Monster of the Day #112

I love me a sea monster, and here’s one of the earliest. Also, I’m apparently not the only one to prefer a giant octopus to a giant squid.

UPDATE: Now includes the third picture I was thinking of, mentioned in a note below.

  • Ericb

    Yeah, I can’t figure why but I always prefer an octopus to a squid.

  • Gamera


    Sorry, someone had to say it. :(

    I like the squid and the octopus- they’re both delicious. Course that’s the small species, I don’t want to be on the other end of the menu with the giant variety.

  • John Campbell

    Not even the mighty Gamera could withstand the un relenting force of those tentacles.

    Do octupi have beaks as well?

  • The Rev.

    Yes, they do have a beak. They also have venom, although only one species has toxin powerful enough to cause death in people (and it does so in minutes). Their cousins, the cuttlefish, are also venomous (although not dangerous to people), and apparently recent research suggests that certain squid might also possess it, although most do not.

    Of course, with critters this size, venom’s the last thing I’d be worried about…

  • BeckoningChasm

    I like all the cephalopods, they’re my friends, and one day all of you will learn that it’s good to be my friend.

    On a bit of a complaining note, shouldn’t the illustration be a bit more, well, cinematic?

  • JazzyJ

    Hey Ken.

    The top picture looks REAL familiar to me, from my youth, from a book I owned. What is the source?

  • JJ — I think it’s just a very old illustration, maybe a woodcut, like the other one. There’s a third of an octopus reaching up from beneath a ship, but that one I couldn’t find. As to the original source, though, I have no idea.

  • Gamera

    JJ- yes I’ve seen those woodcuts in a bunch of books as well. I’d think they must be public domain.

    Cephalopods make good human food as well. Besides octopus sushi there is an awesome Korean dish made of squid tentacles diced up and doused with hot sauce. Wonder what the giant variety would taste like?

    And speaking of food, I feel sorry for the poor sailers since they’d have been better off being worried about scurvy and beri beri instead of giant monsters.

  • Movies, cartoons, now woodcuts? Will you be posting cave paintings of monsters too Ken?

  • BeckoningChasm

    John, I’m worried he’ll post a picture of nothing and say, “I’m going to show you what drove that one guy hopelessly insane at the end of At The Mountains of Madness–but, no, I dare not!”

  • Well, I do have a picture of a Yeti fighting a mutant polar bear in a blizzard…

    And hey, John, a monster’s a monster, right? And wouldn’t a cave painting monster be one of the very first manifestations of a monster? That would be pretty neat.

  • Rock Baker

    I think one of these pieces, or one very similar (there seem to be hundreds) was printed in the book Monsters Who’s Who (circa 1974/75?). A sort of printed forerunner to the Monster of the Day, it had entries for all sorts of monsters cinematic and mythological, rumored and printed. We’re talking Sea Serpents, Dr. Who aliens, Gorgo, The Thing from Fantastic Four, Unicorns, a few dinosaurs, and so on. An interesting book. (It made it into the movies when the book appears in, I believe, The Alien Factor, as set dressing.)

    There are many a movie giant octopi. One of my favorites is rather obscure, from Warlords of Atlantis. What a fun movie! How many movies is it where you’ll you see Doug McClure, Shane Rimmer, and John Ratzenberger in the same shot?

  • Ericb

    “I think one of these pieces, or one very similar (there seem to be hundreds) was printed in the book Monsters Who’s Who (circa 1974/75?).”

    Hey, I remember that book. My parents got it for me for Christmass sometime in the mid-70s.

  • I had a copy of Monster’s Who Who! That was a fun book.

  • Rock Baker

    I didn’t see the book until a couple of years ago. Pop had a copy back when, got to thinking about it (and the huge-but-take-what’s-there-with-a-grain-of-salt A Pictorial History of Horror Movies), and went looking on Ebay. He bought both books, but eventually got his fill and I wound up with them. Monsters Who’s Who was a neato idea for a book, but it only scratched the surface of a gigantic field (one much added-too since the mid 70s)!

  • Calypso

    That first guy was the appetizer protein on “Chopped” last night!

  • Yeah, I saw that. It would have been more fun if they had had to harvest him alive.

  • Jeff Roven did better with An Encyclopedia of Monsters, but really, how comprehensive can you be in one book?

  • Rock Baker

    True. For decades now there’s been interest in a book that lists ALL of the costumed crime-fighters published in comic books over the years. I understand someone actually tried to compile such a tome back in the early 50s (?), before there was really much serious fandom. I think his research uncovered a couple thousand such characters before he gave up his task as impossible. (If I remember right, this info was mentioned in the priceless All In Color For a Dime.)

  • Another great book! I loved the chapter on the Frankenstein comics.

    I also must have read Don Glut’s The Dracula Book about a dozen times.

  • Elizabeth

    I have a friend who, when she’s having a bad day, finds that old illustrations of octopus attacks make her feel better. Will pass along. :D

  • You have the coolest friends! Bring her to B-Fest.

  • Marsden

    I like the squid, but for some reason I’ve never had the octopus. I’ll have to try it.

    I’ve heard that the giant squids are inedible because thay contain so much ammonia, not sure why the small ones would be then, but I might be remembering incorrectly, as is normal for me.

    I’m going to say I think the squid is more dangerous just because of the extra long two tentacles with those suckers with the round “teeth” in them. Even if the beak doesn’t get you those will take rounds out of your flesh.

  • Ericb

    I’m suprised that no one has made a killer animal movie about Humbolt Squid yet.

  • Gamera

    Ammonia!?! Thanks Marsden, will pass if anyone offers me any dish made of giant squid. I don’t think a gallon of hot sauce would cover that up.

    The invisable monster reminds me of the old- I think it was 2nd edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual which under the heading ‘Invisable Stalker’ had a blank box for the picture. I think someone actually complained about it being a ‘mis-print’ since they ‘left out’ the monster picture!

  • I have to say that The Rev’s comment that “only one” species of octopus is venomous enough to kill humans is far from proven. The blue ringed octopus can certainly do so, and the Mediterranean octopus certainly cannot, but for the vast majority of octopus species, we really have no idea. Probably no one has ever been bitten by the giant Pacific octopus for instance, since it lives in such cold waters.

    It’s the same story as deadly spiders. For years it was thought there were no deadly spiders. Then in the 1930s it was proven that black widows were dangerous. “But,” said the scientists. “ONLY the black widow.” (what about the closely-related brown and red widows? They forgot those I guess.) Then in the 1950s it was realized that the brown recluse was also dangerous. “But,” we were told. “ONLY the brown recluse and black widow.” In the 1990s we “discovered” the hobo spider’s venom. Most researchers in the field now admit that the fact is we don’t know how many spiders are potentially dangerous – the number is certainly small, but it’s unlikely that it’s just those three (or those 5 if we remember the other widow species).

    And now to tie spider + octopus together – Sandy will buy an anchovy-jalapeno pizza for the first person who names a movie with a battle between a giant octopus and a spider. Ken and my son are disqualified from participation. No purchase necessary.

  • The Rev.

    OK, only one octopus known to be deadly to humans at this time, as far as we know.

    I don’t know that movie, but holy crap I want to see it. Just as well I don’t, I suppose; jalapenos are great, but I wasn’t thrilled with anchovies the one time I had them on a pizza. They do make a delicious salad dressing, though.

  • Eric Hinkle

    Rather late to be answering this, but what about the version of ‘The Thief of Baghdad’ made with Sabu?

  • Luke Blanchard

    I know this is an old thread, but I’ve just been tracking down the sources of the pictures using Google Images.

    The top one appeared in MONSTERS OF THE SEA (1887) by John Gibson. The caption was “The Kraken, as seen by the eye of imagination.” The above image is cropped on the right. The fuller image has a signature on the bottom right reading “E. Ethe”. Reportedly this was Edward Etherington.

    I suppose this need not have been the image’s first appearance, but I don’t have a reason for thinking it wasn’t. The only other image I could find from the book was the frontispiece, which has a different signature.

    The second image illustrated the article “A Plea for a Monster” in HARPER’S NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE, July 1860. This was a defence of the reality of giant cuttle-fish and sea-serpents by Charles Nordhoff. The article can be found at Internet Archive in HARPER’S NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE vol. 21 pp.178-193.The caption was “Colossal cuttle-fish attacking a vessel in the Indian seas.” I don’t know the name of the artist.

    I can’t find a reference in the article to attacks on large vessels in the Indian seas. But it relates a couple of stories about attacks on ships elsewhere, and refers to a second-hand report that there are cuttlefish in the East Indian seas 120 feet long, and that “the natives of the Indian Isles, when sailing in their canoes, always take care to be provided with hatchets, in order immediately to cut off the arms of such of these animals as happen to fling them over the side of the canoe, lest they should pull it under and sink it.” So the picture could be a fantasia based on elements of the article. The article has some facsimile images, including a redrawn version of the third image.

    The third image is from HISTOIRE NATURELLE, GENÉRALE ET PARTICULIÈRE, DES MOLLUSQUES vol. 2. (1802?[1]) by the naturalist Pierre Denys de Montfort. The picture is plate 26 and was placed after p.256. The original caption was “Le poulpe colossal” (“The colossal octopus”), the subject of the section. Montfort argued for the existence of such creatures. The book can be found at Internet Archive, and also at a site called Biodiversity Heritage Library, to which I owe a special hat tip for leading me to the image.

    The picture is bylined “Denys-Montfort del. E. Voysard S.” ‘del.’ is here an abbreviation for delineavit, “he drew it”. ‘S.’ is an abbreviation of sculpsit, “he has engraved it”. E. Voysard was apparently Etienne Claude Voysard.

    Now, I can’t read French. Apparently, Montfort wrote the image was based on a votive painting in the chapel of St Thomas in St Maloes which commemorated an actual attack. Nordloff’s article, citing Montfort, relates this information and describes the attack. Google “Matt Salusbury” “Colloque Cryptozoolgie” “Florent Barrère” for a brief account of a talk by Dr Barrère that discussed whether there was such a painting.

    [1] The volume gives the year as X because France was using the French Republican Calendar. According to Wikipedia year X started in September 1801.

  • Eric Hinkle

    I remember seeing all three of these pictures in books by Daniel Cohen about sea monsters as a boy. Thanks for reminding me of them!

  • Ken_Begg

    Ding Ding! I think we have a winner.