One suggestion for the origin of the term was the French phrase jeune d'Anvers ('young [person] of Antwerp'). British sailors "cockneyed" this description into the personal name "Jenny Hanvers". They are also widely known as "Jenny Haviers".
For centuries, sailors sat on the Antwerp piers and carved these "mermaids" out of dried skates. They then preserved them further with a coat of varnish. They supported themselves by selling their artistic creations to working sailors as well as to tourists visiting the docks.
The earliest known picture of Jenny Haniver appeared in Konrad Gesner's Historia Animalium vol. IV in 1558. Gesner warned that these were merely disfigured rays and should not be believed to be miniature dragons or monsters, which was a popular misconception at the time.
The most common misconception was that Jenny Hanivers were Basilisks. As Basilisks were creatures that killed with merely a glance, no one could claim to know what one looks like. For this reason it was easy to pass off Jenny Hanivers as these creatures which were still widely feared in the 16th century.
In Veracruz, Jenny Hanivers are considered to have magical powers and are employed by curanderos in their rituals. This tradition may have originated in Japan, where fake ningyo similar to the Fiji mermaid that were produced by using rogue taxidermy are kept in temples.
- The Jenny Haniver is an airship in the Mortal Engines Quartet series of novels by Philip Reeve, and a boat in one of its prequels, A Web of Air.
- The Bermuda Depths, a 1978 fantasy film which starred Leigh McCloskey at first alongside and then versus Connie Sellecca, featured Sellecca as a mysterious character named "Jenny Haniver."
- "Journal of the Bizarre". Retrieved 15 November 2014.
- Roger G-S. "Roles, Rules, and Rolls: Monster Monday: Jenny Haniver, Sea Clergy, and Morkoths". Retrieved 15 November 2014.
- "jenny hanivers - Poems Underwater". Retrieved 15 November 2014.
- "Jenny Haniver". Wondercabinet. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
- Peter Dance, Animal Fakes and Frauds
- "FOTOS El diablo, un pez para la magia negra - El Universal Veracruz". Retrieved 15 November 2014.
- "Tenshou-Kyousha Shrine Mermaid Mummy". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
- "The Zymoglyphic Museum Curator's Web Log: Notes from the Museum's Mermaid Tank". www.zymoglyphic.org. Retrieved 28 August 2010.