19th Century’s Vermillon Beast

Posted by: Loren Coleman on January 8th, 2009

Daily Huronite [Huron, South Dakota] October 20, 1892

Another Calamityite.
Rapid City [South Dakota] Journal.

The following from a South Dakota exchange revives the Missouri sea serpent story of 1875-6 near Vermillion when many people really were frightened at its appearance: “There is a genuine ‘sea serpent’ or more properly a river serpent has its home in the Missouri [River], not far from Sioux City. It was seen by Mr. Edwin Philbrook and two others a few days ago. It was seen to emerge from the water in a slough, crawl across a sand bar and plunge into the river. It was over thirty feet long, had several fins, and was scaley and ugly in appearance. It plowed a furrow in the sand where it crossed the bar that looked like a trough.”

This is thanks to Jerome Clark. Theo Paijmans notes he has been trying to track down specifics for ages on the “Vermillon Beast” that allegedly terrorized the area. Clark first heard of the story from a short reference in John Keel’s Strange Creatures from Time and Space. This news item fills in the picture a bit more.

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.

7 Responses to “19th Century’s Vermillon Beast”

  1. shumway10973 responds:

    sounds either like a large eel or (something I know is more prevalent down there) a large catfish. There are some catfish known to leave a dying water hole and literally walk on their fins to look for a better one. That is why they are having a hard time keeping this one from taking over. Although are eels scaly?

  2. semillama responds:

    Sounds like a highly exaggerated alligator to me. Behavior-wise, the crawling over a sand bar and leaving a furrow seems a good indicator. The appearance sounds exaggerated, but a large alligator would definitely serve as a good palette for a nineteenth-century newspaper man to have fun with.

  3. Gillian72crypto responds:

    Why don’t they check the sand bar? It’s going to have some clues.

  4. gkingdano responds:

    I agree with semillama; probably most people living that far up the Mississippi River system had never seen a gator. And I think it is a little to late to check the sandbar.

  5. springheeledjack responds:

    I have heard of river critters before and wonder if things don’t wander up from other bodies of water…the White River is another one of those places where there were a rash of sightings in a river for a period of time, but no one ever got too much information on things.

    The eel idea is good, but does not fit with the scaly skin…and while it talks of lots of fins, it does not mention limbs which would knock down the alligator idea (though a 30 ft alligator would be cool too…and disconcerting). And as was said, catfish while big, they don’t really look that scaly either.

    Sounds like something really odd was seen, but not something familiar. And from the description I would say whoever it was got a decent enough look at it to say whether it would have been a fish or a gator. Should look at places up and down the Missouri in the surrounding years for other paper clippings of odd sightings along that river…like maybe the 1-2 years prior and after…

  6. squatchwatcher responds:

    I live in this general area, actually my hometown is situated right on the Missouri River, I have never heard of this story before. Maybe it was a paddlefish, they’re rare but they are in the Missouri up this way and they do get pretty big. Or how about a gar or sturgeon, they both get pretty big also and are ugly, weird looking fish. There is a type of fish here that are called eelots(?) that somewhat appear eel like, although I’ve never heard of one more than a foot or two. As far as a river “beast” I highly doubt it.

  7. Andrew Minnesota responds:

    sturgeons can certainly get large and long however i’ve never heard of one pushing itself overland with it’s fins, especially if it was a 30 ft sturgeon it would be a very heavy fish and i think it would be somewhat of a beached whale on shore.

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