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Fiji’s mermaid is a horror story that happened almost 200 years ago, which was totally surprising and scary.
In mid-July 1842, an English gentleman named “Dr. J. Griffin”, a member of the British Natural History Lyceum, arrived in New York City with remarkable curiosity – a royal mermaid, supposedly captured near the Islands Fiji in the South Pacific. The press was waiting for him, since all summer they had been receiving letters from Southern correspondents describing the doctor and his siren. So when he arrived at his hotel, reporters were waiting for him, demanding to see the siren. Reluctantly was forced. What they saw left them totally convinced of the authenticity of the creature.
Shortly after this, the showman PT Barnum visited the offices of the main newspapers where he explained that he had been trying to convince Dr. Griffin to show the mermaid in his museum. Unfortunately, the doctor was not willing to do so. So Barnum offered to give him a woodcut of a beautiful mermaid, with the bare chest he had prepared, since it was now useless for him. Happily accepted the offer, and on Sunday, July 17, woodcuts of mermaids appeared in every newspaper.
At the same time, Barnum distributed ten thousand copies of a booklet about mermaids throughout the city. The mermaids in the booklet were also depicted as seductive ocean maidens. With all this publicity, the anticipation to see the Mermaid of Fiji became enormous. It was the main topic of conversation throughout the city. Everyone was talking about whether it was a real mermaid. They had to see it for themselves. So Dr. Griffin agreed to exhibit it for a week in the concert hall on Broadway.
Large crowds showed up for the exhibition. Dr. Griffin gave a lecture to these crowds about his experiences as an explorer and described his theories of natural history. These theories were a bit peculiar. For example, his main argument was that mermaids should be real since all things on earth have their counterpart in the ocean – seahorses, sea lions, sea lions, etc. So, therefore, we must assume that there are also humans in the sea.
Meanwhile, the press continued to maintain attention in the siren, with excellent reviews appearing in the newspapers. After hiring a week in the concert hall, Dr. Griffin agreed to allow the mermaid to stay longer in New York City. So he moved to the American Museum of Barnum, where it was exhibited for a month “at no extra charge.” Ticket receipts in the museum tripled promptly. Throughout all this, the public’s deception had been triple.
First, despite the ads they had shown of a mermaid with the body of a young and beautiful woman, the creature itself was much less attractive. He had the withered body of a monkey and the dried tail of a fish. In his autobiography, Barnum later described the mermaid as “ugly, black and dry … her arms thrown up, giving her the appearance of having died in great agony.”
Second, Dr. Griffin was a fraud. He was not an English gentleman. In fact, there was no such thing as the British Natural History Lyceum. Griffin’s real name was Levi Lyman, and he was an accomplice of Barnum. The introduction and exhibition of the mermaid had been an original idea of Barnum all the time. Barnum had arranged letters about Dr. Griffin to be sent to the New York newspapers throughout the summer, and then had carefully orchestrated the mermaid’s publicity.
Finally, the mermaid herself was a fake, and Barnum knew it. He had bought it from a friend (and this in turn from a sailor), but before doing so Barnum had consulted a naturalist to ask about the authenticity of the mermaid. The naturalist had assured him that it was quite false. However, Barnum realized that it was not important if the siren was real. All that was important was for the public to believe it. So he hired a fake naturalist (Dr. Griffin) to attest to the creature’s authenticity, placed pictures of mermaids with bare chest in the newspapers, and thereby manipulated the public to want to see him.
The Mermaid of Fiji was an example of a traditional art form perfected by fishermen in Japan and the East Indies who built fake mermaids by sewing the upper organs of monkeys in the fish bodies. These mermaids are often created for use in religious ceremonies. The Mermaid of Fiji is believed to have been created around 1810 by a Japanese fisherman. It was bought by Dutch merchants who then, in 1822, resold it to an American ship captain, Samuel Barrett Eades, for $ 6000 (at that time, a huge amount of money). Eades had to sell his ship in order to allow the mermaid, but he hoped to make a fortune by exhibiting in London.
In September 1822 Eades had arrived in London with the siren, and it did not become a popular attraction. But he never made a fortune for him. Eades was not as good a showman as Barnum would be later. In addition, British naturalists who had the opportunity to examine the mermaid soon denied it in the press, dampening the public’s interest in it. The courts ordered Eades to return the money he had embezzled, sailing them seas over the next twenty years, trying to pay off the debt.
But he never did. When he died, the property of the mermaid passed to his son, who quickly sold it to Moses Kimball for a fraction of what his father had bought it. After Kimball he went to Barnum. After Barnum had exhibited the mermaid for a month at the Museum, he decided to send it on a tour of the southern states. He trusted his uncle, Alanson Taylor, for this responsibility. Barnum foresaw a tour without incident, but this was not the case. When Taylor and the mermaid arrived in South Carolina, they were involved in a bitter dispute between two rival newspapers, the Charleston Courier and the Charleston Mercury, with the mermaid as the focus of the controversy.
The problem began when Richard Yeadon, editor of El Correo, wrote a review of the mermaid in which he declared his belief that it was real. At the same time, a local amateur naturalist, Reverend John Bachman, posted a comment on the Mercury in which he criticized the mermaid as a farce. This difference of opinion intensified rapidly in a bitter discussion. Over the next twenty years, the Fiji Mermaid divided her time between the Kimball Museum in Boston and the Barnum Museum in New York.
His biggest adventure came in 1859, when Barnum took her with him on a tour of London. When Barnum returned from London in June 1859, he brought her back to the Kimball museums. This would prove to be the last place known to be. After this, his whereabouts are unknown. According to one theory, it was destroyed when the Barnum museum was burned in 1865.
The Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology at Harvard University has a siren that some have speculated that it might be the original Mermaid of Fiji. According to her records, this mermaid was saved from the fire that consumed the Kimball Museum and was later donated to Harvard University by the heirs of Kimball. The problem is that the Peabody siren is nothing like what you would expect from the Fiji Mermaid. It is much smaller and worse designed. So the true Fiji Mermaid probably met its end in the 1880s.
The Fiji Mermaid has become the generic term for the many false mermaids that can be found all over the world. Logically so far there is no real proof that these beings exist.
Source: La Verdad Noticias