Aug 05, 2017 I Paul Seaburn

Strange Creature Stirs Memories of the Nantucket Sea Serpent

“Is it a dinosaur? I genuinely don’t know what it is.”

Two men walking on a Massachusetts beach found the decomposing body of some mysterious sea creature and posted a video of it on the Internet. While its identity may not be mysterious, any mention of ‘Massachusetts beach’ and ‘sea creature’ in the same sentence brings to mind the famous Nantucket Sea Serpent of 1937, its eventual resolution and its strange links to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the world’s greatest puppeteer. Now there’s some remote dots to connect.

Let’s start with the video. It was taken and uploaded by a John Roy, who claims he and a friend found the decomposing marine beast during a night walk on Nantasket Beach in the town of Hull, Massachusetts. (Note: the beach was “Nantasket,” not Nantucket as some other stories reported, which is on Nantucket Island some five hours away on the other side of the state.) While he titles it “Found a decomposing whale on Nantasket Beach, Massachusetts,” the dialogue in the video sounds like that’s just a guess at what the rotting flesh, teeth, bones, skin and fins once were. The scaly look has some commenters suggesting it’s a shark rather than a whale, but the limited scope of the video and the dialogue leaves the identity of the creature open for discussion … at least for now.

The mistaken reporting that the creature was found on ‘Nantucket’ Beach immediately links it to the infamous Nantucket Sea Serpent scare of 1937. Residents of the island, with its long historical connection to the whaling industry and sea serpent sightings, were excited in the summer of 1937 when local fisherman Bill Manville told a reporter at the Nantucket Inquirer & Mirror that he had seen a "green sea monster” that was about one hundred feet long with a head like a barrel and red-rimmed eyes the size of dinner plates.

The story spread nationally, sending people to the waters and the beach to hunt for the monster. One was Gilbert Manter, who reportedly saw from the shore a creature that “looked like a combination snake and whale, with a head much bigger than the neck" with "sort of a horned head" measuring 120 feet long and rising 12 feet out of the water. To prove to his disbelieving friend, Ed Crocker, that he saw a sea monster, he took him back to the beach the next day where they found "giant web-footed tracks" in the sand measuring 66-inches long and 45-inches wide. Pictures of the footprints took the story national again, spawning more believers and skeptics.

nantucket footprint
Image: Nantucket Historical Association

The mystery was solved a few days later when a huge sea monster washed ashore … a monster of the inflatable kind.

Image: Museum of Hoaxes

It was easily traced to one Tony Sarg, a famous puppeteer known as “the father of modern puppetry” and equally famous designer of balloons for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, where the Nantucket Sea Monster appeared later that year. Sarg also owned Tony Sarg’s Curiosity Shop in Nantucket and was hoping his serpent footprint/balloon hoax (it appears he acted after the other sightings and they were not in on the hoax) would drum up business for his shop. Unfortunately, it didn’t, as he reportedly went bankrupt in 1939 and died a few years later.

macys felix
One of Tony Sage's parade creations (image: Smithsonian)

And now back to the ‘Nantasket’ sea serpent. It looks like a local marine animal beached and on its way to bleached … unusual but not a dinosaur nor a good candidate for a parade balloon.

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

Join MU Plus+ and get exclusive shows and extensions & much more! Subscribe Today!