Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. He is the author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), Dragons: A Natural History (1995), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), The Unexplained (1996), From Flying Toads To Snakes With Wings (1997), Mysteries of Planet Earth (1999), The Hidden Powers of Animals (2001), The Beasts That Hide From Man (2003), Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), Dragons in Zoology, Cryptozoology, and Culture (2013), The Menagerie of Marvels (2014), A Manifestation of Monsters (2015), Here's Nessie! (2016), and what is widely considered to be his cryptozoological magnum opus, Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors (2016) - plus, very excitingly, his first two long-awaited, much-requested ShukerNature blog books (2019, 2020).

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Tuesday, 9 June 2009


Coelacanth (William M. Rebsamen)

I've made this request for info before, but to no avail. However, I don't give up easily, so here we go again!

In 1996, French crypto-correspondent Michel Raynal sent me details of a remarkable Spanish goblet described to him (and also sketched) by one of his own contacts. The goblet in question is supposed to date from the 17th Century and depicts a strange fish that greatly resembles the modern-day coelacanth Latimeria chalumnae, which remained undiscovered by science until December 1938, and has never been caught off European waters - only off South Africa, Mozambique, Madagascar, and (mostly) the Comoro Islands. (A second, closely-related species was captured off Sulawesi, Indonesia, during the late 1990s.)

Does the goblet provide evidence, therefore, for an unknown Latimeria population existing in the seas around Spain, or even Mexico - if the goblet was of Mexican origin but was brought back to Spain at a later date?

Michel's correspondent stated that the mystifying goblet was on display in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History at Pittsburgh, and that, emphasising the similarity of its portrayed fish to Latimeria, a specimen of Latimeria preserved in formaldehyde was exhibited alongside the goblet, with a caption asking whether there could indeed be coelacanths in the Atlantic still undiscovered by science. Greatly intrigued by this, on 30 April I wrote to the museum to request further details concerning the goblet - its origin, previous ownership, opinions from the museum's zoologists, whether any photos of it could be made available to me - and on 9 May I received a kind but very unexpected reply from Elizabeth A. Hill, Collection Manager of the museum's Section of Vertebrate Paleontology.

According to Ms Hill, the goblet was not on display there, and she could find no information that the museum had ever possessed such an item! Moreover, its Recent (i.e. modern-day) fish collection was disposed of many years ago to another museum, which meant that it does not exhibit any fish in formaldehyde. As a further check, Hill contacted the museum's Anthropology Division, which holds a collection of glassware, just in case the goblet was here instead, but it was not - nor did its records have any listing of anything fitting its description that had arrived there on long-term loan from another museum.

Indeed, the only remotely similar item on display in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History proved to be a small blue and white Wedgwood plate with Latimeria itself in the centre - according to its label, this plate was presented to the museum by the Buten Museum of Wedgwood in Merion, Pennsylvania.

I can only assume that if the story of the goblet is genuine, Michel's correspondent was mistaken as to which museum was displaying it - which is where you, gentle readers, come in! If anyone out there has seen this goblet while visiting a museum in the U.S.A. (or anywhere else, for that matter), I would greatly welcome details. Who knows - we may even have another 'quest for the thunderbird photo' in the makings here!


  1. This is an old one, but I hadn't seen it until recently.

    "Dragon Sausages banned"
    "I don't think anyone would imagine dragon meat was being used, but we would not want vegetarians buying the sausages, believing that they were meat free" - Powys Council


    - RB

  2. Here's another riddle for you (or any readers)

    Peter Kolosimo's book "Timeless Earth" (and at least one other) features photos of supposed living Neanderthals in Morocco. I remembered this from my childhood, and seeing a copy more recently confirmed that these pictures weren't just products of my own imagination. The people in question look like lanky Africans (Sub-Saharan) with sloping foreheads, and loin cloths. (There were no women).

    Now I've never seen a debunking of these pictures. I don't know if they were just unusual looking homo sapes, or even the result of inbreeding. Kolosimo was a "strong influence" on Von Daniken, and I think they shared a tendency towards exaggeration.

    Has anyone examined these pictures, or tried to track down where they were taken?

    - Ray Bell

  3. No goblet info, but I have heard of coelocanths in the region! A freind of mine in the Okanagan claims that she once was on vacation in Portugal when she saw a strange fish washed up on the beach. It was very big (though I don't recall exactly HOW big) and had a really humanish face. It was also pretty long. Other than that, it was a match with the coelocanth! So yes, I have heard about Latimeria atlantica, and no, nothing on the goblet. Unfortunately, there is nothing to show for it, as in an erie repeat of the Trunko incident, not one scientist came to examine it, and the tide finally claimed this extraordinary cryptozoological find.

  4. I used to work with Dr. Courtenay-Latimer and she told me the story of the Coelecanth. The first time she saw it, she knew that it had to be related to the Ganoid fish. That is how she recognized it. (She grew up in South Africa and had a teacher, a nun, whose father was a professor in Finland.She always said that this teacher taught them much more than what was required by the prescribed cirriculum.) I do not have information about the Ganoid Fish, but is that something that is found in the waters of Spain or Mexico? She sent a drawing and fish scales to JLB Smith for conformation. Interesting story.

  5. There is a Spanish tradition of making articulated silver fish, as decorations or as boxes for salt or spices, which can be made to "stand up" on their lateral fins, a pose that makes them look vaguely like coelacanths—the front end at least. Photos are easy to find on the web; designs for the fish vary, though they usually have jewelled eyes. I wonder if the short-nosed batfish may have been the original inspiration for them, and whether the goblet in question had one of these ornamental fish on it as a handle, or was actually one of these fish and not a goblet at all?