Was a Pterodactyl Shot During the American Civil War?

By cryptozoology author Jonathan Whitcomb, of Murray, Utah

Much confusion has come from publicity involving two photographs that, on the surface, greatly resemble each other. The following shows them side by side for comparison:

photograph on left is genuine; on the right is the more-recent hoax photo

Figure-1: Authentic original photograph on the left and the recent hoax-photo on the right

The one on the left, labeled “Ptp,” has been declared by me and by the scientist Clifford Paiva to have an authentic image of a real animal. In other words, we proclaim that a real animal was photographed, notwithstanding the head greatly resembles that of a Pteranodon (a Pterodactyloid pterosaur).

Before getting into the reasons for our conclusion, however, let’s consider copyright issues. The Ptp photo is surely in the public domain, for numerous persons remember seeing it around the 1960’s in an old book, and the photo was declared to be from the American Civil War era.

The more-recent photo has apparently come into public domain through the way that it was first published. It came into public attention through publication as an old photo portrayed as coming from the 19th century. That allowed people to publish it themselves, under the concept that it was from that time period, for all Civil War photographs are in the public domain, outside any copyright restrictions. Nevertheless, it is shown in Figure-1 with “‘credit’ Fox Network,” for it was actually created around the year 2000, to promote the Freakylinks television series (produced by Haxan Films).

[I do not imply, by giving credit to Fox Network and to Haxan Films, that the image on the right has not come into public domain. That image has come into public domain. I’m simply giving credit to Fox Network and to Haxan Films for the work involved in its creation.]

The relevance for cryptozoology is obvious: the Freakylinks photo was made in imitation of the original (Ptp). The recent hoax began with the actual photographing of Civil War reenactors, men who were dressed in uniforms made to look like that time period. Digital image processing was probably then used to make the photo appear to be very old, yet it was actually of actors photographed around the year 2000.

We now concentrate on the older photograph (Ptp) that really is old.

Soldiers and an Apparent Pteranodon

My friend and associate Clifford Paiva has found a number of evidences for the authenticity of Ptp. These include:

  1. Potential blood effusion areas
  2. Solar shadowing consistency
  3. Details in head, neck, and shoulder suggest a Pteranodon
  4. Small tree was apparently broken down to allow dragging of animal

The first may be the most dramatic but perhaps the least convincing, for it’s hard for most people to see. But #2 demonstrates that no paste-on hoax was involved in putting together the man in the front and the animal; in other words, Photoshop was not used in putting those two images together: They were photographed together, a real man with his boot on a real beak.

Paiva and I often use science in different ways, although both of us have investigated evidences for extant pterosaurs. The following are some of the clues I found in Ptp:

  1. A drag mark on the ground
  2. The positions of soldiers behind the animal
  3. The pixel sizes of buckles and buttons on clothing

I used to be an event videographer, so I know something about placing people and objects for videotaping and photographing. Assuming Ptp was an actual photograph, in the 19th century, of six soldiers who were standing by the carcass of a recently deceased animal, it would have been unlikely that the poor beast had fallen into an ideal location for that photography. That explains #1, for the animal needed to be dragged into the clearing. This relates to Paiva’s clue #4: breaking down a very small tree to allow the animal to be dragged there.

mark on ground shows where the animal was dragged

Figure-2: Whitcomb found a line in the ground, apparently where the animal had been dragged

I also used my experience in event videography to understand the positioning of the six soldiers. A photographer would have wanted the men to stand behind the animal, because such an unusual creature would need to be viewed in detail, as the main subject. That’s what we see in Ptp, with one exception: One soldier may have been given credit for shooting down the giant bird-like creature, so he may have insisted that he be seen with his boot on the beak, as a sign of victory; nevertheless, the positions of the other five men are consistent with the concept that a photographer had told the men where they should stand. Five of the six soldiers followed the instruction of the photographer precisely.

positioning for a photographer

Figure-3: How a photographer would have asked the soldiers to stand, mostly behind the animal

Here’s another concept involving soldier-placement, in my point #3. I magnified the images of belt buckles and buttons, finding that the man in front has a slightly greater pixel width for buckle and button than those of the men standing behind the animal. This is perfectly consistent with the concept that those men were photographed in the way that they appear to be in the photograph. In other words, the six men were standing to be photographed in the same positions in which we see them. The images of soldiers were not pasted into a scene of a lone monster in a clearing.

Two Scientists Confirm Ptp has a Real Animal

Clifford Paiva is a missile defense physicist, with special experience in analysis of photographs. Apparently nobody has ever denied that he is a scientist. My own position as a scientist might be denied by a skeptic, for most of my writings have been in the nonfiction cryptozoology genre. Yet the following I present to support my position as a scientist.

Early in the 21st century, I wrote An Evolutionary Boundary, although it was not published in a scientific journal. Years earlier, I had graduated from Control Data Institute in Pasadena, California, so I had no trouble programming my home computer to do the simulation of population variations. My work on the E.B. simulation took 6-8 months, as I recall.

In more recent years, I did a study that included statistical analysis of eyewitness testimonies of apparent extant pterosaurs, showing that no significant number of hoaxes could have contaminated the overall data. I also published, previous to that, a scientific paper in a peer-reviewed journal: Creation Research Society Quarterly, Volume 45, Winter 2009: “Reports of Living Pterosaurs in the Southwest Pacific.” Those were two separate endeavors, although they were both about the possibility that not all species of pterosaurs became extinct. Thus my qualifications as a scientist can be summarized with the following three points, although other writings might have also been listed:

  1. Evolutionary Boundary mathematical simulations of biological population changes
  2. Analysis of eyewitness testimonies, with details showing hoaxes had little or no influence
  3. Publication of a scientific paper in a peer-reviewed journal of science

On January 14, 2017, Clifford Paiva and I agreed that the photograph (Ptp) has a genuine image of a real animal, although we stopped short of declaring that it must have been a Pteranodon. We do agree that it certainly gives one the impression that it was a Pteranodon.



Copyright 2017 Jonathan Whitcomb


Apparent Civil War Pterodactyl Photo

The following photograph [Ptp] has been around for a long time. It may be the image that caught my attention around 1968, while I was browsing the shelves of a public library in Pasadena, California. Other persons seem to remember this “pterodactyl” photo from about that time.

Evidence for Extant Pterosaurs

Before mid-January of 2017, I had assumed that the primary type of evidence for the reality of non-extinct species of pterosaurs was in eyewitness testimony, and that it was almost the only evidence. Then the image of an apparent Pteranodon, in the photograph that I now call “Ptp,” struck me harder than it ever did before.

Civil War Pterodactyl Photo

Youtube video about soldiers standing by a dead pterosaur, apparently a shot Pteranodon

Two photos of a Civil War pterosaur

. . . We also need to understand that the more-recent imitation photo is a hoax, or at least a virtual hoax, created for a TV show. Do not confuse these two photos, for on the surface they appear similar.


Chess does not take a holiday in Holladay, Utah (by chess tutor Jonathan Whitcomb)

At least when school is in session, the royal game does not take a holiday in this community up against the mountain foothills in the eastern Salt Lake Valley. It’s no news that chess has been promoted at Morningside school, with active annual participation in Utah’s state elementary school championship. Chess instructor Jonathan Whitcomb, who photographed the 2016 championship, is now promoting activity in the game during the summer months, offering both a free tournament and $25 private chess lessons.

Where many kids play chess: Morningside Elementary School in Holladay, Utah

Morningside Elementary School, Holladay, Utah

Whitcomb is looking for a sponsor for small trophies to be awarded to the top players in a tournament, in the Salt Lake Valley, for chess players of all ages. (Details to be announced but probably to be held between July and October of 2016, not necessarily in Holladay but very likely in the valley).

Private Chess Lessons

The tournament is not directly related to the tutoring service offered by Whitcomb: private chess lessons in the Salt Lake Valley. In contrast to the upcoming free competition events in Utah, which he promotes or encourages, his private lessons are $25 each.

He’s the author of the instructional book Beat That Kid in Chess, which is for beginners who already know the rules of the game but who know little about how to win during competition.

For more information about personal chess lessons or about free chess tournaments, contact Jonathan Whitcomb at 801-590-9692 or send him an email.


Student from Morningside Elementary School, Holladay, Utah

Morningside student just before the start of the 2016 state championship tournament




Chess Lessons in Holladay, Utah

If you’re reading this, you may have considered taking private chess lessons. If so, what first caused you to consider that way of learning chess? . . . I, Jonathan Whitcomb, can help you learn modern chess notation [which can greatly help in improving your chess-playing ability]

Chess Tutor in Salt Lake

Chess lessons are available in many communities in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah, from chess coach Jonathan Whitcomb, who lives in Murray. . . . For most chess players, improving basic tactical ability is very important.

Utah Chess Instruction or Private Tutoring

I’m the author of the beginner-book Beat That Kid in Chess, which uses a new teaching method of chess instruction: NIP (nearly-identical instructions). . . . Each chess lesson will be tailor-made for where you stand (assuming you take private lessons instead of group sessions).

Salt Lake Valley Chess Coach – Whitcomb

Regular competition in a chess club can help a player improve in his or her abilities in the royal game. Learning to improve quickly, however, is more likely from private lessons with a good tutor, a chess-instructor specialist, in combination with playing experience.

Sixth Grader at Morningside

Friday afternoon, Nicholas Shifrar, a sixth grader from Morningside Elementary School [Salt Lake Valley, Utah], delivered dozens of knitted caps to the U Hospital’s Newborn Intensive Care Unit.


Two Chess Books for Advanced Players

Modern Chess Openings (14th edition) versus Fundamental Chess Openings

These two large books on chess openings are both broad in their coverage. They include the following openings (but are not at all limited to them):

  • Alekhine Defense
  • Austrian Attack (Pirc)
  • Benoni
  • Bishop’s Opening
  • Blumenfeld Counter Gambit
  • Cambridge Springs Variation
  • Caro-Kann Defense
  • Catalan Opening
  • Center Game
  • Danish Gambit
  • Dutch Defense
  • English Opening
  • Evan’s Gambit
  • Four Knights Game
  • French Defense
  • Giuoco Piano (Italian Opening)
  • Grunfeld Defense
  • Hedgehog System (of the English Opening)
  • King’s Gambit (Accepted and Declined)
  • Latvian Gambit (Greco Counter Gambit)
  • Max Lange Attack
  • Muzio Gambit (of the King’s Gambit)
  • Nimzo-Indian Defense
  • Petroff Defense (AKA Petrov’s Defense)
  • Pirc Defense
  • Queen’s Gambit (Accepted and Declined)
  • Reti Opening
  • Ruy Lopez (Spanish Game)
  • Scotch Opening
  • Slav and Semi-Slav
  • Stonewall Variation (of the Dutch Defense)
  • Three Knights Game
  • Torre Attack
  • Two Knights Defense
  • Vienna Game

Modern Chess Openings (MCO)

As of November 2, 2015, it has 38 customer reviews on Amazon:

34% five-stars

39% four-stars

16% three-stars

8% two-stars

3% one-star

Fundamental Chess Openings (FCO)

As of November 2, 2015, it has 62 customer reviews on Amazon:

55% five-stars

32% four-stars

7% three-stars

6% one-star


The Amazon readers reviews appear to favor FCO over MCO. Combine the top two ratings (those with favorable reviews):

MCO=73% and FCO=87% — that favors FCO

Combine the lowest two ratings (those with poor opinions of the books):

MCO=11% and FCO=6% — that favors FCO



Chess Book for a Beginner to Win Games

If you already know the rules of chess but losing has cut down some of the fun, “Beat That Kid in Chess” puts back the fun. . . . See where you can get a checkmate and where a position is not quite set up for checkmate . . .

Review of Some of the Best Chess Books

How is any publication a “best chess book?” That’s too deep a subject to cover well in this post. What does the reader want from the book? That’s easier to answer.


New Method in a Chess Book for Beginners

How does an average non-genius learn how to win a game of chess? The tradition method for a beginner is quite simple: Play chess games and learn by experience. Reading a chess book is the second most popular way for a novice to learn, but that does not usually work as well, for most chess books are not for beginners but for players of mid-level abilities at least.

The new paperback Beat That Kid in Chess may be the first publication to systematically use the teaching method called “nearly-identical positions” (PIN). It was also written especially with the “early” beginner in mind.

back and front covers of the chess book

Beat That Kid in Chess – published by Createspace on September 2, 2015 –  for beginners

Nearly-identical positions can help chess students catch onto tactics in a natural way, allowing novices in the royal game to gradually see tactical opportunities and avoid the pitfall of overly-simplistic strategic generalities in their thinking.

Quoting Createspace

According to the publisher’s page for this chess book, Beat That Kid in Chess gives these advantages:

1) Simple – It really is for the early beginner

2) Concise – no chess history or reciting the rules

3) Huge Diagrams – no magnifying glass needed

4) Win-focused – quickly learn to win a game

5) Two levels of exercises – learn at your pace

6) Reviews – appropriate repetition, as needed

7) Internal references – find things quickly

8) Two indexes – general and exercises

9) All three phases – opening, middle, end game

10) Critical tactics – pin, knight fork, etc

11) Checkmates explained – attack and defense

12) Common pitfalls explained – avoid errors

Quoting the Introduction in the book Beat That Kid in Chess

“If you know the chess rules but almost nothing about how to win, this book is for you. We’ll keep to the basics that you need most . . . I must tell you something I’ve learned over the past half century: If your opponent has both a greater natural ability at chess and a greater drive to win, expect to lose at least a few games. . . . If you have a greater drive to win, however, you can combine that with what you learn in these lessons, and you can expect to beat a raw beginner more often than you lose, even if that person has more natural ability than you have. What better lesson to teach your opponent than humility?”



Chess Books for the Novice and Post-Beginner

Three chess books compared

How to Play Chess to Win

Winning consistently comes not from stepping through a chess game as if it were dancing . . . It’s more like dinosaurs attacking.

Beginner Chess Book

I’ve read and studied dozens of chess books in the past 53 years. I don’t recall any of them that included nearly-identical positions for training. [aside from Beat That Kid in Chess]


Another Voice for the Benefits of Chess for Children

Susan Polgar, a former Women’s World Chess Champion, has said:

“According to research, [academic] test scores improved by 17.3% for students regularly engaged in chess classes, compared with only 4.6% for children participating in other forms of enriched activities.”

She has been promoting chess for children for many years in the United States, a nation that actively promotes sports for the physical development of students but promotes intellectual competition (like chess) much less than European countries promote the game in schools.

She has also said the following:

“You have to be responsible for your actions, you make a move, you had better think ahead about what’s going to happen, not after it happens, because then it’s too late. Chess teaches discipline from a very early age. It teaches you to have a plan and to plan ahead. If you do that, you’ll be rewarded; if you break the rules, you will get punished in life and in chess.”

It’s hard to object to that kind of logic.



Chess for the Early Beginner

“This 194-page paperback was written with a modest goal: Teach and prepare the raw beginner to win a game of chess, even if it’s against another raw beginner.”

Susan Polgar Foundation

“In approximately 30 nations across the globe, including Brazil, China, Venezuela, Italy, Israel, Russia and Greece, etc., chess is incorporated into the country’s scholastic curriculum.”

Chess Benefits New York City Children

“Chess dramatically improves a child’s ability to think rationally”