Is the ropen story of Michael of Opai Village
a legend or an account of a real event?
“Maikel” of Opai Village on Umboi Island in
Papua New Guinea, appears to be an ordinary
old man living in a small community of humble
people. Perhaps nobody in the “civilized” world
would know he existed, except for an interview he had with an American in 2004. It was this interview, conducted by a forensic videographer, that brought this old man into a dramatic investigation of one of the strangest scientific quests of modern times.
In 1949 an event occurred that was not at all
unprecedented on this island but which is far
removed from the experiences of people of Western societies. The common practice in
funerals at that time was for the body of the
deceased to be wrapped in leaves. On this
night of this particular funeral gathering, how-
ever, things did not go at all as expected.
Michael was one of the witnesses of a strange
light that came to the grave in Gomlongon
Village where the body of a man was buried.
He could not see any details of what created
the light. It is the tradition of the islanders
that this light is from a creature called “ropen”.
The next day, villagers went to the grave to
find it open; the body was missing.
To the villagers, it was just another case of the
ropen taking a body up to the mountain for the
purpose of eating it. American researchers do
not have any reasonable alternate theory for
this phenomenon. In addition, Michael did not
seem to be attempting to promote any legend
or support any local tradition during his inter-
view. He simply reported what he had seen.
The fact that other reports of grave robbery
resemble Michael’s testimony doesn’t detract
from his credibility. The things he said and
the things he did not say strongly suggest an
honest testimony of what he saw long ago.
Whitcomb, author of Searching for Ropens,
thinks the glow of the ropen is caused by an
intrinsic bioluminescence: The ropen is a
living Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur that
glows. Perhaps this is one origin of flying-
From an interview given by Jonathan Whitcomb, certified court videographer
(and investigator of living-pterosaur reports in Papua New Guinea and elsewhere)
The people of Opai Village where Michael lives
(fascinated by their images on the LCD screen)