Dec 162011

For those who have witnessed something like a living pterosaur, the various names for those strange flying creatures are numerous: demon flyer, ropen, dragon, pterodactyl, dinosaur bird, etc.

Demon Flyer

Setting aside the legends and traditional beliefs about the ropen, some native eyewitnesses have seen it up close, too close for comfort. But the point is this: “Demon flyer” is not the literal interpretation. This phrase probably came about from one or more Westerners who were too-deeply impressed with the negative aspects of the legends and the spiritual connotation.

Kongamato and Ropen

Apparent pterosaurs have various names in various countries of the world; in the United States, we sometimes hear “pterodactyl” and “dinosaur bird.” Regardless of the label an eyewitness attaches to a flying creature, let’s examine some of those encounters, worldwide, especially the kongamato and the ropen.

Old Dragons in Great Britain

“The woods around Penllyne Castle, Glamorgan, had . . . . winged serpents . . . An aged inhabitant of Penllyne, who died a few years ago . . . said it was ‘no old story,’ invented to ‘frighten children,’ but a real fact. His father and uncles had killed some of them, for they were ‘as bad as foxes for poultry.’ This old man attributed the extinction of winged serpents to the fact that they were ‘terrors in the farmyards and coverts.’”


Are some pterodactyls still living? That idea is controversial, to be sure, for where is the photograph to prove such a bold idea? But wait a moment. What does photography have to do with it? Where is photographic evidence that every kind of pterodactyl became extinct millions of years ago?

Dinosaur Bird

The pterosaur is known by several names in the United States: “dinosaur bird,” “flying dinosaur,” and perhaps the most popular “pterodactyl.” In Papua New Guinea, it is known by many names: “ropen,” “duwas,” “indava,” and “kor.” But what shocks many Americans and Europeans are eyewitness reports that these supposedly “ancient” and “extinct” flying creatures are alive and well and even flying over our heads on rare occasions.

Ropen, Not Misidentified Frigate Bird

 North America, Pterosaurs, Southwest Pacific  Comments Off on Ropen, Not Misidentified Frigate Bird
Mar 182011

A hastily written article by a Terrence Aym, for the Salem-News (Pacific Northwest region), has given critics bird shot to shoot at the idea that the ropen is a pterosaur. Aym assumed the Youtube video showed just what it purported to show: a ropen; it was actually a misidentified Frigate bird. But that video is old news to living-pterosaur investigators, and misidentified sea birds are a far cry from how serious living-pterosaur investigations really began.

Duane Hodgkinson Pterodactyl Sighting

The World War II veteran Duane Hodgkinson has many web pages and blog posts written about his “pterodactyl” sighting on the mainland of New Guinea (now in the nation of Papua New Guinea) in 1944. He is also mentioned in at least one scientific paper in a peer-reviewed journal of science. The Youtube video “Ropen-Pterodactyl American Eyewitness” (the veteran was interviewed by a cryptozoologist) has over a quarter of a million views. Hodgkinson’s story has fascinated many who have come to believe in his encounter with a “pterodactyl.”

How astonished were the two American soldiers when the giant featherless creature flew up into the air! Its wingspan was close to thirty feet; its tail, close to fifteen feet long. Its head had a long pointed head crest. Everything about the giant flying creature shouted, “non-bird and non-bat.” A Frigate bird it was not.

Where did that idea come from, that idea that apparent pterosaurs are nothing but misidentified Frigate birds? It came not from examining the sighting report of Duane Hodgkinson.

Frigate Birds and Misidentification

This post gives information on how the Hodgkinson sighting of 1944 has nothing to do with the Frigate bird. No bird was misidentified for a “pterodactyl.” It also mentions the 1971 live pterosaur sighting by Eskin Kuhn.

How are some critical sightings evidence of a live pterosaur, rather than a misidentified bird? Consider the 1971 Cuba sighting by Eskin Kuhn. Look at his sketch of the pterosaur with wings down, about to begin an upbeat-cycle of wing-flapping. Notice the legs, separate from the long tail. Also notice the large head crest at the back of the creature’s head. How obvious that this is not a sketch of a Frigate bird!

Nocturnal Flying Predators in Texas

 North America, Pterosaurs  Comments Off on Nocturnal Flying Predators in Texas
Dec 132010

Regardless of what some critics say about the concept of modern living pterosaurs, the hypothesis of Marfa Lights being from those cryptids is not soon flying away. Of course, not all nocturnal predators flying overhead need be living pterosaurs. Owls appear to be much more common, although acceptance of the hypothesis of barn owl bioluminescence is hardly common among biologists  (it is explained in the book by Fred Silcock: The Min Min Light). The strange flying predators thought to cause Marfa Lights—those creatures act more intelligently, at least sometimes, than barn owls, and that supports the more-revolutionary hypothesis of nocturnal bioluminescent pterosaurs.

The point about owls is that they are dull-minded, at least they seem to be specialized for individual hunting techniques rather than complex group behavior. Two barn owls often hunt together, of course; but do the two hunt in a truly coordinated manner, like whales that encircle schools of fish with bubbles? I doubt it. But the intelligence of ropen-like flying predators—that is a possibility, more likely even than highly intelligent barn owls.

Of course, the strange flying lights could be from multiple sources: owls and ropens. But the problem with that idea is simple: If large ropens fly over Texas at night, glowing barn owls might not live long glowing.

May 202010

Pastor Jacob KepasJacob Kepas the Baptist minister, native to Papua New Guinea (raised in the eastern part of the mainland), has assisted a number of Americans, for many years, in searching for the ropen. Few persons have contributed more to cryptozoological expeditions searching for living pterosaurs. Here is what is written about him on one blog, “The Bible and Modern Pterosaurs“:

. . . Kepas and his guide described how they had observed the sleeping winged creature. They had tried to videotape it from the hill they had climbed, but the resulting footage was poor . . . But even with binoculars, Kepas had been uncertain that it was the creature that they sought until his guide climbed up higher for a better view, confirming that it was an indava. . . . Regarding the objectiveness of Kepas, in his 2006 sighting of what was identified as an indava, consider this: Kepas himself voiced his uncertainty that what he was observing was the creature that they had sought; the distance and viewing angle made identification difficult. After the other man had climbed higher, obtaining a better viewing angle, it was confirmed to be an indava. This confirms that Kepas is capable of objectiveness in his observations, for he did not force a conclusion when the conditions were inadequate for certainty.

As I recall, this photo of Pastor Kepas was for requesting financial assistance for one or more of the churches in Papua New Guinea (a roof for a church and new hymn books, or something like that), so, for those to whom it may apply, your assistance would be very much appreciated. The contact person in Papua New Guinea would probably be the American missionary James Blume. Thank you.

Mar 112010

I’ve never been to Marfa, Texas, where dancing ghost lights have intrigued residents and visitors on countless nights for countless years; what causes the strange lights has defied logical explanation. But I have spoken with an eyewitnesses, Ed Hendricks, who for years has carefully investigated the lights. I appreciate his intense struggle to unravel a mystery that seems to defy unraveling; I respect his skill, talent, and educational qualifications; I acknowledge his careful observations, recorded in detail and shared. Nevertheless, I suggest something rarely, if ever, mentioned to explain Marfa Lights, perhaps as shocking as ball lightning or as eerie as dancing demons: a species of large flying creatures, intrinsically bioluminescent.

The puzzle cries for a solution; Mr. Hendricks and I agree. I respectfully disagree with his general assumption (something like an atmostpheric phenomenon, non-living). I credit him for his work, but credit the Marfa Lights to the flights of cryptids, notwithstanding they differ from flights of birds and bats. Why do they seem, at times, to dance? Why do two lights fly apart, then turn and fly back together? The dance sometimes appears complex but the purpose is simple. It’s just their technique: a way to catch bats.

Whatever the bioluminescent creatures are that make those lights, they may be the only ones who have worked harder in this area than Mr. Hendricks, with one possible exception. And just as this human researcher spends much time (pondering and writing) away from those fields just south of Marfa, the cryptid spends much time (searching for bats) away from those fields. Hendricks and others have tried to find what causes those lights, but bats flying just south of Marfa (and elsewhere) may try even harder to not be found by those lights.

But how could a flying creature glow, and so brightly? Even though the lights are sometimes described with the word “fireflies,” those who have observed the dancing of Marfa Lights (true Marfa Lights, not car headlights; cars never dance) sense a power, a size, a speed that dwarfs any insect. To catch just a tail feather of an answer to that question, let’s leave Texas and fly, first to Australia and then to Tennessee.

Come with me to Victoria, Australia, along Salisbury Road in Mt. Macedon. Notice, as we enter an open window, that Mr. Fred Silcock is sleeping in the easy chair by the fireplace. Now search for a thin brown book on the bookshelf. That’s the one; the spine says “The Min Min Light  F.F. Silcock”. Notice the drawing of a glowing barn owl on the cover.

Turn to page 12, under the heading “Min Min Intelligence,” and read the words of two observers of strange flying lights: “It definitely knows you’re there. I found it would not let us any closer than it wanted us . . . They are very playful, like a bunch of puppies chasing one another all over the place, going out and hopping up in another place. They can move pretty fast but most times move slowly, hovering and floating.”

Turn to page 45, under the heading “The Common Denominator,” and read the first paragraph. A Silcock Min Min (my own label, and not to be confused with other light-phenomena labeled “Min Min” in Australia) flies with ease, sometimes against the wind. It appears to fly with intelligence, sometimes interacting with one or more other Min Mins, and this interaction can appear playful. This paragraph makes it clear that these mysterious lights in Australia behave like birds. But what birds fly around at night, glowing?

Reading further we learn that there is nothing unscientific about the possibility of a self-luminous bird, although it’s a study not yet undertaken by universities, examining live or dead birds to test the Silcock hypothesis. But the book quotes many eyewitnesses who report finding the source for the Min Min glow: the “great owl” (called “barn owl” in the United States). It is Tyto Alba, found in many countries worldwide.

The book mentions an observation by William Wharton, of Queensland. One night he saw a bright light on the diving board of his swimming pool. As insects flew around the light, it began to fade until Wharton could see a glowing bird that was picking at insects that had landed on the board. The book mentions many eyewitness reports that make it obvious that some barn owls, sometimes, emit a glow, and that glow can help them catch insects. Of course that would explain why the underside feathers of barn owls are white: to allow light to pass through. Of course that would explain the bobbing, weaving motion of Min Mins; that is how barn owls fly at night while hunting. Mr. Silcock makes many points for a bioluminescent Tyto Alba.

Now let’s fly back to the United States, to Chapel Hill, Tennessee. Notice the railroad tracks, barely visible in the moonlight. Look down those tracks. A faint glow appears bobbing just to the left of the tracks; now it bobs over to the right. It looks like someone is approaching with a lantern, searching back and forth, but searching for what? Could this light be the lantern held by the man who was hit by a train long ago? According to the story, he was decapitated and his ghost still searches for the head.

But the ghost story of a headless man searching for his head sounds like the story of the Bingham Lights of South Carolina and the Maco Lights of North Carolina and the Gurdon Light of Arkansas and . . . well, headless ghosts searching endlessly for their heads, especially down railroad lines—those stories seem endless. But with a little knowledge of the bobbing, weaving Min Min of Australia, only a little brain power can enlighten us: Australians describe the same thing.

Why would a glowing barn owl fly down railroad tracks at night? If it hungered only for insects, it would sit and gobble them up. For a nocturnal rodent, how far is it exposed while crossing railroad tracks? Too far to be comfortable in daylight. But in the dark of night, why worry? Take your time. A midnight snack, for a rat, can be easy to find; humans throw trash near the tracks. Dine where you find it . . . until . . . oops.

Can a nocturnal rat out-think a human? To us, it seems stupid to sit on railroad tracks, eating garbage while a light approaches. But then no rat ever born has screamed and run away from a headless ghost. No, moving lights (in a world with so many humans) should not appear dangerous to a rat, for glowing barn owls appear to be rare, or they rarely glow. And it takes no genius of an owl, glowing or not, to fly down railroad tracks at night. I think that at least a few bioluminescent barn owls live in the United States (glowing for whatever reasons), and they account for many ghost lights. But what about the Marfa Lights?

The dance patterns of Marfa Lights resemble no flock of hunting barn owls. No, our old friend Tyto Alba cannot compete here and it dare not try. But it has illuminated part of the answer to the puzzle. The predators of Southern Texas show greater intelligence than most birds and some of them may be larger than any owl. This cryptid may be related to the ropen of Papua New Guinea (another nocturnal glowing flyer). If so, it will make a story more extraordinary than any headless ghost. Eyewitnesses describe the ropen like a giant long-tailed pterosaur.

Fight with a kor in northern Papua New Guinea

 Pterosaurs, Southwest Pacific  Comments Off on Fight with a kor in northern Papua New Guinea
Feb 192010

R.K. (anonymous, at least for now) recently reported to me several things about the creature they call kor:

“I was born and brought up in Manus Island . . . there are lights swooping over fish shoals between rambutyo and lou baluan islands. Two years ago [on a boating trip] we . . . could see the lights soaring over us and heard flapping of wings . . . they did dive into the sea and then erupt out of it . . .” [too dark to see much]

R.K. also told me about a fisherman who died after fighting off (and killing) one of the creatures; it seems that local natives believe the kor attacked the fisherman to eat him (larger kor are said to catch and eat young crocodiles and turtles). Consider this excerpt of R.K.’s English-language version of the fight.

“. . . from the grandson . . . of the man who killed the creature [and later died himself] . . . [in the early 1960’s was] the last [human] death reported by this creature . . . the animal destroyed his canoe and [the fisherman] fought it with a traditional fishing spear. . . . The animals tail and jaws took a heavy toll as it followed him to shore where a sea cave runs into a crevice . . . Badly wounded . . . [the fisherman] wedged the spear into a crevice and took the animal through the mouth with the spear [killing it] . . . [The fisherman] crawled out [and] was found by villagers . . . He died three days later.”

Umboi Island (about 200 miles to the south of these islands), where I interviewed many natives in 2004, has a very similar creature that they call “ropen.” With one exception, no human death on Umboi has been attributed to the ropen, with one exception (there was no eyewitness of any attack, and there was no human body ever found; a “crazy” woman went into the bush looking for the ropen and never returning).