Merman / Mermaid Carcass Found on Beach - Analysis
Or is it yet another ersatz "sea monster" fabricated for sale on eBay?
If you were thinking it could be anything other than the latter, you need to dial your skeptic-o-meter up a notch. "Merfolk" are creatures of myth and legend. They don't exist. And in the unlikely event that such a creature really were discovered on a lonely beach somewhere in the world, it would make international headlines.
The eBay connection
The emails containing these images variously claim the specimen was found on a beach in South Africa, the Philippines, or Malaysia. These were lies made up after the fact. The first place the images turned up was on eBay, where the seller, a Tampa, Florida resident using the screen name "Seamystery," described the sale item as a "golden mermaid found dead on a lonely Florida beach." It was "a few inches shy of being 5 feet long" and lay on a "Fresh natural bed of seaweed." The circumstances of the discovery were described as follows:
While exploring desolate areas of Fort Desoto Beach at the southern end of St. Petersburg, here in Florida, I came upon a rather startling discovery. Before me lay what at first appeared to be a very large strange fish. Shocked and amazed, I realized I had found another mermaid or sea monster.
Another mermaid or sea monster? Yes, unlikely as it seems, "Seamystery" has auctioned off items like this before and since, including one specimen billed as a "REAL sea monkey monster corpse," which, I discovered, was also up for sale on the Web site of celebrated taxidermy artist Juan Cabana. Front and center on Cabana's home page was a photo of the "golden mermaid."
The caginess of Cabana
Which cinched it, as far as I was concerned. "Seamystery" is Juan Cabana and Juan Cabana was the creator of the mysterious object "found" on Fort Desoto Beach. So I wrote to him and asked, "Is this one of your creations?" To which he replied, "I got that photo from a fan of my site so I put it up. Never saw it before in my life. Looks real to me."
Here I should point out that while Juan Cabana is well known among aficionados of "gaff art" (the construction of sideshow artifacts) and has even been publicly lauded for the quality of his work, he customarily pretends that the artifacts were discovered, not made. It's the "performance" aspect of the art, you might say. From time to time he does take credit for fabricating the objects, however, as when he appeared on George Noory's "Coast to Coast" radio show, for example, to discuss his "fantastic creations made from such elements as fish & animal remains, steel and fiberglass." And what should appear next to Cabana's name on the "Coast to Coast" Web site but a picture of the "golden mermaid" herself.
Against all odds
Not to beat a dead cryptozoid, but Cabana's protestations fly in the face not only of zoological science as we know it, but of the laws of probability. He did, in fact, once claim to have found another mermaid carcass on Fort Desoto Beach, the selfsame locale where the "golden mermaid" supposedly washed up.
Even if mermaids did exist which, I'm sorry, Virginia, they do not the odds against that happenstance are beyond astronomical, as Mr. Cabana himself would have to admit.
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Sources and further reading:
The Mermaids of Juan Cabana
Essay by Kim Bannerman on Juan Cabana's Web site
The Feejee Mermaid: The Milwaukee Taxidermied Treasure & Others
By Karl Wolff, ShowHistory.com
Coast to Coast with George Noory
Recap of 8 August 2006 radio show featuring Juan Cabana
The FeeJee Mermaid Archive
The Lost Museum
Complete Guide to Mermaids
Tim Spalding's Mermaids on the Web
Last updated: 08/29/06