What if you saw a strange flying creature: no feathers, a “pterodactyl” head, and maybe a long tail? Who could you tell about your experience? You would find yourself in the position of many eyewitnesses in the United States, for you would have seen something that our culture teaches us should not now exist.
What would you call the creature you had seen? “Dinosaur bird?” “Pterodactyl?” The correct name for this flying creature is “pterosaur,” thought by many (but not all) professors and scientists to have become extinct millions of years ago. In recent years, it has become increasingly obvious that these creatures are not all extinct; at least one species, or a few species, are still surviving, although they are rather uncommon and usually very reclusive. Many of them, including the ropen of Papua New Guinea, are nocturnal. Many of them glow with bioluminescence. (That brings up questions about ancient legends of fire-breathing dragons.)
Let’s take a particular eyewitness, for example, Duane Hodgkinson (a World War II veteran who spent part of the war on the mainland of New Guinea). He has been interviewed numerous times, with cryptozoologists that include Jonathan Whitcomb and Garth Guessman (both of whom explored in Papua New Guinea, interviewing native eyewitnesses of the ropen). It seems that everyone who interviews him believes his account of the 1944 sighting near Finschhafen, New Guinea. He described the creature as having a wingspan similar to that of a Piper Tri-Pacer (small private airplane). When asked about the tail length, he paused and said, “I don’t know . . . at least ten or fifteen feet.” He was entranced at the head appendage, paying little attention to other parts of the creature’s body, so he did not know what the end of the tail looked like (many eyewitnesses describe a Rhamphorhynchoid tail flange).
Whitcomb has named the creature the “Hodgkinson-Hennessy Ropen.”