Dragon Hoax or not?

 Pterosaurs  Comments Off on Dragon Hoax or not?
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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. . . .

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Child Care

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More on Pterosaur Hoax Possibilities

 Pterosaurs  Comments Off on More on Pterosaur Hoax Possibilities
Mar 032012
 

Although I have not yet personally encountered a living pterosaur (as of March 2, 2012—I still hope), I have on occasion encountered a hoax. For example, I once investigated a teenager who had reported a flying pterodactyl that was carrying a family pet in its mouth, and I found evidence that the teenager was perpetrating a hoax in that report. If hoaxes are possible with reports, why do I publicize so many accounts of living pterosaurs? (For a detailed answer, read my books.) One reason is that a significant portion of the reports I receive show no sign of any hoax, and a portion of those show strong evidence against any hoax. But the accumulation of credible reports reveals the truth: In spite of a few practical jokes (even if more than a few), the overall evidence points to some living pterosaurs.

Practical jokes combined with misidentifications account for most of the non-pterosaur reports of apparent pterosaurs. Dreams combined with insanity account for less, with less than 5% of the reports I have received. But the vast majority of the emails and phone calls that I receive show no sign of any of those four distractions, and that, over the past eight years, has made the case for living pterosaurs, for the probability that all of those many credible reports are non-pterosaurs is so slight that it is not worth considering.

Critics and skeptics, including even a couple of paleontologists, have failed to consider simple probability in evaluating the important reports. (In fact, they also fail to consider those reports themselves, preferring to shoot down old stories that appear to have been jokes.) What is an important report, and how does it relate to simple probability? Forget all obvious hoaxes; darkness by itself never enlightens. Modify the clever proclamation of Sherlock Holmes: “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” In the real world, real detectives rarely have the opportunity to distinguish, with proven certainty, between the impossible and the highly improbable. I say, “When non-pterosaur explanations appear unlikely, consider a living pterosaur.”

When all “four distractions” appear unlikely in a particular sighting, I usually publicize that report, for it was probably an encounter with a modern living pterosaur. But the probability of one or more species of living pterosaurs—that increases with the accumulation of credible reports, according to simple probability. Even the position of vocal critics is worn down by the continuous rain of more-credible reports, like the millionaire who would increase his chances of winning a lottery by purchasing a million tickets; even if the most celebrated sightings are only barely-possible pterosaurs, accumulation increases that possibility: Hodgkinson-1944 plus Carson-1965 plus Hennessy -1971 plus Kuhn-1971 plus Wooten-1989 plus others.

Getting back to the hoax possibility, it is practically eliminated when an eyewitness has endured years of skepticism or even ridicule, with nothing to gain by holding onto a live-pterosaur report. Examples abound: Duane Hodgkinson’s sighting in New Guinea, Eskin Kuhn’s sighting in Cuba, an Australian couple’s sighting in Perth, Susan Wooten’s sighting in South Carolina, and others less publicized. We now need to admit the obvious: When hoaxes, misidentifications, dreams, and insanity have been eliminated, what is left, strange as that may seem to critics, is a living pterosaur.

A Hoax Does Not Explain Pterosaur Sightings

When Hennessy reported his experience, in 2006, he was a professional psychologist. I believe that he still is. But why would he agree to have his real name be used in cryptozoology literature, if he was playing a hoax? It would likely come back to haunt him in his profession.

Glen Kuban and Pterosaur Extinction

“Do nothing to refute mainstream geology” are the words of Glen Kuban. This phrase, however, is a clue that he is actually protecting a philosophy, for science, by its nature, is expected to bring about changes in opinion about what weused to think: changes.

Refutation of the Pterosaur Hoax Idea

Interviewing eyewitnesses of apparent living pterosaurs [for eight years] I know that a hoax (or a number of hoaxes) could not have produced the answers they have given me. While writing my book (“Live Pterosaurs in America . . . ), I saw that the data accumulated from descriptions of apparent pterosaurs in the United States showed characteristics not to be expected from a hoax or hoaxes.

Feb 262010
 
Kuhn's sketch of Cuban pterosaurs

Pterosaurs seen in Cuba

I gave Eskin Kuhn a surprise phone call this morning. His response (what he said and how he said it) confirmed that his account of the 1971 sighting at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was no hoax; I have no doubt that he saw what he said that he saw: two long-tailed pterosaurs flying in daylight.

Rather than repeat the entire “Out of place artifacts” web page (Kuhn told me that he had nothing to add or modify from his previous interview-comments and cryptid-descriptions), consider some excerpts:

“I was [stationed] . . . [to the] 8th Regiment (reinforced), H&S Co., 106mm recoiless rifle platoon . . . I had been in Cuba for perhaps 4 months [1971] . . . [during] a free time period, in the middle of the day . . . I was outside and witnessed the Pterosaurs.

” . . . most of the platoon was in the new barracks . . . I was looking in the direction of the ocean when I saw an incredible sight . . . I saw 2 Pterosaurs (or Pterodactyls…what’s in a name?) flying together at low altitude, perhaps 100 feet . . . I had a perfectly clear view of them. The rythym of their large wings was very graceful, slow ; and yet they were flying and not merely gliding . . . The Pterosaurs I saw had the short hind legs attached to the rearwardmost part of the wing, and they had a long tail trailing behind with a tuft of hair at the end. The head was disproportionately large, with a long crest at the back, long bill, long neck with a crook in it . . . The vertebrae of their backs was noticeable, mostly between the shoulders. I would estimate their wingspan to be roughly 10 feet . . . They came in from the direction of the sea and flew inland.”

The many details that Kuhn gave in his original desciption make it obvious that the creature had no feathers; his sketches also make this obvious. His composure of speech, during his phone conversation with me, was compelling: He is telling the truth.