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Another Mystery Fish Postcard?

Posted by: Loren Coleman on May 3rd, 2009

Phyllis Mancz of Ohio has sent in a scan of another postcard that might be viewed by some as another mystery fish photograph. Or others might assume it is a funny hoax item, one seen in tourist-laden places like Florida almost a century ago, available to send back home to Aunt Dorothy with a minute-tall-tale hastily written on the back of the card.

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But is it real or is it fake? There’s a long tradition of fake pictures and drawings being placed on postcards to keep the tourists buying them and the family and friends receiving them laughing.

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Some are modest attempts at showing giant fish, like this trout, apparently casually caught and strapped to the traveler’s horse, to demonstrate to the folks back home the great adventures to be had on vacation.

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Others may be examples that are quite beautiful, as is the entire art and idea behind this giant pineapple postcard.

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What would a discussion of postcards be without the jackalope card, where often a cowboy is pictured on the back of one of these rare creatures.

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A few illustrate why you should buy your potatoes from the State of Maine, where the locals grow ‘em spuds wicked big.

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Someone seems rather happy, or is that just a giant pickle?

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Other postcards show the sizable crops grown in various parts of the country. To get a history behind some of these postcards, please read all about them here.

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Let’s return to the postcard I showed you to start this whole discussion. It is obviously a fake, in the tradition of all of these kinds that have been produced from holiday spots like Florida, right?

But is this one fake or real?

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As it turns out, other old photos of this same fish being caught, although not as nicely colored, have showed up on old postcards too.

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But the fish pictured in the postcard up top is actually a known species. As opposed to being a fake postcard, it is an actual representation of the fact these fish do grow that huge.

It’s a colorized, vintage example of a whale shark (Rhincodon typus), the largest living fish species. The record length for a whale shark was accurately recorded on November 11, 1947, of a specimen caught near the island of Baba, not far from Karachi, Pakistan. It was 12.65 metres (41.50 ft) long, weighed more than 21.5 tonnes (47,300 lb), and had a girth of 7 metres (23.0 ft).

size comparison

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The caption on the color postcard reads:

“The Big Fish, Length 45 ft, Weight 30,000 lbs, Miami, Florida. Caught by Capt. Chas H. Thompson.”

In the right hand corner of the actual photograph is a small copyright notice with Thompson’s name plus the year 1912.

On the black and white postcard, although it is difficult to make out, it says “Copyrighted by Chas. Thompson…Miami, Florida 1912.”

The length is also recorded at 45 ft, but I can’t make out if the weight is given as the same. I cannot read what is written beneath the words “Copyrighted by” in the black and white photograph. Can anyone?

For more on what Capt. Thompson was out there looking for in 1908 ~ actually he was hunting for a Sea Serpent ~ see my old blog on that, previously posted.

:-) Thank You.

About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. 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.


23 Responses to “Another Mystery Fish Postcard?”

  1. Richard888 responds:

    I think both postcards show the same whale shark though the cart is different. It could be a real fish that has been preserved with internal structures to keep the tail horizontal. The color postcard even says who caught it, how much it weighed and how long it was.

  2. KurtB responds:

    The mouth stuck open looks odd, but I’m willing to accept that that is something whale sharks do after death.

    If I were going to fake a postcard 100 years ago, I think I would have done better than a whale shark. An enormous goldfish or photo of some marine monster model from a museum would have worked better. Maybe a giant sea cucumber.

    In looking postcards that are obvious fakes the nature of the “hoax” needs to be considered. More often than not I think it was intended to generate a laugh rather than perpetrate a fraud.

  3. kittenz responds:

    I think that the photos are of real sharks but they have been used to make fake postcards

  4. tomdee27 responds:

    This is apparently real. If you Google – (“charles thompson” florida “whale shark”) you’ll find many mentions of this fish in publications like the Miami Times and USA Today. From USA Today: “Perhaps the greatest Keys fishing tale was the catch made off Knight’s Key by Capt. Charles Thompson in 1912. He battled a 38-foot-long whale shark for a reported 39 hours, harpooning it multiple times and riddling it with bullets. The 10-ton fish was then stuffed and mounted on a railroad car for a tour.”

  5. Bob Michaels responds:

    Whale sharks can be found on exhbit at the Atlanta Aquarium.

  6. noobfun responds:

    First time I’ve seen images of a whale shark feeding head on.

    For something so graceful and elegant it looks goofy with its mouth open.

    I was surprised the patterning is almost invisible on the B&W picture.

    I do like this bit.

    He battled a 38-foot-long whale shark for a reported 39 hours, harpooning it multiple times and riddling it with bullets.

    I didn’t know there was a tradition of whale hunting from Florida? Or was he a sports fisherman who usually specializes in submarines?

  7. Loren Coleman responds:

    I’ve updated this blog with new information about his catch above, and more on Capt. Thompson’s other adventures, here.

  8. Cashel responds:

    That’s no jackalope, it’s just a giant jackrabbit. Nothing strange about that.

  9. red_pill_junkie responds:

    The mouth of the whale shark looks odd. I imagine they could have stuffed something on it.

    Or, it may very well be a completely fake whale shark, made of papier machè or semthing.

    The reason I doubt it is a real shark it’s because of the two little kids riding on top of it in the B&W photo. Now, it is my understanding that sharks have really rough skin, almost like sandstone to the touch, so a kid wearing shorts would not really have such a good time pony-riding one of these now, would he?

  10. Loren Coleman responds:

    “Unlike other kinds of sharks, whose skin feels like sandpaper, [diving enthusiast Norborne] Turner said, the whale shark’s skin, several inches thick, was much smoother.”

    Source.

  11. red_pill_junkie responds:

    I stand corrected. Thanks for the link Loren :-)

  12. Ann Unknown responds:

    That’s no jackalope, it’s just a giant jackrabbit.

    Cashel,

    I have it on good authority from my friend in Texas, that it may very well be a jackalope. In Texas when jackalopes are broke for cattle work, they are generally dehorned, because the tall, forked structures make them difficult to bridle, and can also interfere with the cowboy’s lasso. ;)

  13. TornadoBob responds:

    I believe the writing on the B&W photo says “Photo by Handgo, Miami, Florida” I found another postcard of shark in ebay, showing it still in the water, apparently chained to the side of a fishing boat. A man is sitting in its mouth. The photo is copyrighted 1913.

  14. Lee Pierce responds:

    I have a great recipe for Jackalope eggs. If anyone is interested. What, you don’t think Jackalopes lay eggs? Show me a Jackalope and I will show you its eggs.

  15. bbasketballstr11 responds:

    The postcard is real. Here is a more detailed article on the colossus catch.

  16. Andrew Minnesota responds:

    I wish i had a giant jackalope to ride around, imagine pulling up to a drive thru on one of those!

  17. coelacanth1938 responds:

    I need to watch Ebay a little closer.

  18. cryptidsrus responds:

    There is nothing quite as awe-inspiring as a whale shark. Great postcard.

    As to the Jackalope photograph:

    Remember “America’s Funniest People?”
    “Fast as fast can be—you’ll never capture me.”:)

  19. HOOSIERHUNTER responds:

    Andrew-
    you wouldn’t want one. Have you seen the kind of mess a normal size rabbit makes? Now imagine if it should..um..relieve itself while you’re waiting in the drive-thru! :o

  20. Rogutaan responds:

    Eh, Rabbits can be litter trained.

    Also the black and white photo to me looks fake. The way the skin stretches down from the head towards the back looks odd to me. Not that I would know how a dead shark out of the water would really look like.

  21. king_of_angolmois responds:

    its just a whale shark nothing special about that.

  22. Loren Coleman responds:

    Truly is amazing how some folks don’t even fully read the postings before commenting.

    :-)

  23. TamiT responds:

    I can say for a fact that those of the Whale Shark caught by Charles Thompson are not a hoax and are very true. I know this because this is actually my Great Great (I believe only 2 greats) Uncle. He really did catch the Whale Shark and those are real pictures. Also if anyone happens to see any of those old post cards on ebay or anything would you let me know (just put a response on here) because I have been looking for some good pictures or any other item for my geneology history line I am trying to create, and they would go great with the rest of the information i have gotten from my grandparents. Thanks!



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