Are Pterodactyl Sightings Real?

Holotype specimen of Pterodactylus antiquus
Holotype specimen of Pterodactylus antiquus. (Image credit: Steven U. Vidovic / Wikimedia Commons )

The pterodactyl (an informal term for the pterosaurs genus) was a flying reptile which lived from the Late Jurassic through to Late Cretaceous periods, some 145 million to 65 million years ago. With the wingspans of fossil remains ranging from two to eleven metres, the pterodactyl is the largest-known animal to have achieved flight. 1 Despite having lived alongside long-extinct dinosaurs, some in the present day claim that this awesome beast did not die out millions of years ago, and still roams the skies today.

Certainly, dragon, thunderbird and pterodactyl sightings have been a constant occurrence for hundreds of years. Such large winged creatures are even depicted in Stone Age paintings found in the Black Dragon canyon in Utah. As pterosaur fossils have been found in the area, this has led some to suggest that these flying beings have lived alongside humans since prehistoric times. 2

Pterodactyl at Black Dragon Canyon
Rock art at Black Dragon Canyon in Utah is argued to depict a winged monster, possibly a pterodactyl. (Image credit: Whit Richardson)

The Kongamato of Africa

Across various regions in Africa, the existence of a pterodactyl-like animal is a reality for many inhabitants.

In 1923, the author Frank Melland collected reports of a dangerous large winged creature in his book, In Witchbound Africa. He wrote of how local people and explorers in Western Zambia, Angola and Congo had encountered a beast called the kongamato. Kongamato, meaning “overwhelmer of boats”, was feared because of its propensity for attacking small boats and seriously injuring passengers. 3

In his book, Melland described showing illustrations of a pterodactyl to the native witnesses, which they readily identified as the kongamato.

The evidence for the pterodactyl is that the natives can describe it so accurately, unprompted, and that they all agree about it. […] they could not identify any other of the prehistoric monsters which I showed them […]The natives do not consider it to be an unnatural thing like a mulombe [demon] only a very awful thing, like a man-eating lion or a rogue elephant, but infinitely worse [… ]I have mentioned the Jiundu swamp [northwestern Zambia] as one of the reputed haunts of the kongamato, and I must say that the place itself is the very kind of place in which such a reptile might exist, if it is possible anywhere.4

Far from only appearing in Melland’s work, references to the kongamato have been made elsewhere.

In 1956, a British engineer by the name of J. P. F. Brown witnessed such a creature near Fort Roseberry, in Zambia, which he described as looking prehistoric. The following year a man was said to have gone to hospital in the same area with severe wounds to his chest caused by an animal. When asked to sketch a drawing of the beast that attacked him, the man drew a creature very similar to a pterodactyl. 5

Pterodactyl in Alaska

As for the rest of the world, America is not without its fair share of pterodactyl sightings. Jonathan Whitcomb, an author and cryptozoologist, has estimated that he has spoken to about a hundred credible witnesses of a pterodactyl-like creature from 1980 to 2009. Based on the frequency of these reports, Whitcomb has suggested that there are many others who do not contact any authority after a sighting for fear of humiliation. 6

One case where the witness was not afraid to speak out occurred in 2002, when John Bouker reported seeing an extremely large, pterodactyl-like creature whilst flying his Cessna plane in a remote part of south west Alaska. His passengers and a bulldozer operator on the ground below also described seeing the flying creature.

All stated that the beast was at least four times larger than a bald eagle. Bouker described it as being similar in size to his own light aircraft. Regardless, a scientist responded by saying that Bouker and his passengers must have been mistaken, and that they had probably seen a Steller’s Sea Eagle, the largest known species of eagle in the world. However, Bouker who had been flying over Alaska for twenty-two years, insisted that what they saw was far larger and entirely brown in colour. 7

“You have got to realise that the thing I saw I mistook for another Cessna coming up on me. This was big, big, big. I have seen maybe 100,000 eagles, and I know that this was an awful lot bigger than an 8ft wingspan.” – John Bouker 8

Pterodactyl caught on camera

As well as many eye-witness testimonies, there have been reports of pterodactyls being caught on camera.

One piece of amateur footage comes from Idaho, and was published on the internet in September 2015. Since then, the video has been viewed over two million times. Whilst its authenticity cannot be verified, it alleges to depict a pterodactyl-like creature flying above the treeline in the town of Boise.

One can argue that the wing movement of the supposed prehistoric creature looks too unnatural to be real, suggesting that the footage is a hoax. Amongst those who have seen the footage, opinion seems to be divided.

“Species once thought to be millions of years extinct are discovered all the time, such as and Coelacanth and the Yeti Crab. What we learned from those is that so-called “scientists” we’re [sic.] wrong all along about the timeline of their existence and about the timeline.” – Beyond The Fundamentals 9

Regardless of its veracity, one cannot deny the prevalence of reports of large winged creatures across the world, from Africa to the USA to Asia. Does this prehistoric beast still roam the skies today?

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About Erik 33 Articles
A life-long dabbler in the paranormal, Erik researches other-worldly phenomena to sate his curiosity. A habitual fence-sitter, he is of the opinion that only through science can the reality of the paranormal be confirmed. Some of Erik's main interests are demonic possession, occult groups and the possibility of parallel dimensions.