In response to my "Sea Serpent Snatching?" blog, cryptozoologist Matt Bille, author of 2006's Shadows of Existence, sent along a comment. He mentioned that there has been only one known case of the possible killing of humans by a Sea Serpent. I asked Matt to expand on this, and submit a guest blog on the account. He agreed and you will find his welcome overview of the incident below.

Death by Sea Serpent?

By Matt Bille

In the modern history of "sea serpents," we have only one report of involving human fatalities. This story appeared in the May 1965 issue of Fate Magazine.

In a first-person account, Edward Brian McCleary claimed to have had a terrifying experience on March 24, 1962 off Pensacola, Florida. McCleary and four friends paddled a life raft out to dive on a wrecked ship. A sudden storm came up, forcing them away from land. At night, a fog closed in on them. In the fog, they hear something moving, and then saw what looked momentarily like a "like a telephone pole about ten feet high with a bulb on top" in the fog. The object was, however, a plesiosaur-like animal. More specifically, "The neck was about 12 feet long, brownish-green and smooth looking. The head was like that of a sea-turtle, except more elongated with teeth. There appeared to be what looked like a dorsal fin when it dove under for the last time. Also, as best I am able to recall, the eyes were green with oval pupils."

This creature proceeded to kill McCleary's companions one by one. McCleary alone managed to make it to a protruding mast of the wreck they were diving (the U.S.S. Massachusetts), where he clung until daylight.

Some facts have been verified. The Massachusetts sits today in only 26 feet of water in the Fort Pickens State Aquatic Preserve, with portions of the ship still protruding from the sea. McCleary still lives in Florida, though he apparently has not spoken on the subject of the attack since his article came out. He did report the deaths at the time, says the authorities and reporters told him to leave out the sea monster. One body was recovered. The man had died by drowning.

What are we to make of this? If, as some crypto-researchers (myself included) believe, there is at least one large unclassified marine creature behind sea serpent stories, then it would not be surprising if a specimen occasionally took a man in the water, even if humans were not normally its prey. It happens with sharks, as we all know.

All we have as evidence is McCleary's account. We know one man was drowned, not eaten, and the same may be true for the others. The case stands or falls on whether McCleary is truthful.

The plesiosaur-like creature striking its victims from the fog sounds like a scene from a bad horror movie, but then so does a shark attack. The very-plesiosaur-like sketch McCleary made of his creature shows the head joined to the neck at an unnatural 90-degree angle. It's a very troubling detail that McCleary does not explain by what light he saw enough to his creature to describe it.


Assuming for a moment the tale is factual, though, some degree of observer error is to be expected. If we take his sketch as a general, not an exact, representation, than many reports might be of the same animal. (The 1893 report of the steamship Umfuli comes to mind, as does the report from the HMS Fly from the late 1830s.) Reports from the Gulf of Mexico are rare, although an online source reports the story of Ray Angerman, whose church youth group saw a similar animal from a bridge near Panama City.


The most impressive sea monster report from this area, made by naturalist/writer Thomas Helm in 1943, described a mammal which does not resemble McCleary's sketch at all. (Bernard Heuvelmans classified this as an example of his "Merhorse" type, while the Umfuli's was a "Long-Necked" and the Fly's a "Marine Saurian." Subsequent authors, though, have collapsed the sea serpent reports into fewer types.)

As so often happens in cryptozoology, we are left with a story with no corroborating evidence. That story, as unbelievable as it sounds, still could be true. But we don't know. Until and unless we get a specimen of a creature that matches McCleary's beast, the deaths of four young men will remain a mystery of the sea.

Helm, Thomas. Monsters of the Deep. New York: Dodd, Mead, & Co. 1962.
Heuvelmans, Bernard. In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents. New York: Hill & Wang, 1968.
McCleary, Edward Brian. "My Escape From a Sea Monster," FATE, May 1965.
Online sources including,,, and (for the Ray Angerman story)