Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Sunday, February 07, 2010

LINDSAY SELBY: Florida River Monster

Florida is often said to be a place of high strangeness with sightings of the Skunk Ape etc. There is also a story a bout a river monster.

Between 1955 and 1961 there were reports in Florida newspapers of a creature in the St. Johns River. The reports came from a variety of people: from fishermen who made their living there and from visitors and new residents. They all reported seeing a large creature but some said it was like a dinosaur; some, like a giant manatee. Most sightings occurred between Astor Park and Lake Monroe, the majority at Blue Spring (this is important to note; you will see why at the end of the posting).

One Lake County man claimed to have seen the monster on land, grazing on plants. He reported that the monster left a beaten-down path through the bushes. The animal's skin was described as elephant-like and grey-coloured. Two bass fisherman claimed that the monster had almost tipped over their boat.

In 1975 five people in a fishing boat were frightened on the morning of May 10 on St. Johns River near Jacksonville. They claimed to have seen a dragon-like creature that reared its head from the river then disappeared into the deep water. It was described as having a head like a giant snail, with two horns. This is the testimony of two of them:

“We saw it had a neck about 3 feet long,” Mrs. Dorothy Abram reported. “It had two little horns on top of the head like a snail.” She described the head as about the size of a human head. Mrs. Brenda Langley had a better view of the creature than Mrs. Abram had. “It was about three or four feet out of the water and about the color - a pinkish color - like boiled shrimp,” she said. “It had a real ugly looking face on it. It had snail like horns, and it had this little jagged thing going down its back. ...The head turned on it. It just turned and looked around at us.”

It is not the first story about strange marine creatures in that area. In 1885 a ship's anchor brought up the carcass of a long-necked creature that resembled an extinct plesiosaur, from the New River Inlet. It may have been the corpse of a basking shark or it may have been an unknown creature. There was no DNA testing in those days. There is apparently an 1891 newspaper report of a sea serpent chasing bathers from the ocean on Jacksonville beach (I couldn’t trace it, unfortunately). The creature was reported to have had a dog-like head and a long thin neck. There is also another story, but it may be an urban myth, said to be reported by some scuba divers in 1962, off the Gulf coast near Pensacola. A monster apparently attacked the divers and overturned their boat, and supposedly killed all but one of the men. The surviving victim claimed that the creature had a long, ten-foot neck (3.3 metres) like a telephone pole. The head had small eyes, but a very wide mouth and whipped about like a large snake.

Before we get over-excited I should point out that the largest spring on the St. Johns River, Blue Spring, is a Manatee Refuge and the winter home to a population of West Indian Manatees. So some sightings could be manatees as often people don’t realise how big they can be or what they really look like. What is interesting is that the 1975 description said it had horns. There have been lots of other sightings, including in Loch Ness, where people mention horns or eyes on stalks. The colour is also intriguing - bright red/pink - and I am sure someone can come up with a list of marine creatures that colour that could be responsible for a misidentification. Something to spend your Sunday afternoon researching if you are bored!


Anonymous said...

I have a blog entry on hold with Jon that has some earlier Florida sightings. In this case, I would suggest that the pink sightings are due to a shedding seal. More on that to come: the reports are actually very explicit about the shape, proportions and "giant turtle tracks" left by the creature, but the size in some of the reports seems much exaggerated.

The reports I got from Ivan Sanderson's archives roughly cut off where your reports begin. The reports come from all around Florida, on both coasts. The reported length runs from 15 to 35 feet long, And Ivan Sanderson considered them LongNecks. But the thing about the reports is not that they are LongNecks, they are "Thicknecks" and with very large heads, sometimes said to look like hippo or rhino heads, sometimes with a horn on the snout, sometimes with a short trunk like a tapir.

CenturySon said...

I lived in a neighborhood where a couple of sightings of the "St. Johns Monster" were reported. There was a park popular for fishing that cleared out one afternoon when something surfaced off the bulkhead. I vividly remember the police arriving at the scene as the fisherfolk poured out into the street. They interviewed some hysterical witnesses or supposed witnesses but there was nothing unusual to see by the time they arrived. Reports of snail-like characteristics aside, most reports back then described a very large black snake not unlike many of the reports a bit farther north the Georgia coast in the Altamaha River. There haven't been a rash of sightings since.