Missing Persons and Flying Creatures

Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur sketch

This is only a shadow of an introduction; I’m only like a flight attendant demonstrating what you should do in the unlikely event of . . . you know. People go missing for many reasons, including the following:

  • Drowning
  • Getting lost
  • Running away from home
  • Falling asleep in an unusual place
  • Becoming abducted by a criminal
  • Succumbing to a non-human predator

My wife and I found ourselves helping in a neighborhood search for a preschool boy in Altadena, California, decades ago, a few months before we were married. Somebody eventually found him perfectly healthy: He had been sleeping in his house, underneath a bed. I believe that only a small percentage of missing person cases arise from being carried away by a large flying creature; with that said, we now need to consider that unlikely (or rare) event.

Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur sketchMissing 411 Books

I’m only beginning to learn about missing-person mysteries in the United States, having received two books in the mail only yesterday: Missing 411 Western United States & Canada and the more-recently published Missing 411 The Devil’s in the Detail, both by the investigative journalist David Paulides. Do not allow yourself to automatically dismiss him because of his writings on Bigfoot. He was a police officer before becoming an investigator of businesses. Those experiences prepared him for his recent work in cryptozoology and in the investigation of missing persons, especially those who went missing in national parks.

Are Modern Pterosaurs to Blame?

This really is only a shadow of things to come, for I’ve only just begun to read the first of those two books. Both “pterosaur” and “pterodactyl” are absent from the indexes of those books, as are “bird” and “dragon.” These are obviously not books on flying dinosaurs kidnapping people, and I’m not suggesting that most of the cases involve modern pterosaurs. Paulides does seem to have investigated the cases objectively, with no obvious sign he intended to point a finger in any particular direction. Countless persons go missing from national parks in mysterious circumstances.

From reading only a few dozen pages, I noticed the possibility a rogue ropen may have attacked some persons, although this is still speculative, based upon a small percentage of the living-pterosaur sighting reports that I have received over the past eleven years. A few modern pterosaurs do seem to have gone bad, and an apparent ropen has been known to approach a human through a suspicious dive. But that’s from my own research; Paulides may have no idea that a few modern pterosaurs may prey upon humans in North America.

Overview of Ropen-Attack Possibilities

Before going on, understand that many apparent pterosaurs in the United States have no interest in attacking people. In fact, the Marfa Lights in Texas as said to be friendly with humans, when they give any sign that they acknowledge us. Attacks against humans are exceptional, probably uncommon. But just as a few humans can turn bad, so can a few wild animals.

Why do tracking dogs so often fail to long follow the trails of missing persons in national parks? That in itself may tell us little, but why do tracking dogs that specialize in bears fail to find a bear scent when it appears a missing person was devoured by a wild animal? And why is a human head found but not any other large bones, and the head itself is mostly undamaged by any tooth mark? In many cases, the victim was on or near the shore of a lake or other large body of water. In some cases, there is no drag mark on the ground, as would be expected if a ground predator had removed the body from the attack scene.

One mother in Washington state, apparently unaware of the pterosaur possibility, said, “It’s as if Bobby climbed to the top of a tree and then kept going.” That four-year-old had been left on a dirt road for only two minutes while the rest of the family went ten feet into the nearby brush, to look at a small waterfall. There was no sound of a car during those two minutes and no sign that a bear or other ground predator had been there. Dogs that could have tracked a bear later failed, and some of the rescuers suggested a giant eagle may have carried away the boy. Other experts rejected that idea, but I’m afraid that this case is one of those unpleasant rare events that my associates and I can connect with natives who live in remote tropical rain forests in Papua New Guinea: a rogue ropen.

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

Sketch by the eyewitness Eskin Kuhn, a U.S. Marine at Gitmo, Cuba


Ropen Attack

I suspect that most of the real attacks have been from rogue ropens, a few creatures that were suffering from something that prevented them from obtaining normal prey.

Deadly Pterosaurs

On rare occasions, a ropen, or kor, or indava (or by whatever name) will attack somebody, and the results are sometimes tragic . . .

Do Marfa Lights Attack Bats?

Strange flying lights in Texas may be from nocturnal predators that hunt bats.


Ropen book, non-fiction, by Whitcomb

Nonfiction 360-page paperback book by Jonathan D. Whitcomb: Searching for Ropens and Finding God


Ropen Lights in Southern California?

train bridge in a desert in California

Ghost Lights of Anza Borrego State Park—that video appears to be no longer available online except for the first few minutes of the documentary, which introduction enlightens us on how the mysterious flying lights terrified railway workers in the nineteenth century, in a desert in Southern California. The video calls the flying lights “a large number of unexplained floating orbs of light.” I believe those luminous nocturnal entities may be a species of ropen, a bioluminescent long-tailed pterosaur.

Called “ghost lights,” they’ve been explained as everything from “ball lightning” to “spirits of Native Americans long since dead.” The ghost lights first came to the public attention in the “early” 1900’s, when John D. Spreckels [born in 1853] began construction on the impossible San Diego and Arizona Railways, through the treacherous Carrizo Gorge. Working conditions were both uncomfortable and terrifying . . . and on moonless nights the camps were plagued by mysterious hovering balls of colored light. At least one worker was driven mad by fear.

19th-century railway workers, probably in a desert in California

Railroad workers, 19th century, possibly in Southern California

To interject, I am impressed with the documentary, notwithstanding it’s less than nine minutes long. Regarding that one man who was thought to have been driven mad, I’m not so sure. From my eleven years of investigating eyewitness accounts of apparent living pterosaurs, I have seen the insanity accusation thrown at anybody who reports such flying creatures. Did the man report seeing a dragon? That would do it. I’m aware that a limited number of barn owls have been reported, at least under some conditions, to glow. I learned about that apparent bioluminescence from the Australian researcher and nonfiction author Fred Silcock. But I doubt that any barn owls would congregate enough, while glowing, to give railway workers an impression of “a large number” of lights; perhaps the video exaggerates the quantity. But the many sighting reports of apparent pterosaurs flying in Southern California—that suggests those flying lights of the Anza Borrego desert may be creatures related to the ropen of Papua New Guinea or the bioluminescent flying predators called Marfa Lights in Texas.

 train bridge in a desert in CaliforniaPeople thought it impossible, until railroad workers finished that line to San Diego

Half way through the Ghost Lights of Anza Borrego State Park documentary, the mud caves of the Badlands are exposed. Some of the caves, according to the video, are “more than a mile” long. Yet even if that length is exaggerated, many openings, including ceiling holes, would make the caves ideal for a family of nocturnal flying predators or scavengers, an ideal bedroom to hide in the daylight. ### . Arroyo Tapiado Carrizo Badlands Mud Caves

One of the most fascinating points of interest in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the system of caves known as the Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves. . . . The mud caves are found along the walls of this wash canyon. One of the most extensive mud cave systems in the world, they contain approximately 22 known caves and 9 slot canyons.

Marfa Lights

I communicated with Mr. Bunnell early in 2010, by emails, telling him about my ideas about nocturnal bioluminescent flying predators that intelligently hunt bats in southwest Texas.

Ropen Lights

David Woetzel saw the ropen-light briefly in 2004 [in Papua New Guinea]. He saw no shape to the glowing object, but it was heading towards the Lake Pung area [on Umboi Island], where several eyewitnesses had previously seen a giant featherless flying creature.

. Ropen book, non-fiction, by Whitcomb Quoting from this nonfiction live-pterosaur book:

Grave robbery in both Africa and Papua New Guinea—it looked like too much for a coincidence. Both ropens and kongamatos appeared to be real creatures. The authenticity of an old photograph in a library book became irrelevant. Those flying creatures, more than legends, might be pterosaurs. [from page 17] In one of the interviews, Eunice, a school teacher’s wife, described to Carl Baugh an attempted grave robbery. One night, in April of 1993, near the northwest coast of Umboi Island, after a large funeral procession arrived at the burial location, from the sea approached a flying creature with a tail that glowed red like burning embers glow. About two hundred mourners were awake when it flew overhead. The islanders banged pots and yelled, whereupon the intruder flew into a nearby swamp and the light disappeared. [from page 19] Let’s be clear: No flying fox can terrify a group of islanders by flying over a lake. Furthermore, fruit bats never grow long tails, never eat fish, never glow at night, and never dig up the grave of a recently-deceased human to carry away the body. What do fruit bats eat? Fruit. Think of a miracle of science fiction: If a fruit bat grew to become longer than a village hut, it might devour the garden—but not the gardener. Now think of reality: A fruit bat never impersonates a giant long-tailed Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur. [from page 24] Other villagers saw the ropen light fly to or from Mount Bel. John Anton, of Gomlongon, on September 19, 2004, at 8:00 p.m., saw what he described as rainbow colors flying from Mount Talnok (near Bel) toward the south beach. Dianne Aisi, of Opai, in 2001, between 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m., saw the light flying from the Tarawe Village area toward Mount Bel. Jefron Ambalis, of Opai, saw it four years earlier, at about 9:00 p.m., flying from Bel toward Lake Pung. A few days after these interviews, three eyewitnesses would describe to me a ropen that had flown, in clear daylight, over that crater lake. [from page 60]


Popular Articles on Live Pterosaurs

small image of front cover of the nonfiction cryptozoology book by Whitcomb - Live Pterosaurs in America

The following are a few of the most popular posts and pages of this Live Pterosaur blog, within the past 24 hours, according to the blog statistics calculator. This only applies to this blog.

Marfa Lights and Sightings of Living Pterosaurs

Yes, Bunnell assumed that CE-II and CE-III types of Marfa Lights are caused by non-living things, when he wrote the first edition of Hunting Marfa Lights. (He might some day write an expanded second edition.) But the data that led him to define those two types were from observations and comparisons between sightings. I see little chance of any major problem in his creating those two definitions: stationary blinking lights and moving ones.

Pages of “Live Pterosaur” Blog

  • 1400 American Eyewitnesses of Pterosaurs
  • Biblical Creation and Evolution
  • Contact (form for email)
  • How to Make a Comment
  • Non-English Resources
  • [etc]

Ropen Poetry by Whitcomb

What flies in the night As it glows?

Recent Hoaxes

Cat-in-the-mouth-in-Lousiana – between July 15th and Sep 6th, 2009. This appears to me to have been a practical joke.

Flying Creature in Southern California

On June 19, 2012, an eyewitness saw, at close range and in clear daylight, in a residential neighborhood northeast of Long Beach, California, a “dragon-pterodactyl.” Details in the description of the flying creature make it highly unlikely to be anything other than a ropen [interview of eyewitness by Jonathan Whitcomb]




Nonfiction book by Whitcomb:

cover of "Live Pterosaurs in America" - third edition - by American Jonathan David Whitcomb

Live Pterosaurs in America – the third edition of this cryptozoology book


From page 79 of the book:

Mr. Bunnell was not the first Marfa Lights investigator I questioned. Ed Hendricks, of Southern California, I interviewed by phone, in March of 2010. Like Bunnell, he had studied the phenomena scientifically while considering only interpretations involving light-sources non-living. After his initial rejection of the possibility of bioluminescence, I avoided that issue, listening to him instead of talking; I learned much.

From page 81:

According to Bunnell’s notes, sunset on May 7th was at 8:36 p.m.; there was no wind and the temperature was “about 70 degrees F.” I wonder: Could it have been warm enough at 10:40 p.m. for insects to be flying around? I believe so. The dancing light would have attracted insects to that general location, perhaps enough for bats to come near, not near enough to be caught by the dancing ropen [CE-III Marfa Light in Texas], but not far off, for hunger drives us to take chances. But the other two ropens, the ones streaking back to that location, were also driven by hunger, and they were not heading in that direction by chance.


Marfa Lights and Sightings of Living Pterosaurs

Green mountain in the area of Marfa in southwest Texas

The following is taken from an email sent by Jonathan Whitcomb to one of the supporters of the living-pterosaur investigations.

You have given me much to think about and I have much to say. For now, I’d like to go into Marfa Lights research by James Bunnell and also sightings of nocturnal pterosaurs and limitations on what we can learn from them.

Yes, Bunnell assumed that CE-II and CE-III types of Marfa Lights are caused by non-living things, when he wrote the first edition of Hunting Marfa Lights. (He might some day write an expanded second edition.) But the data that led him to define those two types were from observations and comparisons between sightings. I see little chance of any major problem in his creating those two definitions: stationary blinking lights and moving ones.

Other aspects of his research, in contrast, have surely been influenced by his basic assumption about non-living causes. For example, he dismissed at least two sightings in which lights seemed to have chased automobiles; I believe he would have accepted those sightings as valid encounters with flying lights that actually followed cars, if he did not follow that non-living axiom.


Green mountain in the area of Marfa in southwest Texas

Mountain near Marfa, Texas

Now let’s turn to sightings of apparent pterosaurs.

I believe that you have found some valid points regarding patterns. The path you would probably be taking, however, would be a much longer road than you have expected; it’s probably more complex than you have considered.

The sighting reports I have accumulated over the past ten years clearly demonstrate the credibility of the live-pterosaur concept. But they have much less value in predicting where future sightings will occur or where any pterosaur may be nesting, if that is the word. Here is why:

Sighting locations are scattered around the world. My specialty is in world-wide sightings of apparent pterosaurs. If I had the funds and could have spent the past nine years searching on Umboi Island, with no family ties in the USA, I would probably have significant photographic and video evidence, by now, of a living Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur on Umboi. As it is, I have written several books, over a thousand web pages and blog posts, and a scientific paper. Because of that, I have received many eyewitness reports; but the scattering, across much of the planet, is significant.

Only a small fraction of the human sightings of living pterosaurs is reported directly to any cryptozoologist or paranormal investigator, and those sightings are only a small sampling of all the places and times of flight for those creatures. We have too little data.

Let’s get as specific as we can. Even if each pterosaur could be seen at least once a year, for 20 seconds, what would we have? If all those sightings were reported we would have only have 1/10,000th of a percent of the flying times of those creatures.

All we know from any particular sighting is that for an extremely tiny part of the creature’s life, it was at a particular place at a particular time. Perhaps it has a secret hiding location 300 feet away and always lives around there. Perhaps it sleeps one mile away and flies around that neighborhood during that time of year. Perhaps it is passing through from an original nesting area 3,000 miles away and will never return.

But there’s another problem with trying to predict seasonal habits. Most modern pterosaurs are nocturnal. The daylight sightings teach us the most about their appearance, but they can be misleading if we try to stretch the information beyond reason. Consider the following:

A pterosaur was seen by three eyewitnesses early in a morning that must have been cold, for it was in winter in northern Minnesota. How can we come to any reasonable conclusion about seasonal appearances when this could have been a displaced individual, desperately trying to survive in a season and place in which it usually does not live? Did it sleep through the migration alarm clock or was it forced to come out of hibernation early?

Another pterosaur was seen in milder weather but it was right after a major storm had passed through the Winder, Georgia, area. Was it always living there, flying around only at night but disturbed enough to fly in the daylight after being displaced from its nest? A different individual of the same species was seen only days later, also in morning daylight, but in a slightly different location; but how can that tell us anything about seasonal migrations or seasonal behaviors? Maybe this is a displaced pair that is searching far afield for a place to raise young.

The point is this: The best sightings are almost always in daylight, but those probably have the least value in revealing where and when the nocturnal creatures normally fly. And where do they usually sleep in daylight?

Of course we have exceptions, like with the persons who were throwing rocks over the top of a cliff just before a large pterosaur flew out from somewhere below them: There may have been a nest in a cave. That sighting in Arkansas was decades ago, however, and that cliff is probably now part of private property where new condominiums thrive, at least it appears to be so from recent satellite images.

In other words, most sightings probably relate to how the creatures DO NOT normally behave. That’s the rub.

Getting back to Marfa Lights, data from Bunnell can tell us much, but without more eyewitnesses in this part of Texas, reports of apparent pterosaurs, what can be really helpful? Without those pterosaur flyovers that are seen by humans, it could take decades of detailed observations for even a few persons to come to any certain and accurate conclusion about CE-II’s and CE-III’s.

I don’t mean to imply that your reasoning is generally faulty, not at all. In fact, the solution to these problems you yourself just gave me:

“You’ve opened a door for people who have seen these creatures to share their experiences. By opening up they encourage others to open up, which opens the door for all of us to accept the reality . . . That, in turn, loosens – ever so gradually – the death grip of this stifling dogma cloaked in the august robes of ‘science.’ . . .”

Thank you very much for your support. Your words of encouragement help keep the investigation vigorous.

Jonathan Whitcomb



non-fiction 360-page paperback "Searching for Ropens and Finding God"


Searching for Ropens and Finding God – fourth edition, published October 31, 2014; nonfiction about modern pterosaurs – More than twice as many pages as the competing cryptozoology book Live Pterosaurs in America (third edition), this newer book has a 100-page chapter on sightings in the United States of America. Don’t miss these extraordinary but true adventures, with encounters reported from around the world.