The Lusca is a marine cryptid from Caribbean folklore.
Many cryptozoologists consider the Lusca an octopoid creature with proportions far exceeding those of regular octopuses, such as the giant Pacific octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini).
The humongous cryptid supposedly lives in the Caribbean Sea and the blue holes of the Andros archipelago in the Bahamas, where most alleged sightings occurred.
The Andros archipelago is the largest island in the Bahamas. The blue holes are a collection of largely unexplored undersea and inland caverns or sinkholes in the region.
The Lusca is often depicted as an octopus (class Cephalopoda; order Octopoda) bigger than regular ones. However, Caribbean folklore offers different descriptions of the creature.
Alternate descriptions identified the Lusca as oversized versions of several other cephalopods. Thus, folklore sometimes described the mysterious creature as a monster squid or cuttlefish (order Sepiida).
Some accounts insisted it was a shark-octopus chimera or a dragon-octopus chimera.
[Note: A chimera is a monster composed of different animal parts.]
The colors typically ascribed to the Lusca are shades of brown, grey, and black with lighter spots or blotches.
The Lusca allegedly exceeds 75 feet
But regardless of differences in the details of popular descriptions of the Lusca, most accounts agree it grows to monstrous proportions that exceed those of any scientifically acknowledged marine cephalopod.
According to alleged eyewitness sources, the Lusca typically exceeds 75 feet in length. However, scientists say there is no evidence of marine cephalopods that grow to such colossal proportions.
The largest known octopus, the giant Pacific Octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini), regularly reaches 14ft-16ft across. However, there are claims of individuals measuring up to 32ft.
[Fun fact: Whales may exceed 75 feet in length. For instance, the Antarctic Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus ssp. Intermedia), the biggest animal on Earth, may reach 98 feet.]
The Lusca reportedly feeds on crustaceans and other marine life forms. Caribbean folklore claims it will also feed on any animal it can get, including humans.
Sightings and Tales
There are numerous unsubstantiated claims of Lusca sightings in the Bahamas and the Caribbean Sea.
Most sightings are associated with the Andros Island blue holes. These are marine and inland caverns or sinkholes (also known as cenotes) where the Lusca allegedly lives.
There are also claimed sightings in the waters around Turks & Caicos, Cuba, Jamaica, and Belize. Alleged Lusca sightings also come from the Green Banana Hole, a blue hole located about 80km off the coast of Florida, southwest of Sarasota.
“Him of the Hands”
Reported sightings that date back to the 1800s make claims of sea monsters 75ft-200ft in length.
Folklore claims that Lusca sightings are rare because it is nocturnal. It rarely surfaces in the daytime, but local fishermen spread stories about how the beast can reach out of the depths with its tentacles and drag people and vessels underwater.
George J. Benjamin, a scuba diving enthusiast, who visited Andros Islands in the 1950s to explore its blue holes, first heard about the Lusca from the locals. Guides warned tourists about a giant cephalopod they called “Him of the Hands” that inhabited the blue holes.
Benjamin shared his experience in an article published in National Geographic in 1970.
The biologist Bruce Wright, who also visited the region in the 1960s, reported that the locals claimed the marine and inland blue holes of Andros Island were home to a monster called the Lusca. They described it as a fearsome octopus-dragon monster.
The Lusca as a “giant scuttle”
Locals also often referred to the Lusca as a “giant scuttle,” a term derived from “cuttlefish” (Loren Coleman, 2003).
What appeared to be independent corroboration of the seemingly fantastical tales about the “giant scuttle” came from local fishermen operating off the coast of Florida. They reported the presence of a monster cephalopod in the waters.
During a visit to the Bahamian Cat Island in the late 1990s, locals warned journalist Randy Wayne White and other tourists against exploring an inland lake called the Bad Blue Hole. They warned that the lake was home to a dreaded carnivorous monster. They told stories of people and animals, such as horses, that vanished after entering or falling into the lake.
But White and his team ignored the warnings not to dive. They discovered caverns beneath but did not venture far because they did not have the appropriate gear. They also did not encounter the legendary Lusca monster.
White later wrote about his experience on Cat Island in an article published in the Sun Sentinel in November 1997.
The British TV host and marine biologist Jeremy Wade investigated claims of Lusca attacks on the TV series River Monsters. In Season 8, Episode 4 of the series, titled Terror in Paradise, Wade concluded there might be a gigantic octopus species responsible for the reported attacks. But he found no direct evidence of the alleged monster (see video below).
Was the St. Augustine Monster a Lusca?
There is no evidence that a species of giant sea cephalopod called the Lusca exists. However, some cryptozoologists have suggested that the monster could be oversize specimens of known species, such as the giant Pacific Octopus or the seven-arm octopus (Haliphron atlanticus).
Cryptozoologists have also speculated that the famous marine globster known as the St. Augustine Monster that washed ashore on the coast of Florida near St. Augustine in November 1896 was the carcass of a Lusca.
The blob is also known as the Florida monster or St. Augustine Giant Octopus.
Professor Verrill’s study of the Florida Monster
People were unable to identify what species of animal formed the globster. But after seeing photographs, Prof. Addison Emery Verrill, an expert in cephalopods at Yale, suggested it was an gigantic octopus or squid. He tentatively named it Octopus giganteus (or Otoctopus giganteus).
Based on the proportions of ordinary octopuses, Verrill estimated that the live creature must have been about 75 feet to 100 feet in length.
But he changed his mind after examining samples of the carcass sent to him. He declared it was not a squid or octopus but a cetacean (marine mammals such as whales). According to the scientist, the globster was most likely a mass of blubber from a part of the head of a sperm whale.
Dr. Joseph F. Gennaro Jr.
Subsequent expert analysis in 1971 deepened confusion over the identity of the mysterious blob.
Dr. Joseph F. Gennaro Jr., a cell biologist at the University of Florida, analyzed tissues from the globster and concluded it was not a whale but an octopus. But he balked at the idea of a giant octopus with arms 75 feet to 100 feet in length.
Cryptozoologist Roy Mackal’s analysis
In 1986, the famous biochemist and cryptozoologist Ray Mackal at the University of Chicago conducted analyses of samples from the St. Augustine globster.
He tested the samples for amino acids and compared results with previous data from studies of the Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis), beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas), the giant squid, and octopus.
He concluded from his analyses that the globster was collagen (protein), not blubber. He also concluded that it was the carcass of an unknown species of gigantic cephalopod, probably an octopus.
Pierce et al., 1995
In 1995, Pierce and associates conducted yet another study of the blob using biochemical analysis and electron microscopy. They rejected previous claims that it was the carcass of an octopus or some other cephalopod species.
According to the authors, the sample was almost entirely pure collagen. But the collagen was not of the type found in invertebrates, such as octopuses. They concluded it was collagen from the skin of a vertebrate, such as a sperm whale.
The authors argued that there was no evidence to support claims of the existence of Octopus giganteus or Lusca. They concluded that the St. Augustine Monster was likely the remains of a whale, specifically, blubber from a dead whale.
|Other Name/s||Lusca, giant scuttle, Him of the Hands, Florida monster, St. Augustine Giant Octopus , Octopus giganteus, Otoctopus giganteus|
|Type||Lake Monster, Monster, Sea Monster|
Where to find
https://www.naturalhistorymag.com/htmlsite/master.html?https://www.naturalhistorymag.com/htmlsite/editors_pick/1971_03_pick.html, “An Octopus Trilogy,” Forrest G. Wood, Natural History Magazine, March 1971: accesssed on February 5, 2023.
Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology, George M. Eberhart, 2002.
https://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/fl-xpm-1997-11-09-9711060099-story.html, “Creature From the Bad Blue Hole,” Randy Wayne, Sun Sentinel, November 8, 1997: accesssed on February 5, 2023.
https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/page/1506050#page/239/mode/1up, “On the Giant Octopus (Octopus Giganteus) and the Bermuda Blob: Homage to A.E. Verrill,” Pierce S.K. et al.: accesssed on February 5, 2023.
https://southernmostghosts.com/monsters-of-the-deep-the-luscas/, “The Lusca: Monsters of the Deep,” accesssed on February 5, 2023.
Searching for Hidden Animals: An Inquiry Into Zoological Mysteries, Roy P. Mackal, 1980.
Field Guide to Lake Monsters, Sea Serpents, and Other Mystery Denizens of the Deep, Loren Coleman, 2003.
The Weiser Field Guide to Cryptozoology: Werewolves, Dragons, Skyfish, Lizard Men, and Other Fascinating Creatures Real and Mysterious, Deena West Budd, 2010.