NANFA-- Mermaids in Seattle/off-topic

Hoover, Jan J ERDC-EL-MS (
Wed, 4 Apr 2001 10:15:48 -0500

My recent posts got lost in cyberspace. I believe that the problem has been

Here is a site that shows locations of known mer-people specimens:


Also, re the dugong-mermaid confusion:

The mermaid Jay was writing about is a Fiji (or Fee-Gee) mermaid - named
after P.T. Barnum's famous hoax. There are approximately 10 known on
display in the US (There are probably more in private collections). These
mermaids (merfolk- some are men) were made by taxidermists during the 1800s,
possibly into the early 1900s. The upper parts were sometimes fabricated by
artists, but often consisted of shaved monkeys or small apes, which were
then grafted on the trunk and tails of fish or rarely porpoises. Sources of
these specimens were areas of the South Pacific and Japan where their annual
creation was a rite associated with fishing traditions. Frank Buckland, the
British fisheries biologist and naturalist, apparently examined some of
these to confirm/refute their authenticity. Remember that mermaid sightings
were taken seriously though much of the 19th century and there was a rash of
reports then from Scottish waters.

Re the "dugong" terminology - This is partly because sea cows were allegedly
the inspiration for most mermaid encounters (highly unlikely given
constraints of geography, and given proximity and reliability of some
observers), and because dugongs were believed to exhibit human and monstrous
behaviors. Jules Verne was responsible for a lot of misconceptions re
dugong behavior and biology; his errors re dugongs (and giant squid)are
listed and corrected by Richard Ellis in his books. I have seen at least
one famous 19th century woodcut of a dugong and a mermaid together, which
emphasized their lack of similarity, but I do not know the artist.

For those interested in mermaids - as folklore, as sideshow gaff, or as
cryptozoological phenomena - here are some readily available books that I
can recommend highly:

Sea Enchantress by Gwen Benwell and Arthur Waugh
Monsters of the Sea by Richard Ellis
Animal Fakes and Frauds by Peter Dance
The FeeJee Mermaid and other Essays in Natural and Unnatural History by Jan

Mermaid Trivia Question - Columbus reported a mermaid sighting that probably
was a manatee. Do you know of any other famous North American explorers that
reported close-up encounters with mermaids ?

-----Original Message-----
From: Tom and Lanita Watson
Sent: Tuesday, April 03, 2001 10:05 PM
Subject: NANFA-- Mermaids in Seattle


I don't know if you have been there, but 'Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe is still
a waterfront attraction in Seattle. Today it resides in a modern building
by it's self on a pier on Elliot Bay. In the early sixties it was a small
store front very "dark" shop on Alaskan Way. To a young boy looking for
entertainment, the shop was full of fantasy fulfillment. There were
shrunken heads, Sylvester the mummy, and indeed the mermaid pictured in your
article. They are all still there today.

Interspersed with these marvelous items were all kinds of inexpensive
imported items like sea shells, lays, and Mexican jumping beans. All for
sale of course.

There were competing curiosity shops. One nearby sported a "giant Puget
Sound octopus". I later encountered larger on the beach in West Seattle.
No competitor matched Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe.

The organization I run brings children here from over seas. Even though the
ambience there is not as good as my youth, I still enjoy watching the faces
of the children as the "discover" Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe.

Every kid should get a good dose of fantasy.


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