Creationist Promotes Prop from Old TV Show as Proof of Pterosaurs in the Old West
Some of you might have seen that Graham Hancock posted on his social media accounts yesterday that he is currently writing his new book on prehistoric America and is deep into creating alternative explanations for the alignments of the Newark Earthworks in Ohio. This amused me because I am also writing about the Newark Earthworks for my own book this week, though in a very different way. Hancock is analyzing the mounds themselves for secret alignments and their connections to astrology and Atlantis, while I have been investigating the people who invented these claims, many of whom never actually studied the mounds in person or conducted any scientific surveys. Hancock is particularly interested in the Great Serpent Mound, which has quite the colorful history of attracting misinformed views, including the bizarre claim that it is a duplicate of a mound at Loch Nell in Scotland, which is actually a glacial deposit and not a serpent-shaped mound. That claim had a good run of 140 years, and none of the early advocates of the claim, including famed archaeologist Frederick Ward Putnam, had actually visited both sites.
I must admit, though, that I am somewhat jealous of Hancock’s claim that he has sixteen hours per day to devote to his writing. I wish I had that kind of time. I am lucky if I can pull off three. Hancock says that in sixteen hours each day he produces between 500 and 3,000 words. I average about 2,000 words in three hours. Imagine how fast I’d crank out books if I had a full sixteen hours every day to write.
Today I thought I would share with you an unusual blog I stumbled across this week. It’s a little outside my usual area, but it’s a slow week, so whatever. The creationist and cryptozoologist Jonathan Whitcomb hosts a blog called Living Pterosaur in which he advocates for the existence of pterosaurs in the modern world. It’s so laughable that I can’t help but be amused. There is, of course, a dark side to what might seem like a goofy lark. Whitcomb wants to find pterosaurs in order to disprove evolutionary theory, as indicated by the title of his book on the subject of alleged pterosaurs on New Guinea, known as ropens: Searching for Ropens and Finding God.
Whitcomb is perhaps best known for his advocacy of a hoax photograph showing nineteenth century U.S. soldiers standing over a dead pterosaur. The photo is prima face fake—the soldiers are too much in focus while the monster is too fuzzy. They stand like modern men, rather than Victorians, and are too sharp against the background. As Skeptoid discovered earlier this year, the photograph is actually a modern prop created for the Fox TV show FreakyLinks back in 2000. Two versions of the photo exist, with different actors, because the show’s producers forgot to get release forms for the first set and had to restage the photo for broadcast. Nevertheless, Whitcomb has convinced himself that the photograph is genuine and reflects an incident that occurred around 1870.
That brings back memories! I was only 19 when FreaklyLinks aired its one and only season, and I can recall watching it at college. The show, a Web 1.0 riff on the X-Files, failed, and Fox took it off the air for five months before burning off the remaining episodes in the summer. Since this was in the time before DVRs, I remember watching the last couple of episodes on the small, fuzzy TV in my parents’ kitchen because the rest of my family hated the show. While I seem to have some positive memories of it, I can’t say I actually recall anything specific about it, other than the general premise. Frankly, that’s a little strange, since I have much clearer memories of the very similar, but more comedic, one-season series The Chronicle, which aired on the Sci-Fi Channel (now Syfy) only a few days after FreakyLinks ended. Maybe it’s because I watched The Chronicle on a bigger TV. I seem to recall my family really enjoying that one.
But lest you think that Whitcomb’s blog is just funny, a post from March descended into the disturbing. Whitcomb has convinced himself that pterosaurs are stealing people’s pets, and he wants bereaved pet owners to contact him in order to share claims that their dogs or cats had been killed by giant flying reptiles.
Earlier this month, a man from Canada told me of his hypothesis about cattle mutilations in certain states of the USA, including Colorado and New Mexico: Modern pterosaurs may be responsible. It reminded me that I’ve recently thought about researching the possibility that some Americans may have lost pets to attacks from living pterosaurs, whether the flying creatures were ropens or some other species of “pterodactyl.” […] I’m hoping that people will tell me about whatever tragic losses they may know of that could be related. It’s not that I hope for tragedies, but who else can anyone report that kind of loss to?
I’m not a huge fan of stories about people losing their pets, and exploiting that loss for some batshit crazy effort to use flying reptiles from the Mesozoic to disprove evolution just seems cruel.
5/10/2018 09:38:33 am
Jason, you write this: "I have been investigating the people who invented these claims, many of whom never actually studied the mounds in person or conducted any scientific surveys." Which made me wonder: Have you visited the mounds yourself? Or the many other sites you opine about?
5/10/2018 10:02:38 am
Aren't you the guy who studies Atlantis ?
5/10/2018 01:46:09 pm
No, he's Wolter's lawyer buddy who falls for fringe claims. His question misses the mark however. Jason was referring to people who invented the false claims and their lack of diligence in doing so. The burden of proof is still upon them, not Jason for pointing this out.
5/10/2018 02:16:16 pm
I think he's both;
5/10/2018 04:15:44 pm
Kinda like saying "Aren't you the guy who studies the Shire?"
An Anonymous Nerd
5/10/2018 10:06:27 pm
Joe Scales put it very well.
5/10/2018 02:04:29 pm
The comment I made, David, refers specifically to people who claimed that the mounds were Danish burials, Scottish serpent temples, Jewish war graves, or the work of a lost white race. T. H. Lewis, writing in 1886, was shocked to discover that even professional archaeologists in his day were pontificating about the meaning of mounds that didn't exist because they slavishly copied from earlier writers, which included frauds, and worked fake mounds and wrong maps into elaborate systems of explanation. If you are going to make a claim, you need evidence to support it. Lewis was the first to realize that you actually had to go out and check whether the reported facts are correct before spinning fanciful hypotheses.
5/10/2018 03:31:28 pm
Jason’s reply is filled with panjandrum boasts. He’s the Sarah Palin of fake skeptics: “I saw a fake mound once. I’m an expert.”
5/10/2018 03:50:57 pm
Not really making your case Hal.
5/10/2018 03:52:02 pm
Yes, Hal, that's exactly why I said "I am not making any claim about the mounds."
5/10/2018 07:14:38 pm
So you aren’t going to claim who built the mounds.
5/10/2018 09:06:58 pm
Hal, are you thick or slow or challenged? What is your major malfunction?
An Anoymous Nerd
5/10/2018 10:08:45 pm
In case anyone is toying with taking Hal seriously, I point out that there's really no way to get to his thoughts on these issues from anything that anyone actually wrote. To call his posts nonsequtors is being a little too kind.
5/10/2018 09:39:54 am
The pterodactyls ate my homework.
5/10/2018 11:30:47 am
My dog ate my homework, but a pterodactyl came along and ate the dog. My father shot the pterodactyl and we ate it for Thanksgiving dinner. So, if effect, I ate my dog.
5/10/2018 11:41:58 pm
I think you also ate your homework.
5/10/2018 11:33:33 am
I remember reading something about a live pterodactyl found entombed in rock in a mine. According to the story when released it flew off and expired. This event apparantly occured in the 19th century. I was in my early teens at the time and it was in one of those real mystery books.
5/10/2018 12:30:24 pm
"These sound to me like fictional stories"
5/10/2018 03:02:54 pm
5/10/2018 03:09:39 pm
Nope, that one in the museum was found on Oak Island next to a bent sword.
5/10/2018 05:32:39 pm
There won't be sand trout for thousands or tens of thousands of years.
5/11/2018 03:46:45 am
"tens of thousands of years"? I detect at least one logic failure here ...
5/11/2018 11:20:22 am
Challenge accepted Triple D. Point it out.
5/11/2018 05:53:53 pm
Make sure to bring your thumper.
5/12/2018 04:20:10 am
Leaving aside the detail that the Santa Cruz Sand Trout has repeatedly been reported to have existed here on Earth in the very recent past, the unrelated sand trout of Arrakis is part of the life-cycle of a species which has been there long enough to capture most of the planet's water, permitting the sandworm stage to thrive and grow to enormous size. Given that the age of large individual worms has been estimated in the thousands of years, and that even larger ones are believed to live in some remote areas, we're talking of pretty long time-periods here, suggesting that the sandtrout were introduced to Arrakis by an advanced forerunner species rather than by humans.
5/12/2018 02:00:44 pm
Wow. That one goes straight to the "so fucking what?" file, but I'll play the "I'm Triple D and I'm always right" game.
5/14/2018 04:00:56 am
Nope, you're just wrong. There are timelines for the Dune future history, and humans get to Arrakis less that 20,000 years into the future, finding its sandworm ecology already in full operation- but then much later, it is revealed through "other memory" that sandtrout were not native to the planet.
5/14/2018 04:26:27 pm
What specifically am I wrong about? You don't say because you can't.
5/14/2018 05:44:16 pm
The folks to blame are Frank himself (who had young Leto see the importation of the sandtrout to Arrakis in "other memory"- and also, in Dune, established the era of human space exploration as beginning "one hundred and ten centuries" before the Butlerian Jihad, which in turn was slightly over 10,000 years before the events of the novel) and Brian Herbert (who chose to write prequels about the Butlerian Jihad, during which spice began to be exploited for its effects on human brains).
5/14/2018 08:05:26 pm
Muad'Dib was a Templar Grand Master.
5/14/2018 10:04:38 pm
At what point do Kirk and Spock suck each other off? This is all fan fiction.
5/15/2018 03:46:54 am
5/10/2018 06:04:29 pm
The story of the pterodactyl encased in rock came from an 1856 issue of the Illustrated London News. French miners digging a railroad tunnel supposedly found the creature, which died immediately. However, the piece was titled "Very Like a Whale" or some such -- in other words, it was a whale of a tale. It was never intended to be taken seriously.
5/10/2018 06:43:52 pm
5/10/2018 09:26:50 pm
...Not to be confused with the Mandala Effect, which is when you mis-remember the number of petals on the Sri Yantra.
5/10/2018 11:45:37 pm
5/11/2018 11:30:35 am
Gdave, I remember reading that same theory about the thunderbird photo being from a parallel dimension. I can't check, but I suspect the book we both read was Daniel Cohen's Monsters, Giants and Little Green Men. That book was real common in school libraries when I was a kid, and it definitely had stuff about Thunderbird photo in it. Or, maybe Cohen's Encyclopedia of Monsters.
5/21/2018 11:20:27 pm
I think I know the book. The particular incarnation I owned had this reddish mesa-like cover, the title was something like "Out of this World". The section on cryptids talked about the French mine pterodactyl (which I believe was given the species epithet "anas", as in duck, as in the French term for joke), and there was a picture with the "Tombstone monster", the one where the cowboy cut off it's wing - looking like a crocodile with wings, and no back legs. iirc it's given as being about 90 ft long, which stretches the credulity for flight..
5/10/2018 11:45:05 am
Sure, Hancock "has" sixteen hours a day, but only because he counts every waking hour as writing time. When people say "I work sixty or seventy hours a week" they usually mean "I'm out of the house sixty or seventy hours a week." In any case Hancock, while doing less (no?) research is less productive than you.
5/10/2018 12:54:17 pm
Whitcomb is a dedicated liar for Jesus. Back over a decade ago at Cryptozoology.com (now defunct for practical purposes) he claimed that he had led an expedition in Papua New Guinea that got with a few hundred feet of a ropen nesting ground. Somehow neither he nor anyone else on that expedition thought to take any video or photos of this or even scoop up some pterosaur poop which should have been all over the ground. For a couple of years he was begging for bucks to go back and walk those extra couple of hundred steps but he's never managed to get back there.
5/10/2018 02:58:31 pm
I saw a tv show on ropensca while back, aren’t they light emitting?
5/10/2018 06:11:09 pm
I forget if it was Whitcomb or one of his followers who came up with that, but yes, ropen researchers have now decided pterodactyls are bioluminescent. The reason for this is that the best evidence they've ever come up with in all their expeditions are grainy, no-context videos of lights in the sky, and rather than try to pass them off as UFO videos they've decided to claim them as ropen.
5/21/2018 11:22:58 pm
Ah, I used to post there. Shame it went down, I was looking for a copy of my essay on why _Megalania_ isn't still alive (I used to post there as Viashino).
5/10/2018 01:30:35 pm
The I ate the dog comment is clever and of wit.
5/10/2018 01:45:47 pm
THAT settles it then!
5/10/2018 07:08:31 pm
And talking cowboys and dinosaurs fantasy, do you remember 1969's Valley of Gwangi with James Franciscus?
5/10/2018 09:41:08 pm
Or its' daddy, The Beast of Hollow Mountain?
5/13/2018 05:08:09 pm
...given that we have, in fact, rediscovered former "cryptids" before--the mountain gorilla and the coelocanth both come to mind--without somehow negating the process of evolution, I'm not sure why he's so focused on finding pterosaurs! It just won't do the job he wants it to.
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