Photo:A Black and white version of this drawing appeared with the article. Click to see higher resolution
An article carried widely was published in the Salt Lake City, County and reprinted in the; Denver News and the Logansport Pharos, Indiana, on Sept 22, 1903, the Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, September 3, 1903 (among others) gave an eyewitness account of a gigantic, â€śprehistoric monsterâ€ť on Stansbury Island that could only have been a long-tailed, pterosaur.
The story mentions that there had been a number of â€ścurrentâ€ť eyewitnesses of the â€śterrible creatureâ€ť but that the account by Martin Gilbert and John Barry, two hunters who recently returned from an expedition was the most complete in cataloging the creatureâ€™s movements.
This account is fantastic in the various meanings of the word and no doubt most would simply believe it to be untrue and impossible. The art that appeared with the story (shown here) which was not often reproduced with the text in the various papers that picked up the story, clearly portrays a pterosaur. Science says that these creatures became extinct millions of years ago and that is proof enough for most that there is no truth to this account.
On the other hand, there have been hundreds if not thousands of sightings of similar (mostly smaller) creatures like this in the last 20 or 30 years. For example, this eyewitness accounts suggests a creature in the same size range as the 1903 sighting:
In December, 1997 my husband and I both sighted a huge creature flying over a densely populated area, while we were out walking one night in Perth, Western Australia on the coastline around 10:30 pm. . . .â€ť
â€ś . . it had a ruddy reddish brown leathery skin; (we could see its underneath as it flew over us at about 300 ft up; the glow from all the ground lighting made that possible), it had a long tail and a wingspan that we estimated at between 30-50 feet across. Complete Story
It should be mentioned that there had been prior sightings of this or other monsters at Stansbury Island (or Great Salt Lake) prior to this account; in the 1840â€™s a â€śBrother Bainbridgeâ€ť reported seeing a â€śdolphin-likeâ€ť body of large size in the Lake near Antelope Island and in 1877 J.H. McNeil and several other employees of the Barnes and Co. Slat Works Co. reported being chased by a huge creature with a crocodile-like body and the head like a horseâ€™s which emitted a fearsome bellowing noise. Skeptics suggest that the 1877 sighting was a buffaloâ€¦.Wikipedia
The local Native American’s had an oral tradition about a monster that inhabited the Great Salt Lake area called the Great Mosquito Monster or the Giant Mosquito Monster. This winged creature with a long beak (like a mosquito?) was a terror and was reportedly responsible for the disappearance and destruction of many braves. It’s not difficult to understand how a creature like a large pterosaur could inspire the name or the description; “The Great Mosquito Monster”.
In the sighting referenced by this article, in 1903, some information is provided that could shed some light on pterosaur behavior as well as some explanation as to why this creature is seen both in the air and in the water. The 1903 eyewitnesses claimed that the creature was at home in the sky and in the water. This could account for sightings on land and in the lake itself. The sightings are collectively called the North Shore Monster.
It is interesting to note that upon the initial discovery of pterosaur fossils, they were thought to be aquatic:
â€śThe first pterosaur fossil was described by the Italian naturalist Cosimo Collini in 1784. Collini misinterpreted his specimen as a seagoing creature that used its long front limbs as paddles. A few scientists continued to support the aquatic interpretation even until 1830, when the German zoologist Johann Georg Wagler suggested that Pterodactylus used its wings as flippers..â€ťâ€¦Wikipedia
Maybe they werenâ€™t so far off after all. In 1922, a New York Times article reported that a fifty foot marine creature eventually took flight after sinking a boat in the Mediterranean after the crew pelted it with pomegranates. Reportedly the creature had been seen circling the Dog Island in the sea of Marmora for several days as well as hassling ships and boats in the area. Who makes up details like that?….s8int.com
The Monster of Salt Lake
Huge Flying Reptile Was Seen Carrying A Horse In It’s Jaws
Half Bird, Half Reptile.
“A terrible, nameless, unclassified creature of the animal world is exciting the curiosity, wonder and fear of occasional visitors to Stansbury island, in the Southern portion of Great Salt lake.
This monster, for it can be called nothing else, has lately, it is said, been seen by several persons, but the best account of its characteristics and movements is given by Martin Gilbert and John Barry, two hunters who recently returned from an expedition over the island, in the course of which they studied the habits of this hitherto unheard of creature for three days.
The monster, which appears to be almost equally at home in the air, on the beach or submerged in the briny waters of Salt lake, is probably the sole survivor of a prehistoric species. It is doubtless the last representative of a family whose other members, dead ages since, have left the testimony of their existence in the primeval rocks of the mountains.
Arranging in concise form the description of this incredible relic of the animal world from the accounts given
by those who have observed it at a close range, it seems in plain, unscientific language a combination of fish, alligator and bat.”
One of the eyewitnesses put the size of the creature while the other, who closely studied the tracks it left in the sand of the beach thought it closer to 65 feet in length.
Photo:Comparison of monster drawing on decription of eyewitnesses with current artist conceptions of certain long tailed pterosaurs. Click for higher resolution
The head was described as being like that of an alligator and it was thought that its jaws could open as wide as ten feet and that they were filled with saw-edged teeth. The body was described as being encased in “horny scales” and its eyes like so many modern “pterosaur” sightings as fiercely glowing.
The 1903 article continues:
“As to this Gilbert and Barry are not positive, (scales) as the constant diving of the beast, if such it may be called, into the strong brine of the lake has incrusted it with a thick coating of salt, which, save near the wings, completely hides the body.
It is due to this unusual phenomenon that the hunters obtained their first sight of the monster. According to
their account, they first sighted it at a distance of between one and a half and two miles. The day was clear, the sun intensely hot. Gilbert’s own words of the discovery are:
“We were walking westward from the east shore of the island about 9 o’clock in the morning when suddenly to the northwest there appeared a thing. I don’t know what to call it.
It looked to me like a brilliant rainbow folded into a compact mass, moving rapidly through the air. “In three, or four minutes the monster’s position was such that it no longer reflected the sunlight directly toward us, and wo could then discern the outline of the form.
Its wings were batlike stretching out over a great expanse, I should say at least 100 feet from tip to tip.
The tail was proportionately short and resembled that of a huge fish. We were not close enough at this time to tell much about the head, only we saw that the jaws were very long. In shape the head was like that of a crocodile.
“We watched it disappear in the gathering gloom of the night, but were for a long time paralyzed with fear, not knowing when it might return. It was probably an hour later when it did come back.
We heard the swish of the mighty wings before it could be seen, but as it drew nearer by the light of the young moon in the west we saw that it carried in its great jaws a large horse, which, I suppose, it had swooped down upon while feeding. The horse was badly crushed and mangled.”
At that point the article continues that they listened to the crunching of bone that could be heard in the cave for the better part of an hour, after it quited down they waited for a while and then stole back to their camp on the other side of the island. It must be assumed that the balance of their observations over what wa described as three days took place at some distance on the other side of Stansbury Island.