Our resident blogger of all things paranormal, Darren Mann (founder of Paranormaldatabase.com) has written a new book which records the myths and legends of one of Ireland’s most haunted counties, Cork.
Underwater beasts, highway ghosts, haunted pubs, avian wars and suspect photos all feature in what is a creepy page turner and a useful travel guide for anyone planning on investigating Cork’s haunted locations for themselves.
Below is an extract from the book, a chapter that focuses on ‘Sea Monsters’;
Sea Serpents and Monsters
With over a thousand miles of coastline and a proud maritime history, it comes as no surprise to discover County Cork has several perplexing tales of mysterious sea creatures. Encounters with sea monsters date back thousands of years, with most coastal cultures having stories of hidden oceanic beasts. In some cases the sea monster would bring bad luck or a terrible day’s fishing. Other entities were much more aggressive and could sink ships if not avoided. However, unlike many other legends, unknown sea creatures continue to be reported, suggesting that some myths may be more fact than fiction.
In a paper published in 2009, Darren Naish and Michael Woodley estimated that there could be as many as fifteen undocumented sizable marine vertebrates, and cited three different species of whale and the Megamouth shark as recent examples of large creatures which had only recently been documented by scientific means. While most scientists would expect the remaining undiscovered creatures to be different species of shark and whale, is it too much to hope that one of the unknown creatures is something beyond our wildest dreams, a true sea serpent?
On 11 August 1976, solo sailor Patrick Dolan piloted his sloop from Falmouth, Cornwall, to Kinsale. Several hours into his journey, just before sunset, he encountered a large unidentified sea creature. Dolan described the entity as worm-like in shape and a little over twelve metres in length. The creature’s neck protruded some 2.5 metres from the water, and it propelled itself with a series of undulating movements. Dolan estimated the serpent to be travelling between 10 - 12 knots – fast enough to overtake his sloop – and it remained visible for some twenty minutes. Unsurprisingly, Patrick told the Falmouth Packet that the encounter had left him ‘extremely nervous’.
Was Dolan’s worm-like monster an eel? Some cryptozoologists such as Dr Bernard Heuvelmans have postulated that some sea monster sightings can be explained by acknowledging the existence of a ‘super-eel’, a hitherto undiscovered creature considerably larger than the slender giant eel which in itself can grow up to four metres in length. Yet while regular sized eels can quite easily swim at 12 knots, no eel species is known to travel with their heads above water. Another possible explanation is Oarfish, which can grow up to 17 metres in length. However, these fish rarely come to the surface, and even when they do have not been observed holding their head high above the water... For now, Dolan’s creature remains a mystery.
The U-Boat ‘Crocodile’
The First World War had raged for just over a year when Freiherr George G von Forstner
commanded the German U-boat U-28 off the coast of Cork close to Fastnet Rock. On the 30 July 1915 the crew located the British steamer Iberian, which was torpedoed and bombarded by the U28’s guns until it sank. Forstner did not disclose what happened next until interviewed in 1933 by a German newspaper.
Forstner said that he and five other men stood on the deck of the U28 and watched the Iberian go down. Approximately 25 seconds after the ship had sunk from view, there was a huge underwater explosion from the Iberian, possibly from an explosive charge or a build-up of pressure in the boiler room. Forstner and the men around him struggled to understand what they then witnessed. Wreckage was thrown 20 to 30 metres into the air, in amongst which was a strange monster. Forstner described the creature as twenty metres in length and having a similar shape to a crocodile. The sea monster possessed two pairs of strong webbed legs or feet, a pointed head, and a tapered tail. As wreckage and beast rained back down, the creature continued to float for 10 – 15 seconds before sinking back into the sea.
In his definitive work Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology, George Eberhart speculates that Forstner’s Crocodile, if not a hoax, could be one of several cryptozoological entities. His list included a type of a marine crocodylomorph which was believed to have died out 100 million years previous, and a Mosasaur, another long extinct marine lizard. One rational explanation suggested by Eberhart was that the crocodile was actually a fragment of beak from a Garpike, although the fish’s beak only tends to be less than 50 centimetres long – some twenty times smaller than the creature sent flying into the air.
The U-28 was inadvertently sunk after torpedoing the SS Olive Branch on 02 September 1917. Unknown to the Germans, the Olive Branch was carrying munitions – the U-28 fired its weapons far too close, the huge explosion from the Olive Branch damaged the U28 and killed most of the German crew, including all but one of those who had spotted the monster. Forstner was left as the only living witness to the event. Without his fellow crewmates for collaboration, or any kind of physical evidence, there is only this man’s word that the event actually took place.
Sir Arthur Henry Rostron is best remembered for his heroic involvement in the rescue of Titanic survivors in 1912. Captaining RMS Carpathia, Rostron and his crew rescued 710 survivors and was awarded the United States’ Congressional Gold Medal for his actions. After retiring in May 1931, Rostron penned his autobiography and shared his bizarre sea serpent encounter.
On 26 April 1907, Rostron was an officer on board RMS Campania, the fastest passenger liner in the world when she entered service in 1893 (although she quickly lost the title to her sister RMS Lucania). As the Campania steamed passed Cork, Rostron noticed a large aquatic creature no more than 16 metres from the ship’s hull. The unidentifiable beast had a long neck, around 250 centimetres in length, which rose from the water. The base of the neck measured around 30 centimetres in diameter. As the creature moved through the sea, its head revolved from left to right and back again, as if observing the immediate environment. Rostron wrote in his autobiography that he was so surprised by the creature he cried out ‘It’s alive!’ to a fellow officer. After recovering his composure, it is said Rostron took the time to sketch the cryptid, the drawing shared with only a handful of people.
The Dunworley Beast
As any old sea dog knows, some sea monster stories should be taken with a large pinch of salt. This letter, from ‘Roger W Travers’ was originally printed in The Cork Constitution 2 September 1850, concerning an experience a week previous on 28 August.
... At about 1 o’clock AM when sailing in my yacht, with a slight breeze off shore, about two miles to the south of the beacon erected to the Barrel rocks, one of the party of four gentlemen on board (MB of Bandon) drew attention towards the structure, with the interrogatory of: “Do you see anything queer about the Barrels?” In an instant the attention of all on board was riveted on an object which first struck me as like the upheaved thick end of a large mast, but which, as it made out plainer, proved to be the head of some huge fish or monster. On bearing down towards the object, we could distinctly see, with the naked eye, what I can best describe as an enormous serpent without mane or fur or any like appendage. The portion of the body above the water, and which appeared to be rubbing or scratching itself against the beacon, was fully thirty feet long and in diameter I should say about a fathom...
Roger noted that the creature’s eyes were about nine inches (23 centimetres) across, while a grooved shell-like substance covered the upper part of its back. Being sporting men, Roger and his gentlemen colleagues had brought along a rifle and shot the soft underbelly of the creature; the beast rose and towered above them, reaching the height of ‘at least thirty fathoms’ (54.8 metres), before promptly vanishing under the water.
Three days later Roger and his band of intrepid gentlemen returned to the area, this time bringing four rifles. They found the monster sleeping close to Dunworley, and not wishing to make the same mistake as last time, all four gentlemen took aim at the eye closest to the yacht and simultaneously discharged their weapons. The monster was awoken from its slumber, shook its head and winked its injured eye several times before once again vanishing into the sea, this time never to return.
Haunted Cork by Darren Mann is available now on Amazon.