Tuesday, 20 December 2016

The Orford Wild Man, or Merman

Wellcome library

Now, this is supposed to be a 'well known story', but could I find a translation of its original source, Ralph of Coggeshall's 'Chronicum Anglicanum'? I could not. So here is the Latin, and what I can make of it. Which is extremely poor, I accept. Sorry to my Latin teachers. It went in one ear and out the other. I'd be very glad of a more erudite version.

De quodam homine silvestri in mari capto.
About a certain wild man captured from the sea.

Temporibus Henrici regis secundi cum Bartholomeus de Glanvilla custodiret castellum de Oreford, contigit ut piscatores ibidem in mari piscantes, hominem silvestrem intra retia sua comprehenderent; qui castellano praedicto traditus prae admiratione, ex omni parte nudus erat, ac speciem humanam in omnibus membris praetendebat.

In the time of King Henry the Second, with Bartholomew de Glanville taking care of the castle at Orford, it happened that some fishermen were fishing there in the sea, and they took a wild man in their nets. They handed him over to the aforementioned castle. He was completely naked and a human being in every respect.

 Capillos autem habebat, sed in superficie quasi divulsi et demoliti videbantur, barba vero prolixa erat et pineata, circa pectus nimium pilosus et hispidus. Praedictus vero miles fecit eum custodiri diutius diebus ac noctibus, ne mare posset adire.

Except, he had hair, that made his surface appear torn and rent, a truly lengthy conical beard, and a breast rather hairy and bristly. The aforementioned soldier (de Glanville?) kept him in custody for days and nights, and he couldn't visit the sea.

 Quae ei apponebantur avide comedebat. Pisces vero tam crudos quam coctos sumebat, sed crudos inter manus fortiter comprimebat donec omnis aquositas consumeretur, et sic eos edebat. Loquelam autem nullam edere voluit, vel potius non potuit, etiam per pedes suspensus et saepe dirissime tortus.

What they served up he ate greedily. He preferred raw fish over cooked, and powerfully compressed the raw ones between his hands until all the water was consumed, and thus he ate them. He didn't produce any speech, or perhaps he couldn't, as he didn't even when suspended by his feet and cruelly tortured.

Ad ecclesiam quanquam adductus, nulla omnino venerationis vel alicujus credulitatis signa monstrabat, aut in genuum flexione, sive in capitis inclinatione, quotiens aliqua sacrata cerneret.

He was brought to the church, but he didn't show any sign of worship or belief at all, neither bending his knee, or bending his head whenever any sacred thing required it.

Cubile suum semper in occasu solis festinanter petebat, usque ad exortum solis in eo recubans. Contigit quoque ut eum ad portum maris semel adducerent, atque eum in mari dimitterent, locatis ante eum fortissimis retibus triplici ordine.

He always quickly sought his bed at sunset, and lay there until the sun reappeared. One day it happened that they brought him to the sea port, and sent him away into the sea, but they put before him a very strong net made of three layers.

Qui mox maris ima petens, atque retia omnia pertransiens, iterum atque iterum de profundo maris se emergebat, et spectantes super ripam maris diutius spectabat, saepius se mergens, et post pusillum emergens, et quasi spectantibus insultans quod eorum retia evasisset.

Desperate to get at the sea, he got through all the nets, and again and again he surfaced from the depths of the sea, and they saw him watching them from beyond the sea shore, frequently sinking down, and after a quick reemergence, they watched him attack their nets and escape.

Cumque diu in mari ita lusisset, et jam omnis spes reversionis ejus sublata fuisset, venit iterum sponte usque ad eos in maris fluctibus natans, mansitque cum eis iterum per duos menses. Sed cum postmodum negligentius custodiretur et jam fastidio haberetur, clam aufugit ad mare, et nusqam postea comparuit.

For a long while he played in the sea, and now every hope of his being recaptured had been destroyed,  he came again willingly up to those in the sea who were floating on the waves, and he stayed with them again over two months. But after the careless guarding incident they now disdained him, and he quietly vanished off into the waves, and was never seen again.

 Si autem hic mortalis homo exstiterit, sive aliquis piscis humanam praetendens speciem, sive aliquis malignus spiritus fuerit in aliquo corpore submersi hominis latitans, sicut de quodam legitur in vita beati Audoeni, non facile diffiniri potest, maxime quia tam multa miranda a tam multis de hujusmodi eventibus narrentur.

Supposing that mortal man exists, but on the other hand some fish-human sight is presented, if some wicked spirit was lurking somewhere within a man's body, like about a certain person in the life of St Ouen, it is not easy to lay down a rule, particularly because so much is to be marvelled at from so many of these kind of reported events. 

Ok so the last bit went particularly skewiff. But I've tried. There's a translation here 
which is the only one I've found (after my effort!) which suggests the last bit is wondering about what sort of a thing he was.

The paragraph that follows in the Chronicum is about the puero and puella de terra emergentibus... ah yes the famous green Woolpit children. But that Herculean effort will have to be for another day.  

Orford Castle (by Ashley Dace)
 I feel like I've been to Orford Castle, a long time ago. Though I don't remember being aware of the story. I'll have to go back. The castle was built in 1165 and Ralph of Coggeshall was writing between 1187 and 1224.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Exhibition of a Merman.

On Saturday, notwithstanding the rain, upwards of 150 distinguished Fashionables visited the Exhibition of the Merman, among whom were -- His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester, the Dukes of Rutland and St. Albans and parties, the Marquis and Marchioness of Stafford and friends, the Marquises of Huntly and Cholmondeley and parties, the Countess Dowager of Cork and party, Lady Pulteney and party, Earl and Countess Howe and party, Earl of Falmouth and party, Lords L. Gower and A.  Hamilton and parties, &c. -- It has been announced that the Tickets dated the 19th will be received all this week.

Morning Post, June 21st, 1824.

From John Platts' 'The Manners and Customs of All Nations' (1827).

There is a Merman now exhibiting in a lodging-house in Piccadilly, and it has followed the Mermaid from Batavia. Both were manufactured by the Japanese; both were purchased (we believe unsuspectingly) by Captains of ships, and they are alike genuine. The Mermaid was the better piece of work of the two, and if exhibited, as we mentioned at the time, as an example of the mehanical ingenuity of the curiosity-caterers in Japan, would have been praiseworthy.

The head was that of the green African monkey, the arms those of the monkey and ape, the body and tail the salmon's, the skin of which was, when fresh taken off, in a gelatinous state, then dried, fined down with pummice-stone, gummed, and laid on over the dorsal bones (of a fish) so as to display the vertebrae, and finally exposed to the air and insects, so as to acquire the discolouration and perforation of antiquity.

The arms in the Mermaid being those of the ape and monkey, the nails being well cut out of birds' quills, and the junction of the neck to the monkey's skull being neatly inserted, the whole figure was capitally managed for a show. But not so this Merman, who is (probably as a distinction of his sex) constructed of ruder materials. The head is hideous; and if, like Cerberus, "op'ning his greedy grinning jaws," he does not "gape with three enormous mouths," he has one mouth bigger and more hideous than them all. The head is exactly that of the catfish, which is remarkable for its round head and projecting teeth (as in this figure); the distended and deformed face is an artificial mask, manufactured upon the fish-skull; but, the most clumsy contrivance of all, is the hair upon the head. Now, surely, a Merman or Mermaid ought, were it only in common couresy to the best authenticated accounts, ancient and modern, to have the green hair flowing in graceful curls down the shoulders, so as to permit the elegant action of throwing it aside when buffetting the "angry deep;" then we can understand Shakespeare's 
"Mermaid on a dolphin's back
Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath,
That the rude sea grew civil at her song."

But what will the reader think when he is informed that the Piccadilly Merman has a fine well-brushed head of hair, rising perpendicularly from the crown of the head in the newest Dandy fashion? It is soft and downy, resembling in length and texture the best muff fur - it is, in fact, nothing more nor less than the thinner coat of hair of the young fox or jackall, the colour almost that of the common animal, light reddish brown with a grey root. We imagine they are not much in the habit in Japan of seeing the seal or other marine animals which are tufted with hair, or they would have seen that such hair is long and fibrous, and from the nature of the element it lives in, always clinging along the skin, and in its growth and texture bearing no resemblance to that of land animals. It would have been just the same trouble to have manufactured the one hair as the other, and there is no doubt that the Japanese will improve upon the model.

The arms are entirely artificial, and in that respect the Merman is very inferior to the Mermaid. If anybody will take the trouble to observe the articulation of the shoulders, they will see a very imperfect imitation of the ball and socket, and then, again, the fingers at the palm of the hand; on the back, the shape and flexibility of the fingers is given, but no so in the inner side, there is no attempt made there to define the shape which gives to them the lateral or circular motion, or for lodging the tendons of what are called "the flexor muscles." These fingers could not bend - they want all the beautiful mechanism of anatomy: the Japanese must also improve in that science, before they send us another Merman. 

As to the shape of the rest of the body, it is that of the common salmon, or cod fish, the skin of which, a good full grown scaly one being procured, is exposed to the process of drying and darkening which we have already mentioned; it has not been fined down as in the Mermaid,  and therefore the wrinkles are coarser, and the vertebrae (the regular fish-bone) not so well displayed; the skin has, however, collapsed sufficiently upon the bones to give the full outline. The tail of the Mermaid is coiled up, to give the figure a capacity for moving perpendicularly in the water; through a mistake the Merman's finny extremity has only the common fish's tail, and is only capable of lateral motion: so that, supposing this figure to have life, the impulse of its motion must be horizontal - its face being thus downwards in the water, its eyes become useless, and deprived of exposure to the rays of light: perhaps the laws of nature differ, however, for Mermen. Let some intelligent Merman resolve this optical axiom.

This is our opinion of the Merman, but every spectator can judge for himself. We are not unaware of the danger of opposing "well-authenticated accounts" of Mermen  and Mermaids, from the "wilde or sauvage man in the sixt yeare of King John's raigne at Oreford, in Suffolk," caught by the fishermen "in theyr nettes," and a full account of whom will be found, and how he ultimately "fledded secretlye to the sea, and was never after seene nor hearde off," in The Gentleman's Magazine for 1762, down to the "syren or mermaid" shown "sporting about in the vessel of water at the fair of St. Germain's in the year 1758, (see The Gentleman's Magazine for 1759); but still we want to have better evidence of the fact.

We know there are affadavits in abundance to verify "sights" seen at moonlight upon the ocean; and a black man who waits upon the Merman in Piccadilly, has lately sworn before the Lord Mayor, first (and we are glad to hear it) that "he was educated in the Christian religion," and secondly, that about 20 years ago, he saw (not this animal, but) "an animal alive at Manilla, which was called a Mermaid," that it was kept at the Governor's house, but "its distressing cries" induced him, after three days' keeping, to put it back into the river, and restore it to its natural element.

It is somewhat singular, that it was left to the poor black man, after a lapse of years, to remember what must have been known at the time, according to his statement, throughout the whole Philippine islands, but which was not sooner brought to light; and yet we do know that Sir Jospeh Banks took great pains by an extensive correspondence throughout the world, to investigate all the rumours and affidavits of these Mermaids, and was, after a laborious inquiry, satisfied that their existence must be consigned to the imagination of poets.

The exhibitor of this Merman states the probable retreat of the Mermaids to be "in the most remote and fathomless depths of the sea." This is as it should be - Poets make ghosts "choose the darkest part o' th' grove," and say of "the ugly subjects" of night, that--
"Asham'd and fearful to appear,
They skreen their horrid shapes with the black hemisphere."
The witches of old, too, before "ill tongues" which are now upon the Mermaids were upon them, always performed their incantations by night. We agree in the propriety of having a "fathomless abyss" for the Mermen.

The exhibitor is quite shocked at the idea of being called upon to expose the figure to dissection, "merely to gratify idle wanton curiosity;" but he declares, "that so soon as a moderate sum is realized by the exhibition, he will offer it to the faculty, to add the final proof of its genuineness, and thus show that Mermaids and Mermen  form part of the creation." The time of this dissection will never come; in the interim, why do not some of the ingenious pupils of Mr. Brookes construct a Mermaid from some of the ample materials in his museum, which would bear dissection? Why are Captains of ships stopped in their voyages at Batavia, by the Japanese mermaid agents, and poor natives brought from the Philippine islands to make affidavits of what they saw 20 years ago, for a commodity, which if the experiment can be made, can, from our better knowledge of anatomy, be made cheaper and more perfect at home?

From The Times, June 26th, 1824.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Some historical accounts of mermaids


The circumstance of a creature of this description having been actually brought to the metropolis, makes it at the present moment a subject of much interest. With some, the fact of this animal being produced will be indisputable evidence of the truth of all the tales of the old writers, whilst others will carry their incredulity so far as to imagine this Mermaid a mere peice of animal patchwork, like the dragon that Sir Joseph Banks dissected. In throwing together a few of the best evidences upon the subject, I have been actuated by a desire of discovering, and imparting truth, rather than encouraging controversy; and as Mermaids are assuredly a fair subject for a Ladies' Magazine, I shall not apologize for intruding upon the attention of my readers.

Before I enter upon this subject, I must take leave to mention, that though this supposed animal is always spoken of as a Mermaid, all the writers on this subject concur in the belief of a Merman also. However, at the first view it may seem improbable, that an animal should exist in the water, with the formation external and internal of the human species; yet when we look around us, and perceive apes and baboons among animals resembling man, so closely as to have been mistaken for him, we are led to believe it possible that our prototypes may be also found among fishes.

The authorities on this subject are innumerable. That they have existed, if we do not entirely reject human testimony, (and what else have we to rely upon) we must believe, that they do exist recent circumstances tend to show. I would here beg to remark, that the non-existence of an animal at present, is by no means a proof that it never did exist. Our fertile plains were at one period the haunts of wolves - their numbers were boundless - their race, however, was exterminated - not by a migration, but by the hands of the natives, might not then the race of mermaids by some means have become extinct? Pliny says, "that the ambassadors to Augustus from Gaul, declared that sea-women were often seen in their neighbourhood. Solinus, and Aulus Gellius, speak also of their existence."

There are innumerable facts in history, not nearly so well attested, that have never been called in question, which this subject on which every nation has some tradition, has been continually doubted. It is related  in the Histoire d'Angleterre, part 1, page 403, that in the year 1187, a Merman was "fished up" in the county of Suffolk, and kept by the governor for six months; it was exactly like a man in every respect, and wanted nothing but speech. He never could be brought to any understanding of his nature or situation, and at length made his escape, and was seen to plunge into the sea, from whence he returned no more.

In 1430, in the great tempests which destroyed the dykes in Holland, some women at Edam, in West-freezeland, saw a Mermaid, who had been driven by the waters into the meadows which were overflowed. They took it, and (as it is said,) dressed it in female attire, and taught it to spin. It fed on cooked meat, but all efforts to teach it to speak, proved ineffectual, though Parival says, "it had some notion of a deity, and made its reverences very devoutly when it passed a crucifix. (Admitting this to be true, it might arise from the habit of imitation so powerfully displayed in apes and other animals). It was taken to Haelem, where it lived some years, but it ever retained an inclination for the water. At its death it was allowed christian burial.

In 1560, on the coast of Ceylon, some fishermen caught at one draught of their nets, 7 Mermen and Mermaids. (This family party of Mermen, &c. seems rather doubtful, when we consider the weight they would be in the act of drawing in merely, to say nothing of the increasing difficulty that must be occasioned by their resistance. The coast of Ceylon seems by this number, a nursery for them, unless we are to suppose they had assembled for some mystical purpose peculiar to themselves, and this opinion is strengthened by the remembrance of their being a magical number - 7). They were dissected, and found made exactly like human beings. For a full account of this last circumstance, see the Histoire de la Compagnie de Jesus, part 2d. t.4. No. 276.

In 1531, a Merman, caught in the Baltic, was sent to Sigismond, king of Poland, with whom, says the account, he lived three days, and was seen by the whole court; but whether he died or escaped at the end of that period, we cannot say. But in some tracts published by John Gregory, A.M. and chaplain of Christ Church Oxford, in 1650, this identical Merman is described, "as a huge animal of the human form, but very much resembling a bishop in his pontificals." A German engraving of this being I have seen, it is extremely curious.

source of image
Georgius Trapanzantius declares that he himself saw a Mermaid, extremely beautiful, rise many times above water; he adds, that in Epirus, a Merman came on the shore, and watched near a spring of water, endeavouring to catch young women that came there; he was caught, but could not be made to eat.

Maillet in his Teliamede, speaks of a Merman which was seen by the whole of a French ship's crew, off Nowfoundland, in 1730, for some hours. The account was signed by all the crew that could write, and was sent to the Comte de Maurepas on the 8th September, 1725.

This story we must either give implicit credit to, or we must believe in the possibility of a large body of men wantonly asserting a falsehood, from which they could reap no possible advantage. Two or three men might have their senses deceived by some false appearance, or such a number might confederate to propagate an untruth; but the testimony of a ship's crew, when we consider the usual want of unanimity, and the utter impossibility of their being deceived, we cannot doubt.

Some writers imagine, that the Trichecus or Walrus, is the animal that has been mistaken for, or called a Mermaid; there is one species of Walrus that seems to come near the general conception of these animals, it has two fore feet, but no hind ones, but has a tail like a whale's, and frequents the African and American seas; the females have two teats near the arm pits, with which (says Steller,) they suckle their young; there are many varieties of the species, and they differ in size from 8 to 23 feet. The natives of America, it is said, tame them, and they delight in music, (from this circumstance, an ingenious French writer supposes them to be the dolphins of the ancients.)

Peter Martyr speaks of one that lived on the lake of Hispaniola for twenty-five years, which was so tame, that it would come to the edge of the shore, if called, and perform the part of a ferry, carrying  several persons at a time on its back to the opposite shore. In answer to this, it may be observed, that no writers that have treated on this subject, ever pretended that Mermaids were larger than the human species; whereas, the smallest Walrus is supposed to be full 8 feet; besides the Walrus is a clumsy and disgusting looking animal, the Mermaid has been always described as very beautiful; the Walrus has two tusks in its head, the Mermaid, long flowing hair.

At the same time it may be remarked, that there is an animal, (though I cannot agree in calling it a species of the Walrus, as some mazologists have done,) called the manati, or sea-ape, or according to others, the siren, its length about 5 feet, its head like that of a dog, the eyes large, the body round and thick, tapering downwards, it will swim and play round a vessel, but dives upon the least alarm. Steller speaks of one he saw, who gazed awhile at his ship, sitting erect with one-third of its body above water, then darted under the vessel, and appeared on the other side, repeating this many times.

A pretty manatee, perhaps with golden hair. Image by Shankar S.
In the last part of the Philosophical Transactions, Sir Everard Home has given an account of the dugongi, (a species of trichecus, found in the Indian seas,) which he supposes to be the Merman, of the old writers, as he describes the animal, it seems to approach the manati more than any other, but I confess his arguments seem very inconclusive, and leave this subject involved in as much mystery as ever.

It is the misfortune of those who labor to support a new theory, that they are attacked by ridicule, instead of argument. Writers of learning have been stigmatized for their credulity, even where the evidence on which they relied, has been irrefragable. The differences between the Walrus, Manati, and Dugong, and the accounts of the Merman or Mermaid, are so many, that I own I feel surprised an intelligent man should suppose any of them to be this wonder creating animal.

In a work called a Discourse on Newfoundland, the writer says, "I saw a strange creature come swimming towards me, looking cheerfully on my face, as it had been a woman, by the face, eyes, nose, mouth, chin, ears, neck, and forehead, it seemed to be so beautiful, and in those parts so well proportioned, having about the head blue streaks, resembling hair, but certainly it was not hair; the shoulders and back were square, white, and smooth, as the back of a man, and from the middle to the end, it tapered like a broad-hooked arrow." With this description, (excepting with regard to the hair,) almost all the accounts I have met with, seem to agree. In 1670, one seen off the Faroe Islands, is described as having "long hair, hanging from her head round her, to the surface of the water."

In 1716, a creature was seen 15 feet long, exactly like a man in all other respects, who traversed the sea-beach, so that all persons feared him, he appeared many days, and endeavoured to catch some women who approached him, but he at length returned to the sea. (This account may be found in the newspapers of that year, and is well worthy the perusal of the curious, it is attested by numerous eye witnesses. Lord Monboddo has also, I believe, mentioned this circumstance. I own I have been restrained from referring to his lordship's works, from the circumstance of his having been generally considered as a wholesale dealer in the marvellous, but this opinion is illfounded. His lordship was an able metaphysician, and an accomplished scholar. Those who may have been misled by the received notion of the tendency of this author's works, will find themselves agreeably undeceived, on perusing his "Ancient Metaphysics" and his "Origin of Language," the subject of the present essay, he has treated in a masterly manner, The puny critics of the day, who delighted in endeavouring to reduce to their own intellectual level, the productions of genius, are now in their graves: so, alas! is his lordship; but their venom, like the poison of the adder, remains after the reptile is no more. As this is an age of improvement, and not of prejudice, we trust this author will receive the justice so long denied him. He was an able writer, a learned and upright judge, a fosterer of genius, and above all, a charitable and good man.)

Valentyn describes a Mermaid he saw in 1714, on his voyage from Batavia to Europe, sitting on the surface of the water, with its back towards them, the body was half above water, and was of a grizzly color, like the skin of a codfish, it had breasts, and was shaped like a woman above the waist, and from thence downwards went tapering off to a point.

The existence of this animal is firmly believed in the northern parts of Scotland, and in the year 1797, a school master of Thurso, affirmed that he had seen one, apparently in the act of combing its hair with its fingers, the portion of the animal which he saw, was so near a resemblance to the form of a woman, that but for the impossibility of a female so long supporting herself in the waves, he should have preseumed it to be one. Twelve years afterwards, several persons observed near the same place a like appearance.

I shall now proceed to more recent instances.

in 1811, the following deposition was made by one John McIsaac, (and it was corroborated by the evidence of a child, who was too young to plot a tale, to deceive the skilful interrogators by whom he was examined.)
"That on Sunday, the 13th October, having taken a walk towards the sea side, he came to the edge of the precipice above the shore, from which he saw the appearance of something white upon a black rock, at some distance from him. That having approached nearer to the rock, he observed this white object moving, which excited his curiosity so much, that he resolved to get as near to it as possible unperceived; that in order to accomplish this purpose, he crept upon all fours through a field of corn, till he got among the rocks near to the white object above mentioned, and then from rock to rock, until he came within 12 or 15 paces of the rock on which it lay; that, upon looking at this object with attention, he was impressed with great surprise and astonishment at its uncommon appearance; that it lay flat on the rock, seemingly on its belly, with its head towards the sea; that the upper part of it was white, and the shape of a human body, and the other half, towards the tail, of a brindled or reddish grey color, apparently covered with scales, but the extremity of the tail itself was of a greenish red shining color.

"That the head of this animal was covered with long hair, and as the wind blew off the land, it sometimes raised the hair over this creature's head, and every time the gust of the wind would do this, the animal would lean towards one side, and taking up the opposite hand, would stroke the hair backwards, and then leaning on the other side, would adjust the hair on the opposite side of its head in the same manner; that at the same time the animal would put back the hair on both sides of its head in this manner; it would also spread or extend its tail, like a fan to a considerable breadth, and while so extended, the tail continued in tremulous motion, and when drawn together again, it remained motionless, and appeared to be about 12 or 14 inches broad, laying flat upon the rock.

"That the hair which was long, and light brown in the color, attracted his particular notice, that the animal upon the whole, was between 4 and 5 feet long, as near as he could judge; that it had a head, hair, arms, and body, down to the middle, like a human being, only that the arms were short in proportion to the body, which appeared to be about the thickness of that of a young lad, and tapering gradually to the point of the tail; that at the time it was stroking its head, as above mentioned, the fingers were kept close together, so he could not say whether they were webbed or not; that he continued concealed looking at the animal for near two hours, the part of the rock on which it lay being dry all that time; that after the sea had so far retired as to leave the rock dry, to the height of 5 feet above the surface of the water, the animal leaning first on one hand and arm, and then upon the other, drew its body forward to the edge of the rock, and then tumbled clumsily into the sea; that the deponent immediately got upon his feet, from the place of his concealment, and in about a minute after, he observed the animal appearing above water, very near to the said rock, and then for the first time, he saw its face, every feature of which he could distinctly mark, and which to him, had all the appearance of a human being, with very hollow eyes, (and being particularly interrogated depones) that the cheeks were of the same color with the rest of the face; that the neck was short, and the animal was constantly with both hands stroking and washing its breast, which was half immersed in water, and of which, of course, he had but an imperfect view; that for this reason, he cannot say whether its bosom was formed like a woman's or not. That he saw no other fins or feet, upon the said animal, but as above described.

"That this animal continued above water, as aforesaid, for a few minutes, and then disappeared, and was seen no more by him; that one of his reasons for lying so long concealed, as above described, was from the expectation that the ebb tide would leave the rock, and that part of the shore dry, before the animal would move from it, and that he would be then able to secure it."

In August, 1812, a Mermaid was seen about one mile S.E. of Exmouth-bar; (for an account of which, see the Exeter paper of that time).

It must be in the recollection of most persons, that in the autumn of 1819, a creature appeared on the coast of Ireland, about the size of a child of ten years of age, with a bosom as prominent as a girl of sixteen, having long dark hair, and full dark eyes. I shall not transcribe the account, as it will doubtless be well remembered, but it may be right to add, for the satisfaction of those who have not seen it: that a spectator endeavoured to shoot it, but on the report of the musket, it plunged into the sea, with a loud scream.

The differences observed in the accounts of this animal, are usually as to color, and its being with or without hair. I confess it does not seem unreasonable to me, to presume these circumstances to be the effect of climate; and the difference between the male and female. It will be observed, that we have accounts of this animal in all parts of the globe, therein approaching man, who is the only creature that is found in every climate. When we perceive that of most animals, there are several species, by a parity of reasoning, we may conceive there are several of this;  and this may reconcile many incongruities that occur in different relations.

The Merman of 1187. That, sent to the King of Poland in 1531, and the creature seen in 1716, differ from others, inasmuch as they do not end in a tail like a fish; for this, I own myself incapable of assigning a reason. I can only exclaim, "behold the evidence."

The existence of the Unicorn, was long reckoned a fable, and yet the head of an animal recently imported, bears so close a resemblance to the relations of this animal, that our most skilful naturalists have pronounced it to be the same. If for so many hundred years, the existnece of a quadruped, has been a matter of speculative enquiry, when man has the power of traversing the place of its habitation, and by the progress of the arts of piercing its deepest recesses; how much more probable is it, that a creature should exist in the bosom of the ocean, with which we are not perfectly acquainted. When we consider that in the depths of the waters, we have no reach, no power of visual observation, or means of pursuing enquiry; it is an abyss, which may contain unheard of treasures, but it is one, that cannot be irradiated by the beams that would disclose them to man.

Since penning the above, we have paid a visit to the exhibition of the Mermaid, lately imported to this country. It appears that the captain of a Dutch merchantman, anchoring at one of the Molucca islands for commercial purposes, found the inhabitants in possession of this phenomenon, which he purchased of them in its present dried state.

The account given of this extraordinary animal by its captors is, that it was cast on their shore several years since. They positively assert having often seen these animals on the coast of Japan, but have never succeeded in taking one alive, and were much surprised when informed of the doubts prevalent in Europe, as to the existence of such a creature, with whose form they seemed perfectly familiar.

For the satisfaction of our provincial subscribers, we present them with the annexed engraving, as an exact representation of the Mermaid now publicly shewn. The creature is exhibited in an erect position, placed on a revolving pedestal, which the spectator turns at his option by brass nobs; the body is contained in a glass case, and is about three feet in length, the hands perfectly human, the arms very long in proportion to the size of the animal, and must have possessed great muscular strength, the teeth long and sharp, and the neck very short.

There is a small quantity of hair on one side of the head; but time may have shorn her locks, as the lady appears to have been advanced in age; the countenance is frightfully distorted, as if the animal had died in excruciating pain. It is very dry and mummy like, of a brown color, and our print gives a complete idea of it as viewed.

The proprietor informed us, that the purchase money and aggregate expenses incurred in bringing this beautiful maid to England, have cost him £1000, and he values his lovely prize at £10,000. The exhibition attracts many visitors, and notwithstanding the unfavourable state of the weather, it has produced to the owner from £15 to £16 daily, at an admission of one shilling from each spectator.

It is certainly a curiosity worth seeing, and if an imposition, we do not imagine its immediate propietor to be concerned in it. We understand it is the intention of a gentleman of high professional abilities, to lay before the public an anatomical description of this wonderful lusus naturae.

It may be proper to observe, that several medical professors who have viewed the body, declare, that according to external appearances, it actually seems to be what the owner intimates, namely, that long deemed fabulous creature, a MERMAID.

From 'Le Belle Assemblee,  or Bell's Court and Fashionable Magazine Addressed Particularly to the Ladies' November 1st, 1822.

Mermaids and Mermen from Pontoppidan's Natural History of Norway (1750s)

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 [following on from the Exmouth report, 1812:] We subjoin the following particulars on this suject, from our common place book:--

The hav-manden and hav-fruen, the mer-man and mer-maid, are proposed as the first sea-monsters; which, in our author's, or his translator's words, are often seen in the north sea. Many fables, from different authors, concerning them, he quotes, and judiciously rejects; not doubting but the absurdities related of them have contributed to make sensible people deny their very existence. To those who admit a pretty general analogy between terrestrial and marine mammals, but suppose man, from the image after which he was formed, to be peculiarly exempted from this resemblance in the ocean, he recommends the consideration fo the wild man in the woods, which we call the Ouran-outan of Asia, or the Chimpenzie of Africa; but which our author, from Dapper's description of the latter, terms Quoyas Morrow, perhaps the name of it in Angola, where it is not infrequent, and from when we have seen this grave and surprising resemblance or mimick of the human form, not without some striking resemblance of the human faculties also.

The bishop, however, to compound with such readers as may find their pride wounded, perhaps, by the nominal affinity, is content if they will allow his mer-man, which the Norwegians call Hastromber, to be a sea-ape. This being adjusted, he informs us, that in the diocese of Bergen, and the manor of  Nordland, are several hundred persons of credit and reputation, who affirm, with the strongest assurance, that they have seen this creature sometimes at a distance, and at other times close to their boats, erect and formed like a human creature down to the middle; the rest they could not see.

Our author has examined several of the witnesses with all possible precaution, and found them agree invariably with the description published by Jablonsky and Kircher. He brings an evidence who had seen one out of the water, and handled it, viz. the Rev. Mr. Peter Angel, minister at Sundmoer, living when this history was wrote, and who declares that in 1719, being then twenty years old, himself and several other inhabitants saw a mer-man, dead, on a point of land, with several sea-animals. Its length was three fathoms, its colour grey, the lower part like a fish, with a porpoise's tail. The face resembled a man's, with a mouth, forehead, eyes, &c. the nose was flat and pressed down to the face, in which the nostrils were very visible. The breast was near the head, the arms, which seemed to hang by the side, were joined by a thin membrane, and the hands, to appearance, were like the paws of a sea-calf.

Mr. Strom, another clergyman, informed him, that at Neroe, in Numedalen, a mer-man and a sea-calf were both found dead on a rock, all bloody, from whence it was conjectured they had killed each other. It is, indeed, analogous enough, that a sea-man should covet a repast of sea-yeal. Mr. Randulf, rector of the place, endeavoured to preserve the merman, but the peasants had unluckily cut both to pieces for the fat. In regard to size they differ remarkably, according to the fishermen, from that called mar-male, or mar-maete (the different sexes) which our author calls a well-known sea-animal, and thinks it may be a dwarf of the same species. -- This is often caught on hooks, is of different sizes, from that of a child of one year old, to three; and, the bishop thinks, till it is further enquired into, it may be supposed, though he does not affirm it to be, the infant of the former.

But the strongest and latest proof of the mer-man's existence happened in Denmark, and may properly conclude this article. On September 20, 1723, three ferrymen, viz. Peter Gunnersen, Nicholas Jensen, and Jappe Jensen, were, by his Majesty's orders, examined upon oath before Fred. Van Gram, privy-councellor, and deposed in substance, That two months before, being towing a ship arrived from the Baltic, at the distance of a quarter of a Norway mile, they rowed up to something floating like a dead body. When they came within seven or eight fathoms, it appeared as at first, for it had not stirred, but sunk at that instant, and came up again immediately almost at the same place.

Frightened at this, they lay still, and letting the boat float, the monster, by the help of the current, came still nearer to them. He turned his face, and stared at the men, which gave them a good opportunity of examining him narrowly. He stood in the same place for half a quarter of an hour, and was seen above the water down to his breast. At last, apprehending some danger, they began to retire, on which he blew up his cheeks, and made a kind of roaring noise, and dived, without rising in their sight.

He appeared to them like a strong-limbed, broad-shouldered old man, his head small in proportion, with short curled black hair, with a black beard, that looked like a cut one, his eyes deep in his head, his skin coarse, and very hairy. Gunnersen added (which the others did not observe) that from the body downwards he was quite pointed like a fish; and deposed, at the same time, that about twenty years before, he had seen near Kullebr, a mer-maid, with long hair and large breasts. The weather was fine and calm. That this examination was taken in the most regular and exact manner, is attested by Andrew Bussaeus.--
Monthly Review of Pontoppidan's Natural History of Norway.

In the Liverpool Mercury, September 4th, 1812.

Merman near Monmouth

A Merman. --

A letter from Monmouth, dated the 13th inst. says--

"About eight o'clock yesterday morning, two fishermen going down the river, in their truckles, fishing for salmon, found their net much heavier than usual; and which, on coming to shore, they found contained a huge monster, the upper part bearing exact resemblance to a man, the middle to a beast, spotted like the leopard, and a tail like a fish, the hair on his head green - he had red eyes, and tusks five inches and a half in length, and he measures, from head to tail, thirteen feet and three quarters. He is now deposited in the Town Hall, for the inspection of the curious."

From the Lancaster Gazetter,  November 24th, 1810.
The Town Hall???

Wikimedia commons

Merman near Vigo, Spain

They write from Vigo in Spain, that some Fishermen lately took on that Coast a Sort of Monster, or Merman, 5 Feet and a Half from its Foot to its Head, which is like that of a Goat. It has a long Beard and Mustachoes; a back Skin, somewhat hair; a very long Neck, short Arms, and Hands longer and bigger than they ought to be in Proportion to the rest of the Body; long Fingers, like those of a Man, with Nail-like Claws; very long Toes join'd like the Feet of a Duck, and the Heels furnished with Fins resembling the winged Feet with which the Painters represent Mercury. It has also a Fin at the lower End of its Back, which is 12 Inches long and 15 or 16 broad.

From Universal Spectator and Weekly Journal, May 5th, 1739.

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Merman at Exmouth

From Daily Gazetteer, July 25th, 1738.

The 12th Instant, just without Exmouth Bar, by Robert Heath (the Person who caught the 2 Fishes by People in general call'd Mermaids, one Sept. 9, 1737. the other May 6, last) was taken as strange or stranger fish, supposed by many to be the Triton, or Merman, of the Ancients, being 4 Feet and a half in Length, having a Body much resembling a Man, with a Genital Member of considerable Size; together with jointed Legs and Feet, extending from his Belly 12 or 13 Inches, with Fins at his Thighs, and larger ones, like Wings, in the Form of which those of Angles are often painted, at his Shoulders, with a broad Head of very uncommon Form, a Mouth 6 Inches wide, Smellers, or kind of Whiskers, at his Nostrils, and two Spout-Holes behind his Eyes, through which he ejected Water, when taken, 30 or 40 Feet high.

 From the Derby Mercury, 20th July 1738.

 Exon, July 14. Wednesday was caught by some Fishermen on the Back of the Warren, a very surprizing Fish, called a Mermon: When taken it made a hideous Noise, and 'twas with much Difficulty they killed. it. About seven Months ago, near the same Place, was taken a Fish of the same Kind (beautifully delineated by Mr. Bradley) which they called a Mermaid; but the Difference in the Species is too obvious to admit of any Dispute. The same will soon be exhibited to View in this City.

From the Sun Paper, August 29.
MR. EDITOR, -- I think it is now about a year ago, the London Newspapers gave a very curious account of a Mermaid which had been seen on some part of the coast of Scotland. The existence of such an extraordinary animal has been, and no doubt is still considered by many people as fabulous. Indeed, I have been myself one of those who held the Mermaid as the mere offspring of the imagination, and preserved in the catalogue of substantial beings by credulity. But I am now convinced of my error; and if you think it will interest or amuse any of your readers by giving publicity to the following account relating to this animal, I beg you will do so. It may, moreover, call the attention of some able naturalist to the subject, and perhaps he may favour the public, throught the same channel, with his opinion as to the probable economy of this wonderful being.

The day of yesterday being very fine, I joined a party of ladies and gentlemen in a sailing excursion. When we had got about a mile to the S.E. of Exmouth Bar, our attention was suddenly arrested by a very singular noise, by no means unpleasant to the ear, but of which it is impossible to give a correct idea by mere description. It was not, however, unaptly compared by one of our ladies to the wild melodies of the AEolian harp, combined with a noise similar to that made by a stream of water falling gently on the leaves of a tree. The sound, however, had not all the variety, nor the soft cadence, of the AEolian notes, but appeared like four or five different notes, each tone repeated several times on the same key.

In the mean time we observed something about one hundred yards from us, to windward. We all imagined it to be some human being, though at the same time we were at a loss to account for this, at such a distance from the shore, and no other boat near. We hailed, but received no reply, and we made toward this creature as soon as possible; when, to the great astonishment of us all, it eluded our pursuit by plunging under water. In a few minutes it rose again, nearly in the same place, and, by that time we had got sufficiemtly near for one of the boatmen to throw into the water a piece of boiled fish which he had in his locker.

-- This seemed to alarm the animal, though it soon recovered from its fears, for we presently observed it to lay hold of the fish, which it ate with apparent relish. Several other pieces were thrown out, by which the creature was induced to keep at a short distance from our boat, and afforded us the opportunity of observing it with attention, and found, to our astonishment, that it was no other than a mermaid. As the sea was calm, and in a great degree transparent, every part of the animal's body became in turn visible.

The head, from the crown to the chin, forms rather a long oval, and the face seems to resemble that of the seal, though, at the same time, it is far more agreeable, possessing a peculiar softness, which renders the whole set of features very interesting. The upper and back part of the head appeared to be furnished with something like hair, and the fore-part of the body with something like down, between a very light fawn and very pale pink colour, which at a distance had the appearance of flesh, and may have given rise to the idea that the body of the mermaid is, externally, like that of the human being.

This creature has two arms, each of which terminates into a hand with four fingers, connected to each other by means of a very thin elastic membrane. The animal used its arms with great agility, and its motions in general were very graceful. From the waist it gradually tapered so as to form a tail, which had the appearance of being covered with strong broad polished scales, which occasionally reflected the rays of the sun in a very beautiful manner; and from the back and upper part of the neck, down to the loins, the body also appeared covered with short round broad feathers, of the colour of down on the fore part of the body. The whole length of the animal, from the crown of the head to the extremity of the tail, was supposed to be about five feet, or five feet and a half.

In about ten minutes, from the time we approached, the animal gave two or three plunges in quick succession, as if it were at play. After this, it gave a sudden spring, appearing to swim away from us very rapidly, and in a few seconds we lost sight of this wonder-creating animal.

Crowds of boats are this day on the water in the hope of witnessing such a novel sight, and a medical gentleman of Exeter has offered a reward of 20l. to whoever may succeed in catching the animal, and will bring it to him for dissection -- In consequence of this, all the fishermen are very busy in making preparations to endeavour to entangle in their nets this fair nymph of the ocean.

I am, Sir, your most obedient servant, J. TOUPIN.
Exmouth, Aug.  13, 1812.

P.S. it was reported here a few days ago, that a large strange fish had been seen in the neighbourhood of Torbay, and is supposed to have been this animal.

From the Liverpool Mercury, September 4th, 1812.

The French newspapers report, that a Triton, or Merman, was lately discovered by five fishermen in the creek of Melia (Morbihan) which frightened the beholders; (they were not lads of Paris) - and the English papers tell us, at the same time, of a Sea Nymph or Mermaid, lately discovered sporting within a mile and half of the harbour of Exmouth, which delighted a water party of ladies and gentlemen. - The sensations of the beholders in both cases, may be traced in the colourings of their several descriptions; and nothing is wanted, we apprehend, to do away their belief in the reality of either, but the catching of the thing itself.
 From the Royal Cornwall Gazette, September 5th, 1812.

CC image by Genealogist

Merman near Brest, France

Some particular Advices from Brest, in France, say, That on that Coast has lately appear'd a strange sort of Sea Monster, in the form of a Man, eight Foot high, call'd a Merman; his Teeth are white as Ivory, he hath black curl'd Hair, flat Nose, and in other Members proportionable to his Stature without Deformity.

From Dublin Journal, October 12th, 1725.

LONDON, Dec. 11.

The Reader may remember an Account of a Merman or Sea Monster seen off at Brest lately, and inserted in the Foreign and Domestick Papers about two Months ago. The Authors of the Memoirs de Trevoux have publish'd a more satisfactory Description of it than any that has been given, in an Article from Brest, attested by the Captain and Pilot of the very Ship which the Monster encounter'd. We find the said Article translated to our Hands in the New Memoirs of Literature; (viz. that just published for November;) whose Author not only gives an Account of the best Books as they come out both at Home and Abroad, but likewise entertains the Publick sometimes with such Articles of Foreign News as are not to be met with in the common Gazettes.

"The Wind being Easterly, we had thirty Fathoms of Water, when at Ten a Clock in the Morning a Sea-Monster like a Man appear'd near our Ship; first on the Larboard where the Mate was, whose Name is William Lomone, who took a Grappling-Iron to pull him up: But our Captain, named Oliver Morin, hindred him, being afraid that the Monster would drag him away into the Sea. The said Lomone struck him only on the Back, to make him turn about, that he might view him the better.

The Monster being struck, showed his Face, having his two Hands closed, as if he had expressed some Anger. Afterwards he wen round the Ship: When he was at the Stern, he took hold of the Helm with both Hands; and we were obliged to make it fast, lest he should damage it. From thence he proceeded to the Starboard, swimming still as Men do.

When he came to the Forepart of the Ship, he viewed for some time the Figure that was in our Prow, which represented a beautiful Woman; and then he rose out of the Water, as if he had been willing to catch that Figure. All this happened in Sight of the whole Crew.

Afterwards he came again to the Larboard, where they presented to him a Codfish hanging down with a Rope: He handled it without spoiling it, and then removed the Length of a Cable, and came again to the Stern, where he took Hold of the Helm a second Time. At that very moment, Captain Morin got a HArping Iron ready, and took it himself to strike him with it; but the Cordage being entangled he missed his Aim, and the Harping-Iron touched only the Monster, who turned about, showing his Face, as he had done before.

Afterwards he came again to the Fore-part, and viewed again the Figure in our Prow. The Mate called for the Harping-Iron; but he was frighted, fancying that this Monster was one La Commune, who had killed himself in the Ship the Year before, and had been thrown into the Sea in the same Passage. He was contented to push his Back with the Harping-Iron; and then the Monster showed his FAce, as he had done at other Times. Afterwards he came along the Board, so that one might have given him the Hand. He had the Boldness to take a Rope held up by John Mazier and John Dessiete, who being willing to pluck it out of his Hands, drew him to our Board; but he fell into the Water, and then removed at the Distance of a Gun's Shot.

He came again immediately near our Board, and rising out of the Water to the Navel, we observed that his Breast was as large as that of a Woman of the best Plight. He turned upon his Back, and appeared to be a Male. Afterwards he swam again round the Ship, and then went away; we have never seen him since.

I believe that from 10 a-Clock till 12 that this Monster was along our Board, if the Crew had not been frighted, he might have been taken many Times with the Hand, being only two Feet distant. The Monster is about eight Foot long: His Skin is brown and tawny, without any Scales: All his Motions are like those of Men; the Eyes of a proportionable Size, a little Mouth, a large and flat Nose, very white Teeth, black Hair, the Chin covered with a mossy Beard, a sort of Whiskers under the Nose, the Ears like those of Men, Fins between the Fingers and Toes of his Hands and Feet, like those of Ducks. In a Word, he is like a well shap'd Man. Which is certify'd to be true by Captain Oliver Morin, and John Martin, Pilot, and by the whole Crew, consisting of two and thirty Men.

From Weekly Journal or British Gazetteer,  December 11th, 1725.

Romanesque merman, by Helena

Merman near Leghorn (Livorno), Italy

Letters from Leghorn of the 15th, tell us, that there has been seen in those Seas a terrible Mermaid, or rather Merman; that it shews it self at least 13 or 14 Foot high above the Water; but if any Boat or Vessel makes towards it, then it makes a strange frightful Noise, and plunges into the Sea. Several have seen it, represent it as the most hideous Monster that has ever been seen in the World.

From Weekly Journal or Saturday's Post, August 31st, 1717.

Image of 2nd century mosaic,  by Ken and Nyetta

Mermaids, 1710

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 Q: Gentlemen, Ferdinand Alvares, Secretary to the Store-house of the Indians, says, he saw a Young Merman come out of the Water to steal Fishes from the Fishermen, and Eat 'em. 

In our English Chronicles, it is recorded a Man-Fish was taken in Suffolk , kept six Months on shore, and then stole again to Sea. 

But the most Memorable and Authentic Story, that I know of this kind, is the Mermaid taken by some Milk-maids, in Dermet-mere near Campen  in 1403. Her picture hangs in the Town-house of Harlem, with a Subscription in Gold-letters, of the tiem when she was Taken, how long she Lived, when she Dyed, and in what Church Buried. 

A more particular Relation may be found in the History of the Netherlands. As, a Description of her Person, her Learning to Spin, and shewing Devotion at Prayers; and when Women came, for their Diversion, to the Town-house, where she was kept, to Spin with her, she would Laugh, and signify by signs she knew their meaning in some sort, tho' she could never be taught to Speak; with other particulars too many to Ennumerate. But not a Word of that fine Singing common Fame reports of these Creatures.

Now, Gentlemen, I would desire you to inform me, of the Credit of this last Story, and whether the being Mermen and Mermaids is not a meer Fable, for I cannot persuade myself to believe there ever were such Creatures, and chiefly for this Reason, that none in our time has seen any, that ever I heard off. And it is plain to me if there had been such in past times, there would be such now, and surely then some or other must have seen them.

A:   The Story of the Harlem Mermaid is Attested by Historians of so good Credit, that it would be Injustice not to believe them. It is not to be wondered that a Creature having so much of Human shape should have Reason enough to be made capable of appearing Devout, when a Grave Historian tells us of a very Devout Dog at Corbie in the Year 897, that Assisted at Mass with great Reverence and Modesty, and in all the Decent Postures, He Religiously observed Fish and Fast-days, and bit such Dogs as Pissed against the Walls of the Church, or Barked during Divine Service.

There can be no doubt made that there are such Creatures as Mermaids, being frequently mentioned by Ancient Writers under the Name of Tritons and Syrens. Whether there are any Testimonies of Modern Authors concerning them we have not had leisure to Examine. The latest Instance of any that we remember in our Reading, is Related by Gossendus in his Life of Peireski.

 "That Noble and Curious Person (says this Learned Author) being Informed of a Merman, which was seen at Belle-Isle in France, procured Henricus Gondius, Governor of the Isles, to make Enquiry, and Certify him concerning it. Now the Information was, that as much as was seen of him, was in the shape of a Man, only the shortness of his Arms was not proportioned to the thickness of his Body. His Hands were also disproportionately large, and very White in the palms. He had thick white Hair hanging down over his Shoulders, and a Beard reaching down to his Stomach. His Eyes were great and fierce, His Skin as far as could be discerned rough, neither white nor black. He was reported to have been at first delighted at the approach of the Vessels, with the Sight of Men and Women and light coloured Clothes; so that he suffered himself to be inclosed in the Nets; but as soon as they began to use Violence, in endeavouring to draw him forth, and before it could be discerned of what shape he was below the Navel, he easily brake through the Nets and over-turned the Vessel. Afterwards he appeared at a great distance off, Sunning himself upon some inaccessible Rocks, his lower Parts being always covered with Water; sometimes clapping his Hands and making hissing Noise, which was supposed to be his manner of Laughter. Which Custom he continued, till some Body shot at him with a Musquet Bullet, from which time forward (whether frighted or killed) he was never more seen. However it was reported, that there was another seen which was supposed to be a Female (because without a Beard) ending beneath with a forked Tail, like that of a Salmon."

We thought it would not be unpleasant to give this Story at large to the Reader, since it is from an Author of undoubted Credit, and may serve not only to confirm our Belief that there are such Creatures, but also to give us an Idea of them. Besides, this thing happened within the Year, being as we collect, about 1636.

From British Apollo, April 24-26th, 1710.

Friday, 16 December 2016

"Escape of a Lion and a Tigress, FOUR PERSONS KILLED." Wirksworth, Derbyshire.

A melancholy accident occurred at Wombwell's Menagerie, in consequence of the lion Wallace, and a large tigress, escaping from the caravan at Worksworth, on Tuesday night, on the way to Newhaven fair. It appears the drivers were putting the vans into the yard of the White Lion Inn, when a carriage laden with timber came into contact with the one in which Wallace, who contended with and defeated the dogs at Warwick, and a very large tigress, were kept, and staved in the whole side of the vehicle. Every pains possible were taken to prevent the beasts obtaining their liberty, by repairing the van as well as circumstances would permit, and by closing the gates of the yard; but in the night, the beasts, being by nature restless, by some means removed one of the broken pannels, and succeeded in escaping by the back yard into the fields, where the tigress attacked a number of sheep, and killed three.

The lion, finding himself at liberty, was not idle, but falling in with some cows belonging to Mr. Wilson, killed one, and severely wounded two others. The bleating of the sheep, the lowing of the cows, and the roaring of the lion, aroused the keepers and several of the inhabitants, when instant pursuit was made by the whole body in order to kill, or if possible, to retake them. They first discovered the lion three or four fields distant, feeding on the cow which had fallen a victim to his fury. They immediately fronted him as well as their fears would admit, and several shots were fired, though contrary to the orders of the keeper, by which he was severely wounded.

The infuriated animal rushed upon a man some distance from him and before assistnace could be rendered, killed him. He then dashed into a cow-shed, where, by the well known voices of the keepers, and their able management, he was secured, and lodged in a place of safety, without further mischief. the party then went in pursuit of the tigress, which had taken another direction, and had fallen in with some persons gonig to work at the brickfields.

The animal attacked a woman with a child in her arms, and a boy about eleven years of age, all of whom were killed before assistance arrived. On the party coming up, they were horror struck at the spectacle. Every exertion was made to secure the animal, but it was not before she was so dangerously wounded, as not to be expected to recover, that that object could be effected.

The next day an inquest was held, when, after a patient investigation, a verdict of "Accidental Death" was returned; deodand, 10l. on the beasts. Mr. Wombwell, on hearing of the melancholy accident, expressed the utmost concern, ordered the funerals of the sufferers to take place at his expense, and promised to make good all damages arising from the fatal event. - Northampton Herald.

 York Herald, 1st March, 1834.

There was a White Lion Inn in Wirksworth at the time, on Coldwell Street. Newhaven is about ten miles away.

Kangaroos at large: Walworth, Surrey and "Castle Hill"

About seven o'clock on Saturday morning an unexpected and unwished for visitor made his appearance, sans ceremonie, in the gardens at the rear of a private dwelling in Manor-place, Walworth, which excited no little consternation and alarm among the occupants. Upon a female inmate of the house opening the shutters of the kitchen-window, which looks directly into the garden, she was suddenly amazed at beholding a kangaroo staring her full in the face. Terrified at the appearance of this strange animal, she gave the alarm, at the noise of which the kangaroo retreated a few steps, and took his stand upon a strawberry-bed. After gazing at the affrighted girl fro a few seconds, he took a leap over the adjoining gardens, and made his exit. It is supposed that he had effected his escape from the neighbouring Surrey Zoological Gardens.
The Standard, December 1st, 1834.

On the morning of Saturday week an old woman, residing in a house in Castle-hill, was unspeakably surprised, on awakening from her night's rest, to find a strange animal lying at her back, with one of its paws laid over her shoulder. Screaming with affright, she left her bed, and, seizing a towel, she beat it with all her might, when, with one bound, it sprung to the furthest corner of the room, and at length took refuge in another bed which stood in the same apartment. When the poor woman had a little recovered from her alarm, and had dissipated the idea that it was a visitor from the nether regions, she remembered that a collection of wild beasts were exhibiting on the Mound, and began to suspect that her lodger belonged to the number. She immediately went and called upon Mr. WOMBWELL, when it was discovered that one of the kangaroos had made its escape during the night, and, going up to the Castle-hill, had found this poor woman's door open, and, commodated beside her as in its own den in the menagerie, betook itself to rest, which, however, was broken in upon in the morning in the manner we have mentioned. The kangaroo was returned to Mr. WOMBWELL, who handsomely remunerated the woman for its lodging.
Morning Post, February 27th, 1834.

Enormous animal off Lewis

It is reported that an enormous animal has lately been seen off the island of Lewis, floating on the water; and a similar occurrence happened ten years ago at the same place. Several persons had seen it, and for some time few people ventured out upon the coast. It were idle to say that the animal in question was merely a whale, for the people of these islands are sufficiently familiar with whales to know one when it comes their way, and are more acute observers than might be imagined by the learned naturalists. All that can be said on the subject is, that a strange animal, whether of a species known to naturalists or not, has lately visited these islands. Its length was stated to be upwards of eighty feet, and its form attenuated. -- Edinburgh Lit. Gaz.

Morning Chronicle, April 13th, 1830.

"Wonderful and strange animal at Reading, Yorkshire"

A wonderful and strange animal, never before seen in the country, has lately been caught on the premises of a gentleman residing at Reading, Yorkshire. It has a head like a cat, fore feet like a leopard, hind feet like a ferret, purple eyes when seen in the shade, and of a greenish hue when seen in the light. It has three white marks over the right eye, and three black over the left. It is of a whitey-brown colour spotted with red. The tail is a beautiful white, tipped with blue.
- Morning Paper.

Morning Chronicle, January 10th, 1828.

What does this mean? Is it a riddle or a joke? There isn't a Reading in Yorkshire, surely. And what's with the weird marks over the eyes? I am bemused. It's repeated in many papers. In fact, the Hull Packet says: "This beats the American Sea Serpent hollow."

Sea serpent at New Haven, Connecticut

NEWHAVEN (America), Nov. 13. -- SEA-SERPENT AGAIN.

On Tuesday last, the 11th inst., in the fore-noon, while Mr. Jonah Platt, and Mr. William Platt, were on the shore about 7 miles west of Newhaven lighthouse, they saw a strange animal, answering the description heretofore given of the sea-serpent, pass about 20 rods from the shore, going westward, his head about 2 feet above water, his speed far greater than that of any animal they ever saw move in the water; in their opinion he went a mile a minute; his wake was as great as that of a common-sized yawl; the wild fowl appeared much frightened, and flew in every direction as he approached them. The foregoing was given me by one fo the beholders, in whom you may place implicit confidence.

The Times, December 19th, 1817.

Sea serpent near San Diego


The first sea-serpent yarn of the season, and the first for several years, is reported from San Diego, in Southern California. The story is told by two ladies who saw the monster while they were walking on Florence Heights, overlooking the land-locked Bay of San Diego. They saw a large head and long neck rise above the placid waters of the bay and move rapidly across the channel, a distance of nearly half a mile. The foaming wake made by this marine creature indicated that a large body was hidden by the water. The ladies say that the rush across the bay was made in about 10sec. The marvellous speed and curious shape of the monster made them wonder greatly, and they are firmly convinced that what they saw was a genuine sea-serpent. Other people also witnessed the strange sight. Hair seals occasionally come into this bay from their rookeries on Coronado Islands, eight miles off shore. But the ladies are positive that the head and neck seen by them could not have belonged to a seal. The rapidity of motion of the creature was far greater than it is possible for a seal to attain. The ladies who observed the strange sight live in Orange, N.J., and are at San Diego in search of health. Many scientific men believe that sea-serpents exist [hence follows a long discussion of 'the remains of sea serpents' without truly explaining that they're millions of years old]. According to the description of the head and neck of the sea monster the San Diego ladies saw dart across the bay, it resembled in form that of the Hippocamus heptagorus [sic] or sea-horse, which is frequently found along the Atlantic coast [thousands of miles away, and mere centimetres long].

From the Guernsey Star, August 23rd 1894.


Haunted Tower of London

The Haunted Tower.

For some weeks past, a family residing in the Tower of London have been very much anoyed and disturbed by a variety of unpleasant noises, heard in different parts of the house, during the night; and the sentries, on duty at the door of the Royal Regalia, to which this house belongs, have frequently been disturbed by the most violent knocking; and (according to their account) even deep and hollow groans have been heard; and the feeling of superstition having spread very much among the soldiery, with whom the ghost is now a cant phrase, an additional sentry has lately been placed on the rampart immediately over the mysterious spot, and every possible exertion used by the occupier of the house, towards elucidating the cause of the disturbance.

Officers of the garrison have watched for whole nights; nothing but a continuance of the noise was heard, but no visible cause discovered, until late on the night of Thursday the 11th inst. the inhabitants of the Tower were thrown into the greatest possible confusion by the screaming and roaring of the sentry stationed at the door of the Regalia depot, and the turning out of the guard, which, upon repairing to the spot, found the soldier extended on the pavement in a senseless state. He was immediately carried off to the guard-room, and when sufficiently restored to his senses, positively affirmed, that whilst upon duty a small figure crept from under the door at which he was stationed, and gradually made its approach to him, at the same time changing its appearance into that of a human being, and afterwards into that of a dog. These sudden transformations so completely affrighted the soldier, that, after alarming the whole neighbourhood with his bellowing, he fell down senseless.

Nothing was seen by the soldier on the rampart, and the most rational conclusion is, that imbecility of mind has, in this case, been worked upon by the ridiculous and absurd tales of the ghost, with which, most probably, the poor fellow's brains have been crammed; and certainly no rational person can say, that doubling the sentries, for such reasons as in this case, tends much to assure the uneducated mind of such fallacies, as it appears this soldier has fallen a martyr to.

At the same time it is absolutely necessary that proper methods should be resorted to, to clear up the mystery with which it is at present enveloped; although there is very little doubt but that in a building so ancient as the one in question, containing innumerable passages and blocked-up apartments, loop-holes and crevices, Boreas, occasionally gives a concert, in which he is most musically accompanied by all the bats, and consequently many cats of the garrison.

From The Liverpool Mercury, January 26th, 1816.

Sea monster, Alexandria

(From the American Papers.)

Alexandria, Dec. 9. 
The brig Trim, Capt. Cleveland on her passage from Gibraltar to this port, on the 25th of October, in lat.31. long.20. passed a substance in the water, about 25 or 30 feet from the vessel, which from its extraordinary appearance, induced the Captain to tack ship with a view to examine what it was -- the wind being light from the W.S.W. caused the boat to be lowered down, and sent the mate with two men to make discovery.

On their return they gave the following description:--
"When we came in sight of the before-mentioned substance, turned the boat and tacked her stern nearly over him, then about four feet under water lying coiled up with its head on top of the coil -- the head being pointed, and about 12 or 14 inches in length, with upper and lower tushes or teeth, appeared from three to four inches outside, the jaw shut within each other, appeared curvely like the tush of a hog, and extremely white.

"His body had the appearance in size of about three to three and a half feet in circumference, tapering towards the tail -- and his colour was of the deepest crimson, and reflected through the water some yards. The boat being to leeward of the reptile, the little wind and sea, while they stood viewing him, drifted it off about 30 to 40 feet, the mate then concluded to hook him; the noise of the oars at the first stroke started him, he threw himself out at his length, with his head towards the boat and came very near, raising himself nearly to the surface of the water in an attitude of attack, it was judged best to make for the vessel. His length could not have been less than 30 to 40 feet, and we judge him to be in form and appearance like a sea serpent."

From the Liverpool Mercury, January 26th, 1816.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Fortean TV - Mermaids (1995)

Ever since man has started falling off boats, he's been falling under the spell of mermaids. From ancient Babylonia to India, Japan, Africa and modern Britain, from the sirens of Ulysses to the little mermaid of Hans Christian Andersen, these sirens of the deep have been the source of whimsical fantasy and factual speculation. In Edinburgh, David Heppell, the world's leading authority on mermaids, is investigating whether there's any meat behind this fishy tale.

DH: "In Britain, perhaps not unnaturally. we find most of the mermaid stories come from the fishing areas. There's one very well documented account of one from the island of Yell last century where six fishermen had captured one and had it on their boat for a number of hours. And eventually they let it go because they said its cries were so piteous, and they thought it was probably unlucky to capture a mermaid. Subsequently they swore an afadavit, and that one is very difficult to explain."

In attempting to explain mermaid sightings, scientists have usually pointed to seals or sea cows, whose shimmering silhouette and movements could easily play tricks on weary fishermen.

DH: "There are some families in Scotland that have claimed a mermaid among their ancestors. And in isolated communities, like fishing communities around the world, you do get a high instance of abnormal birth defects, and this includes the sirenomelia, which has given rise to what is called the mermaid syndrome, where the child is born with the leg bones fused together, and there seems to be the possibility that these families who had this defect made light of it by claiming that this was due to having a mermaid among their ancestors."

Such children may explain the sightings in the Victorian era, a time when mermaids generated unprecedented interest. It wasn't until the mid nineteenth century that specimens like this began washing up on beaches in far East Asia, and were imported as curios in Victorian freak shows. These bizarre half fish, half human creatures mesmerised the public and baffled contemporary scientists.

DH: "This is the specimen that started me off on these investigations. This is a male which has a slimmer fish end of it than the females do. This is a rather good example of a female. The nipples are shown fairly clearly, and also the females tend to be hairier and uglier than the males. Now the next specimen is the one that we're going to open up today."

Fortean TV joined David Heppel and taxidermist Phil Howard as they performed the first ever autopsy on one of these haunting specimens.

DH: "So what are we going to do first? We're going to take the head off, do you think?"
PH: "I'm going to remove the head and try and section it right down the middle. It's going to be rather brutal, there's no other way of doing it really."
"It's all pretty dense, David."
DH: ""So we'll have to take the stanley knife to the [spine]?"
PH: "I think we'll just have to cut straight through it." (The head falls off)
"There we go - it's a piece of wood!"

DP: "Obviously, from opening it up we can see it's a man-made construction, but put together very carefully in a particular way. These may well have had a religious intent, and were perhaps floated out to sea on rafts as offerings to the local mermaid goddess to ensure a good harvest of fish."

The analysis identified the mermaid as originating 100 years ago from Java. It was most likely a mermaid totem, fashioned by a south sea fertility cult. Meanwhile, sightings continue. The most recent was in 1991 by a security guard, off the coast of Queensland. They say he was sober and convinced, and he still awaits its return.

The video on You Tube...

The Banff merman, Alberta

Monday, 12 December 2016

Merman off Connemara

The Irish Times prints the following from its correspondent at Clifden:-
The Renvyle, Connemara, merman has reappeared. Where he spent the winter no one knows, but one thing is certain and that is that he is very hungry. On Friday evening he suddenly broke the surface a few yards astern of a curragh near Fraughbaun Island,  in the mouth of Ballinakill Bay, sniffed the air in a businesslike fashion, and made straight for the boat, using his favourite breast stroke.
The occupants of the curragh, Messrs. Thomas O'Toole and Michael Warde, said that when they first saw him coming towards them they thought he intended to climb aboard, and perhaps hurl them into the sea, so they picked up their oars and took flight. The merman continued to pursue them, but the curragh easily outdistanced him. Encouraged by their superior skill, the men waited until the merman was seen within a few yards of the stern, when Warde picked up a mackerel from the bottom of the boat and threw it to him. The merman snatched the fish eagerly with both hands and disappeared beneath the surface. When he reappeared a few moments later there was no trace of the mackerel. This time, however, he came up alongside the curragh, and O'Toole, fearing that he would catch the side and upset the craft, struck him with an oar, and the merman whined in pain and dived again, while the men lost no time in making for the shore.
The men's description of the monstrosity agrees with that of the two Renvyle fishermen who first encountered him near the same place last harvest. He had the same strawlike shaggy hair and beard, with very red lips and bushy eyebrows. He swam head and shoulders over the surface. He looked like a man of about 50 years of age. His skin seemed fair in front and blue on the back. The men believe that he was hungry, and having scented the fish in the curragh followed them for some.

From The Times, August 26th, 1937.

Renvyle, Connemara by Magnus Manske.

Merman at Portrush, Coleraine


According to a correspondent of the Coleraine Chronicle, the inhabitants of Portrush have been thrown into a state of alarm during the past few weeks by the report than a curious and previous unheard of species of sea monster had been observed in the neighbourhood of the "Blue Pool." It seems that Dr. Shaggleton, a scientific and highly gifted naturalist, and a writer of some repute, was taking a pull in a boat, accompanied by two ladies, when his attention was drawn to this singular and extraordinary creature. Dr. Snaggleton thus describes him: "In form and colour he has much the appearance of an ordinary man; the skin was perfectly white, with the exception of the lower part of the body which appeared to be striped, and of a blue and white colour; there was a great quantity of black hair underneath the chin, and the nose appeared to be prominent and well developed. When I observed him he was standing composedly on the top of a small cliff, with the arms pressed close down to the sides; and suddenly, to my astonishment, he took a sort of side leap into the sea, within 20 feet of our boat. Fearing for the safety of the occupants of our small craft, I quickly pulled out into the open sea, and saw nothing more of him." Dr. Snaggleton believes the creature to belong to a species termed "Submergis Japanarius, or Japanese sea diver," a very common animal on the northern shores of Japan, and is borne out in this opinion by Professor Dobbs, F.R.S., who says that "these extraordinary creatures have been frequently mistaken for human beings, and are usually seen in small shoals near Yokohama; and, from the fact that a few of them have lately been seen proceeding in the direction of the Skerries, we are inclined to believe that there interesting specimens belong to the tribe mentioned by the learned professor; but how or by what means they have wandered to our shores is a problem we are not able to delve. We [???] Dr. Snaggleton intends if possible to procure a [?] and place it in the Belfast Museum.

From the Western Mail, September 12th, 1874.

Comes complete with a Doctor's recommendation and a latin name, no less. But I feel very confused.

The Blue Pool, Portrush (by Anne Burgess)

Sea monster off Australia, the Exmouth Gulf


Mr Alfred Morris writes the following to Nature from Sydney, New South Wales, under date August 4th:-

A friend of mine, Captain W. Hopkins, of the schooner Mary Ogilvie, who has just returned from a voyage all round Australia, has given me the following information, which I forward you for publication, not so much because of its interesting character, but in order that other travellers may throw some light upon the character of the animal, which, if an octopus, must be of much larger dimensions than those usually met with. On June 15, when in S. lat. 21 deg. 37 sec. and E. long. 113 deg. 49 sec., about five miles off the Exmouth Gulf, on the western coast of the continent, he saw an immense creature which he took to be a species of octopus. His attention was drawn to it by a perfect cloud of sea birds, and at first he naturally thought it must be a dead carcase. On approaching it, however, he found it was alive, and sluggishly disporting itself. In shape it was like a violin, but of immense size, with some six feelers about the greater diameters of the violin. It lay almost flat upon the water, was of a dark grey above and lighter grey below, and was continually elevating one of its feelers, apparently twice the thickness of a man's arm, to a height of six to eight feet. It appeared to be vomiting, and as the birds were evidently feeding, that accounted for their presence in such numbers. Its size was so great that, had it grasped the vessel, it could easily have capsized it. The captain, therefore, got out of the way as quickly as possible, and without making definite measurements; but a large whale in the vicinity looked quite diminutive. It is a pity that something more exact as to size is not available, but I think the description is sufficient to convey an idea of the nature of the monster. all along the northern and western shores of the continent vast shoals of pumice, in portions varying in size from ordinary gravel to about a foot in diameter, and completely covered with barnacles, were passed through.

From the Dundee Courier, October 3rd, 1884.

Part of the Exmouth Gulf, by Jon Hansen