Greetings From the Land of the Make-Believe Species
Postcards provided proof of lake serpents, jackalopes and assorted curious monsters
- By Peter A. Smith
- Smithsonian.com, March 29, 2012
The postcard once provided a fast, reliable means of communication. The images on the cards carried strong implications of objectivity, underscored by concise captioning. Among these postcards emerges a unique flowering of the beastly taxonomic tree: dozens of distinctive, little-known species spotted by solitary farmers, hunters and fishermen, lurking all across the country, creatures that came alive through hyperbole, exaggeration and the perceived authenticity of postcards.
(Courtesy of Loren Coleman, International Cryptozoology Museum)
The geographic range of fish sprouting fur tends towards areas of North America distinguished by long winters and frozen freshwater lakes. In 1929, Montana’s J. H. Hinken reported catching one. He said, “The change of temperature from this water to atmosphere is so great that the fish explodes upon being taken from the water.” Why exactly herring, trout and even salmon grow fur instead of scales has had many possible explanations over the years: the accidental release of hair tonic by an enterprising traveling salesman in Colorado, an evolutionary adaptation to tolerate exceptionally cold weather, or a badly translated letter from Scandinavia. This species from 1939, wasn’t a product of tall tales or a crafty taxidermy studio, but was a unique ichthyologic cross from E. C. Kropp’s photography studio in Milwaukee.