Nita Hiltner

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On June 27, 2014
Last modified:February 8, 2015


There's a popular misnomer that Pterosaurs are dinosaurs but they're actually flying reptiles. While many reptilian creatures from the age of the dinosaur such as turtles and crocodiles still roam the earth - many find it impossible to consider that Pterosaurs still exist even in light of the many sightings reported each year. While this article in no way proves the continued existence of these mysterious creatures, it does give the reader a starting point and numerous source links for research into the possibility that these may actually be the dragons of folklore.

Look! Up in the sky! Is it a bird, a plane? No, it’s a Pterosaur! Never mind that Pterosaurs were supposed to have disappeared in the Mesozoic era – from coast to coast in the United States and throughout the world, people continue to report sightings of the large flying reptiles.

Pterosaurs ruled the earth for 150 million years until their supposed extinction 65 million years ago. There were 130 different species of Pterosaurs, including the Azhdarchids which are considered the largest flying animals to have ever existed – and the ever popular Pteranodon which had a wingspan of up to 30 feet.

Pterodons lived in North America in the late Cretaceous period and the Pterodactyl lived in Europe and Africa in the mid Jurassic era.

Pterosaurs are not dinosaurs

Sightings of such large reptiles have been reported in nearly every era and decade throughout history. However, since World War II, sightings have been reported in the modern world. In Papua New Guinea in the late 1940s the Ropen or “demon flyer” and the smaller Duah were reported to have terrified the natives. During World War II, at least one American soldier in the same region spotted the large flying reptiles and after the war missionaries were told by the natives of the large flying creatures. They were described as having no feathers, bat-like wings, a tail with a flange at the end and an elongated beak with teeth.

The larger Ropen, thought to be a Dimorphodon Pterosaur, has a twenty foot wingspan while the smaller Duah, thought to be a Rhamphorhyncus Pterosaur, has a wingspan of only four to four and a half feet.

Researchers David Woetzel and Jim Blume have explored Papua and the outlying islands and have collected not only eyewitness accounts but also evidence including “gigantic” nesting areas in cliff regions. They’ve also personally seen the flying reptiles and taken a video of one. They have verified that the Ropens and Duah have a glow or light to them, thought to help them hunt at night.

These flying creatures are also known in central Africa, Zambia, the Congo, Kenya, Zaire and Angola. In the United States, they’ve been spotted in Maine, Ohio, Texas, Indiana, Florida, Kansas, Virginia, Georgia, Missouri, Kentucky, Michigan, Arkansas, New York, Maryland, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Washington.

Why Believe in Living Pterosaurs?

One incident in 1903 in Van Meter, Iowa can easily tie into the existence of the Ropens as well as the Duah in the U.S. Some of the town’s most respected citizens reported seeing an eight foot tall flying creature with featherless bat wings that emerged from an old abandoned mine and flew over the town. The bioluminescence of the creature (it “shot a blinding light from its horned head”) also ties it into the Ropens and other U.S. reports. The strangest part of the story is that it came with a much smaller friend – possibly the Duah.

The frightened citizens fired at the creatures with their guns to no avail. One man took a plaster cast of a three-toed track. Finally, after three nights of being shot at, the beings apparently descended back into a mineshaft, never to return.

In 2013, a gigantic flying creature with a 30 foot wingspan was seen by multiple people above a Peoria, Illinois cemetery. How to explain this when the largest bird in the U.S., the California condor, has a wingspan of only nine feet? Other people in the town have spotted the “bird” near a lagoon in Glen Oak Park and near a personal koi pond where it stood six feet tall on the dock for over five minutes while the homeowner watched. One woman spotted a “huge prehistoric bird” flying as high as a plane above a hospital.

You might find it easier to believe seeing a Pterosaur in a national park or large wooded area, but what about in downtown Los Angeles? In March and May of 2013, two different people reported flying Pterosaurs near Glendale, a heavily populated area, obviously. The eyewitnesses were both driving on the Interstate 5 Freeway ten weeks apart when they spotted the giant bird near Griffith Park.

Pterosaur sightings in California

Another California sighting came near the campus of California State University at Irvine, again, a heavily populated area. The description of the flying creature gliding low over a road was that it was 30 feet long including a tail 15 to 16 feet long.

One of the sightings was of “three dragons” in early daylight. The driver reported he was sure the three entities seemed to fly without flapping wings. Their long tails had triangular points. The May sighting was at 4 p.m., and also reported no wing flapping, no feathers and a crest at the back of the head, typical to Pterosaurs. It is believed these reptiles live in caves, so even though a large metropolitan area may not seem conducive to supporting such beings, as long as caves exist in the area, these creatures can be seen.

A U.S. Marine, stationed at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri reported a sighting on January 2, 2013. He described the flight in the way most people do…. three large flaps and then a long glide. He said the beak was twice as long as the crest protruding from the back of its head and he said the long tail ended with a diamond shape.

Several people on a porch in middle America saw two of these flying reptiles gliding along a country road passing in front of their home. An Ohio resident reported the same Pterosaur two different years. He described a ten-foot long reptile with a four and a half foot long tail that ended in a “spade.”

Pterosaur sightings in South Carolina

Though some sightings are during the daytime many people spot the large creatures at night. One Virginia witness said he saw the creature gliding above a pond but then it hovered mid-air. He said the wings were 15 to 20 feet wide and shaped like bat wings with no feathers.

Whether or not the descriptions of “thunderbirds” by Native Americans were describing these pterosaurs, a 1977 tale of one such “thunderbird” lifting a 65 pound boy into the air came out of Lawndale, Illinois. Three boys were playing in the backyard when they saw two large birds approaching. The birds went after the boys. Two escaped, but one boy, Marlon Lowe, 10, was lifted two feet off the ground by the claws of one bird and carried at least 30 yards. The boy screamed and hit at the bird, escaping its grasp.

Jonathan Whitcomb, author of Live Pterosaurs in America, investigated a photo(below) of Civil War soldiers posing with a dead Pterosaur and after much scrutiny found it to be most likely genuine. He’s found other photographs similar to this one to be fraudulent, however.


So, while explorers search for dragons in Africa and a prehistoric Nessie in Loch Ness, the common man may need only to look up into the sky to discover a long lost ancient wonder of the world.

Pterosaur sightings in Kentucky & Tennessee


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