Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Canvey Island Monster-- Part 1

Writing about "fearsome critters" is easy for two reasons.  First of all, the sources describing them are limited.  Generally, our knowledge about these beasties comes from a couple of public-domain books.  Written in the early 1900s, they documented lumberjack folktales of the previous century.  Pore through those books a few times, and you're more or less an expert on fearsome critters.  Second of all, fearsome critters are absolutely, explicitly fictional.  There's no need to discuss evidence or anatomy or witnesses-- because none exist.  They can be written about, laughed about, and quickly passed over.

Genuine cryptids are much trickier to handle-- due to problems of conflicting descriptions, mistaken identity, etc.  When I created this blog five years ago, my cryptid articles were fairly simplistic.  They repeated commonly-circulated theories without diving into these questions.  In my new posts, I plan to change this.  Today's cryptid-- my first since the blog relaunch-- is the Canvey Island Monster.  And the first thing you should know about it is that it was real.

In the early 1950s, two mysterious carcasses washed ashore in Kent.  The creatures appeared fishlike, with gaping mouths and bulging eyes.  They had pinkish-brown skin, and were fairly large-- one specimen about two feet long, the other twice that size.  But what made these fish truly remarkable was their method of locomotion.  According to the original reports, each had a pair of knobby, five-toed hind legs.

Two zoologists looked into one of the specimens, before describing it as nonthreatening and incinerating the body.  Its corpse was badly damaged by the time of discovery, and preservation attempts were evidently deemed futile.  Before being destroyed,, at least one of the monsters was photographed-- that picture, by Canvey Island native Rev. Joseph Overs-- appears at the top of this post.

To any amateur ichthyologists, this picture may seem familiar.  The Canvey Island "Monster" appears to be some sort of anglerfish.  While not well-known, these creatures are not cryptids at all.  They are scientifically-described animals that have been documented for centuries.  It has often been theorized that, after a major flood in 1953, unusual currents brought a pair of anglerfish to Canvey's shore.  They were discovered by locals unaware of their identity, and went down in history as cryptids.

This story sounds very likely to me-- but it still has some holes.  I'm not done with the Canvey Island Monster; in fact, I've contacted some historical authorities on Canvey Island in an attempt to learn more.  Armed with historical data, an ichthyologist friend, and the photo above, I believe I can pin down the so-called "monster's" species.  If or when I do, you will be the first to know.  Stay tuned-- the investigation continues!

Read more about the Canvey Island Monster: (image from this link)

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