Sunday, 31 July 2016

The Copeland Island Sea Serpent Hoax

In the first week of September 1908, a sea serpent was making frequent appearances off the County Down and County Antrim coasts. It generated some excitement amongst us excitable civilians; and “certain scientific gentlemen” had offered a reward for the capture of the creature.
Many witnesses were writing to the papers with their accounts of fleeting and distant encounters with the sea serpent. But this one, received by The Belfast Telegraph, was a little different.
Before you read on, you should remember that, as The Belfast Telegraph stated when it published the letter, “The writer of the letter is alone responsible for the grammar and spelling throughout.”
Dear Sir
On Saturday the whole island greatly excited when it became known that a large creature, some calls it a fish an some calls it a snake, got stranded in the shoal on Horse Point. John an myself were after having a walk an before we nowed where we were, the water in the shoal commence to be lashed about at a terrible rate as if a whale was in it an wanted out but could not get as the tide had gone down. Him an me went down close to get a better view when we were nearly knocked speechless at what we saw. It started swimming up an down at a terrible rate when it saw us, but it looked that big we were nearly afeared to go near, of course I seen when the tide would rise again it would get away so I sent John home for the gun and to bring the boat round. It took us all our time to kill the beast an it was only after 4 shots he stopped kicking. We then grappled him but try as we might we could not get him to budge so John went and got two other men and the pony and among us all we beached him at last. Dear Sir, he is most awful to look at an a terrible size an length. We got a measuring tape an a 2 foot rule an measured him.
He is nearly 30 feet long and all scaly an about 6 feet round at his upper fins and tapes away to about ½ a foot at his tail. He has 3 big fins two on the back and one on the belly, the tail is like a big fan. His mouth, nose and eyes are after the style of a conger eel, only about 5 times as big an I am sure by the size of it he could swallow a young pig. We have him now beached high and dry and tonight perhaps some of the gents in Belfast might like to look at him or take him away to the museum as I don’t think the like of him was ever saw before in these parts. I am an old man now and have lived here all my life an have saw some queer fishes, Porpoises, Herring, Hoggs, Congers an all the rest, but never any come near this. Any of us will take you over in the boats if you signal from donaghadee pier but if he is not taken away by the end of the week we will have to bury him for feared of the smell.
Respectfully yours,
P.S. I would of wrote yesterday only it was too wild to come ashore.
Copeland Island lies at the mouth of Belfast Lough, where many of the sea serpent sightings had been made. But the editor of The Belfast Telegraph was more than a little suspicious.
Suspicious or not, he sent a reporter. Shortly after arriving on the island the reporter was able to establish two things: there was no one on the island called Andy Emerson; and there was no captured sea serpent.
  • The Belfast Telegraph, 10 September 1908
  • The Irish Times, 11 September 1908

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