From the Vineyard Gazette editions of March and April 1940:
Thoughts of a fabulous sea serpent came to the fore when Capt. Claude Wagner, skipper of the schooner Liberty of Edgartown, reported sighting a strange sea monster last Saturday. The creature, some thirty feet long, of a shape unlike anything the captain has ever seen, was swimming along some nine miles from Noman’s Land.
Described as having a large head and a long neck, this unique denizen of the deep, all black, was covered with big, lumpy spots. It carried a large dorsal fin, large tail, and made a noise like a blowing whale, although it did not spout water. “If only I had had a camera,” Captain Wagner said.
Captain Wagner’s vision and veracity are corroborated by the testimony of his steward, Charles Mouzar, and one of his crew, Horace Devine. The captain and his crew have been out fishing all this week and so could not be reached for further details.
Capt. Robert L. Jackson, master of schooner Hazel M. Jackson, also saw and heard the strange fish, reptile or animal, but from a much greater distance away. He thought it might be some kind of Killer-whale. A large fleet was operating in the vicinity and it is thought possible that others may have noticed it.
The stranger was seen in waters contiguous to Noman’s Land and the Vineyard, and is therefore considered as strictly Vineyard property — Nantucket and Cape papers please notice.
In the sighting of a sea monster, unidentified and entirely strange and horrid in appearance, by Capt. Claude Wagner and his crew of Edgartown, there is something more than passing interest. This is the fourth time of record that the sea monster has been sighted in the same relative locality, and always the description has been the same as regards essentials.
The lizard-like body, with turtle-like neck, capable of being erected to reveal the animal-like head and glaring eyes; the lumpy appearance of head and neck; the presence of feet or flippers; and the long tail, with its triangular fin at the tip, have all been included in previous descriptions. Captain Wagner is the only man, however, who has expressed the opinion that the monster “looked like something very old.”
If it is the same monster previously reported, it is indeed very old. The first report of its appearance, so far as is known locally, is contained in the files of the Gazette, and was copied from other publications, which obtained the report from the log of an English man-of-war. This ship was bound for New York, the year considerably attending the Revolution. The watch officer, who was quoted, described the sea monster substantially the same as did Captain Wagner two weeks ago.
The next report is contained in the files of the Gazette under an early date in the history of the paper, and the Old Editor, commenting upon the story as told by an Edgartown packet captain, offered the information that “Captain Blank is a man who is averse to exaggeration of any kind, and whose word is thoroughly reliable.” A dozen years ago two Fairhaven fishermen, fishing out of Menemsha Creek, sighted the monster, and again in the same locality. These men were supplying the lobstermen with bait and anything that came to their nets was fish. When they sighted the strange creature, they thought that it might be something that could be converted to lobster bait, and accordingly steered for it.
Before they arrived within striking distance, however, the size was apparent, but shutting down their engine, they allowed their boat to drift close to the monster. The boat drifted fairly alongside of the creature, which lay quietly watching boat and men. The men themselves were paralyzed with fright when they saw it clearly, and small wonder, for, they said, when the boat drifted too close to the monster, it thrust out a claw-like flipper and pushed the forty-foot craft away with a force that made it tremble all over.
Their description was the same as that of Captain Wagner’s, save for a single detail. In describing the head, which they said was shaped much like that of a cow, they said that the eyes were the size of plates. They further added that it showed no sign of either fear or animosity, in which their story tallied with all previous ones. These men said that the monster was much longer than their forty-odd foot boat. Captain Wagner and his men agree that it must have been fifty feet or more in length.
Sea serpent tales are nothing new, but Captain Wagner came ashore saying that he had “seen the devil.” The Fairhaven men could not have been more frightened had the Evil One appeared in person, all of which satisfies the Vineyard waterfront, at least, that there is Something off Noman’s that is decidedly uncommon.
Compiled by Hilary Wall