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Name the Mystery Fish Revisited

Posted by: Loren Coleman on June 29th, 2006

The Mystery Fish postcard, first noted here on November 29, 2005, has never been identified, as to exact location or species. Several thousand new readers have found their way to Cryptomundo since November, so here’s a quick revisit to that photographic mystery.

Mystery Fish Enhanced

(Click on image to see full size version, enhanced by shockbeton)

Due to research on the type of postcard it is, there was a determination thanks to Cryptomundo readers, that this item would have been produced between 1904-18.

The location seems to be in the Pacific, but perhaps it was taken in the Philippines, or maybe even Florida? Someone even said this might be WWI France, because of the uniforms, but what of those palm trees. Can you identify the kind of trees? I don’t know where this was taken. Do you?

Due to popular demand, here is a roundup of all four direct links to the "Mystery Fish Photo" entries in the blog, which were posted in 2005:

"Name the Mystery Fish"

"Name the Mystery Fish Continued"

"Mystery Fish Comparison"

"Mystery Fish Head Closeup"

Almost two hundred comments, most of them extremely thoughtful and detailed, can be found at the above noted entries, and yours are welcome anew, here, below. To date over 1,000,000 views of the Cryptomundo “Mystery Fish” photo have occurred.

Mystery Fish Enhancement

(Click image for full-size version, provided by Todd DiLaMuca)

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

58 Responses to “Name the Mystery Fish Revisited”

  1. Forever_Elusive responds:

    i do not know how to identify this but it seems to be, at least to me, some type of prehistoric fish, like that of the coelacanth. i really like this fish though, it does look like something “ancient”. it doesn’t appear to have and pectoral or dorsal fins, but could be on its side. in conclusion, very interesting. to say the least :P. – Dustin

  2. mauka responds:

    I don’t know… Hawaii? Maybe Hawaii.

  3. shovethenos responds:

    My opinion is the same as before. The main points of my opinion are:

    – The corpse pictured is only part of the animal, the head and neck. Its possible that the whole animal is much larger.

    – In my opinion it is some kind of reptile. I come to this conclusion due to the eye and nostril placement, the lack of prominent gills or gill slits, the mouth line, and what appears to be the notch in the center of the mouth that some snakes and lizards possess to allow their tongues to dart in and out.

    – Breaking down the reptile family further, if the picture is authentic I think the mystery animal is likely some kind of aquatic or semi-aquatic snake. The head appears somewhat similar to a cobra. This might indicate that the animal was a giant relative of the sea kraits, which are sea-adapted snakes that are closely related to cobras. (Note there are also legends of very large cobras.)

    – Of course the above is all assuming the picture is authentic. There is always the chance it could be a hoax. If it is a hoax it is a pretty well-executed one, since the picture seems pretty authentic to me. The animal figure seems authentic, so if the hoax involved enlarging and superimposing the image of an actual animal it would still be helpful to identify what known animal image was used for the hoax.

    Whatever the explanation is the picture is certainly intriguing, now I’m going to be thinking about this again constantly.

  4. shovethenos responds:

    Now I noticed something new.

    Is that an ear-hole in a horizontal line directly behind the eye most of the way down the head?

    If I remember correctly snakes don’t have external ear openings, so this would likely put the mystery animal in the lizard family. From the shape maybe a member of the monitor family. But who knows. Something new pops up the longer you examine it.

  5. stonelk responds:

    I have my doubts that this is a fish, due to the shape of the head and what looks like nostrils on the snout it looks more like a large snake to me. They may have killed a giant python and hacked off what they could carry back to camp.

  6. planettom responds:

    I believe what some people have called the mouth on this thing, is actually a blood trail. I believe it was possibly strung up, like a large fish or shark, and then de-finned or skinned, or who knows? The line now appears horizontal as the creature lays on the ground. The mouth is there somewhere, just hard to define. It’s really hard to say, but I’ve had fun with it as a guessing game around the office!

  7. Tabitca responds:

    It looks from the shape of the head to be a giant salamander. The legs could be missing or underneath the body.

    Depending on where the photo is taken it could be a now extinct breed, and therefore not so easily recognisable.

    Plus there is no indication of how old the corpse is or how much it may have decayed, or been damaged in capture.

    Interesting though!

  8. texasgirl responds:

    I think it’s possible that it is a skinned/cut up shark, the head looks very sharky to me and it looks as though the fins have been cut off, the skin has been removed and perhaps some of the meat, it also looks to have been fully gutted.

    A shark head with a fish-like body

    This is my elementary view of the thing.

    Or perhaps it is an overgrown muskie mutant that was shot and skinned?

  9. chrisandclauida2 responds:

    somewhere in the pacific. the two men on the right are wearing military belts and pants. the one guy on the left isn’t. you also have the campaign hat. this was worn by many military members in the early 20th century but only the marines more towards ww2.
    these clues point to the south pacific. this could be anywhere from Hawaii to Australia.
    the fish could be some kind of eel or had fins torn off in nets.

  10. One Eyed Cat responds:

    Well, I showed this to my 86 yr young aunt I live with and her impression was more like the South Pacific than Florida, where she was born in 1920 and raised. Her first reaction was a croc, but I don’t see it that way. a good mystery. Now if we could just identify where and when it was taken we would be on square one.

  11. One Eyed Cat responds:

    Oh and planettom, you may be on the right track but I believe the straight line is the mouth, but the curved line from the ‘mouth’s’ end up towards the top of the short neck appearing area is a blood line

  12. stompy responds:

    looks like some kind of a legless lizard

  13. fredfacker responds:

    The first question that jumps to my mind is where is the rest of that shadow being cast over the side of the wall by that guy standing at the tail end of the fish? You can see his hand up on the railing of the shed in the top right corner of the picture. From his shadow it looks like he’s leaning on the high arm with his other arm at his side. Yet, his shadow doesn’t fall onto the ground or the body of the fish. I’m not saying the sun couldn’t have just been at one of those weird angles, but this gives creedence to the theory of two negatives cropped together to create one photo. Except back in those days you didn’t really crop, you just masked off part of the photo paper and made one exposure, then you switched your negative, masked off the exposed part and then exposed the other half. If this is what was done, this could be just a normal-sized snake or fish head blown up on the enlarger to look giant. That would explain the blurriness of the foreground and change from dirt where the guys are standing to the grass where the fish is. Then again, the blurriness could just be due to the camera’s focal area and lens aberration. This may even be three layers of negatives: the grassy foreground, the animal, and the background with men and hut. I can’t tell.

    Some things you can tell about this creature are that it has some skin/guts or something coming out from the bottom of the jaw. The neck is severed wide open or if this was faked that black area could be from something in the original animal picture that had to be blotted out to prevent it from being obviously magnified too large. But if it is a gash, that would support the theory that it was hung up on a big hook by the bottom of the jaw and gutted or that it had been attacked in the ocean and was found dead. Dead fish do tend to bloat and turn white when they’ve been floating around a few days.

    I’m in agreement that the mouth stops at that front edge of the head. The rest of that is blood or something else. Is the curvature upwards caused by a gill slit? I don’t know. Did the guys just want to paint a big smile on their fish for the picture? I don’t know. Is that mark just coincidental damage to the surface of the postcard? I don’t know.

  14. fredfacker responds:

    Actually the more I look at it, the more I think the curved part of the mouth, and the vertical line right behind the neck wound are just possibly smudges on the surface of the postcard. Who knows?

  15. shumway10973 responds:

    what I could see all shadows are going behind and to the left. I am a graphic artist and I don’t see any places where 2 pictures were put together. I enjoy looking at the playful pictures taken around these times of enlarged chickens being riden by children, or the super sized potato that takes up the whole wagon. Those I can usually see where the two pictures come together. The head is definitely reptilian, very snakelike. It is possible that the critter is real. I have read an account by a captain of a U-boat (german sub in wwII) that claimed during an attack on an allied ship a large serpantine creature surfaced, probably dead due to the explosion. They were not able to spend any time examining it due to the fact that we were fast on his tail. If nothing else, the head almost reminds me of an anaconda, python or boa. They can get quite large in places where they have to really work for food, what if this one found some where that it didn’t have to do much, just lie around. I remember catching a trout at the family ranch just upstream from our dam that directs the water into our ditch. That trout was huge, seemed to almost break my fishing rod. So, I think it is possible that if it is a “normal” something, exactly what is the question. Location may not have much to do with finding these things anymore, especially if it is in the south pacific. Between the french testing their nukes and us testing our h-bomb, I would be amazed if something that large has survived all that.

  16. twblack responds:

    I think some sort of a reptile myself.

  17. TemplarKnight21c responds:

    Looms to me like either a mutated eel species, or some sort of reptile. The shape of the head reminds me of a komodo dragon. If I had the resources, I’d check old newspaper articles from seaside communities. As to where…my bet is on California.

  18. jayman responds:

    I have to agree with the people here who say the “mouth” is an illusion. I think the “eye” is too, and the real eye is small and far forward – it actually shows up better in the small photo. My guess is some kind of deep water shark.

  19. Ranatemporaria responds:

    That close up makes it look for the first time like a model or mocked up fish. Im not saying it is just that it looks like one.

  20. Ranatemporaria responds:

    Closer examination, i know it sounds pretty out there but i think that is a tadpole! At least a larvea of some sort. The giant salamanders we know from cryptid history MUST have a varval form like all amphibians, could this be it?

  21. Ranatemporaria responds:

    Have a look on google at some examples. This is a bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana). Just another suggestion for the melting pot!

  22. jim_brikiatis responds:

    the second picture looks fake. I mean, the eyes look strange.

  23. Mfdcapt4 responds:

    There was a program on the Discovery Channel about sharks of the Paleazioc Period. This looks a lot like one of the species on the program.. Tha name escapes me.

  24. trisbez responds:

    Assuming that this photo isn’t faked, which I can’t speak to, couldn’t this be a Megamouth shark? Perhaps a young one? Decide for yourself

  25. MattBille responds:

    I’m not sure about the dating. The building and the men just have the “look” of a US outpost in the Pacific in the 1930s or 40s. As the the animal, it’s hard to determine what is a blood spot, smear, or drip, what might be a slash (maybe after being hooked, it was killed with a machete) and what’s an actual feature on the head. Noticing how the tail lies flat on the beach, I even wondered if most of the “mouth” line was actually blood and we were looking at the thing ventrally. although we should see at least one pectoral fin or the place it was cut off, and there’s no suggestion of that.
    Bottom line: “You got me.”

  26. Loren Coleman responds:

    Matt –

    If you read the earlier posts you will see there is little doubt about the dating on the postcard because of the parameters of when this company printed these cards based on symbols on them. Please refer to the discussion on this earlier.

    Therefore, they are definitely not from the 1930s and 1940s.

  27. jjames2 responds:

    I think Jayman might be onto something. Let’s assume for a minute that the feature we’re all calling the “eye” isn’t an eye, but instead, it’s a blood stain or something similar.

    Now, look at the picture again to find what else could be the eye. There’s definitely something smaller and more forward on the head that could be an eye. If that is an eye, the placement would be appropriate for a shark.

  28. jchip responds:

    I have no idea about what that creature is, but based on the age of the photograph, the uniforms, and construction of the buildings, I would be inclined to say it’s a South Pacific location, probably one of three possible locations: the Philippines, Wake Island, or Guam.

  29. RobW responds:

    This looks to me like a shark or some other large fish, laying on it’s left side and seen from the top. Not sure about the lack of fins though. It does look to me like the “mouth” is a line of dried blood. If it is in fact, on it’s side, this would account for the oval shape of the eye.

  30. shovethenos responds:

    I’m sceptical of the alternate explanations for the eye and mouth.

    The eye seems pretty pronounced, with a pit in front of it and even a “highlight” from the sun. Seems to be pretty difficult to call it anything other than an eye.

    If the mouth, or the far curving end of the mouth, is a blood drip why does it follow a smooth, odd, semi-circular path? If the animal was on its side the blood drips, or some of the blood drips, would follow a path straight to the ground, perpendicular to the mouth. It doesn’t seem to add up to me.

  31. nightfyre responds:

    This much ado about nothing. After studying the photo and researching the possible candidates….this is a only a Tigershark that has the fins and tail removed. One can see the shark’s body has been cut up or altered with a knife of some type and that the body is not in its true form. Doesn’t the mottling on the back say anything to anyone and the squarish head. Don’t just take my word. Look up Tigersharks and match those photos with this photo. There is not much of a mystery here folks.

  32. kamoeba responds:

    I agree with nightfyre.

  33. Tyche responds:


    Here is your creature: Tiktaalik roseae.

    Thats my guess. Recently ‘discovered’, it does appear to have the same facial features and body type. They think it moved on land like a seal. So, I think the photo shows the guys after they caught it on land.

    It might be worthwhile to send Chicago a photo of your animal to see what they think.

  34. shovethenos responds:


    There’s no gill slits, one would expect them to be identifiable even if the animal was skinned. There’s no scars where the fins should be. The color seems wrong. The eye and nostril placement seem wrong. The shape of the mouth seems wrong. The shape of the eye seems wrong – tiger shark eyes seem more round and don’t have a pit in front of them.


    The tiktaalik has a pointed snout and the beady eyes are placed close together on the top of the skull. This is very different from the mystery animal.

    I’m not the designated skeptic for alternate explanations, but explanations alleging known or existing animals should be analyzed just as rigorously as those alleging the animal is a cryptid.

  35. jjames1 responds:

    I’m not sure how many people are still reading this far down, but I’ll urge you again to put aside for a second the notion that the large black spot that everyone is assuming the eye is, in fact, the eye. Ignore it completely for a second. Look for something else that could be an eye.

    If you do that, I think you’ll be drawn to a smaller, rounder shape that is in front of and slightly below the area we’re currently focusing on as the “eye.” If this “new” eye is the REAL eye of the creature, then it could quite easily be a shark. The mouth/gill line that we’re all assuming is the “real” mouth could easily be a portion of the shark’s mouth with a blood trail creating the illusion that it’s larger than it really is. Thoughts?

  36. One Eyed Cat responds:

    jjames1 I believe what you are considering a possible eye has been generally assumed by most to be a nostril.

    Head shape just seems wrong for a beautifully suited to easy water movement build of sharks.

    As for the mouth, It could be a blood line is making the mouth look longer then it is, that is definitely longer than any shark mouth I’ve ever seen photos of. But what about the wrinkle just above the line just before the curve line starts? To me that appears something that would be found near a mouth’s rear terminal point.

  37. Whip responds:

    We have that Picture discused on our german cryptozoological VKF-Website and it seems to be a Hoax, made for that Postcard in the mid of the 1910 Years. The Head and the Body seems to be a handmade Puppet, it makes a good Motive for Postcards.

  38. nightfyre responds:


    If you will go to this webpage, you will see a record Tiger Shark displayed in a way similar to the post card photo in this article. Its a 20ft., 1780 pound Tiger caught off of Cherry Grove Pier north of Myrtle Beach, SC on June 14, 1964. How is this Tiger Shark much different from the creature presented in this article?

  39. afigbee responds:

    Possibly a really old dead coelacanth washed up on the beach after a big storm. They can be up to 6.5 feet long,

  40. Mateo responds:

    Sorry, the head looks like paper maché.

  41. One Eyed Cat responds:

    nightfyre, The head shape is different the Tigershark head is shaped like a shark’s head, the mystery fish has a head more rectangle than cone

  42. shovethenos responds:


    Unfortunately I can’t read German. Could you summarize the arguments made and evidence presented in the linked thread?

  43. shovethenos responds:


    There’s a number of problems with the “shark” or “tiger shark” explanation. One of the biggest is the eye. Sharks tend to have round eyes, the mystery animal has an oval eye with a pit in front of it and even a highlight from the sun. Unsharklike and pretty detailed for it to be a fake. Then you have the general placement of eye/nostril/mouth, all very different for a shark. If you notice the mouth of a shark from a side profile view is just a small semi-circular arc, very different from the mystery animal. Another major problem is the lack of gill slits, fins, or scars where the fins were previously located. Even if you skinned a shark you would probably be able to see the underlying gill structure, and that isn’t visible. Then there are coloration problems. There’s more, but that’s what comes to mind right now.

  44. shovethenos responds:

    “Sorry, the head looks like paper maché.”

    Uhh, and your argument, with evidence?

    Take the eye. Glossy and complete with a highlight from the light source. Looks pretty realistic to be a fake. I have no doubt that there were artists at the time that could work wonders with paper mache, but it was still pretty fake. Think of the special effects at the time – we’re talking silent movies, Flash Gordon, etc. That’s assuming the hoax was made at the time, and not more recently.

    None of this is conclusive, but there’s a lot of problems with just muttering “it’s paper mache”, the main one being it doesn’t look like paper mache.

  45. One Eyed Cat responds:

    Actually the arguments against it being a shark applies to the coelacanth idea as well. Head shape wrong and no scars of fins or gills appear

  46. BigDayv responds:

    I think it has to be some kind of skinned shark. We have no idea how long it has been laying there and from the look of the surrounding area I’d say it would have soaked up a lot of sun. The area around what would have been a rounder eye could have wrinkled up and the area where any gills or an outline thereof is pretty messed up. If you look closly toward the end of the animal it looks as though something has been cut off however the area is still rather slim to be any kind of beheaded snake or reptile with no legs. a lot of people in the South Pacific and in parts of Asia consider shark to be a great food for the body and I looks as if they’ve laid it on top of something to keep what would be meat if it were skinned from getting to dirty/sandy. The fact that they had no disregard to putting something beneath the head leads me to further believe they intended to eat this animal.

  47. BigDayv responds:

    There is also an area about a foot long to the right of the dark smudge that looks to be an area where a pectoral fin could have been cut from also the animal is lying in a position where the area of a dorsal fin would not be seen. Also the size of the head looks to me irrelevant because of you notice the picture was taken at an angle the three gentlemen in the picture do not line up. The proportion of the head as it relates to the size of the body could be a case of forced perspective.

  48. shovethenos responds:

    If you look closely at the “smudge” it appears to be a plant or branch of some kind.

    The mouth is still wrong, even if the theory is that it is a skinned shark. And I still think that if it were skinned you would see the underlying gills if the gill slits had come off with the skin.

  49. Allan Sil responds:

    My guess is that it is the remains of a shark about 15 feet long that was taken somewhere near a Marine Corp facility such as Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii. The year looks like early 1930s. Several things get harvested by asian fisherman, all fins, including the tail, and perhaps the skin.

    The jaws, which are the only hard bone in a shark, would be taken as a set for sale to tourists. The jaw removal, would require cutting the head to allow the jaws to be removed. The structure of the snout is pure shark. They may have tried
    to make it look more mysterious by extending the gill loops with scratches aft of the gill slits or it may just be lucky lighting hiding the gills.

  50. One Eyed Cat responds:

    First, the postcard has been shown to be no later than 1918, so 1930’s is out.

    Okay the perspective is one thing that gives me trouble about it being a shark. It is not a direct side view as the front part of the snout is visible. Instead of a typical cone shape to the head, it reminds me more of a child’s playing block in shape. I can by following the dark area near the body ‘top’ see an area where something like a dorsal fin could have been, but that could also be the pigment in the dark line.

    Two have now said the ‘tail’ area looks to have been cut off, but the perspective makes it hard for me to see that.

    We have a strange creature sometime between 1903-1918 at a possible America holding in the south Pacific. It is a pity a desendent of one of those men hasn’t found this site and related the family story about that postcard. You know there has to be a story there.

  51. chrysischylde responds:

    Has anyone else noticed the discoloration on the wood right in front of the “fish”‘s snout? If you enlarge it, it looks like the dark mouth line extends past the snub like snout, and there is a light angular area, that looks like someone had erased the sharper snout of a shark. Opinions??

  52. One Eyed Cat responds:

    Checking the entire photo I believe you are seeing relected light on the snout from the sand. Still it does make the snout not quite so blockish.

    Has anybody else noticed the wrinkle just above the horizonal line just before the curved line starts. That still looks to me like what one would see at the rear termination of the mouth.

  53. shovethenos responds:

    I don’t think much narrowing can be done in the way of location. The trees in the picture appear to be palms, so you can’t really say anything more significant than the climate is likely tropical or semi-tropical. You really can’t rule out any of the tropical or semi-tropical areas of the world.

  54. shovethenos responds:

    Maybe some progress could be made looking into the origin again. Where did Phyliss obtain the postcard from again?

  55. Najhira responds:

    The shirts they are wearing couldn’t be before WWI. The tiger shark is similar but where are the gills? Anyone notice the pile of what looks like fins in the background. The coloration could be damage from a blade during a skinning process.

    I really can’t think of an explanation for the thing that looks like an eye.

    My guess is some kind of shark with fins and jaw harvested, probably Hawaii I hope we can find a definite answer.

  56. Mnynames responds:

    I believe this is the item that first drew me to Cryptomundo, so it’s kinda fun to see it again. A little less fun is seeing all the same old suggestions tossed about again, but it’s still a good way to have a discussion and reach some sort of consensus. Here are some of my thoughts (Forgive me if someone else has already mentioned them, I haven’t read all the 200+ comments)-

    The hat could just as easily be a state trooper or park ranger hat, so I’m not sure we should be so quick to label it military.

    I’ve been looking at the “mouth” as an extended cut mark, presumeably starting at the actual mouth, but I think it’s also possible that the curved area could be an operculum (gill flap) rather than a cut- whoever cut it simply connected the mouth opening to the gill opening.

    There are some fins beneath the animal, and I believe on the tail as well (Rather than being cut off).

    Except for the eye and the rather blunt nose, none of the visible features suggests a shark at all, especially not the tail or the striation along the exposed fins. If indeed there is an operculum, than this is definitely not a shark.

    Has anyone been able to identify the white objects in the shed (Frankly, they kinda look like toilets to me)? If these could be identified, then that would go a long way to help determine the when and the where…

  57. CryptoInformant responds:

    I’ve looked closer, and still see a Mosasaur with fins folded out of view to look like an eel.

  58. acilletam responds:

    It looks a lot like a Mekong Giant Catfish. Check out the pics here

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