Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Mermaid Tale: something that I don't believe happened, but I don't know what did.

Well, who doesn't like mermaids?? Even Disney recognizes that the concept is charming and attractive, and in folklore those two words have their own darker meanings. I like all the Mer-people, Aquafolk, Naiads et al, and will heartily sympathize with good encounter tales of such beings. I'm not sure that the one which follows meets that criterion.

While trudging through some SITU files, here was an envelope containing the pamphlet above. Needing a break, I read some of it, happy to get in a bit of goofing off time. I was expecting Lake Monster stuff, of course, and it was there. But stuck in amongst the rest was a Mermaid tale.

The story is scanned on the left. I believe that you'll be able to read it yourself, but I'll summarize. The story comes from Moratai Island [Pacific Ocean]. No date but it must have been about 1943-1944. The story came to the pamphlet author from the man who witnessed it with his wife, and he was told it apparently while visiting their hotel in British Columbia many years later. The pamphlet writer buys the story completely, as he judges them to be "responsible", and that "this is an exact account."

After establishing these bona fides, the pamphlet writer prints a witness statement about the event, which the witness must have written right there for his use. It seems to be a verbatim re-printing in the first person.

The drawing which accompanies this page is, I believe, not something which was done in the presence of the witnesses but is a "logical" artistic rendering of the main features described in the text. I agree with the "logic" while knowing that an at-a-distance artistic rendering without witness feedback almost never comes close to the actual event's characteristics. So, Caveat Emptor.

Regarding the event itself: the witness was attracted to a commotion among the "natives" who had netted a creature. Upon approaching the scene, the witness saw that what they had in their net was no "fish" but something with human characteristics.

The witness asked what it was and was informed that they had, once again, caught a mermaid. [who knows what actual terminology was used, as the "broken-english-using" locals would seem unlikely to be using the term "mermaid" --- this begins to concern me a bit].

He was told that they wouldn't kill it but that it would die on its own. Which, "weeping", it did over the space of a half an hour.

Returning with others after the death, the witness inspected the thing and described it as having a perfectly fish-like lower body, complete with scales and ending in a "dolphin" tail. "From the navel up" however, the thing "looked as human as any person you'd meet on the street".

The mermaid was, however, not a beauty, but had coarse facial features, despite beautiful hair and and striking reddish-pink complexion.

At this point the witness' wife confirmed that seeing mermaids was not uncommon, as she had done so herself previously.

Mer-people were described as traveling in small schools and mainly avoided humans assiduously. The witness then averred that he himself had seen mermaids on three different occasions.

He also stated that the natives of some islands will eat them and compared it with the attitude of cannibals.

As an odd detail, he described the mer-people hands as having six fingers of which two were grasping thumbs [apparently on each side of the four-fingered mitt]. Allegedly, like pinnipeds, they struggle up on the beaches at night and flop about to get back to the water.

The witness ended with: "I have other almost UNBELIEVABLE tales"..... hmmmmm.

So, what's going on here??? The first thing which comes to my mind is a hoax tale by the reporting witness. There are certainly plenty of precedents for hoaxing mermaid/mermen stories from this part of the world [the infamous Fee-Jee mer-monsters {cobbled-together monstrosities out of various species' parts} inhabit several museums]. Why not just accept that and go on with our lives?? Probably I should. My hesitation about doing so is that this pamphlet writing guy got a personal written statement from this fellow AND his wife backed him up on the details. Was this a double-team hoax on the writer?? I haven't seen many UFO cases for instance where the investigator could get a detailed corroboration from the wife on a flat lie by the husband. But....???

What about the locals hoaxing the western witnesses?? Well, they are happy to do that of course as any field anthropologist knows. But this one has far too many elaborations in it to have the locals make up a phony dying mermaid on the beach.

What about a mis-identification?? Our witness just didn't know what he was looking at??

I'm willing to go the mis-identification route on many sorts of encounters, but not this one.

Any human male who cannot not go right up to a biological creature and tell the difference between a fish, a dolphin, or even an attractively smiling pinniped, and a girl, has transported my analytical systems into a universe where nothing makes any conceivable sense.

Even if our Mermaid wasn't the stuff that dreams are made of [to quote Humphrey Bogart], it will be a myopic person indeed to mistake her for a sea lion.

But what about mental goofiness beyond just flawed sense perceptors??

Can our witness have had a strange mental breakdown?? Was what he really experienced a dream?? Did the old Serotonin/Dopamine system suddenly go whacko on him for an hour or so??

So, why then is his wife supporting all the details of this mental episode as if it really happened?? I just can't go there either.

Or maybe something about the environment made several people goes temporarily nuts at the same time and in the same way. That's the Michael Persinger hypothesis to attempt to discard all such anomalistic encounters. ... and it is one of the most inadequate concepts it has ever been my "pleasure" to have been forced to read.

If not the "mysterious mind-bending environment of the sea", then what? Well, some, of course would like the creature to be real. I don't think so, either.

If the creature is to be real, it is either biological [in a Sandersonian sense of a part of this physical world and its ecology --- i.e. it is a "thing"], or it is some other type of entity.

A biological form it is not. To be so, it would have to have been part of the evolutionary system.

The evolution of the whales would give us a case study of such a thing. It took many hundreds of thousands, even millions, of years for the primitive whale-ish mammals to go back into the water from their land-lubber ways and slowly drop their excess baggage and firm up their swimmability characteristics.

Any modernized human form "deciding" to re-enter the water and do likewise hasn't had the time to accomplish such a transition. Plus, the format allegedly attained by mer-people looks wrong. The sharp differentiation of the "top" from the "bottom" in either swim-worthiness or texture makes no sense.

Evolution is a gains vs losses game. One does not retain anything which costs you more than you get from it in return. If you're going into the water, well, then, SWIM. If you're going onto the land, then stand. If you can't make up your survivalist mind, and you give up on standing, then you'd better be close to the surface all the time [and be seen by everybody if you're a penguin or a sea elephant]. If you're biological, you can't have it all ways: everything about you is constrained by reproduction and survival. Mer-people aren't biological, and Ivan didn't think so either.

So, what are they?? Are they the beautiful sirens of our folklore?? Or even the not-so-beautiful darkside sea denizens, the Sea Hags?? I don't think that this is what we had here either.

Although like any right-thinking male, I'd like all my mermaids to be pretty, I'm not opposed to the occasional Sea Hag interrupting my aesthetic environs. Or alternatively, that my now-you-see-me-now-you-don't "mermaid"/ kelpie be a shape-shifter, like our original Mhorag appears to be [I don't want to put the "Great She" in the past tense].

But our currently-discussed "mermaid" isn't any of these either.

All of our folkloric entities, real as they may be [and you folks know that I'm sympathetic to that], are not products of biology, evolution, the physical universe. They are, rather, paranormal entities operating with a different set of rules. They may exert force on our environment and communicate with us in some fashion. They will not die on our beaches and decay. Nor will Mhorag. Nor, in my opinion, will Nessie. My mind is still open about Caddy and sea serpents in general. But...even there, the carcasses never impress.

My own crude rendition of this "mermaid tale" expresses my lack of understanding [entirely --- sort of clueless even] about what this case turns about. I don't have any right to "conclude" anything on this one --- even "softly". It doesn't seem physically nor paranormally real. It doesn't seem hallucinatory. It doesn't seem a mis-identification. It doesn't seem a hoax by the locals. If a hoax by the transcribing witness, why the corroboration by the wife?? And other mermaid stories to boot?? Or was the entire thing made up from nothing by the pamphlet writer?? That, of course would neatly restore sanity and allow peaceful dismissal --- but I have no evidence for that, and feel CSICOPian simply going there.

In the end, this whole episode is a lot about our dilemmas as researchers in the anomalistic realms. We do the best we can to collect the reports and try to find what little we can. We never get there. That is why they are still anomalies.

Coincidentally, if such exists, I was reading in a novel by one of my favorite authors when the following appeared:

" though we may conjecture until we have worn imagination to shreds,
theorize until our brains are numb with it, baffle our knowledge with
mystery and our logic with the futility of it all, until we find out where
they're coming from, anything we guess is only hot air and worth about
as much".
Vitior Queynt to Jinian Star-Eye. The End of the Game by Sheri Tepper.


  1. I sometimes wonder if such tales are aspects of humanity's confusion? Perhaps there really are no serpents, mermaids or bigfoots and there never was? Maybe we've had our collective heads turned by the wealth of anecdotes and there's no signal amidst the noise of human chatter.

    As you say, the anomalies will outlive us all...

    At the same time, can these doubts be applied to Robert Taylor (Dechmont woods), Joe Simonton (aliens with pancakes) or Gary Wilcox (Martian agriculturists)? It's all quite baffling. One man's mermaid could be another man's Virgin Mary vision or yet another Venusian spaceman. They could still be shaggy-dog tales given significance in our minds by the abundant frequency of similar tales.

    Like most with similar interests, we are predisposed towards the subject matter and have flexible understandings of 'reality.' We are open to possibilities and abstract potentialities, but at what point is the line drawn and where is the signpost warning 'Credulity Ahead?' I know it's somewhere south of Proctor. :)

    Within all these mental acrobatics and questions, it's funny how much the 'phenomena' stimulates the intellect! Mermaid, or not, the story has inspired your blog and, in turn, generated some deep thinking.

  2. Well, we're confused alright. That is one of the few non-debatable truths in all of this. But, being around the UFO field for so long has been a great gift to my objectivity and analytical distance on all the others [paradoxically].

    UFOs offer such a powerful array of evidence of a non-subjectively generated agency generating the phenomenon that they provide an effective curative to doubting that, just because you can't solve them means, they don't exist. The array of claims also demonstrates the whole panoply of human-generated goofiness which has to be avoided. Long term laboring in this field-of-strangeness makes one [at least it makes me] both sympathetic and wary.

    That said, UFOs [the core phenomenon anyway] have grown to seem VERY different from almost all of these other anomalies [in everything but elusiveness]. Nevertheless, the similarity in the humans reporting the different types of Fortean phenomena convinces me that there is objective truth behind them as well. I in fact sense a great deal of "signal" in the noise. The difference is that I think that the latter signal is leading me into a paranormal world rather than the exotic-but-normal world of UFOs.

    By the way, a friend just sent me a news story of a "bolt-from-the-blue" [a large iron bolt] crashing through the roof of a hardware shop and leaving a rather perfect bolt-shaped hole in the roof. A "Bolt-from-the-Blue" into a hardware shop --- now THAT's the Trickster messing with you!!

  3. Hi, Mike,
    Great posting and an excellent discussion. I have been collecting first-person accounts of merbeing encounters and will have a wealth of them in my next book. The truth seems to be, as with so many anomalies, such entities may not exist in the ordinary sense of the verb, but they can certainly be experienced -- and vividly, not ambiguously. And that's where the brain bends and the headaches begin.

    As you know, I call them experience anomalies as opposed to anomalous events which -- like, say, CE2s and radar/visuals in the core-phenomenon UFO arena -- can be documented as this-world occurrences where more or less ordinary rules apply. Experience anomalies, on the other hand, confusingly conflate the objective and the subjective.

    The case you discuss here is, as you note, a bit iffy, but there are some more striking instances. The merbeing tradition was -- is -- driven, as are so many extraordinary traditions are, by people's perceived sightings, not always easily explainable.

  4. Yes. As you know, Jerry, I'm quite taken by these folkloric entity encounters, and am ready for Merpeople and all the rest. This one was disappointing to me due to the killing and decaying et al, which violates the paranormal hypothesis to its core [as I regard it anyway].

    I'm all for Mhorag being a shape-shifting merbeing, but this Moratai Island "lady" seems fictitious. I'll await better incidents ... and your book.

  5. what about transforming isnt it possible that mernaids are humans who can grow a tail in the water.

  6. I assume that you are joking, but if not: If you're talking biology: no. That's not possible. If you're talking paranormality: no. Then they are not "humans". That idea is fiction. The nice thing about actual anomalistic research is that it separates itself from fiction and thereby constrains the enigma's spectrum of answers. To merely dream up fiction is to never get anywhere at all on these topics. If there are no constraints whatever, one idea may be countered by another whimsically just by inventing it.

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  9. Sorry that I had to delete two posts. I did so because we don't want to turn this blog into some shallow post-anything-that-comes-to-mind style of "board discussion", which it is not. The general group of you guys has been very good about not doing that as we try to seriously explore these mysteries. It has made administering my site a lot easier, thank you.

  10. Mermaids or not...its all about perception...we see what our minds are trained to see...what we have learned in the past rather than what's actually there.

    A fish may have abnormal features but it doesn't mean that all of a sudden, its a mermaid. Evolution went wrong at a point but it doesn't necessarily mean that the folklore exist...or does it?

    It could very well be a mermaid and there might be a lost city of Atlantis where they reside.

  11. ? I have no idea what the direction of this posting is about, so I cannot respond.

  12. Interesting; in fact, I might go deeply, without knowing at least the basics, when I'll say to you that "Maybe, but not as we see it". Think about our nature' and Nature". I'll be short (don't want to waste space, nor time)and I'll suggest 3 examples:
    1)I might get insulted, but I don't care: We have an unusual way of declaring "own property"/"human property" everything we encounter. For instance, on which right we call our Creator "God", or "Allah", or even "Buddha" ? we're setting a mark on Him. Isn't just the concept of "infinite-creator-of-all" enough? We really have to name it? You might say I already named Him in this example. No, I just named the concept, not the Him itself.
    2) This one is related to no.1 : As I said, we have an unusual way of declaring anything, even though we are not sure of. Well, we use laws of physics and math to practically build/do everything (almost - but you know what I mean here). The problem is.... those laws are NOT endlessly true and forever valid. We only aproximate, USING these laws and math. I'll wider the view: Big-bang is an event that marks the beggining of our Universe, correct? Meaning, it marks the impact of two particles. Well, how can we be sure that it's a single event? Of course, thus meaning that this is not an Univers, but a Multiverse. This leading to:
    3) Due to Multiuniverses and multi-dimensions => multi-posibillities.
    So, if mermaids would actually exists (nope, I'm not saying they don't and neither they do) I'm 90% sure they could be exactly as described (by all manners / people). Ironically, they could be both our wifes or husbands. It is possible, so yes, everything is possible. Even the fact that we ourselves do not exist - we might just be holograms, like everything around us. But I shall stop here, I've got further enough already (I think).

  13. Well, with all due respect, I am sure that you believe that you are making sense, but I do not understand hardly any of this, and what I think that I might understand [ex. we ourselves do not exist --- to me one of the most preposterous concepts imaginable], I do not agree with. Also, the utilization of "multiuniverses" [in the modern physics bubbles/inflation sense] to explain anomalistic phenomena which do not obey textbook physical laws is precisely denied by the physicists proposing such universes.

    I debated posting this at all, not wanting to lead people's thinking down unnecessarily confusing alleys, but I wanted to be as liberal as possible about letting stuff in. But I couldn't let it stand without counter-remarking. The whole behavior by me was probably a mistake.

  14. hmmmm........ I wonder what's that 6th picture suppose to be...

  15. Striking example of a "Fiji Mer-monster" hoax.

  16. Hi! I would like to know where you got the first mermaid image ... the mermaid on the rocks in shades of gold. I would love to use this image in a blog. I'd like to know if that's possible and whom to give credit to. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    Have an awesome day!

  17. Well, this is only a partial answer. The artwork was just taken from another blog where it wasn't identified by artist. This particular very fine piece of art is all over the internet in at least 30 sites. [including photobucket]. When I see a situation such as that, and the illustration is outstanding and thereby adds to the passing on of the blog entry's knowledge, I just use the art to further the reader's enjoyment of the post. Since I do not run a site with any profit element in it, and since the "publication" already exists widely and anyone can get their own "thumbnail" if they wish, I'm following normally understood internet etiquette and using the work in a positive light. If the artist should complain about such a minor duplication-of-already-existing-images in much smaller-than-life form [which I can't imagine why an artist would], then I will delete the image. If an unnamed artist is happy to sanction such a use but would like her name mentioned, then I, if I know it, will be happy to do that. I think that this is all we non-profiting folks can do, and it is in the true spirit of what the internet is supposed to be about.

  18. I'm a girl . I my self have thought i saw a mermaid i was with my cousin that he saw the thing to we were walking on the beach it was winter so nobody swim at that time of year we were the only people on the beach and we were looking out on the sea and we saw a head pop out of the water and then it was gone we did not see it again.I do not know if we were halusinating or not but ae bouth saw it i and my cousin kept it a secret intill today because we were not shure

  19. Well, who knows what you saw, but you and your cousin were the closest to the experience so you can stick with what you believe. Whenever posting an encounter story of any kind, though, you should take the time to tell everyone else where you had the encounter and when you had it [date, year, time of day]. People will want to understand more about the incident and without telling them anything which anchors it for them, they will tend not to believe or just forget about it.

  20. I saw the head about 2 years ago the sun was setting it ws in febuary cold but sunny i was in Cape May New Jersey

  21. Good.That makes your case more useful to someone who would be trying to make a study of a large number of cases.

  22. ACtually we know nothing at all. With the rising sea levels and global warming there are alot of things we dismissed as pure lore begining to surface in the real, and are no being uncovered in shocking and mind scratching ways. We dismissed the stories of dragon slaying and dragon stories to mere lore from the carpathian moutains, but in 2007 due to global warming a cave was found with the intombed corpses of about four individuals, one fully developed female dragon and her 3 yr old baby dragon. This is real. An entire documentary was shot of the excavation, and removal of the specimens. The four individuals were burned, and the two dragons were killed by knife point. every one of the specimens were perfectly preserved just like the mamoth because of the ice that surrounded it. Now scientist are wondering what else existed that we dismissed as lore because the stories and the facts of them were losts over time. I love history and science and the smartest thing a person can say is that we know nothing at all. What you think are impossible like the evolutionary structure or form of a creature has still barely been understood, nor can it be comprehended. We must keep our minds open, and then and only then will we finally be able to peice all the puzzles together. there are creatures existing in the depths of the ocean, whom by science standards aren't even supposed to be able to survive under the weight of the salt of the sea or in the degree of coldness there, but they do. and we find them everyday. We have only explored less than a 3rd of the earth. The rest is up to discovery. We have know idea what is evol;utionary possible. It is all guestimation, and we'll never know unless we keep exploring, and improve upon our technology so that we can search the deep. Then and only then will we truly be able to say that this is the evolutionary foot print. Such creatures bodies can exist in both sea and land. There are creatures right now, animals, that have proven that they can have it both ways. Yes there is losing and gaining, but not all loses are a loss, some are just modifications toward a more perfect design when responding to the environmental changes occuring around them.

    1. Is this documentary about the cave available to the public? I did a google search and turned up nothing, seems a story this big would have more info available...I'd be interested in anymore information you have on this, where you got your information?

    2. If I were you, I'd not hold my breath waiting for a reply on that tale that "anonymous" told above.

  23. Extreme claims here. one needs a lot more referencing than that. Also people tend to give the benefit of the doubt to writers who do not make statements like "we know nothing at all", "nor can it be comprehended", "we have no idea what is evolutionarily possible", etc. We know a great deal about this world. We know a great deal about the directions and non-directions of evolution, and why those differences exist. We can "comprehend" practically anything which exists on the macroscopic level. Such over-the-top phraseology destroys potentially useful insights before they get off thE ground.

  24. That's horrible, that they just let the 'mermaid' die. 'weeping' for a half hour. what kind of sick people are these?

  25. this is carazy because i dont think mermaids are real but the looks of it they look real me and my friend rachel my name is candice we now know they are real thats my paraghaph

  26. Hello my name is Candice and my friend name is Rachel we dont think mermaids are real. But the looks of it they ARE REAL! we read the passages and looked at the pictures so I DONT CARE WHAT SOME OF YOU THINK MERMAIDS ARE REAL! THANK YOU

  27. Could you please provide the name of the book where the scanned pages were taken?

    1. I go to a lot of trouble to create these posts, as doubtless all high-quality blog creators do. You could at least read the things carefully before asking us to do more work. The "name of the book" is even PICTURED directly above the discussion of the scanned pages. I mention this in this way not to be some kind of ass, but in the hopes that persons begin to show more care and personal discipline and effort themselves. Only in that way can we have a better community of seekers.



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