'Mermaid Is Real' Video Is Actually Fake — But You Knew That, Right?

Mermaid is real believe it or not!
Video of a mermaid found in India? No, it's a montage of still shots taken during the shooting of a very famous Hollywood movie. Facebook.com

Yet another viral video is making the rounds purporting to show the body of a "real mermaid" washed up on a beach somewhere (some versions claim it was in India), but this latest of many attempts to convince the gullible that mermaids exist is no more credible than previous examples we've seen.

Description: Viral video / Hoax
Circulating since: August 2014
Status: Fake

In reality, the video consists of a montage of still photos of a prop mermaid created by makeup and special effects artist Joel Harlow for the 2011 film Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

They don't come any faker than that.

A similar video uploaded to YouTube in 2009 shows a "dead mermaid" supposedly found on a Florida beach. It, too, was fabricated, in this case by taxidermy artist Juan Cabana (a clearer version of the video was later posted by the artist). Cabana is also responsible for viral images of a dead "merman" allegedly found in Fort Desoto Beach, Florida (and elsewhere), and a "mermaid carcass" said to have been discovered in the Philippines (and elsewhere). Cabana's work partakes of a centuries-old tradition of mermaid fakery exemplified by P. T. Barnum's 19th-century "Feejee Mermaid" hoax and Japanese "mummified mermaids" dating back to the 1600s.

Mermaids on TV

With the advent of computerized special effects (CGI), the art of mermaid fakery now extends to "living" specimens as well as dead ones. Animal Planet's 2012 faux documentary Mermaids: The Body Found proceeds on the premise that these mythical, half-fish, half-human creatures really do exist and offers "actual footage" of living, breathing mermaids.

I've encountered more than a few viewers who refuse to believe that the footage was computer-generated and the documentary a work of fiction. Immediately after the show first aired, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tried to counter public confusion by issuing a statement saying that no evidence of "aquatic humanoids" has ever been found.

They may have convinced some, but certainly not all. In my own informal reader poll nearly half of respondents say they believe mermaids are real.

What millennium is this again?

Mermaids in History

Water spirits are universal in world mythology and more often than not have been depicted as half human, half fish — and female. Aboriginal Australians refer to them as yawkyawks. African mermaid lore centers around a figure called Mami Wata, known in Caribbean cultures as Lasirn. Brazil has its Igpupiara. There are Japanese legends about a water-dwelling spirit called Ningyo (literally, "human fish"), and in Greek and Roman mythology the sea was populated with mermaid-like goddesses called Neiredes (sea nymphs). While the Greeks often pictured them as maidens swimming on the backs of dolphins or other sea creatures, Roman depictions of them more closely resemble our own. "And for the Meremaids called Nereides," wrote Pliny the Elder in the 8th century AD, "it is no fabulous tale that goeth of them: for looke how painters draw them, so they are indeed: only their bodie is rough and skaled all over, even in those parts wherin they resemble a woman."

Note that at the same time Pliny evinced a belief in mermaids, he also felt it necessary to insist that "it is no fabulous tale that goeth of them," which suggests there must have been mermaid skeptics even in his day.

It makes me wonder whether Pliny really did think mermaids existed, or whether, like the Internet hoaxers of today, he was intentionally pulling his readers' legs.

I suppose we'll never know.

Sources and further reading:

Mermaid Found at Porbandar and Karachi Beach, Oh Really?
India.com, 8 August 2014

The Feejee Mermaid, 1842
Museum of Hoaxes,

The Preserved Yokai of Japan
Still on the Track (cryptozoology blog), 9 June 2009

Were You Fooled by Animal Planet's Mermaid Special?
NBC News, 30 May 2012

Are Mermaids Real?
NOAA factsheet, 27 June 2012

Feds: Mermaids Do Not Exist
Philadelphia Inquirer, 2 July 2012

Becoming Mermaids
American Museum of Natural History