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Mystery Fish Continues

Posted by: Loren Coleman on August 25th, 2006

With so many new people here, it’s time to check in with an old favorite of Cryptomundo.

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 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 popular demand, 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”

Almost 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 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)

+++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.

73 Responses to “Mystery Fish Continues”

  1. bigsassy responds:

    It is a huge eel.

  2. jayman responds:

    My vote, like I said before, is a thresher shark. I think the real “head” is just the first 1/4 of what looks like the head. Fully 2/3 of the full length is the very long upper part of the tail.

  3. DefinitiveCloser responds:

    I agree with some of the previous posters who thought it was a megamouth shark. (Perhaps a young one?). Note the distinctive overbite and rubbery quality of the lips and head, and also how the megaamouth’s body radically tapers down towards its tail fin. If you care to compare look here

  4. mauka responds:

    Ya, I saw the last post and failed to put my finger on what it could be. Now thanks to some extra time put into visually scanning the Mystery Fish, the aquatic beast looks like a type of shark (the head was is what makes it appear the way).

  5. One Eyed Cat responds:

    It is hard to see the palm trees clear enough — with everything in front of them. But trying, I want to say sago palms for some reason. If anyone can find a photo of a sago and compare, let’s see what we get.

    I still have problems with it being a shark. In the first photo above the reflected light on the ‘snout’ shows there is a slant to the sides of the head, but NOT the pointed snout of a shark, barring Hammerheads of course.

    I still say the horizional line is a true mouth. And there is a wrinkle at the rear of the mouth on the upper lip,
    One difference in my thinking is the curved line may be a mark where a line of some kind was.

    I’d like to see this solved, but will be a little lost when it is. I think this is my favorite subject on this site.

  6. monkeyz responds:

    Looks like it’s made out of paper mache.

  7. Sunny responds:

    No way are those Sago Palms — sagos have extremely stiff fronds, and don’t usually get more than 5-7′ tall.

    I would sooner think cabbage palms (also knows as sabal or palmetto palms).

    This makes it very hard to pin down, as these tough trees grow all over the coast SE US — from South Carolina on down through the Caribbean to Colombia.

    This is my very first post — been lurking for quite a while — thanks to all for a logical and clear view of things no one quite understands…yet. 😉

    Can’t make a judgement on the creature.

  8. Sunny responds:

    Sorry, had another thought. In looking closely at the background — the buildings look to be built of pine or another soft-wood conifer (big knots, very open grain) — and looking through the porch-type structure in the foreground, this picture was taken in what looks an awful lot like the terrain of the Carolina lowlands — wide salt-grass marshes with a big tidal flow (long docks elevated quite a long ways above the water) — which leads me to guess (GUESS!) that this was taken in the Southeastern United States, quite possibly Georgia or the Carolinas.

    While the Mediterranean coast of France does have salt marshes and palm trees, the traditional buildings don’t look ANYTHING like those in this picture — these buildings are uniquely American in style, so this would have had to have been an American encampment in the Camargue. I’d gladly stand corrected, but I don’t think this is France.

    Can’t speak for the Phillipines, as I haven’t been there yet.

  9. Shihan responds:

    Defintitely a shark – either Bull or Tiger shark – which both have broad snouts. Thresher sharks have a pointed snout and are not as bulky as this one and megamouths have extremely large and wide heads – also the eyes are much different.

  10. shovethenos responds:

    Still think it is the head and part of the neck or body of some kind of reptile because of:

    – The eye, nostril, and mouth structure

    – The notch in the center of the mouth that snakes and lizards have to pass their tongue through

    – The lack of gill slits or underlying gill structures

    – Lack of fins or even pronounced scars or stubs where the fins used to be

  11. Kalli responds:

    In my opinion it resembles a Hellbender. I am from the southwestern part of Virginia and have seen four foot long Hellbenders in the Clinch River and local creeks. I don’t know how big they can get locally but they are related to the giant salamanders of Asia, so this photo could be another relative. The Hellbender has legs however, and none are present in the photo, that I can see.

  12. DefinitiveCloser responds:

    I think you’re right Shihan, I looked around some more and I think the tiger shark definitely fits the bill, or at least better than the megamouth or thresher. I was really struck by the very blunt snout and eye and nostril placement, seems exactly like the head in the picture. Not sure where the fins went though.

  13. MadM2000 responds:

    Its a Crassigyrinus.

  14. Russ responds:

    As with a number of other readers, I have no doubt that this is a giant catfish. They are common throughout many areas of the world, with numerous species of the group. A web search for ‘giant catfish’ will bring up plenty of photos that are very similar to the postcard shot.

  15. Mnynames responds:

    You know, staring at this thing over and over and over again, I still don’t know what it is, but I have come to one conclusion. The mouth cannot possibly be that wide, as it would leave only a few inches from its termination to the top of the head. It must be at least partially incised. Frankly, I think the upward curve is entirely cut.

    Also, what many have labeled a bloody stump of either a fin or a leg is looking more and more like a branch with some leaves on it sticking out from underneath the beast.

    Overall, I want to say shark, but I just don’t see many of the features- gills, fins, etc. that would convince me.

  16. crypto_randz responds:

    This is a hard picture to solve, wow when I look at the head on that fish it resembles a snake. I’m really not sure, it does look a little serpentine.

  17. Ole Bub responds:

    Mystery solved…

    It’s a baby seagoing sasquatch serpent…a distant cousin of the Gillman of B.C. of the genus….Excitasaurus…JMHO

    No Bucks…No bigfoot…

    ole bub and the dawgs

  18. One Eyed Cat responds:

    I stand corrected on the palms, which is fine, but somebody had to start on them.

    The nostrils and center mouth notch add to my reluctance to say shark.

    If that is the southeast U.S. Florida cannot be ruled out, it was still pioneer times in that state at that time.

    I was starting to think the curved line could be the mark left by a rope,or such. The more we see this the more I wonder what the story behind it is.

  19. twblack responds:

    This is a Crassigyrinus.

  20. Ole Bub responds:

    TWBlack…I stand corrected….

    The crypto critter in question may be an elusive and vicious…pelagic oceanic sasquatchasaurus…it’s as obvious as the blubber on ole bub’s belly…LOL

    seeing is believing….maybe

    big bellied bub and the dawgs

  21. apeharrison responds:

    I’ll go with shark. However depending on how long it was decaying, having it’s appendages nibbled away and its orifices (mouth/nostril/gill area)altered by opportunistic scavengers it could be just about anything except placed on a BBQ.

  22. U.T. Raptor responds:

    If you look closely at the head, it tapers to a point like a shark’s.

    The eye looks kind of fake, imo, as does the mouth. Like they were added to the picture afterwards or something…

    Whatever this thing was, it looks like something did a number on its body…

  23. Lee Pierce responds:

    A little speculation from a simple mind. There appears to be a dock in the background. The area in the background appears to be marshy. The buildings do look like pine. The enclosed area behind the creature apears to be full of garbage cans. The enclosure is to keep out bugs and rodents. Typical military. I can’t tell what the cans are made of. Perhaps the type of material used to make the cans would help determine where and when the photo was taken. The man on the left is wearing combat boots but his belt isn’t GI issue. The other two appear to be wearing fatigues and military style boots. The hat on the middle man looks like the type of hat drill instructors wear.I think it is called a campaign hat. I have no clue about the trees. How did we come up with the 1904-1918 time frame? Couldn’t this easily come from the 1940’s? Looks similar to pictures of my dad from that time.

  24. not_asoul responds:

    loren- thanks for bringing up this topic again- it’s easy to see why it so popular.

    since nothing is known for sure, i suggest looking closely at all details in the photo, not just the mystery fish. sort of create a list of what we DO know and work backwards… some details may be important, others things not so much. sorry if some of my obsevations are “repeats” from the other lengthy blogs from last year- i hope to read the rest over the next few days.

    trees- using google image finder will allow anyone to investigate any other possible ideas there. knowing the region would allow people to begin searching old newspapers on microfisch for possible stories there.

    the shed- the discussions about the wood are helpful and should provide clues- it is a very distinctive looking rough wood. what exactly is this shed, btw? it looks screened-in (no harsh winters maybe)(when did screened-in windows become popular? would a trash shed on a beach have screens if they , with a door behind the guy on the right. maybe it is for trash? the white things inside look a little like trash barrels to me. is that high grass that can be seen on the other side of the shed? (through the screen) that may help w the geographics as well. no mountains- almost looks river-like instead of ocean. there also seems to be a couple of very long docks behind the shed.

    the scene (where is this place)- aside from possible military uniforms (the guy on the left- does his belt match the others??)the way their pants are cuffed- may not be regulation for the military of some countries(?) seems indentifying the hat may also help since we know the probably date range of the postcard.

    there is a shadow of a 4th person the the far right (and you can see his hand leaning on the shed)- probably taken in the morning or near sunset. maybe nothing that helps there, dunno

    the guy in the middle seems to have blood, water, or something discoloring his shirt and pants, just above his knees. maybe he caught it, or maybe he was the guy that created it from shark parts, etc… the guy on the left may have something on his pants too- hard to tell. with all this mess, the scene doesn’t look as if “it” simply washed ashore nearby- dunno- just me. the “mess” seems like a very thought-out detail if this is just paper mache.
    the fish also appears to have been brought onshore with some type of stretcher- but as i look closer, it may just be a long rod (i see earth between the rod and the fish, instead of canvas or wood)- anyone know what the typical style or length of the proper-era stretcher is? maybe it was something used to show size comparison??

    the ground looks sandy but not terribly soft- no major footprints, mostly rough. not a lot to learn from there i guess.

    as for the fish- i really think everyone should study the close-ups of the head and look at the mouth. there are lines that show on its head that are broken by the mouth, then continue. most wrinkles i’m bad at explaining myself, but it looks strange to me.

    the stripes look great and are splotchy and random-like, and seem to continue to the head area, making it tougher to make a “frankenfish” – and it does seems to have scales to me, but a little tougher to see on the head (just like a real snake i guess- different types of scales)
    the head seems proped at a different angle than the rest of the body, but if it weighs much, that normal i guess.

    still not sure if i see blood where its head meets the body, or if that is shrubbery.

    it looks like a crazy eel with a snake head the rest of the body almost looks like a “snakehead”, but i’m sure those are limited in size (thank goodness- they are very aggressive).

    thanks for allowing me to ramble.

  25. Sunny responds:

    According to this source, window screens were introduced about 1860-70, but were not cheap enough for widespread use (nor was the mesh small enough) until the 1910’s. By 1930, window screens were considered standard equipment in every house.

    Puts a bit more credence to the 1930-1940 time period speculated by many, based on clothing styles, as the screening would have had to be fairly cheap to enable these guys to have a screened-in structure like the one in the photo.

    Incidentally, this salt-marsh environment would have made screens vitally important — the mosquitoes would have drained them dry otherwise.

  26. Sunny responds:

    AHA! According to Wikipedia, teeshirts were first worn by US soldiers returning from Europe after WWI. The first written reference to a teeshirt was in F. Scott Fitzgeralds’s 1920 book “This Side of Paradise”.

    Teeshirts were standard issue for the US military by WWII, but they weren’t usually worn by themselves (as in this photo) until after WWII, with the first imprinted teeshirt appearing with a Dewey campaign slogan in 1948.

    More evidence that this photo is from the 30’s or 40’s — neither teeshirts nor easily available and affordable window screens didn’t exist early enough to match the original date thought for this photo.

  27. Mnynames responds:

    Actually, both views fit in nicely with a 1918 date for the postcard. Windowscreens not cheap until 1910+, T-shirts first worn in World War I, 1917-1918 for Americans. That pretty much clinches the idea that these are GI’s though, as no one else would likely be wearing them that soon after their introduction.

  28. afigbee responds:

    If you look closely at the closeup of the head, it does not taper to a point. The snout is really blunt and it’s angled a little toward the camera, as if nudged by the boot of the guy in the middle. The over exposure on the body helps to obscure this and I didn’t notice it unitl I looked at the closeup of the head. And notice where the gash of the mouth ends there is a line which is the far side of the mouth because the head is angled a little toward the viewer.

    Why would a fish have a nose like that? Where are the gills?

    If it’s lying on its stomach that would mean the tail is flat, so I’d ask, is it some kind of infant whale?

    The injury looks like a stake driven through at an angle of about 11 o’clock to 5 o’clock as the head is turned.

    On the far right there is the arm of a fourth guy and his shadow on the wall so this might not be the whole photo.

    What it’s lying on looks like a board that’s a little deck attached to the shack.

    If this is a US military base or training camp it might be relatively easy to figure out where a place like that would have a marsh like that running through it.

  29. afigbee responds:

    I can’t shake the impression that all three of these guys look familiar, but I can’t place them.

  30. Loren Coleman responds:

    I added the following today to the blog:

    ++++Date of 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.

  31. afigbee responds:

    With the suggestion about t-shirts above that would limit it to 1918. But I think this card stock could have sat around for years before someone got around to using it.

  32. sschaper responds:

    My first thought was that it was a graboid. But that head, with the nostrils, and the strange jaw, surely that isn’t a fish. Amphibian or reptile would be my guess.

  33. springheeledjack responds:

    interesting spud, there doesn’t seem to be any fins that would equate it with a shark. no real visible means of motion. would have to move like an eel. the head has got to be 2-3 feet long all by itself judging from the picture against the size of the men.

    Doesn’t seem to be any gills present either.

    This year they just discovered fossil remains of a reptilian swimmer. think they called it godzilla because its head was huge compared to the rest of it. this thing could have been hanging out with the ceolocanth.

  34. stevedrum responds:

    I may be seeing things but looking closely at the closeup of the head it looks like there is a snake like tongue sticking out. The head sure looks snake like to me.

  35. shovethenos responds:

    – I think the mouth line appears longer than it actually is because the creature isn’t laying perfectly on its stomach, its leaning away from the camera. This makes the jawline seem longer.

    – If this was a fish and scavengers nibbled away any gill openings and the underlying gill structures there would hardly be anything left at the rear of the head. There would be a huge chunk of flesh gone and this would be very noticeable.

    – In my opinion this is only part of the whole animal, possibly just a small part. I don’t think the right side is a tail, I think the right side was where this part was severed from the rest of the body.

  36. Geoseek responds:

    As strange as it appears in the picture, it is nothing more than a 75-85 year old sturgen. look it up there are several differnt kinds.

  37. DefinitiveCloser responds:

    I contacted several ichthyologists, and this is what they had to say:

    I would say my opinion not as an expert, as I haven’t worked with such big fish. I would say that this fish has strange characteristics. It has an
    uncommon large head compared to its body, so it might be of young age. Its large mouth is common in whales than sharks and denotes
    omnivorous/herbivorous species rather than carnivore. Then you expect that it would have large eyes but it’s the opposite. Small eyes in such a shape that shows a hunter species. Its body shape its like tuna. Its nose is quite flat like sharks. What is most strange though is that it does not have any side fins. Dont know if this is because the photo shows the flesh of the fish after being butchered. Cant really say.

    All in all i think it might be an uncommon species something between shark and whale. Sorry for not answering your question, please let me know if you find an answer to this.


    My guess, if I am forced to guess, is that this is the decayed and somewhat sliced and diced carcass of a nurse shark. The size and head shape are consistent, anyway. The only other critter with such a wide snout might be a tiger shark, but it doesn’t look like one. Need the teeth. Somebody seems to have tried to deliberately make the creature look more fearsome.


    The snout (with what appear to be two nares) looks like a whale shark or basking shark. But, it’s hard tell without any visible fins.

    David Evans

    At a first glance, my candidates for the mystery fish might be either a Pacific Sleeper Shark (Somniosus pacificus , though the fishbase picture isn’t the best, try doing a google images search, or look at photos of other Somniosus species), a sixgill shark (Hexanchus griseus), or perhaps a sevengill shark (Notorynchus cepedianus). It is entirely possible that the photo was taken in California (all of these three species are found in the Eastern Pacific).

    I’d be interested in hearing what other folks think it might be.


    All in all I think they had some good ideas, they certainly seem to know what they’re talking about at least. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to conclusively identify it unless we come across some record of this postcard. Maybe the original poster could help us out?

  38. mooppoint responds:

    Folks, that’s a partially decomposed tarpon.

    There are some questionable markings and odd-looking features around the head and gills, but that’s an awfully old photo with many scratches and other defects, as one would expect.

    And lest we forget, Photoshopping, in one form or another, has been around for more than a century, as anyone who’s spent time in a real, physical darkroom can attest.

    Negatives and prints have been touched up and enhanced since the inception of film.

  39. shovethenos responds:


    There’s a lot of things missing that should be there if its a Tarpon, and these are things that would seem to decompose last. A lot of the mouth parts, for starters.

  40. tonigreenaway responds:

    I agree with MadM2000!

    Its a Crassigyrinus.

    Sure it is supposed to be extinct, but then so was the Coelacanth.

  41. oldbutnotstupid responds:

    I agree it does look like the remains of a megamouth shark. What I find strange is not the fish but the Post Card. Post cards were mass produced even back then. There must be a collector somewhere with another copy of this with writing on it.

    Its back is printed in English and the uniforms look American. I bet there is another copy in the south pacific somewhere. Possibly with a description.

    How about it Post card collectors ?

  42. lastensugle responds:

    Notice a young David Bowie standing behind the head of the mystery fish!

  43. purrlcat responds:

    oldbutnotstupid – When photos were developed during this time period, they were usually printed on paper that had a postcard back. That’s just the way it was done. So actually that would make this card even rarer. The photographer just gets this roll developed and has ONE photo/postcard like this one, unless, of course, he took more shots or went out of his way and had duplicates made.

    As owner of the card, I fantasize that there may be a couple more out there. Surely the photographer didn’t take just ONE SHOT! If we could just find one that was actually sent through the mail, it would probably tell us all we need to know.

    lastensugle – I think the guy behind the fish looks more like a young Robert Patrick (X-Files)!

    Loren, thanx for putting my photo up for more reviews. I have been wondering about its position on the Cryptomundo site and if anyone will ever figure out what it is?

  44. gdawson responds:

    This looks like a gar pike or sturgeon with a painted pillowcase or sandbag over its head.

    The nose is obviously unnatural and looks like a pillowcase or sack does when the fabric is not sufficiently taut.

    The lack of gills on the fish suggests the fabric is tucked into them. There is an obvious change in texture between the body and the head where the gills should be.

    Wrinkles can be seen in the alleged fabric under and above the poorly painted-on smile.

    The shape and structure of the head are highly inconsistent with the body, again the change occurring between the body and the head where the gills should be. The head appears to be a fabric bag stuffed with leaves or some trash from the pictured garbage cans. You can see clumps of stuff all throughout the head, under the “skin”.

    The position of the fish on the board and the head appearing just in front of the edge of the building may not be incidental. The man by the creature’s head whose feet cannot be seen may be stepping on the material to make it appear tight and visually consistent for the photograph.

    The nature of the photo and the stances and appearance of the men are not consistent with most poses for prize catches.

    Let’s face it. These guys look like a bunch of jokers. They share what appears to be general issue apparel and appear to be next to a garbage shed. Two clowns on KP duty and the sarge – or whoever they are – probably made a much-less-than-serious hoax photo. The man in the middle and on the left side of the photo appear to be comically non-chalant, in accordance with the notably silly smiling appearance of the head.

    When the photo came out it probably looked good enough to fool drunks at bars and win some free drinks for themselves; probably why it’s still around.

    This appears to be an obvious hoax and not even a particularly great one. Rather a quick & clever one by some regular practical jokers.

  45. cabochris responds:

    Might as well put in my 2 cents worth. I have never seen this photo before and my first question, is it real? It looks real, but… if that is the shadow of the photographer on the right side of the shed, or any other shadow, then this photo is a fake… because the shadow would also fall on the creature? But perhaps it is not a shadow, but some sort of stain on the wood?

    Also, the physical location of the creature seems odd. Why lay it there- right up against the building? Could be a later add in?

    But still the overall photo looks real. So lets say it is and here are my thoughts, which are just a start.

    This creature is not some sort of Trophy. If it were the men would be standing behind it, smiling like big game hunters. As a matter of fact, they do not seem to be happy about this thing at all! Whatever this thing is, it must be important. Why? Well it sure looks dead to me. That means they either killed it somehow or found it dead.

    I think they found it. If they had killed the thing, then perhaps they would have shot it- yet I see no evidence of that. As a matter of fact, this creature looks to be fairly intact. So I think it was found…

    If this were some sort of dead shark, why would they drag it to camp? Surely those guys know what a shark looks like. Big deal!? Think of the stink! No, if they kept that big stinky thing, it was not to eat it! From the looks on their faces, this thing seems like bad news! Who knowes who or what this thing might have killed? Perhaps some sort of experiment gone bad?

    I think the creature in the photo is waiting for further transport, perhaps to some museum for further study? Those fellas just look like they want that thing out of there!

    Also, this picture seems to be snapped almost as an afterthought? Why not just a photo of the creature? Why include the men, unless they were somehow involved in a wierd story?

    I think if this thing is real, then it is strange and the men had to deal with it for whatever reason. I do not think it was discarded after the photo.

    I would simply send this photo to all major museums around the world and ask if such a creature might be lurking in their basements… only to have been somehow lost in darkness over the years. Might get a hit? Also, I would ask the Navy if they might be able to shed some light on this?

    I’m leaving on vacation tomorrow for tropic waters. Now I have one more thing to be worried about!:)

  46. youcantryreachingme responds:

    For what it’s worth (and this may have been mentioned before), my wife identifies the font on the back of the postcard as being Copperplate Gothic.

    Wikipedia informs me this font was created in 1901 and “originally designed for stationery and society printing”.

    A variety of Copperplate Gothic designs is viewable here.

    The American creator, Frederic Goudy designed 116 type faces during his career (again from Wikipedia).

    From this URL we learn that 30 of Goudy’s designs were specifically for the Lanston Monotype Company, of which he was director from 1920 – 1947.

    I know I’m building speculation on speculation here, but the nationality of the man and the company lends support to the idea that the postcard was created by an American company. Were there any such companies producing postcards in the Philippines? Perhaps the photo is more likely American?

    The serious researcher might like to track down the Lanston company to see who licensed the font for use in postcard production.

    This company history website says the company’s growth was rapid during Goudy’s duration as art director from 1920 to 1947. Even though the font was created in 1901, perhaps it did not become popular until after 1920, on the back of this company’s output? (Can anyone advise?)

    This might further restrict the timeframe for production of the postcard (not the taking of the photo) to 1920 onwards.

    I don’t know what, if anything, any of the above information can add to this investigation; but maybe someone else will put the next piece in place from here?

  47. purrlcat responds:

    I am tending to lean toward gdawson’s explanation. I have always thought the eye looked painted on, and it looks like the snout is wrapped in something, perhaps a fine fishing net? Bored guys on KP duty sound logical, too. May just be a decaying carcass they had wrapped up to dispose of and decided to have a little fun first. A photo to send the girlfriends back home. As good an explanation as any, I guess.

  48. youcantryreachingme responds:

    cabochris (comment 43) – In an earlier thread, someone noted that inside that shed appears to be a collection of rubbish bins (trash cans, state-side).

    Likely, these guys caught the fish and stripped its skin and/or fins, (or found it decomposing), took it to the trash area and decided on the spur of the moment to take a quick photo.

  49. Sunny responds:

    Skinned. THAT’s what it looks like. There was something about the coloring that reminded me of something, and that’s what it is. The dark patterns look like a saltwater fish that’s been skinned. (freshwater fish tend to be all white, not white with the dark coloring along the side)

    Somebody else pointed out that it looked to be gutted (which I’m not positive of, but it looks possible).

    S’pose this thing might have ended up on these guys’ dinner table?

  50. shovethenos responds:

    The eye looks pretty authentic to me – there’s even a highlight on it from the sun.

    If it was a fish and was skinned the underlying gills should be visible just behind the head.

  51. youcantryreachingme responds:

    OK – here’s the break. Searching for all the text on the back of the card (which is “POST CARD”, “CORRESPONDENCE HERE”, “NAME AND ADDRESS HERE” and “PLACE STAMP HERE” (and “AZO” if you include the border for the stamp) yielded a few interesting web links.

    Firstly, the Historic Pelham website links to two antique postcards with the exact same design. The first shows Cliff Avenue and is postmarked 1909.

    The second shows the Little Red Church of Pelham Manor from circa 1910.

    Next, we have a reference to a 1911 postcard with matching text at the Oregon State University Library.

    So far so good with the American marines and the American creator of the font face, we now have three identical postcard designs, all with American postmarks.

    (The fact that the font face was created in 1901 already reduces the date range at the end of this blog by 11 years, from 1890-1912 to 1901-1912 and the three identical postcards marked 1909, 1910 and 1911 indicate we may be looking around the turn of that decade)

    But now for the jackpot – we have to head off shore, and to the Nicaragua Living online forum.

    On this page you will see a postcard, again with the matching text, this time depicting a beach scene with various buildings and palm trees in the background.

    On the front of the postcard is the text “San Juan Del Sur Nicaragua”. The owner of this postcard bought it on Ebay and was looking for information about it.

    A contributor by the name of “RPPC 1912” has this to say:

    This is one in a series of about 40 or so from 1912 … There are 2 others from this series taken in San Juan Del Sur that I’ve seen. One shows the street (San Juan) and another was taken from another vantage point. Writing is part of the photo and was etched on the negative and contact sheet.

    These cards were sold to US Marines who then sent them back to the States. Many of the cards in the series have Marines shown in the Postcards.

    This series of cards comes with good story…

    Civil strife took over Nicaragua in 1911 and the US Marines were sent in. They took over customs, reorginized finances, and kept a legion until 1925 only to have to return a year later. Eventually US Marines defeated these insurrectos in a time before CNN and video cameras.

    There were insurrections and massacres in Leon and other towns. Insurrectos would come into towns or villages and murder anyone who supported the US business interests like fruit and such. Politicians were also targeted along with their families. This time was one of the lowest points in Nicarguan history.

    Eventually Sandino consolidated this lot and became the defacto leader, however US Marines could never catch him.

    All things considered, I would say there is a high liklihood that our cryptid in question is on one of the postcards from the San Juan Del Sur series of 1912.

    We have a date, we have a location, and now all we have to do is find out what fish live there.

    Barracudas fit the general body shape, have the same striations (stripes) and diminutive fins, but don’t have such a heavy-set head.

    Sea-pike fit the description for all the same reasons.

    Wahoo also fit the bill, but in all three cases our cryptid would have to be a world-record breaker to be one of these.

    You can compare various big-game fish from around the world at this international spearfishing blog.

    Any fisher or biologists familiar with the biota from Nicaragua? Not many pieces left in this puzzle, I hope!


  52. mystery_man responds:

    At first I thought maybe it was a “snakehead” as in the large freshwater fish, but upon closer examination of pictures of this fish, the eye placement and mouth seem wrong for a snakehead. The two things that baffle me are the eyes and lack of front fins. The eye is an odd shape for a snakehead or shark, unless as some have suggested, it’s painted on. The fins, even if they were cut off, I would think there would be some sign of this. Wierd. I definately think it was gutted, but where are those fins?

  53. Grant responds:

    Apart from it having no visible legs, it looks more than a little like one of those big prehistric amphibians, with names likes “Eryops,” than can be seen on the first pages of even the simplest dinosaur books, which might contradict my next remark. That seems like a pretty strange choice for a hoax (if that’s what it is), as opposed to something with a “plesiosaur” look (since plesiosaurs, like dinosaurs, were already such a part of popular culture early on).

  54. Maohk Kiaayo responds:

    Look at the close up of the head. The features look too geometric and blocky judging by the shadows that it throws. It looks like shaved styro-foam. Splashed with some kind of algae or sea weed. The only problem with what I just said is that the rest of the body seems to flow and remain rather streamlined, like most aquatic creatures.

  55. MattBille responds:

    After a fresh look:

    Assuming it’s genuine and does not depict a created or highly modified creature, we have a fish. Since there’s no clear “twist” to match the seemingly upright head to the body laying on its side, I suggest were’ s seeing it from the top and the “mouth” is a wound (boat propellor, maybe?). The eye is indeed an eye, but it’s the fish’s right eye, seen from a dorsal POV. If someone cut off the dorsal fin as a sovenir, then we’re looking at it from the top. That the dorsal fin is worth taking implies a shark, even though the rest of it has, as someone pointed out, a bit of a tarpon-like look.

  56. mystery_man responds:

    That’s a good idea MattBille, but I would think a cut off dorsal fin would leave some sort of obvious wound. The wound that appears to be on the creature’s apparent neck just doesn’t seem to be in the right position for a dorsal fin if we are in fact looking at it from the top. But it’s definately good to be thinking outside of the box on this one. Even though there is no way we are ever going to conclusively know what it is, it makes for very interesting speculation.

  57. mystery_man responds:

    I also strongly think this fish has been skinned as the surface of the body has that type of look to it. If that is the case, then there is definately evidence of lateral lines there, which leads me to believe that it is indeed on its side. It’d be interesting if anyone could dig up some pics of what different fish look like skinned and with fins cut off for comparison.

  58. Mnynames responds:

    Looking at it from Mattbille’s perspective makes the head appear very shark-like, but the body still doesn’t match at all. Still, his perspective may indeed be right, especially if the body form is somewhat laterally compressed. Nice job!

  59. mystery_man responds:

    This photo is a tough one. I was just looking at photos of alligator gar and although the head seems wrong, it could be similar if we are looking down on it as Mattbille said. The body sure seems very similar to that of a gar’s and if it were skinned, that would explain the markings. Hmmmm. The size is also large for a gar. Gars are not my field of expertise, so does anybody know if that is a possible candidate?

  60. shovethenos responds:

    There was also a US military presence in the Philipines during this period. (not to mention other tropical places) Depending on how widespread those kinds of postcards were, the picture could be from there. And palm trees will grow in various places in the southern US. Nicaragua can be added as a possible location, but I’m not sure you can rule many other places out with any certainty.

    As far as the mystery animal being a fish there is still little evidence of gill openings or slits, and if the argument is that the animal is skinned there is little evidence of the underlying gill structures.

  61. mystery_man responds:

    That is a good observation. Where are those gills slits? If it doesn’t have them, then it would have to be an air breather which and that would count out a lot of the other ideas of it being some sort of shark. Maybe a type of large lungfish? It just doesn’t look very reptilian to me at this point. Curiouser and curiouser.

  62. cor2879 responds:

    I would think if it were a shark there would be -some- evidence of fins, particularly that telltale dorsal fin. Yet this creature has nothing. I’d say the Crassigyrinus looks to be as good a candidate as anything for this mystery cryptid. Great detective work so far everyone! By far one of the more fascinating Cryptomundo articles I’ve read to date. One other note though regarding a previous comment — was styrofoam invented yet in the 1910’s?

  63. mystery_man responds:

    I was thinking styrofoam or some sort of artificial alteration of the head at first too, but it seems like it would look more fake if that were the case, something along the lines of a Barnum type Fiji mermaid sort of look. If it is really styrofoam or something, they did a good job with it. I don’t think the intelligent posters here would be so easily fooled by that.

  64. youcantryreachingme responds:

    Seriously, I don’t see why there would be any reason for this photo to be fake.

    Secondly – look at the tail. You can see the caudal peduncle – the junction between the caudal (or tail) fin itself, and the body. It is laterally compressed. In other words, the body is definately on its side and the tail matches a fish, not a whale.

    Someone wrote “we will never know”. To the contrary – if we can identify the people, then perhaps locate family, friends or written evidence such as a journal, diary or letter, then we may well find out.

    Regarding the Philippines and Nicaragua – it simply strikes me as odd that when you search for the exact same text, you get only a handful of matches, one of which is claimed to be from a series of 40 taken in Nicaragua which often showed the marines in the photo.

    Postcards are collectable. People document antique postcards. I still think the Nicaraguan connection is the strongest one we have.

    If there are any military researchers amongst us, they should start finding the lists of names of people who went to San Juan Del Sur.


  65. pipdog responds:

    looks like those boys butchered the fins off a shark…. we used to buy postcards when we stayed at the best western of giant chickens that are more convincing!

  66. shovethenos responds:

    As far as the “tail” end is concerned, I don’t see much in the way of fins – pectoral fins, dorsal fins, caudal fins, tail fins – I don’t see much evidence of any of them. Or scars where they used to be.

    I’m basically of the opinion that the right side of the creature is where it was severed from the rest of the body. From what I can tell we are only looking at part (only the head and neck) of a larger animal.

    Re: Styrofoam. Remember this is allegedly around the turn of the century and a lot of the things that could be used to hoax something like this now were not in existence then.

  67. mystery_man responds:

    It was taken so long ago that even if we did pin down the location and the exact place, would anyone remember this photo in this context? Possibly these people didn’t even realize what a find they had? People might have found cryptozoological finds and due to ignorance just wrote it off as “some sort of fish.” Add to that the time that has passed, lack of living witnesses, lack of DNA samples, and what not, and I come to the conclusion that it will be very hard to conclusively identify this creature beyond a shadow of a doubt. I don’t say impossible, but quite difficult. I would gladly stand corrected on this. But then again, who knows, maybe this is a cryptid that the people in that area know of very well. I’m just throwing ideas out here, searching for the truth.

  68. mystery_man responds:

    I sure think it would help though if someone can pinpoint this location. Youcantryreachingme seems to have done his homework and could be on the right track.

  69. youcantryreachingme responds:

    shovethenos – you mentioned not seeing much in the way of a tail fin.

    After a million hits to the various threads, we’re still debating what *kind* of animal this is – bony fish, shark, mammal, etc.

    I spent a bit of time enlarging and enhancing the tail section of this animal, and overlaying it with some lines to show what I’m seeing.

    You can see the results at my website, Where Light Meets Dark.

    As noted above in the commentary here, I conclude from the tail that it’s a bony fish; but at the same time, if I were looking at the head end only, I’d say it was a shark.

  70. theminnesotaman responds:

    Looks very much like a shark, on its side, with its upper side toward the camera. Imagine it as if you were in the air, looking down at it in the water.

    The “mouth” which some have alluded to isn’t a mouth at all. I would guess it is a combined blood streak and injury from being gaff-hooked, probably by the same instrument that is in the foreground. There seems to be a good candidate for a dorsal fin under the gaff-pole.

    Seems to be a trophy picture of a dead shark, but in an unusual pose. I’d surmise that with such a nasty looking and big fish, the men weren’t keen on handling it to pose it more favorably. Thus they took a picture of it as best they could, probably with the fish lying in the same position it was dragged to land in.

  71. mystery_man responds:

    The thing that doesn’t sit well with me as far as the shark theory goes is “why bother”? It is not very big for a shark, to be honest, especially a tiger shark, like a lot of people seem to think. So why make a postcard of a couple of guys standing around a pretty mediocre sized shark? I wonder why they would make a big deal about this particular specimen? It makes me wonder.

  72. quill responds:

    Someone commented earlier that the fish’s head looks like it’s papier mache- I personally think the whole thing looks like it could be made of papier mache. In my opinion, the markings on its sides look like they were made by a paint brush on a rough surface, and those eyes are appear to be painted on.

  73. Eidolon responds:

    How about a large cousin of the electric eel, Electrophorus electricus?

    In more detail, my hypothesis follows:

    1) Assumptions

    1a) The photograph is genuine, and the subjects in the image do not involve any sort of illusion, such as period costumes, props, or scenery.

    1b) The star of the picture is a bony fish.

    1c) The fish lies mostly on its right side, though the head may be at least partly propped up with another object, such as the one fellow’s boot (“OK, push a little to the right; now a little forward.”)

    1d) No fins of any significant size have been removed from the fish, either before or after its meeting with the men in the photo.

    1e) No other organs of any significance have been removed from the fish, or if they have, then their removal has not significantly altered its overall shape or characters.

    1f) The “upward bend” of the “mouth” is actually the gill cover opening, and only the “front 1/4” of the “mouth” is the mouth. The dark line connecting these two features is the injury created when the bill hook used to pull the fish tore through its “cheek” from gill cover to inner edge of mouth.

    2) Arguments in favor of “relative of electric eel” hypothesis

    2a) The overall shape of the head and body match reasonably well, except that the fish in the picture is more “stout” and less elongated.

    2b) Tiny pectoral fins like those of an electric eel might not be visible, especially if there is an injury or bit of shrubbery obscuring that part of the fish.

    2c) The long “ventral fin” (if that’s the proper term) of a creature like the electric eel could be folded under its body, thus giving the fish the appearance of being completely finless.

    2d) Electric eels are native to swamps and marshes of South America, so it is not beyond the bounds of reason to suggest that a larger relative could exist in Nicaragua.

    2d) The size of the fish, while impressive for a presumed fresh-water creature, would not break any kind of record.

    2e) The expressions of the men might not arise from amusement, as suggested by one person, but from discomfort and mistrust, particularly if one or more people were injured or killed by the creature’s electric shocks.

    3) Some potential problems with the “relative of electric eel” hypothesis

    3a) “While the length of our subject is not excessive for an electric eel, its depth of body is substantially greater, yielding a different aspect ratio and much greater mass, perhaps 20-50 times that of an electric eel.” This problem essentially excludes the electric eel per se, but I know of no biological reason that would prevent a related genus or species from growing to this size. The “tail” of an electric eel contains mostly the specialized muscles used to create electric potentials, but a thicker creature may not need to create *larger* shocks to stun its prey than the electric eel does, and so might reasonably get by with a proportionately smaller electric apparatus.

    3b) “The barred coloring of our subject resembles that of open-water fish more so than that of electric eels, which tend toward simpler top/bottom countershading.” However, a different ecological niche would require different camouflage.

    3c) “Electric fish of such large size certainly would have attracted the attention of scientists by now.” To some extent, this argument may be applied to any cryptid, and is usually countered by suggesting that the creatures are rare or elusive, or that scientists from industrialized countries have ignored local knowledge of such creatures. In particular, if these fish were native to a shallow swamp or marsh that was later drained to make way for agriculture, used as a landfill, or contaminated with mine tailings, the poor creatures easily could have gone extinct in anonymity.

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