Mystery Fish Comparison

Posted by: Loren Coleman on December 3rd, 2005

So many people have taken the time to enhance, redefine, and otherwise point out items they are finding and seeing on the “Name the Mystery Fish” postcard that we have decided to post one of those here, in this one blog, moving it from the comments’ sections.

What are you seeing in this?

Mystery Fish Enhanced

Todd DiLaMuca’s photo mash-up (Click on image to view full-size)

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.

13 Responses to “Mystery Fish Comparison”

  1. Sasquatchery responds:

    OK, now I’m getting confused.

    The line from the tip of the left end that looked like it was drawn in to suggest a mouth and gill slit that is so prominent in the photo you posted originally is no longer present in this one. Was this photo retouched to remove it, or the original retouched to add it?

    What’s going on here??

  2. Todd DiLaMuca responds:

    Comments from original posting of this image:
    My photo mash-up of a modern tarpon with our mystery fish.

    Cryptomundo has my permission to republish the photo within this blog.

    I’ve retouched out the blood streak along the jaw of the mystery fish, and I’ve scaled the obviously smaller fish from the floridasurffishing pic.

    Note the similarities in shape, orientation, and relationship to each other of the eye, gill, pectoral fin (bloody gash on the mystery fish), anal fin (protruding under the pole in the older photo), and base of the tail.

    I contend that the mystery fish is a rotted carcass of a tarpon, with mouth parts considerably deteriorated, and other features misshapen by decomposition. Note also parallel marks across the front of the lower jaw which may result from a net, which would be consistent with recent observations above from Phyllis.

    Tarpon certainly reach this size — check out Tom Gibson’s 262-lb fish. A tarpon as large as our mystery fish would be unusual but not unheard of, and certainly worth memorializing in a dime-store postcard. It would not surprise me to find a mention of our mystery fish as a particularly large specimen which washed ashore sometime early in the last century.

  3. shovethenos responds:


    The mouth structures are missing. Yeah, you could say they rotted or were abraided off, but if you look closely at your comparison Tarpon there is a large cartilegenous structure that opens and closes the mouth right under the eye that should be visible on the mystery creature.

    Also, the coloring is way off. The mystery animal seems to have pretty sharply defined bilateral coloration that pretty much runs the whole length of what is there.

    Your “anal fin”, upon very close examination, seems to be a twig that casts its own discrete shadow. A shadow that ends well before it should connect with the animal.

  4. Avalook responds:

    the fish has obviously been touched up, just take a look at the original and compare it with this one, look close enough you can see where it has been retouched.

  5. Alfred Ludwig responds:

    I am by no means an oceanic expert but I have seen several sharks, both in the sea and in specimen displays. That rather wide flat head and mouth closely resemble a tiger shark. As well, there looks to be the decomposing remains of a striping-pattern on the lateral side of the body; may be the remains of the striping from which the tiger-shark gets its name.
    The thing with sharks is that they are composed almost completely of cartilage. After death, the cartilage can begin dissolving fron the inside, with usually the massive head and jaws the last to dissolve and gives the shark a tapering, snake-like appearance. I’ve seen several photos of “sea-serpents” that turned out to be decomposing shark carcasses.
    The feathery appenditure close to where a front lateral fin on a shark should be, in my opinion, looks like the remains of arteries and ligatures which extended into a now, non-existent fin. As for the absence of the dorsal (top) fin, if you look closely at the way in which the body is laying, it appears to be contorted; from a head-position, possibly for a better picture, twisting over to a side-laying tail. The dorsal remains could very well be slumped over out of sight.
    As, well the absence of dorsal fin, and large tail-fins could be from the carcasses long floating in the water. Smaller marine life would have nibbled away the thinner extremities first. Lets not forget either, if this is the pacific, there are large numbers of asian fisherman and a great delicacy among asian cuisine is shark-fin soup. They’ll cut the fins off a poor shark and throw him right back in, alive. I think these guys found a dead-tiger shark washed up on the beach and carried it between them with ropes attached to the pole laying below carcass for a photo. It probably looked weird enough that they could not identify it, or even if they did, thought it would make a great photo for the folks back home.
    As for the guys in the photo, they look it, but I dont think they are military. I think the one in the middle wearing what looks to be a marine drill-intructor hat gives the photo a military flavor. Yes they are in matching pants, with zippers (1920-30’s) and t-shirts (which American GI’s brought home from France at the end of WW1. I dont think they became GI issue until after WW1). As well, the guy on the far-right is wearing a wrist-watch. Those were not commons items until well into the 20’s.
    Most strikingly, none of them are wearing dog tags. That is a military trademark from privates on up and they would be there if these were soldiers. I’m a WW11 buff and in almost all the photos, if it shows any neck, you see the tag-chains.
    As well, their haircuts look a little too long for GI’s ([perhaps offcs though). The styles remind me of what you see from the 40’s or even the 50’s (check out the Elvis wannabe on the far-right). I think they might be members of a science expedition or maybe even the CCC’s from the 30’s.
    The “palm trees” look lot like the palmettos you see all along the coast from south carolina through texas. Using the fronds as a roofing the for the “garbage-shed” is pretty popular all over too.
    If I were a betting man, I would say these were some guys working for the CCC’s, or some similiar government-sponsored construstion program in south Georgia, or Florida,or maybe doing U.S.-contracted, overseas construction in the Pacific, sometime in the 30’s or 40’s and they found a good sized shark carcass washed ashore.

  6. Todd DiLaMuca responds:

    shovethenos —

    Here’s where a better scan is in order.

    More on your comments shortly, but first an update. I’ve been in touch with sources in Florida who are quite unamimous that this is a tarpon. What I’m looking for now is someone who can lead me to some other document relating to this fish. More to follow.

    My monitor shows traces of what appear to be consistent with tarpon mouth parts. Note especially the smallish “cheek bone” just below the eye. Again, a better scan may be helpful.

    If the parallel markings across the front of the jaw result from a net, and if that’s what led to the animal’s demise, it’s probable that the front of the face was considerably altered by movement and inflammation, and from sitting out in the elements long enough to discolor the flank.

    On the supposed anal fin, again a better scan might shed some knowledge. I don’t contend this is a fin per se, but the remaining spine, after the soft tissues of the fin have been rotted/nibbled away (compare to the more modern fish above). I’m able to see quite clearly that the “spine” disappears under the pole, and it’s conjecture that it connects to the body, but the size and apparent groove on the lateral surface of the spine are consistent with tarpon. This has been pointed out to me by a couple of fishermen.

    The coloration is consistent with a uniformly light-colored fish that’s been lying dead on a beach for a week or two.

    Regards, and thanks for your interest.

  7. shovethenos responds:


    For reference.

    The eye/nostril ratio is just completely different. The eyes seem like they would be larger and rounder.

    Mouth is off too. If it were a Tiger it would be smaller and more crescent shaped.

    Gill slits are missing, and one would expect them to be visible and prominent.

    Coloring is way off – the mystery animal has pretty well defined bilateral coloring with a pretty well-defined dark stripe seperating top and bottom.

    While I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of it being a traumatized and decomposed shark, I don’t find the theory very convincing in light of the evidence.

  8. shovethenos responds:


    After looking at a lot of tarpon pictures I’m still skeptical. I’d like to look at any links or pictures you can provide.

  9. purrlcat responds:

    You are forgetting the time frame for this photo – according to the stamp box design on the reverse. It was printed anywhere from 1904 to 1918.

    I did a little research on ‘dog tags’ and found out that the USMC used circular tags that were first required for use in 1917. So maybe this photo was taken before that and the men weren’t required to wear them. (The tags were not worn on chains. They used a white cotton cord, or a boot lace or leather cord.)

    And I am not so sure the man on the right is wearing a wristwatch. It could just be a spot on the photo that looks like a reflection.

    I have noticed that the guy in the middle looks like his clothing is damp, from stomach to thigh. Also, he seems to have something tucked in his belt just above his right hand – a knife, a gun, a fin?

    But does it really matter about the men? Even if we could identify any of them, they would be long dead. I say the back of the photo gives a good date reference and the FISH is what is of interest.

    I still have no firm opinion on what this ‘fish’ is. But I still think it is wrapped in something, at least the head.

  10. embrynat2000 responds:

    Looks like a tarpon to me too. I’ve caught tarpon this big off the florida keys before, it actually is not much bigger than normal size for an adult. They are very large fish. There is a naval base in Key West as well.

  11. tschai responds:

    I haven’t posted any comments for a bit-the tarpon doesn’t seem to fit the creatures profile-and I agree that a croc or gator may not quite seem to fit either but if the head were covered up with something it would cover the actual eye-and the eyes can be retracted somewhat into the orbit-and if a gator is decomposing I’m certain the eyes may actually sink into the skull somewhat-so if covered up the prominent bulge mentioned by another poster may not be noticed. The eye could be painted on the covering. The Megamouth pictures are interesting however-notice the prominent gill slits-and that is the one feature that really makes me believe this is not a shark of ANY species-I think our boys in the photo or perhaps an enterprising photo retoucher of the day “spliced” some critters together. After reading all the great comments and theories I finally decided that is exactly what this is. Someone took several different bits and stuck them together and then made a copy negative and printed it. I used to work in a black and white photo lab and it would not be too hard to cut and paste some critters onto a photo of a real large fish or whatever (the giant catfish photos in one posters link were down right SCARY) with the fellows in the photo then make a copy negative and reprint the thing.You might even come across some old card stock and use sepia toner to make it look old. But that seems an awful big stretch. The photocard is probably genuinely old-the technology to make these is not new and would have been available back then I’m sure. There are some blurry areas that are real suspicious-that is this was a photo of a real creature in the same plane as the guys should NOT be out of focus-that conveniently cut across areas where new sections of a critter could be spliced in.I’m sure there will be some photo expert out there that will say I’m full of s*** but that is my final opinion on this beastie. It is a FAKE one way or another.It seems that somebody out there would recognize this creature or would have heard the stories about it or might even possibly know living relatives of the men in the photo that remember uncle so and so or grandpa whomever telling the story about the “monster” thing they caught.The best thing is you have a lot of folks from all different backgrounds and experience applying themselves to solving a problem.Let’s do ALIENS!!!YEA!Seen any lately???MAYBE the fish thingy is an ET!

  12. KenHash responds:

    Just saw this pic.
    I take back what I said about Shark.
    It’s a bony fish for sure and for Christs sake it’s already been gutted. Superimposed Tarpon certainly is viable.

  13. jules responds:

    I am having fun with this one. It has always looked like an alligator wrapped up in burlap to me.

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