The Sea Serpent (Creepy History 10)

sea serpent

A drawing of a sea serpent from 1860.

In 1817 a Report of a Committee of the Linnaean Society of New England was published, which described in great detail the appearance of a mysterious sea serpent off the coast of Gloucester, Massachusetts.  The giant creature was seen by many people over the course of a few days, and the report contains the testimonies of several individuals, a selection of which I include below:

I, Amos Story of Gloucester, in the County of Essex, mariner, depose and say, that on the tenth of August A.D. 1817, I saw a strange marine animal, that I believe to be a serpent, at the southward and eastward of Ten Pound Island, in the harbour in said Gloucester… His head appeared shaped much like the head of the sea turtle, and he carried his head from ten to twelve inches above the surface of the water.  His head at that distance appeared larger than the head of any dog I ever saw.  From the back part of his head to the next part of him that was visible, I should judge to be about three or four feet.  He moved very rapidly through the water, I should say a mile in two, or at most, in three minutes… I likewise saw, what I believe to be the same animal this day, viz. the twenty third of August, A.D. 1817.  This was in the morning, about seven o’clock.  He then lay perfectly still, extended on the water, and I should judge that I saw fifty feet of him at least.

I, Solomon Allen 3d, of Gloucester, in the county of Essex, Ship master, depose and say; that I have seen a strange marine animal, that I believe to be a serpent, in the harbour in said Gloucester.  I should judge him to be between eighty and ninety feet in length, and about the size of a half barrel, apparently having joints from his head to his tail… His head formed something like the head of the rattle snake, but nearly as large as the head of a horse.

I, Epes Ellery, of Gloucester… saw a sea animal that I thought to be a serpent… I was looking at him with a spy-glass, when I saw him open his mouth, and his mouth appeared like that of the serpent; the top of his head appeared flat.  His motion when he turned was quick, but I will not express an opinion of his velocity.  The first part of the curve that he made in turning was of the form of a staple, and as he approached towards his tail, he came near his body with his head, and then ran parallel with his tail, and his head and tail then appeared near together.

The following quote, from serpent witness Matthew Gaffney, perhaps illustrates why such creatures are rarely seen, if they exist:

I fired at him, when he was the nearest to me.  I had a good gun, and took good aim.  I aimed at his head, and think I must have hit him.  He turned towards us immediately after I had fired, and I thought he was coming at us; but he sunk down and went directly under our boat, and made his appearance at about one hundred yards from where he sunk.


In the lead-up to Halloween, I am presenting a ‘Creepy History’ series.  Normal service (journals and snippets) will be resumed in November.  You can keep updated each time I post a new entry by clicking on the follow button on the right of the screen.

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About Windows into History

Author of windowsintohistory.wordpress.com Co-writer on junkyardview.wordpress.com Administrator of frontiersmenhistorian.wordpress.com
This entry was posted in 19th Century, Books, Creepy History, History and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Sea Serpent (Creepy History 10)

  1. My guess is that strong liquor was involved!

    Liked by 1 person

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