Bias in Criticizing the Civil War Pterosaur Photo

By modern-pterosaur expert Jonathan Whitcomb

I do not condemn objective scientific criticism, but how often have I seen critical comments that are unscientific! Any person can potentially have a bias, including those who support standard models of science and are defending old established points of view.

The 19th century photograph “Ptp”

The physicist Clifford Paiva started examining this photograph many years ago, and has fully supported its authenticity. I have also known about Ptp for many years, offering some corrections, in 2013, for criticisms of it that I felt were unjustified. Yet it was not until January of 2017 that I was able to look at the photo more objectively, having been informed by a canoe expert that the wings of the animal were definitely not canoes. That’s when I talked with Paiva and examined the evidences he had found that it was genuine. Before January of 2017, I was practically unaware of the work this scientist had done in examining and analyzing Ptp.

Ptp is a genuine photograph of a modern pterosaur

The photograph declared genuine by two scientists: evidence of a modern pterosaur


Take this photo in context. Before 2017, one of the primary criticisms of living-pterosaur investigations was the apparent lack of photographic evidence for the existence of those animals in modern times. We now have a photograph to support the testimonies of the many eyewitnesses who see these flying creatures, with sightings around the world.

Bias in a long online criticism of living-pterosaur investigations

I won’t here dwell much on brief careless remarks by skeptics. One critic said, on encountering Ptp, that Mathew Brady was the only person who photographed scenes of the American Civil War (Look at “Photographers of the American Civil War” on Wikipedia, however, and you’ll see the names of dozens of photographers). Another critic found it suspicious that none of the men in Ptp has any shirt button unbuttoned.

Much could be said about confirmation bias regarding those kinds of short careless remarks, but we now look at a long online article that appears built up to destroy confidence in all investigations that support the possibility of an extant pterosaur.

I won’t mention the name of the author or the name of his long article here. Much in his online page seems extremely misleading, to me, although I do not accuse him of any deception or any desire to deceive. I think it’s more likely that he himself has been deceived and is trying to defend traditional ideas about geology. I’ll call him “the critic.”

How long is his article? Considering the average English word is 5.1 characters in length, his article has close to 12,890 words. Obviously, I’ll not be commenting on all of it in this post, but I will comment on some of what he says about Ptp.

Is it a Pteranodon?

In the third paragraph of the Civil-War-photograph section of the article, it mentions, “a giant Pteranodon-like pterosaur carcass” in Ptp. Those are his own words, verifying what other persons have said about that apparent pterosaur. In other words, the head of that animal brings to mind a Pteranodon, even if only some persons think of that word when they see the picture.

In my Youtube video “Introduction to the old photograph Ptp,” I clearly state that Paiva and I are not declaring that the pterosaur seen with those six soldiers must have been a species of Pteranodon (it just gives that impression). The critic, however, gives two lists of reasons why it is not that type of pterosaur, as if that were some kind of evidence that it was not any kind of pterosaur. Much could be said about those two lists, for they are full of mistakes, but let’s move on, for the Pteranodon question has little relevance.

Is it a Hoax by Photoshop?

The critic says that “Loren Coleman, a renown [sic] American cryptozoologist” rejected Ptp with the words “Verdict: photoshopping” (quoting Coleman). I can verify that Loren Coleman did use those two words, in a post in 2007, in his evaluation of what we now call “Ptp.” In fact, those two words were all that he said about his evaluation of the photo.

Yet the critic who wrote the long online article rejects one of my points as “irrelevant,” because “the shadows are equally consistent with an actor standing on a model pterosaur.” Here is the point I was making:

The physicist Clifford Paiva found that shadows under the shoe of a soldier (on the beak) were consistent with other shadows on the animal.

In other words, no Photoshop hoaxing was involved there: a real object making a shadow on another real object. If the critic were being objective, he would acknowledge that direct evidence (by a scientist) shows Loren Coleman was wrong in the Photoshop conjecture.

This deserves a closer look. Before 2017, most criticisms of Ptp were based on the idea that digital image manipulation (like Photoshop) was used. Loren Coleman is perhaps the most famous of cryptozoologists, and he rejected Ptp based upon the Photoshop conjecture. In other words, direct evidence that shots down the Photoshop idea is NOT irrelevant.

The real history of two scientists with Ptp

The critic says, “after receiving some communications from YEC physicist Clifford Paiva in early 2017, Whitcomb and Paiva evidently put aside any initial concerns. . . .” That can mislead people. After my doubts about the animal’s wings were overturned by a canoe expert—that is when I called Paiva. After my communications with Paiva—that is when I became convinced that Ptp had a genuine image of a modern pterosaur.

The critic seems to think that Paiva “put aside any initial concerns,” but that is incorrect. He had no problems, for years, with the idea that this photograph has a genuine image of a real pterosaur. The critic is also incorrect if he assumes that new evidence is no longer accumulating in favor of the extant-pterosaur interpretation of Ptp. Paiva and I keep making new discoveries that support the authenticity of this old photograph, although I need to acknowledge that most of the discoveries are by my friend and associate, who has great skill in analyzing photographs.


The critic who wrote that article of over 12,000 words was far from objective, probably writing under the weaknesses of confirmation bias and belief perseverance.


folded wings correlate with what is known from fossils of pterosaurs

Folded wings (wing-inversion): evidence that this was a real pterosaur


copyright 2017 Jonathan Whitcomb


Evidence of a modern pterosaur

Partial list of evidences that it is a modern pterosaur

  1. Both wings are folded in a way consistent with some pterosaurs (wing inversion)
  2. The wings have both apparent biological-general-symmetry and differences in detail
  3. The scientist Clifford Paiva has found apparent blood effusion areas on the animal
  4. The neck curve is consistent with what would be expected of some pterosaurs
  5. The neck shows apparent muscle structure
  6. Although the wings show some interesting structure, it has no feathers
  7. The shoulders have lit/shade details consistent with a real animal (not Photoshop)
  8. Some of the head has structures correlating with what is known about a Pteranodon


More evidence for the “pterodactyl” photograph

I’ve written about the tree-branch prop used when this “Ptp” photo was recorded, indicating it was probably before about 1870 when those six men were standing over the body of the pterosaur. . . . The scientist Clifford Paiva has recently found another prop, this one under the left wing of the animal.


Photo of a modern pterosaur

This is not about the hoax-photograph, with Civil War reenactors, done for the Freakylinks TV series that was on the Fox Network from 2000-2001. That photo shows a similar scene: apparent 19th-century American soldiers standing over the body of some apparently dead animal with apparent wings.  . . . [The Ptp photograph, however, has a genuine image of a real pterosaur, declared authentic by two scientists.]


cryptozoology book, nonfiction, "Modern Pterosaurs"

Cryptozoology book with much evidence for the Ptp photograph

First edition – This fully supports the literal Flood of Noah in the Bible, although the genre is nonfiction cryptozoology.


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About Jonathan Whitcomb

American cryptozoologist who interviews eyewitnesses from various parts of the world
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