The Legend Of The Honey Island Swamp Monster
Just a short drive from New Orleans, Louisiana are many acres of swamp land deep in the Honey Island Swamp that are said to be as uncorrupted, primitive, and untouched by man as anywhere in America.
The Serpent of Gloucester, Massachusetts
An artist’s interpretation of the Serpent of Gloucester. Image: Wikipedia
In August 1817, the skipper of a trading ship entering Gloucester Harbour, Massachusetts, witnessed a baffling 60-foot long, leathery sea creature. This spectacle birthed the story of the Serpent of Gloucester.
The Sightings of the Serpent of Gloucester
In August 1817, a ship was sailing into Gloucester Harbour, Massachusetts. All of a sudden, the boat’s captain saw something weird in the rough sea that he couldn’t explain. It was a huge creature in the water, 60 feet long, with humps on its back. It was black, shiny like silver, and its skin looked like leather.
It moved like a snake and had a massive snake-like head with dark eyes. The captain was shocked. He couldn’t tell if it was a dream or real. He rushed to tell other sailors about this incredible story. To his surprise, they also claimed to have seen the monster.
James Mansfield, who saw the creature, said its head was about the size of a hat’s top. Another person, Solomon Allen III, said the creature’s head was like a rattlesnake’s but almost as big as a horse’s. Sewall Toppan, a boat captain, said he had never seen a fish like this creature in all his years at sea.
Everyone in Gloucester was scared. They respected the sea and knew it held many secrets, but this was different and frightening. Before the boat’s captain saw the creature, two women claimed they saw a similar ‘monster’ in a harbor north of Gloucester. Although most people didn’t believe them, some sailors said they saw the creature too. Then, Amos Story, a sailor, claimed he saw a ‘monster’ from the shore. More and more people claimed they saw the creature, making it seem real. It looked like there was something strange in the sea that didn’t belong to this world.
Hysteria about the Serpent Sweeps Gloucester
Soon, there was a frightened buzz growing in Massachusetts, due to something strange arriving. What made it weird was that the fishermen, who knew the sea best, also saw this monster. Gloucester was America’s oldest fishing port, and its fishermen had all the knowledge passed down from their ancestors. They had seen everything in the ocean. But this monster? It was something new for them. If these expert fishermen couldn’t figure out what it was, who could? The monster seemed to be teasing them, right under their noses.
The local gossip in Gloucester was full of guesses about the monster. It was the hot topic at the harbor. Local newspapers were packed with stories and accounts of this odd creature, often with headlines like ‘Monstrous Serpent’ and other dramatic phrases. Before long, Gloucester was swamped with tourists. The ferries were packed with eager visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of the serpent. They all wanted to see this monster.
“200 people saw the serpent at once, playing around all afternoon,” said David Humphreys, a former aide-de-camp for George Washington. There were even claims that the monster was seen as far as Long Island Sound off the coast of Connecticut, 160 miles to the south. As expected, a big cash prize was offered to anyone who could catch the creature.
The Hunt for the Gloucester Serpent
The Folklorist covers the story of the Gloucester Serpent
Fishermen, whalers, and people hoping to make some money crowded Gloucester’s harbor trying to spot and catch the big sea creature. They used nets and shark hooks as traps. Many people, including locals, camped by the sea, keeping a close watch for the creature. Some even searched the beaches for large eggs that might have been laid by the sea serpent. There was even a big shed built in Boston to show off the captured sea creature, a symbol of pride for Massachusetts.
They didn’t want it alive. They wanted it dead because they were afraid of it. The New England Linnaean Society of Boston eagerly awaited a sample as more and more people told their own stories.
Then one day, Matthew Gaffney, a carpenter on a ship, saw the creature and shot at it with a musket. He shot it in the head twice, but it seemed to have no effect. The creature quickly vanished, only to reappear a little later. But it got dark, and they lost sight of it.
Later, a farmer near Cape Ann found a four-foot-long snake swimming near the shore and killed it with a pitchfork. He took the snake to the Linnaean Society, who cut it open and decided that it must be the baby of the big sea creature. No one knows how they made that decision. They named it ‘Scoliophis,’ a new kind of snake that means ‘humped snake’ in Latin. They gave the creature the scientific name, ‘Scoliophis atlanticus’. But this victory was short-lived. A French naturalist later showed that the ‘baby of the big sea creature’ was just a common black snake that was sick.
Theories about the Identity of the Serpent of Gloucester
The people of Gloucester definitely saw something that caused a huge stir. That much we can confirm. What it was exactly is anyones guess. Sea serpents were definitely in our oceans during the time of the dinosaurs and, like other deep-sea monsters such as the Loch Ness Monster, some have suggested that the Gloucester serpent might be a creature that escaped extinction.
This idea might not be as crazy as it sounds. Sea snakes, some as long as 10 feet, live in the ocean today. While that’s smaller than the Gloucester monster, most people now think that the monster was an actual animal that was misidentified. Back in the early 1800s, most animals from other parts of the world would seem really weird. Many thought the monster was simply mistaken for something else, and experts at the time did their best to explain it.
Naturalist Constantin Rafinesque said it was a real sea snake, while others thought it was some kind of whale. The creature didn’t move side to side like a reptile, but up and down like a sea mammal. It’s pretty common for people to see a snake-like shape when looking at a group of whales or dolphins. Some even thought it might be a narwhal, which can grow really big. Maybe a large group was seen off the coast of Massachusetts and mistaken for the monster. After all, some people said they saw a ‘long, pointed prong or spear’ sticking out two feet from its head.
The creature’s behavior was similar to a narwhal, often staying still for hours near the shore. Its size was also similar to a narwhal, and most people said it was ‘dark’ on the top and ‘nearly white’ on the bottom, just like a narwhal. Many people also said the creature would ‘dive straight down without twisting its body at all,’ swim really fast, and wasn’t aggressive, all behaviors that are common with narwhals. People’s descriptions of the creature varied a lot, but many of them saw it at night, during storms, or from really far away, with one person looking through a telescope a quarter mile away.
This could explain why there haven’t been any sightings in the last century. Whale and narwhal populations are going down because they’re the animals most affected by climate change.
Investigator Richard Ellis once asked, “Shall we assume that hundreds of reputable citizens were deluded or victims of mass hysteria?” They saw something out in the vast ocean, something they couldn’t explain. Maybe we’ll never know for sure what the creature was.
The Hook Island Sea Monster
The Hook Island Sea Monster spotted in Australia’s Whitsundays
In December 1964, a man named Robert Le Serrec witnessed a 75-80ft long creature underwater near Hook Island, Queensland.
The Story of the Hook Island Sea Monster
The location where the Hook Island Monster was spotted.
In a news release that revisits a decades-old mystery, we cast our minds back to the mid-60s and journey to Stonehaven Bay, Hook Island, Queensland, Australia. Here, the seemingly serene waters once revealed a creature of gargantuan proportions that bore an uncanny resemblance to a tadpole of truly monstrous scale.
It was December 1964, when French native, Robert Le Serrec, along with his family and shiphand, purportedly encountered the aquatic leviathan. The family, new owners of a motorboat, had decided to set anchor for several months in the vicinity of Hook Island. On December 12th, as they navigated across the bay, the first sight of the creature emerged.
EDGE Science covers the tale of the Hook Island Sea Monster
Robert’s wife first noticed a strange anomaly, enormous in size and tadpole-like in shape, lurking at the bottom of the lagoon. Instantly intrigued, they wasted no time in documenting the encounter. Armed with their camera, they started snapping pictures. The ship’s hand, de Jong, plucked up the courage to submerge himself in the water to capture a closer look at the beast.
Initially mistaking the creature for a deceased specimen, owing to its monumental length of 75-80ft, they soon discovered they were wrong. As Le Serrec moved in closer to film, the beast startled them by opening its mouth and making a beeline towards them. A frantic retreat back to the boat ensued, by which point, the creature had made a hasty exit.
Eyewitnesses aboard reported seeing an injury on the creature’s right flank. The assumption was made that the wound could have been inflicted by a ship’s propeller, prompting the creature to seek solace in the shallow lagoon. Its unusual physical features, including eyes on the top of its head and a smooth, finless body, raised eyebrows amongst skeptics. Some argued that it was an elaborate hoax, perhaps a clever camera angle of a large school of fish, or an ingeniously manipulated image – though such theories seemed far-fetched given the photographic technology of the 60s.
Theories about the Hook Island Sea Monster
More photos of the Hook Island Sea Monster
Optimistic yet rational believers hypothesized that the creature could be a gigantic version of a swamp eel from the Synbranchidae family, despite these eels typically not exceeding 150cm in size. Others conjectured that it might be an artificially constructed, monster-shaped sheet of plastic.
A comprehensive and meticulous report by Darren Naish, published in Scientific American, has argued that the incident was a hoax. He pointed out that in 1959, Le Serrec had planned an expedition with the promise of it being “financially fruitful”, with a vague hint of a sea-serpent related endeavor that would rake in substantial money. To add to the skepticism, the film supposedly capturing the creature was not very clear or convincing.
Do you think the Hook Island Sea Monster was real or a hoax? Tell us your theory in the comments.
If you enjoyed learning about the Hook Island Sea Monster you might also be interested in a sea monster attack that killed four teens or the story of Tessie, Lake Tahoe’s Nessie.
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