Weird History
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People From History Who Claimed To Have Encountered Mermaids (And Their Evidence)

Updated July 31, 2019 674.3k views13 items

By now, you've heard about the evidence that unicorns were real. But what about other magical creatures? Specifically, are mermaids real? For centuries, there have been tales of beautiful mermaids seducing sailors with their songs, along with disturbing stories about mermaids eating human flesh. But the evidence goes beyond stories. There is even physical mermaid proof in existence, albeit dubious. 

For centuries, eyewitnesses claimed to have seen real mermaids around the world. The sightings go all the way back to the Roman Emperor Augustus (63 BCE-14 CE). Multiple artists produced images of mermaids drawn from life. Thousands of sailors bought Jenny Hanivers, little mermaid-like creatures. Even Christopher Columbus argued that he saw three mermaids off the coast of Haiti.

When it comes to mermaid history, there is historical evidence that mermaids are real. Before you doubt the evidence, keep in mind that more than 95% of the ocean has never been explored by humans. Could mermaids be hiding in the deep sea?

  • One Mermaid Off The Coast Of Wales Was Seen By Multiple People For Hours

    Photo: National Library of Wales / Wikimedia Commons / CC0

    Many mermaid sightings involve a quick look at a distant creature, as when Columbus saw mermaids off the coast of Haiti. But some reported mermaid sightings include a number of eyewitnesses who weren't ocean-crazed sailors. In 1603, a mermaid was spotted off the coast of Wales, near Pendine. A farmer named Thomas Raynold first spotted the creature, and he then called others over to watch the mermaid for three hours. 

    William Saunders, also from Pendine, examined Raynold and the other witnesses. The story was credible enough that in 1604, an image was created to depict the mermaid. It described her as a “monstrous fish that appeared in the form of a woman from her waist upward.”

  • When European Sailors Visited The South Pacific, They Found More Mermaids

    Photo: Samuel Fallours / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    By the 18th century, Europeans had established colonies in the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific. Europeans in the Dutch East Indies encountered plants and animals that had never been seen in Europe. One of the exotic creatures was the mermaid, which painter Samuel Fallours included in a 1718 drawing.

    Fallours claimed that he caught a mermaid himself and brought her into his house. He then drew the picture of the mermaid from his first-hand observations. Fallours reported that the mermaid lived in a container of water and squeaked like a mouse. After four days, the mermaid died of starvation because she refused to eat. 

  • Mermaids Weren’t Just Beautiful Sea Creatures – They Were Also Described As Monsters

    Photo: John Ashton / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

    Most depictions of mermaids showed them as beautiful, seductive women, drawing on the tradition of sirens who could lure sailors to their deaths. But in one 13-century Norwegian manuscript, mermen were described as monsters: “The monster is tall and of great size and rises straight out of the water,” the text reads. “It had shoulders like a man but no hands... No one has ever observed it closely enough to determine whether its body had scales like a fish or skin like a man.”

    The monstrous creature was also a sign of doom. “Whenever the monster has shown itself, men have always been sure that a storm would follow.”

  • In Holland, Stories Tell Of Two Mermaids Who Emerged From The Sea And Became Women

    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

    Two stories from the Netherlands claimed that mermaids could successfully live on land. In 1430, a group of girls in a boat found a mermaid “floundering in shallow, muddy waters.” They successfully pulled the mermaid into the boat and took her home, where they “dressed her in women’s clothes.” The mermaid never learned to speak, however.

    A later story from the 1600s similarly told of a mermaid who was injured but nursed back to health.

    This time, the mermaid was able to learn Dutch and eventually converted to Catholicism.