Ptp: Civil War Pterodactyl Photo

By modern pterosaur expert Jonathan D. Whitcomb


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



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,” . . .


UFO’s in Massachusetts or Hoax?

A video of a complicated UFO sighting is reported to have come from people who were on a roof in Massachusetts, on January 13, 2015. Note the date and place, a very cold place to be at night on that date. What I found suspicious was the unique camera-point-of-view necessary to record this kind of formation. The video camera would have to be at a location at precisely the right angle to record the sizes of the objects as apparently identical and the formation to be so precisely as it appears. It greatly resembles a hoax.

Here is the text report that I found online, for this apparent video:

“Watching a UFO from my roof. The UFOs went into formation before disappearing. Me and my neighbors watched this from my roof in western Massachusetts on January 13, 2015.” [Very few details were given, other than those.]

What was this person doing with friends on a roof when the temperature was probably well below freezing? If they had seen a UFO out their window, why did they not videotape it through the window? It looks like a night scene of a city, so why did this person not mention the name of the city? These things raise suspicion.

Debunking this UFO video

Consider what some experts are reported to have said about this apparent UFO video:

We hear voices of several people, but if you listen carefully, they don’t always seem to react to what we’re seeing on the screen . . . [in other words, the audio does not seem to relate to what is seen]

If this is a video of [a real event], it’s also a bit odd that the videographer himself doesn’t seem excited in the least at what he supposedly is capturing on tape.

. . . you would expect some variation in the lighting because that is the reality of capturing video through any air mass at all. You always see lights that will scintillate, especially the farther away they are. [This is absent in this purported video.]

The video was most likely created on computer software and then filmed off the computer or a TV monitor . . .

In addition, why does the audio include a woman saying, “It’s orange! It’s orange!” when none of the lights was anything other than white? That may be the final clue. It just looks far too much like a hoax to be taken seriously.

hoax video of apparent UFO formation in Massachusetts

Notice the precision with which these apparent orbs line up. This can only be apparent if the camera was placed in the exact lineup to make it appear in this way, assuming this is a genuine video of an actual event in the sky (which it is not, according to other evidences).



Paul Nation’s video of indava lights in Papua New Guinea

Late in 2006, I interviewed Paul Nation in his home in Granbury, Texas, just days after he had returned from Papua New Guinea. I videotaped the interview and made a digital copy of the video footage of the two indava lights. A copy was later given to the physicist Cliff Paiva, who analyzed the lights and found them to be anything but ordinary: not from airplanes, meteors, car headlights, lanterns, or campfires. And a hoax it was not.


Texas Marfa Lights

A strange phenomena has been gaining attention in this remote high desert of southwest Texas. Marfa Lights, at least the ones classified scientifically as “CE-III,” have defied scientific explanation for many years. A new study reveals interesting similarities with other flying lights observed around the world, resulting in a hypothesis that the “dancing” lights of Marfa come from the bioluminescence of a group of flying predators that may not yet be classified by science.

The new hypothesis, outlined in the news release “Unmasking a Flying Predator in Texas,” has received little support from most scientists who have recently become aware of the idea. It involves a group of intelligent flying creatures that glow brightly with intrinsic bioluminescence, while they hunt the Big Brown Bat, that lives in caves in this part of Texas. The idea is that the glow from the predators attracts insects which attract bats, making it easier for the larger flying predators to catch and eat the bats. The bioluminescent creatures themselves are not thought to eat insects.

To quote from that press release:

In southwest Texas, local residents have speculated about dancing devils or ghosts. Scientists have preferred something along the lines of ball lightning or earthlights, but all their scientific explanations have tripped over the resemblances to line dancing. If atmospheric energies or tectonic stresses cause the displays, why do two lights horizontally separate for a long distance before coming back together?

Now a cryptozoologist from California has explained the dancing lights of Marfa. Tales of spooks may hold a spark of truth, for recent research implies intelligence directs the lights: Bioluminescent flying predators may be hunting at night and catching a few unlucky Big Brown Bats: Eptesicus fuscus.

Other web sites have sprung up:

Marfa Lights Are Not All Car Headlights

Sometimes a ball of light seems to split into two, with a separation and eventual reunion. Some of the local residents refer to that kind of activity as “dancing.” . . . A few American cryptozoologists, including the Californians Jonathan Whitcomb and Garth Guessman, and the Texan Paul Nation, have researched and searched for bioluminescent flying creatures described like Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs. For years, one or two Americans at a time would travel to Papua New Guinea to search for the elusive nocturnal ropen . . . with limited success in remote jungles. Only recently has it been considered that this creature (or one like it) seems to also live in North America, including Texas.

Marfa Ghost Lights

The flying Marfa Lights of southwest Texas have been compared with the ropen of Papua New Guinea. There the lights have been correlated with appearances of large and giant long-tailed flying creatures, featherless and resembling Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs (long-tailed “pterdactyls”).

New Cryptozoology Book From Long Beach Resident

Jonathan Whitcomb, of the Bixby Highlands neighborhood of Long Beach, has just had his nonfiction book published: the second edition of Live Pterosaurs in America. Although it sounds like fiction, the title comes from years of eyewitness sighting reports of flying creatures whose descriptions strongly suggest pterosaurs, commonly called by Americans “pterodactyls.”

Although standard models of biology include the assumption that all species of dinosaurs and pterosaurs became extinct millions of years ago, that is not a proven fact. Whitcomb maintains that human experiences should prevail in bringing to pass the eventual scientific discovery of several species of pterosaur, including at least one Rhamphorhynchoid.

Whitcomb explored a remote island in Papua New Guinea, in 2004, interviewing many eyewitnesses of the ropen, a nocturnal flying creature that is described like a long-tailed pterosaur. After publishing his findings, Whitcomb received many emails from Americans who had seen similar flying creatures in North America, including California, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Florida, South Carolina, and other states.

According to the page for this cryptozoology book:

Nocturnal pterosaurs have always lived among us, but hidden by something. Enter now the realm of a new branch of cryptozoology, a branch overshadowed by the dogma of a “universal extinction.” How did scientists miss living pterosaurs? Get the answers here, hidden secrets about how these amazing flying creatures of the night have gone mostly unreported: Until recently, almost nobody would listen to eyewitnesses; but for the past seven years many of them have been interviewed by the author of this book.