|"'Feejee Mermaid' has become the generic term for the many fake mermaids that can be found around the world..."
This article contains information relating to a hoax. According to Cambridge dictionary a hoax is "a plan to deceive a large group of people; a trick."
The Fiji Mermaid or Feejee Mermaid was presented as the mummified body of a creature that was supposedly half mammal and half fish, a version of traditional mermaid stories.
Mermaids had been at shows for centuries. These were often Dugongs or people afflicted with Sirenomelia. During the Renaissance and the Baroque eras, the remains of mermaids were a staple of cabinets of curiosities. However, the exhibit which created the Fiji mermaid concept was popularized by P.T. Barnum, but has since been copied many times in other attractions, including the collection of Robert Ripley. The original exhibit was shown around the United States, but was lost in the 1860s when Barnum's museum caught fire. The exhibit has since been acquired by Harvard University's Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology and is currently housed in the museum's attic storage area.
The Fiji mermaid came into Barnum's possession via his Boston counterpart Moses Kimball, who brought it down to Barnum in late spring of 1842. On June 18, Barnum and Kimball entered into a written agreement to exploit this "curiosity supposed to be a mermaid." Kimball would remain the creature's sole owner and Barnum would lease it for $12.50 a week. Barnum christened his artifact "The Feejee Mermaid." In Barnum's exhibit, the creature was allegedly caught in 1842 by a "Dr. J. Griffin." Griffin was actually Levi Lyman, one of Barnum's close associates.
Though many people believed Barnum's claim, the Fiji mermaid was actually the torso and head of a baby monkey sewn to the back half of a fish and covered in papier-mâché.
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The Fiji Mermaid In Popular Media
- In Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses, Rainn Wilson's character is murdered and his corpse is transformed into a Fiji mermaid via taxidermy.
- In the '90s TV series The X-Files, the episode "Humbug" depicts the possibility of a series of sideshow murders having been committed by a Fiji mermaid.
- In the 2010 animated series Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, the Fiji Mermaid makes an appearance as one of the objects in display at Darrow's Oddity Museum, in the episode "The Secret Serum".
- In the 2012 animated series Gravity Falls, the Fiji Mermaid makes an appearance as one of the objects in display at the Mystery Shack, appearing first in the episode "Tourist Trapped".
- They make an appearance in Mermaids: The New Evidence, a sequel to Mermaids: The Body Found.