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Missouri River Monster Captured

Posted by: Loren Coleman on May 10th, 2007

A report from May for your consideration…

A Terrible Fish Story

A strange monster was captured recently [during May] in the [Missouri] river opposite Canton, by some fishermen, in their seine, while dragging for fish. We know not what to call it, or what it looks like, or how to describe it, for it is unlike any creature of earth, air or water, that we have ever seen. It is not a fish, nor is it an alligator, or crocodile, or a turtle, but resembles the pictures we have often seen in books of the mythical dragon. It is a hideous looking and apparently savage monster – the last remnant of a past age. It has a huge, slimy, scaly body, short, strong legs, immense claws, long, serpent-like tail and sharp teeth, set in, like those of a saw. It chaws up ravenously everything with which it comes in contact, but seems loth [sic] to leave the water even in quest of food, and can only be seen where drawn out by the chain with which it is made fast. We should judge it to be ten feet in length, and it weighs probably 500 pounds. When provoked, it makes a roaring noise similar to a sea lion. The parties having it in charge are having a large tub or tank for it, and they intend to take it to Quincy [Illinois] and St. Louis for exhibition. They have refused a thousand dollars for it. – Lagrange (Mo.) American.South Side Signal, Babylon, New York, May 14, 1870

“There is, of course, not the remotest possibility that this story is true, but it’s a great yarn anyway.” – Jerome Clark.

Although sales have dropped off, thank you all for a successful first week of the 2007 release of Mysterious America. If you want to buy a copy, I now have them available directly from me for $25 each through May 14, and $30 after that date, via priority mail, signed, and personalized. Send to me at PayPal at lcoleman {@} maine.rr.com Appreciation!

Thanks for this historical item and the opinion from Jerome Clark.

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.


20 Responses to “Missouri River Monster Captured”

  1. jayman responds:

    Thanks for this entertaining tale from a bygone era. As a Quincy native, it was of special interest to me. Maybe the Quincy paper could be checked to see if the “monster” ever arrived… ;-)

    One minor correction, the town Canton, Missouri would have been on the Mississippi river, upriver from LaGrange, Mo. Quincy was downriver from both. As a boy my aunt lived in Canton for a while and we’d travel up the Missouri side through LaGrange to visit – there was hardly anything left of it even then.

  2. mystery_man responds:

    I don’t suppose the carcass was ever kept or preserved, or studied in any detailed way by scientists. It wasn’t? Why am I not suprised? Interesting tale anyway. I wonder if there is any grain of truth at all to it.

  3. btgoss responds:

    Babylon is a long way from Missouri, even today… so it is most likely a fabricated tale. But it is interesting none the less.

    Is there a record for the oldest purposeful hoax? I think that would be an interesting footnote for crypto science. When was it that someone felt compelled to create the first lie about a “monster.”

  4. Bob Michaels responds:

    It was an Alligator Gar, sorry no legs.

  5. Rillo777 responds:

    There were a lot of stories passed around in those days by writers who were essentially journeyman reporters.

    For example, the man in Tennessee named Lang who allegedly disappeared walking through his field. Researchers have found not only that this event didn’t happen, but no one named Lang even lived in the county at that time.

    Several early “airship” reports also fall into this category, unfortunately.

    No doubt, this story is one of those. Too bad early papers resembled the National Enquirer rag more than responsible newspapers.

    I wonder how many true events have been lost or muddied beyond credibility by such sensationalism?

  6. Fred Facker responds:

    Could have been a komodo dragon or something similar. Don’t know how one would have been in Missouri.

    People didn’t have television to entertain them back then. That’s why newspapers were a lot more exciting even if the tales tended to be fabricated. There was also no easily available method to fact check, so it wasn’t such an issue.

  7. kittenz responds:

    Despite the disclaimer that “It is not a fish, nor is it an alligator, or crocodile, or a turtle”, the description sounds like some kind of crocodilian.

  8. bill green responds:

    hey loren, this is a very interesting new article about a missouri river monster being captured. im sure sightings of the missouri sasquatch creatures will start picking up now. thanks bill green :)

  9. scottmaruna responds:

    No matter what other sources may erroneously report, the cliff face that contained the famous Piasa petroglyph, which was located very near to the locale of this story, was detonated into oblivion at just about that date. The description sounds very similar to tradition accounts and legends of the “Piasa Bird” and could possible have penned this in honor of the fallen icon.

  10. captiannemo responds:

    Maybe the flooding will flush the beasties from out of their lair.

  11. ndiandy responds:

    Sounds to me like an extremely large Hellbender salamander. The salamanders I have seen and owned (not hellbenders) were ravenous, could emit a “barking” noise, had claws and slimy wrinkly skin. An extra large hellbender might fit the description in the article.

  12. dogu4 responds:

    Yeah, imagine a species of hellbender adapted to the scale of the Missouri/Mississippi drainage. I’d bet humans would find that irresistible and they’d quickly go like the giant sturgeons of eurasia, long before a modern literate observer witnesses any. What a wild world it was.

  13. mystery_man responds:

    The problem I have with the hellbender theory is the description of its aggressiveness, how it is “savage”, and the mention of “sharp teeth like a saw”. The hellbender is not an aggressive creature and is actually quite harmless to humans, as are the other types of giant salamanders. They mostly eat by sucking in their prey, which in the case of hellbenders consists of 90% crawfish. They do not attack and rip with sharp teeth, or “chaw” visciously on their prey, and in fact they do not have large fangs of any kind. I suppose the description is reminiscent of one, though, and there could be an undiscovered species that matches this description for aggressiveness and size. Since the hellbander is fully aquatic, it would explain why this creature was so loathe to leave the water.

  14. dogu4 responds:

    MysteryMan…Within the context of a newspaper account from those days, I can easily believe that it’s behaviour and description were “amped-up” a bit to instill a sense of excitement in the reader, remembering that the purpose of newspaper, like news on TV, is to “sell soap” and if we manage to tweeze out a bit of info, well, that’s just dandy and the first amendment is a nice piece of furniture behind which irresponsible reporters can conveniently hide.
    The skull of the giant salamander over in the Bone Room at their website shows a nice row of teeth that would very much approximate a saw (small even teeth)…and that was from specimen considerably smaller that the 5′ record. A 10′ creature would of course scale up proportionally so that the teeth could be 4x the size of the largest 5′ specimen and become very prominent and effective on more than just the unfortunate crayfish. As to it’s behaviour, I’d take into consideration the fact that creatures pulled from their happy homes will be agitated beyond what one would normally expect and the small frogs and newts I’ve messed around with have a powerful ability to struggle when threatened. So I still favor the giant amphibian premise. I find it interesting that so many water-monster reports come from are bodies of water that linger in post-glacial forelands, Which during the past few hundred thousands of years, were until just lately, one of the largest and most wide-spread habitats on earth. Amphibians take up oxygen through their skin and so it’s worth recalling that contrary to our common sense which tells us that the warmer the water the more stuff that can dissolve in it, when it comes to oxygen and calcium carbonate, it’s the opposite, so while sometimes low in nutrients, cold glacial waters oferf lots of other stuff vital to big life-forms with slow metabolisms. What’s the evolutionary for thos Japanese giants? Glacial history?

  15. mystery_man responds:

    Dogu4- The teeth on giant salamanders are quite small and not very formidable, although I suppose on a ten foot long specimen with a little exaggeration thrown in, they could turn into something more impressive. Their teeth are not designed for tearing or shredding. I suppose salamanders could be pulled up in an agitated state but I have personally worked with Japanese Giant salamanders and I can tell you there is not the kind of violent aggression one gets the impression of from this article. Indeed when the water gets very cold during the winter months, these slamanders are very lethargic and slow moving.

    I wrote a little on the other thread about Canadian “black alligators” concerning giant salamanders in Japan. They indeed do prefer cold, fast moving streams as this facilitates the absorbtion of oxygen through the skin. However, they are still cold blooded animals and will become very slow during colder months, lurking mostly motionless at the bottom. They are opportunist feeders that will eat what they can find, but mostly small animals such as crustaceans, worms, and small fish. They do not attack and take down large prey which is a common misperception, they are not aggressive, and they are harmless to humans.

  16. mystery_man responds:

    Dogu4- Always enjoy discussing these things with you. One more thing, I am not ruling out this reported creature as a salamander of some sort, I just wish I had a more accurate description of what it looked like and its behavior before saying for certain. For example, what color was it? How big were the “immense claws”? How big were the teeth and what shape were they? The article says the skin was “scaly”, is that an accurate observation? If so, this would point away from a salamander since they do not have scaly skin. When the article says it is ravenous and “chaws up” everything it comes into contact with, what do they mean by “everything”? I guess at the size mentioned, that could be a lot, and the description in some ways matches that of a giant salamander. They month it was caught was May, so I suppose it would not be in a letharigic winter mode. i also concede that the article did not explicitely say how big the teeth were, only that they were “saw like” which I suppose is somewhat accurate. Fascinating to speculate about and I wish we had been given more facts to go on here. I have the feeling the description provided is not very trustworthy nor entirely factual.

  17. dogu4 responds:

    Same here Mystery Man…I likewise have an interest in all things Nihon, so that’s interesting that you’ve had experience with the giant salamander.
    Cold water facilitates the uptake of O2…is that because the water is richer in O2 or is it more a metabolic component?
    But overall, the description is about as good as the kinds of descriptions we get in our media today…weak. Slimey? Did they mean that word “slimey” the way the media described the “melted metal” after the MacArthur Maze “meltdown” last week. It was not melted (slumped yes, melted no), of course.
    And of course, I was thinking again about all the newly extinct creatures that preceded our modern biological perespective, the fossils of which have never been made or have yet to see the light of day again. Giant salamanders, huge lampreys and hagfish, gigantic sturgeon…gad’s zukes! Imagine how today’s media would cover that.

  18. mystery_man responds:

    Dogu4- I too am very interested in Japanese animals, both cryptid and known. As you may know, I live in Japan, and I have spent time studying and doing research on various Japanese species. I am especially interested in the ecological effects of foreign and invasive species on indigenous animals and habitats here.

    To answer your question, the giant salamander mainly prefers the cold water because it is inheritely oxygen rich. The only reason I have been able to have experience with the giant salamander is because I live in Japan and happen to have worked with a Japanese zoologist who was involved in conservation efforts to protect the species. I have also helped to translate papers concerning the salamanders occasionally, most recently one on the threat that the Chinese variety may be causing as it has started to become more numerous in Japan.

  19. things-in-the-woods responds:

    I like the way it says “We know not…what it looks like, or how to describe it”, and then goes on to describe what it looks like.

  20. WingedWolfPsion responds:

    I have to say, in spite of the author claiming it’s not an alligator, it’s an alligator.

    1) Scaly: That means it has to be a reptile or fish.
    2) Long tail like a serpent: It’s not a fish.
    3) Short legs with sharp claws: Definitely not a fish
    4) Teeth like a saw.
    5) Roaring noise.
    6) 10 feet long.
    7) 500 pounds–an 11 foot alligator weighed in at that much, so this is close enough for an estimate.

    That’s an alligator. The only thing missing is a description of it hissing. An alligator under those circumstances would be highly stressed, and of course completely unwilling to leave the safety of the water. Additionally, the people allegedly took the animal away to put it on display. There are no reports of anything unusual being displayed that matched that description, so no doubt, it was identified as an alligator.



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