Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The River Monster

Indian River Country Volume 4
The Garmon's Book
 As I was eating my lunch yesterday on the dock at the end of Valencia Road and Rockledge Drive and looking out over the Indian River, I noticed an area out towards the middle that seemed to be very disturbed, although the river was calm everywhere else. While it is common to see schools of fish, dolphins or manatees causing all kinds of hijinks in the water this was a large area that seemed to be slowly moving up the river. I watched the area for a while and never saw anything break the surface, so my imagination naturally turned to a fascinating story that two of our volunteers, Jim and Bonnie Garmon came across in an 1895 issue of the Florida Star and reprinted in their latest volume of published tidbits culled from our archives. The story apparently appeared in several northern newspapers and was sent in by a reader who had seen it and wondered if it was true.

TITUSVILLE, FLA., March 24.--For a month or more there have been reports that there was an immense sea serpent in the Indian river, which showed a a disposition to fight when molested, but these reports, up to yesterday, were regarded as the product of the overwrought imaginations of rivermen. Yesterday, however, the truth of these reports was confirmed by the appearance of the monster off this place.

About 9 o'clock yesterday people on the wharf waiting for the steamer saw a great black object resembling a hogshead floating in the river about seventy-five yards from shore. The object appeared to be lifeless and those who saw it thought it was a piece of wreckage. Capt. Simmonds and Fred White resolved to investigate. They took a boat and rowed toward the object. When within twehty-five feet of the object the men were surprised to see it show signs of life, and a moment later were horrified when a wicked-looking head, with basilisk eyes, was darted at them with a hiss that could be heard half a mile. The men backed water for life, and the monster began to uncoil itself and move. It went through the water like a snake, was about sixty feet in length, and its body in the thickest portion was as large as a barrel. The head of the monster was similar to that of a snake, and for about six feet along its back there appeared to be a row of fins. The body of the reptile tapered gradually to a pointed tail. The monster moved down the river in plain sight of hundreds of people who were on the wharf. As it passed the men who had gunes began shooting at it, and the reptile resented these shots by erecting its head six feet or more and emitting several hisses. Then it sunk below the surface and was seen no more.

Dragon Point at the South End of Merritt Island
 Capt. Simmonds and Fred White, who went out to inspect the object, were so overcome when they reached the shore that restoratives had to be applied. They say that they saw rows of immense teeth in the reptile's mouth, and that its breath was most noxious. About midday a steamer arrived from the south and reported passing the monster thirty miles below Titusville. The appearance of the monster has demoralized tourist travel on the Indian river, and the houseboats of the wealthy northerners have been deserted.

The editor of the Star reprinted the article and then noted that, "The whole story is pure exaggeration emanating from the mind of some egotistical newspaper correspondent."