PHOTOGRAPH OF A “MERMAID”: AN EXAMPLE OF A POPULAR FORM OF FAKES AND HOAXES
This unusual photograph was donated as part of a larger collection of social history items relating to a local Ballarat family. The donor’s father had a keen interest in photography, collecting images as well as taking them himself. The donor believes that this particular image may have been brought back to Australia by a member of her father’s family who went overseas to serve in the First World War.
Close inspection of the bizarre object depicted in the centre has revealed that it is a fake “mermaid” (or “merman”). Although the handwritten caption on the back of the photograph states that it was “caught in China Sea, half human, half fish, now be exhibited in South Africa (Nov. 1923),” it looks remarkably similar to other famous fakes such as the “Banff Merman” that is currently exhibited in the Banff Indian Trading Post in Canada.