Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Jenny Haniver

Awhile back this particular photograph made its mandatory rounds throughout Facebook and the rest of the internet...especially on paranormal websites.  What was this strange bi-pedal creature?  Was it an alien?  How about a demon or an angel?  Theories abounded, most taking on a very extra-terrestrial theory as to what the little human-like monster could truly be.  And then, the voices of reason stepped in, lol.  It was quickly shown that the little creature was nothing more than a member of the ray or a skate family.  So, not an alien; just a marine fish cut and sculpted into a thing of nightmares.

Obviously, I had watched all this unfold, but honestly, wasn't really interested until just recently.  I was watching my favorite show on Netflix right now, Oddities, which chronicles the adventures of a very unique antique store in New York known as Obscura.  Taxidermied animal anomalies are a specialty for the shop and every once in awhile the shop discusses what is called a gaffe...the fake taxidermy specimens such as the Fiji mermaids and...the Jenny Haniver!

I was quite excited to see that the stupid little fake thing that caused such a stir online awhile back actually had a name as well as an interesting and LONG history.

Jenny Hanivers, also known as Devil Fish, originated as early as the mid-1500s as a way for British sailors in Belgium to make a little extra cash.  Taking the carcass of a ray or skate, the sailor would cut, dry and varnish the finished product to sell as oddities and souvenirs.  The name Jenny Haniver is believed to have come from a loose pronunciation of the French phrase, jeune d'Anvers, which translates to "young person of Antwerp."

And even though the photo above managed to fool more than a few modern people, it doesn't seem like too many people were fooled at the time....or were they?

As early as 1558, there was a warning to the people that these were not a new species.  Konrad Gesner's Historia Animalium, volume IV clearly states that the Jenny Haniver is a disfigured ray and NOT a dragon, as many believed!  And...in a twist of fate that so often comes with this line of work, a friend posted the image below as I was planning out a post on the Jenny Haniver...

Salvador Dali with a Jenny Haniver.  You're welcome!

*Theresa's Note*  If anyone wants to buy me a Christmas present, apparently these things are still being sold in some places!  I would LOVE my very own little Jenny Haniver under the tree this year!

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