Chessie (sea monster)

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Grouping Local Legend
Sub grouping Sea serpent
First reported 1943
Last reported 2014
Country United States
Region Chesapeake Bay
Habitat Water
Whimsical costume of Chessie the Chesapeake Bay Monster at the 4th annual Maryland Faerie Festival, 2008.

Chessie is a legendary sea monster said to live in the midst of the Chesapeake Bay. Over the years there have been many alleged sightings of a serpent-like creature with flippers as part of its body. Most sighting reports describe it as a long, snake-like creature, from 25 feet (7.6 m) to 40 feet (12 m) long. It is said to swim using its body as a sine curve moving through the water. There were a rash of sightings in 1977 and more in the mid-1980s. The most recent sighting occurred on April 5, 2014 at 1:40 am described by the witness "when the tide was very high". While parked on the side of Arundel Beach Road directly next to the Magothy River, a Maryland resident and his friend reportedly saw Chessie less than 5 feet away from his car, and described it as having no fins but being a snake like creature 25–30 feet in length with a slender, football shaped head and black colored, though he could not distinguish between having scales or leathery skin. The creature did not rise out of the water, but described it as the head and tail end "just breaching the surface of the water moving in a serpentine motion". The witness first questioned himself if it was 2 separate animals traveling behind one another, but soon realized however that it was one continuous creature, by the water disturbance/flow it created on the surface of the water. There are no known snakes in Maryland that get anywhere close to 25 feet long. Though no photo was able to be obtained because the witness was "Too busy trying to figure out what the hell it was" that he didn't think to take a picture with his cell phone, the witness was so moved he called The Department Of Natural Resources soon after the sighting.

Although there are alleged photographs of Chessie, there is no genuine evidence of its existence. Speculation to explain sightings has included a "mutant eel" theory, large river otters, prehistoric Zeuglodons, and South American anacondas escaping from 18th- and 19th-century sailing ships.


According to Matt Lake in Weird Maryland, two perch fishermen, Francis Klarrman and Edward J. Ward, in 1943 spotted something in the water near Baltimore.

This thing was about 75 yards away, at right angles from our boat. At first it looked like something floating on the water. It was black and the part of it that was out of the water seemed about 12 feet long. It has a head about as big as a football and shaped somewhat like a horse’s head. It turned its head around several times—almost all the way around.”[1]

A photograph of an unknown sea creature taken by Trudy Guthrie in 1980 was later identified as a manatee from Florida. Manatees are unusual this far from Florida. A manatee nicknamed “Chessie” was rescued from the Chesapeake's chilly water in October 1994 and returned to Florida, but has revisited the Chesapeake several times since then. It was photographed in the Patapsco River in 2010 (unconfirmed) and near the shore of Calvert County on July 12, 2011. The more recent photograph was confirmed by U.S. Geological Survey biologists. Unlike the reports of a serpentine creature, manatees do not swim undulating from side to side.[2][3][4]

In 1982 Robert and Karen Frew supposedly videotaped Chessie near Kent Island. Their video shows a brownish object moving side to side like an aquatic snake.[1]

The last notable sighting of the beast was in 1997, off the shore of Fort Smallwood State Park, very close to shore.

Environmental icon[edit]

Coloring book published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1986

Chessie, as an environmental icon for the Chesapeake Bay, was used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for its educational coloring book in 1986, Chessie: A Chesapeake Bay Story.[5] The coloring book focuses on the Chesapeake Bay and protecting its resources. A second coloring book, Chessie Returns was published in 1991.[6]

In the 1980s, Chessie became a symbol for environmental advocacy in Maryland. Illustrations of the monster in newspapers and government publications, accompanying articles about environmental issues, gave the monster a friendly appearance. Eric Cheezum wrote, in Discovering Chessie: Waterfront, Regional Identity, and the Chesapeake Bay, "The friendliness of the monster, too, could not help but convey the sense that the Bay was a harmless victim of pollution."[7]


  1. ^ a b Lake, Matt: Weird Maryland Sterling Publishing, 2006. ISBN 1-4027-3906-0 , page 68.
  2. ^ Official Biography: Chessie Save the Manatee Club, retrieved 2009-12-17
  3. ^ Timothy B. Wheeler (October 21, 2010). "Aquarium tracking down reported manatee sightings". The Baltimore Sun. 
  4. ^ Steve Kilar and Timothy B. Wheeler (July 15, 2011). "Chessie the manatee pays return visit to Chesapeake Bay". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved July 18, 2011. 
  5. ^ Jamie Harms (text) and David Folker (artwork) (1986). Chessie: A Chesapeake Bay Story. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 
  6. ^ "Bay Coloring Book". Chesapeake Bay Program. Retrieved November 24, 2014. 
  7. ^ Eric Alan Cheezum (2007). Discovering Chessie: Waterfront, Regional Identity, and the Chesapeake Bay. ProQuest Information and Learning Company. p. 230. 

External links[edit]