The riddle surrounding the infamous ‘Fiji mermaid’ inches towards a solution through radiology testing. This peculiar being, a fusion of fish, monkey, and reptile, has confounded scientists for a century. Originating in Japan and finding its way to Ohio in 1906, carried by an American sailor, it found residence at the Clark County Historical Society. With features ranging from a grimacing face to peculiar teeth, oversized claws, and a fish-like lower half, this creature with a downy layer of grey hair has been unsettling museum visitors for decades.
A Fusion of Beasts: Dissecting the Creature
Radiologist Joseph Cress from Northern Kentucky University described the creature as a “hodgepodge of at least three different species externally.” The head and torso resemble a monkey, the hands akin to an amphibian such as an alligator or lizard, and a tail that is distinctly fish-like but of an unknown species. It appears as if it has been Frankensteined together, leaving the lingering question of which parts were amalgamated.
According to Japanese legend, consuming the flesh of mermaids is believed to bestow immortality. However, given the uncertain composition of this particular mermaid, taking a bite could mean ingesting any number of animals or substances hidden within!
The Fiji Mermaid’s Sideshow Journey Across Time
This shoebox-sized marvel was a popular sideshow attraction in the 19th century, capturing audiences with its peculiar appearance. Showman P. T. Barnum famously displayed the first specimen known to the West in 1842, acquired by an American sea captain from a Japanese fisherman. Over the years, various versions emerged, some taxidermies combining monkeys and fish, while others were crafted entirely from papier-mâché.
Natalie Fritz, archivist at the Clark County Historical Society, revealed that their specimen was obtained by a Navy sailor in Japan during the 1870s and later donated to the county’s Heritage Center in 1906. On display in the museum’s Cabinet of Curiosities since 2003, it has left lasting impressions, including frightening one visitor whose father served as the curator in the 1970s.
Recently taken down for a multiyear inventory project, the mermaid has unveiled a trove of curiosities not yet revealed to the public. Among these are items connected to historical figures like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln’s signature, and even a purported piece of Noah’s ark, as reported by The Northerner.
Tech Marvels: CT Scanning and Radiology Unveil the Truth
Dr. Cress explained that CT scanning would enable them to identify ‘slices’ of the artifact, aiming to determine if any part of it was once a real animal. This method provides valuable data, including the structure of the nasal cavity and the depth of facial structures. The scanning process covers all sections, from the head and facial region to the thoracic region and tail end.
X-rays and CT scans have revealed a genuine fish’s lower body, jaws, and teeth. Taxidermied using a traditional method involving a wooden core, dendrochronology analysis of the wood offers insights into the time of creation. Information will be sent to specialists at the Cincinnati Zoo and the Newport Aquarium, expecting identification of the creatures merged to create the mermaid.
In unraveling the mysteries of the Fiji mermaid, modern technology intertwines with historical curiosities. CT scanning and radiology, the tools of the present, delve into the past, exposing a creature crafted from various species. As science continues its exploration, the legacy of this bizarre artifact remains etched in the annals of curiosity.