Thursday, September 15, 2011

Merman at Gowanus Bay


RED HOOK POINT.--The Merman who was captured in Gowanus Bay, last summer, and found to be a man who lived on the beach and had become a fish by being continually in and about the water, has now nearly returned to his pristine form. He made an attempt to escape back to his adopted element one day last week, and would have been successful, but, meeting with some isolated floating timber, his avarice got the better of his aquatic propensities, and he returned with it to shore. His head still bears a strong resemblance to that of a cod fish, and when he smokes a segar, (which he was seen to do not long since,) the smoke, instead of issuing from his mouth, oozes out behind his gills. The only "refreshments" that he uses, are "shrimp bait," soft crabs, and Coney Islanders, when he is in a clamorous mood. His drink is iced sea-water. One of our acquaintances, after observing the critter for a month or so, declares that it is difficult to determine whether he is "fish, flesh, fowl, or mackerel. We shall recommend him to the notice of the great Barnum on the conclusion of the Lind tour.

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Monday, January 27, 1851

As you can see, Gowanus Bay is some distance from Coney Island, but perhaps not for a merman…

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The story continues:

THE MERMAN.--This creature, who is one of the greatest natural curiosities of modern times, tells a curious story of the manner in which he first took to the water, like a young duck. As we half suspected, the ladies had a hand in it. We give the story, but we suspect the poetical portion of it to be only plagiarism, as we saw it somewhere before. It was a fine evening in last July, that he was lying in the stern of his boat, which was scudding away beautifully for Coney Island, when an enchanting figure, somewhat resembling the siren of old, appeared, and accosted him in the following vein:

"I'm a lady most fair, man
  Who lives in the sea ;
Come down, Mr. Merman,
  And be married to me.
You'll have, and shall be
  The King of the fishes,
When you're married to me."

The Merman is a very polite personage--at least, while he remained in the flesh he was so--and he answered with more politeness than gallantry :

"I'm obliged to you, Madam--
  Off a gold dish or plate,
If a king, and I had 'em,
  I could dine in great state ;
With your own father's daughter
  I'd be sure to agree,
But to drink the salt water
  Wouldn't do so with me."

But he didn't keep his word, and down he went, like Nicholas the Sicilian diver, and found that the salt water did agree with him perfectly. A panoramic view of him can be obtained daily on the beach at Red Hook.

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Wednesday, March 5, 1851

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