An April Fool Lie
Readers of the Omaha Daily Bee on April 2, 1885, must have been astounded to learn of the sighting of a gigantic serpent in the Missouri River near Omaha. The Bee's improbable tale included a frightening description of the creature, supposedly spotted the previous day:
"Close inspection (with spy glass) disclosed the fact that it was about fifty feet in length, with a skin very black and covered with scales, each about two feet in superficial area, of an ellipsoidal form, and with a color, which may be described as a light cerulean. Toward the head, the body tapered down considerably, so that at the base of the animal's skull the thickness did not exceed five feet. Two upright ears, of about eighteen inches length, a cavernous and ivory-bedecked mouth, huge glassy eyes of a flaming red completed the main features of the beast's head. The tail of the animal was about three feet in length, without the blue color, and traversed up and down by finny bars, and terminating in an arrangement something like a Maltese cross."
The Bee reported the approach of the huge river serpent with a series of timed bulletins. By 12:30 p.m. the creature had reached the foot of Davenport Street. "He is heading toward the shore. People are becoming alarmed and are rushing for gallery seats. 1:05 P.M. The river serpent is still clearing the shore. The excitement is 300 proof. Spectators frantic.
"2:00 P.M.-The river beast is now encaged between the piers of the [Union Pacific] bridge. The Union Pacific has sent a special wrecking train to the spot to remove the debris of the structure as soon as it shall fall.
"2:30 P.M.-The meranguthaneum giganteum [serpent] is still flattened in between the stone piers. It is beginning to grunt-noise something like a cross between the tone of a homesick foghorn and the 'Last Rose of Summer' as rendered by the U.P. band. The beast is evidently in great pain. Horrible things are anticipated, and
"3:20 P.M.-The river serpent is beginning to flounder terribly. The demolition of the bridge is expected momentarily. The timbers begin to creak, the stone foundations are tottering, the whole structure is about to-
"4:00 P.M.-This is an 'April Fool' lie."
Another fictional Nebraska creature, the Walgren Lake Monster, is mentioned in Old Jules by Mari Sandoz. Line drawing from Nebraska State Historical Society Library Collection.
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