The Canvey Island Monster is an unidentified marine species whose carcass washed up on Canvey Island, Essex County, England, in the 1950s.
Locals found two carcasses believed to be of the same species lying along the island’s shoreline.
The first carcass washed up on the beach in November 1953, while the second appeared in August 1954.
The first Canvey Island Monster carcass washed up on the shore in an advanced stage of decomposition. Thus it was difficult to identify its physical features and determine what type of sea creature it was.
The Canvey Island Monster had gills
However, descriptions of the creature in the popular media indicated it was a marine species about 2.5 feet long. Eyewitness accounts described it as having thick reddish-brown or pinkish skin, large bulging eyes, and structures resembling gills on the sides of its body.
It had a wide, gaping mouth and a dorsoventrally flattened body (flattened on the upper and lower surfaces like a pancake).
The creature also had a roughly round shape, two fins on either side of the body, and a tail fin.
It had a row of small but sharp and spiky teeth.
Some said the Canvey Island Monster was a ‘humanoid’ creature
Locals shared fanciful descriptions of the strange-looking creature:
Some said it appeared to have hooved hind legs and feet with five digits and claws. The feet were horse-shoe shaped and had arches described as concave.
Others speculated it was a humanoid creature and that the structure of its feet suggested it was bipedal (walked on two legs). But strangely, it had no forelimbs.
The rumors about a humanoid sea monster that walked on its hind legs but had no arms spread despite local media reports that attempted to clarify that the leg-like structures were fins (Anna Willis, Essex Live News, Dec. 2022).
In December 2022, Colin Day told Essex Live that he was a young resident of Canvey Island in the 1950s. He said he touched the creature’s skin and body.
According to Colin, the flesh felt like “wobbly” human flesh with cellulite and had an “orange peel texture.” He recalled that he thought the carcass looked human. He later told his friends that he had seen a mermaid.
According to Essex Live, the local authorities removed the first carcass from the beach and had it cremated.
Another Canvey Island Monster washed up in 1954
However, in August 1954, a similar carcass washed up on the shore of Canvey Island. It was larger than the first and in better condition.
Reverend Joseph D. Overs described the sea creature as about 4 feet long and weighing about 11 kg (25 lbs).
It had large staring eyes and a large mouth. The mouth had a row of small, sharp-looking spikey teeth. It also had nostril-like structures, according to some media descriptions.
Once again, rumors spread that the creature had humanoid features. People speculated it was not a known marine species but an unknown sea monster or cryptid.
Some even suggested it was an alien species that perished after its space capsule crashed into the ocean.
Sightings and Tales
The two carcasses that washed up on the Canvey Island shoreline in 1953 and 1954 were the only specimens of the alleged sea monster ever found.
Many residents saw the carcasses shortly after they appeared on the beach and gave accounts to the local media.
Canvey Island resident Colin Day was a 9-year-old when the alleged monsters washed up on the island’s shoreline.
He told Essex Live that he was walking along the beach when he saw a group of friends standing in a crowd around something in the sand.
Some of the kids kept prodding the strange creature with sticks and spades. He reached out to touch it and felt the texture of the skin.
He recalled it didn’t feel scaly or fish-like. The 9-year-old thought it resembled a human being. He also recalled spreading the news that he had seen a mermaid on the beach.
Reverend Joseph D. Overs
Reverend Joseph D. Overs was walking with his children on the beach in August 1954 when they found another carcass of the strange creature.
They found it lying on the beach a short distance from where beachgoers found the first carcass about a year before.
He snapped a photo of the carcass and alerted the authorities.
[Note: See the previous section for a detailed description of the Canvey Island Monster.]
Canvey Island Monster explanations
What might have deepened the mystery over the identity of the two carcasses was that local authorities did not immediately comment on the findings.
According to Essex Live, the authorities quickly removed the carcasses and cremated them. They then released statements assuring people that the creatures did not endanger the public.
The official silence about the strange findings probably encouraged speculation.
Thus, people who did not have the training or experience to give reliable opinions on the carcasses spread unfounded rumors that humanoid monsters, mermaids, or space aliens had washed up on the Canvey Island shoreline.
However, since the incidents, experts have examined photos locals captured and offered opinions about the creature’s identity.
After examining the photographic evidence, many biologists said the carcasses were likely anglerfish species (order Lophiiformes).
Alwyne Wheeler, formerly an ichthyologist (fish biologist) at the British Natural History Museum’s Department of Zoology, agreed with other experts who said it was likely a type of anglerfish.
He added that people mistook the fins for hind legs.
Some biologists thought the carcasses looked like a type of anglerfish called a frogfish (family Antennariidae).
However, frogfishes are warm-water marine animals. They live in tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian Ocean, and Red Sea, where temperatures are relatively high.
The fact that the waters around Canvey Island are relatively cold northern waters raised doubts about the identity of the Canvey Island Monster as a frogfish.
Thus, others proposed the carcasses might have been another type of anglerfish known as a monkfish (genus Lophius) or sea devil.
Monkfish species, such as Lophius piscatorius, live in cold North Atlantic and North Sea waters.
However, other species native to the warmer waters of the Mediterranean include Lophius budegassa.
https://www.essexlive.news/news/history/essex-island-terrifying-sea-monsters-6341779, “The ‘scary sea monsters’ that washed up on the shore in Canvey Island,” accessed on March 19, 2023.
https://www.mylondon.news/news/nostalgia/river-thames-island-terrifying-sea-22374146, “The River Thames island where a terrifying ‘sea monster’ washed up on the shore,” accessed on March 19, 2023.
https://beyondcanvey.wordpress.com/historic-locations/canvey-island/canvey-island-monster-1950s/, “Beyond The Point: Canvey Island Monster,” accessed on March 19, 2023.