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That Mystery Fish Postcard

Posted by: Loren Coleman on October 18th, 2006

The Mystery Fish postcard, first noted here on November 29, 2005, has never been identified, as to exact location or species. New people sometimes have new ideas.

Mystery Fish Enhanced

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

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

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

Due to several requests for a closeup of the head of the mystery cryptid on the postcard, here’s a computer enhancement.

What do you see here?

Mystery Fish Closeup

(Click image for full-size version)

Mystery Fish Enhancement

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

Mystery Fish Enhancement

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

Here is a roundup of all four (+ one) direct links to the "Mystery Fish Photo" entries in the blog, which were posted in 2005 and 2006:

"Name the Mystery Fish"

"Name the Mystery Fish Continued"

"Mystery Fish Comparison"

"Mystery Fish Head Closeup"

Reactions continued, as well, into 2006: “Mystery Fish Revisited”

More than three 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 almost 2,000,000 views of the Cryptomundo “Mystery Fish” photo have occurred.

Mystery Fish Enhancement

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

+++Date of the Postcard++++

The earlier discussions noted the date was between 1904-1918 for this postcard. For example, in this hyperlinked blog (please click), the entire back of the postcard is pictured. Various pieces of research exactly determined that the diagnostic direction of the triangles give forth with a specific range of when these postcards were produced. While the men and the fish could have been photographed before 1904, they could not have been photographed and appeared on this card after 1918.

The window of time for this event is, therefore, most probably, between 1890 and 1918. But certainly, this photograph was not taken anytime after 1918.

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.

51 Responses to “That Mystery Fish Postcard”

  1. Giant_Catfish responds:

    I think its a decomposing giant catfish.

  2. kittenz responds:

    I noticed something odd about this picture. The men (who look like they are wearing WW II era- or later clothing) all have long shadows behind them, but there is no shadow on the wall behind the fish. Also, there is a shadow in the far right hand corner where a person is apparently standing off-camera, and that shadow appears on the shed wall, directly behind the fish all the way down, but strangelythat shadow does not fall across the back part of the fish. It looks like the “fish” may have been added later, and the “fish” looks amazingly like a salamander tadpole.

    So… I reserve judgement. I don’t want to jump up and scream “IT’S FAKE”. But it is thought-provoking.

  3. shovethenos responds:


    From what I can see the animal has a shadow coming off of it at the same angle as the two men to the left of it – it’s shadow is between its nose and the nearest man’s feet. The shadow behind it to the right on the wall could be from an object at an angle that the shadow misses it. I guess what I’m saying is that I haven’t been able to find any discrepancies between the light source, the objects in the picture, and the shadows.

  4. quill responds:

    I still think it looks like it’s completely handmade. Being an artist, the markings on its sides look like paintbrush strokes on a rough surface to me. And where are its fins/ legs? I only see maybe something made from papier-mache- I can’t make out how people would be mistaken that it’s real.

    No offense meant to those who think it’s a true specimen- it’s only my opinion. Feel free to change my mind. 😛

  5. Ceroill responds:

    Hmmm, interesting. Just noticed a little detail that may be of no real import, but then, it may. Just behind the head area very close to the apparent gash in the ‘neck’ I make out a pair of straight lines forming a corner. There is a very short line leading toward the tail, and then a line at right angles to that, leading toward the back.

    To me it suggests a possibility of a retouched composite photo, with a photo of a snake’s head pasted onto a photo of a large fish of some kind. That head has always looked snake-ish to me, which had me puzzled.

    As much as I might like this to be genuine, I am now having serous doubts.

  6. lerxst responds:

    It’s a bloated eel on a stretcher.

  7. planettom responds:

    This one has always been fun, but still baffles me!

    However, as in my previous posts, I’m sticking with possible shark, maybe with the fins removed, maybe even skinned or scaled? What appears to be lacerations, or maybe blood stains, in my opinion, really disguise the actual mouth line and other features.

    Very interesting photo, and I’ve passed this one around the office for opinions too! Can’t wait to see what others think.

  8. lerxst responds:

    Seriously, it’s an eel. Probably a Conger Eel. Look it up.

  9. khat responds:

    I am still of the opinion that it is some kind of primitive shark that lived over 2 million years ago. I would like to see the tail just to be sure, horizontal means mammal and vertical is shark/fish. But it sure does look like it had gills of some kind. As for a conger eel in the tropics of somewhere, it would die of the temperature variations.

  10. lerxst responds:

  11. crypto_randz responds:

    This is a tough picture to analyze. I will go with an eel specie, but does look more like a snake. Like I said, it’s a tough picture to judge.

  12. kittenz responds:

    Well I looked at the shadow again, and I still think it does not match up with that dark mark on the back.

    I think it is a fairly well crafted fake.

  13. flame821 responds:

    If this is a real animal, I would have to throw my lot in with the eel or shark group. More the shark due to the location of the eyes and the odd shape of the nose.

    I do agree with many of the other comments that this specimen was cut up or otherwise mutiliated prior to the snapshot being taken. Which makes identifying it all the more difficult.

  14. flame821 responds:

    Correct me if I am mistaken:

    If that stretcher is 6 ft long, that would make the specimen approx 12-15 feet in length.

    By the way the back end is laying, I am ASSUMING that the tail (if there is one) would be vertical meaning it is a species of fish.

    The eyes are located front and top which says ‘predator’ to me.

    At we can say with some measure of comfort that the specimen is found in tropical climates (due to the palms)
    would that narrow this specimen down at all?

  15. harleyb responds:

    It’s definitely real. Why would people back in the day take time to make a stupid fake? It’s probably one of them prehistoric fish.

  16. flame821 responds:

    After looking at the world record holders for conger eels and seeing that their eyes are most definately round. I would have to rule out a conger eel.

    What about a reef shark? I can see them skining that and taking its fins (for soup and such).

  17. Bob Michaels responds:

    A Barramundi, Australia waters, can go up to 600 lbs. The body is elongated and the head is relatively long and flattened on top.

  18. shovethenos responds:

    I’ve gone through my theory in detail in the other linked threads, don’t feel like running through them again. In a nutshell:

    – Reptile, unknown type
    – What’s in the picture is only the head and part of the neck/body of a larger creature

  19. RockerEm responds:

    It looks like a shark to me. Minus the dorsal fin and of course tail. But the head is so convincing and that particular body part made me think right away “a shark”. :)

  20. SilverWing responds:

    I’ve spent a lot of time looking at this thing, back when it was first posted, and now. Though now, the more I look at it, the more I can see the lines where the head was either drawn or pasted in by someone. If you look at the head, as compared to the leg behind it, there’s an unnaturally fine line that doesn’t occur anywhere else in the photo. Definitely looks photoshopped, or otherwise modified (Depending on what year it happened).

    I’m definitely thinking along the lines of a dead snakes head, copy/pasted onto a torn up fishes body. And most likely, long, long after this photo was actually taken, so there has to be a genuine original out there -somewhere-, though finding it is incredibly unlikely.

  21. MojoHotep responds:

    Back in the “Day”, it wasn’t at all uncommon for photographers to retouch photos to give clarity and detail. I have many old family tin types that this was done to. All the way up to the 50’s.

    Point being, even if it was retouched doesn’t mean they were trying to pull anything off, they may have been trying to give some detail to something that just didn’t come through on the final product. Or maybe they were pulling our legs. If they were hoaxin’, my hat is off to the hoaxer, cause he got his wish. We are still baffled. Honestly, it could be anything, and that just drives me nuts.

  22. fredfacker responds:

    Who cares about the fish? I want to know where I can get some of those pants!

    As I’ve posted in earlier threads I waffle back and forth regarding the possibility of a fake due to the out-of-focus foreground and the possibility that the shadow of the man standing far right out of frame may or may not be missing from across the tail of this animal.

  23. lerxst responds:

    The more I look at it, I don’t think that’s a mouth or an eye. I think its just blood. It’s lying on its side. Its head is tilted so that you can’t see its eye or mouth. Maybe, I don’t know.

  24. One Eyed Cat responds:

    Thanks for the head close up in the black/white color. Now I can see there is NO ‘notch’ in the upper lip like a snake’s. The lips don’t touch! So the mouth does at least start on the level line.

    I still see a head with a very wide ‘base’ at the neck with slightly sloping sides to a ‘blunt’ snout instead of pointy cone tip.

    I am thinking more and more the best way to figure it out is for some real-life Sherlock Holmes to track down the original story behind this thing. The old ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ TV show might be a real help here — if it was still being made.

  25. kittenz responds:

    “harleyb Says:

    It’s definitely real. Why would people back in the day take time to make a stupid fake?”

    Do you mean “back in the day” of P. T. Barnum, who said “there’s a fool born every minute”? Or “back in the day” of Piltdown Man, the deliberate hoax that had even eminent scientists fooled for 40 years? Or perhaps “back in the day” when monkeys’ torsos were sewn onto fishes’ bodies and passed off as preserved mermaids?

    People have probably been hoaxing for as long as there have been people, There have always been, and will always be, people who like to put one over, and some people just LIVE for it.

    So yes, back in the day, there were people both capable and willing to create hoaxes to sell postcards.

  26. ponyboy responds:

    From the way the light hits is, the “mouth” looks obviously painted on. I have to agree with quill on the point that it looks to be constructed out of papier-mache or something similar. I’m going to have to vote hoax on this one.

  27. tongpo responds:

    It’s a tiger shark that’s been gutted, de-finned and sitting in the hot sun until the fisherman could scare up someone who had a camera.

    Look at the snout of a tiger on any of these pictures.

  28. bermuda13 responds:

    Could it be a large lungfish?

  29. kittenz responds:

    I could almost believe it is a shark if I take the point of view that I am looking at the “fish” lying on its left side, with its back facing me and its belly facing the men. The dark black streak on its head, that I first took for a “mouth”, could be a blood streak on top of its head, or a crack or discoloration in the photo. And that would explain why the eye doesn’t look round because we would be viewing it from above so it would look lens-shaped.

    If it IS a shark, it must have been gutted and have the fins removed. It still looks lumpy and odd but I suppose that could be from having been beaten or something.

    I’m still not convinced though, mainly because of that shadow and the odd angles here and there in the photo. But it COULD be a shark.

  30. One Eyed Cat responds:

    Hum, I thought the quote most attribute to Barnum was There is a SUCKER born every minute.’? Course I could be missing it as well.

    Shadows can be tricky, but the family story behind this would clear up some questions I am sure. At least where it was.

  31. One Eyed Cat responds:

    Okay looked at the tiger shark ohotos, I see sometimes they lack a conal point of nose, however the mouth still looks wrong.

    Note, the above mystery fish head is shown closer to three-quarter view than direct profile. That can alter a viewer’s perspective.

  32. VoiceOfReason responds:

    Snake head! Thanks Cerioll. I knew that head reminded me of something but for some reason i just couldn’t figure out what. I guess my mind was stuck on fish-like animals and snake didn’t even cross my mind, but that is exactly what the head looks like.

  33. bigdog82644 responds:

    It’s a shark laying slightly on it’s side with it’s fins cut off. Seen plenty of these.

  34. purrlcat responds:

    I will agree there is an hand/arm leaning against the upper shed at the right side of the card, but I don’t think that dark spot on the shed is the fellow’s shadow – unless he is shaped like Alfred Hitchcock! I always thot this was a stain of some sort on the wood. That would be why there isn’t a shadow on the fish’s tail, because it is not a shadow. But the fish’s head does throw a shadow on the middle guy’s feet.

    And I still say the head is wrapped in something, you can see a pull and tuck area at the front of the nose. In fact, the fold may be what is being mistaken for a nostril. The eye and mouth could be painted on. I just don’t think a dead fish would have a ‘highlight’ in its eye. They get gummy and dull.

    Do you think if the card was examined in a lab, like UFO pix, they might be able to determine something??

  35. SPCBAT242 responds:

    look at an ancient fish called eusthenopteron very close it looks like a very old type of fish one from 300 millon years ago.

  36. youcantryreachingme responds:

    I think there is good reason to believe this is from a series of postcards from Nicaragua. Readers of previous threads may have already seen my link to an analysis of the tail, which resulted in my conclusion this is in fact a bony fish.

  37. shovethenos responds:

    One Eyed Cat-

    I still see the notch. The animal is not lying level on its belly, it is tilted away from the camera slightly. In the normal colored photo you can see the other side of the notch in the top jaw.

    Also – if the photo is hoaxed using the head of a known snake species, someone should be able to identify it. It looks sort of cobra or krait-like, which might match up with it being a marine species. (Some Kraits are aquatic.) That might be true if its not a hoax as well.

  38. stillserchin responds:

    These Marines could have been located at any of the following locations:
    Philippines (1899-1902)
    Panama (1901-1902, 1903-1904)
    Dominican Republic (1903-1904)
    Cuba (1906, 1909, 1912, 1917)
    Nicaragua (1909-1910, 1912-1913)
    Haiti (1915-1934)
    I still wouldn’t rule out WWII locales.

    As far as what species of fish, shark, eel or “something else” this critter might be is anybody’s guess as all these posts are attepting to make. One thing for sure is that these Marines have caught ” The Mystery Catch of the Day.”

  39. kittenz responds:

    One Eyed Cat:

    You are right; Barnum did say “sucker”.

  40. Skeptical... responds:

    While the postcard itself may have been manufactured before 1918, that does not necessarily mean that the photo had to have been taken before that time. Photos were printed onto these blank postcards – and the blanks could have been sitting at some backwater corner drugstore for years before they were finally used up. I think it is more likely that the photos were taken in the 1920s or early 1930s. And I’m still not convinced these guys are military. It’s just as likely they were involved in a government project like the CCC.

    Not that any of this has any bearing on the thing next to which they’re standing. Whatever it is, it looks like either the photo was retouched or the object itself was drawn upon to alter its appearance.

  41. mitchigan responds:

    Looks like a giant Tatzelwurm :)

  42. MojoHotep responds:

    It was a big fad in the fifties to produce these HOAX postcards. It is not impossible that old card stock was used to print the picture on. Alot of things during and after WW2 were in short supply. There are assumptions being made about this card that are way off base. These guys could be french foreign legion. Just check out the boat neck/bateau neck tshirts, and in case you don’t know, those guys weren’t stuck just soldiering in France. So those palms could have been ANYWHERE. On the flip side these guys dont HAVE to be military at all. I cannot even buy into the earlier than 1918 thing. Look at these guys, maybe it is 1918 if they had a time machine. If the back of the post card is pre 1918, then I theorize that somebody had a bunch of extra card stock and decided to use it in 1948.

    These guys look like your average Joe from my collection of old hunting and fishing magazines from the 40’s and 50’s. As far as the fish, it still drives me nuts.

  43. kittenz responds:

    I don’t buy the theory that the dark spot on the shed is a stain, because not only does the shadow continue partway up the post supporting the shed roof; there is also a shadow on the ground right about where the guy’s feet would be, and the “fish” is ON TOP of that shadow.

  44. DARHOP responds:

    Kit, there is shadow in front of the man in the middle going in the same direction as his shadow. It starts under the fish’s chin. There is no shadow in front of the guy on the left. Just behind and angling to the left. Looks like the fish is casting a shadow to me. As far as the shadow behind the fish to the right, it almost looks like some kind of stain to me. The fish in the photo looks almost like a giant lung fish to me.

  45. purrlcat responds:

    The disembodied arm at the right is casting a shadow where his hand is. I really don’t think the body attached to the arm would be in a position to be making the ‘shadow’ on the shed and certainly not that shape. Looking at it (the original card) with a 10X loupe, it really looks like paint or stain and that could have been applied to the post as well.

    I ‘googled’ the Eusthenopteron, like SPCBAT242 mentioned, and found several artists renditions of it. Maybe.

    Also, has anyone mentioned that maybe the reason the guys took a picture of this fish is that it is some kind of albino?

  46. kittenz responds:

    I disagree purricat. I think that the shadow looks like the shadow a fairly large person who is standing a couple of feet away from the shed. The shadow of the head and arm are clearly visible.

  47. joppa responds:

    I think it looks like one of those giant potato, giant jackrabbit hoax postcards from the fifties. Paste on a snake head photo and tada you have you mystery fish.

    There’s a mystery sea creature photo floating around the net taken during the Civil War, of a bunch of Union sailors standing next to some kind of giant squid. This reminds me of that.

  48. youcantryreachingme responds:

    Maybe they took the picture because it was a big fish.

  49. sgentry2k2 responds:

    It definitely appears to have a snake head, the markings on it’s side remind a little of the markings on a large mouth bass. As for the location, it could be on Paris Island in S.C., I spent a year there training recruits and it definitely looks like that place to me. There’s land and broken areas of water in the background, which what it looks like on Paris Island facing the mainland. The animal looks like a giant snake that was cut in half, but are there ANY snakes anywhere in the world that grow to that size? Two of the men in the photo are marines, (the two on the left), because of the uniformity of their trousers, and the uniform issued web belts they are wearing, and also the uniform type boots.

  50. quill responds:

    Looking at the picture closer, I can see the shadow on the structure behind the fish on the screen of the windows. It’s faint, but it’s there. The person looks like he may be shading his eyes.

  51. Steve1337 responds:

    Hello, I joined this site just to make this post. =)

    I was listening to coast2coastAM tonight and Loren Coleman was guest speaking.

    Anyhow, I apologize if this has been covered already, I tried to read most of the posts…

    My belief or best guess is that this creature is a GIANT SNAKEHEAD FISH or called PONGEE here in Hawaii. These things are native to Asia, so that fits the photo. US troops were all over Asia during that time period. I did a quick search and the record is just under 10kg for sport fishing. Not too far of a stretch maybe…? If you look up some pics of the fish I’m talking about you can see that the head shares similar placement of eyes and “nostrils”. Remember that fish get really ugly as they get older and bigger. lol

    One thing that conflicts is that I don’t see any fins behind the head of that creature. Maybe just not visible in pic? Maybe got cut off? Maybe I’m blind?

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