The Mississippi River Monster of 1877

A great many able monsters have been seen by sea captains in different states of gin, but the fresh-water monster which is at present infesting the waters of the Mississippi surpasses the ablest of them. (The New York Times, September 7, 1877)

A handful of stories in the fall of 1877 concern a sea monster in the Mississippi River. The monster is described as being 65 feet long, with the body of a snake, the head of a dog, and a ten-foot tusk-like bill. It has six legs and the mane of a horse. You can find the stories here, and they’re all quite enjoyable for their descriptions, style, and quality of evidence. I particularly like the one where the reporter avers the certainty of the monster’s existence because it was witnessed by a Methodist minister.

What the monster needs is a name. What would you call this pelican-billed dogsnakehorsefish?

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