Another Delightfully Demented Gift: The Feejee Mermaid

swfeejee02rlk.jpgIn 1842, P. T. Barnum exhibited the infamous Feejee Mermaid at his museum in New York City. Newspapers were given a woodcut of lovely bare breasted female mermaids to publicize the attraction, but when the crowds arrived to see the mysterious creature, it turned out to be a gruesome taxidermy gaffe consisting of the top half of a small monkey and the bottom half of a large fish.

When I was about 12 years old, I viewed Barnum's very own Feejee Mermaid at the Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum on Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. It invaded my consciousness and my dreams and became an object of great importance to me. I developed a theory on entertainment from thinking about it... Never be afraid to promise more than you can deliver as long as you deliver something truly remarkable and surprising. I'm sure this is the credo that stage magicians and circuses used to operate on. But today we seem to have lost the capacity for imagination that's required for this sort of pitch to work. I hate the literalism of the modern world!

But anyway, I digress... The Feejee Mermaid became a strong object of desire for me. In my daydreams as a child, I would secretly scheme to break in and steal the mermaid from the Ripley Museum (with no intention of ever actually doing it.) I discovered that the Ripley's Museum in Hollywood had the one true Barnum Feejee Mermaid too... and it appears that every Ripley's Museum in the country has it. They were popping up everywhere, but I still had no way to get one of my own!

The internet however, has now made my dreams come true... In this fabulous 21st century, everyone can own one of these fabulous creatures, not just kings, potentates and rajahs! Thank heavens for eBay!


An artist by the name of Brian Davis is "capturing and preserving" these strange beasts and offering them for sale online. Each one of his mermaids is totally unique. They come in a variety of sizes, but they're all just as hideous as Barnum's specimen. But that's not all! Davis also traffics in elusive sasquatch fetuses, faeries, gargoyles, chupacabras, jersey devils and scorpion people. Joy!

Brian Davis's Fabulous Beastiary at eBay
(He also sometimes lists under this username too.)


  1. Wait, you’re complaining about how there is TOO MUCH truth in advertising? Good lord, ad companies lie outrageously in everything they do.

    I agree that they seem to have lost their flair for the dramatic, but if I see a picture of a beautiful woman/fish hybrid, and I get a lousy taxidermy mashup of a monkey/fish then I would certainly and loudly be demanding my money back at the front gates so everyone around me knows what kind of a scam is going on.

  2. I bet at puppet shows you holler “That’s not Punch and Judy! That’s just a guy with his hand up a doll’s butt!”

  3. “I hate the literalism of the modern world!”
    Hate is such a strong word. Or should I not take this literally?

  4. BoingBoing is leading me to financial ruin.

    So far this week I have ordered –

    1 – Set of Pirate Maps (due to a link from a BB Poster)
    4 – Manhattan Project era Los Alamos Explosives site brass badges (Due to a link I found while researching a post I was making)
    1 – Jersey Devil (Due to this article)
    1 – Donation for Haitian Relief (From BB Poster Link)

    DAMN my impulsive self.

  5. Erk… more puppies or a unicorn chaser, please. I was doing fine until I scrolled down to Brian Davis’ creation.

  6. Barnum’s American Museum had an attraction “This way to the egress” When they went through the door it locked behind them and had to pay another admission to get back in.
    I’m not sure if this was said by Barnum or about him: “No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.”

  7. Chupacabara Fetuses?!?

    Wha… Huh… I mean…. WELL!!!

    Looks like I need to have a talk with Mrs. Chupacabara.

  8. If you’re ever in London, go and see the (apparently older) example in the British Museum in the Sloane collection.

  9. According to the press, there is one of these “mermaids” coming up in Christie’s Interiors Sale on June 8th in London!!

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