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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Passing of Duane Hodgkinson

Duane Neil Hodgkinson 1925-2014

I’m sad to report the passing of the World War II veteran Duane Neil Hodgkinson, who took his big flight home on September 19, 2014. Our condolences go to his family and friends. He will be missed.

I began communicating with Duane around the beginning of August, 2004, a few weeks before my expedition on Umboi Island, Papua New Guinea. He was always happy to tell us about his encounter with the “pterodactyl” that he and his army buddy saw in a small jungle clearing just west of Finschhafen. He helped me to find the courage I so desperately needed in 2004, the courage to travel alone to Papua New Guinea, where I would get the help I needed in searching for the ropen and interviewing natives.

Within the past twelve years or so, the testimony of Mr. Hodgkinson has been vindicated by reports from other eyewitnesses in the southwest Pacific, many others. For the moment, however, let’s concentrate on what this World War II veteran has given to us.

Email to Jonathan Whitcomb in August of 2004

[some punctuation added]

I tried calling today but this being Sunday I really didn’t expect an answer.  Anyway, as I remember, it was in 1944 that I was stationed in Finschafen [often spelled Finschhafen], New Guinea, with the U.S. Military. While there, I made several trips into some of the surrounding native villages with a friend of mine and a native guide (provided by the Australian government.)

On this one particular trip we had the wonderful opportunity to witness a pterodactyl take off from the ground and then circle back overhead and to the side, giving us a perfect side view which clearly showed the long beak and appendage protruding from the back of its head (just like the ones that Fuzzy used to ride in the comic strip Ally Oop).  It was a big one!  I have a Piper Tri-Pacer airplane which has a wing spread of 26 feet [He later corrected that, for 29 feet is the wingspan of that airplane] and it appeared to be about that size.

The frequency of its wing flaps was estimated about 1 or 2 seconds. With each flap, we could hear a loud “swish, swish,” and the plants and brush immediately beneath its take off path were deflected by the down rush of air.  I have not told many people about this as, of course, prehistoric creatures simply don’t exist! I did tell the owner of the company that manufactures the Pterodactyl ultra-light aircraft and to my surprise his only comment was, “Now tell me what you were drinking?” [Mr. Hodgkinson has never been a drinker.]

Duane Neil Hodgkinson 1925-2014

Duane Hodgkinson (1925-2014)

About the Piper Tri-Pacer comparison

In the above email, he mentioned owning a Piper Tri-Pacer. I assume this means he still owned it in mid-2004. As I understand, the PA-22 Piper Tri-Pacer was manufactured from 1950 to 1964. In his videotaped interview with Garth Guessman, in 2005, he said, “At that time, I owned a Piper Tri-Pacer.” I assume he was referring to that general time in his life, as a young man, not to the precise time he was serving in the armed forces in 1944.

The point, however, is the size, and that aircraft has a wingspan of about twenty-nine feet, far more than the wingspan of any bird or bat classified as extant by Western zoologists.

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A few months after his expedition in Papua New Guinea, Garth Guessman interviewed eyewitness Duane Hodgkinson near Livingston, MontanaGuessman interviewed Hodgkinson in 2005

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From a published scientific paper

I had a peer-reviewed scientific paper published in the journal Creation Research Society Quarterly: “Reports of Living Pterosaurs in the Southwest Pacific.” Here is a brief summary of some of what I there mentioned about the sighting by Mr. Hodgkinson:

In 2004 I interviewed Duane Hodgkinson, of Montana, by e-mail, survey form, and telephone. He was then videotaped by Guessman in 2005. . . .

The creature ran to their left, taking six to ten steps to get airborne and ascended at an angle of about 30 degrees (similar to an airplane taking off). It then disappeared over the dense brush but soon returned and flew over the clearing, presenting a “perfect side view” of its features before again flying out of view. . . .

The girth of the body at the chest was about 2 ft (0.6 m). He estimated the legs to be 3–4 ft (1–1.2 m) long. 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.

[CRSQ, Volume 45, Number 3, Winter of 2009]

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Sightings by Duane Hodgkinson and Eskin Kuhn

Hodgkinson was hiking up into the interior, away from Finschhafen, with an army buddy, when the two soldiers encountered the strange flying creature. In a jungle clearing with moderately high grass, a clearing about a hundred feet in diameter, the two men saw something at the far side, something astonishing.

Obituary of Duane Neil Hodgkinson

. . . passed away Friday, September 19, 2014, at Livingston Health and Rehabilitation Center. The family appreciates the personal care the staff provided during his stay.

Ropen definition

The above images relate to four sightings, two in Cuba and two in Papua New Guinea.  Brian Hennessy saw a “prehistoric” flying creature on Bougainville Island, in 1971. About twenty-three years later, the Umboi Island native Gideon Koro saw a similar creature,  many miles to the west of Hennessy’s ropen sighting.

Whitcomb interviewed by Dave Scott

“People between the United States—right now—towards South America, over in New Guinea believe that the pterodactyl is still alive and that they are breeding. . . . This is why tonight we’ve brought Jonathan Whitcomb aboard. He’s a cryptozoologist and he’s on the hunt for the pterodactyl.”

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Part two of Radio Podcast Interview

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

See Part One of Whitcomb-Syrett radio interview. This continues quoting from the interview I had last year, over the phone, with Richard Syrett.

Richard Syrett:

Jonathan Whitcomb has been to Papua New Guinea and talked to the aboriginals there, and others who claimed to have seen what they call (it goes by a number of names) . . . the “ropen,” a flying cryptid which bears a striking resemblance to a creature we’ve all told become extinct some sixty million years ago: pterosaurs. And, as he says, there’s been a recent sighting in Southern California, and we’ll get some more details on that, although I understand details are a little scarce at this time, but we will discuss that.

Jonathan, back to Papua New Guinea and Duane Hodgkinson, back in 1944: Who was he and what did he see?

Jonathan Whitcomb:

He was a farm boy in his teenage years in Ohio, and he was in the . . . World War II in 1944, he was in Finschhafen area. (At that time, the Japanese had already moved on . . .) And he [Hodgkinson] and his army buddy, they decided go visit a village . . . [west of Finschhafen]

They were in a jungle clearing, in the middle of the day, clear weather, no obstruction to what they saw, and when they were in this jungle clearing, which was about 100 feet across (in diameter) . . . a wild pig ran through there, and it startled them for a moment, until they realized it was just a pig.

And then what happened was astonishing, because something began flying up out of the clearing . . . running at first, and they were astonished because at first they thought it was a bird or something and they realized it was much too big, and as it got airborne, it flew right over the clearing. And they were astonished and thinking it was gone.

And then it came back over the clearing, the opposite direction, . . . it had a head crest . . . like a pterosaur, and a very long tail. Hodgkinson estimated the tail at ten to fifteen feet at least . . .  in length.

Syrett:

And the wingspan?

Whitcomb:

About twenty-nine feet . . . and the two men and the animal were in the same clearing, which was 100 feet across, so there’s no reasonable way that they could have misunderstood the size of it. And they weren’t expecting anything like that; they thought it was, at first, just a bird, but it was just far too big.

Syrett:

And did this creature have feathers?

Whitcomb:

. . . He didn’t notice any. Now this is an interesting point: He said he saw no feathers, but he was not adamant saying there couldn’t possibly be any feather on the whole creature, because he was concentrating on the head.

But basically we know from that the type of head it was; he got a very clear view of the head, and we believe it was a giant Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur.

Syrett:

And I guess the obvious question the skeptic would ask is, “Why should we believe Duane Hodgkinson? How do we know he’s not just pulling our collective leg?”

Whitcomb:

Yea, there are a number of reasons for that. He’s a flight instructor for many years now; he has many thousands . . . of hours of flight time, and he teaches people how to fly. He wouldn’t be conducting a hoax for sixty years, with the possibility that people could just mistrust him and not become clients.

There’s other reasons too. He’s not alone . . . in 1971 there’s Brian Hennessy, an Australian; he saw a similar creature, quite similar, because I gave him a test similar to Hodgkinson’s in identifying sketches and comparing lengths of the head crest, and so on. He saw the same species, I believe, [as Hodgkinson] in New Guinea, but on an island to the east—Bougainville Island— . . . I believe is the same species.

Syrett:

We should point out, Jonathan, that . . . your vocation is an independent forensic videographer for attorney firms.

Whitcomb:

I’ve been doing that for many years except for recent years when I’ve been much too busy writing and investigating these creatures.

To be continued

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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) interviewed the eyewitness Duane Hodgkinson (right) in 2005, near Livingston, Montana — See Youtube video Pterodactyl Eyewitness

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Podcast-Radio Interview: Whitcomb & Syrett (Part One)

When you have a sighting that’s way over twenty feet, it’s obviously not a Flying Fox fruit bat, not a bird like an eagle. And we do have sightings [with] very high credibility . . .

Listen to the interview between Jonathan Whitcomb and Richard Syrett

Richard speaks with cryptozoologist, Jonathan Whitcomb, who specializes in living-pterosaur investigations. He has traveled to Papua New Guinea in an attempt to verify sightings of this creature by the local indigenous people. . . .

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Hodgkinson’s Sighting in Perspective: Waking From Noise

How does Duane Hodgkinson’s 1944 sighting of a “pterodactyl” relate to flying lights on Umboi Island? Seven years after my first interviews with this World War II veteran, I still marvel at the value of his testimony; but that value is best understood when the sighting is taken in perspective. Look at the other reports of living pterosaurs in the southwest Pacific. Those sightings that give us the most information about the appearance of ropens are usually daylight encounters, when details of form and feathers are most apparent. So how do a few eyewitnesses see nocturnal pterosaurs in daylight?

Hennessy Sighting of “Prehistoric” Flying Creature

He described the “prehistoric” flying creature that he saw on Bougainville Island, New Guinea: long tail, no sign of feathers,  head “disproportionately large compared to the body.” His choice of identification sketches (survey examination) resulted in a head sketch very similar to the one chosen by Hodgkinson. They probably observed the same species of pterosaur.

But how do these two daylight sightings of apparent pterosaurs relate to a nocturnal flying creature on Umboi Island? Let’s consider why Hodgkinson and Hennessy saw what they saw in daylight; what did those two sightings have in common? Hodgkinson and his army buddy were startled by a wild pig running through the clearing they were in; immediately the giant “pterodactyl” flew up from wherever it had been (out of view before that pig crashed through the bush), so could it have been startled out of sleep? About a quarter of a century later, on Bougainville Island, New Guinea, the truck Hennessy was riding in was probably roaring along that mountain road; the “prehistoric” flying creature then flew overhead, so could it have been startled out of sleep? Both creatures could have been nocturnal, sleeping through most daylight hours undisturbed.

1994 Sighting at Lake Pung

When seven boys hiked up to that crater lake on Umboi Island, in daylight, the wonder of that view of the lake may have caused them to yell out loud in teenage delight. Very soon after they had arrived at Pung, the giant ropen flew over the surface of the lake, terrifying the boys. Was it a coincidence that the flying creature known to be nocturnal flew in daylight, very soon after seven teenagers had arrived at that lake? I think not: Boys will make noise. Surely the noise of Gideon, Wesley, Mesa, and the others, was what awakened the ropen, not a thirst to get a drink of lake water at the precise time (halfway through a good day’s sleep) seven adolescent humans happened to arrive.

When I interviewed Gideon Koro, Wesley Koro, and Mesa Agustin, on Umboi Island in 2004, I never thought to ask them if they and their four friends had made any noise when they had arrived at Lake Pung; but it now seems obvious.

Live Pterodactyl

“Eskin Kuhn . . . in Cuba in 1971, saw two long-tailed ‘pterodactyls’ in clear daylight, at close range . . .” That does not necessarily mean that the two flying creatures were not nocturnal. Like other daylight sightings of “pterodactyls” or apparent pterosaurs, this sighting in the day could have been from an unusual daylight disturbance, rather than a usual daylight flying habit.

About one year ago I saw a large owl, in daylight, fly over a freeway in Long Beach, California. Large owls are still nocturnal, notwithstanding some of them sometimes fly a little in daylight.

Lake Pung – a crater lake on Umboi (Would you not shout for joy if you were a teenager who had just hiked up to this wonderful place?)

Lake Pung on Umboi Island in Papua New Guinea