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Guadalajara, Mexico, 1953.
During a break from his expedition collecting insects, Field Museum research associate
Dr. Charles H. Seevers was perusing an antique store when he came across a most unusual specimen.
It was this alien-looking creature, with sunken eyes, a protruding mouth and horns, and a
long, barbed tail.
Is it a demon baby, a fallen angel or the spawn of satan?
Nope, it’s just a fish.
Since the 16th century, sailors and sea-side dwellers have been selling the manipulated
figures of certain cartilaginous fishes like skates and rays to tourists.
They were marketed to oddity-collectors as devil fish or dragons and became known as
‘Jenny Hanivers,’ thought to be a misinterpretation of the French phrase ‘jeune d’Anvers’
or “young person of Antwerp.
Many of these devil babies are made from guitarfish, a kind of ray in the family Rhinobatidae,
which live along beaches and coastlines, and in estuaries.
The practice of selling their disfigured bodies to tourists has declined in recent years due
to conservation protections around many of these remarkable fish.
But, thanks to museums, you could say this odd legacy still has legs.