Call of the Cryptid: Altamaha-ha (‘Altie’) — Sea Monster of Georgia, USA

Hailing from the Altamaha-ha River in southeast Georgia, the aptly titled  Altamaha-ha sea monster’s “corpse” washed ashore once. Is it fake?

Like every other cryptid, there’s something mysterious about the Altamaha-ha. Sure, it’s name is awkward and clunky as one tries to say it and one wonders how well it thrives in a Georgia river. Still, the biggest mystery is, why hasn’t one of them been seriously observed? There have been sightings in Darien and McIntosh County, and some claim its legend has roots in Muscogee culture, but where is an undeniable, real life body of the creature? Well, some claim a certain photo is proof that “Altie” is real. In fact, it’s made the news.

A man named Jeff Warren supposedly photographed a washed up Altie corpse on Wolf Island. This location certainly doesn’t defy the legend. The Wolf Island National Wildlife Refuge is in McIntosh County. Still, one has to ask: Is it a big hoax?

While the news report isn’t very skeptical, a Youtube comment says its head looks “crudely sculpted from clay,” and that “the one visible fin looks like an actual fish attached to the clay body.” This person’s conclusion is that it’s likely “a poorly executed hoax.” Writing for First Coast News, Bethany Anderson notes: “Despite being dead, the sea creature’s tail is stiff and upright, and appears to have been created through papier-mâché or spray paint.”

National Geographic speculated on it as well, citing an expert’s opinion: “It looks like a deep-sea shark, like a frilled shark. Although I don’t see gill slits,”

Why I’m Skeptical About This Altie Evidence

I’m no animal expert, but I agree with the skeptics regarding this image. While I don’t wish to offend the State of Georgia, that photo just doesn’t look particularly real. Also, why didn’t the creature get scooped up and brought into a research facility, or at least taken somewhere? While a person might be squeamish and too grossed out to pick it up, I know I would personally make an exception. I would pinch my nose, hold back my vomit and do my level best to drag the corpse away from the tide and into the hands of some animal research experts. I mean, doesn’t that seem like a sensible thing to do?

Another more humorous/imaginitive/nonsensical part of my brain imagines how scenes like this play out. I imagine a kind of Cryptids Anonymous meeting, where all of the fantastical creatures meet up and discuss their own legends. What would Altie say about this particular event? “Hi, everyone, my name is  Altamaha-ha, but you can call me Altie. I must confess that I’m a long time lurker, first time washing up ashore. Curiously, my legend continues to grow unabated because, even when a specimen of myself is claimed to be found, no one takes me in to be properly verified or debunked. So, as time marches on, people can keep adding details about my existence (be it real or imagined) and they’ll go substantially unchecked or ignored.” The effect is of “the boy who cried cryptid,” so to speak.

Indeed, this is why most cryptids end up with conflicting accounts of how they look, what they do, where they can live and how they survive. A legend becomes like a huge wall of text. If it’s overflowing with enough details and accounts, some of them will at least seem contradictory. To Altie’s credit, most accounts of it/him/her/whatever are pretty consistent. The Altamaha-ha is said to have a “sturgeon like body” with a bony ridge on top. It has front flippers and no back limbs. It swims like a porpoise and sports a crocodilian snout. It’s considered grey with a “whitish-yellow” underbelly.

Of course, the consistency of a story doesn’t necessarily make it true. It just makes it sound slightly more plausible (although variations in species appearance are pretty common in non-cryptids, too).

Blessing of the Giant Beast: Cryptid as Cultural Mascot

A creature like the Altamaha-ha isn’t the only possible cryptid for Georgia. On Aug. 3, 1892, the Atlanta Constitution reported on a very large, very human skeleton dug up from a Native American burial ground. While it wasn’t regarded exactly like a cryptid, it wasn’t too far off, either.
“The mound contained one frame of a human who must have been a very near relative of old Goliath,” the paper said.

“Down a leg bone of this monster had grown a huge root of a tree and in the roomy skull was a peck of sand,” it continued. Notice how, despite it being a man’s body, it’s described almost exactly how people describe cryptids! The word “monster” is even used! Indeed, the jawbones were actually put on display in a saloon and restaurant. While such findings are how legends and horror movies start, it’s interesting how such things become sources of fame, and pride. There’s a similar example where I live, of a man named Louis Moilanen. He was said to be 8 feet tall, or even 8 feet and 3 inches tall. Do we boast about Big Louie locally? Of course! A monument to him stands proudly in my town of Hancock, Michigan. I bring this up not only to promote where I live, but also because it’s something I walk by fairly often. While “Big Louie” isn’t a cryptid, I think the need to be proud of something unique and unusual gives birth to most cryptids.

“Altie” likely comes from a similar desire to see a giant, or a monster, or a giant monster, or at least something unusual. It’s like how a fisherman needs to boast about catching “the big one.” Now, even if a person doesn’t like fishing, they almost have to respect a good fishing legend, which Altie could easily summon up. Even if the fishermen are straight up fibbing about it, that’s how legends grow. We all want to believe there are primitive fishes, even giant ones, swimming in our locale. The Altie tale may be a tall tale, but it’s an understandable one.

Discovery is a Two Way Street

While awaiting a more authentic discovery of Altie, we can still find stories about it.
For example, Taylor Brown wrote River Kings, about the Altamaha-ha. Apparently, some people think he’s behind the Altie corpse viral video, and may even be “Jeff Warren” himself, which certainly adds more flavor to this story. In any case, for Altie to really be discovered, it would have to be at the right place, at the right time, with the right kind of people who know how to safely document and verify the creature for all time. Still, until Altie swims up to research scientists and essentially shouts in their faces, “I am cryptid, hear me roar!,” the skeptics will abound.

That’s it for this Call of the Cryptid. Do you think Altie’s real? Let us know in the comments!