Dec 23, 2021 I Nick Redfern

One of the Strangest Phenomena in Cryptozoology: Still-Living Pterodactyls

Even the title of this article is a strange one, never mind its content, too! It's a fact - and a very odd fact - that now and again someone will surface with an incredible story. Namely, that they had seen a pterodactyl. Before we go any further, here's some background on pterodactyls. Live Science say: "Pterodactyl is the common term for the winged reptiles properly called pterosaurs, which belong to the taxonomic order Pterosauria. Scientists typically avoid using the term and concentrate on individual genera, such as Pterodactylus and Pteranodon. There are at least 130 valid pterosaur genera, according to David Hone, a paleontologist at Queen Mary University of London. They were widespread and lived in numerous locations across the globe, from China to Germany to the Americas. Pterosaurs first appeared in the late Triassic Period and roamed the skies until the end of the Cretaceous Period (228 to 66 million years ago)..." Now, with that said, let's have a look at the cryptozoological side of the pterodactyl. Although many people in the field of Cryptozoology prefer to focus on what could be termed fairly down-to-earth subjects (Nessie, Bigfoot, the Abominable Snowman, and so on) there are some cases that seem to go far beyond the normal. It's one thing to see a Bigfoot deep in the Pacific northwest woods. It's a very different thing to see a pterodactyl flying over you home. Now, let us have a look at some of these admittedly bizarre cases of equally bizarre creatures.

I should stress that I have a particular interest in this phenomenon for one particular reason: I have investigated a lot of reports of flying, monstrous "whatsits." I've spoke with people on Puerto Rico (on many occasions) who have seen large, winged things soaring through the skies above. Some of the eyewitnesses were sure they had seen giant bats. One guy suggested the thing he saw, above Puerto Rico's El Unque rain-forest, in 1967, was something akin to the giant cockroaches in the 1997 movie, Mimic. But, so many others were sure they had seen pterodactyls in the skies over Puerto Rico. Indeed, they were adamant. There are also reports of such long-extinct things from the U.K. in the early 1980s. Imagine driving, late at night, across the foggy moors of England and coming across what looks like nothing less than a living, breathing pterodactyl!

From 1982 to 1983, a wave of sightings of such a creature – presumed extinct for million of years – occurred in an area called the Pennines, also known as the "backbone of England." It’s a story that, in much lengthier fashion, can collectively be found in Jenny Randles’ excellent 2002 book, Supernatural Pennines and in issue 9 of UFO Brigantia, a much-missed magazine of the 1980s and 1990s and which was edited and published by Andy Roberts. So far as can be determined, the first encounter occurred at a place with the highly apt nickname of the Devil’s Punchbowl, on September 12, 1982. That was when a man named William Green came forward with an astonishing story of what he encountered at Shipley Glen woods. It was a large, grey colored creature, that flew in "haphazard" style and which possessed a pair of large, leathery-looking wings. The latter point is notable, since it effectively rules out a significantly sized feathery bird, and does indeed place matters into a pterodactyl category. When the media caught onto the story, others came forward saying they had seen such immense flying things in the area as far back as 1977. And, I have come across more than a few cases from my home-state of Texas, most of them towards the border with Mexico. And yet again the witnesses knew what they saw. And what they saw were pterodactyls, they said.

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(Ken Gerhard & Nick Redfern) Pterodactyls in the Skies of the Lone Star State?

The continent of Africa is the reported home of numerous unknown creatures and wild monsters. They range from Goliath-sized ape-men to lake-monsters and from dinosaur-like lizards to massive spiders, as we shall see later. Africa is also the domain of more than a few large, winged, flying monsters. A wealth of such stories comes from the Bokaonde and Kaonde tribes of Zambia. It’s largely thanks to an early 20th century explorer, Frank H. Melland, that we know of the accounts of these immense and fearsome fliers. Melland’s sources in the tribes told him that the most feared of all the monsters of the skies was the Kongamato. Its name means “over-whelmer [sic] of boats.” The name is a very apt one, since it had the habit of swooping down on canoes and savagely attacking and killing those within. It was a huge beast that lived in, and hunted in, the Jiundu swamps, and which deeply terrified the people of the area. As for the appearance of the Kongamato, it looked somewhat like a bird – at first glance. That it utterly lacked feathers, however, and the fact that its red body was leathery-looking, was membranous, and had wings far more befitting those of a bat, suggests it was something else entirely. Moreover, its immense mouth was filled with sharp teeth that could slice a man in two in an instant, which is not something typical of the average bird. Acting purely on instinct, when Melland explored the area in 1924 – a trip which he chronicled in his 1923 book, In Witchbound Africa – he showed the local tribespeople artistic renditions of various presumed extinct pterosaurs, including one of a pterodactyl. On seeing the pictures, the tribespeople cried one word, and one word only: "Kongamato!"

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(Nick Redfern) A pterodactyl and Point Pleasant, West Virginia?

I also have a case of a school-bus-driver who swears he saw a pterodactyl only a few miles outside of Point Pleasant, West Virginia in the winter of 2005. That the flying thing was seen extremely close to where the legendary Mothman surfaced back in 1966 - and through to the latter part of 1967 - made him think, at first, he had seen the famous monster. As he did more research, however, the man came to the startling conclusion that he hadn't seen Mothman, after all. Rather, he'd encountered a pterodactyl. In conclusion, I can only say that all of the people I have interviewed on this wild topic, and who have seen what they believe to have been a pterodactyl, came across completely normal. I have to admit I have no idea - at all - how to handle these rogue, pterodactyl-based cases. They baffle and they bemuse. And, so far, there's not a single answer in sight.

Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

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