For about a decade, people believed that a 15-foot penguin was living on Clearwater Beach.
In 1948, the sands of Clearwater Beach, Florida, developed what seemed to be enormous three-toed animal tracks. The prints, which were around 35 cm (14 inches) long and 28 cm (11 inches) wide, appeared to emerge from the sea and move 1.2–1.8 m (4-6 foot) strides up the beach for a few miles before returning to the sea once more.
Soon, reports of weird animal encounters started to surface. While a couple strolling down the beach reported seeing a massive creature waddling towards the water before going into the sea, students at the Dunedin Flying School claimed to have seen the beast, which resembled a fuzzy log with a boar’s head, swimming in the water.
Police looked into the tracks for rather obscure reasons and came to the conclusion that “if a hoax, it was one of the most masterful ever committed” in the area. As more footprints were discovered over the following ten years, another investigator, British biologist Ivan Terence Sanderson, who later became interested in pseudoscience and cryptozoology, started his own studies. At this point, it was proposed that a 4.5-meter (15-foot) tall enormous penguin was responsible for the footprints.
Second, the paths scrupulously avoided all snags and impediments, even the smallest bushes, while always following the gentlest gradients despite substantial meandering “Sanderson wrote about his research. “These are all characteristics that characterize animals.
Sanderson dismissed the possibility of a fake, arguing in favor of the much more likely scenario that a massive penguin was skulking along the beach unseen.
It is truly amazing, he said, “that any man or group of men should know so much about wild animal life that they could make the traces exactly as they look, and that they should also be able to carry this out time and time again at night without anyone seeing them or giving them away.”
Time travel to 1988, where local resident Tony Signorini revealed the intricate hoax while posing in his large metal penguin shoes.
An image of dinosaur tracks in National Geographic served as the inspiration for Signorini and his buddy (and supervisor), Al Williams, who passed away in 1969, to pull off their elaborate ten-year joke. Before attaching them to tennis shoes, the two made enormous three-toed metal feet. Regularly, one of the two would put on the 14-kg (30-pound) shoes, launch the little row boat from the shore, and then walk up the beach to meet the boat farther up the coast.
Sigorini would stand on one leg and swing the other to generate enough momentum for a jump in order to make a long enough stride for their made-up species. The footprints were frequently reported the next day by one of their friends to ensure that their efforts wouldn’t go unnoticed.
When Anthony Signorini passed away in 2013, his family made sure to note in his obituary that he was “renowned for being The Clearwater Monster, a hoax that gained national attention.”