As strange as it may sound, over the years - decades, in fact - people claim to have seen nothing less than pterodactyls soaring through our skies. And, no, I'm not joking. Of course, the whole thing is amazing and bizarre and largely due to the fact that pterodacyls have been long gone. At least, that appears to be the case. With that said, let's take a look at some of the stranger stories of what can only be termed modern day pterodactyls. Say "welcome" to the fierce Kongamato. 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 – Melland 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!” Very likely connected to the tales told by the Bokaonde and Kaonde tribes are similar accounts coming out of the Kitui Wakamaba people, also of Zambia.
They told their stories to a man named A. Blayney Percival who, in 1928, penned A Game Ranger on Safari. So the Kitui Wakamaba said, they could always tell when one of the chiefly nocturnal creatures had landed near their villages, as they always left behind them, large, telltale tracks on the ground. As with the data shared with Frank H. Melland a few years earlier, the Kitui Wakamba described their resident monster as large, leathery and possessed of huge, membranous wings. Such stories were also handed to, and faithfully recorded by, Colonel Charles R.S Pitman, the author of A Game Warden Takes Stock. On top of that, a well-respected ichthyologist, Dr. J.L.B. Smith, investigated a number of almost identical cases from Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro.
Now, let's jump to the U.K. Needwood Forest - of the county of Staffordshire, England - was a chase, or a royal forest, that was given to Henry III’s son, Edmund Crouchback, the 1st Earl of Lancaster, in 1266, and was owned by the Duchy of Lancaster until it passed into the possession of Henry IV. In the 1770s, Francis Noel Clarke Mundy published a collection of poetry called Needwood Forest which contained his own poem of the same name, one regarded as “one of the most beautiful local poems.” And much the same was said about the forest – which was an undeniably enchanting locale, filled with magic, myths and ancient lore, as forests so curiously often are. It may have been the home of a pterodactyl, too.
And, it is against this backdrop of ancient woodland and historic and huge old halls that something decidedly strange occurred back in the summer of 1937, when Alfred Tipton was just a ten-year-old boy. And like most adventurous kids, young Alfred enjoyed playing near Blithfield Hall, and in the Bagot’s Wood, with his friends: on weekends and during the seemingly-never-ending school-holidays. And, it was during the summer holidays of 1937 that something strange and monstrous was seen in that small, yet eerie, area of old woodland. According to Tipton, on one particular morning he and four of his friends had been playing in the woods for several hours and were taking a break, sitting on the warm, dry grass, and soaking in the sun. Suddenly, says Tipton, they heard a shrill screeching sound that was coming from the trees directly above them. As they craned their necks to look directly upwards, the five pals were horrified by the sight of a large, black beast sitting on its haunches in one particularly tall and very old tree, and “shaking the branch up and down with its claws tightened around it.” But this was no mere large bird, however. Tipton says that “it reminded me of a devil: I still don’t forget things and that is what I say it looked like.” He adds that the creature peered down at the five of them for a few moments and then suddenly opened up its large and shiny wings, which were easily a combined twelve-feet across, and took to the skies in a fashion that could be accurately described as part-flying and part-gliding, before being forever lost to sight after perhaps 15 or 20 seconds or so. Here's another strange and similar saga:
Imagine driving, late at night, across the foggy moors of central England and coming across what looks like nothing less than a living, breathing pterodactyl! Think it couldn’t happen? It already has. From 1982 to 1983, a wave of sightings of such a creature – presumed extinct for 65 million years - occurred in an area called the Pennines, better known as the “backbone of England” and comprised of rolling hills and mountains. So far as can be determined, the first encounter occurred at a place with the highly apt name 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.
Seventy-two hours later, a woman named Jean Schofield had the misfortune to see the immense beast at the West Yorkshire town of Yeadon. That the thing was heading for the Leeds/Bradford Airport provoked fears in Schofield’s mind of a catastrophic mid-air collision between a passenger plane and the mighty winged thing. If we can rule out models, and mistaken identity, what does that leave us with? It seems downright ridiculous to give credence to the idea that a pterodactyl was flying around the skies of northern England – and possibly from 1977 to 1983. And, yet, that seems to have been precisely what was going on. There is another explanation that might just work. It has been suggested that perhaps what the astonished and terrified witnesses encountered was not a living pterodactyl, but the ghost of one. Of course, that makes things even stranger! All we can say for sure is that all around the world people have seen creatures that appear to be pterodactyls. Most definitely a mystery that needs to be solved!