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Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Sea Serpent in New Jersey

Bass River Township, NJ, History...etc.

"The following 1840 account, vouched for by William McCarty, a respected businessman of that era, has me wondering if there is some truth behind the old accounts of sea serpents in our area. William McCarty is clearly no crank. He built the iron making town of McCartyville just up the road a piece from New Gretna. After he went bankrupt, McCartyville became the paper town called Harrisville. Today, many local residents swim at Harrisville Lake where the ruins of the old Harrisville paper mill can still be seen."

[The above story posted on the local-History blog also linked to the next story. The next story was freshly priunted when I went in to the SITU Libraries in the 1970s: the SITU was in New jersey, and the news was both (by date of publication) fresh and of local interest then.-DD]
Little did I know that if I wanted to see a sea monster, I should have set my sights toward the Atlantic Ocean just off Surf City. It seems that Rube Corlies and his brother-in-law, Jonn Inman, spotted one while fishing for menhaden.

Rube Corlies in his yard in Manahawkin
It doesn’t happen very often. But every now and then people do run into sea monsters. They say one was sighted off Gloucester, Mass., in 1819. Another startled three fishermen near Kennebunk, Maine in 1830. And, of course, the monster of Loch Ness pops up from time to time.
But did you know that one was seen off Long Beach Island ln 1906?
A great snake rose out of the water early one July morning just off Surf City and appeared to eight men who had been fishing.
Here's the story as told by Rube Corlies of Manahawkin. Corlies, a frail but Spunky 88 year old man, is the last survivor of the serpent sighting, “My brother-in-law John Inman and I had been catching mossbunkers using a 40-fathom net a couple of hundred yards off the beach. While we were hauling in the net, he remarked that the fish were behaving in a funny way- swimming crazily as if something was chasing them.”
"Suddenly a great snake reared up about 15 to 20 feet out of the water maybe 30 or 40 feet from the stern of our boat. The animal was black on the back and had a lot of flabby white flesh on its belly. The mouth was about four feet wide and its nose was just like a snake’s. He was slick as an eel and I couldn’t see any scales or fins.”
"We couldn't believe our eyes - there it was and there we were. lt seemed to stand straight up with its great black eyes turned toward us."
Inman threw the net overboard and they started to row. The serpent sank back to the surface of the water.
"It started to come right at us, but it must have gotten all tangled up in our net – we found a huge hole in it later. As it swam past us on the surface it must have been about 60 feet long - not counting the tail and 6 feet wide."
Men in three other fishing boats which were in the area saw that Corlies seemed to be in trouble and began to row toward him and as they did, the serpent surfaced again about a half mile away. This time it locked like a large tree trunk standing about 10 feet tall.
Then it disappeared for good. And has never been seen again.
Some people think Rube Corlies was dreaming that day back in 1906. Others wonder it he might have been drinking.
But according to Corlies he had not had a drop ("Although if I had known what I was going to see that day, I might have drunk a bottle.") and he is certain of what he saw. "It was a giant sea snake and it must have been feeding on the mossbunkers."
He goes on to say that he thinks the serpent may have come in shore because of a ship that had wrecked in 1900 on Long Beach Island. The ship had been carrying animal bones and when it was broke up the bones formed a slick which on certain tides extended out to sea. Corlies thinks this slick might have lured the fish which in turn lured the serpent.
"Anyway I know what I saw and that’s all there ls to it. That big snake may still be out there some place. It was two weeks later because our nets looked like something very large had torn them."
Would he like to see the monster again?
"No," says Corlies with a mischievous grin, "but I was always disappointed I didn’t see one other creature.
I’ve anchored alongside whales and seen the serpent, but I never saw a mermaid. I guess they knew when l was coming out and they'd disappear."
Well, you can’t have everything.
The Southern Ocean County Reporter – June 30, 1971

I'm thinking of calling my Men's Breakfast buddy, Jim McAnney, who owns a boat, and asking him to take me on a sea monster hunting expedition off Surf City. Anyone out in the Blog-O-Sphere care to join us
Pete S
  1. My name is Doug Lynch, and Rube Corlies was my Great-Great Uncle. When I was a youngster of around 6 or 7 years old, I remember Uncle Rube relating the sea serpent story to my brother and I many times while he taught us how to carve duck decoys in his old workshop on Stafford Avenue in Manahawkin. The one thing I can add that isn't mentioned in your article is that Uncle Rube said the serpent had eyes as big as "dinner plates". He was well known for being quite the storyteller. But it was also well known back in the day that my Great Grandfather, John Inman (who was with Rube at the time of the sighting), was "as honest as the day is long". He didn't drink or make up stories. Because of that, the sea serpent story was always believed to be true by the older members of my family. That's just my two cents, thanks for listening....
The size of the creature was no doubt exaggerated and the description had details that were traditional and probably legendary ("Eyes the size of dinner plates") Still it was a pretty obvious Longneck that had its head stuck way up when it surfaced. The colour of "Black" is not usually a precise description of colour and ordinarily comes from seeing the object on the shadow side. One interesting detail is that the front of the throat is all loose and flabby flesh (noted elsewhere before) The nose and the mouth was just like a snakes, and this is  one case where the mouth split the head in half and the mouth was at full gape out of surprise or fear. The estimate of the mouth being open four feet wide (Top to bottom jaw at full gape) is close to what some of the officers claimed aboard the Daedalus when the rumours were circulating it opened its mouth six feet wide. This detail did not make it into the published newspaper accounts, but it is echoed elsewhere. Plesiosaurs did indeed have mouths which could open very wide in relation to the size of the head and this would resemble the open mouth of a snake, probably for a threat: a standard Longneck 40 feet long could probably open its mouth 4 feet wide up and down. The inside of the mouth is said to be bright red, enhancing the threat value (Also noticed at Loch Ness ) -DD

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