NEW YORK FOLKLORE QUARTERLY
Vol. II, No. 3, August, 1946
THE SEA SERPENT OF SILVER LAKE
Herbert J. Hawley
FRIDAY, July 13, 1855, marked the beginning of a hoax,
which, if it did not prove so lucrative, certainly came close
to gaining the reputation and renown of the Cardiff Giant.
For that day heralded the appearance of the Sea Serpent of Silver
Lake in Wyoming County.
It had always been a tradition with the Indians—largely
discredited by local dwellers—that a monstrous serpent frequented
“the liquid depths of beautiful Silver Lake.” Over a
period of some twenty years, vacationers and businessmen of the
lake region had, at intervals, offered vague stories of some such
creature. But it took a sworn statement of a night fishing party
of July 13, 1855, to crystallize public interest and throw the surrounding
villages into an excited frenzy.
People crowded in by foot, carriage, horseback, or any other
way possible in an attempt to get a glimpse of the monster.
Hotelkeepers found themselves swamped with business. The
Perry paper, the Wyoming Times, was quick to note the journalistic
possibilities and hastily issued verbose extras of affidavits,
accompanied by cuts that were imagined illustrations of the
serpent. These cuts were supplied by a Dr. Sheldon Higgins, the
proprietor of the Perry Drug Store and an engraver with a good
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