When I was growing up in the seventies there was a book about strange phenomena in the library of my primary school. I really, really loved that book and spent many lunchtimes reading it. It had stories about the strange appearance of Caspar Hauser, the inexplicable Green-skinned children, the (almost) unkillable Rasputin, the abandoned Mary Celeste, and many other things that anybody with a love of Forteana would instantly recognize. Although I loved the book and the stories within, I never really believed it. I realized that there were people who did and I was happy for them to believe but I was never totally convinced. I felt the same way about Sunday School and Ripley’s Believe-it-or-not too, and I sometimes I felt a bit sorry for the people who were so easily duped by obvious hoaxes. I was happy to believe in Santa though, so maybe Sunday School should have given presents.
I would love to find a copy of that old book and show it to my kids. They are very similar to the way I was when I was small, they love a good story but are very quick to tell you how made-up they think it is. That book was the thing that led me to buy my first issue of the Fortean Times years ago and I read each new issue with the same mix of enjoyment and amused disbelief I had for that old book.
In my travels through the old newspapers (trove.nla.gov.au) I am always looking out for stories of strange happenings, and when I was looking today I was very happy to find a huge amount of stories about sea monsters. It wasn’t that long ago that people were happy to call anything strange that turned up on their beach one morning a sea monster.
This monster was my favourite today though, a sea serpent sixty feet long and seventy tonnes in weight, hairy, with spines and two heads. I wonder where the bones ended up?