The Clearwater Monster has remained a mystery for sixty years. It's a fine example of things aren't always what they seem. In 1946 or '47 a monster emerged from the Gulf of Mexico and wandered around in the dark leaving tracks. Tracks that looked like anything anyone had ever seen before. They were about fourteen inches long and eleven inches wide. They featured a narrow heel and three long toes. The tracks were more birdlike than reptilian, though not entirely birdlike.
The news of the discovery made the papers and radio. It was the talk of Clearwater, Florida. Citizens even stepped forward claiming to have seen the mysterious visitors with their own theories of what it was.
Clearwater was a sleepy place, something right off a postcard - the perfect stomping ground for the monster. The Clearwater Monster was clever. The fiend left tracks, inflamed imaginations, then vanished. Just when people stopped thinking about him, he crept out of the surf again. This time he knocked over a lifeguard stand and left unidentified feathers on some wooden pilings. He went on a rampage. The Clearwater Monster walked the beach at Indian Rocks. He visited the waterfront of Sarasota. He rounded the Pinellas peninsula, headed north, bypassed the St. Petersburg waterfront and kept going until he found a place to leave tracks on the sand next to the Courtney Campbell Causeway. Then, he laid low for the next year.
Scientists were interrogated about the monster. One said it couldn't be real. Another thought it to be a giant salamander. It was left to Ivan Sanderson, a self-taught zoologist, author and WNBC radio commentator, to render an intelligent opinion. After investigating, his conclusion was that the monster was definitely not a hoax and theorized it to be a giant penguin.
It wasn't until recently that the mystery of the Clearwater Monster was finally solved. Tony Signorini worked for a man named Al Williams, a practical joker, at Auto Electric. The idea behind the monster began after Williams saw a picture of dinosaur tracks on the cover of National Geographic. Their next move was to Signorini's garage to put the plan into motion.
"They were plaster at first, but you couldn't make a good track with plaster. It just didn't sink in the sand deep enough to look authentic. We went to this blacksmith shop and poured lead in our molds. Each track weighed 30 pounds. We bolted black high-top gym shoes to each track," Signorini said. "Al and I rowed out to the beach. I put on the shoes. I jumped out of the boat in shallow water. I was young then, about 25 or so, and much stronger than I am now, an old man. I had to kind of swing my legs out to the side and then forward to get going. Somehow I didn't break my legs. I left deep tracks about 6 feet apart. I made this big loop from the surf, up the beach, and then back into the water to the boat."
So, what's the lesson here? Things aren't always what they seem.