1891 Pterodactyl Hunt in California


I do find some things hard to believe, for they sound way too far fetched and unrealistic. At the same time, I understand, that this lack of trust of mine is based on two major aspects:
  • I was taught that all the dinosaurs became extinct 65 mln years ago
  • I have never seen a living dinosaur
Yet, the abundance of the 19th, and early 20th century publications pertaining to recovering, killing, observing, and in some cases photographing of the supposedly extinct prehistoric beasts, at the very least, raises some questions.
  • Why do we place so little trust into the above mentioned accounts?
  • Can every single article be a hoax?
  • Why would newspapers publish articles which contain "yellow press" type of information?
And the most obvious answers to the above questions I could come up with were: I was taught that all the dinosaurs became extinct 65 mln years ago, and that I have never seen a living dinosaur.

Our traditional science ridicules and laughs at those people, accusing them of sensationalism, greed for fame and all other sorts of disgraceful things. Clearly, they do have reasons like, Tombstone’s Flying Monster, to claim hoaxes and fakes. But wouldn't it take a hoax, or two to discredit the entire story line?

Well, may be we should revisit those 100 year old stories, and make our own judgement.


Below you will find two of the most famous 19th century pterosaur cases. Look through, and if you feel like it, share your opinion with other forum members.
Gunning for Dragons in 1891

August 5, 1891, issue of the Los Angeles Herald
The Fresno sportsman now goes gunning for pterodactyls. These are dragons who lived in the carboniferous age, but who forgot to get petrified when the Fresno man and woman went through that process for the special benefit of nineteenth century dime museum owners. A letter from Fresno to the San Francisco Chronicle of Monday tells the Munchausen story, and from it the following excerpts are taken: Fresno, July 31. The report that two strange dragons with wings have recently appeared in the swamps east of Selma was at first regarded by many as a sensational story without foundation in fact, but after different persons at different places bad claimed to have seen the strange creatures it began to be thought worth investigating.

The history of the unusual visitors, so far as reported, is as follows: the men who live along the swales and sand hollows east and southeast of Selma on the evening of July 13th heard strange sounds in the air just after dark, like the rushing of wings when some large bird passes swiftly through the air overhead. At the same time a cry was heard, resembling that of a swan, though enough different to make it plain it was not a swan. But on that evening nothing was seen. The sound of the rushing of wings and peculiar cries were heard at intervals for two hours, when about 10 o'clock all became still. The last cries heard were far away in the direction of King's river.

On Monday night, July 21st, Harvey Lemmon and Major Hefiry Haight were out looking after their hogs that feed in the tules. As the men were returning to Selma they were surprised to hear a strange, strangling noise in the deep swale under the bridge. In a moment there was a heavy napping of wings and the two monsters rose slowly from the water and flew so near the men that the wind from their wings was plainly felt.

Mr. Haight described the dragons as resembling birds, except that they had no feathers, and their heads were broad and their bills long and wide. He judged that the expanse of their wings was not less than fifteen feet. Their bodies were without covering. Their eyes were very large - Mr. Haight was sure not less than four inches in diameter.

J. D. Daniels, of Sanger, heard of the matter, and on Wednesday went over to Selma and joined those who were going out to capture the dragons. Your correspondent saw Mr. Daniels today and had from him the account of the searching party. It is better given in Mr. Daniels's words: "When I reached Selma I found the company, which, with me, consisted of five persons, preparing to go down to Hog lake to set watch. T' is is a small pond of water, and was considered as liable as any to be visited by the monsters.

"We drove out to the lake, and there being no brush convenient for a hiding place, we dug holes in the bank, and soon after dark we took our places in the holes with our guns, ready to see what could be done in case the visitors put in an appearance.

"We remained there till 3 o'clock in the morning, and nothing of an unusual nature having taken place we returned to Selma, somewhat disappointed.

"About 10 o'clock that day, Thursday, Emanuel Jacobs came in and reported that the monsters had evidently been in Horn valley, about four miles above, the night before. They had killed a number of ducks, and the banks of the pond were strewn with feathers.

"We had no intention of giving over the plan of capturing the dragons, and Thursday night two of us returned to watch - Mr. Templeton and myself. We secreted ourselves in the holes which we bad made the night before and waited patiently with our guns, determined to secure one of the strange visitors at least, should they make their appearance.

"About 11 o'clock the cries were heard in the direction of King's river, seeming two or three miles away. The ominous yells drew nearer, and in a few moments we heard the rush and roar of wings, so hideous that our hair almost stood on .fend. The two dragons came swooping down and circled round and round the pond in rapid whirls, screaming hideously all the while. We had a good view of them while flying. Two or three times they passed within a few yards of us, and their eyes were plainly visible. We could also see that instead of bills like birds they had snoots resembling that of the alligator, and their teeth could be seen as they snapped their jaws " white passing us.

"Evidently the dragons were trying to decide whether or not they should come down in the pond. They were probably examining if there was any food to be bad, such as ducks, mudhens and fish.

"At length they came down with a fearful plunge into the pond, and the mud and water flew as though a tree had fallen into it.

"They dived and floundered around in the water, and as nearly as we could judge at the distance of thirty yards they were about six feet long, and while wading in the water they looked not unlike gigantic frogs. Their wings were folded, and appeared like large knobs on their backs. Their eyes were the most visible parts, and seemed all the time wide open and staring.

"They were very active, and darted about among the tules and rushes catching mudhens. One of these fowls was devoured at two or three champs of the jaws.

"As soon as we saw a good opportunity we leveled our guns at the one nearest us and fired. One rose into the air with a yell and flew away, every stroke of the wings showing immense strength.

"The other floundered about in the water till it reached the edge of the pond, when it crawled out, dragging a long wounded wing after it, and started Across the plain. We loaded our guns and gave chase. We soon lost sight of it, for it went much faster than we could. However, we were able to follow by its dismal cries in the distance. We followed it half a mile, when it passed out of our hearing. "The next day a company went in pursuit and trailed it by the blood on the grass. It was followed three miles to the Juniper slough, which it entered and all trace of it was lost. Whether it is yet concealed in the tules or whether it has died is not known.

"Where it passed down the bank it left several well-formed tracks in the mud. One of the best was cut out with a spade, and, after drying, was taken to Selma, where it is in the possession of Mr. Snodgrass. The track was like that of an alligator, though more circular in form. It had five toes, with a strong claw on each. The track is eleven inches wide and nineteen long."

The most probable solution of the matter is that these dragons are solitary specimens of some geological animal supposed to be extinct. It most nearly fits the description of the pterodactyl, a weird nocturnal vampire, half bat,' half lizard, that infested the vast swamps of the earth in the carboniferous age. The pterodactyl is described by geologists as attaining a size often four times as large as the eagle, while the bill became a snout, and its mouth was set with ghastly teeth that devoured birds, reptiles and all small animals that came in its way.

It may be that this species of animal has not become entirely extinct, as has been supposed, but that these are veritable pterodactyls. It is now recalled that a strange monster resembling these was reported a few years ago in the vast swamp between Tulare lake and Kern lake.
Los Angeles Herald, Volume 36, Number 107, 5 August 1891

The Pterodactyl Hunt of 1890

Tombstone epitaph., April 26, 1890

This story was proven to be a hoax based on the fake photograph allegedly published along side of this story. I personally did not see that photograph in the newspaper.


While the photograph clearly appears to be a product of some creative genius, it does not explain the actual article. Indeed, there were very successful attempts to discredit the story.
  • One of those involved the alleged poor economic situation in Tombstone in 1890. But that very same newspaper paints a different picture. It's enough to take a look at the actual contents (including commercial ads section in the back) to question this "economic" reason.
+ Tombstone Lodges doing fine...

  • The other reason is more scientific in its appearance. The article claims that the creature's wingspan was 160 feet. By comparison, Queztalcoatlus, the largest known pterosaur, had a wingspan of 36-39 feet, less than one-fifth that of the Tombstone flying monster. While 160 feet definitely sounds like way too much, it only sounds strange when compared to what we know today, or to what we are allowed to know.
One way or the other, we did have an article published, and below are the contents of the article. The judgement is all yours.

A winged monster, resembling a huge alligator with an extremely elongated tail and an immense pair of wings, was found on the desert between the Whetstone and Huachuca mountains last Sunday by two ranchers who were returning home from the Huachucas. The creature was evidently greatly exhausted by a long flight and when discovered was able to fly but a short distance at a time.

After the first shock of wild amazement had passed the two men, who were on horseback and armed with Winchester rifles, regained sufficient courage to pursue the monster and after an exciting chase of several miles succeeded in getting near enough to open fire with their rifles and wounding it.

The creature then turned on the men, but owing to its exhausted condition they were able to keep out of its way and after a few well directed shots the monster partly rolled over and remained motionless. The men cautiously approached, their horses snorting with terror, and found that the creature was dead.

They then proceeded to make an examination and found that it measured about ninety-two feet in length and the greatest diameter was about fifty inches. The monster had only two feet, these being situated a short distance in front of where the wings were joined to the body. The head, as near as they could judge, was about eight feet long, the jaws being thickly set with strong, sharp teeth. Its eyes were as large as a dinner plate and protruded about halfway from the head.

They had some difficulty in measuring the wings as they were partly folded under the body, but finally got one straightened out sufficiently to get a measurement of seventy-eight feet, making the total length from tip to tip about 160 feet. The wings were composed of a thick and nearly transparent membrane and were devoid of feathers or hair, as was the entire body. The skin of the body was comparatively smooth and easily penetrated by a bullet.

The men cut off a small portion of the tip of one wing and took it home with them. Late last night one of them arrived in this city for supplies and to make the necessary preparations to skin the creature, when the hide will be sent east for examination by the eminent scientists of the day.

The finder returned early this morning accompanied by several prominent men who will endeavor to bring the strange creature to this city before it is mutilated.
Tombstone epitaph., April 26, 1890

Contemporary pterosaur sightings


A nonfiction-cryptozoology author has analyzed reports of non-extinct pterosaurs, commonly called “pterodactyls” or “flying dinosaurs,” and found how sightings relate to thirty-three states (and Washington D.C.) of the United States. Jonathan Whitcomb, of Murray, Utah, has been receiving emails, and an occasional phone call, over a period of 13 years, from eyewitnesses from five continents, and most reported sightings are in North America.

Using 161 sighting reports, which Whitcomb chose after eliminating ones that had too much potential for misidentification of a bird, he found that California and Texas had the most, at 27 and 11, but he ascribed that to higher human populations in those two states. (On this list, seventeen U.S. states had no reported sightings.) Other findings surprised Whitcomb.

When correlated with human population, using six million as a typical U. S. state, the winner for most reported sightings of living pterosaurs is Hawaii, with 44.1. Second place, at 19.5, goes to Utah, and Oklahoma is third with 11.2.

Statistics on Living Pterosaur Sightings in the USA
Live Pterosaur
Pterosaurs Not Extinct

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KD: I'm pretty sure that Photoshop can work both ways. If we have a photograph depicting an unwanted object, all it would take is one "original" photograph, where that unwanted object would not be not present.

So, there it is. We have old articles, unknown authenticity photographs, scientific denial, and a whole lot of questions.


Active member
Here's an interesting thing about animals: they all look the same. Pick one type of animal, hell pick 10, image search them. Then, try to find as much variation as there is in those hoax photos.

Or you can believe that the only 4 pteros ever to caught and photographed are all from different species


Well-known member
I am not going to deny the existence of big birds.
But I am thinking these stories are maybe cover for the Thunderbird.
Which sounds like it is in use at least 10 years before the Wright brothers.


Well-known member
I don't know of anyone in Oklahoma that has seen a pteradactyl. Supposedly, Oklahoma is one of the hot spot areas for sighting them. We have some really big birds here but they're identifiable (chicken hawks, turkey vultures, etc.). Did have a big shadow fly over me while driving. Wing span was as wide as my truck. Happened too quickly to see what it was and, as I was driving 60mph, I didn't try taking my eyes off the road to look in the rear view for it. Still don't think it was a pteradactyl but who knows? Will have to watch the sky more carefully when I'm out and about.


This thread peaked my interest. A large avian creature is depicted on the Urbano Monte map carrying off an elephant near the 'Antarctic' coastline near South America. Note the shape of its head in comparison to the above photos already posted.



New member
One thing about people activities; there has to be a vested interest to produce a show. Ego is one thing, money is another, there are not too many others at all.
The other factor is 'conspiracy'. It is extremely hard to keep a secret; like a 'conspiracy to deceive with a hoax'.
Anyone who really studies wildlife, as in plants, animals, birds, reptiles, knows there is tremendous variation within a single species. Even then; Cannabis genus has only two species but thousands of strains. Oregano is one genus but at least 120 species. Rose is one genus with 145 wild species and over 22,000 hybrids.
50 yrs ago I was reading reports from 100yrs before that and there was so much 'stuff' that nobody would believe today but then...the Smithsonian would be there as fast as the Men in Black to take away the evidence. Especially Giant Skeletons.
How many people have been close enough to a Grizzly or Wolf to say "it was just like that other wolf I ran into yesterday"? Not many I would guess.
I do note that these 'hunting party's' were well armed and smart enough not to hunt a dinosaur on their own risk. Safety in numbers!!!