Answering an Extreme Skeptic on the “Civil War” Pterosaur Photo

Clifford Paiva analyzed the wings in the Ptp pterosaur photo

By modern-pterosaur author and researcher Jonathan Whitcomb

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Brief Introduction to Glen Kuban’s “Living Pterosaurs (‘Pterodactyls’)”

Mr. Kuban has written “Living Pterosaurs,” apparently, as a general attempt to refute anything that he finds that supports the possibility that a species of pterosaur is alive. Many of his paragraphs have little if any relationship to declarations in my own publications, which have been in an opposite direction: I emphasize evidences, or at least potential evidences, that some pterosaurs are still living. Yet many of his paragraphs are in response to my writings.

As best as I can calculate, his huge web page contains about 45,314 words (if we use 5.1 characters as an average size word) and close to a hundred images in the *September 26, 2017 version. Take it in context: Many blog posts and web pages contain less than 300 words, meaning his page is probably over a hundred times as long, in text size, as the average web page.

My name (“Whitcomb”—misspelled only once) is mentioned 425 times, yes four hundred twenty-five times, and I don’t recall many complementary comments about my work in cryptozoology. I suggest you’d be hard pressed to find any other web page that mentions one surname that many times, unless it’s a directory of names. The point is this: I feel it appropriate to respond to an extreme critic who mentions my name hundreds of times on his web page.

It seems that Kuban began publishing “Living Pterosaurs” online in 2004, with extensive additions beginning early in 2017. I’m not criticizing him for the quantity of his words; I’ve written far more than that, with more than a thousand blog posts and web pages that I’ve published since late 2003, and the average one may be more than 250 words. I am concerned with quality, however, and I suggest his “Living Pterosaurs” has many serious problems.

I now respond to a small portion of what Glen Kuban has written about the Ptp “Civil War” photo. His enormous online publication “Living Pterosaurs” has many paragraphs devoted to discrediting Ptp as evidence for a pterosaur living in the 19th century. Let’s now concentrate on two aspects of Ptp.

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“Civil War” Photograph of Something Like a Pteranodon

When I refer to the Ptp photo, I sometimes use the word “Pteranodon.” I don’t mean to imply that the animal appearing in that photo is very similar in details to what is known from Pteranodon fossils. Like others who have seen this photo, I use “Pteranodon” in the general sense: It gives one the impression of that type of pterosaur.

verified genuine image of a modern pterosaur

The above photograph is now called “Ptp”

Even Kuban, in the *most-recent version of “Living Pterosaurs,” says, “. . . a giant Pteranodon-like pterosaur carcass . . .” and he uses that word at least 20 times in that area of his online publication. Then he lists many reasons why that apparent animal differs from a real Pteranodon. It seems to me, and probably many other readers, that he does that as if it discredits the reality of the animal in the photo.

He seems to miss an extremely important point: I do not declare that the animal in Ptp is a species very similar in details to what is known from Pteranodon fossils. Why should any extant pterosaur living in the 19th century be precisely, in many details of anatomy, like what is found, up to the present day, in fossils?

Yet Kuban devotes many long paragraphs to differences between the animal shown in Ptp and what is, apparently, known about fossils of Pteranodons. Other skeptics have made that same mistake, assuming that pointing out differences between the creature in the Ptp photograph and detailed anatomy in Pteranodon fossils proves the animal in the photo is a fake. I find that kind of thinking completely illogical. Remember that people who refer to the “Pteranodon photo” are using that word because the apparent pterosaur gives them the impression that it’s like a Pteranodon.

In other words, many of the long declarations in that part of “Living Pterosaurs” may be completely irrelevant, for neither Glen Kuban nor I declare or believe that an animal now living must resemble, in many details of anatomy, any related animal known from fossils. I’ve seen other problems in Kuban’s treatment of the “Civil War” photograph; Let’s look at one of them.

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Digital Replication of One Wing to Make the Other?

Kuban says that Bruce Baryla (apparently an expert on old stamps) “concluded that a [sic] least one wing was produced by digital replication and distortion of the other wing. On the surface, for those who are only looking for an excuse to dismiss the whole photo as a fraud, this suggests the animal is not real, that no such animal was actually photographed. This deserves a closer look and an introduction to the work that had previously been done in examining Ptp before Kuban and Baryla were aware of such details in the photo.

Clifford Paiva, a missile defense physicist living in central California, had been aware of Ptp for years and had examined certain details that suggested the animal was real and was actually photographed. I had known about the photo for many years, but only in January of 2017 did I come to be convinced that it is very likely a valid photo with a genuine modern pterosaur. In that month, Paiva and I talked by phone and agreed on that high level of plausibility.

Please note the position on which Clifford Paiva and I stand on September 29, 2017. We do not insist that the animal shown in Ptp must be an image of a modern pterosaur; we do not hold a 100% conviction of that. Yet we feel that the plausibility is so great that we need to continue to proclaim that Ptp very likely has a genuine image of a real pterosaur that was living not very long before it was photographed.

wings of a modern pterosaur in a photo

One wing can be digitally inverted horizontally for comparisons

The white areas of the two wings, show similar small structures when one wing is inverted for comparison. That is hardly news to Paiva and me. In the first edition of my book Modern Pterosaurs, I pointed out the similarities and explained that a closer magnification revealed differences that indicated the similarities were most likely biological. I still consider that a possibility, yet Paiva and I have recently considered the possibility of some kind of digital manipulation. That does not at all mean that the entire “Pteranodon” image is fake, however, for there’s much more to it than that.

Let’s use a crude analogy. Look across the street at a parked car. Would you buy that car without walking across that street? I do not imply that either Glen Kuban or Bruce Baryla is trying to be deceptive here, but let’s continue.

You can see two tires on the driver’s side of the vehicle, so you image the same on the passenger side. You see a nice exterior, so you image the car, like most attractive automobiles, has an engine. Yet I doubt that you would buy it without looking more closely. In reality, this car has no tires on the passenger side and NO ENGINE.

No let’s deal with the reality of what Cliff Paiva and I believe now, on September 29, 2017, after we recently did additional examinations of the wings of the apparent pterosaur in Ptp. Our findings, after we independently tried to manipulate the wings digitally, to duplicate a supposed Photoshop hoax, included this: There never was any digital image manipulation and wing inversion (horizontally) that resulted in one entire wing being used to construct the other wing. In other words, no hoaxer using anything like Photoshop ever took one entire wing and inverted it to make the other entire wing. Paiva and I both tried it and found it to be practically impossible, unless we allowed the white areas of the inverted wing to become destroyed in those small detailed patterns.

Be aware that neither Kuban nor Baryla appeared to ever have attempted to do any digital wing inversion. If they had, and they were able to make anything like what is seen in Ptp, I believe that one of them would have mentioned it. I’ve looked at both their web sites and find no hint of such experiments, although “Living Pterosaurs” is so large, and so often revised, that I could have missed something. Nevertheless, after searching Kuban’s site for anything like the word “photoshop,” I see nothing referring to any experiment done by them.

Consider now what the physicist Clifford Paiva has found:

Clifford Paiva analyzed the wings in the Ptp pterosaur photo

The left and right wings are “morphologically discordant” (Clifford Paiva, Sep-2017)

Since Paiva did the examination that resulted in the above image, he looked further and found confirmations that one wing was not used in creating the other one. In addition, I had already done my own experiment and came to a similar conclusion.

So if two tires are missing from the car, what about the missing engine?

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Evidence found by the scientist Clifford Paiva

No Photoshop hoax! Brush is in front of animal’s body but beak is in front of brush

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Paiva has also found that the brush under the neck and body of the animal is IN FRONT of the animal in that area but the end of the beak is in front of the brush. This is definitely not from a simplistic Photoshop hoax.

Other problems could be mentioned in the reasoning of Glen Kuban; I’ll leave it at this, for now. Systematic and careful examinations of the “Pteranodon” photograph reveal that the image of the animal was most likely obtained by actual photography from a camera, many decades ago, long before Photoshop existed.

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Civil War Pterosaur Photo

The scientist Clifford Paiva has uncovered additional evidence that the Civil War pterosaur photograph called “Ptp” is indeed as old as it appears at first glance: It was probably taken before about the year 1870.

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Living pterosaur in a photo

. . . I started looking deeper, and guess what: The “Pteranodon photo” is actually far more credible as evidence for modern pterosaurs than we had assumed.

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Book about modern pterosaurs

On January 14, 2017, Clifford Paiva and I spoke by phone and agreed that a photograph we had been studying had a genuine image of a real animal.

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Living pterosaurs and skeptics

About the long online publication by Glen Kuban

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Pteranodon photo

  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

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Non-extinct living pterosaurs

The third edition of the nonfiction cryptozoology book Live Pterosaurs in America

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Books for LDS and for non-LDS readers

  • Searching for Ropens and Finding God
  • Live Pterosaurs in America
  • Modern Pterosaurs

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Living Pterosaurs and Skepticism

The scientist Clifford Paiva has pointed out that the wings are folded, AKA inverted, consistent with pterosaur wings

By modern-pterosaur expert Jonathan Whitcomb

I hate to think what life would have been like, for me and my associates, for these many years, if we had never encountered any skeptical remarks or any criticisms of any kind regarding our investigations of reports of encounters with apparent modern pterosaurs. We could have fallen into carelessness in many aspects of our work, for some skepticism can be healthy. Yet people need to be careful when they criticize or put words to their doubts. I think there’s a difference between scientific skepticism and other kinds.

This is a partial response to some of what has been written by Glen Kuban. I begin by addressing a couple of concerns that Kuban has had about publicity for the Ptp photo (that which shows an apparent modern pterosaur). I’ll then mention four concerns I have about some of the problems I see in his online publication “Living Pterosaurs.”

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The Ptp “Civil War” photograph

Not all of Kuban’s writings are on his long online article “Living Pterosaurs (Pterodactyls)?”, and we’ll now look at two concerns that he has written about in some of what I’ve recently read outside that online publication.

You say the photo was “published” by Underwood and Underwood, but give no citation or information on where it was published . . .

That’s a good point. Yet I was not trying to be misleading in leaving out where I found the Ptp version that has a border. It was only eight days ago that I noticed “Underwood & Underwood” on the left side of the border of the photograph and I became so excited that I began writing about the discovery right away. I then spent day after day researching possible leads for more information, hoping to find out what book had been published with that early version of the photo. That’s where I made a mistake, a time-consuming blunder.

I had assumed that I would be able to quickly locate the online source, but I neglected to consider that I had spent hours in my original online searching before I found that photo with a border. (I was not expecting to find a version of Ptp with an old cardboard border around it; I was just looking for some early source for some kind of publication.)

When one or two persons asked me about the source, earlier this week, I realized I had not written down the URL. I then spent over an hour in the same kind of online searching I had done the previous week. Unfortunately, I had also forgotten exactly what words I had used in my searching that led me to find the pterosaur-photo with the border. Fortunately, I then remembered that I had done a screen capture, and I was able to get the information that led to me finding it again.

Ptp photograph of a modern pterosaur - with border

Underwood & Underwood “published” this old photograph many decades ago

Before I give the URL’s for this photo with a border, we need to be clear about the word published. This is not my choice of wording but is what is printed on photograph’s border itself. Look at the above image, on the top-right. After the company name, it says, “Publishers.” What they meant was surely this: They were making copies of photographs and distributing them. They were not publishing books or magazines but apparently were using the word publishers differently. Kuban seems to have been confused by that word usage, a few days ago, but I trust he now understands it.

Here is one of the online sources: Civil War monster shot

Here’s another source, although it’s obviously related: Photo of a strange winged monster

I may have seen one more similar Pinterest sources, but those two URL’s should suffice for now.

Kuban has recently been concerned about my frequent use of the phrase “Civil War” when referring to Ptp. I believe, however, that most of those who carefully and thoroughly read a number of my writings on this subject will have little, if any, problem understanding the stand Paiva and I are taking.

We are keeping an open mind regarding exactly when the photo was taken, although Paiva and I are leaning towards the idea that it was slightly after the end of the Civil War.

Why do I often use the phrase “Civil War” in my writings? For one thing, that is how many readers think of it, for those soldiers are indeed dressed very much like soldiers of the American Civil War. Kuban seems to have become upset by what he feels are contradictions in my writings, because of the phrase “Civil War,” but I don’t know of any other person who has had any problem with this.

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Four Concerns With “Living Pterosaurs”

Let’s now consider four potential weaknesses (out of many) in Kuban’s long online article, one of them minor:

  1. Loren Coleman’s stand on Ptp: “Verdict: Photoshopping”
  2. Whitcomb’s stand on the Freakylinks hoax photo (a minor point)
  3. Out of focus: The Freakylinks fake photo is out of focus, not Ptp
  4. Kuban says “dye or stain cloth wings” (or hide) over wooden wings?!

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Loren Coleman’s “Civil War Dinos” in Cryptomundo (Feb 16, 2007)

Loren Coleman’s old “Photoshopping” statement is still relevant, even though support for that conjecture is fading. In the June 9, 2017 version of “Living Pterosaurs,” Kuban admits:

. . . if the photo was in the U & U collection, this probably rules out any Photoshopping, although it would still allow manual photo editing techniques.

In other words, Kuban himself has started to set aside the Photoshop conjecture, choosing instead to point to the possibility of physical photo editing and/or physical modeling. I’m glad that he is beginning to see some light in that direction, but he misses a critical point: People have rejected Ptp because of the Photoshop idea.

Kuban mentions “confirmation bias” 13 times on his web page, with one long section having that heading. Much of that section is about my religious beliefs, or at least what Kuban thinks they are. What reader of that section of his “Living Pterosaurs” article would guess that it would be possible for someone to reject the Ptp photograph because of confirmation bias? Look deeper and take everything in context.

Loren Coleman has a “photograph” at the top of his “Civil War Dinos” post and says, “. . . Civil War soldiers with a Triceratops,” meaning the apparent dinosaur was inserted onto an old photograph through Photoshop manipulation. I don’t know of anybody who disputes that.

But look right under the fake-dinosaur image and see the Ptp photograph. Notice what’s right under that: “Verdict: photoshopping.” Those are the only words of explanation for Ptp: “Verdict: photoshopping.” We can’t examine Coleman’s brain under a microscope, but to me this certainly looks like a case of confirmation bias.

If Glen Kuban were entirely objective, he could have noticed that and added it to his section “Confirmation Bias.” I suspect that he himself has become overly focused on my religious beliefs, falling into a confirmation bias himself.

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Whitcomb’s Position on the Freakylinks Hoax Photo

The June 9, 2017, version of “Living Pterosaurs” includes the following in a section called “‘Civil War’ Photos:”

Two other so-called “Civil War” photographs have recently been the subject of much discussion on the web, largely due to active promotions by Jonathan Whitcomb.

That could be misleading, should a reader not go further into those paragraphs. I have never promoted the authenticity of the Freakylinks hoax photo. Only the Ptp “Civil War” photograph have I promoted as an authentic photo of a modern pterosaur. I believe Kuban understands this and did not intend any deception. It was just not the best wording.

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What Photo is out of Focus?

In the most recent edition of Kuban’s “Living Pterosaurs” web page, he says the following about Ptp:

Others have pointed out the suspiciously blurry and grainy nature of the photo, compared to the sharp focus of most photos from the time.

In reality, the Freakylinks hoax photo is blurry, NOT Ptp. If Kuban had only looked at the Ptp photo himself, with reasonable care, he would probably not have made that blunder. In fact, I remember reading only one or two places online where that out-of-focus idea is mentioned, and at least one of them said that the Freakylinks fake photo was the one that was out of focus, not Ptp. But Kuban gives no reference or URL for “others.”

The point is this: Professional photographs in the mid-to-late 19th century almost always had the main subject in sharp focus, and the men and the animal in Ptp are in sharp focus. This is one of the errors of fact that Kuban has made a number of times in “Living Pterosaurs,” errors of fact that can lead readers away from the truth. (For years, “Living Pterosaurs” had the Ptp image but referred to it as a hoax from a television show. Thank you, Mr. Kuban, for correcting that, this year.)

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“Dye or stain cloth wings” (or hide) over wooden wings

Kuban gives no name of any expert who might support him in this conjecture. He also gives no reference or URL for anything that might support that idea.

He says, regarding the apparent biological structures in the two wings, “if animal hides were used, they would even be ‘biological.'” Why not look closely at those structures? Again, Kuban seems to neglect actually looking at the image itself or at least looking with an open mind. It’s not only in focus but the outer areas of both wings show structures that look nothing remotely like cloth or hide, whether or not any dye or stain was applied to it.

And why in the world would six men, or any number of persons in the 19th century, go to so much trouble to construct two long wings of a monster, using wood that was then covered with cloth or hide? And how would they know to make those wings fold in a similar way that real pterosaurs folded their wings? It’s far easier, in my opinion, to believe in a modern pterosaur than in the fantastic model construction suggested by Glen Kuban.

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The scientist Clifford Paiva has pointed out that the wings are folded, AKA inverted, consistent with pterosaur wings

Wing folding in Ptp is direct evidence that this was a real pterosaur

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Conclusion

Careful scientific skepticism can help encourage researchers and investigators and experimenters to remain disciplined in their work, but careless non-scientific criticisms can lead persons away from the truth, even when the careless skeptic does not intend to deceive or lead anyone astray.

I acknowledge that Mr. Kuban has made corrections in “Living Pterosaurs” when he has been informed of one or more errors of fact. He may very well make corrections in at least some of the points I have mentioned above. Yet severe bias can prevent the kind of progress that a person needs to make in coming to a thorough knowledge and understanding of the truth. I suggest that he and others conduct the kind of self-examination needed to recover from severe bias.

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Copyright 2017 Jonathan David Whitcomb (“Living Pterosaurs and Skepticism”)

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News Release – Modern Pterosaur

A forensic videographer has announced his discovery of an old source for the photograph that is labeled “Ptp.” On June 2, 2017, Jonathan Whitcomb, of Murray, Utah, found that the photo was published by Underwood & Underwood, which was a leading company in photography from the late 19th century until at least the 1920’s.

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Monster with Civil War soldiers

. . . the head suggests it was a Pteranodon, but we stopped short of insisting it must be that species.

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Pterosaur photo and skepticism

This is not a reply to scientific skepticism but to a skeptic who uses a variety of tactics to persuade readers of his online page to disregard anything that might appear to give credence to the possibility that one or more species of pterosaur is extant.

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Confirmation bias, belief perseverance, and living pterosaurs

Glen Kuban (GK) and I have a few things in common. We’ve both been writing about reports of apparent extant pterosaurs (or those who believe in them) for a long time, and we’ve written a lot. . . .  He believes that no species of pterosaur has survived into the past few centuries; I believe that a number of species live today.

Modern Pterosaur Discovery in a Photograph

Underwood & Underwood published Ptp long ago

By the living-pterosaur researcher Jonathan D. Whitcomb

Last week, I found an early source for the photograph we now call “Ptp.” It was published by Underwood & Underwood, a company that sold many thousands of photographs from 1881 through about 1920. This is a significant fact that counts against the possibility that any hoax was involved in the origin of this photo. Consider the following images:

Underwood & Underwood published Ptp long ago

 

Evidence that the photograph “Ptp” is very old, quite likely from the 19th century

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Background on the photo of a modern pterosaur

This photograph has been known for many decades. Tom Payne, a builder of canoes who also has experience in computer technology, has known about Ptp since he was a young man, which was before personal computers existed. In other words, Payne was aware of this old photo before there was a Photoshop.

canoe building with Tom Payne

Tom Payne building a canoe

So how does canoe building relate to an old photograph of a modern pterosaur? It’s the impression those two wings gave me long ago, perhaps as long ago as 1968, although my memory is imprecise.

verified genuine image of a modern pterosaur

One of my earliest impressions, on looking at this photograph, was that those apparent wings look like the ends of two canoes. That kept me from taking the Ptp photo seriously for a long time. Tom Payne, in January of 2017, told me that those were not canoes, and he’s the expert. He convinced me that my first impression was incorrect.

That’s when I decided to look more closely into this apparently old photograph. I contacted Clifford Paiva, a physicist living in central California, who had started examining it years earlier. As I saw the accumulating evidence for the authenticity of Ptp, I came to an agreement with Paiva that this had a genuine image of a real animal, and it obviously looked like a pterosaur. Yet one skeptic continued to doubt its authenticity, holding onto his assumption that it was a hoax.

How old is this photograph of a modern pterosaur?

Early in 2017, we had only evidences in the photo itself, indicating Ptp was quite old. Paiva found what appeared to be a stabilizing prop under the beak of the creature, showing the photograph was probably taken before 1870. Before that year, it took many seconds to take a photo, and subjects often had to be kept motionless through one or more stabilizing props. Within a few weeks, Paiva had found other apparent props under the wings, adding to the evidence that the photo was taken in the 19th century.

Early in June of 2017, I found that Ptp was published by Underwood & Underwood, a company that at one time produced 10 million stereoscopic images each year, many of which were photographs taken before 1920. In fact, in the year 1920 they went into another line of the photography business. The point it this: It was in the earlier line of business that Ptp was most likely published by them, for their later line of work would have had little use for Ptp. (By the way, Underwood & Underwood ceased doing business altogether in the 1940’s.)

Also significant is the following: The Ptp photo is not, apparently, in the regular archives of Underwood & Underwood, meaning it’s unlikely that they themselves took the photograph. That means it could very well have been taken before the year 1881, when the company was founded. In other words, Ptp could have been older than the company was, quite possibly older than 1870, which is consistent with the finding by the scientist Clifford Paiva.

Photoshop did not yet exist

Before 2017, a primary skeptical explanation for Ptp was simply that it was a hoax created with the help of digital image manipulation, in particular Photoshop. Paiva and I found significant evidences against that conjecture early in that year. The discovery that it had been published by the old Underwood & Underwood photograph publishers, however, dramatically shot down the Photoshop conjecture and buried it. That software program was developed at the time of early personal computers: late in the 20th century, not in the late 19th century. That hoax conjecture is indeed buried.

Could it have been an old model?

The most vocal skeptic of this photograph has suggested that it was a physical model, constructed to look like a pterosaur. Since the discovery of its publication by Underwood & Underwood, however, that idea now appears to have serious problems, far more serious than the skeptic had imagined.

The skeptic has suggested that a drag mark on the ground could have been from dragging a model into that clearing. That brings up a critical question: Why would any group of soldiers, in or around the late 19th century, construct a realistic model of a pterosaur in the bushes and then drag it into a clearing to be photographed? It’s far more likely that a flying creature, that they had apparently shot, would fall into bushes and need to be dragged into a clearing for the photographer.

Even more damaging to the model-conjecture, however, is this: How did those soldiers construct a realistic model that would stand up to rigorous examination by two scientists, in the early 21st century? Magnification of the outer part of those wings shows an apparent biological structure that cannot easily be explained by referring to any building material available to those men at that time in history.

Wings of the apparent modern pterosaur

wings of a modern pterosaur in a photo

Two wings compared with each other

When Paiva and I were examining this photograph early in the year, we each considered the possibility that if a Photoshop hoax were involved then it would have been easier for a hoaxer to invert the image of a wing to make a second wing. That’s when we noticed considerable resemblances between those two wings.

In the image shown above, one wing has been inverted horizontally for comparing it with the other. (This is before any significant magnification is done.) Notice distinct similarities in patterns. That worried us.

But when I magnified those outer parts of the two wings and compared them with each other, similarities dissolved. The pixels showed great diversity. What’s the significance? That is exactly what one would expect of biological structures. Just as two ears on the same human face can appear identical, before magnification, on close inspection they are seen to have great differences: different hairs pointing in different directions and entirely different tiny blemishes in the skin.

Paiva checked my findings and agreed that under greater magnification the apparent similarities become irrelevant: The minute differences prevail, with no evidence of Photoshop wing horizontal-flipping.

But those patterns and structures, in whatever magnification (or lack thereof) one uses, differ significantly from what one would see in a wooden structure. In other words, it is not wooden: Those were not model wings but actual wings, as best as I can tell, and it seems that no skeptic has yet come up with anything disputing that finding (as of June 5, 2017).

And what about the wing folding on that apparent Pteranodon? How would 19th century soldiers know to make those wings in a realistic way, with pterosaur-wing-folding? Even a typical scientist of that time period would know nothing about that detail in how some pterosaurs fold their wings when standing or walking. The knowledge of that kind of wing folding became common among paleontologists by around the late 20th century, not in the 19th century.

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News release on the old photograph of a pterosaur

A forensic videographer has announced his discovery of an old source for the photograph that is labeled “Ptp.” On June 2, 2017, Jonathan Whitcomb, of Murray, Utah, found that the photo was published by Underwood & Underwood, which was a leading company in photography from the late 19th century until at least the 1920’s.

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Modern pterosaur in a photo

Please bear with me, for this introduction is essential to understanding the value of photographic evidence for modern living pterosaurs. The credibility of an individual piece of evidence is one thing; overall credibility is something else. We’ll get to a photo of a non-extinct pterosaur soon enough.

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Reply to an attack against the “pterodactyl” photograph

The skeptic says, “Whitcomb goes so far as to propose that the FreakyLinks producers engaged in a pre-meditated, anti-YEC plot,” but I have never said anything of the kind. I have never written anything like that. He may have assumed that anyone who has written anything supporting the Ptp photograph as genuine must be me. I have seen one or two web sites that promote that conspiracy theory, but I was never involved in writing anything on those sites.

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Modern Pterosaurs and the Ropen

A modern pterosaur!? How could it be? Extraordinary but true, huge flying creatures, with no feathers yet unlike any bat, live among us, although they mostly fly at night. In Papua New Guinea, on Umboi Island, the giant long-tailed pterosaur is called “ropen,” although it has other names elsewhere.

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Createspace – Modern Pterosaurs

Share in the excitement as one piece of evidence after another accumulates in favor of “Ptp” being a pre-1870 photograph of a modern pterosaur. Some evidences were independently discovered by two men (a physicist and a forensic videographer) who later shared their similar findings with each other, verifying the authenticity of Ptp.

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Living Pterosaurs and the 1944 Sighting

side-by-side front covers of two cryptozoology books by Whitcomb

By modern-pterosaur researcher Jonathan Whitcomb

For a moment, let’s set aside my recently published book Modern Pterosaurs and see what one skeptic has written about a few pages in my older book Searching for Ropens and Finding God.

A critic of our investigations has written that the army buddy of the late Duane Hodgkinson (DH) was a “biology professor” who denies seeing a pterosaur in that jungle clearing in New Guinea in 1944. How misleading are those statements! To begin, consider the following points:

  1. I interviewed DH a number of times
  2. Garth Guessman also interviewed him a number of times
  3. The critic never interviewed DH
  4. Nobody, apparently, has ever interviewed the army buddy of DH

Reference to Searching for Ropens and Finding God (fourth edition)

The critic refers to my book, declaring that it says that the army buddy of DH was a biology professor. That is patently false, even though the critic uses that reference with pages “24-28.” Not once is the word professor found in any of those pages of my book. Read pages 24-28, if you have a copy of the fourth edition. Notice that the mistake in not a simple error in the critic’s referencing page numbers: Those pages are about that subject at hand. Any person who will carefully read my nonfiction Searching for Ropens and Finding God should not insert a word from his or her imagination into a published comment, as if that word were in one of those pages in my book. That critic has done just that, falsely called that soldier a professor.

I mentioned that the army buddy of Duane Hodgkinson had some education in biology, and I gave him the benefit of the doubt when I called him a “biologist.” I did not know, when I wrote that word in that page of my book, that a skeptic would some day see biologist on page 28 and take the word professor from his imagination and declare that professor was in that page of my book. I now wish that I had written “biology student” rather than “biologist,” but that editing will have to wait for the next edition. Yet the other blunder made by the critic, which seems technically less glaring a mistake, is far more toxic in leading people away from the truth about what happened in that jungle clearing in 1944: what was observed by those two soldiers.

Was it a Ropen in New Guinea in 1944?

I believe that Garth Guessman and I see this in the same light, having both interviewed the World War II veteran a number of times over a period of years. DH’s army buddy saw the same thing that DH saw, on that day in 1944 in a jungle clearing west of Finschhafen on the island of New Guinea. That biology student just did not want to talk about it.

I have seen this reluctance often, during my investigation over the past 14 years. American eyewitnesses are usually hesitant to admit that they saw a living pterosaur. Some cases are extreme, including this one.

Contrary to what the critic has written in his online publication, I never said or insinuated that DH’s army buddy was distracted and so did not see the animal. Anyone who carefully reads those pages in my book should not make that mistake made by that critic. Let’s look at what is actually printed in Searching for Ropens and Finding God (4th edition) rather than what swims around in the imagination of one skeptic:

What if Hodgkinson had seen something other than what he thought he had, for some unknown reason. A strange bird or bat, however, fails to explain the strange reaction of the other soldier, the man who was educated in biology; it fails to explain why “Well, George, we saw it,” was answered with, “No, we didn’t!”

What I did not include in the book was what DH said right after his buddy again apparently tried to deny what they had seen. DH said something like, “How stupid can you get?” That was said within seconds of so of the sighting.

In other words, if the thing that flew up from that jungle clearing could have been some kind of bird or bat then the biology student would surely have suggested that possibility. Apparently that man decided to pretend that they had seen nothing at all, and the reason is obvious: Why invite people to call you “crazy” or “liar?”

That is not a recent idea I’ve had. Here’s the next paragraph in my book:

Notice that he [the soldier who had some education in biology] did not say it was a bird or a bat; he just denied that they had seen it. A generalized misidentification fails to lift off but a giant long-tailed pterosaur flies perfectly well here, even if it does drop a bomb on standard biology.

In other words, the critic fell into a confirmation bias. He was looking for anything he could find that would discredit the idea that pterosaurs are still living on the earth. When he found out that a man appeared to deny that he had seen a pterosaur, the critic jumped to the conclusion that the man had not seen what the man next to him declared they had seen. The truth, however, is far different from what the critic wants to believe.

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A few months after his expedition in Papua New Guinea, Garth Guessman interviewed eyewitness Duane Hodgkinson near Livingston, Montana

Garth Guessman (left) and the World War II veteran Duane Hodgkinson (videotaped interview in 2005)

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Confirmation Bias Against the Possibility of Extant Pterosaurs

I’ve seen other examples of confirmation bias that this critic has fallen into. It comes up repeatedly in his online page. One simple example is in his belief that a word that exists in two different languages in Papua New Guinea (the word ropen) appears to be relevant. He says, “This seems like a very relevant piece of information.” In reality, it is entirely irrelevant, and here is why:

In one language, ropen means a nocturnal flying creature that glows at night (in the Kovai language of Umboi Island); in another language, in another area of Papua New Guinea, ropen means “bird.” In the real world, when one word exists in two languages, the meaning can differ; it often does. Even in the same language, a word can be used very differently for people in different areas. How surprising for an American to hear an English citizen call a column of children walking down a sidewalk a “crocodile!” And that is in the same language: English.

Confirmation Bias and a Photograph of a Modern Pterosaur

For many years, the critic had an image of Ptp on his online page. He declared that it was a hoax from a television show. I communicated with the critic, earlier this year (2017), and revealed to him his mistake: Two photographs are somewhat similar, but the other one came from a TV show, not the photograph he displayed. He then corrected the long-standing error.

The photograph that we now call “Ptp” is not the same photo that was created for the Freakylinks TV show. That hoax photo, however, was modeled after the older photograph, with apparent reenactor Civil War soldiers playing their acting parts to help make the fake image.

But the critic may have then fallen into belief perseverance, or something like it, assuming that Ptp was also a hoax. A person can sometimes fall into both confirmation bias and belief perseverance.

For years, his web page declared that the Ptp photograph was a hoax from a TV show. After learning his mistake, and correcting it on his online publication, however, he held onto his idea that Ptp was a hoax. He searched for every possible thing that could cast doubt on its authenticity. I strongly suspect he had fallen into belief perseverance.

I don’t recall seeing any transition stage of his updating his critical online article. I did not see any version of his page that simply admitted his mistake about confusing the two photos, a version that did not proclaim that Ptp was a hoax. That in itself is suspicious.

Research by Paiva and Whitcomb

My fellow researcher Clifford Paiva suggested that I write a small book about Ptp. The result was Modern Pterosaurs. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

We have found much evidence for authenticity for Ptp, over a period of months.

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More credible of the two apparent Civil War photos of a large pterosaur and some soldiers

The photograph now known as “Ptp” – declared authentic by two scientists

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Conclusion

Keep an open mind regarding evidences for modern pterosaurs, and beware of shallow half-truths that appear to be evidences against the possibility that not all species of pterosaurs are extinct.

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Copyright 2017 Jonathan Whitcomb (“Living Pterosaurs and the 1944 Sighting”)

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Photograph of a “Pterodactyl”

In my recently published nonfiction book Modern Pterosaurs, I refer to that long online article that is extremely negative towards living-pterosaur investigations. I labelled that page BAMPP (big anti-modern-pterosaurs page), which is how I refer to it now.

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Book about modern pterosaurs

Once you know what’s been flying overhead, what people around the world have been encountering, you’ll be better prepared to see and understand the details in Ptp. You should then appreciate what has always been available to those with eyes to see. . . .

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Scientists examine a photograph of a modern pterosaur

Cliff Paiva found the two evidences shown above [in an image]: shadows that were consistent (yellow arrows) and a vertical eye slit (vertical pupil like in a cat or a reptile)

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Jonathan Whitcomb's cryptozoology book "Modern Pterosaurs"

New nonfiction cryptozoology book Modern Pterosaurs by Jonathan Whitcomb

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From the first chapter in Modern Pterosaurs:

In the summer of 2014, a well-known biology professor at a Midwestern university wrote a scathing blog post about my online writings concerning apparent modern pterosaurs. It included ridiculing the lack of photos of the creatures on my web pages. Whatever pages he had seen, it appears he failed to notice the ones that examined the photo now called Ptp.

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