NOTE: There has been renewed interest in Pterosaur research the past few years. I have posted information as it was forwarded to me. An expedition in Papua New Guinea continues to uncover interesting anecdotal evidence. There have been a few recent videos released but these, IMO, are not convincing and depict only common native species. Nonetheless, I feel there is an excellent possibility that pterosaur-like creatures exist somewhere on Earth. I have posted most of the current information below. I realize that there is a lot to read but I felt it was essential to include it all…Lon
helium – Papua New Guinea, Southwest Pacific Ocean—The Ropen (‘demon flyer‘) is a monstrous creature that’s terrified the natives of Papua New Guinea for thousands of years. Another smaller creature, the Duah-possibly related to the Ropen-haunts some of the far flung outlying islands.
Now sensational eyewitness reports—collected by determined exploration teams seeking strong evidence of the creatures—have led serious researchers to the conclusion that two distinct animals exist.
The descriptions of both monsters match that of fabled pterosaurs—ferocious flying dinosaurs thought to be extinct for 65 million years.
Jim Blume and David Woetzel are two daring researchers that have explored the dangerous regions—including the treacherous outlying islands—where the prehistoric monsters are known to hunt their prey.
Not only have these two compiled eyewitness accounts of the creatures from frightened natives, and physical evidence of gigantic nesting sites in some of the mountainous cliff areas, both men have personally witnessed the soaring creatures—and Woetzel even shot some video footage of one.
First brought to the attention of Western missionaries following WWII, the often nocturnal flying creatures are described as having large bat-like wings, an elongated beak filled with razor teeth, sharp, tearing claws and a very long whip-like tail with a split or flange on the end.
Reports from natives and investigators indicate that the creatures glow in the dark and are clearly visible in the night sky. This phenomenon—called the ‘Ropen light’—was observed at length and videotaped by researcher David Woetzel.
It’s hypothesized the bio-luminescent glow assists the creatures’ efforts to hunt and catch fish—their primary diet—in the deep darkness of the tropical night.
The evidence for two types of living pterosaurs
Although the Ropen and Duah have strikingly similar physical characteristics, the giant Ropen inhabits Papua New Guinea while the smaller Duah stays relatively close to the outlying islands.
Other than actual modern-day sightings of the two, a surviving 16th Century maritime chart lends credence to the hypothesis of two distinctly different creatures.
The 1595 chart cautions sailors about ‘sea monsters’ and depicts various coastal regions of Earth where monsters might be found. In the area of Papua New Guinea, two ‘sea monsters’ are illustrated: one is much larger than the other, yet both have almost identical physical traits. Each have long necks, prominent head crests, tails ending with a flipper like appendage and ridges along their backs. They are shown flying above an island.
Despite the general consensus amongst orthodox zoologists that the creatures don’t exist, those that have actually traveled deep into Papua New Guinea’s primitive rain forests and tiny offshore islands are convinced the creatures are living there now—especially since they have seen them firsthand.
Furthermore, strong evidence exists that one type is very big with impressive 20-foot plus wingspans, while the smaller, island dwellers have 4 to 4 1/2-foot wingspans.
Blume and Woetzel are convinced that two different types of pterosaurs exist and the indigenous natives concur. The locals insist the Duahs are not Ropens.
Mounting evidence supports the contention that the large Ropen are living Dimorphodon pterosaurs, with dermal bumps and a head crest; while the numerous sightings of the smaller creatures that inhabit the caves of the islands dotting the Bismarck Archipelago are that of the supposedly extinct Rhamphorhynchus-a pterosaur with a wingspan of about 3 to 4 feet.
Blume’s investigations indicate that wingspans of some of the pterosaurs may reach 10 to15 feet, though several other investigators point out that natives have encountered Ropens with much larger wingspans.
Most intriguing of all, the living pterosaurs may not be exclusive to Papua New Guinea. Similar creatures have been sighted and reported on and off for centuries throughout Central Africa.
The natives in the Congo, Zambia, Angola, Kenya and Zaire call the creatures ‘Kongomato.’ They assert the reddish African version has large, leathery wings, sharp claws, a split tail, and prominent teeth.
While humans smugly believe they are the masters of this planet, the original rulers may still command some of the darker corners of this shrinking world.
NOTE: I received an email from Jonathan Whitcomb at Live Pterosaur: “Last month I interviewed an eyewitness who lives in the Manus Island area of Papua New Guinea. More interesting than his short sighting one night is the account from an older man: The “kor” (a new name to me, probably the same species as the ropen of Umboi Island, or at least similar) creatures attacked some Japanese, during World War II, with a devastating response from those Japanese. I believe this story, for my contact seems to be credible.”
The following is posted at his blog:
Japanese World War II Ship Shelled Pterosaur Caves
February 18th, 2010 at 5:29
Three days ago, I received an email from R.K. (anonymous), of the Manus Island area of Papua New Guinea. (We starting communicating earlier this month.) The nocturnal flying creatures that he described to me–I believe they are ropens–were common and were dangerous to local fishermen previous to the early 1940’s, when their numbers declined. In these northern islands, the creature is called “kor.”
Here is part of R.K.’s account of the Japanese retaliation against the creatures that had attacked them:
”…it was the japs [Japanese miliary] on the island who were attacked by the kor. They [Japanese soldiers] apparently shot several wounding them then followed them to cves [caves] and blew [blew up] the entrances. They called ships fire on the hills and pounded them for several hours.”
R.K. asks an interesting question: “I wonder if there is a record of that somewhere?” Perhaps there is an old Japanese veteran who knows about this or has written about the battle with those creatures. If so, perhaps the word used for those creatures would be “dragons.”
The Kor of Northern Papua New Guinea
R.K., of Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, reports that the glowing nocturnal flying creature of those northern islands is called “kor.” Descriptions strongly suggest that they are at least similar to the ropen of Umboi Island, perhaps the same species: glowing with various colors, a long tail, “skin all over it,” and a few creatures growing to a large size. A few American investigators (some of them exploring in some areas of Papua New Guinea) are convinced that these are living pterosaurs.
According to what R.K. has learned from some older villagers, the kor catch fish “by skimming slowly around on the ocean surface, then as the light under their wings and belly glowed bright and attracted fish, the korr would swoop in . . . ” and “they eat in flight.”
But these are not just old reports. R.K. has reported his own encounter [early 2010 report]: “Two years ago we took a boat out to investigate and could see the lights soaring over us and heard flapping of wings.”
Older web page reports of smaller “ropens” around Manus Island (as if these were a different species because of size) are questionable. One kor was large enough to kill an islander in the 1960’s (according to R.K., this was the last human death from an attack). Perhaps the reports of smaller creatures come from the larger number of younger ones. Larger ones are reported to eat turtles and even young crocodiles. Some animals continue to grow throughout their lives; perhaps the kor, on occasion, also grows to a large size.
Click for video – Three men describe the pterodactyl-like creature of Umboi Island, Papua New Guinea. They saw the giant “ropen” (about 1994) flying over Lake Pung.
World War II Veteran Saw Giant Living “Pterodactyl”
Duane Hodgkinson, now a flight instructor in Livingston, Montana, in 1944 was stationed near Finschhafen, in what was then called New Guinea. After he and his buddy walked into a clearing, they were amazed as a large creature flew up into the air. The men soon realized that it was no bird that started to circle the clearing. It had a tail “at least ten to fifteen feet long,” (book Searching for Ropens, 2007) and a long appendage at the back of its head: apparently, a live pterosaur.
Jonathan Whitcomb, a forensic videographer, interviewed Hodgkinson, in 2004, and found his testimony credible. In 2005, Garth Guessman, another experienced ropen investigator, video-taped his own interview with Hodgkinson and the session was analyzed by Whitcomb, who became even more convinced the World War II veteran was telling the truth: The man had seen a ropen.
In late 2006, Paul Nation, of Texas, explored a remote mountainous area on the mainland of Papua New Guinea. He videotaped two lights that the local natives called “indava.” Nation believed the lights were from the bioluminescence of creatures similar to the ropen of Umboi Island. The video was analyzed by a missile defense physicist who reported that the two lights on the video were not from any fires, meteors, airplanes or camera artifacts. He also reported that the image of the two lights was authentic and was not manipulated or hoaxed.
In 2007, cryptid investigator Joshua Gates went to Papua New Guinea in search of the Ropen for his TV show Destination Truth. He and his team also witnessed strange lights at night and could not confirm what they were.
In 2009, the television show Monster Quest conducted an expedition in search of the “demon flyer” but found no evidence of the creature. Later, they had a forensic video analyst examine the Paul Nation video. The analyst could not definitely conclude what was causing the lights, but ruled out vehicles and campfires believing the footage was of a pair of bioluminescent creatures perched in a tree that later take flight.
As well, here is the YouTube page with the MonsterQuest clips – Flying Monsters
In the second half of 2007, living-pterosaur investigators were active in a new sighting area. The location they kept secret but it’s known to be on the west coast of the United States. Some of the men had been on cryptozoological expeditions in Africa or Papua New Guinea, including Scott Norman.
On one of the first nights of observation, Scott stayed up later than the other researchers. He’d been skeptical after watching an unclear video that others thought might be a pterosaur; he was sure it was just a bird. But in the early morning hours of July 19th, he saw something large fly nearby: no bird.
Silent, with stars for a background, the dark creature flew twenty feet high, over a shed only twenty feet from Scott. Although it was dark, there was no mistaking it: a wingspan of eight to ten feet, a head three to four feet long, and a two-foot-long head-crest that reminded him of a Pteranodon. The wings were more bat-like than bird-like.
How does this sighting relate to the ropen sightings in Papua New Guinea? Investigators were attracted to this area in the Western United States by a familiar eyewitness description: Flashes of light that often look like meteors but occasionally look different. Also, the landowner, who allowed the men to search on his property, had seen a large ropen-like creature in daylight.
It seems that Scott Norman is the first American cryptozoologist to see the clear form of a living pterosaur while looking for one.
A few months after his historic sighting, he fell ill; to the sorrow of many friends, relatives, and cryptozoology associates, Scott left this world for a better, where extinction itself is extinct and where life never ends.
Scott Norman’s passing, on February 29th, just days before he would have turned forty-four, caused a partial disclosure of the secret living-pterosaur searches in the Western U.S.. Investigations continued through 2007 and into 2008, but the landowner insists on location-secrecy. By early 2009, some trespasser had fired a
gun at one of the creatures. The landowner has no desire for any curious crowds, even if they trespassed with no guns.
Many areas of the United States have had their sightings: New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, New York State, Ohio, Wisconsin, and California. Reports continue to come in about pterosaurs.
The cryptozoologist Jonathan Whitcomb continues to interview eyewitnesses of ropen-like creatures seen in the United States. He encourages cryptozoological investigations across the U.S.
Myths and legends about creatures from the Chupacabra to the Jersey Devil to Bigfoot are everywhere, but in southern New Mexico and parts of Texas people say they’ve seen birds so big they seem prehistoric.
One man claims the rugged landscape near Las Cruces hides a mystery that’s haunted him for several years.
Dave Zander has lived near the Doña Ana Mountains for more than 30 years spending almost all his spare time hiking, exploring and fossil hunting in the range between the Robledo and Organ mountains.
He saw something that he’s unable to explain and many people find hard to believe.
He recalls the day eleven years ago when he spotted something extraordinary: two creatures perched on a mountain less than a mile away.
“These creatures were so huge they looked like the size of small planes,” Dave Zander said. “All of the sudden one of them jumped off dropped off the top of the mountain, came down the front of the mountain and all the sudden these huge wings just spread out.
“I would say the wings were at least a 20-foot wingspan.”
Definitely something out of the ordinary.
“Not a normal bird, definitely of a giant variety,” Zander continued. “It makes you feel like it could come over and carry you off if it wanted to.”
Zander witness a real-life scene out of the movie Jurassic Park?
One ancient bird in the vicinity is an Andean condor living at the Rio Grande Zoo in Albuquerque. But it’s wingspan of 12 feet pales to what Zander described: birds with an unprecedented twenty-foot wingspan, with pink bald heads and all-black bodies, and feathers on their enormous wings.
There is nothing on modern record like it.
“In comparison a 20 foot wingspan would truly be a monster and something undocumented by science,” cryptozoologist Ken Gerhard said. “I believe what Dave Zander may have seen are surviving teratorns.”
Gerhard has made a career studying prehistoric birds.
“What’s interesting the reports of these giant raptor-like birds to continue into modern times,” he said. “We seem to have a large concentration of them here in the Southwest particularly in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas as well as New Mexico and parts of Arizona.”
Gerhard documented many of these strange reports from all over the globe in the book “Big birds! Modern sightings of flying monsters.”
The book includes sightings in different clusters over the past 30 years.
In 1972 in Maxwell in northeastern New Mexico, Ronald Monteleone of Trinidad, Colo., reported what he thought was a pterodactyl flying out of an arroyo.
In Lordsburg in the 1800s locals talked constantly about the sightings of pterosaurs.
And a picture circulated the country in 1890 out of Tombstone, Ariz., but it’s never been considered totally legitimate.
Gerhard said his research falls into two different descriptions from witnesses. Some said the birds look like the prehistoric pterodactyl while others, like the creatures described by Zander, resemble the ancient thunderbird from Native American mythology.
You can find thunderbird images atop many totem poles and also carved into the lava rocks of the Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque. Similar images are found in petroglyphs all over North America.
According to legend, the thunderbird is said to have a wingspan the length of two canoes with the ability to deafen people with the sound of its flapping wings.
However a word of caution comes from folks like Ben Radford, managing editor of the Skeptical Inquirer magazine, which applies scientific reason and evidence to extraordinary claims.
“There is a desire to link modern sightings with these Native American stories but the problem is they’re not necessarily the same thing,” Radford said.
Radford said believes the eyewitnesses saw something:
“Ultimately a lot of these sightings, whether it’s these monsters, these creatures, Chupacabras, what have you, these come down to eyewitness testimony,” Radford said. “They’re stories, there’s nothing wrong with stories, but they’re just not good evidence.”
Radford has debunked numerous stories about the Loch Ness monster, crop circles and Bigfoot.
He said he relies on evidence.
“You don’t have bones, teeth,” he continued. “You don’t have any hard evidence, so you look to these stories, you look to these myths.
“We know from many scientific experiments people are notoriously unreliable about estimating things.”
And in this case, Radford said he thinks Zander and the other witnesses in Texas overestimated the birds’ size.
What makes the reports intriguing is that most experts agree scientists have yet to discover every species on the planet and really have no idea what is out there:
“I believe there’s a good chance that a number of large prehistoric animals remain undiscovered by modern science.” Gerhard said.
Radford readily concedes there are species yet to be discovered, but…
“Do I think there are giant animals and birds and creatures out there?” he said. “No.”
For his part, Zander continues to keep his eyes on the skies but hasn’t had a repeat visit from the creatures. The one experience has stayed with him.
Jeffrey Gonzalez of Sanger Paranormal forwarded the following accounts:
I received the following statements from three witnesses:
I have a cousin, who is a teacher, state that he was driving home from Fresno, CA to Sanger, CA on North Ave. when something hit the top of his car. He slowed down then came to a complete stop. He looked in his rear view mirror and noticed this ‘thing’ on the road behind him. The ‘thing’ got up and stood on two legs…then he told me he saw 2 wings. It reminded him of the movie ‘Jeeper Creepers’ He said it scared the $%#& out of him and he drove home at at high rate of speed, not stopping at stop signs. He has no clue on what it was. This occurred in 2008.
Another minor incident took place in 2006. Two neighbors were talking outside one night in the rural country east of Fresno. They heard what sounded like something flying overhead with large wings…a flapping of wings, but they did not see anything.
Again, another report east of Fresno. This happened to a friend of mine when he was in high school around 1955. He was helping his dad in his garage working on a vehicle when his friends showed up in an El Camino. They asked him if he wanted to go to the old bridge and mess around. This was at night but he could not because he had to help his dad. His friends took off and an hour later they came back to his garage screaming with fright…they told his father and him what happened. They were on the bridge messing around when they heard something fly over them. It sounded like it had large wings. This ‘thing’ was swooping down on them and they all freaked out, climbed in the El Camino and as they were driving away, this thing grabbed a hold of the back of the El Camino but was able to out run it. When they got back, my friend and his dad thought they were drinking and smoking some stuff so they decided to check the back of the vehicle. They noticed claw marks on the back. My friend knew these were real because the owner of the El Camino took pride in his car and he would never let anyone scratch his car like that. They never went back to that bridge.
The following is from Eyewitness Accounts: The Pterosaurs of Fresno County, California
One of the strangest newspaper stories from the latter years of the nineteenth century came from California. It began in the summer of 1891. Several persons from Fresno County were reported to have seen a pair of large flying creatures that resembled pterosaurs (being featherless, with reptilian snouts and fifteen foot wingspans).
The details were first published in the Selma, California, Enterprise, to which I don’t currently have access, but it quickly spread to outlying newspapers. So, we can reconstruct the story from articles published by other newspapers.
First, the general details from corresponding newspapers:
“Dragons in California”
“A number of persons living in the vicinity of Reedley, Fresno County, Cal., all reputable citizens, too, according to a Chronicle correspondent, swear that they have seen and hunted two dragons with wings fifteen feet long, bodies without covering of hair or feathers, head broad, bills long and wide, eyes not less than four inches in diameter, and with feet like those of an alligator somewhat, though more circular in form.
They had five toes on each foot, with a strong claw on each, and its track is eleven inches wide and nineteen inches long.
These strange creatures were first seen southeast of Selma, on the night of July 11, and their peculiar cries and the rustling of their mammoth wings were heard as late as 10 o’clock, when all became still. The dragons were last heard that night crying in the direction of King’s river.
“Two nights later, A. X. Simmons’s poultry yard was visited by the monsters, many of the hens being bitten in two and left partly devoured. Those who examined the dead chickens say the teeth marks on them resemble those made by a very large dog.
On July 19 a carriage loaded with picnickers was returning from a picnic on Clark’s bridge, and in the clear moonlight saw the monsters plainly circling in the air and heard the rush of their pinions, snapping of their jaws and fearful cries overhead.
On Monday, July 21, Harvey Lemon and Major Henry Haight, who live just outside of Selma, going after their hogs, who fed on the tules, heard a strangling noise in the deep swale under a bridge, and in a moment, with a heavy flapping of wings, the queer creatures rose slowly from the water, flying so close to the men that the wind from the tremendous wings was plainly felt.
Their description of the monsters tallies with that of the persons who saw them on the 13th and 19th.” [sic] (Frederick, Maryland, News, August 11, 1891.)
A second paper adds the following details to the account: “After they had made several appearances a party was organized to hunt them. One of them was wounded and tracked several miles and his track in the mud secured.” (Salem, Ohio, Daily News, October 24, 1891.)
Next, we have a newspaper writer who has some fun with the story:
“It is the silly season of an off year and the natural consequence is an unusually heavy crop of the summer story. Ever since Judge Widney discovered the remains of a bobtailed sea serpent at Redondo beach, which stimulated the celebrated Calaveras ophidian to swallow a sixteen inch iron drill and secrete himself in a bale of hay, the thing has been going from bad to worse.
On all sides frightful monsters of the sort that figure in the well worn controversy between science and religion are reported red with [ravin] and the blood of innocents. Fresno appears to be more than usually fertile of this sort of contribution to the lore of science.
It was there the famous stone man and later, the stone woman—presumably the man’s wife—were discovered, and it is from there that we hear of the high handed outrages done by a brace of pterodactyls in the swamps near Selma.
We are told that the monsters were seen on a recent moonlight night by a party of young fellas returning from a dance, and as they flew through the air ‘with a fearful rush of pinions’ they uttered ‘weird and discordant cries which were accompanied by snapping of jaws.’
A little later a Fresno county major, engaged in herding hogs in the tule, heard a ‘strange strangling noise under a bridge.’ In a moment there was a heavy flapping of wings and the two monsters rose from the water and flew so near the gallant officer that ‘the wind from their wings was plainly felt.’ He stood it like a major.
“The major describes the dragons as resembling birds without feathers. They have long and wide bills and wings not less than fifteen feet across. Their eyes are fully four inches in diameter, although as to this particular there is a grave suspicion that the major is describing his own fine eyes.
“The scientific investigators of Fresno were not to be daunted by anything that a mere major could tell them and they made up a party to pursue and if possible, bag the monsters. Having arrived at the scene they took the wise precaution to dig holes in the ground in which they hid, no doubt to avoid any appearance of intrusion on the revels of the dragons. What they saw is best described in their own words:
“The ominous yells drew nearer, and in a few moments we heard the rush and roar of wings, so hideous that our hair almost stood on end. The two dragons came swooping down and circled round and round the pond in rapid whirls, screaming hideously all the while.
We had a good view of them while flying. Two or three times they passed within a few yards of us, and their eyes were plainly visible. We could also see that instead of bills like birds, they had snouts resembling that of the alligator, and their teeth could be seen as they snapped their jaws while passing us.
“At length they came down with a fearful plunge into the pond, and the mud and water flew as though a tree had fallen into it. “They dived and floundered around in the water, and as nearly as we could judge at the distance of thirty yards, they were about six feet long, and while wading in the water they looked not unlike gigantic frogs.
Their wings were folded and appeared like large knobs on their backs. Their eyes were the most visible parts, and seemed all the time wide open and staring.
“They were very active, and darted about among the tules and rushes catching mudhens. One of these fowl was devoured at two or three clamps of the jaws.
“This cannot be other than the offspring of the famous cross between the bulldog and the window shutter. But the wise men of Fresno are agreed in believing them to be two of the Mistakes of Moses.
“They fired a shot at the monsters, but did not insist on further hostilities. Professor Snodgrass of Selma, however, with remarkable intrepidity and at some personal risk succeeded in capturing one of their footprints in the mud, which he dug out and brought home to confound the unbeliever. The footprints have five toes and a strong claw on each.
They are eleven inches wide and nineteen inches long. The theory that this was the impression of a Fresno girl’s foot is rejected by Professor Snodgrass, although his reasoning is not at all conclusive on this point. Nevertheless, his explanation of the phenomenon is most interesting to the scientific student. I quote:
“The most probable solution of the matter is that these dragons are solitary specimens of some geological animal supposed to be extinct. It most nearly fits the description of the pterodactyl, a weird nocturnal vampire, half bat, half lizard, that infested the vast swamps of the earth in the carboniferous age.
The pterodactyl is described by geologists as attaining a size often four times as large as the eagle, while the bill became a snout, and its mouth was set with ghastly teeth that devoured birds, reptiles and all small animals that came in its way.
“The professor does not explain whether the footprint was left by the half bat or the half lizard, but it is understood that in Fresno scientific circles the bat comes first and the lizard is seen later. Some of them see jackass rabbits, but it is always the same old prehistoric bat.” (Extract from: Edward F. Cahill. “The Animals. Splayfooted Monsters of Fresno.” Oakland, California, Tribune. August 8, 1891.)
This is followed by general notes or witticisms in various papers:
“The Selma pterodactyls have taken their place alongside of the wild man of Kings river canyon and both should be buried in that icy grave of the mountain suicide, with the Chronicle’s learned editorial on the paleozoic monsters thereon as a winding sheet.” (Fresno, California, Weekly Republican, August 7, 1891.)
“Those Selma Dragons.
“What is said about them at home. “The Selma Enterprise, which first gave currency to the dragon story, now has the following on the subject:
“‘The Enterprise’s article on the pterodactyl monster has been copied far and wide by nearly every newspaper in the country. The writer, quite naturally, has been called a liar, 4,000,000 times the last two weeks, and we are prone to believe that were there are so many of one mind, the majority must rule.
But an explanation is in order. This is how it came about. The writer, a literary man from near Sauders, like all literary men, undertook at a recent picnic to drink up all the refreshments and ice cream on the grounds.
“‘After a lively time on the green he took a refreshing snooze near the labyrinthean precincts of the Rockwell marsh, solitary and alone. Awaking, his normal condition compelled him to imbibe freely of the waters of the stagnant pool, after which he sank into a slumber, interspersed with dreams of fairy land, pterodactyls, hades and damnation.
The next day he recalled with vivid reality his experience in dreamland and readily, with fluent pen, added it to his stock of literary manuscripts. It was sent in with instructions for the Enterprise editor to look over and pronounce upon it.
The foreman took it to be a correspondence from a regular contributor and ordered it printed; hence this apology. But subsequent events prove that in the vast intellectual area of this state and especially this county, there are more downright liars than you can shake a stick at.
“‘Nearly every paper which printed a rehash of the monster business added a few flourishes of its own until now we have a whole drove of pterodactyls who threaten to depopulate the country. A Fresno liar sent a column and a half to the San Francisco Chronicle, which is a rank steal from the literary man over near Sanders on his pterodactyl.
Another Selma fabricator was solicited to send a thousand words on the monster, but his courage failed him and the Examiner got left, while the yell of the newsboys, “All about the Great Monster,” was profitable music to the ears of the Chronicle publishers.
[Hereon] when our contributors volunteer contributions about monsters, serpents and reptiles we want them to distinctly understand that no ordinary pterodactyl yarn goes. We want a real genuine flock of icthyosaurous or nothing.'” (Fresno, California, Daily Morning Republican, August 11, 1891.)
“Our scientific contemporary speaks of ‘the overlapping of geological epicycles.’ This lapping is supposed to have produced the pterodactyls of Selma. That’s pretty good, but Harry Watson will be amused.” (Fresno, California, Weekly Republican, August 14, 1891.)
“The Tulare County Times thus quietly pokes fun of the Chronicle and its story of the Selma dragons: ‘The dragons found near Selma, Fresno county, of which much has been written within the last week or two, are not dragons at all, but simply two Australian birds known in their native country as Boa.
They are a very destructive species and have not been hibernating in the “vast tule swamps of Tulare county,” as the San Francisco Chronicle puts it, for the reason that there are no such swamps in this county.
The birds were imported to this country by the Kaweah colonists, at great expense, and were expected to work their destructive arts on the government horses and mules in the Sequoia national park, but having been ordered “off the grass” in that section by a United States [herd] agent, wandered into Fresno county in search of something green.
As they are working toward San Francisco, the Chronicle editor will do well to keep indoors.'” (also, Fresno, California, Weekly Republican, August 14, 1891.) “What has become of the pterodactyls?” (Fresno, California, Weekly Republican, August 28, 1891.) Like so many reports of mystery animals, there were no additional sightings and interest died down. For the next few years, though, the pterosaur story became part of a running gag among regional newspapers.
“A San Bernardino man with the d.t.’s has seen a monster twenty times as large as J. B. Daniels’ pterodactyl.” (Fresno, California, Bee, June 5, 1892.)
In speaking of a yarn involving a November field of wheat and poppies, one paper declares, “This takes the stocking off old man Maxwell and his pterodactyl story.” (Fresno, California, Bee, December 4, 1892.)
Then, a pseudonymous writer (Consomme), describes in a letter to the editor some of the strange fauna of Fresno county, including: “First—the pterodactyl, of Fresno dragon (latin, dragonis alligatis wingis), found only in the neighborhood of Selma, is a reprehensible, hirsute winged alligator. In size about equal to the common 2-year-old Durham heifer.
Is carnivorous and lives mostly on mud hens and the spawn of the house cat. It has an elongated body covered with fur like the sealskin of commerce. A tail similar to the musk-ox. Its most curious feature is a pair of bat-like wings growing out of the middle of its back and from twenty to thirty feet in length.
“The animal’s head is almost exactly like that of the alligator. Its mouth is armed with eight rows of teeth about three inches in length. It is supposed to be the descendent of the ancient pterodactyl, crossed with the gnu or horned horse, known to have once been common in these parts. It can be tamed and is very useful, when chloroformed and its wings clipped, as its fur is as fine as the fur-bearing seal, while its pedal extremities (it has legs like those of the wolf) are a great delicacy, highly prized by the natives of Selma.” (Extract from Fresno, California, Weekly Republican, December 23, 1892.)
“Editor Dewey of the Sanger Herald, was in Fresno yesterday. He says the quality of Sanger’s whisky has improved and no more pterodactyls are seen there now.” (Fresno, California, Bee, October 3, 1893.)
“A committee of the board of supervisors, accompanied by County Surveyor Hoxie and N. L. F. Bachman of The Republican, left Fresno yesterday morning on route to the Sequoia mills, where they will view the new mountain road completed there, with the object of determining whether it has been constructed according to contract. … Bachman is on a tour of adventure, and is expected to slaughter a grizzly or capture a pterodactyl alive ere he returns.” (Fresno, California, Weekly Republican, November 17, 1893.)
“C. J. Walker is here from the town of the pterodactyls.” (Fresno, California, Weekly Republican, October 5, 1894.) “This is a great county for productiveness. It produces raisins, grain and pterodactyls for the rest of the world. …” (Fresno, California, Bee, November 20, 1894.)
At present, the story shows certain hallmarks of classic newspaper fiction, but whether this is due to embellishments as the story passed from paper to paper is uncertain. Without seeing the original story, I can’t rule out the possibility that the initial sighting was based on misidentification of a known bird species (e.g., sandhill crane).
The description sounds too much like an early paleontologist’s imaginative recreation to be given serious consideration as a “living pterosaur.” It was easy enough for an enterprising writer to make up a story with details like five-toed feet and large eyes from Cuvier’s work or other commonly published material. (And, often, that’s what they did, even with non-fiction “scientific” essays.)
It would be interesting to track down the original Enterprise story; it should answer a few questions. The trouble with newspaper research is access—and this one is not yet online. (If anyone lives near Selma, California, the public library there should have it on microfilm. I’d appreciate a copy.)
One name in the above notes is of particular interest, though there is little to go on for definitive conclusions. J. B. Daniels was a local real estate agent who earned the nickname “Pterodactyl” Daniels. At this point, I don’t know whether he was responsible for the original story (as witness or writer), or just began telling tall tales related to the pterodactyl story. (I suspect he was the pseudonymous Consomme.)
Whatever the connection, within a few years of this event, Daniels ran afoul of the law with some real estate dealings and disappeared, just like the pterodactyls of Fresno County, California.