This week’s media monster is the Humber monster, a Nessie-type creature (aren’t they all) that is being featured in the usual array of tabloids and on clickbait mystery sites. I’m not sure why it’s shown up now (silly summer season?) but I’d bet it’s deliberate. There is no new or good evidence that there ever was a “monster” or sea serpent in the area. It’s just a good old typical monster tale.
The legend of the animal of River Humber in Hull, East Yorkshire, in the north of England, describes the creature with “a head the size of an elephant’s, six humps and terrifying flashing eyes”. Whatever. There is no animal that resembles that description.
Mike Covell of the Museum of Hull has done some research on the topic.
Between the years of 1920 and 1936, the Hull press was full of newspaper reports of sea monsters in the Humber and along the East Yorkshire Coast! For the past decade I have been collating these reports and studying the sightings, which were probably mistaken for whales and porpoises, but they make for interesting reading, especially when you realise that playing a central part in the story, and using the “Sea Serpent Scare” to boost tourist figures in the Hull Museums was Thomas Sheppard.
A more colorful version of Covell’s blog is available here.
The legend first appeared in public in the May 1886 Hull Daily Mail. When sea serpents and the Loch Ness Monster were all the rage, Hull capitalized on its own beastie. The Humber monster today follows the same well-worn path of water critters, used to drum up attention and tourism for its host town.
Thomas Sheppard, first curator of the Hull Municipal museum, assumed the role (sometime after 1938) that Marmaduke Wetherell made famous at Loch Ness in 1933 – that is, foot print hoaxer for media attention. Sheppard used an elephant’s foot waste basket to make prints in the shore sand to garner media attention and, ultimately attract interest in the Hull museums. Wetherell had used a hippo-foot umbrella stand to make prints at Loch Ness. Sheppard’s elephant foot is on display at the Hull Museums.
So, we can see this story is neither new nor original. It’s the typical local monster template complete with exaggerated headlines that periodically appear during slow news times and the usual guy who wants to bring tourists to town.In the recent set of articles (all regurgitating the same stuff), Covell, who didn’t seem at all convinced the Humber creature was any unusual animal, is playing along, setting up the “Humber Monster Watch group to patrol the river’s shores in a new hunt for the monster.” Good luck with that. Note that Hull has been named the UK City of Culture for 2017, a means to improve social and economic benefits for the area. It needs a resident monster tale to make it more dramatic, I guess.