Near Pottstown, Pennsylvania, about 40 miles northwest of Philadelphia, three children observed an apparent pterosaur flying overhead. I received an email from their father last week, on what he learned by questioning them. The sighting was on Thursday, May 5, 2016, in the middle of the afternoon, and the oldest child of the three is eight. Here is part of that email.
Mr. Whitcomb . . .
By way of full disclosure: I have had a mild, amateur interest in cryptozoology in the past; so, I was familiar with you before today, although I have not yet read your book. My children are as interested in dinosaurs as any children their age. They flip through dinosaur books and such. I have mentioned to them before that some folks have claimed sightings of living pterosaurs, and that I am open to the possibility.
They have seen herons in the past, and know what they look like in flight. We have sometimes commented on the similar appearance. . . .
There is no doubt in my mind that they truly believe that they saw a pterosaur. That doesn’t mean that they did–but they truly believe that they did. . . . as I interacted with my kids about this, I grew to suspect that they may really have seen something unexpected. . . .
They emphasize repeatedly that the tail had a knob at the end.
I thought that perhaps, if this were a misidentification, the “tail” might actually be legs, and the “knob” the feet. BUT they insist that they saw short legs and feet BESIDE the tail. THAT is what I find most curious. . . .
I, Jonathan Whitcomb, concluded that those three children did indeed witness a ropen flying over their neighborhood. Their descriptions of the flying creature correlates with what other eyewitnesses report in various states of the USA.
It seems the ropen that flew over the Pottstown area of Pennsylvania may have had a wingspan of about twelve feet and a tail about six feet long. That proportion is similar to what others report: a two-to-one ration of wingspan to tail length, although we do have exceptions (which variations may be explained in various ways, including eyewitness error and encounters with more than one species).
Sighting of an Apparent Pterosaur in Philadalphia
Around the late 1990’s or so, two persons in Philadelphia witnessed a possible pterosaur. I got an email from one of them in 2005 and included the account in my book Live Pterosaurs in America (third edition).
[The sighting was at] approximately 5:00 A.M. [probably in the summer] The weird part is I live in Philly. [My friend] was dropping me off, and parked. . . . we saw something that made our jaws drop. . . . This thing didn’t seem to fly quickly. [Its] wingspan was huge. We’d figured at least 20 feet or so. It wasn’t flapping real hard like a sparrow or pigeon does. It almost seemed to sail. It came from the South, and appeared to be heading west [towards the Delaware River].
As God [is] my witness we saw this thing. . . . It had an anvil shaped head and somewhat of a long neck. . . . We do have a hawk in my neighborhood. So I know what the heck that looks like. This thing had to be at least twice the size of a hawk. Maybe three times. I’ve seen . . . vultures down by the Delaware River, and this thing in no way looked like that or a crane. No way. . . . I will go to my death remembering that, and so will my friend . . . It freaked us out so bad.
That creature flying over Philadelphia may not have been a ropen, for the report suggested it did not have a long tail, but it certainly appeared to be something other than any known bird or bat.
An amateur astronomer, standing outside his New Mexico home, about 140 miles west of Lubbock, Texas, saw an apparent bioluminescent nocturnal pterosaur on September 1, 2014. It was gliding across the telescope’s field of view, which was at low magnification for finding the Andromeda Nebula. Michael Slack, of Roswell, New Mexico watched the flying creature both through the eyepiece and by direct observation.
They guess that the body was “about as long as a lion.” They guess that the wingspan was “one and a half of our bathroom . . . maybe a little less.” Our bathroom is eight feet long. They guess that the tail was as long as “one and a half broomsticks.”
. . . my friend and I were canoeing [east of Buffalo, New York] in the creek accessed from my back yard, when we sighted a very strange creature that we had both thought to be a prehistoric bird. Immediately, I thought ‘pterodactyl.’ It was a greyish color with no apparent feathers. I remember the wing span and the head shape but I don’t recall the tail end.
Surely I could have created some fuzzy image, pasting it onto one of those 14,333 photographs that my game camera had recorded over a period of many months. That would have been easier than searching through those 14,333 photos, scanning them for any sign of a living pterosaur but finding none. Why did Prothero accuse me of deception?
Creative Commons license for the use of the photograph: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ – some cropping of the bottom of the photo and a tiny portion around the other edges