The Rose Files
True Scary Stories from Life
                                The Gloucester Sea Serpent

                                                         ~ Rose Titus ~


     Sea Serpents and so-called lake monsters are the stuff of
legend and well-known throughout history as a source of terror
and mystery…But, could they be real?

     Let’s examine one well-known case of a sea serpent local
to my area and find out.  The “North Shore Sea Serpent,” also
known as the “Gloucester Sea Serpent,” was first seen lurking
around the cold waters in the 1600’s.  The mysterious creature
was seen off the Coast of Cape Ann, which is on the north shore
of Massachusetts.

     It was seen by an English traveller named John Josselyn who
described the beast as “a sea serpent or snake, that laid coiled up like a Cable upon a Rock at Cape
Ann…”  He went on to say that a boat passed by with English onboard along with two Indians.  They (the
English on the boat) wanted to shoot the monster, but the Indians “dissuaded them,” because if the beast
wasn’t killed outright, they would all be in danger from it.  Better safe than sorry!

     A few years after this sighting, a group of people gathering clams on the beach in Lynn saw a sea
serpent.  They claimed it was about ninety feet long.  The monster then appeared again on Cape Ann,
where according to the legend, it crawled onto the shore to terrorize people.

     It made another brief appearance in Gloucester in 1793, and then again in 1817. At that time, people
who claimed to see the sea serpent were laughed at, because this was no longer the 1600’s.  People of
1800’s were more rational, or wanted to be more rational at least, than their superstitious witch-hunting
ancestors were!  But during this timeframe, more and more people of Gloucester claimed to be seeing
this monster, including sailors and so-called “respectable people.”  People observed the mysterious
creature with telescopes.  It was again described as being about ninety feet long, darkly colored, with the
circumference of a barrel, and covered in scales, with a snake’s head.  The beast did not cause harm to
anyone, however one man decided to shoot the beast.  Matthew Gaffney, a ship’s carpenter, said, “I had a
good gun, and took good aim.”  He aimed at the monster’s head, and the monster then turned toward the
boat, but then went down into the sea under the boat, and then re-appeared, apparently unharmed by the
shot.  It continued to swim into the harbor.  A few days after this incident, two sea monsters were seen.

     This finally got the attention of the Linnaean Society, which
was a society formed to study natural history.  They wanted to
know more about this sea serpent that had gotten so popular.  
They sent a member of their organization to Gloucester to get
testimony on this phenomenon.

     Soon after a young boy walking along a cove in Rockport killed
a strange looking snake.  Even though it was only three feet long, it
had strange lumps on it and was not like any snake seen before by
local people.  People wondered if the creature was a baby sea ser-
pent!  It was reported that people witnessed two adult sea serpents
in the sea together, so now they wondered if the beasts mated and had a baby!  The “snake” was sent to
Boston, where the Linnaean Society dissected it.  After examining this “snake,” they declared it to be a
“young sea serpent!”  Later, three Harvard biologists examined it also and declared it to be a deformed
but common species of snake.

     The “real” sea serpent was soon seen again in Gloucester, and a hunt was organized.  Several men
failed to capture this beast.  But then a Captain Rich claimed to have killed it himself.  A crowd gathered to
see the dead sea serpent, but when Captain Rich displayed it, everyone realized it was just a big
mackerel.

     The Gloucester sea serpent continued to be seen along the North Shore for another two hundred
years.  It has been seen in the waters near Nahant, Lynn, Newburyport, Marblehead, Ipswich, Swampscott,
Manchester, and of course, Gloucester.  It was reported being seen in 1962, off the coast of Marshfield.  
And in 2007, people on a boat went over to pull some “trash bags” out of the water to help the
environment, but when they got close up to the “trash,” instead they saw “the humps of a sea serpent,”
which swam away (Coleman, Monsters of Massachusetts).

     Up to this very day, strange things are still seen in the cold, dark waters of the Massachusetts coast.   A
strange type of fish – a sunfish, which looks like a large fish head with two fins and no body, and which can
weigh up to 5,000 pounds – has been lurking around.  The strange appearance of this “monster fish”
caused witnesses to be concerned.  The Department of Natural Resources urged people to please “stop
calling the police.”  The Department of Natural Resources also stated the fish was “doing normal sunfish
activities,” and that it was “not suffering.  The sunfish is fine.”  They added, “Please stop calling the Police
Department about this sunfish!”

     But what was the Gloucester Sea Serpent? Some believe that there are still undiscovered forms of life
existing deep in the cold ocean depths.  The dark and mysterious sea is so vast and unknown, who knows
what mysteries still lurk out there?

     If you would like to learn more about the Gloucester Sea Serpent, then check out these fascinating
resources:

     1.        Muise, Peter, Legends and Lore of the North Shore, The History Press, 2014.
     2.        Paradis, Summer, and McManus, Kathy, New England’s Scariest Stories & Urban Legends,
Schiffer Publishing, 2014.
     3.        Colman, Loren, Monsters of Massachusetts, Stackpole Books, 2013.
     4.        Soini, Wayne, Gloucester’s Sea Serpent, The History Press, 2010.
     5.        Sblendorio, Peter, Massive Sunfish Sighting Near Massachusetts Coast Makes Officials Urge
People to Stop Calling Police, Daily News, October 19, 2020.