Nick Redfern September 10, 2021
The third and final part of this deadly story is focused on the evidence for stories that suggest people may have been killed by leviathan-sized sea serpents and other monsters of the deep. It follows on from my earlier articles of the last few days on deadly Bigfoot, murderous Kelpies, and dangerous, huge worms. Now, let’s have a look at one we know about our oceans. And, why dangerous beasts might be seeking us out for food. We’ll begin with a controversial affair: that of Mermaids. Ancient tales tell of mermaids inadvertently squeezing the last breaths out of drowning men while attempting to rescue them. They are also said to particularly enjoy taking humans to their underwater lairs. In Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid, for example, it is said that mermaids often forget that humans cannot breathe underwater, while other legends suggest the sinister she-creatures deliberately drown men – out of sheer, venomous spite, no less. They were, then, creatures perceived as sometimes friendly and on other occasions, downright deadly. Let’s move onward.
A 19th century sea serpent expert, Henry Lee wrote: “That men are occasionally drowned by these creatures is, unhappily, a fact too well attested. I have elsewhere related several instances of this having occurred. Omitting those, I will give two or three others which have since come under my notice. Sir Grenville Temple, in his ‘Excursions in the Mediterranean Sea,’ tells how a Sardinian captain, whilst bathing at Jerbeh, was seized and drowned by an octopus. When his body was found, his limbs were bound together by the arms of the animal; and this took place in water only four feet deep.” Lee suggested that such huge sea serpents would almost certainly feed on those poor sailors who ended up overboard. Another case from Lee: “Mr. J. K. Lord’s account of the formidable strength of these creatures in Oregon is confirmed by an incident recorded in the Weekly Oregonian (the principal paper of Oregon) of October 6th, 1877. A few days before that date an Indian woman, whilst bathing, was held beneath the surface by an octopus, and drowned. The body was discovered on the following day in the horrid embrace of the creature. Indians dived down and with their knives severed the arms of the octopus and recovered the corpse.”
In 1807, a poet named James Hogg, who deeply studied the folklore and legend of Scotland, said that somewhat similar to the kelpie was the water-cow. It lurked in the allegedly bottomless St. Mary’s Loch, a three-mile-long body of water located in what are termed the Scottish Borders. Although nowhere near as dangerous as the kelpie, the water-cow could also transform itself into multiple forms and was best avoided at all costs. Largely as a result of it penchant for enticing people to walk to the shore, and then violently dragging them into the water, and killing them by drowning. And, then, devouring them. It was a story that Lee found fascinating. It’s intriguing to note that Henry Lee addressed yet another notable case from centuries ago, as his following words demonstrate: “Valerius Maximus, quoting Livy, describes the alarm into which, during the Punic wars, the Romans, under Attilius Regulus (who was afterwards so cruelly put to death by the Carthaginians), were thrown by an aquatic, though not marine, serpent which had its lair on the banks of the Bagrados, near Ithaca. It is said to have swallowed many of the soldiers, after crushing them in its folds, and to have kept the army from crossing the river, till at length, being invulnerable by ordinary weapons, it was destroyed by heavy stones hurled by balistas, catapults,and other military engines used in those days for casting heavy missiles, and battering the walls of fortified towns.”
The story of Orvar-Oddr, who was a renowned Scandinavian hero of old, whose adventures were chronicled way back in the 1200s, contains a description of a beast called the hafgufa, but which scholars of Scandinavian folklore and history believe, with hindsight, may well have been a Kraken. It states: “Now I will tell you that there are two sea-monsters. One is called the hafgufa (sea-mist), another lyngbakr (heather-back). It (the lyngbakr) is the largest whale in the world, but the hafgufa is the hugest monster in the sea. It is the nature of this creature to swallow men and ships, and even whales and everything else within reach. It stays submerged for days, then rears its head and nostrils above surface and stays that way at least until the change of tide. Now, that sound we just sailed through was the space between its jaws, and its nostrils and lower jaw were those rocks that appeared in the sea, while the lyngbakr was the island we saw sinking down. However, Ogmund Tussock has sent these creatures to you by means of his magic to cause the death of you (Odd) and all your men. He thought more men would have gone the same way as those that had already drowned (i.e. to the lyngbakr which wasn’t an island, and sank), and he expected that the hafgufa would have swallowed us all. Today I sailed through its mouth because I knew that it had recently surfaced.”