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.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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