Mon. Jun 5th, 2023

As the new reside-action remake of Disney’s The Small Mermaid hits cinemas, we’re taking a appear back at the bizarre story of the world’s most high priced mermaid.

Far from the attractive look of Ariel (played by Halle Bailey in the new film and voiced by Jodi Benson in the 1989 animation), the infamous Feejee Mermaid appears much more like a monster from a horror film.

The ‘mummified mermaid’ was designed by sewing the torso and head of a juvenile monkey onto the back half of a fish, and was adequate to convince American sea captain Samuel Barrett Eades of the existence of mer-people today.

It went on to grow to be rather the attraction at sideshows, like P.T. Barnum’s American Museum in New York, but regrettably for Eades, it price him every little thing.


A drawing of the Feejee Mermaid

Mermaids just like this 1 have been routinely produced in Japan from wire, papier-mâché, dried fish skin and piscine or simian jaws as devotional objects representing a Japanese spirit recognized as ningyo, which signifies “human-fish”.

But restrictions in trade and speak to among Europe and Japan at the time meant that European sailors seeing them for the initially time knew absolutely nothing about the history.

And this is precisely what occurred when Eades stumbled upon the Feejee Mermaid in 1822, despite the fact that the elements of this 1 would have understandably been much more believable to him than the sort produced from wire.

Eades, who hailed from Boston, USA, owned 1-eighth of the shares in trade ship The Pickering.


A papier-mâché mermaid


He saw the Feejee Mermaid on show in Batavia (now Jakarta, Indonesia) and believed it was the true deal.

He produced the rash selection to sell The Pickering and her cargo for six,000 Spanish dollars so he could invest in the mermaid from some Dutch sailors, who had purchased it from a Japanese fisherman.

He purchased it for five,000 Spanish dollars, which would be about $126,600 (£110,000) right now.


Eades employed the cash he had left more than from the sale of the ship to safe passage back to England, and was convinced he’d make a fortune by exhibiting his discovery.


He stopped off in Cape Town, South Africa on the way to England to exhibit it and was specific he’d not only make a fortune, but also prove to the scientific neighborhood when and for all that merfolk existed.

Right after a report from somebody who’d noticed the mermaid in Cape Town produced its way to the British press, mer-mania swept the nation, with scientists and members of the public eager to see it for themselves.


There was a lot of concentrate in the scientific neighborhood at the time on unpacking the truth on submarine humanoids, so the mermaid was the topic of significantly speculation.

It was displayed for various months in London, with crowds lining the streets to spend the 1 shilling admission charge.

Disney's The Little Mermaid

Eades seemed to be on to a winner, but his impulsive acquire came back to bite him.

Stephen Ellery, who owned the other seven-eighths of The Pickering took legal action against him for promoting the ship and cargo.

The mermaid was sooner or later condemned as fake by scientists and Eades was unable to abscond with it prior to the legal case was settled.

The courts discovered in favour of Ellery and Eades was forced to invest the rest of his life at sea to perform off his debt.

The mermaid was nonetheless thought of a curiosity regardless of declarations it was fake, and it toured Britain, and possibly Europe, for various years.

It was later sold by Eades’s son to Moses Kimball from the Boston Museum in Massachusetts, USA, who took it to the popular American showman P.T. Barnum.

Barnum, who was rather favourably depicted in musical film The Greatest Showman, designed a fake backstory for the mermaid, claiming it was caught in Fiji, which led to it becoming recognized as the Feejee Mermaid.

He produced superior use of the media – and a fake scientist – to create significantly public interest in it.

The largest underwater mermaid show

The mermaid went back and forward among Barnum’s exhibitions and Kimball’s museum, but right now only drawings of it have survived.

It is believed the mermaid may well have been destroyed in 1 of the fires that consumed Barnum’s collections in the 1860s and 1880s.

Professor Sarah Peverley, 1 of Guinness Planet Records’ specialist consultants, mentioned: “Currently it is really hard to think that Eades was prepared to danger every little thing on the mermaid, but back then the existence of merpeople was nonetheless up for debate. It genuinely wasn’t recognized no matter whether mermaids have been true or not. Eades believed that his mermaid would settle the concern and make his fortune.”

Sarah, a professor at the University of Liverpool and an specialist in mermaids in culture, added: “When other so-known as mermaids had been exhibited across Europe prior to, none have been like his. This is since it came from Japan, exactly where it was produced as a religious icon representing 1 of the yokai or spirits in Japanese culture. 

“From the seventeenth century to the mid nineteenth century, Japan had a strict isolationist policy, recognized as Sakoku, which restricted trade and speak to with foreign nations, so small was recognized about its culture in European circles. Objects like the mermaid have been not understood by outsiders, so when they fell into the hands of sailors like Eades, they exchanged hands for significant sums of cash and have been taken out of context. Imaginations ran wild.

“Eades’s mermaid captures just how spiritual, imaginative, curious, optimistic, and utterly gullible humans can be. It is tragic that he lost every little thing, but P. T Barnum produced a fortune from her. Barnum was just far better at dealing with the conflicted opinions the mermaid evoked in people today. He left it for the public to determine if she was true or not, rather than telling them she was the answer science was searching for.”

If you want to hear much more of Sarah’s thoughts on mermaids, verify out these radio interviews right here and right here.

She’s also at present writing a book on the cultural history of mermaids.

The globe is just as fascinated by mermaids right now as it ever was.

merpeople on netflix

A new docuseries has just landed on Netflix to maintain up with the demand.

MerPeople follows a group of people today hoping to make it as experienced mermaids at various points in their careers.

We’re unquestionably no exception to the rule right here at Guinness Planet Records either, and we’ve got lots of mermaid-connected records.

In 2021, 110 experienced mermaids came with each other to stage the biggest underwater mermaid show, and we’ve also tracked the farthest swim with a monofin and the most air rings blown underwater in 1 minute, which was accomplished by a mermaid performer.

Want much more? Stick to us across our social media channels to remain up-to-date with all factors Guinness Planet Records! You can obtain us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, and Snapchat Discover– like our new Guinness Planet Records Intense channel.

Do not neglect, we’re also on YouTube!

Nonetheless not had adequate? Stick to the hyperlink right here to invest in our most recent book, filled to the brim with stories about our wonderful record breakers.

By Editor

Leave a Reply