Living Pterosaurs in Virginia

Eskin Kuhn drew this sketch one of the two pterosaurs he saw flying in Cuba

If apparent pterosaurs observed in Virginia are not the same species as the flying creature called “Gitmo Pterosaur” or “American Hammerhead Ropen,” it may at least be a closely-related species. I recently got another report from Virginia: a sighting just a few days ago in Richmond.

I’m not positive about what [I] and my 16 year old son saw flying across a major road in Richmond, VA, a couple of days ago at dusk. What I do know is, it was something we have never [seen] before. Its wing span was massive! It looked to be about 10 feet across and its tail was long with a triangle point! We were so flabbergasted looking at it that I nearly crashed! I have been constantly watching the sky to see it again. My son swears he saw a dragon AND I’m not sure what to believe I saw. It almost did look like a dragon or pterodactyl of some sort. Its quite mind boggling and baffling but amazing all at the same time!!

Here’s what I told this eyewitness (by email):

Thank you for reporting the sighting.

From what you described, you and your son probably saw a ropen. My associates and I believe this kind of flying creature is indeed a modern pterosaur. Some eyewitnesses call it a “pterodactyl” and there’s nothing much wrong with calling it that. Other people who have seen it call it a “dragon,” which is what everybody would have called it in earlier history. Yes, they are very non-extinct, very much alive, although they are somewhat uncommon and they usually come out only at night.

May I ask some questions?

1) Did you or your son notice any detail on its head?

2) How far away were you from it, at the closest distance?

3) Did you take notice of what time it was?

Thank you.  Jonathan Whitcomb

Here are the answers:

Thank you for responding.  We couldn’t see the head and according to my son
he said it was approximately 600 ft away. The sun had set and it was
starting to get dark. I will say it was almost 8 pm.

That flying creature seems to resemble the “Gitmo Pterosaur” of Cuba:

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

Call a Ropen What it is

I’ve come to feel we need to use the word ropen when an eyewitness observed a long tail with a flange or “diamond” or “triangle” structure at tail end. Of course we are still living within the realm of cryptozoology (as of early April, 2015), not yet having a live creature in a zoo or a recently deceased body to examine in a scientific laboratory. But people around the world continue to report seeing a flying creature whose description suggests a large Rhamphorhynchoid (long-tailed) pterosaur. Some eyewitnesses of ropens live in Virginia.



Virginia Pterosaurs

I have not before nor since ever been so petrified in my life. . . . I felt incapable of moving my legs.  I just stood there, facing it until it literally got about 20 to 30 feet away and it “stopped” and hovered mid-air.

Recent Pterosaur Sightings

Ricky Kearns, of Point Pleasant, WV, and other members of his family witnessed a strange flying creature on the night of October 20, 2014, as they sat outside, gazing up at the sky.

Pterodactyl Sightings in State of Virginia

“. . . a couple of weeks ago [mid-2012], by myself I saw two flying. Then this Sunday in about the same place, my daughter and I saw one fairly close up, flying in the opposite direction. . . . The most obvious feature was the diamond or spade tipped tail, I have not found any creature that compares. . . .”

Pterosaurs Alive

The eyewitness was shocked to see that the creature had both a head crest (common in Pterodactyloids) and a long tail with a “diamond tip” (common in Rhamphorhynchoids). He saw a living pterosaur near the Maryland-Virginia border, in the 1980’s.


Pennsylvania Pterosaurs

forested area around the Susqauehanna River in PA

Does a species of ropen live in Pennsylvania or at least pass through that state on occasion? We need to keep these sighting reports in context, for other eyewitnesses have seen similar featherless flying creatures in surrounding states of the USA, including Ohio and Virginia.

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.

Here are some dates and locations of sightings:

  • 2006 (mid-summer): Southwest Greensburg, PA
  • 2011-June: southern Susquehanna County, PA
  • 2014-June-14: Penn Hills (outside of Pittsburgh)

Encounter Near Pittsburgh (mid-June, 2014)

Today I witnessed a flying creature I’ve never seen in my life. I was riding passenger seat in Penn Hills (outside of Pittsburgh), PA. It was around [noon], very hot during this time. At first glance, I thought it was a hawk because of its bottom claws and wingspan. But the closer we got, the more I could see that it didn’t have feathers. It just [looked] like latex skin, there was a layer of hair but it wasn’t feathers. . . . But the STRANGEST PART had to be the tail; it had like a ball on the end. And the way it flew was like nothing I ever seen . . . like swimming in the air but maintained the same height and speed but it appeared like it was moving in slow motion at the same time.

Sighting near Marietta, Ohio

In June of 2014, I got an email from a lady who had witnessed an apparent pterosaur in a rural area of Ohio:

Several years ago when I was in college I briefly saw what looked like two of them flying close together while I was driving. . . . I thought I was crazy for a minute, like I was seeing things . . . but I don’t know of any birds that look like that that are featherless, that large, and grey. . . . I was happy to be inside my car.

Sighting in Virginia

In May 2005, in Midlothian, Virginia, . . . a giant bird glided down from a tree, no flapping of wings, probably 35 feet across. It looked exactly like a pterodactyl, and I have told very few people about it since it sounds like I have gone crazy. . . . Later at the same time period on Braddock Rd in N.VA there was a sighting also. It was enormous, and I am so glad to find I am not alone in this [kind of] sighting!

Potential for bioluminescent ropen in Pennsylvania

The following is from an email I, Jonathan Whitcomb, received from an eyewitness:

Last Sunday night (December 11, 2011), I was outside and I looked up and saw a moving orange light. At first I thought it was a meteor, but then I looked right at it and saw it wasn’t moving in a straight line. When I looked right at it, I could see it was zigzagging . . . Also, I thought it appeared to have wings that were flapping, although it was so dark I couldn’t tell for sure. If it did have wings, the wings weren’t glowing. The light only lasted about two seconds. . . . quite high up. It appeared to be somewhere near Robinson Lake (near mile marker 208 along I-81 in Pennsylvania).

forested area around the Susqauehanna River in PA

West branch of the Susquehanna River, Clinton County, Pennsylvania



A flying creature in Pennsylvania

I saw something flying from east to west, about 700 feet north of where I was (in our cow pasture, in southern Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania). It looked black, and I couldn’t see any feathers on it, although I couldn’t be sure it didn’t have feathers. . . . I saw a similar-looking flying creature flying over Lenoxville, and that one did seem to have a flange at the end of the tail — at least, there was some kind of bulge at the end of the tail . . .

A Real Pterosaur in Pennsylvania

The wing span appeared to be at least six feet . . . you could clearly make out a long “horn” or “cone” type protrusion coming out of the back of its skull, which was at the end of an elongated neck . . . 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?”

Universal Pterosaur Extinction, or not

How could Darwin have imagined that small populations of nocturnal pterosaurs are scattered across the planet? They rarely congregate anywhere and appear to humans in daylight only on occasion.

Jonathan Whitcomb—paleontologist or cryptozoologist?

One critical point here, unappreciated by some paleontologists, is that those eyewitnesses come from various countries and have different backgrounds and beliefs, including differing religious beliefs. Why is that critical? Significant similarities in the descriptions include featherless appearances, a cone-like appendage at the back of the head, and a long tail, sometimes described with a “diamond” at tail-end.


Whitcomb's nonfiction "Searching for Ropens and Finding God" 3rd ed.

Searching for Ropens and Finding God – fourth edition, published in October of 2014 – 360 pages – nonfiction – by the American cryptozoologist Jonathan David Whitcomb


“Pterodactyl” Sightings in 2012

highway in rural Virginia

We now review sightings in 2012, although the following are only a fraction of the encounters this year. Statistics for “pterodactyl” sightings in general (for all years) include a surprising result: For those reporting the number of eyewitnesses to a sighting (85%), only 47% involved a lone eyewitness; 53% of the sightings involved multiple eyewitnesses. This suggests hallucination-contamination of reports has negligible influence, if any, on the data.

Now for some sightings in 2012 (most of them with English corrections by me):

Bioluminescent Flying Creature in Caribbean

My husband and I were on a cruise sailing from Tortola to Saint Martin [March of 2012] and my husband was sitting on the balcony around 11:30 pm and saw a glow in the sky and then woke me up to see it . . . I witnessed the flying bird glow and fly toward the ship glowing, glowing, glowing. To our amazement we were the only ones who witnessed this site and no one seems to believe us.

Pasadena, Texas

I have seen them; they look like bats but flap their wings way different than birds do… And they have a red-orange bioluminescent body… First time I spotted one was somewhere on Nov, 2011; last time I saw two of them together, a week ago [mid-March, 2012].

Sighting by Truck Driver in Oklahoma

The truck driver also noticed something at the end of the tail, what he called a “blunt end.” He could not make out any detail, but acknowledged that it could have been what other eyewitnesses describe. In other words, he was sure that there was some kind of structure at the end of the tail.

The flying creature in Oklahoma was not likely a Frigate bird, for the eyewitness examined photos of that kind of bird and told me, “not close at all.” (I had sent him a number of photos of Frigate birds.)

“Ropen” catching fish in Arizona

I was visiting Arizona [in June of 2012] and I . . . [paddled] around a lake . . . While on the lake I noticed some very large birds in the sky. I thought they were vultures at first but these birds were landing on the sides of a shear cliff like a spider on a wall. These were creatures I had never seen before. I took photographs. . . . After investigating online, I learned that I was looking at a lost creature I was watching a ropen.

These creatures were very active around dusk. They were feeding off of small fish along the shoreline. And it appeared that they lived in crevices on the cliff.

Sighting in Franklin, Georgia (unedited) — It had a long tail

Wed 18 2012 my two sons n i was traveling down Hwy 27 n Franklin Georgia around 8:15 or so in the morning…when i looked up n saw a flyin dinosaur..I was so shocked at what i was seein i started yealing to my sons to look up look up..i ask my oldest u see what im seeing..n he i go what do u see..cause i wanted to make sure i could belive my own eyes n he looks like a Terradactyl…in i go…yeah it looks like a dinosaur to me too and dats my n my son story n we’re stickin to it.

Sightings in Virginia

I have recently [had] two sightings. One a couple of weeks ago [mid-July, 2012], by myself I saw two flying. Then this Sunday in about the same place, my daughter and I saw one fairly close up flying in the opposite direction. These were all seen while traveling on a highway.

The most obvious feature was the diamond or spade tipped tail, I have not found any creature that compares. My first sighting was far enough away that I couldn’t rule out man made gliders, imitation, but the last sighting moved in such away that it was highly unlikely to be fake.


highway in rural Virginia

Country highway in Virginia



Whitcomb on Radio Talk Show in Australia

On September 25th [2012], I was interviewed, by telephone, by Aaron Wright of Mysterious Universe, in Australia. It was not a live radio show but was audio-edited and broadcast (or published) on a podcast . . .

Virginia Pterosaurs

highway in rural Virginia

I recently began extensive email communications with an eyewitness of a huge flying creature in eastern Virginia, years ago. I name this sighting “TV-12.” Here is a small part of our conversation:

Whitcomb: I would be grateful for whatever you would like to tell me.

Anon: Thank you, Jonathan.  The following is what I wrote a couple months back after reading through your website and before I read your book.  I was 17 at the time of this encounter.  It was very late at night. . . . [possibly around] somewhere between 10 and midnight. . . . I went swimming with a friend at a local reservoir . . . I was standing straight up in the middle of the [U-shaped body of water] with the water about as high as my hips and I was making some splashing I remember, rather loudly, right before I saw it.

It came from the direction of the moon . . . all I saw was its silhouette.  I could see it was big even before it was close. . . . I have not before nor since ever been so petrified in my life. . . . I felt incapable of moving my legs.  I just stood there, facing it until it literally got about 20 to 30 feet away and it “stopped” and hovered mid-air.

The wings were somewhere between 15 and 20 feet wide and they covered the entire opening to the U-shaped inlet when they were open.  The wings were bat shaped without feathers, the head’s silhouette looked like a point (again, could not see facial features as it had the moon behind it) like a head crest . . .

I thought it was going to attack me.  I was thinking about whether or not I could fight it off . . . when it hovered there mid air 20 to 30 feet away directly in front of me about 15 to 20 feet above the water level, it moved its wings from wide outside to inside in front of its body twice which made a big “Whoosh!” sound both times and the wind it created made waves in the water coming towards me and blew my hair back and then it flew off. . . .

I think almost immediately the word “pterodactyl” came to mind. . . . Incidentally, the largest known bat in Virginia has a wingspan measured in mere inches–not feet.  And the largest known wingspan for them in the world is six to seven feet:  again, not nearly large enough.  Plus, bats fly rather erratically, not at all like the slow, deliberate flaps and glides of the creature I had seen so bats were pretty easy to rule out . . .

Whitcomb: Thank you . . . for your detailed account.

. . . regarding holding your position when you felt paralyzed with fear . . . [I believe] it was the best thing that you could have done in the [awkward] circumstances of the moment.


highway in rural Virginia

Rural highway in Virginia


Flying Creatures in North Carolina and Virginia

It was at night. I was standing outside my car [talking on the phone] when I saw the creature emerge directly over the three-story building I was standing next to. The creature was so close [that] my reflex was to duck.

Live Pterosaur Sightings in Virginia

The most obvious feature was the diamond or spade tipped tail, I have not found any creature that compares. My first sighting was far enough away that I couldn’t rule out man made gliders, imitation, but the last sighting moved in such a way that it was highly unlikely to be fake.

Flying Creature

You have seen a flying creature unlike any bird or bat. It’s more like a pterosaur but alive, a “flying dinosaur.” What do you do? [Don’t bother calling animal control, the police, or a big newspaper.]