Ptp: Civil War Pterodactyl Photo

By modern pterosaur expert Jonathan D. Whitcomb

Introduction

On January 14, 2017, Clifford Paiva and I spoke by phone and agreed that the photograph now labeled “Ptp” has a genuine image of a modern pterosaur. He’s a missile defense physicist, living in California. I have been a forensic videographer, although my expertise in recent years has been in the interviewing of eyewitnesses more than in the technical side of imaging.

Paiva started examining the Ptp photo many years ago, finding evidence for authenticity; I have known about Ptp for a long time, possibly as early as 1968, but I’ve hesitated putting great confidence in it until mid-January of 2017. That was certainly not my friend’s fault but my own weakness, including my early impression that the wings of the apparent pterosaur reminded me of a canoe. Three years ago I looked at the photo more closely, finding evidence that those are not from any canoe (made in crude imitation of wings) but are more likely actual wings. Nevertheless, I hesitated, feeling that the photograph might have originated from a hoax.

Then I received an email (earlier this year) from a Tom Payne, who told me the following:

I’ve canoed all my life. I’ve owned several of them. Those aren’t halves of a canoe! . . . Too narrow, too shallow. And definitely not a dugout canoe!

That got me looking again at this image, and I soon phoned my associate, Cliff Paiva.

The Ptp “Pteranodon” Photograph

Some persons report remembering this photo from a mid-20th-century print publication, even decades before Photoshop existed. Yet the greatest support for Ptp is the vast number of sightings of apparent modern pterosaurs, including some reports of extant flying creatures that resemble Pteranodons. We’ll consider some of those reports a bit later.

Ptp "Pteranodon" photograph

Figure-1: the original photograph, now called “Ptp” and declared genuine

The closer we examine the Ptp photograph, the more evidence we find that it is a genuine recording rather than a pasting of elements through Photoshop manipulation. I’ve written about those evidences before and will continue to write about them, but for now let’s consider an accusation of conspiracy and a photo that was made in imitation of Ptp.

Feakylinks TV-Show Hoax Photograph

Compare the Ptp photo (in Figure-1) with a more recent imitation, a photograph of actors, Civil-War reenactors, who placed themselves, in some degree, into positions resembling the men shown in Ptp. The hoax is shown in Figure-2:

Freakylinks TV show hoax photograph

Figure-2: More-recent photo made to look very old (“credit” Fox Network)

Haxan Films produced episodes of Freakylinks for two seasons, 2000-2001, with the above image being staged, with later image manipulation, to promote that television show on the Fox Network. The original hoax photo comes from a staging of real men, dressed like Civil War soldiers, and a crude imitation of a dead flying creature. Something like Photoshop was then used to make the photo appear to be very old.

Notice the similarities in the two photos. One soldier has his boot on the head of a dead flying creature. Most of the other soldiers are to our right of that soldier. The other soldiers stand just behind the body of the apparently-recently-shot animal. White blotches, apparent photograph-damage, are scattered across the image.

Figure-2 has a number of signs that the “soldiers” are not really from Civil-War times, but the important point is that this photo has been shown to be a hoax, apparently without any recent reservations about its being a fabrication. A big problem now arises, unfortunately: The two photos have been confused.

A Conspiracy Theory

Perhaps it’s more like a conjecture. Regardless, I generally have little interest in conspiracy theories. To be brief, at least one writer has proclaimed that conspirators have been purposely using the Freakylinks photo to hide the genuine photo. The idea is that people will either not look at the original or they will assume that it is a hoax. I believe that has happened, but what’s the difference whether it was from a literal conspiracy or from a virtual one? When I act like Sherlock Holmes, it’s to identify the victim and the cause of death, not to catch a criminal.

Confusing the two Photos

In 2012, in the blog post “More on the Civil War pterodactyl photograph,” Sean McLachlan correctly reported that Haxan Films was behind a fake “Civil War pterodactyl photograph.” He then said the following:

“A five-minute check of its origins story found many obvious lies.”

I myself did a quick check of McLachlan’s link-story and found no obvious problem in the text. But both of his pages have a huge problem in the background image: It’s the Ptp photograph. In other words, he’s proclaiming the falsity of the Freakylinks photo while giving us a display of dozens of partial copies of Ptp. It certainly could give most readers the impression that only one photograph is involved here.

Please be aware: I’m not accusing Mr. McLachlan of any deception. But reading “More on the Civil War pterodactyl photograph” can have the same effect as reading a post by a conspirator: It gives one the impression that there’s only one image, the fake imitation of a Civil War photograph, fabricated for Freakylinks. How much better if he had used the Feakylinks hoax-photo for his background image!

Unfortunately, this is not the only prominent web page that makes this mistake. Glen J. Kuban, in his online publication “Living Pterodactyls?”, has a small image of Ptp with a caption below it:

“widely acknowledged as a hoax”

He explains in the paragraph to the left:

“. . . the photo has since been exposed as a hoax–a promotional stunt for a Fox television series.”

The image shown is not the Fox-Network hoax-photo, however, but the older one: Ptp. I’m not accusing Mr. Kuban of deception, but how easily can readers of “Living Pterodactyls?” be mislead by that mistake! And how hard it can then be to look at Ptp with an open mind!

Update: April 27, 2017:

I contacted Glen Kuban in March of 2017 and by the end of April he had revised “Living Pterosaurs (Pterodactyls)” with both photos shown together. Unfortunately, he then wrote many paragraphs, trying to persuade readers to disbelieve in anything that would support the idea that not all pterosaurs became extinct long ago.

Huge Modern Pterosaurs Observed

The following is but a brief overview of some of the sighting reports I have received over the past 13 years. Not all of them appear to be the same species as the apparent Pteranodon in Ptp, but they appear to have been large modern pterosaurs.

  • South Carolina sighting by Susan Wooten (12-15 feet of wingspan)
  • Perth, Australia, sighting (wingspan up to 50 feet)
  • Finschaffen, New Guinea, 1944 (wingspan similar to Piper Tri-Pacer plane)
  • Irvine, California, sighting (length of flying creature about 30 feet)
  • Georgia, USA: by Sandra Paradise (creature’s length was about the length of her car)
  • Altadena, California (“pterodactyl” the size of a school bus)
  • Arkansas (NW) in 2016 (wingspan of 15-19 feet)

Many more reports could be included: huge apparent pterosaurs, with wingspans between fifteen feet and forty feet. Eyewitnesses use various words and labels:

  • flying dinosaur
  • prehistoric bird
  • pterodactyl
  • dragon
  • giant bat

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Pteranodon in a Civil War Photo

This is not about the hoax-photograph, with Civil War reenactors, done for the Freakylinks TV series that was on the Fox Network from 2000-2001. . . . The photograph we’re examining here is called “Ptp” and has been around much longer.

Modern-pterosaur expert with a photograph

The physicist Clifford Paiva and the cryptozoologist Jonathan Whitcomb jointly agreed that an old photograph (“Ptp”) contains an image of an actual modern pterosaur.

Evidence of Modern Pterosaurs

“Why don’t we find any carcasses of these animals in nature when they die?” . . . If many Americans have never heard about sighting reports of apparent living pterosaurs, how could they be expected to believe that a partially decayed carcass was from a recently-living “pterodactyl?”

Pterosaurs Living

From “fiery flying serpents” of the Bible ages ago, to strange flying creatures called “dragons” in England and other European countries a few centuries ago, to a huge pterosaur flying across a country highway in South Carolina in 1989, descriptions of these “flying dinosaurs,” . . .

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