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The Great New England Sea Serpent: An Account of the Unknown Creatures Sighted by Many Respectable [Paperback]

J. P. O'Neill
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct 1999
Is it a strange mammal related to the seals, a descendant of a prehistoric reptile, or a new, unidentified animal? Whatever it is, or was, the witnesses call it a sea serpent. Remarkably similar descriptions of a creature with a long body, undulating motion, and horse-sized, snake-like head have left a trail of clues and controversy going back three centuries. In "The Great New England Sea Serpent," J.P. O'Neill draws on the historical record as well as previously unpublished first-hand accounts to chronicle more than 230 sightings of the mysterious marine creatures inhabiting the Gulf of Maine.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Down East Books (Oct 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0892724617
  • ISBN-13: 978-0892724611
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.3 x 1.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,416,218 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Tomorrow's Cryptozoological Classics!! 15 May 1999
By A Customer
J. P. O'Neill's new book, The Great New England Sea Serpent: An Account of Unknown Creatures Sighted by Many Respected Persons Between 1638 and the Present Day, beside getting the trophy for the longest cryptozoological book title of the year, this volume is a landmark in Sea-Serpent books. It is intelligent, detailed, full of illustrations, chronologically organized, with plenty of notes, and a great bibliography. It gets high marks from me for being truly cryptozoologically aware. - Loren Coleman, coauthor, Cryptozoology A-Z, and The Field Guide to Bigfoot...
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Many books have been written about sea serpents (and lake monsters). This one is of a very rare quality in my opinion for its concentration on a particular geographic area, its excellently researched information and an effort to contextualise the sightings/theories.
This text, arguably above all others, leaves the reader convinced that sea serpents must have existed as recently as the Nineteenth Century. Whether you want to be pursuaded to this theory, or if you are happy to critique it, as most are, please read this book and see if you can make out what it was that 100s of people saw swimmiming around in an American bay 150 years ago.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best of its kind 25 Jun 2001
By Matthew A. Bille - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
June O'Neill has pulled off the very difficult feat of writing a book on a cryptozoological subject and making that book balanced, readable, and highly entertaining. This thoroughly researched examination of the New England "sea serpent" story - not just the celebrated events of 1817, but all sightings, from Colonial times through the present day - is enough to make even the most hardened skeptic gaze out to sea and ponder whether we may have overlooked a spectacular discovery. O'Neill doesn't try to argue the case for a large, unknown animal. She lets the witnesses speak for her and lets the reader draw the conclusions. Bottom line: This is a marvelous book. No one with an interest in marine life, cryptozoology, or the magic and mystery of the oceans should pass it by.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A ground-breaking history book! 12 Oct 1999
By A Customer - Published on
June O'Neill's simple journalistic approach of building suspense by listing sighting after sighting throughout the centuries is thoroughly convincing! I kept this book on my nightstand and read it through in less than a week! She touches on the peoples' lives it touched and threatened to ruin (to say you've seen a sea monster is to label yourself as a nut...) How can you deny the existence of SOMETHING in the New England waters with so many reports from so many reputable people? She caps the book with a terrible possibility. Have these marvelous creatures become extinct due to mankind's overfishing of their food supply or pollution of their oceans? This is a must-read, a document that proves that Nessie, Champ, and OTHERS exist! A groundbreaking history book!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Witnesses of Long Ago Speak, and the Reader Decides........ 25 Sep 1999
By Craig Heinselman - Published on
June O'Neill's book offers the reader an overview of the historical record, going back over 300 years, of the incidents of reported unknown aquatic animals off the coast of New England. These unknown aquatic animals, Sea Serpents, are treated through the text as narratives and described for the most part from the actual records of those reporting the animals. Hence, a rehashing of previous books and articles is not presented but a thorough historical record of New England reports is offered from the perspective of witnesses, doubters and researchers.
Others have dealt with the natural phenomenon of Sea Serpents from both regional accounts, such as Dr. Paul LeBlond and Dr. Edward Bousfield's Cadborasaurus: Survivor from the Deep (Horsdal & Schubart; Victoria. B.C.; 1995) to global accounts, such as Rupert Gould's The Case for the Sea Serpent (Philip Allan; London; 1930) and Bernard Heuvelman's In the Wake of the Sea Serpents (Hill & Wang; New York; 1965). In which reports from New England do appear as notations or selected chapters in an overview of the phenomenon. Although these mentioned books are excellent sources for their regional or global views, O'Neill's book is the first hard treatment of the New England occurrences.

Beyond just the first true New England book treatment of recent years, O'Neill's book uncovers new informational treasurers. Among these uncovered treasurers is the scrapbook of George W. Woodbury from the Cape Ann Historical Association. Within this Scrapbook #15 (as listed at the Historical Association) are accounts from personal correspondence and rare archival information of local newspaper sources. Another scrapbook was found by a Wayne Wilcox at the Calais Free Library and was a scrapbook collected by a W.W. Brown (listed as Miscellaneous Scrapbook #8 at the library).

These new items, although viewable as only more anecdotal accounts of Sea Serpents, are valuable in piecing together the history of the areas. A job O'Neill has done admirably in a stylized manner of intermingling background historical data (for example - the accounts of P.T. Barnum, ecology and history of the fishing industry and overall theories) and the original texts of the eras. These texts serve then to show the changing language and culture of the people, as well as their familiarity with the oceans, a crucial key to their livelihoods as well as an added merit to their credibility in accurate reporting.
If one comes onto the book expecting answers, one will not find them. The answers may never been uncovered, but the elements leading to those answers in New England are laid out for all to judge independently with The Great New England Sea Serpent. In her own words June O'Neill lays the framework for skeptic or believer at the close of her book:

"In the absence of an actual specimen, all is conjecture. But, if we dismiss the various "explanations" - seals, seaweed, and any number of large fish or selachians swimming in a line - offered for the New England sea serpents and take as a matter of faith that this is not a hoax of two hundred years' duration or a mass hallucinations, we are left with creatures that many individuals with significant collective knowledge of the sea and its inhabitants have described as unknown to them."
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating compilation of sightings to make you wonder. 20 Oct 1999
By A Customer - Published on
I read this book on the train to and from work one week and found the stories Ms. O'Neill told fascinating. She made no judgments, but only compiled hundreds of years of sightings and stories in a well-written and interesting form.A very well researched chronology of the sightings of the serpent.
14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BAR Featured Title October 1999 23 Nov 1999
By Bufo Calvin - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Right from the beginning, people who sighted sea serpents were ridiculed. While seeing Elvis has taken the number one spot on the debunkers "guilt by association" hit parade, sea serpents are still towards the top. If you want to tarnish a subject as the product of gullible overcredulity , you can toss in, "Oh, and I'm sure it was riding on a sea serpent" to bursts of derisive snickering.

Why should this be so? As J.P. O'Neill ably documents in this volume, there are plenty of sober sightings by reliable individuals. What many of them report does not seem unreasonable. O'Neill has made a point of reproducing the original stories in most cases, often with little commentary.

She focuses on the reports that have come from the Gulf of Maine, which runs essentially from Massachusetts up to Nova Scotia. These include the ones in the area of Cape Ann and Gloucester, which made national news, particularly in 1817.

The book is straight-forward, respectful, and not sensational. It is, in a sense, very New England. It says that "this is what it is" and brooks no nonsense about it.

O'Neill's research (and that of others, whom she graciously and properly acknowledges) goes far beyond the observations of hardworking fisherfolk and land-dwellers. She does an excellent job in setting the scene, and showing us the people and the politics that were involved. As with many of the best books on these topics, it is ultimately not about "his Snakeship", but about our reactions to him.

The quibble factor here is so low it's not even worth bringing up. Even the lack of an index is ameliorated by the sightings table. The book is an excellent read, even for people not generally interested in these things. For people who want to see wild speculations or extensive analysis, it may not be enough. However, the vast majority will enjoy this well-written accounting of what has been called "the Great Mystery".
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