Mermaid seen off Exmouth

Paranormal Devon by Daniel Codd.

Paranormal Devon by Daniel Codd. - Credit: Archant

A new book charting a host of unexplained mysteries in Devon includes a historic sighting of a mermaid off Exmouth

The tale of a mermaid spotted swimming off Exmouth has been included in a new book about the supernatural and paranormal in Devon.

Paranormal Devon, by Daniel Codd, is packed full of weird and wonderful stories from across the county, which have been researched and compiled from archives.

Many of the first-hand accounts and contributions included in the book are from ordinary folk living in the county.

The tale of the mermaid dates back to August 1812, when a sea creature was spotted a mile off Exmouth. A man called Mr Toupin was with a group on a sailing trip when he claims they heard music, then saw a creature which was human-like, with a fish tail.

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Mr Toupin’s account said the group was drawn to ‘a singular noise, impossible to describe fully but comparable to a wild, tinkling harpsichord melody’.

The party spotted something ‘human-like diving and twisting in the water’.

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When the group unsuccessfully tried to attract the creature, they threw boiled fish into the water, which drew the creature nearer. ‘It was no other than a mermaid’, said the account.

Mr Toupin’s detailed description of the creature said: “It had a long, oval face, seal-like, but more agreeable, and hair seemed to crown its upper and back head.

“There is no suggestion ‘she’ was attractive, more like an animal, whose upper arms were covered with a soft fawn or pinkish down.

“It possessed two arms, which it had used to great agility, which terminated in four webbed fingers on each hand.

“Its waist tapered gradually to form a tail, which bore the appearance of shiny scales, while its back bore something like feathers.

“In length it was about five-and-a-half feet, and it appeared to be cavorting playfully near the vessel – before, after three quick plunges, it swam rapidly away and was lost to sight.”

The mermaid sighting in Exmouth followed almost 100 years after a similar creature was caught at Topsham bar, near Exeter, by a group of eight fishermen.

The four-foot ‘mermaid’ had legs, webbed feet, human eyes and mouth, and a salmon-like tail; as it was dying ‘it groan’d like a human creature’.

The creature was put on display at Exeter, and then London, after the group used sticks to knock it down after it leapt out of the fishing net and ‘run away with great swiftness’.

l Paranormal Devon, by Daniel Codd, is £12.99, from Amberley Publishing.

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