From a 1935 Gazette edition:

Of all peculiarly earth-born traditions that still survive among men, perhaps there is none older than that of the sea serpent in its varied forms. Research reveals that there were indeed fearsome things abounding in the sea at some ancient date. That tales of these creatures should have descended among mankind for generations is not at all strange.

That there have been some fearful creatures seen in the vicinity of this Island there can be no doubt. The significant thing about the mass of tales is that the appearance of the sea serpent extends over a period of more than 80 years, that it has always been reported in the same relative locality at sea, and that the various descriptions have varied but little either as to the appearance or estimated size of the creature.

The earliest report of the sea serpent off the Vineyard was made by an officer of a British man-of-war, who gave a detailed description of the thing sighted from his ship, its speed and apparent size. That it was a variety of lizard was unmistakable from his description, which stressed a long, undulating neck and horse-like head with long, tooth-lined jaws.

Next comes a report made by a smack captain of Edgartown, which duly appeared in an early edition of the Gazette. The description was strikingly similar, and the editor of the Gazette took pains to explain in an editorial note that the captain who gave it was a man of accepted truthfulness, to whom all forms of exaggeration were abhorrent. That the mariner felt fear at the sight of the creature, he did not attempt to conceal, and with small wonder, considering the gigantic size and appearance of the thing.

These reports occurred so many years apart that there is little likelihood that one could have been inspired by the other, and so it is with even later reports. Between 40 and 50 years ago the same creature, or one very similar, was again reported on two occasions, once observed from the beach, and again from a fishing boat. The same lizard-like form was described, with a long wriggling body and tail equipped with a fin of sorts.

It remained for a couple of Fairhaven fishermen to make direct contact with the Vineyard sea serpent, and this was done about four years ago. These two fishermen, sailing a stout and able craft, arrived at Menemsha Creek pallid and shaking with fright, and told of the terrible thing that they had seen, longer than their boat, by far, but how much longer they could not say. They had observed the ripple made by its passage and steered close to it. When they had approached near enough to fully observe it, they were so frightened that they dared not move nor menace it in any way.

Of lizard form, it had great claws shaped roughly like human hands, with short legs, a massive head and long jaws, with eyes described as large as dinner plates that glared without fear at the fishermen in their boat. A long, tapering tail, with a paddle-shaped fin at the tip, completed the description. When the boat drifted too close to the creature, it stretched out one of its horrible great claws and thrust the 50-foot boat away as easily as a chip, causing it to shudder throughout its length.

There were men who declared that a swordfish harpoon should have been darted into the creature and its capture attempted, but to this the fishermen who saw it reported that they would not have dared attempt it, nor did they believe that any man would molest the thing if he actually saw it before him. Its size and apparent strength were sufficient to wreck and destroy any ordinary fishing craft and, more than that, these fishermen entertained a very definite suspicion that the creature could climb if it were so inclined, and in any event, that it could grasp the rails and sides of an ordinary boat and seriously endanger the boat and its occupants.

Was this indeed the sea serpent? Was it actually as large as it has always appeared to the observers? These are questions that one person can answer as well as another. No one knows what the creature might have been, or rather what it is. For there can be no question as to the sighting of the horrific thing, nor can there be any doubt that its form is one entirely unfamiliar to man. Nothing pertaining to these various reports would indicate that the creature is a fish feeder, following the normal passage of any school or species of fish, for it has been seen in all seasons save winter, and the scarcity of shipping in that season would greatly lessen the likelihood of its being sighted then, if indeed it was roaming these waters.

Will it reappear again? And if so, when? are questions that are bound to intrigue both the curious and the scientifically minded. No one knows how often the creature has swum in Vineyard waters, nor why it appeared here.

Perhaps it will again appear this season, for the sea serpent is a law unto itself. If anyone is desirous of seeing a sea serpent, a favored spot is cruising off Martha’s Vineyard.

Compiled by Cynthia Meisner