern Mexico. I wonder if it relates to the Marfa Lights.

Chihuahua, Mexico, Sighting (Spanish)

. . . el motivo de este mensaje es para informar de un avistamiento de un animal . . . lo que he investigando es un ropen o un pterodactido, los hechos ocurrieron hace aproximadamente 10 años, en una presa cerca de mi ciudad, la cual se encuentra en el estado de chihuahua en Mexico . . . . . . ese día nos encontrábamos en ella porque fuimos a pasar el día pescando pero por la descompostura de la lancha mi familia nos dejo en la orilla de la presa a mi primo Daniel y a un señor amigo de mi papa, en ese tiempo yo tenia 15 años y mi primo 14, pasaron las horas y oscureció . . . . . . de pronto escuchamos un fuerte aleteo a lo lejos, lo cual en su momento pensamos que fue el viento . . . cuando de pronto frente a nosotros aproximadamente a 500 metros de distancia sobre el agua, una luz verde fosforescente comenzó a destellar . . . El animal tenia forma de dinosaurio, sin plumas y volaba de una manera extraña, no como un ave, la impression que tuvimos los 3 fue muy grande . . . el animal de pronto dejo de brillar.

Rough English Translation (sighting in Chihuahua)

. . . the reason for this message is to report a sighting of an animal . . . [I wonder if] what I have investigated is a ropen or pterodactyl. It happened about 10 years old at a dam near my city, which is in the state of Chihuahua in Mexico . . . That day we were in it [in or near the water behind the dam] because we went out for the day fishing. But the breakdown of the boat [left] my family . . . on the shore of the dam. My cousin Daniel and a gentleman friend [of?] my father (at that time I was fifteen and my cousin fourteen) spent the hours [in the dark]. . . . suddenly heard a loud flapping in the distance, which, at the time, we [thought] was the wind . . . when suddenly in front of us, about 500 meters away on the water, a phosphorescent green light began to flash . . . The animal was shaped like a dinosaur and featherless, flying in a strange way, not like a bird. The three of us had the impression that it was very large . . . the animal suddenly stopped shining.


canyon in Chuhuahua, Mexico

Chihuahua, Mexico



Living Pterosaur in Mexico

A live pterosaur is hardly restricted to the USA. Large flying creatures fly wherever they choose, regardless of political boundaries. With reports of living pterosaurs in Americans states like California, Arizona, Texas, and Arkansas, it is no wonder that people in Mexico also report those same strange featherless “birds.”

Ancient Pterosaur Depictions

“An ancient Mayan relief sculpture of a peculiar bird with reptilian characteristics has been discovered in Totonacapan, in northeastern section of Veracruz, Mexico. José Diaz-Bolio, a Mexican archaeologist-journalist responsible for the discovery, says there is evidence that the serpent-bird sculpture, located in the ruins of Tajín, is not merely the product of Mayan flights of fancy, but a realistic representation of an animal that lived during the period of the ancient Mayans – 1,000 to 5,000 years ago. . . .”

Sightings in Mexico

. . . about one and a half miles away, a huge black bird-like creature came from the more mountainous region to my left, and flew toward the ocean . . . wingspan about equal to the length of the taller palm trees, I thought about 30 to 40 feet. The wings moved very slowly, almost touching on the downward swing . . .

Ropens and Marfa Lights in Texas

Reports of apparent living pterosaurs also come from Mexico and the Cuba. In fact, one sighting was of two   glowing flying pterodactyls seen by two women from a cruise ship in the Caribbean.


A Glowing Ropen in New Mexico

eyepiece view of ropen in New Mexico in Sep-2014

Flying in the face of the Wikipedia deletion of “ropen” last month, an apparent bioluminescent pterosaur flew into the eyepiece view of the telescope of Michael Slack of southeastern New Mexico. Apparently, self-appointed Wikipedia editors and judges failed to exterminate the ropen itself. It was flying along quite well, and glowing, on the night of September 1, 2014, just days after the “ropen” page on Wikipedia was removed, supposedly because of a lack of input from supporters of traditional points of view. That has not deterred actual ropens.

The moon had already gone behind the trees, by the middle of that night a week ago Monday, so Mr. Slack and his buddy searched the sky for the Andromeda Nebula. This required using a low-magnification eyepiece, fortunately, to locate that galaxy, allowing the amateur astronomer to see the flying creature sweep through the field of view.


Sep 1st, 2014, ropen sighting area

Area of the sky where the creature was seen in New Mexico

I asked the eyewitness, “Did you notice a tail?” He replied:

I thought I noticed “something” trailing not far behind this ‘thing’ although my friend says he did not notice anything. Was there something that attached the trailing ‘thing’ to the main body? No. In my estimation there was about 10′ [feet] between the main body and the little something that trailed it. So to say that I noticed a tail…no sir I can not, in so far as I did not see anything that connected the little glowing “bit” that trailed and followed the main body.

That seems to me to have been a sighting of a bioluminescent glowing ropen, with the end of the tail glowing but the main length of the tail not visible in the dark of night. When there is no glow at all, people often do not see, at night, any tail.


eyepiece view of ropen in New Mexico in Sep-2014

Sketch by eyewitness Michael Slack: the view through the telescope

Others have reported sightings of huge pterosaurs in New Mexico. From the nonfiction cryptozoology book Live Pterosaurs in America (third edition), we read:

“Hello, my name is [RA] and I live in central N.M.. Fourteen years ago, in [Socorro], N.M., me and a close friend, who now has a masters in biology, were hiking during the midday sun at [a] box canyon and something blocked the sun for a moment. We both looked up to see what did that and saw a large flying animal. It had a 20-30 foot wingspan and was about the same length long. It had a long tail with [a] seeming spike at the end. Its head was very pterodactyl shape with a fluted back pointy head. It glided at about 700 feet in a westward direction. . . .”



El Ropen de Papúa Nueva Guinea

En 2004, viajé de los Estados Unidos a Papúa Nueva Guinea. Encontré a un intérprete en la ciudad de Lae. Mí y mi intérprete viajó, por buque, a la Isla de Umboi. Más tarde, encontramos muchos nativos que habían visto el ropen.

Credibility of ropen eyewitnesses

I interviewed him  in front of the villagers who knew him. After I asked  him the length of the tail of the ropen, he looked away  as if to imagine the tail on the ground. He looked back  and forth at the ground for a few moments and then  he looked back at me and answered emphatically,  “sefan meetuh” (seven meters). He was surely doing  this to get a feel for both what the tail would have  looked like if it were stretched out on the ground,  and to then to estimate the length.

Ropen seen during World War II

Duane Hodgkinson was interviewed, in 2005, near Livingston, Montana. He described the huge “pterodactyl” that he saw fly up from a jungle clearing in New Guinea, in clear daylight. He and his army buddy watched it fly off above the trees, but it soon returned, flying above that clearing but in the opposite direction.


Hunting Marfa Lights Book

I now refer to an Amazon.com book review that I wrote for Hunting Marfa Lights (book by James Bunnell, published by Lacey Publishing Company, December, 2009). For the complete review, see the Amazon page.

. . . Many eyewitness reports are included and examined. This includes about three of the reports in light of the possibility of night-mirages, which are demonstrated in pictures. And there are many pictures of the lights and the equipment and much else. This is a deep study.

. . . I did not expect Mr. Bunnell to have researched the ropen light of Papua New Guinea; that would have been extraordinary, beyond reasonable expectations. But I believe that most of the Marfa Lights are caused by animals related to the ropen (apparently a bioluminescent living pterosaur). I was delighted that much of the data in “Hunting Marfa Lights” supports the ropen-light interpretation (I expect he’ll be amused at my suggestion). Some natives in Papua New Guinea have reported something like the dripping of glowing material that falls from the large ropens as they glow during flight. The dynamic pulsating glow of ropens (also the brighter flashes and more than one brightness level) relates to some observations of Marfa Lights.

I did not expect the author to consider the revolutionary idea that the splitting of one Marfa Light into two (with a bright flash) was a ropen-partner turning on its bioluminescence while close to a glowing ropen. They would be coordinating a hunt, perhaps for the Big Brown Bat or for owls or other prey.

I did not expect him to consider that the reason Marfa Lights are rare (only a few event-nights per year in the Marfa area) are because flying bioluminescent creatures in Southwest Texas and Mexico cover a wide area. They search far and wide for easy prey at night, similar to other large predators that hunt on the ground.

I did not expect him to know about the many eyewitness testimonies of ropens in Papua New Guinea. But I was delighted with his thorough examination of much data, showing the difficulties in many other interpretations. It confirmed my belief in the ropen hypothesis, for no other hypothesis seems to match the detailed descriptions of some of these Marfa Lights.

Notwithstanding my opinions about Bunnell’s research and investigations, my last communication with him, in mid-2010, should be noted. At that time, the author of Hunting Marfa Lights found my hypothesis interesting (a number of bioluminescene flying predators), but he told me about several points that he felt did not fit it. I have since found explanations for his points, explanations that would allow for a bioluminescent-flying-predator interpretation. As of October 11, 2010, however, I have not given him those counter-suggestions.

A side note: Bioluminescence is more common with sea creatures than with land creatures, notwithstanding fire flies. But there is nothing unscientific about the possibility of large unclassified bioluminescent flying creatures.