The Merman's Home Page
The Merman (AKA Feejee Mermaid, Fiji Mermaid), veteran of sideshow tent and county fair midway, has seen it all. If you can't trust his sense of a good attraction, then who can you trust? The Merman Emblem of Approval -- "Merman Pick" -- let's you know a sight delivers just the right mix of garishness, exploitation and grisly discovery.
While the Merman has a slight bias towards sewn-together fish and body parts on display, you'll find his faves span all of Roadside culture!
- Belhaven Freak Collection
- Mummies of the Insane
- Medical Oddities of the Mutter Museum
- Clubfoot George's Clubfoot
- Ye Olde Curiosity Shop
Where the Merman Lives
Arkansas Alligator Farm
Hot Springs, Arkansas
Arkansas Alligator Farm sits right outside the entrance to Hot Springs National Park. It fulfills a vital role in the Hot Springs tourism cluster.
The Merman has been a resident of this gator farm for over a hundred years. The owner has fought off offers of cash by entertainment franchises like Ripley's Believe it or Not. They don't want the farm -- just the Merman, who was reportedly dragged from the depths somewhere in the South China Sea.
The Merman is displayed in the alligator farm's wintering barn, in a glass-sided box among a sprinkling of mounted deer heads, stuffed sea turtles, and one dangling alligator (Jaws, who died in 1988). In the summer, when the living gators are outside, the Merman is alone in a room of empty cages and pits, although he's not lonely; he has a steady stream of human visitors, many third and fourth generation patrons of the alligator farm.
AAF used to sell spun glass mermen, but not any more.
Where Did the Merman Come From?
The first "merman" known in America was purchased from Japanese sailors in 1822 (mermen were apparently "ritualistic objects" of Japanese and Indonesian origin). P.T. Barnum purchased his first merman in 1842 and put it on exhibit as the "Feejee Mermaid." It was an immediate sensation. Other mermen quickly emigrated to America.
Public Outrage: Mermen in Storage
Several institutions are in no rush to display their Mermen. The New York State Museum in Albany had loaned theirs to Cooperstown for awhile, but now it's back, though out of public view. The Mead Art Museum at Amherst College, Amherst, MA also chooses to keep its Fiji Mermaid in "storage."
At the Milwaukee Public Museum, "Al," an official from the History department chuckles: "We haven't had that on display in 50 years! It's a blatant fake and we just don't show it." Why is a mystery, since Al volunteers that "we get one or two calls a month asking about it."
The Peabody Museum at snooty Harvard has a "loaner" Merman that it ships out for exhibits at other museums with "legitimate credentials." Forget about borrowing it for your next party. They have no plans to put it on display.