"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

Come on, did you really think I was going to ignore that headline?  This week’s Newspaper Blast From the Past appeared in the (Regina, Saskatchewan) “Leader-Post,” January 3, 1907:

OTTAWA, Jan. 2:— A most remarkable little object, apparently half fish and half gorilla, was found yesterday evening by Mrs. R.C. Tate, 496 Rideau Street, under circumstances that almost rival some of the stories of Edgar Allan Poe. Certainly the supposed merman is one of the most hideously grotesque little things that can be imagined, and to run across it as Mrs. Tate did, in the dark garret, would disturb the nerves of the boldest. 

One glance at the horrid Chinese idol, Hindu god, or whatever it is, and Mrs. Tate dropped it back into the glass box from which she had taken it and rushed down stairs in a condition bordering upon hysteria. Several of the neighbours rushed into the house upon hearing the cries, and it was some time before the ladies could look upon the savage semi-fish without a shudder. 

Stories were told of people in possession of such a replica of oriental religious value being mysteriously stricken down by unknown assassins, and Mrs. Tate refused to have the image in the house over night, remembering possibly the fantastic stories such as the “Moon-Stone” and other tales where idols’ ears and images’ eyes played most important roles in the deaths of whole families. As a solution in the matter, the peculiar object was taken to The Citizen office, where it now is, and may be seen by the morbidly curious. Just what the thing is supposed to represent is a mystery--in fact, more than one man has believed it to be a real merman, half ape and half shark. The story of the find is a most interesting and peculiar one. About a foot long, the merman’s lower half is fish, with fully developed tail, and six perfect fins. The upper part is certainly petrified, and a perfectly formed human or ape-like body. The hands are webbed with fierce-looking claws, while the big head, wrinkled and fearful, is turned to one side with a most malignant leer. Sharp teeth appear in the gums and the body is covered with long hairs.  Altogether the effect is absolutely horrifying. 

“A year ago in February,” said Mrs. Tate, in telling the finding of the object, “a tall, dark-eyed man, with black hair, wearing a slouch hat and long grey coat, came to the front door and handed in a long glass box, hermetically sealed and apparently filled with wood. ‘Give this to the man who used to live here,’ the stranger said, smiling. ‘He will know what I mean.’” The box was taken in and put in the hall for a week. No one called for it, and the garret was finally its resting place, where it lay for almost a year. 

During Christmas week, Mrs. Tate made a lot of passe-partout work, and yesterday decided to make one more for a friend, overlooked at Christmas. No glass was to be had, and the lady was in despair until she thought of the glass box upstairs, left by the stranger a year ago. A little trouble brought the box to light, now covered with cobwebs, but hermetically sealed as first seen. Taking a knife, the six glass sides were removed, when a black, cloth-covered board was found, with something fastened to it, and wrapped in yards and yards of wool. The last fold was torn away and the frightful little grinning merman was seen in the dim light of the attic. Uttering a shriek, Mrs. Tate rushed down-stairs and the house was in an uproar in a moment. 

Why the strange man left the object for the former tenant, whose person left her recently, Mrs. Tate does not know; why the former tenant failed to call for his oriental idol, or whatever it is--all these points are a mystery.

In case you were wondering, the paper failed to include a photo of this dreadful and shocking object.  Damn it.


  1. From the description in the article, it sounds like "the man who used to live here" may have paid some shady taxidermist/sculptor to craft him a Fiji Mermaid: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiji_mermaid. For what reason, it is perhaps for the best that posterity will never know.

    1. That was my theory. And, yeah, it's the "why?" that really creeps me out.

  2. This happened in my hometown!! That address now appears on Google Maps and an empty grassy lot.

  3. This is exactly the sort of article for which illustrated papers were printed. My first reaction to the request from the man in the slouch hat would have been to try to locate the former tenant, not to wait for him to call. Nothing was said about him doing that.


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