Modern Pteranodon in a Photo

March 24th, 2017 by Jonathan Whitcomb Leave a reply »

By Jonathan D. Whitcomb, nonfiction-cryptozoology author

I’ve known about this photograph for a long time. This may be what I saw in a book in a public library in Pasadena, California, in the 1960’s, although I can’t be sure of my memory on that. Others have reported seeing this photo at about the same time, perhaps in a Ripley’s “Believe it or Not” book between the 1950’s and the 1970’s. I call this photo “Ptp.”

19th century photo with an apparent Pteranodon

“Ptp” – declared to be a genuine photograph (click to compare it with a hoax photo)

I examined Ptp in 2013, and found that the skeptical comments that had been written about it were unjustified. I wrote about the possibility that this could be a genuine photograph of a modern pterosaur, but was far from certain about its authenticity at that time.

In January of 2017, I took a closer look and found this old photo to be more credible than I had thought. I talked with the missile defense physicist Clifford Paiva, on January 14th, and we agreed that this has a genuine image of a modern pterosaur, although we stopped short of insisting that it must have been a species of Pteranodon.

Why did it take so long?

If this photograph had been around since before 1870, why did it take so long for it to be proclaimed authentic by two scientists? That’s a long story, but it’s answered in the upcoming nonfiction cryptozoology book Modern Pterosaurs (to be published around mid-April of 2017).

Part of the problem has been in recent years, when the Ptp photograph has often been confused with a newer image, a hoax-photo created for a television show.

recent hoax, made in imitation of Ptp

Hoax photo made for a TV show (“Freakylinks”)

That fake photo was made with men dressed like Civil War soldiers (but it was really around the year 2000) and posed in a similar way to the men in the original Ptp photograph.

Some people, including Glen Kuban, became confused, assuming that Ptp was the photo that was created for the TV show. In fact, as recently as March 23, 2017, Kuban’s long online publication “Living Pterodactyls?” still had that photo (and text that included “hoax”) showing Ptp next to a paragraph that included, “a promotional stunt for a Fox television series” (meaning the Freakylinks TV show, apparently). By the way, I have found “Living Pterodactyls,” by Kuban, to be a severely one-sided and non-objective attempt to convince people to disbelieve in extant pterosaurs.


Pre-1870 prop technique used

Branch-prop was used to steady a soldier’s foot during photographic exposure


Evidences of authenticity in Ptp

The following are some of the evidences that Cliff Paiva and I have found in support of the interpretation that the Ptp photograph has a genuine image of a modern pterosaur:

  1. One or two branches were used as props, similar to pre-1870 photographic techniques
  2. The shadow under one shoe corresponds to shadows on the animal
  3. Belt buckle sizes correlate with the distances expected from camera to soldiers
  4. Drag mark shows where the animal was dragged into the clearing
  5. Small sapling tree was broken down to allow for that dragging
  6. Paiva found evidence of blood effusion in at least two areas on the animal
  7. White areas of wings have both biological symmetry and differences


copyright 2017 Jonathan Whitcomb


Genuine Photograph of an Extant Pterosaur

This is a study in cryptozoology, with an apparent “living fossil” that appears to have been a Pterodactyloid pterosaur. Paiva and Whitcomb stopped short of insisting that the animal was a species of Pteranodon, but they have pointed out the obvious similarities in appearance between this image and what is known from Pteranodon fossils.

Living Pterosaurs

Throughout human history, and more recently, come fascinating reports of what may have been living pterosaurs. 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,” commonly called “pterodactyls,” make if obvious that they are non-fictional and non-extinct.

Photograph of a modern pterosaur

What nonfiction book in history has come as such a shock as this? Not only have skeptical dismissals of the Ptp photograph been answered in scientific details but independent evidence is offered to back it up.

Civil War pterosaur photo

The photo shown here, recently given the label of “Ptp,” has been declared to have a genuine image of a modern pterosaur. The proclamation was given by the physicist Clifford Paiva and the cryptozoology author Jonathan Whitcomb on January 14, 2017.


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