In Portugal Cove, Newfoundland, a small fishing boat was attacked in the fall of 1873. One of the boat’s occupants—so the story goes—saw vast tentacles rising up from the water and, in an act of heroism, hacked a couple off. Boat freed, the fishermen headed back to shoreline.
The anglers fed one feeler to a dog, according to some accounts; the other, measuring 19 feet in length, they conceded to nearby St. John’s, to the home of minister and amateur naturalist Moses Harvey. “Harvey was Presbyterian Irish, amazingly homesick for Ireland, and had lost himself in all things natural,” says Matthew Gavin Frank, who explored Harvey’s life and essays on Newfoundland’s flora and fauna in his 2014 book preparing the Ghost. “He was known in St. John’s in the mid- and late 1800s as just being crazy after all things from the land and the sea.” Harvey bought the tentacle for $10, says Frank, and estimated the creature it came from to be 72 feet long.