The Tombstone Monster Missed the Ark!
One question that’s important to the estimates of the number of Ark Kinds is how many extinct kinds are there that we haven’t discovered yet? Paleontological discoveries of entirely new vertebrate families are rare, and although most paleontologists would tell you there are likely many extinct families we don’t know about, they would be basing that on the scarce fossil record in certain eras and environments, which are assumptions that YECs would not accept. Thus, most YECs think there are few undiscovered kinds.
However, when they talk about evidence for dragons, animals that clearly don’t fit into any kinds on their list abound. The Tombstone Flying Monster is one example, which is used as evidence of dragons in a chapter of AIG’s The New Answers Book 4, by Bodie Hodge. The text claims:
“In 1890, a large flying dragon was killed in Arizona (in the United States), and samples were sent to universities back east. This was recorded in a newspaper under ‘A Strange Winged Monster Discovered and Killed on the Huachuca Desert,’ The Tombstone Epitaph, on April 26, 1890.”
The description of the creature from the Tombstone Epitaph includes these details:
- Length = 92’ (28m)
- Greatest Diameter = 4.2’ (1.3m)
- Head Length = 8’ (2.4m)
- Wingspan = 160’ (49m)
- Only two feet, situated closely in front of where the wings were attached to the body.
- Strong, sharp teeth.
- Eyes as large as dinnerplates protruding halfway from head.
- Wings are thick, nearly transparent membrane.
- No feathers or hair.
- Skin smooth and easily penetrated by bullet.
Here’s my bad scale drawing to give you an idea of the proportions they are describing (remember, that eye is the size of a dinnerplate):
The newspaper does not state that any samples were sent to universities back east, only that the finders intended to do so. There is no other source of information on this incident. There were no follow up articles in the Tombstone Epitaph or any other newspaper, and there is no record of any scientists receiving or analyzing any samples. The article has been investigated by many people over the years and is generally assumed to be one of the tall tales typical of Western newspapers of the time.
But AIG seems to be accepting it as true, so let’s figure out what kind it belongs to. The two legs in front of the wings rule out it being any known creature capable of powered flight. The only known animals with this configuration were the Sharovipterygids, which were gliders. However the description says that the creature was “evidently greatly exhausted by a long flight” and “able to fly but a short distance at a time”, which seems to imply it was repeatedly taking off and landing. I guess it’s possible that it was a glider, and that’s why it had so much trouble getting away, which they interpreted as exhaustion. But where would a 92’ long creature glide from? Sharovipterygids climbed trees. The Tombstone monster would be taller than most trees. With only two legs in front of the wings it presumably couldn’t stand up like a bird, so on land it’s belly must have dragged on the ground like a crocodile or a snake, doing some kind of slithering army crawl. That would probably make it pretty slow moving, which would make it difficult to get to the top of a cliff without ever being seen by a reliable witness. At that size they wouldn’t be able to get very far from even a high cliff, but maybe they utilized updrafts like condors…except that their body length would cover the diameter of most updrafts, which wouldn’t leave any room to circle.
Powered flight seems like the only option, but the energy requirements seem prohibitive. And takeoff must have been strange. If you crawl on your belly how do you get your wings high enough to start flapping? Did it do some kind of weird burpee? Rear up like a cobra? Whatever method it used, how was it not strange enough for the witnesses to mention it? And how could it possibly sustain flight by flapping? The thing was as big as a jumbo jet! Hmmm, maybe jet power is the key here. They say some dragons breathed fire…maybe the reason for the leg-wings is that we’re looking at it backwards!
Anyway, however it flew, I don’t see any way it could have fit into any of the kinds on the AIG list. It’s simply too different. I only see three options for AIG here:
- Dismiss the story as being fictional, in which case they can’t use it as evidence of dragons.
- Assume that the witnesses were so confused that their detailed reports of the creature’s size and anatomy are completely unreliable, in which case it can’t be evidence of dragons.
- Add 14 of these things to the Ark list (it is a flying creature so they would need 7 pairs).
Because they referred to the article in one of their most popular books as evidence of dragons, I have to assume they are going to go with option 3. This is significant because if the report of this creature is accurate it would be among the largest animals ever to exist, which means that enclosures and food for these creatures would require a substantial amount of space on the Ark. While most of my “Missed the Ark Monday” posts are pointless criticisms of their poor quality research and inconsistencies, these monsters actually matter. Noah would have trouble fitting 14 of these on the Ark even if he could wrap their wings around their bodies cocoon-style and stack them!
Normally for extremely large species AIG assumes that a smaller species in the same family would have been taken on the Ark. However, because there is only a single report of this creature in history, we don’t know of any smaller species in this family. Is it reasonable to assume that the one specimen that two ranchers happened to stumble across in the Arizona desert just happened to be the largest species? Couldn’t it just as easily have been the smallest? Isn’t the most reasonable assumption, lacking further evidence, that it’s average? We could try to calculate that this creature was at some kind of physiological or aerodynamic limit on size, and thus must have been the largest. But I’m pretty sure those calculations would only lead us to the conclusion that this creature was impossible in the first place, so that seems unlikely to get us anywhere.
Another solution AIG typically proposes is that the specimens taken onto the Ark were juveniles, and thus not fully grown. God would have planned it so that the animals would have been reaching sexual maturity at the end of the year on the Ark, so that they could reproduce after leaving, but would take up less space on the Ark. However large flying creatures generally reach adult size rapidly. Condors and albatross exceed adult size while being fed by their parents, and lose weight when they fledge. Flying foxes are weaned at about 1/3 of adult weight, but reach adult size in less than a year. And studies on large pterodactyls concluded they reach full size within a year. If the Tombstone kind was not full size after a year Ark it’s development would have to be very unlike all known flying creatures. Of course, everything about it is very unlike all known flying creatures, so I guess that shouldn’t be surprising.
This isn’t getting me anywhere, so I’ll have to delve into random speculation. The largest animals depicted on the Ark Encounter are the Rebbachisaurs, which have an adult length of 20m (66 feet). That’s 71% of the length of the Tombstone monster, so let’s arbitrarily assume that the smallest species of the Tombstone kind is about that size. The Rebbachisaurs depicted are supposed to be juveniles. Let’s assume that the juvenile Tombstone monsters would be the same size as the juvenile Rebbachisaurs. All of this is completely arbitrary, but I don’t think anyone can reasonably argue that they would be smaller, so let’s take this as a best case size. The Rebbachisaur enclosure on the Ark Encounter is about 19.4m2 for two animals. Thus, fourteen animals would require 136m2. That’s over 11% of the available deck space of the Ark Encounter. That’s not including food and provisions for these animals, and a flying animal that size is not going to have a small metabolism. These monsters are a BIG problem.
Furthermore, if we’re assuming that articles in old newspapers are a reliable source for proving the existence of an unknown creature, what other creatures are we going to have to add to the Ark? This 6-winged monster from the Sacramento Daily Record-Union has some similarities to the Tombstone monster, but it’s certainly not about the same kind. What about the Sasquatch and Mothman? The Jersey Devil? Countless alien abduction stories? Why should we only trust these stories when they fit AIG’s narrative?