Jonathan Whitcomb

I am a cryptozoologist, specializing in sightings of apparent living pterosaurs. I explored Umboi Island in 2004, interviewing many native eyewitesses of the nocturnal ropen. I have since written two nonfiction book on living pterosaurs.

Dragon Hoax or not?

 Pterosaurs  Comments Off
Sep 102013

Where should we start examining this apparent dragon-hoax/pterosaur-mistake? First, we need to remember that a hoax does not have to be founded on a previous hoax, and that a person may be fooled by a hoax but still promote truth while inadvertently mixing in a mistake. With that said, birds of a feather rarely flock with dragons, so we can understand why a person might disbelieve in any modern pterosaur after learning that some promoters of the idea have been seriously mistaken about one of their evidences. It now appears to me that at least one of my associates has been seriously mistaken about an image in a late-seventeenth century book.

It seems the best thing we can say about the “dragon” image below is that its origin is questionable. I care little about that, however, for even a child can understand that shooting a crow out of the sky cannot cause the extinction of the Snow Goose, notwithstanding how threatening it might appear to all birds.


engraving published in a 1696 book by Dutch civil engineer Cornelius Meyer - apparent dragon, partially decomposed

Nuovi ritrovamenti divisi in due parti dell’ingegnere civile olandese Cornelius Meyer

A dragon (above) was reported to have lived in Italy in the 1600′s


I never felt comfortable with the above image. To the best of my memory, I never included it in any of my blog posts as evidence for a pterosaur living in human times. But my living-pterosaur associate David Woetzel included it with seventeen lines of text in its support in his scientific paper “The Fiery Flying Serpent” (Creation Research Society Quarterly, Volume 42, March 2006). A recent scientific paper, however, seems to have destroyed the credibility of the image and at least part of the story behind it (“Late-surviving pterosaur?” by Phil Senter and Pondanesa D. Wilkins. 2013. Palaeontological Association. Article number: 16.1.6A).

Nevertheless, the recent paper takes a narrow view, ignoring potential positive aspects of living-pterosaur investigations from the 1990′s to the present. Some of my associates and I, including David Woetzel and Garth Guessman, have explored on Umboi Island, Papua New Guinea, searching for the nocturnal flying creature that the natives call “ropen.” The eyewitness testimonies we recorded, when combined with many other sighting reports from various areas of the world, make the case for modern living pterosaurs. And with the concept of pterosaurs living into the twenty-first century, obviously they would have lived in the 1600′s.

Woetzel wrote, “It seems to be a credible pterosaur specimen” and “some have suggested that it could be a fossil or faked composite, but it is much too accurate to be considered a fabrication.” In my opinion, those particular words in his scientific paper have now been shown to be incorrect, notwithstanding the many points and paragraphs, on other historical evidences, that may be much more accurate; the story of this “dragon” image, however, made up only a tiny fraction of Woetzel’s paper. Senter and Wilkins, in their early-2013 paper, actually discredited only a tiny portion of Woetzel’s paper.

“The Rhamphorhynchoid Pterosaur Scaphognathus crassirostris: A “Living Fossil” Until the 17th Century” (Adapted from a paper presented at the 1998 International Conference on Creation, Geneva, PA)

This paper by John Goertzen appears to be the source of Woetzel’s information on the seventeenth-century “dragon” of Italy. In this 1998 scientific paper, Goertzen referred to this image, noting similarities with an Egyptian sculpture. The 2013 paper by Senter and Wilkins now makes his writings on this dragon image highly questionable, to say the least.

But “Late-surviving pterosaur?” actually says nothing substantial against the countless eyewitness testimonies from sightings of living pterosaurs within the past few decades. It is extremely narrow, apparently written with the assumption that all other ideas about extant pterosaurs are equally flawed.


The long-tailed "basal" pterosaur Scaphognathus crassirostris - sketch by the artist Dmitry Bogdanov

Scaphognathus crassirostris (a “basal” pterosaur)

Many pterosaurs of the suborder Rhamphorhynchoidea (long-tailed) have lived at some time in the past. Goertzen seems to have assumed that Scaphognathus crassirostris (Sc) may have been a species that survived until at least a few centuries ago; perhaps he is right. But if the above image accurately depicts the head crest, then another species may better explain the living-pterosaur evidences from human history. Many of the sighting reports that I have received over the past nine years point to a much more pointed head crest, much like a horn coming out of the back of the head.

The big point, however, is this: overwhelming eyewitness evidence makes the case for modern living pterosaurs, regardless of the questionable aspects of old images of dragons with wings.



When a Child Sees a Pterosaur

What happens when a child reports a sighting of a live pterosaur or “pterodactyl?” Will an adult care what the child says or believe the account? Children often spend much time outdoors, so they observe what flies overhead. But what if a child reports the same large featherless flying creature that some adults report? If many persons reject the reports of adult eyewitnesses, those skeptics will probably reject the report of a child.


small image of cover of nonfiction book "Live Pterosaurs in America" third edition

Third edition of Live Pterosaurs in America – nonfiction

Excerpt from the above cryptozoology book:

She was twelve years old, at most (around 1995), when she walked out into her backyard one morning to check on the dog . . . [She] found the poor animal cowering around the side of the house, apparently trying to hide behind a banana tree. The girl had no idea what was wrong . . . Fearing it was sick, [The child] was about to run back into the house to tell her mother. . . . She turned her head and saw what it was that had terrified the dog.

. . . in the neighbor’s backyard, was what she first thought was a tall man . . . He was “draped in a long black coat or cape,” facing away from her. “Dracula” came to mind as [the girl] tried to understand what she was looking at. The “man” turned, and revealed a face that terrified the child: It was non-human. . . . the creature . . . unwrapped its bat-like wings, dark leathery wings. The girl had never seen anything remotely like them.

. . . it was nothing like [any bird or bat]: too big, and without feathers. The girl was frozen in fear . . . [It] began to walk towards her. . . .


Child Care


Mar 112013

Do you believe in flying dragons? Have you ever seen a large long-tailed featherless flying creature? If so, you’re not alone.

For several days, I questioned the eyewitness by emails, and I interviewed her by phone three days after the sighting. She admitted that she did not have time to determine if the three “dragons” had no feathers, for they flew over her car while she was driving on a freeway. Her first impression was that they were large and not birds, assuming it was some kind of stunt, perhaps with kites. She realized they were not kites when she saw their tails move.

She was driving north on the Interstate 5, just east of a golf course on the east side of Griffith Park, in Los Angeles, on Sunday, March 3, 2013. The flying creatures flew almost exactly over her car in the opposite direction. It was just minutes before sunrise, so the sky was no longer dark and she could see the undersides of the “dragons.” They were light colored and had a peculiar shape.

She admitted that she had no confidence in estimating how high they were flying or how large they were. She mentioned nothing to me about the nearby Los Angeles River, but I was struck by its proximity. It’s common for a sighting in Southern California to be near a storm channel or river bed (see “San Fernando Valley Sighting” below). In this case, the creatures were only 150 feet away from the Los Angeles River, a major storm drainage channel, flying parallel to it.

Question: “Did you see any neck on any of them?”

Answer: “Yes, that was another thing that tipped me off that they were not birds. They each had a distinct neck between body and head, that was more narrow and clearly visible.”

Question: “Did you see any feet on any of them?”

Answer: “I did not notice their feet.”

Question: “Is it possible that what appeared to have been tails were actually their feet held behind them?”

Answer: “I suppose it’s possible but they looked a lot like tails to me. Long and thin with a bigger point at the tip.”


Approximate location of sighting of three "dragons" - satellite image of a portion of Griffith Park (golf course) and Los Angeles River

Approximate location of sighting near Colorado Street overpass

satellite image of a part of Griffith Park, Los Angeles, including I-5 freeway and river

Top arrow: direction of “dragon” flight — bottom arrow: direction of car — blue: banks of L. A. River


Griffith Park Dragons?

This morning . . . [within five minutes of 6:10 a.m.]  I saw three “dragons” flying over the 5-North freeway between Griffith Park and Glendale. They appeared to be several feet long, with a head:body:tail ratio that was certainly not that of a bird.

Sightings of Pterosaurs

A few years ago, a psychologist, Brian Hennessy, was interviewed concerning a reported sighting of a large “prehistoric” creature seen on Bougainville Island, Papua New Guinea. The psychologist was not analyzing the mental health of the eyewitness; that psychologist, Brian Hennessy, was himself the eyewitness.

Pterosaur Sighting in South Carolina

The huge featherless creature swooped down over the highway, maybe only “twenty feet” high and only “twenty five” feet in front of the car.

Are bats Food for Pterodactyls in Los Angeles?

During my teenaged years in Pasadena, when I enjoyed watching small bats at night, my younger sister had a friend, Dianne. She told my sister about the big “pterodactyl” she had seen flying around the mountains north of Pasadena.

San Fernando Valley Sighting

Only a little over a mile north of the Los Angeles River

A couple was walking their dog at about 10:30 p.m., near the corner of Burbank Blvd and Woodman in the city of Sherman Oaks, California, when they saw a “very large, winged creature” gliding about 300 feet overhead. The woman described glowing or reflective portions of the wings; she described them to me in a way that suggested they were much dimmer than the bright flashes of ropens.

Jan 112013

When an eyewitness sees a “pterodactyl” flying over a highway in Georgia or taking off from a cliff over a river in Arkansas, why believe the eyewitness? After all, it seems extinction proclamations are everywhere, regarding dinosaurs or “primitive” creatures associated with the dinosaur era. Why not just assume a pterosaur sighting was just a mistake? The descriptions given by American eyewitnesses are too close to those given by eyewitnesses in other parts of the planet, not in the wording or in all the details, but just too close to be from any kind of mistake.

Long tails and lack of feathers are two of the more common descriptions, in eyewitness reports from around the world. And we have just enough other common descriptions* to make it obvious: People from a wide range of countries and continents are observing the same basic kind of flying creature. By far the best explanation is that witnesses are observing real creatures.

* Consider these: Rhamphorhynchoid-like tail flange and head crest (not a common combination in pterosaur fossils but not entirely unknown, either).

Quoting from a Cryptozoology book

From the nonfiction book Live Pterosaurs in Australia and in Papua New Guinea:

I partially agree with the general concept of extinctions, but without committing myself to any time frame. Most species of dinosaurs and pterosaurs appear to have been extinct for some time; nevertheless, after many years of investigations, my associates and I assert that at least two species of pterosaurs live in the southwest Pacific. . . .

The first discovery of a pterosaur fossil by a Western scientist, in 1784, was decades before Charles Darwin began writing about his ideas on extinctions and evolution. Before Darwin, Western scientists had assumed that all species of pterosaurs were extinct for a simple reason: Those who discovered the fossils had no experience with any similar animal that was living. Also important, probably no scientist at that time had considered that a few species of pterosaurs might still be alive, rarely seen because they’re both uncommon and nocturnal. . . .

Darwin emphasized extinctions. In time, the concept of many extinctions in the distant past was accepted by many scientists. That created an atmosphere unfriendly to any eyewitness account of a live pterosaur, to put it mildly. . . .

How hard it is for many Westerners to abandon the idea that all pterosaurs are long extinct! The word “science” has been tied to both men who walk on the moon and to declarations that all dinosaurs and pterosaurs have been extinct for millions of years. How shocking to encounter a cryptozoologist who is cutting down a longstanding tradition about pterosaur extinction!


Credibility of Georgia Pterosaur Eyewitnesses

Flying creatures observed in the state of Georgia, according to the reports I have received from eyewitnesses, resemble apparent pterosaurs of other states . . .

Live Pterosaur in Georgia?

Reports of living “pterodactyls” in Georgia, during the past seven years, probably relate to sightings of some flying creatures in South Carolina and Florida . . .


Third edition of the cryptozoology book Live Pterosaurs in America

Live Pterosaurs in America by Jonathan David Whitcomb (third expanded edition)

On Amazon, a reviewer of the second edition wrote the following (by “stevie” quoted in part):

This is an updated review of the book and I am changing my rating to 5 stars. . . .  I remember stumbling on this subject (cryptozoology, living dinosaurs, extinct animals) in recent years. I always find myself fascinated by the subject . . .

I couldn’t get enough and their are so few books on the subject. I highly recommend this. . . . Whitcomb painstakingly reviews every account for credibility and reason. This man is not a crank. . . .

On top of this, I have great respect for a guy who follows his dreams so passionately. He has traveled to Papua New Guinea to search for the creature . . .  After Whitcomb traveled to New Guinea, he started to collect more stories from North America concerning the pterosaur like creature . . .

If you are interested in reading about this subject, this is definitely the book to get . . . this author has really done a lot of work researching this issue. . . . I do believe the author tried hard to deliver these stories and was very good at it. This is well written and very hard to put down.  [Five stars; "Oddly fascinating"]


Jan 032013

Two eyewitnesses reported sightings of pterosaurs or “pterodactyls,” in Georgia, encounters in December of 2012. Other citizens of Georgia have recently reported older sightings.

If we combine recent reports with those of Sandra Paradise, it may eventually make enough material for somebody to write a book about this subject: modern pterosaurs in Georgia.


Loganville, Georgia, Sighting

“On Dec 10, 2012, myself and wife were driving home at around 1:30 am on Briscoe Rd in Loganville, Ga. As we crested a hill, our light came down across a large flying animal that I instantly thought looked like a pterodactyl . . . I saw what I saw and I feel odd posting this . . . but . . .”

I asked the Loganville eyewitness three questions:

  1. Was it flying over the road or just on one side of the road?  It was crossing about 30 ft in front of us over the road 
  2. About how high was it flying above the ground?  It was about 10 feet off the road
  3. Did you or your wife notice any tail on the creature?  [Yes]


Towns County, Georgia, Sightings

“I don’t know how to say this any other way except that I have seen these very large birds that don’t even come close to looking like anything else I’ve ever seen. I believe them to be Pterosaurs or something similar to them. Yes, I know it sounds crazy, and I know they went extinct a log time age, but the fact remains that I have seen three of these birds in the past year and a half, I have also heard them.”


American “Dragon Pterodactyl”

I was driving the same road, had just passed the point of my  second sighting. Looking ahead and up a hill, I saw a flock of crows  cross the road, from right to left, followed by . . . The pterosaur was in perfect silhouette, wings outstretched,  distinctive head in full view, pad on the tail. [similar to previous two sightings in this part of Georgia]


Georgia Sightings by Sandra Paradise

Sandra Paradise has released her name and is no longer anonymous. She was previously known simply as the lady who had seen two long-tailed pterosaurs in daylight east of Winder, Georgia, as she was driving to work on highway 82, east of the Barrow County Airport.


Living Pterosaur

Throughout human history, and more recently, come fascinating reports of what may have been living pterosaurs.

Dec 082012

Since late 2003, I have accumulated data on sightings (of living pterosaurs) from around the world. The latest compilation (late 2012) includes data never before analyzed in detail, in particular related to driving or riding in a vehicle.

Driving a Vehicle During a Sighting

Of those sightings in which a moving vehicle was or was not clearly involved (69 sightings), 46% (32) were when one or more eyewitnesses were in a moving vehicle (54%, 37 sightings, clearly did not involve a moving vehicle). Why do so many sightings occur to persons in moving vehicles? It relates to human activities.

Most reports of modern living pterosaurs come from Americans, for they use the internet so often and communicate, in English, through email (the vaste majority of web pages on modern pterosaurs are in English). So where do Americans spend most of their time? Indoors. There are occasions when an American will look out a window and see a flying pterosaur, but those are the exceptional sightings. Most of our time, when we are not indoors, is spent in moving vehicles, either as drivers or as passengers.

Tail Length

Sixteen sightings included estimates of tail length. The average length was over nine feet; the median, six.


The wingspan estimates average 14.5 feet, although there is a huge range in sizes, from 1.3 to 46 feet.

Pterosaur Head Crest

Out of all the sightings, about 24% involved the observation of a head crest. Only 2% of the eyewitnesses specifically mentioned the absence of a head crest.


Multiple Eyewitnesses of Pterosaurs

. . . from sighting accounts from various countries of the world, we learn that 53% of the sightings were with two or more persons (47% were of lone eyewitnesses).

Dragon Pterodactyl

Two of the more common words used to describe flying creatures that look like pterosaurs are “dragon” and “pterodactyl,” at least in the United States.

Nov 072012

I’ve written about this Manta ray fish story many times already, but we need to now concentrate on the reasons why Dale Drinnon has repeatedly brought up this leaping-fish conjecture. But before getting into his reasoning, let’s review his conjecture. He believes that “many” sightings of reported pterosaurs (the extant living creatures, not fossils) come from people who see a large Manta ray that jumps up out of the water.

Mr. Drinnon insists that any extant pterosaur on this planet must resemble pterosaurs known from fossils that have been discovered and that any deviation in appearance means the creature observed cannot be that type of flying creature. He does not explain why he has taken that stand, but he dogmatically holds onto that position.

Hypothetical Encounter at a Zoo

Let’s apply that position to fossils in general and to modern creatures in general (why should pterosaurs get special treatment?). How would we react if a paleontologist marched up to the administration office of a zoo and insisted that a particular animal enclosure be labeled “Animatronic – not a real animal?” Everybody else knows that those animals are biological and not fake. Why is that paleontologist mistaken in his dogmatism? He knows that no fossil yet discovered is exactly like what we all see in that zoo enclosure, so he insists that the animals in question cannot be biological. Why is he wrong? (Of course that paleontologist is imaginary.)

Biological Diversity

Almost every adult human in Western society understands biological diversity, whether those adult humans are Biblical Creationists or strict Darwinist Evolutionists. Chihuahuas and Saint Bernards are the same species, regardless of outward differences. Why should pterosaurs drastically differ from the general rule?

Paleontologists know from pterosaur fossils that varieties existed in the past, great diversity in those flying creatures. Why should we be shocked that a modern pterosaur would have one or two or even three details of appearance that differ, in some degree, from already-discovered fossils of pterosaurs? In fact, new varieties of pterosaurs are still being discovered in fossil form. The shock is in discovering that not all their species are extinct, after generations of indoctrination into the universal-extinction dogma.

Ray Resemblance

Mr. Drinnon emphasizes anything that seems to relate to a Manta ray fish (with sighting reports of pterosaurs) especially the general shape of the body of the Manta ray. But he mentions almost no details, no particular sighting, in most of his writings; what sighting report has a description of a ray shape and was over a large body of water? Two creatures flying together, high over a city in the Philippines could not have been a leaping Manta ray, although Drinnon still wants to hold onto the possibility that it was that fish (because that city is near water).

Rhamphorhynchoid Pterosaur Resemblance

In the second ropen expedition of 2004 (I led the first one), Garth Guessman and David Woetzel interviewed a few native eyewitnesses, in Papua New Guinea, by using a page of silhouettes. Those images (unlabeled except for numbers) were of dozens of known birds, bats, and pterosaurs. Only two natives had a good-enough view of the flying creature (that they called “ropen”) to make a valid evaluate of shape, comparing the images with what they remembered observing on Umboi Island. I have photocopies of the detailed reports of those interviews.

The two natives who had good views of the ropen both chose the image of the Sordes Pilosus, a Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur:

long-tailed pterosaur - Sordes Pilosus

That silhouette does bear a slight resemblance to the shape of a Manta ray (if we cut off the Rhamphorhynchoid tail vane and the head). But both Jonathan Ragu and Jonah Jim (in two seperate sightings) saw a flying creature that was glowing, not a Manta ray that jumped out of the sea and fell back. In fact, Jonah Jim was miles from the coast, far from any major body of water.

Ragu witnessed, with his daughter, the glowing ropen flying at or near the northwest coast of Umboi Island. Take the case that the man and his daughter had merely seen a jumping Manta ray, as unlikely as that appears to have been. Why would he have chosen the same silhouette as Jonah Jim would later choose? And why would Ragu report the same strange phenomenon: a glow? Those factors practically eliminate the jumping Manta ray misidentification as a reasonable conjecture for these two sightings. Ragu and Jonah Jim had surely seen the same flying creature, regardless of how shocking a modern giant Sordes Pilosus may be to Westerners.

Mr. Drinnon is mistaken on two major points: The critical sightings that my associates and I have analyzed could not have been misidentified leaping rays, and modern pterosaurs need not be precisely similar, in all details, to those paleontologists know from fossils.

Pterosaur, not Manta Ray

The Four Key Sightings in the Southwest Pacific

Ropen, not Misidentified Frigate Bird

Misidentified sea birds [Frigate bird] are a far cry from how serious living-pterosaur investigations really began.

Leaping Fish or Pterosaur

No Manta rays would appear to fly through the air together and change directions in the air . . .

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