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.
(Nebraska State Historical Society)
In 1923, a prehistoric, 40-feet-long alligator of a beast emerged from a Big Alakali lake near Hay Springs, Nebraska. The thing started devouring calves and flattening cornfields. It also reportedly left behind a peculiar smell—“a very distinctive and somewhat unpleasant odor”—when it reentered the subterranean lair where a man named J. A. Johnson thought the beast lived. At first, the town planned to drag the lake and charge admission to gawkers, but those plans fell through. Shortly thereafter came reports of another curious attraction, found frozen in the same lake: a mermaid.