Giant Caterpillar Outside Manchester, 1850! November 16, 2012Posted by Beachcombing in : Modern , trackback
This appeared in a northern British newspaper in 1850 relating to the Manchester area.
The monster, so long the object of such contradictory reports, is now proved beyond doubt to be a real living creature. He has been seen on shore by hundreds of spectators, having originally, it is supposed, come up the Bridgewater Canal. On Thursday last, the 12 inst. between two and three o’clock, an enormous moving mass of the serpent form was seen extending the entire length from Edgefold to Worsley Church, a distance of more than half a mile. On the whole extent of its back it had what appeared to be a great number of little heads, whilst under the belly hundreds of little feet were seen to move, giving the animal the appearance of an enormous caterpillar. Here and there beautiful fins of blue and white extended from the body; whilst ever and anon it sent forth strains as if of melody, resembling somewhat the clangour of brazen trumpets. Down the whole length of Shaving Lane it wound its tortuous course until it reached the entrance to the old hall grounds, when it suddenly turned aside and entered the drive to the house. Arrived before the eyes of the astonished family, the monster stopped its foremost head and coiled itself up in the form of a cracker. But not a thousand crackers could at all compare with the unearthly noise which burst now from its voluminous folds. Every little head, seemed animated with electric influence, and the fins waved as if with transport to and fro.
Beach was still taking this (kind of) seriously – hallucinogenic spores in Manchester? – until the next passage. For after crossing a small bridge the giant decided to eat.
Maddened by hunger and the absence of its accustomed food, it manifested at last considerable excitement; and it is impossible to say what might have been the consequences had it not happened just then to alight upon an immense quantity of currant bread and tea, which the Earl of Ellesmere, anticipating the welfare and safety of his people in the neighbourhood, had caused to be prepared for its repast.
And what was the sea-serpent? 800 Sunday-scholars, dressed up to look like a giant caterpillar. There is always that moment with forteana when unusual happenings and phenomena go mainstream: when they start filming Close Encounters and opening UFO adventure parks for impressionable teens. It looks sea serpents had penetrated popular culture by 1850 in the north of England.