May 4, 2024 at 9:38 am

Floridians Once Believed A Giant Penguin Lived On Clearwater Beach

by Trisha Leigh

Source: Twitter/@IFLScience/@@mcpheeceo

There is no limit to the things that human beings will believe if you give them the slightest reason to.

Now, with things like deepfakes and AI flooding the internet, it’s harder than ever to tell the real from the fake – although I would hope that most people would be critical of the claim that a 15-foot-tall penguin had settled on a popular Florida beach.

It was 1948 when residents and visitors to Clearwater Beach, Florida, began to wake up to find giant, three-toed animal tracks on the beach.

The prints were about 14 inches long and 11 inches wide and appeared to walk onto the beach from the ocean in 4-6 foot strides.

Some students claimed to have seen what looked like a furry log with a boar’s head swimming in the water, another couple said they saw a gigantic creature waddling near the water, and those are just a couple of the “sightings” that began to emerge.

The police investigated, concluding “if a prank, it was one of the most masterful ever perpetrated.”

Biologist Ivan Terence Sanderson investigated over the course of the next decade – prints were still regularly appearing – and suggested a 15-foot giant penguin could be the culprit.

“The tracks invariably followed the gentlest gradients even at the cost of considerable meandering and, secondly, that they meticulously avoided all possible snags and obstacles even down to the smallest bushes. These are, one and all, typical animal traits.”

He thought a hoax was less likely than a giant penguin. In Florida.

“That any man or body of men could know so much about wild animal life as to make the tracks in just the manner that they appear, but that they also should be able to carry this out time and time again at night without anybody seeing them or giving them away is frankly incredible.”

In 1988, though, local man Tony Signorini confessed to perpetrating the entire thing – for a decade – with a pair of giant metal penguin shoes.

He said he and his friend and boss Al Williams (who passed in 1969) got the idea after seeing a photo of dinosaur footprints in National Geographic.

They crafted the three-toed feet from metal and tied them to their tennis shoes. They would regularly row a small boat just offshore, one of them would strap on the feet (that weighed 30 pounds, mind you), before wading onto the beach.

The other would motor the boat up the coast a ways to pick up the penguin impersonator after he stomped back into the water.

They created the long stride by standing on one leg and swinging the other, building up enough momentum for a jump.

A friend would sometimes be the one to “find” the prints the following day so their efforts wouldn’t be wasted.

I…have no words.

I can’t decide whether to be disturbed or impressed, to be honest.

Thought that was fascinating? Here’s another story you might like: Why You’ll Never See A Great White Shark In An Aquarium