A Mermaid Hoax

barnummermaidIn 1842, Phineas Barnum obtained a dead mermaid from the estate of a dead sailor who had purchased it from Japanese sailors. The sailors had captured the mermaid near the Fiji Islands in the South Pacific.

Intrigued, Barnum visited a naturalist who quickly dismissed the find, claiming that “he never knew a monkey with such peculiar teeth, arms, hands nor had he knowledge of a fish with such peculiar fins.”

The following conversation took place:

Barnum: “Then why do you suppose it is manufactured?”

Naturalist: “Because I don’t believe in mermaids.”

Barnum: “That is no reason at all, and therefore I’ll believe in the mermaid and hire it.” Barnum displayed the mermaid in his Museum in New York and attracted large crowds and media attention.

The controversy continued in the New York Sun where the following review appeared:

“We’ve seen it! What? Why that Mermaid! The mischief you have! Where? What is it? It’s a twin sister to the deucedest looking thing imaginable—half fish, half flesh; and taken by and large, the most odd of all oddities earth or sea has ever produced.”

Unfortunately, the mermaid was destroyed in a fire. Many replicas of the Fiji Mermaid (also called Feejee Mermaid) were created by sewing the head and torso of a juvenile monkey to the back half of a fish. These “mermaids” were common features of sideshows.


10 Interesting Facts About The Little Mermaid

In 1989, Walt Disney Productions released The Little Mermaid, an animated film based upon the fairy tale written by Hans Christian Andersen. The worldwide response was an overwhelming one. The film has grossed over $200 million worldwide and has been credited with launching the Disney Renaissance, an era that breathed life back into the animated feature film genre.


Here are 10 interesting facts about this popular film:

1. In designing heroine Ariel, the animators were inspired by the body of Alyssa Milano (Who’s The Boss? star) and the hair of astronaut Sally Ride. Ariel’s underwater hair sequence was based on a video of Sally’s hair as she traveled in zero gravity.

2. To avoid confusion with Daryl Hannah’s mermaid in Splash, the animators decided to make Ariel a redhead.

3. The voice actor for Prince Eric was sixteen-year-old Christoper Daniel Barnes.

4. The villain Ursula was designed to resemble Madame Medusa from “The Rescuers” and cinema drag queen Divine, best known for his roles in Pink Flamingos and Hairspray.

5. Originally, the producer asked Bea Arthur to play Ursula, but she dropped out of the film because of “Golden Girls” conflicts. Rosanne Barr and Nancy Wilson were also considered until Elaine Stritch was cast. Unfortunately, Elaine proved incompatible and was replaced by Pat Carroll.

6. Patrick Stewart was offered the role of King Triton but had to turn it down because he was too busy with “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Kenneth Mars was cast in the role.

7. Jodi Benson recorded “Part of Your World” with the studio lights turned low to simulate the feeling of being underwater. This classic Disney tune was almost cut from the film because the director thought the song was too boring.

8. In the opening scene with King Triton, Micky Mouse, Goofy, Donald Duck, and Kermit the Frog appear in the crowd of sea-people.

9. During Eric and Ariel’s wedding scene, the Grand Duke and King from Disney’s Cinderella can be seen in the background.

10. The directors insisted that every bubble in the movie be hand-drawn, not Xeroxed. Animator Mark Dindal estimated that he and his colleagues had to draw a million bubbles.

Mermaids in Halifax

In an earlier post, several visitors commented that I was seeing mermaids everywhere. But I didn’t have to look too far to discover this week’s topic. Earlier this month, my local newspaper (Guelph Mercury) featured the following article: “Mermaids making a splash.”

Guelph Mercury - September 5, 2015

Guelph Mercury – September 5, 2015

Here are some highlights…

Mermaid Raina a.k.a. Stephanie Brown is the co-founder of Halifax Mermaids, a company that employs mermaids to provide environmental education. Wearing realistic tails and shell hairpieces, the mermaids perform at birthday parties, sandcastle festivals, and workshops at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

In addition to entertaining their enthusiastic audiences, the mermaids teach children about the ocean food chain, microplastic pollution, and the importance of recycling. Learning about the ocean and empowering people toward change are the primary goals of this fast-growing, one-year-old company.

To keep up with demand, the founders applied for and obtained a $10,000 small business grant. This extra funding will be used to hire more mermaids and book more events. They also plan to purchase a mobile tank that will allow them to travel across Canada.

About Stephanie…

In 2007, Stephanie decided to combine her education in child and youth development and her love of mermaids and launch a career as an independent mermaid. An excellent choice that has enabled Stephanie to keep in shape and manage her chronic illness and pain.

Having experienced a difficult childhood and benefitted from such programs as Make-A-Wish, Stephanie pays it forward by visiting sick children in hospitals. During these visits, she wears her tail and uses a wheelchair to make her rounds.

The Starbucks Siren

Whenever I chat about the mermaids in my novels, I’m not too surprised when the children in my circle mention The Little Mermaid. But I was taken aback when one eight-year-old boy pointed to a Starbucks coffee cup and asked: “Does your mermaid look like that?”

With over 20,000 Starbucks in 65 different countries and more than 5 billion in sales, the trademark coffee cup is one of the most recognizable containers in the world.

And the cup has a history!

starbuckssirenIn 1971, Starbucks was a fledgling coffee shop on the Seattle waterfront. Hoping to garner more interest, the three founders hired consultant Terry Heckler to create an eye-catching logo. After spending days pouring over old marine books, he came up with a logo based on an old 16th-century Norse woodcut: a two-tailed mermaid. The mermaid was also topless.

Despite some initial complaints, the partners approved the logo. Howard Schultz explains: “Bare breasted and Ruebenesque, the mermaid was supposed to be as seductive as the coffee itself.” But the partners had to revisit their decision when it came time to put the logo on delivery trucks. Enlarging the logo created an unexpected problem: the mermaid breasts were huge. Back to the drawing board…Starbucks restyled the mermaid’s hairdo so it draped over her breasts.

When Schultz bought out his partners, he modified the logo by placing the mermaid in the center of a green circle.

More changes followed as the company grew. In 2011, Starbucks celebrated their 40th anniversary by removing the outer circle. “Throughout the last four decades, the Siren has been there through it all. And now, we’ve given her a small but meaningful update to ensure that the Starbucks brand continues to embrace our heritage in ways that are true to our core values and that also ensure we remain relevant and poised for future growth.”


To celebrate the upcoming release of The Coming of Arabella, I’m offering a $10 Starbucks gift card.

Enter the giveaway here.

Yin | Yang | Raunchy

songsaboutmermaidsWhen I Googled “Songs about Mermaids,” I came up with 1,270,000 hits. While I don’t plan to visit all those sites, I will share a selection of songs over the next few months.

In today’s post, I’m featuring a group of Canadian artists, two of whom are near and dear to me.

After receiving my contract for Between Land and Sea, I asked my musically talented brothers to compose the music for the trailer. I had envisioned my brothers collaborating and composing one theme song, but that’s not how their muses worked. Each brother had his own unique interpretation of the middle-aged mermaid who was aged beyond recognition and then dumped on the fog-drenched shores of southwest England. Unable to choose between them, I decided to use both versions and hired Erin Kelly to produce the trailers.

Ernie G came up with the Yin version. Aptly titled, “It’s Your Time,” the soft, contemplative music gently skims over the heartbreak, encouraging Isabella to imagine a happier future.

Augy G delivered the Yang version in “Father Time Blinked.” Very different music with several pointed comments and questions sprinkled throughout the lyrics. Is Augy taking Isabella to task?

I couldn’t resist adding “The Mermaid” song performed by Canadian folk rock band Great Big Sea in 2005. Written and originally recorded by Shel Silverstein, this song features the lament of a whaler who has fallen in love with a mermaid but despairs over her fish parts.


To celebrate the upcoming release of The Coming of Arabella, I’m offering a Rafflecopter giveaway for 5 free eBooks.

Enter here.

Mermaid Sightings In Our 2K World

mermaidsightingsWhile skeptics do exist, there are many people in our 2K world who are intrigued by the prospect of mermaids. Each new sighting raises expectations and generates renewed interest among the scientific community, local governments, and media outlets.

2008: Late one evening, Daniel Cupido and his friends heard an unusual sound while walking along the beach in Suurbraak, a village in the Western Cape of South Africa. Upon approaching, Cupido found a figure “like that of a white woman with long, black hair trashing about in the water.” When he tried to help, she uttered a sorrowful sound. Local tourism officer Maggy Jantijies vouched for the credibility of the group.

2009: Shlomo Cohen was one of the first to see the mermaid near Kiryat Yam in Israel. He provided the following report for the Israel National News: “I was with friends when suddenly we saw a woman lying on the sand in a weird way. At first, I thought she was just another sunbather, but when we approached she jumped into the water and disappeared. We were all in shock because we saw she had a tail.” More reports followed from dozens of spectators who described the mermaid as “half girl, half fish, jumping like a dolphin.” In response to these sightings, the local government has offered a $1 million reward to the first person who can provide conclusive footage capturing a real mermaid.

2012: In Zimbabwe, Water Resources Minister Sam Sipepa Nkomo informed a Senate Comittee that mermaids were hounding government workers off dam sights in the Gokwe and Mutare reservoirs. Several workers were reported missing while others refused to perform their duties. Concerned about the welfare of their people, traditional chiefs of the region were planning to perform rituals to get rid of these mermaids. In an interview, Chief Chihota commented: “As a custodian of the traditional, I have no doubt.”

2013: On a deep-sea exploration contracted by the Iceland GeoSurvey, Dr. Torsten Schmidt and his Danish team worked on seismic mapping and sampling of the ocean floor, hoping to locate promising sites for oil and natural gas reserves. Approximately 3000 feet below the ocean’s surface, Dr. Schmidt observed and heard interesting phenomena. His request to conduct an investigation was denied, and he was reminded of the confidentiality agreement he had signed. But he did make the following comments: “Well, I looked at it, and knew I was looking into the face of another intelligent species, like us.”

On a personal note…

When I visited Newfoundland, I encountered the following mermaid at the entrance to Bay Bulls. A short drive from downtown St. John’s, this community has been in existence for almost 400 years, making it one of the oldest in North America.


More Mermaid Sightings: 1800 – 2000

mermaidhistoryIn last week’s post, I focused on mermaid sightings before 1800. Today, I will share selected sightings between 1800 and 2000. I have omitted any possible manatee sightings and hoaxes.

During Manatee Awareness Month (November), I will devote a post to those slow-moving, blubbery sea cows that are often mistaken for mermaids.

1811: John McIsaac of Scotland testified under oath that he saw an animal that had a white, upper half with the shape of a human body and lower half covered with scales and a tail. He judged the creature to be between four and five feet long. He noted its long, light brown hair and fingers close together. An article in the London Mirror, included the following testimonial: “The Minister of Campbeltown and the Chamberlain of Mull attest his examination and declare that they know no reason why his veracity should be questioned.”

1830: When villagers at Benbecula (Outer Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland) sighted a small woman on shore, they tried but failed to capture her. They then decided to pelt her with rocks. Several days later, her corpse washed ashore. The following description appeared in the publication Hidden Animals: “The upper part of the body was about the size of a well-developed child of three or four years of age, with an abnormally developed breast. The hair was long, dark, and glossy, while the skin was white, soft, and tender. The lower part of the body was like a salmon but without scales.”

1857: The Shipping Gazette reported the following sighting by Scottish seamen, John Williamson and John Cameron, off the coast of Britain: “We distinctly saw an object about six yards distant from us in the shape of a woman, with full breast, dark complexion, comely face, and fine hair hanging in ringlets over the neck and shoulders. It was about the surface of the water to about the middle, gazing at us and shaking its head. The weather being fine, we had a full view of it and that for three or four minutes.”

1886: The first mermaid sighting in Cape Breton (island off the coast of Nova Scotia) captured the attention of the local townspeople and was featured in the Cape Brooklyn Eagle Newspaper: “The fishermen of Gabarus, Cape Breton have been excited over the appearances of a mermaid…The face, head, shoulders and arms resembled those of a human being, but the lower extremities had the appearance of a fish. The back of its head was covered with long, dark hair resembling a horse’s mane. The arms were shaped like a human being’s, except that the fingers of one hand were very long. The color of the skin was not unlike that of a human being.”

1943: Several mermaids were spotted by Japanese soldiers off the shores of the Kei Islands in Indonesia. One mermaid was actually sighted on the beach, giving the soldiers ample opportunity to provide the following description: roughly 4-foot 9-inches tall, pinkish skin, human looking face and limbs, spikes along its head, and mouth like a carp. Later, Sgt. Taro Horiba heard the news of a dead mermaid on shore and decided to investigate. He urged scientists to study mermaids but failed to convince the scientific community.

1991: About 30 percent of the remains of an unknown, human-like creature were found in the belly of a dead great white shark in South Africa. Upon examination, it was determined that the creature had hands and a humanoid skull. The researchers suggested that the stingray barb jammed in the shark’s jaw could be a mermaid’s weapon.

10 Mermaid Sightings Before 1800

mermaidhistoryBefore writing Between Land and Sea, I researched mermaid sightings. I expected to find only a handful of examples and was surprised by the lengthy list and vivid descriptions that emerged. So much so, that I’ve devoted several posts to this topic.

Today, I will focus on ten documented sightings before 1800.

1. First Century AD: Roman author, naturalist and philosopher Pliny the Elder wrote about the Nereids that were found dead on the seashore. He described their bodies as rough and scaly like fish and then went on to share other supporting evidence: “I have, too, some distinguished informants of equestrian rank, who state that they themselves once saw in the ocean of Gades a sea-man.”

2. Between 1040 and 1105: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki wrote about mermaids in the Talmud: “There are fish in the sea with which half is in the form of man and half in the form of fish, called sereine in Old French.”

3. During the same period, Moshav Zekeinim provided the following details about mermaids (Sirens) in a commentary on the Torah: “This refers to the creature in the sea which is similar in part to a person, from the navel upwards, and it is similar to a woman in all aspects in that it has breasts and long hair like that of a woman, and from the navel downwards, it is a fish. And it sings beautifully, with a pleasant voice.”

4. 13th Century: The King’s Mirror, a Norwegian educational text originally intended to provide King Magnus Lagabote with advice on various subjects, included the following description of a creature found off the shores of Greenland: “Like a woman as far down as her waist, long hands, and soft hair, the neck and head in all respects like those of a human being. The hands seem to be long, and the fingers not to be pointed, but united into a web like that on the feet of water birds. From the waist downwards, this monster resembles a fish, with scales, tail, and fins…This monster has a very horrible face, with broad bow and piercing eyes, a wide mouth and double chin.”

5. 1389: In his book, Eastern Travels of John Hesse, the author described the perils encountered during his voyages. He wrote: “We came to a stony mountain, where we heard syrens singing, mermaids who draw ships into danger by their songs. We saw there many horrible monsters and were in great fear.”

6. 1403: During a heavy storm, a mermaid drifted inland through a broken dyke on the Dutch coast. At first afraid but later intrigued, several local women and their servants befriended the mermaid. They took the mermaid home and tried to domesticate her, clothing and feeding her dairy products and meats. After a number of thwarted escapes into the sea, the mermaid resigned herself to her new life and died fifteen years later. John Swan, an English minister, described her story in Speculum Mundi, a book released in 1635.

7. 1493: After spotting three mermaids rising from the sea, Christopher Columbus wrote in the ship’s journal: “They were not as beautiful as they are painted, although to to some extent they have a human appearance in the face.” He noted that he had seen similar creatures off the coast of West Africa.

8. 1608: After two of his company reported a mermaid sighting, explorer Henry Hudson wrote in the ship’s journal: “Two crew members–Thomas Hilles and Robert Rayner–sighted a mermaid at 75o7’N (Russia) and shouted at the rest of the crew to come and look…From the navel upward her back and breast were like a woman’s, as they say that saw her; her body as big as one of ours; her skin very white and long hair hanging down behind, of colour black. In her going down, they saw her tail, which was like the tail of a porpoise, and speckled like a mackerel.”

9. 1614: Captain John Smith, of Pocahontas fame, reported a mermaid off the cost of Massachusetts: “The upper part of her body perfectly resembled that of a woman, and she was swimming about with all possible grace near the shore. It had large eyes, rather too round, a finely shaped nose (a little too short), well-formed ears, rather too long, and her long green hair imparted to her an original character by no means unattractive.”

10. 1797: While walking on the shore of Sandside Bay (Scotland), schoolteacher William Munro spotted a mermaid sitting upon a rock. In his letter to Dr. Torrance in Glasgow, he wrote: “…my attention was arrested by the appearance of a figure resembling an unclothed human female, sitting upon a rock extending into the sea, and apparently in the action of combing its hair, which flowed around its shoulders, and of a light brown colour…The cheeks ruddy, the eyes blue, the mouth and lips of a natural form, resembling those of a man; the teeth I could not discover, as the mouth was shut; the breasts and abdomen, the arms and fingers of the size in which the hands were employed, did not appear to be webbed, but as to this I am not positive.” The complete letter appeared in The Times of London on September 8, 1809.