Validating a Civil War Pterosaur Photograph

By non-extinct-pterosaur expert Jonathan Whitcomb

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Over the past few days (mid-January, 2017), the physicist Clifford Paiva, of Central California, spoke with me twice by phone. He’s looking again at the old photograph that appears to be from around the late-Civil-War period, although I’ve been told it could have been from a little after the end of the war. Paiva has found new evidence that this has an image of a genuine modern pterosaur. The solar shadows tie the soldier’s boot to the animal, and a number of details in the head, neck, and other areas—those correlate well with the anatomy of a Pteranodon.

Before looking at the photo, however, please be aware that some people confuse it with a more recent one, a hoax or television fabrication done for a Haxan production of Freakylinks (on the Fox network from 2000-2001). Both photos show apparent Civil War soldiers standing over a winged animal, giving the impression that the creature was recently shot by them.

The Freakylinks hoax photo has obvious Civil-War reenactors (rather than actual soldiers) and a very poor imitation of a pterosaur. We’ll not examine the hoax photo here. Now take a look at the older one, which I call “Ptp.” Especially notice the animal itself. By contrast, Ptp is much less likely to be a hoax, for a number of reasons.


verified image of a modern pterosaur

Figure-1: “Ptp” photograph examined by Paiva and Whitcomb


How Have Skeptics Responded?

Consider three critical dismissals of the Ptp photo, skeptical comments from three men, each of them known for their expertise in their fields or at least for their stand against the concept that some pterosaurs might still be living. These are major skeptics:

  1. Loren Coleman – “Civil War Dinos”
  2. Glen Kuban – “Living Pterodactyls?”
  3. Dale Drinnon – “On The Matter of Alleged Civil War Pterosaur Photographs . . .”

Let’s look into remarks by these three skeptics.

Loren Coleman

Notice what is found at the bottom of this post by Coleman:

Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist.

According to Wikipedia, he has written “over 40 books on a number of topics, including cryptozoology.” Whatever a person might think about his objectivity, Coleman is one of the most prolific writers on cryptozoology. Here is what he writes about his opinion of the photograph:

Verdict: photoshopping.

Notice the lack of details in those two words—nothing about what, how, when, or why. Notice also the lack of explanation for why so many persons seem to remember seeing this photo many years before Photoshop was created, even decades before Photoshop existed.

Glen Kuban

This man’s web page, “Living Pterodactyls?,” may be the longest single-page criticism of modern-pterosaur ideas ever published online, with about 31 paragraphs, many of which are over 80 words long. This outspoken skeptic obviously has much to say against the living-pterosaur investigations or against research and publications that support non-extinct “pterodactyls.”

Brian Switek, on a post published online for the Smithsonian Magazine, has mentioned this page with “. . . Glen Kuban has also posted a thorough summary . . .” [about one aspect of the living-pterosaur investigations]. I disagree with both Switek and Kuban on many points, but we probably all agree that “Living Pterodactyls?” is a dominant skeptical page against the concept that some pterosaurs are still alive.

Now consider what Kuban has said about the photo on his huge single-page publication:

. . . the photo has since been exposed as a hoax–a promotional stunt for a Fox television series . . .

It appears that Mr. Kuban confused the photo shown on his web site (which I have recently labeled “Ptp”) with the Freakylinks television-show hoax photo. In other words, he shows a small image of the older photo and writes as if that were the hoax-photo stunt. Nobody who looks closely at both photos would make that mistake.

Update (May 1, 2017):

I’ve communicated with Glen Kuban, and he revised his web page “Living Pterosaurs (Pterodactyls)?” with a correction, acknowledging his mistake and showing both the Ptp photograph and the Haxan Films Freakylinks hoax photo.

Unfortunately, Kuban then greatly expanded his already long article, with many points that I see as weak and other points that I see as irrelevant and comments that I see as extremely biased.

Dale Drinnon

According to one prominent web page that covers this photograph:

. . . Dale Drinnon has duly remarked upon, there are multiple red flags in the photograph itself which reveal it to be the almost certain work of photoshop. These indicators include the lack of fingers grasping the rifle held by one alleged solider [sic] {soldier} . . .

I’ve already written about how the three “red flags” mentioned are of almost no relevance to the authenticity of the image of the pterosaur. One point to mention here is the ridiculous nature of the “lack of fingers grasping the rifle.” I see more than one problem with that “red flag.”

For one thing, the ram-rod is also missing: What’s wrong with having that ram-rod turned away from the camera at the same time that the soldier is holding onto that ram-rod? That could account for the missing fingers. The soldier is just holding onto the ram-rod, with both his finger-ends and that ram-rod obscured by the barrel of the gun.

Yet Drinnon appears to have made an even bigger blunder with the missing-fingers “red flag.” Just how would that relate to Photoshop? How else could a Photoshop manipulation accidently make the fingers disappear except this: Paste onto the photo a rifle? Well now, Mr. Drinnon, how do you explain why that soldier is holding his arm to one side, like his fellow soldiers, unless he was actually holding onto a rifle (even if only touching the ram-rod)? And if he was holding a rifle, why would any Photoshop hoaxer want to paste another rifle on top of that perfectly good rifle?

Notice how far afield that “red flag” takes us from the enormously-important image of an apparent Pteranodon. How much better to look more deeply at generations of indoctrinations, in the Western world, regarding supposed universal extinctions of general categories of animal life, namely dinosaurs and pterosaurs! If you cannot do that, however, at least look deeply, at potential hoax evidence, searching deeply enough that you might recognize when your shallow initial conclusion is without foundation.

Does all the Above Vindicate the Ptp Photograph?

I hope that the above observations, which are only a brief response to skeptical comments, may help some persons look at this photo with an open mind. This post is growing too large now, so I’ll just summarize three points in favor of a modern-pterosaur interpretation of the photo.

  1. Magnify the photo: The animal’s eye has a vertical pupil, only noticed when magnified
  2. Paiva found that solar shadows validate this: a real soldier with a boot on a real animal
  3. He also found evidence for blood flow from two areas of the animal’s body

And that’s only the beginning. We’re still making discoveries in this photograph.


Copyright 2017 Jonathan David Whitcomb (“Validating a Civil War Pterosaur Photograph”)



Civil War Pteranodon Photo

The original post was written in April of 2013 and is shown under the four stars below. On January 14, 2017, the physicist Clifford Paiva, of California, and I (Jonathan Whitcomb) jointly agreed that the image of an apparent pterosaur in this photograph is in fact a valid recording of a modern pterosaur.


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If you had asked me about this old photograph, of an apparent pterosaur, 25 years ago, I would have said that it’s probably a hoax. How much I have learned in recent years!


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Part of this post “Pterosaur Deception?” is about 14,333 deer-camera photos obtained by Jonathan Whitcomb in Southern California. Not one of those photos appeared to have any image of a modern pterosaur, according to Whitcomb.


Images on a page published by a physicist — pterosaurs alive

Photo analysis by Clifford Paiva, a missile defense physicist, including Civil War pterosaur


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An authentic photograph of a modern pterosaur

Shocking Discovery: Modern Pterosaurs (nonfiction by Jonathan Whitcomb)

This is an objective evaluation of an old photograph of what appears to be something like a Pteranodon. Careful examinations, by two scientists, have resulted in the surprising discovery that the image is a real animal, not anything created by Photoshop hoaxers.


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