A Wonderful Discovery: a Modern Pterosaur in a Photo

By the modern pterosaur expert Jonathan Whitcomb

Before last Friday, June 2, 2017, my associate Cliff Paiva and I had no doubt that the animal shown in the Ptp photograph was a modern pterosaur that was living in the 19th century. We had been examining it for months, searching for the truth about this photo that has six apparent soldiers of the American Civil War. The critical point, of course, is that animal, a winged creature that most Americans would call a “pterodactyl.”

Paiva and I had no doubt, before last Friday, that the photograph was old, much older than the earliest version of Photoshop. Yet before the beginning of 2017, before Cliff and I began our joint investigation of Ptp, the typical skeptic would say, in response to this photo, something like, “It’s a Photoshop hoax.” One skeptic said that it was a very good Photoshop job, but that it was a hoax. Cliff and I found significant evidence, however, that it is not only much older than that digital image manipulation software but that it has evidence that the soldiers were actually standing in the way that they appear to be standing and that the animal was a real animal.

A real animal in a 19th century photograph

Photograph of an apparent Pteranodon with what looks like Union Civil War soldiers


Discovery of an early publication of the pterosaur photo

On June 2nd, I found an old publisher of Ptp: Underwood & Underwood. They were best known for stereoviews, double-images that were used in devices that allowed people to see photographs in a 3-Dimensional way.

Paiva and I knew from our direct examinations of Ptp that it was very likely recorded before 1870, but the discovery that it was published by Underwood & Underwood was a major breakthrough.

validation for months of work on an old pterodactyl photograph

Underwood & Underwood published this photograph many decades ago

Real men standing in a clearing in North America

Paiva and I take no stand regarding the rumor that the photo was taken in July of 1864 near Vicksburg, Mississippi. We suspect that it could have been taken a little after the American Civil War was over, based upon what we see in the image. But we do stand by our statement that those are actual men, standing in the way that they appear to stand.

I magnified the images of some of the belt buckles and some of the buttons and found that the soldier appearing to stand in front of the animal was indeed closer to the camera than the other men were to the camera, based upon the pixel widths of those articles of clothing. That is exactly what we should see if this is an authentic photograph. On the other hand, if the images of those soldiers were pasted onto a background image, it would be extremely unlikely for those apparent distances to match up so precisely.

Support for eyewitness testimonies in North America

I have interviewed many eyewitnesses, over the past 14 years, many of them having had their encounters in the United States of America. I have kept an open mind about each individual sighting, feeling no need to come to any firm conclusion about a particular report: whether it is 100% sure to have been from an encounter with a modern pterosaur or 100% sure to have been from something else. I have become convinced, however, that the overall sightings from around the world add up to this: Not all species of pterosaurs have become extinct.

For many years, critics of living-pterosaur investigations have ridiculed me and my associates with a question like, “Where is a photo of a modern pterosaur?” We now have that photograph, and scientists can examine it as much as they like. As far as I know, only two scientists have deeply analyzed the Ptp photograph, as of June 5, 2017: me and Clifford Paiva. If you do choose to examine it in detail and with an open mind, prepare for a shock.

Nonfiction book on this old photograph

I published Modern Pterosaurs on April 2, 2017. Please purchase your own copy of this book that explains a bit about the history of the Ptp photograph and why Cliff Paiva and I believe that it has an image of a real modern pterosaur.


Copyright 2017 Jonathan David Whitcomb (“A Wonderful Discovery: a Modern Pterosaur in a Photo”


Modern Pterosaur Discovery in a Photograph

Last week, I found an early source for the photograph we now call “Ptp.” It was published by Underwood & Underwood, a company that sold many thousands of photographs from 1881 through about 1920. [In some years, 10 million images were distributed.]


A modern pterosaur in North America

I’m not a professor of paleontology. To be brief, I was a forensic videographer in 2003, when I began investigating these eyewitness accounts of “prehistoric” flying creatures or “dragons.” I recognized, while viewing some amateur video footage, the credibility of natives who were interviewed on a tropical island in the southwest Pacific. Since 2003, I have spent well over 10,000 hours researching, interviewing, exploring, and writing—all within this narrow field of cryptozoology.


Photo of a modern pterodactyl

In recent weeks, we have found other evidence that supports the theory that this photograph is what it appears to be, that six men were standing, in the 19th century, next to the body of the recently-deceased animal that is shown. I have pointed out the apparent drag-mark on the ground, showing the direction from which the body was dragged; Paiva then pointed out the very small tree that appears to have been broken down to allow the animal to be dragged to the place where it was photographed.


Civil War Pterosaur Photo

I wondered if American Civil War soldiers had cut a canoe in half to make a fake winged monster. Yet a creepy sensation never completely left me: It was the memory of that head. . . . He suggested I write a small book on the photo, and on April 2, 2017, I self-published Modern Pterosaurs. (By that time, the “Civil War monster photo” had come to be known simply as Ptp.)


Civil War soldiers and a pterodactyl

News Release

Controversial scientific finding:
“Research on a 19th Century Photograph of an Apparent Pterosaur”



nonfiction book about a photo of a 19th century pterosaur

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