Name the Mystery Fish

Posted by: Loren Coleman on November 29th, 2005

Can you identify this mystery fish found on an old postcard?

Mystery Fish

(Click on image to see full size version)

Is there a Cryptomundo reader out there that can help?

The men in the picture look like military servicemen. The surroundings look like this photograph was taken on a beach or island. The fish appears to be about six feet long (notice the yard or meter stick lying next to it). But where are the fins on this cryptid (or even a tail)? What is it?

Send in a comment if you know what this cryptid fish might be.

Added note: There is nothing on the back of this postcard, except it should be noted that the “Place Stamp Here” box is formed by the letters AZO, which according to the comments below date this card. All the AZO triangles are pointing upward, thus indicating a date for this postcard of 1904-18. It was contributed by a reader (Ms. Phyllis Mancz of Ohio) of Loren’s Cryptozoo News blog at Cryptomundo.

See also “Name the Mystery Fish Continued”.

Mystery Fish Enhanced

(Click on image to see full size version, enhanced by shockbeton)

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.

122 Responses to “Name the Mystery Fish”

  1. joizee debbil responds:

    This so-called postcard appears to be a composite of at least three, possibly four images. The three servicemen are standing on a blurry mud-like ground; the “fish” is resting on a sharply focused, lighter soil with weeds. The hut has a hazy, almost airbrushed background (fog?), while the three men are standing in a stark-lit, low sun angle setting. Location for the postcard setting: PhotoShop.

  2. fouber66 responds:

    I still maintain those buildings are in North America. Can anyone from outside of North America comment? Would you expect to find foot wide pine planks like that in Panama for example?

  3. tschai responds:

    O.K. Me again. Guys-the more I look at this the more I see – in an enlargement of the head region look right below the “eye” down and at a slight angle to the right along the dark mouth-and I’m convinced now this is indeed an eye-you can see the forked tongue draped over the lower jaw! No kidding! It’s hard to see unless you blow the picture up-and there is something else hanging out of the corner of the mouth-it looks like a vine? fishing line with some kind of spinners? You can make out the oval shaped leaves or whatever and their shadows against the lighter body of the whatever the heck it is. Right below the forked tongue is a pile /puddle of something…it is whitish in colour. I am now agreeing with the individual that said this is the head of a snake with a portion of the body missing (where the “tail” of the fish should be) and what we see is the skin has collapsed because the supporting bones and flesh were torn away when the snake was cut in half? Blown up?-the dark area below the jaw (where I said the leg /flipper) were before-yeah yeah I know-but that is indeed a massive wound. The head is tilted away from the camera and the lower jaw is askew-just like a snakes does when dealt a nasty blow to the noggin or mortally wounded. When viewed in digital form and enlarged there are areas where the pixelations vary-I’m not any kind of expert here but I think what this is (maybe a photo of a dead snake (superimposed?) on the original picture of the fellows standing in front of this structure. Or maybe it is absolutely genuine. Perhaps a photograhpy expert would care to comment? IF YOU LOOK REAL CLOSE you can make out what might be scales- and I think the dark arc that wants to be a “gill” is actually a fold of loose skin-it does not appear to go below the surface as would a gill. Did anyone else notice the “stain” on the fence / wall behind the men is actually the shadow of a man with his hands in his pockets out of camera? You can just make out the head on the screening or whatever above the wood of the fence. If this is not a hoax it is one heck of a BIG snake.Can our herpetology expert tell if it is a venomous snake? It’s hard to tell if it has heat sensory pits. Yikes!!Will we ever really know what this thing is? Are there MORE of these behemoth whatisits crawling, swimming or slithering around out there RIGHT NOW???!!! OMG!!!AUUGHHHH!!!LOL

  4. fouber66 responds:

    It is a shark that has been filleted! The snout is deceiving, but if you look carefully, you can see the familiar, pointy shark snout hidden in the shadows.
    The shark body has been sliced in half vertically, starting behind the gills, all the way to the tail. The fins, tail, and gut have been removed – typical process of cleaning a fish. That is why the body looks too small and flat compared to the head. It also explains the unusual coloration pattern running the length of the body (vascular tissue surrounding the spine) and the pool of blood at the bottom of the gills (what looks like a bullet wound). Here is a sequence showing a shark being cleaned.
    Notice the bloody area in step 2 corresponds with our postcard. As was noted earlier, the “smile” is caused by blood running from the mouth and front gill. The more I view the postcard from this perspective, the more confident I am that this is the explanation.

  5. shovethenos responds:


    Good link but there are some discrepancies. The mouth is configured differently. The eye is much smaller. (I realize the link features a small shark with oversized eyes and that bigger sharks have proportionally smaller eyes, but they seem different.) Where are the big side fins or the scars from where they were? And there is a rough patch behind the head where you might say there are gill slits, but I think they would be more pronounced, and you would probably see some of the underlying gill structure, if it was a skinned shark.

  6. mikeCorbeil responds:

    Well, firstly I’ll say that I have not taken the time to read all of the posts, here; but picked up on a few suggestions, namely a silure, a shark, and an oarfish. I also noticed someone wrote that those are palm trees in the picture, while questioning whether or not these grow in France. (I don’t know if France has palm trees, or not, but maybe it does in the southern, Mediterranean region, and perhaps some trees have been imported, as I believe the explanation to be for palm trees in Las Vegas; although am not sure of the latter, if it’s true, or not.)

    Out of the three above species of fish, the oarfish strikes me as the least likely, because the fish (and we need to keep in mind that the one in the picture has been gutted, as well as skinned) in the picture has a visibly tapering body; meanwhile, oarfish apprently have no really visible tapering.

    I suppose that there are different types of oarfish, but the following provide a pictures (URLs obtained via a Web search just now and thus only a very partial, brief search).

    Oarfish: Regalecus glesne Ascanius, 1772“,

    Giant Oarfish Caught of California Coast“,

    Both of those webpages shows pictures of oarfish, considerable portions of the bodies, and they don’t visibly taper.

    Also notice the distinct difference in the shape of the head and snout; it’s very visible, with careful examination anyway.

    In the first picture for this here article at, provides some head or snout detail that I did not pick up from the second and much darker copy of the picture; and going based on the first one, the snout seems to come to a bit of a point, as I’ve noticed some sharks have.

    Based on that, the picture does not strike me as being of a silure, neither; while based on the second rendition of the picture, silure seemed more possible or plausible.

    And based on that difference, I’d suggest that it be confirmed if the snout of the mystery fish really does come to a kind of point, a pointed, tapered shape, or not. If pointed, it’s apparently not a silure, for the pictures I saw of these today (will let others do some easy Web searches, for I don’t have those pages up anymore) show that silures have heads shaped like catfish; although a little more checking for pictures turned up pictures of what really do look like catfish. (Perhaps, not having read much on them, silures are a European version of catfish, too; they’re said to be the largest freswhater carnivorous fish, and catfish are carnivorous.)

    If the mystery fish is freswater, and there are extremely few possibilities for what species the fish could then be, for very few freshwater species grow even half the size of the mystery fish, here, well, silure seems like a very likely fit; and I can’t think of what else it could otherwise be. Silures are the largest carnivorous freshwater fish species, but also among the largest of any type of freshwater fish. Most sturgeons, which are among the largest freshwater species of fish, don’t grow as large or long as this mystery fish; but silures are said to grow as long as around 2.5m, so certainly over 7ft.

    If it’s a saltwater fish, then shark would strike me as plausible; based on what I see for a pointed snout, size, and tapering of body. If it was not skinned, it’d be much easier to say, and short of that, if it was not gutted, we could have a better idea; because gutting it has removed some of the tapering appearance or shape, but while I believe to perceive some.

    Oarfish don’t taper; they’re shaped rather like eels. Those may taper, someone might say, but only at the ends, the rest of the body being quite uniform; like with snakes.

  7. Necro responds:

    The palm trees look like Sable Palms native to florida and the fish looks like a “Bowfin or Dogfish” that inhabit Floridas fresh water , but the color of the fish is off.

  8. shovethenos responds:


    Interesting theory. It’s the best “fish” theory I’ve seen so far.

    But there are still a lot of problems with it. Like you said, the color is off. So are a lot of others – mouth, eye, etc.

    Bowfin are only supposed to grow to 2ft or so, so even if it is a bowfin or in the bowfin family, it would probably still be considered a cryptid. (It, or the part pictured, is at least 6 feet long.)

    Or if it is a hoax a bowfin is one of the strong possibilities of what was used.

    Personally, I’m still leaning towards some kind of reptile, but your theory is a strong possibility.

  9. Toirtis responds:

    The bowfin idea is unique, but not very accurate….the head and body structure of the ‘fish’ do not come anywhere close to that of an Amiidae, which is, coincidentally, one of the primitive fish groups that I have studied extensively.

  10. CryptoInformant responds:

    It is reptilian, and certainly related to snakes, but is in fact a mosasaur. The “caudal penduncle” is where the tail fin starts, and the paddles are cut off. The scales are easily visible, and are very uncharacteristic of fish, but perfect for a reptile. The odd upcurve of the mouth is actually a color patterning, and the “gill” is the edge of the head. One paddle is right behind the head, and you can see the huge wound where it was. The other one is either that splotch 3/4 of the way to the tail, or folded under at the same place.

  11. youcantryreachingme responds:

    ok – I’ve only looked at the first 75 suggestions, but it’s 3am now ..yawn.. so here goes. To date, I’d say likely a shark. Tiger, megamouth or an unknown large catshark (which is far less likely).

    Here’s my 2million cents on the first 75 suggestions!

    1) it’s not a squid
    2) it doesn’t look fake
    3) it doesn’t look like Silurus at all – Silurus has a tiny, forward facing mouth in comparison. At this point I’d say the head looks more croc/alligator/caiman like. In addition, I think the caudal (tail) fin is visible – lying on it’s side. Silurus has long dorsal and anal fins that join to the caudal fin – very different to this critter’s tail shape.
    4) I doubt it’s skinned – why bother? This looks like a “we just dragged this out of the sea” photo. If you want a photo of a mammoth like that, you’d take it before skinning it.
    5) Agree at this stage the head *looks* croc like – but the tail fin doesn’t.
    6) rotten shark? Hmm… body shape is more eel-like – although admittedly sharks come in many many different shapes – and let’s face it – we don’t know what this is, so why not a shark?
    7) How long’s a fathom? Let’s assume the guys are about 5’5.. then the fish is about 8′.
    8) nahrwal? no. the eye is in completely the wrong position – and whales have vertically flattened tails, not laterally – the stripe on the side of this fish shows that at the tail, the body is laterally compressed and lying on its side
    9) Nurse shark? Ok – head shape is good, but there is no indication that dorsal fins have rotted off. In addition, look at the size of this thing’s mouth. And it appears to have a single gill cover – not gill slits as per sharks
    10) Mekong Catfish? Ok – I’m liking this suggestion. I too thought of SE Asia – but only because of the palm trees. I also thought of South American freshwater fish – but I think this photo’s on an ocean beach. The Mekong is slightly narrower anterior to the tail – I still think this looks like an eel with a huge head.
    11) ah the pirarucu – and that would be the south american fish i thought of. our photographed friend does not appear to have scales – so either s/he *is* skinned as previously suggested, or not a pirarucu. Also – the snout is far too large, the eye is not far back enough and sits more on top of the head than with the pirarucu
    12) Dunkleosteus? That’s new to me. Does it mean “dark bones”? From the linked animation, Dunkleosteus has eyes far further forward. Notwithstanding eye position – I like this suggestion for its head shape. Still, the caudal fin looks wrong.
    15) mouth looks larger than it is – I agree. it’s actually very hard to decide where the mouth really ends – but either way, it definately has a large mouth, and likely a large bite – which supports the shark theory again; and as you say, palm trees. but which shark? who knows!
    16) snakehead? i like this one. for starters, the body, tail and head shape are right on. the blotchy skin colour matches, and the pectoral fin is in the right position for where we presume this fish once had it’s pecs.. our friend seems to have a slightly larger than expected head for a snakehead – and probably its body is a little deflated by being dead. the eye appears just slightly further back than expected for a snakehead – but I’d say all features match nearly enough, given the circumstances to say this is a really good guess. If you say the record length is 1.8m, then this might be a new species – just a little larger. (or a giant). just not quite the pointy mouth we’d expect. but so far – this ranks closest.
    18) coelecanth? I’d be surprised that Loren posed the question then! There is more flesh in the tail of the coelecanth, and it is a rounder shape, too (where the fin rays begin).
    19) sturgeon? our critter lacks the upturned pointed snout. And sturgeon seem much more plate-like to me (although I don’t know all 20 species personally!)
    20) the men are marines? no pun intended I presume! But I’m with you – initial thought “gator” – but then there’s the tail, which itself also defies “shark”..
    21) wels? another good suggestion! Some wels have deep-set bodies, but some appear more slender like this one. Look at this photo, rotate it right, mirror it, and enlarge, and it’s a pretty good match – admittedly, being hung up, and from its jaw, will affect it’s overall appearance – but again the caudal fin is a very good match – there is a slight depression in the skull of our friend which appears in other photos of the wels. likewise the dip in body shape behind the head, and notice too that “spare tyre” of apparent flesh behind the gill cover. The shape of the curve on the gill cover, and the apparent lack of dorsal fins matches too. good suggestion. beats the snakehead.
    22) pygmy sperm whale? again – my problem with mammals is that their caudal fins are dorso-ventrally compressed, unlike this critter.
    23) cuttlefish?? now *that* *I* don’t see at all!
    24) oh yes – sharks can very much be upstream in rivers, even in straight fresh water.
    25) hm. that shark again. the more i look, the more the snout and mouth say “shark” while the tail says “wels”…
    29) the garbage. i like that observation. i noticed the bins, but didn’t think how they might apply here. don’t know if skinning a shark will make it appear not to have multiple gill slits – but your reasoning goes to explain one way in which this thing might end up with an apparently larger than expected head. Still – the lines seem clean – that is, no break between an untouched head and a filleted body…
    31) a silure is a wels? doh! i’ve discounted the silure, but said yes to the wels. are you suuuure? in defence – after looking up “wels” – I’ve now seen more. But the mouth area is still a bit ambiguous.
    33) Ahh – salamander! Now that came to mind too! In fact, I was thinking “GIANT AXOLOTYL!!!” You mention Andrius davidianus. I couldn’t find it online, but here’s Andruis japonicus and here as well. It certainly is similar at the head and body – but we have no legs! ANd probably we also have a caudal fin – neither japonicus photo shows us the tail unfortunately.
    36) OK – oarfish certainly get big, but their very laterally flattened – unlike the head of our critter.
    39) genetically mutated fish post atomic? Plausible suggestion (although usually such creatures don’t live long enough to grow big.)
    40) Christian – I like your approach. I still have difficulty with the shark carcass because I think the photo shows a caudal fin with rays, unlike the fleshier shark caudals (unless I’m missing a shark – and believe me, I’m probably missing thousands!)
    42) land on the other side / freshwater – or we could be looking across a bay, too… 🙁
    Side Note: I had trouble working out how long the snout was – but given the angle of the mens’ shadows, I think the animal’s snout is longer, with the foremost part in shadow.
    47) Lungfish – good observation of eye position and size – but I think lungfish have more diminutive and rounder eyes. Also, the junction between the caudal rays and body is more abrubt in our critter.
    48) Decayed bottom feeding shark. I’m tending this way too except for the caudal fin rays. Catsharks are about the right shape, but too small.
    53) The caudal peduncle. Ditto. I used – and erased – the word “peduncle” about a dozen times to this point – I wasn’t sure if I was remembering it right. But ditto.
    59) Again – I like the trashcan / washed up corpse suggestion. Megamouth? Here’s one that *appears* not to have fins, much like our fellow, and this one shows the jawline going way back behind the eye. .. good body shape – barely visible dorsals.
    60) whale or porpoise from on top? where is the blowhole?
    61) lungfish again – wow! love your link! aww – i want one as a pet!
    63) Gunshot wound – I cannot see; I just see skin colouration. Stretcher – I can visualise that. Tiger Shark? Eye is too far back, and again the caudal peduncle…
    65) tarpon? – the tarpon has large scales, and a rounder eye with an iris.. I just can’t see it.
    66) Gunshot again. OK – I can see the pattern is slightly different to the body markings. So it was shot.
    67) Dorsalectus elusivii? Doh! I just knew I shouldn’t have bothered googling that!
    74) Snake/Eel mix? Exactly!
    75) Shark from above? Then it’s coloured on only one side 🙁

  12. Mfdcapt4 responds:

    Name the mystery fish???

    I’d name him Eddy..

  13. Curious_Hanuman responds:

    Not a fish.

    Any prize fish (caught or found) worth photographing would either be strung up by its tail, held by the three men, or if a bit rotten- it would be at their feet and they would be standing or kneeling behind it. The lucky fisherman photos at the local bait shop always have the same format.

    More likely a windsock or kite. Note the frayed canvas edge below the neck. Also, the stick aligned with the “fish” has looped string going from the stick to the edge of the canvas fish clearly visible at a couple of points. The crudely painted face and the daubing of paint along the sides, lack of body fins, pointed nose, cartoony way the mouth line directly connects to gill slit, faintly visible ribs of a wooden framework, canvas weave showing in body paint, paper-mache look of head.

    Could be a joke mascot for a barracks, remnant of a prank, or local souvenir immortalized in a postcard for the friends back home.

  14. Loren Coleman responds:

    Wow…114 comments at

    Name the Mystery Fish

    but whatever happened to that compiled list of ideas…

    it only reached 75?

  15. Loren Coleman responds:

    If not a fish, then what? If not a real animal, then what? Have people seen this before? Does it haunt the psyche as something long remembered but now forgotten? The mystery continues…into over 350 comments through 2006.

  16. GregH responds:

    It is a the decayed remains of a Tiger shark that has had it’s fins and tail removed. The “stick” in front of it is a handle for the stretcher they carried it with.

  17. Bob Michaels responds:

    A Crocodile Shark, yes it exists.

  18. GizaSphinx responds:

    Ah, I know this may be a little late to add my two cents, however I’m quite sure I know what this is. I’ve spent a long time looking at this photo, and noticed that there is no clear connection between the head and the body. This leads me to the conclusion that this is the head of one animal, layed upon the body of another, simply as a joke to make it appear as a strange creature. Hopefully some people are still watching this and will see this comment. I’m very very sure about this.

  19. GizaSphinx responds:

    Yes, I spent some more time just staring at this, and its now beyond any doubt to me, that this is the head of one animal, layed upon another animal. Its a joke these three men made, nothing more.

  20. travler1300 responds:

    It’s not a fish at all. It’s a giant anaconda snake. they grow up to 100ft or so long, but its very rare. You can Google giant anaconda and pull up this same picture under images

  21. travler1300 responds:

    Or it might be a african python depending on where in the world they are, both able to grow that large, the anaconda and African python

  22. randomthorn4714 responds:

    ^_^ looks like a shark to me.

Sorry. Comments have been closed.

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