Mystery Fish Head Closeup

Posted by: Loren Coleman on December 6th, 2005

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

What do you see here?

Mystery Fish Closeup

(Click image for full-size version)

Mystery Fish Enhancement

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

Mystery Fish Enhancement

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

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.

29 Responses to “Mystery Fish Head Closeup”

  1. Lee Murphy responds:

    I don’t believe it is, but it’s head does resemble a species of shark, bull or tiger.

  2. LiberalDem responds:

    I thought it looked like a monitor lizard. But then, I’m no expert on either lizards or sharks. Just my 2 cents worth.


  3. Arithon responds:

    Just to clarify, thats a higher res scan of the original postcard right? I’m assuming so as you can now see a couple of hairs from the scan.

    Anyway, here’s a sharpened version.

    I still wonder whats causing that shadow just under that horizontal mouthline. I can almost see a raised hump that goes from that shadow, up and to the right (almost vertically) across the face, there seems to be a crease visible on the right side of the hump.

  4. shovethenos responds:

    Thanks for posting the enlargement.

    In my opinion it points to a snake or lizard. The enlargement seems to show some irregular surfaces on the head that point towards scales. Then you have the notch in the middle of the mouth that looks like the notch that snakes (including sea snakes) and lizards poke their tongues through.

    And if it is a snake or lizard this is only a part of the animal, possibly a small part. It would be good if we could get a herpentologist to go through the taxonomy to determine what known species it could be similar to, if that’s possible. I seem to remember reading that sea snakes are some of the most numerous snakes, so its not much of a stretch to speculate about undiscovered species, even some large ones.

    And of course a hoax is always a possibility. Classification by a herpentologist might also help to uncover something like that.

  5. corax responds:

    The close up shows more clearly the odd lines around the ‘head’. These lines could be folds in some sort of material (as has been suggested), or muscle and connective tissue if the head has been skinned, or else are scars.

    The ‘mouth’ presents serious problems. It cuts straight across at least five (and possibly more) of these lines. This would seem to rule out lines being due to underlying muscles.

    If those lines that are crossed by the mouth are scars then they all seem to run in the same direction.

    To me the mouth looks painted on, and not very well. The varying thickness, the apparent double line in some places, the (to me) un-natural run of the line, and the truly bizarre way it turns up to a degree that looks anatomically impossible, all contribute to this impression. The fact that it crosses some of the lines just adds to the impression.

    The eye also is very dubious. Its position seems unusual (though not implausible) and the apparent reflection seems inconsistent with the rest of the picture.

    While the body does appear to be that of a fairly large fish (but may be something else entirely) the head seems to be a simple hoax. Probably some material wrapped around an object with the eye and mouth painted on. It is also possible that the eye and especially mouth of a genuine find were enhanced with paint for effect. The problem with this idea is that it is hard to work out where the real mouth would have been.

    Unfortunately I think that the most interesting bits of the creature in this photo were faked.

  6. DVics responds:

    I agree with corax. The line does appear painted on. Especially if you look at the front portion that wraps around to the front of the head. The mouth line is lighter outside of the shadow, when it should remain dark.

    Maybe these guys just put a painted sack over a dead fish’s head.

  7. shovethenos responds:

    I’m skeptical of the “painted sack” theory.

    First, the eye seems pretty detailed and realistic, with a highlight or glint from the sun. Why do a realistic job on the eye and then futz up the mouth?

    Second, the mouth doesn’t look that “irregular” to me, especially if the animal had just been traumatized through fishing, attempted capture, killing, etc. Blood smears or drips and trauma around the mouth would be expected. Note also that the head is off center because the animal is not centered on its belly – its listing away from the camera at an angle, so all kinds of shadows could be created.

    Finally, the placement of the eyes and nostril aren’t that strange for an aquatic or amphibious air-breathing animal. A configuration like that allows them to poke just the top of the head or tip of the snout out of the water to take a breath or look around.

    That’s not to say it couldn’t be a hoax, it still very likely could be. I just don’t think the attributes noted are particularly strange and don’t think it was hoaxed in the manner suggested.

  8. 2400bc responds:

    Hello everyone! I’m new here. This fish-head looks to me like some type of giant eel that might be albino. The mouth is so strange – the way it curls almost all the way up to the top of the head Suggests it takes big bites at a time when eating. Also I’m reminded of a snake, but it just doesn’t seem close enough to label it as such. Very strange.

  9. tekkendork responds:

    The “mouth” kept throwing me off. The dark line looks like it is on the surface of the head. So I’m guessing that this creature is turned on it’s side and we are viewing it from the top. The “mouth” line looks like blood or other liquid that dripped down when the creature was on its stomach.

    I removed the drip for a different viewpoint. Does this new perspective help anyone?

  10. DetroitSquirrel responds:

    Where can I view a complete picture of this ‘animal’ ?

  11. shovethenos responds:

    From some of the pictures I’ve seen snakes can have long mouth lines. Possibly lizards too. Another possibility is that it was caught on a fishing or other line and an abrasion was created at the corner of the mouth. This is all wild speculation, of course.

    There have been three entries on this photo in addition to this one, you probably have to click two or three pages back. They all have “Mystery Fish” in the title.

  12. Loren Coleman responds:

    Go to the summary blog posted today that has links to all four “Mystery Fish” blogs thus far:

    You will find various views, including the complete postcard image there.

  13. Kurt responds:

    I am new to this site, but to me the pic looks like a tiger shark thats been gutted and sitting in the sun for a few days, the skin looks ”stretched”, the nose looks almost squared, and the stripes down the side. Like I said I’m new but I have worked on the coast of Maine as a commercial fisherman for 25 years, and that looks like a shark.

  14. AfterShock responds:


    Check out the first thread on this mystery fish from a week ago.

  15. KenHash responds:

    As a fisherman and Scuba Diver fairly familiar with most marine creatures, I’d say that if his is not a hoax, then the most likely alternative would be a large shark, such as a Tiger or Bull. I don’t think it could be a Basking shark.

    We often forget that carcasses rot fairly quickly and if one considers that some of the muscle tissue in the face/head area collapsed or decomposed, it could account for some of the “features” that people are noticing.

    Unfortunately this photo does not really allow examination for gill openings.

  16. Todd DiLaMuca responds:

    I emailed two enhanced versions of this new photo.

    No time to comment at length. My main intent is to make clear that the supposed “mouth” isn’t a mouth, nor does it connect to a mouth. Tekkendork has the right idea, but goes too far by removing what I contend is the gill slit.

    Beyond that, lot’s of interesting suggestions of surface detail in the enhanced versions.

  17. shovethenos responds:


    If you’re claiming the mouth isn’t a mouth what is it then? If you’re claiming it’s a blood drip, which has been mentioned, it takes a strange path. If the animal was hung by its tail the drippings would go straight off the nose and not make a “left turn”, like they seem to. If the creature were on its side the blood would go directly from the corner of the gill slit to the ground. If it were hung then placed on its side you would have some combination of the blood going straight off the nose or straight down the side. None of these scenarios seem to be what is pictured.


    I’ve never skinned a shark, but from what I’ve seen on TV there seems to be distinct structure to the gills under the gill slits. Is this the case? And if it is, wouldn’t the gills be recognizable if the skin, and the gill slits with it, were removed? Then there’s the matter of the missing fins or the the scars of where they were.

    As far as a Bull shark is concerned.

    There seems to be the same discrepancies with eye shape, eye and nostril placement, coloration, mouth shape and placement, etc. that there was with the Tiger shark comparison.

    Not trying to be contentious, but if one wants to arrive at the truth you have to be critical of all explanations, whether they point towards a known species, a hoax, or a cryptid.

  18. Todd DiLaMuca responds:

    shovethenos —

    My monitor clearly shows a gradation in the density of the left-most portion of the “streak”, consistent with the gradation of light and shadow on the adjacent tissue. That clearly shows this to be a surface feature, not a cavity. Your point about the “left turn” is cogent but not conclusive — any number of positions other than completely vertical or completely horizontal may have produced a streak in this orientation, for instance if the fish was lying on a sloping beach, or if it was hoisted by the tail but the head stayed semi-propped on the ground.

  19. shovethenos responds:


    The shading at the far left of the mouth is the other side of what might be a “notch” that allows reptiles to poke their tongue out of their closed mouthes. If you follow the mouth line from right to left it widens under the nostrils, where the notch would be in the center of the front of the nose, and then begins to taper on the other side – where you note the change in shading.

    For reference see.

    Note I’m only using this picture to illustrate the notch in some reptiles’ mouthes I’m talking about, the snake in the reference picture does not look like the mystery animal.

  20. purrlcat responds:

    Check out the website for photos of Tiger sharks. In some of the photos the nose matches the mystery fish exactly. The part of the MF’s nose I thought might be ‘wrapped’ in something, could just be decomp. But the Tiger shark’s nose seems to match just right, nostrils, shape, etc.

    The upward bloodline that looks like part of the mouth – could the MF have been turned on its back to be gutted? Wouldn’t that account for the track of the blood? Also, the bloody splotch just behind and below the mouth seems to be the right place for a fin to have been. I still don’t like the eye, tho. Would something as dead as this thing is still have a ‘highlight’ in its eye? Wouldn’t the eye be dull and gummy?

    I am glad everyone likes my Mystery Fish photo! I had no idea it would generate this much attention. I just wanted to know WHAT THE HECK IT IS!

    Maybe if someone DOES publish it in a book, someone, somewhere, will be able to identify it – either as real or a hoax.

    Thanx everyone, for your interest!

  21. shovethenos responds:

    Still skeptical of the shark theory. The whole top of the head and tip of the nose would have had to rot off. They eyes are wrong. The mouth line is wrong. No gill slits or the gills under the slits if its been skinned. Lots of evidence missing on the fins.

    If the animal had been left on its back to be skinned it seems like any blood drips would have taken a more direct route to the ground. Plus it seems like they would have been more spread out and obvious as drips, but who knows.

    Purrlcat, if you go to the website you just linked and click on “reptiles” and “snakes” you’ll see that a lot of the snakes have a long mouthline like the mystery animal. They differ in a lot of other aspects, however. In any case I’m skeptical of fish or shark theories.

  22. eaenki responds:

    I would say it looks like a hoax to me. This picture was made to impress. You can still find photo props in vacation places. Lets look at the fact the picture is a post card. We know this to be fact.

  23. shovethenos responds:


    I think someone stated in one of the threads earlier that years ago you could have postcards printed from film you took. Sort of a “print your own postcard” type thing.

    Of course it could quite possibly be a hoax. But if it is a hoax, how did they do it? Did they use photography tricks to enlarge an image of an existing species? If so, what species? If it’s a doctored image of an existing species it should be easy to identify, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

  24. bccryptid responds:

    It looks like it’s made out of paper mache to me, especially the head, which definitely looks like paper, and not a very good job at that. Yes it does look rather like a tiger or sleeper shark, but the missing gills and strange ‘giant’ jaw look like the work of bad hoax artistry rather than still life to me. The ‘tail’ is particularly bad. If this isn’t a completely fabricated model hoax, then it’s some poor animal badly mutilated up to look like a weird fish.

  25. CryptoInformant responds:

    If you look at Arithon’s sharpened version, you see that the mouth and the last upward part of that silly grin are not connected. Instead, that last part is a natural marking, possibly to make the mouth look bigger. I personally think it is a shellfish eating mosasaur. The wound behind the head is about right for where a front flipper would be, and the back flipper on that side appears to be folded over, and the tailfin is out of the picture, but still there. The head is obviously reptilian, and aquatic, but not a turtle either, and anacondas don’t come this close to sea. As noted earlier, the head size/body size ratio is to high for a snake, but not for a mosasaur.

    This is either a filter feeder or a shell cruncher, but either way a mosasaur!

  26. CryptoInformant responds:

    Those lines are definitely scars.

  27. CryptoInformant responds:

    maybe a predator

  28. CryptoInformant responds:

    So, I think we need an overall vote:
    Paper Mache
    Mutilated Lizard

  29. depthors responds:

    in order to say that this photo is not a fake you would have to have a good bit of knowledge on fish and sharks. first i think its real. if you look at it the way i do you may think so to. first off the mouth isnt as big as you guys are thinking. the mouth is at the very tip of the head if you look you can see the opening and where the top of the mouth and bottom seperate, it doesnt extend all the way to the back of the head, it is only about 4 or 5 inches into the head, then it stops, it looks to me like the fishermen did either 1 of 2 things. they either slit the shark from his mouth all the way back and then up making the illusion that it is smiling (keep in mind the time this picture was taken, the quality isnt that good, or they slit its throat and used the blood to draw the smile on, to make a postcard picture interesting. i do think that all the skeptisism is coming from the fact that this picture was taken so long ago that most people dont realize that the quality is crap, some features arent as pronounced as they would be if taken today, the pictures looked more dull, shading not fully enhanced and such. look at the pictures closley and you will see what i mean

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