Ropen Sighting in Pennsylvania

A meadow or field in Pennsylvania

By living pterosaur expert Jonathan Whitcomb

This is a continuation of the examination of the sighting near Philadelphia, by Tom Dura:

Apparent Pterosaur in Pennsylvania

For the first emails about the sighting, see the above blog post. What follows are more recent emails about whether or not the flying creature was an actual ropen.

I acknowledge possibilities of misidentification in sighting reports that eyewitnesses send me. Not every account of an apparent pterosaur or a ropen needs to have been what it seems. The point that skeptics appear to miss, however is this: The overall worldwide phenomenon of such sighting reports fits perfectly well with the concept that not all species of pterosaurs are extinct; it does not fit well at all with the skeptical idea that all of them died long ago.

Some of the reports have a high overall credibility, meaning that they were very likely from actual encounters with extant pterosaurs. A significant number of sightings I consider to have been over 80% likely to have been reports that came from real observations of modern pterosaurs. The sighting by Tom Dura does not appear to be that certain, as you’ll see from the following email correspondence we had after the initial communications. I give him very high honesty-credibility rating, even though we both have some doubts about the type of flying creature he observed. It could have been a bird.

Nevertheless, I give it more than a 50% possibility that what was seen flying near Philadelphia in September of 2017 was indeed a living pterosaur. Judge for yourself.

Email correspondence in September of 2017:

[From Tom Dura] Hello, again, Sir.

My brother suggested that I may have seen a flying egret or heron. They have long legs which they extend behind them when they fly and I may have mistaken the legs for a long tail with the feet suggesting the vane.

I did research on this. I watched videos of flying herons and egrets and looked at numerous pictures. I have to say that it is possible that I saw one of these. A few things still leave me not totally convinced.

These birds in this area mostly are white with black legs. What I saw, when the sun allowed me to see color, was more of a golden color, including the tail. Any color variations in the birds only seem to be found in the southeastern states of America or South America. Also, I still remember the tail being longer than the legs in the images I studied and it seemed to be more flexible and curvy than the rather stiff legs of the egret or heron. I can admit, though, that I may have seen one of these birds that just happened to have especially long legs and, perhaps, curvy ones as well.

Finally, I still haven’t seen any of the birds imitate the extremely gliding and graceful motion of the creature I saw. The birds may glide momentarily but mostly flap their wings, whereas the “pterosaur” only moved its wings occasionally and very little.

At this point I can only say that I will remain vigilant and I will be better informed in regards to whatever I happen to see next, if anything. I will keep you posted.
Sincerely, Tom Dura

I replied:

Thank you, Tom.

The great majority of sightings reports that I have received, over many years, are of flying creatures with long tails. On occasion, an eyewitness will come to doubt the identity of what he or she saw. I understand the difficulty.

One of the characteristics sometimes described is the graceful flight of a modern pterosaur. It differs from the flights of birds and bats. I see no major problem with your conclusion that you had seen a pterosaur with a long tail. You said, “I still haven’t seen any of the birds imitate the extremely gliding and graceful motion of the creature I saw.” I believe your first conclusion was correct. Your brother, although he may seem to have a good point, did not see what you did, apparently, so he has no way to make that kind of comparison.

I have one suggestion: If you see it again, concentrate on the head. Modern long-tailed pterosaurs (which appear to be Rhamphorhynchoids) often are seen to [have] a head crest. Look carefully at the head next time. [Jonathan Whitcomb]


A meadow or field in Pennsylvania

A meadow in Pennsylvania



Living Pterosaurs

How could it be? Learn for yourself about these amazing encounters in the United States. Read the third edition of the nonfiction book Live Pterosaurs in America . . .


Book for LDS Readers

Similarities of belief are emphasized in Searching for Ropens and Finding God, with mutual faith in the supreme mission of Jesus Christ and with mutual conviction in the historic truthfulness of the Flood of Genesis . . .


Apparent pterosaur in Ohio

A living pterosaur in Ohio, not millions of years ago but in the twentieth century—that should be in the news. But a number of eyewitnesses have reported apparent live pterosaurs in Ohio, regardless of the apparent lack of newspaper headlines.


Live pterodactyl in Pennsylvania

This “bird” also seemed to have a long tail . . . As it was almost directly over us we all agreed we couldn’t see feathers anywhere and my student Carrie said “It looks like pterodactyl . . . doesn’t it?”


Ropen Sightings

The correct word for it is pterosaur rather than pterodactyl. Many eyewitnesses have seen it in North America, including many states in the USA, and these flying creatures appear to care nothing about Western teachings about extinction, flying wherever they please.


Apparent Pterosaur in Pennsylvania

green forest and ferns in Pennsylvania

A few days ago, I got an email from an eyewitness of an apparent pterosaur that was observed flying over a neighborhood near Philadelphia. It was hardly the first time that I had received an eyewitness report from Pennsylvania, over the past 14 years, yet we need to see the big picture: sightings of apparent pterosaurs not only in that state but in surrounding states.

American States Bordering on Pennsylvania

  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • Delaware
  • Maryland
  • West Virginia
  • Ohio

About 25 eyewitness reports, possibly more, have been sent to me, mostly in recent years, from those six U.S. states. Many more sightings come from other states in that general area of the country. In other words, encounters with apparent pterosaurs, aka “pterodactyls,” are not at all restricted to the state of Pennsylvania.

Sighting of an Apparent Living Pterosaur Near Philadelphia

Here’s most of the first email I got from Tom Dura, who allowed his real name to be revealed. I’ve taken the liberty of adding paragraphing to his email:

My name is Tom. I’m from Philadelphia but do landscaping work in the surrounding suburbs.

I do landscaping work in the area of Gladwyne about once a week. The properties there are very large with lots of space between big houses. It is mostly a vast wooded area. Last Saturday (September 9, 2017) my fellow worker and I had finished eating lunch on the front steps of the house and I went back down to the street (Country Club Lane) to put our leftovers into the car.

I saw a strange dinosaur/birdlike creature flying above. At first it was silhouetted against the sky but I clearly saw a long skinny tail that ended in an outcropping. Silhouetted as it was, I described this outcropping, at the time, as a knob or bulbous shape at the end of the tail. The tail trailed behind the creature as it flew.

It then was obscured by some trees but I continued to watch it’s projected path. It was pretty much travelling in a straight line. It re-emerged on the other side of the trees and I again saw the long tail with the “knob” on the end.

Then, at one point, it caught the light in such away that it was no longer silhouetted. The sun must have come out from some clouds. As it traveled away to my left I saw it’s dorsal side. It was a somewhat tan or golden color, and, because it was such a uniform color, it appeared not necessarily to have feathers but possibly just a covering of skin or maybe very small scales. I told Stephen, my coworker, that I thought I saw a pterodactyl. . . .

When I described the tail to Stephen, he said, “You mean something like a lion’s tail.” I realized that he described it very well with those words.

The next night I did a search on the computer for “birds that look like pterodactyls”. . . . I found four flying reptile
dinosaurs, or pterosaurs, all of which look surprisingly like what I saw. They are described as being in about the same size range, too. I would guess the wing span was about four feet but I can only guess at that since, when something is up in the sky, it’s hard to reference it to other objects.

The four pterosaurs that resemble the creature I saw are the rhamphorhinchus, eudimorphodon, scaphognathus and the dimorphodon. [correct spellings are Rhamphorhynchus, Eudimorphodon, Scaphognathus, and Dimorphodon] The last of these is only speculated to have the “knob” at the end of the tail although no fossils have actually been found with it. The other three are known to have the outcropping. The outcropping, in any of these, is actually a diamond shaped flap called a “vane”.

I found that there have been many sightings of possible pterosaurs. Some people describe them as a large bat like creature (not everyone mentions a long tail . . .) The pterosaurs that I named, and the one’s that have been sighted by others, are bat like in that they don’t have feathers . . .

They are NOT bat like in that they do not flap their wings quickly but have more of a gliding motion to their flight (like my creature). I have to be honest in saying that I did not see hands or fingers but there was so much for me to observe in a fairly short amount of time that I mostly noticed the tail.

The shape of the head also escapes me now if I should have to describe it. My very first impression, the moment I spotted it, was not so much that it was a bat or bird but rather a birdlike dinosaur.

I feel so strongly about what I have seen that I sense that I should report it to somebody, somewhere. I am glad that I have been able to put this in writing while the incident is still fresh. I am happy to have this information shared with anyone. If someone has another explanation (other than that I saw a pterosaur) I will gladly listen.

If there is a large bird in the Gladwyn area with a tail like that, etc., I will consider myself informed and not argue. So far, my research doesn’t indicate that but I’m not a bird expert, etc. . . . Thanks, so much. I wish you all the best with everything you are doing.

I answered him:

Thank you, Tom, for telling me about your sighting.

To be sure that I understand which neighborhood this is, could it be Country Club Road (rather than “Lane”), which is about half a mile from the Schuyikill River? When I look on a map, that road is near Lafayette Road and Conshohocken State Road. Is that the neighborhood? [Jonathan Whitcomb]

Mr. Dura replied:

Yes. It’s Country Club Road (rather than Lane) and it’s just up the hill from Conshohocken State Road. It’s very close to the Schuylkill River. I was back there again today and kept looking up to the sky in hopes I would see the pterosaur again.

I told Stephen, my coworker, to do the same but we had no luck. I suppose this sort of thing is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and it might be expecting a bit much to hope it can be repeated. Nevertheless, I have gotten into the habit of looking at the sky any time I am anywhere near there.

I told a few trustworthy friends . . . about it. One said that if a pterosaur was flying around in that area more people would spot it. Perhaps others have spotted it and even reported it. I would like to know if you have any information like that. I also know that some creatures are possibly just very elusive by nature. Also, not everyone who spots something like that will care to tell anyone. I am glad you are collecting information and investigating. I wouldn’t have known about your work until this happened to me and I started to do research. Thanks, so much, and all the best with everything.
Sincerely, Tom Dura

I replied:

Thank you, Tom

It could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but not necessarily. If a ropen (modern long-tailed pterosaur) flies in the same area at the same time of day, which happens on occasion though not commonly, then a vigilant eyewitness may see it again. Keep looking up.

I have quite a few sighting reports, over many years, from Pennsylvania.

  1. Susquehanna County
  2. Bucks County (your general part of PA)
  3. Westmoreland County
  4. near Pittsburgh
  5. Pottstown, Montgomery County (mid-2016)
  6. Clearfield County

I have also received many eyewitness reports from states neighboring PA.

Please let me know if you hear about anyone else who has seen one or if you are fortunate enough to see it again.

Thank you [Jonathan Whitcomb]

For a continuation of these email communications, see:

Ropen Sighting in Pennsylvania


green forest and ferns in Pennsylvania

A forest trail in Pennsylvania



Living Pterosaurs

An investigation by the cryptozoologist and forensic videographer Jonathan David Whitcomb and the work of his associates


Pennsylvania Pterosaurs

. . . We also need to keep in mind the concept that when one eyewitness reports to me a sighting (of an apparent pterosaur) in a particular area, there were quite likely other eyewitnesses who had similar sightings but never contacted me, for various reasons.


LDS Author Jonathan Whitcomb

“Not all of my books and online publications are about eyewitness reports of apparent pterosaurs, but most of them are. . . .”


Nonfiction Books by Mormons

It certainly sounds like a book on religion, and it can strengthen faith in readers who already have some faith in God. Yet this nonfiction [Searching for Ropens and Finding God, by the LDS author Jonathan Whitcomb] is mostly about cryptozoology, in particular eyewitness accounts of featherless flying creatures that the author is sure are non-extinct pterosaurs.


Living pterosaurs in Ohio

Last month I got an email from a man who lives in Gahanna, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus. He and his teenaged son were driving near their home at 6:45 p.m. on December 19, 2016, when a large creature flew over their car . . .


More on Pterosaur Wingspans

Of the fifty-seven sightings of apparent pterosaurs in which wingspan estimates were given (numerically, like “ten feet”), observed around the world and over many years, from the mid-twentieth century to the present, the graph shows longest wingspans to the right (every three feet, beginning with 3.25 feet; the furthest to the right, “p,” is 45.5 to 48.5 feet); the verticle indicating the number of sightings. It appears perfectly harmonious with the idea that at least most modern species experience growth throughout lifespan, with extremely large individuals being rare. The degree of rarity should be much greater than shown, for the largest modern pterosaurs should be noticed by eyewitnesses much more frequently than smaller ones; small pterosaurs can easily be ignored, for they often are not noticed as anything unusual enough to cause eyewitnesses to take a closer look and see that it is no bird.

The Hoax Potential and Pterosaur Wingspan

The peak, ten sightings, is at wingspan estimates between 3.25 feet and 6.25 feet. On the surface, this appears to clearly refute any possibility of a major hoax-influence, for why would hoaxers give such small “estimates” for the wingspan? Looking a little deeper, if hoaxers were trying to convince people that they had seen Rhamphorhynchoids, smaller wingspans would be more in harmony with fossils of those long-tailed pterosaurs. But looking even closer, we see something else.


Look at the raw data for the left and middle of the graph (wingspan in feet):

2 2 4 4 4 4 5 5 5 6 6 6 7 7 8 8 9 9 9 10 10 10 11 11 12 12 12.5 13 13 13 13 15 16 16 17 17 17 18 — According to standard ideas in paleontology (and that is mostly what is mentioned in Western media when it is mentioned at all), only a small percentage of Rhamphorhynchoids attained wingspans over eight feet. But the data on wingspan estimates does not show any sharp decline above six feet, more of a gentle downward slope (fewer eyewitness estimates) into sizes much larger than standard ideas about Rhamphorhynchoid fossil wingspans. If a significant number of hoaxers made some of these fifty-seven estimates, and a significant number of those hoaxers were trying to portray Rhamphorhynchoids, there would have been a steeper decline above seven feet. But in fact, 26% of reports involved wingspans estimated at 9-13 feet, completely out of line for this particular hoax conjecture.

Another Hoax Potential

Consider the most likely cause for someone to play a hoax. A jokester would likely want to shock somebody. What would be most shocking? Would it not be a huge wingspan? But if hoaxers were involved in this way, the data would not show a rather smooth transition from small wingspans into the giant ones. From a significant hoax factor of this kind, we would expect to see a peak at around 15-25 feet (around f, g, and h, on the above graph); but that is not at all what the data shows.

Pterosaur Wingspan, Recent Statistics, Absence of Hoaxes

But first we review this perspective: A number of species of pterosaurs (more than two) live in many areas of this planet, with at least most of them being at least mostly nocturnal and with some of them being witnessed by people in countries in which universal dinosaur and pterosaur extinction is taken for granted. These species include both Pterodactyloids and Rhamphorhynchoids.

Source of Data

I obtained the 98 reports from years of interviewing and research, accepting data from those reports that had both reasonable non-hoax credibility and reasonable potential for coming from actual sightings of living pterosaurs. In about two-thirds of those reports, I was at least somewhat involved; often I was the only interviewer. One example can be mentioned here:

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Pterosaur Sighting

“It was several years ago . . . approximately 5:00 A.M. . . . almost sure it was summer . . . in Philly. [My friend] was dropping me off, and parked. . . . . . about six blocks away . . . we saw something that made our jaws drop. We were like ‘what the h* is that thing?’ This thing didn’t seem to fly quickly. [Its] wingspan was huge. We’d figured at least 20 feet or so. It wasn’t flapping real hard like a sparrow or pigeon does. It almost seemed to sail. It came from the South, and appeared to be heading west [towards the Delaware River].” (From the nonfiction cryptozoology book Live Pterosaurs in America – third edition)

Live Pterosaurs and Science [updating the above]

Recent compilations of data support the earlier finding of a lack of major hoax involvement.

Pterosaur News and Criticism

A recent post on this blog, (“Strange Flying Creature – Bioluminescence in Pennsylvania . . .”) received a critical comment that deserves attention in more detail than I feel is appropriate through my own reply-comments on that post. The comment was by S. Hill.

“An investigation of what she may have seen should come first”

It seems that Hill thinks that I should have evaluated non-pterosaur explanations before publishing this brief report on a blog post. I suspect that Hill may not be familiar with this blog and its purposes, or was simply trying to discredit this account. Most critics I have encountered during the past eight years have actually tried to discredit the general idea that modern pterosaurs still fly, that they are not extinct; I will not get into that here, for Hill does not explicitly state that. This appears a good time for explaining some of the purposes of this blog.

Some eyewitnesses of apparent living pterosaurs may never send me an email or give me a phone call. I can understand that. But some of them may be comforted in reading about other eyewitness accounts, for it eases their minds: They are not crazy for seeing something that Western indoctrination proclaims cannot exist. I feel that is a worthy purpose. But there is more.

Eyewitnesses who have sent me an email or given me a phone call usually had read something online, often something I had written about reports of apparent live pterosaurs; in other words, publishing reports of living pterosaurs results in more eyewitnesses coming forward. I suspect that some of the eyewitnesses might never report their sightings to any cryptozoologist if they had not learned of someone (me) who specializes in listening and taking such reports seriously. Part of the purpose of this Live Pterosaur blog is to encourage more eyewitnesses to come forward.

What if another eyewitness in Pennsylvania has had a close encounter with a ropen-like flying creature: a glowing pterosaur? How could that person find the courage to report such a weird experience? The December 15, 2011, post “Strange Flying Creature” (mentioned above) gives few details, mostly because the eyewitness has not yet given me much more than that. But what an impact it could make on another eyewitness! This short report, imperfect as it is, might result in a much more detailed sighting account, a report that will be much more useful, for it could give another eyewitness the courage to come forward.

“To assume that it is a ropen or pterosaur is ridiculous”

The glowing pterosaur or bioluminescent ropen is not necessarily the only explanation for the Pennsylvania sighting, of course. But Hill needs to understand that the eyewitness gave her sighting report to me because she thinks it could have been a ropen. Nothing in that blog post suggests that it must have been a bioluminescent pterosaur; in fact, I mentioned, “it is sufficient to consider that it was a possible American ropen.”

We need to keep in mind that the eyewitness said, “I have found that a pterosaur is identical to what we saw.” That deserves some consideration, at least, unless and until a better explanation is found for her experience.

We also need to keep in mind the subtitle of this blog: “Investigating Reports of Living Pterosaurs.” The point is the continuing nature of the investigation of each sighting report. Although some reports have many sighting-details given, and may have been analyzed in detail, I do not wait for all that before writing a post about a sighting. The key is “investigating,” not “investigated.”


Press Room for News Releases on Live Pterosaurs

Pterodactyl Reported in Papua New Guinea

Glowing Creatures Videotaped in Papua New Guinea

Reports of Living Pterosaurs in the U.S.A. not Hoaxes

Unmasking a Flying Predator in Texas



Third edition of "Live Pterosaurs in America"“How are sightings in the United States related to those in the southwest Pacific? How do some apparent nocturnal pterosaurs pertain to bats, and how are bats irrelevant? How could modern living pterosaurs have escaped scientific notice? These mysteries have slept in the dark, beyond the knowledge of almost all Americans, even beyond our wildest dreams (although the reality of some pterosaurs is a living nightmare to some bats). These mysteries have slept . . . until now.”

Purchase your own copy of this amazing nonfiction cryptozoology book, on Amazon or from select book-sellers. Don’t forget: the third edition of Live Pterosaurs in America.