Chessie the Sea Serpent: Sightings and Theories of the Chesapeake Bay's Sea Monster

A drawing of the Gloucester Sea Serpent...this is similar to how Chessie has been described.
A drawing of the Gloucester Sea Serpent...this is similar to how Chessie has been described. | Source

American Sea Serpents

Dating back thousands of years, we have stories of giant sea monsters tipping over ships and terrifying our sailors. These stories cross oceans and permeate multiple cultures. Some of the most famous tales of Sea Serpents come to us from various places in Europe; however, the United States' coastlines are no stranger to sea serpent scares. The Gloucester Sea Serpent was a creature that popped up to scare New England locals for almost three centuries. In the 1800s, the Gloucester Sea Serpent sightings really picked up in number and reports of the creature were printed in various papers and local sources. Some of the eyewitnesses described it as being cylindrical in shape, 90 feet in length with a large head thicker than that of a horse.

In addition to the American sightings of the Gloucester Sea Serpent, if we travel further South along the Atlantic shoreline we will come to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. And if we travel into the Chesapeake Bay that splits Maryland in two, we might just run into another locally popular sea serpent...Chessie the Chesapeake Bay Sea Serpent. What is this creature and how many times has it been seen? Let's explore.

The Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake Bay is a large body of brackish water that literally splits the state of Maryland in two and also touches the state of Virginia to the South. It is fed by the Atlantic Ocean and has over a hundred rivers spilling off of it. Its history runs as deep as its waters, being the site of numerous battles during the Revolutionary War, Civil War, oyster wars, and more. Before the colonists, the Chesapeake Bay's shoreline was dotted with numerous Native dwellings. Hundreds of species of fish and shellfish make the Bay their home. Unfortunately in more recent years, the population of these native fish and shellfish has significantly decreased because of overfishing. Many wonder if this is the same reason for lesser Chessie sightings.

With the Bay being 30 feet deep in many places and having a mixture of fresh and salt water, it might just be the perfect place for a Sea Serpent to hunt for food and find solitude.

An aerial view of Kent Island and the Bay...this would be the exact area that the Frew family videotaped their sighting of Chessie.
An aerial view of Kent Island and the Bay...this would be the exact area that the Frew family videotaped their sighting of Chessie. | Source

Chessie Sea Serpent Sightings

The Chessie sightings began in 1936, according to Maryland and cryptozoological records. A military helicopter was flying over the a tributary called Bush River when they noticed a large, living creature in the waters below. Their description of the large creature matched folklore's concept of a giant Sea Serpent. There was a period of about fifty years when sightings of Chessie the Sea Serpent died down or completely diminished, as far as we know. Then in the 1980s, sightings of the Chesapeake Bay's Sea Serpent started up again with a fervor.

In 1982, the perhaps most popular shot of Chessie caught on tape was taken by a couple that lived on Kent Island by the name of Frew. Around the same time, another sighting took place but later local researchers and marine biologists cleared that sighting up as a mistaken identity...a manatee had found its way into the Chesapeake Bay. But the manatee logic didn't apply to the videotape taken by the Frews. This tape was submitted to the Smithsonian and an investigation was done to try to discredit the tape. The researchers couldn't find anything wrong with the tape and concluded that there was indeed some large animal living in the Chesapeake Bay...but what was it, they couldn't tell. Reports of Chessie varied in Chessie's length...some would say it was 30 feet long while others claimed 12 feet long. The length varied depending on the eyewitness involved.

Seventy-some sightings have been recorded by a researcher by the name of Bill Burton. One woman claims she and her boyfriend were by the shoreline when they saw a large creature pop its head out of the water. It began coming ever closer to them and reminded her of a huge snake with a large head...she said they took off and never talked about it again following that incident. Others say they see him while out on their boats in various locations, usually from far-off distances. If you are only to research the name Chessie online, you will find a whole plethora of people who claim to have seen Chessie in the Bay. Even as recent as 2009...does this mean Chessie is still alive and well in the Chesapeake Bay?

Could Chessie be an oarfish?
Could Chessie be an oarfish? | Source

Chessie Theories

So by this point we don't have to say that something is in the Bay...with all of these sightings documented, it has to be the truth in some form. But what is Chessie, really? Is it a large sea serpent like those from the old sailors' tales or something completely different?

One theory is that Chessie could be explained by simple science...Chessie could very well be an Oarfish. Oarfish are a species of fish that aren't seen that often, but when they are found they usually cause a frenzy in the media. People call them "living sea serpents" because they are long and look just like a snake in the water, but they are much larger. To put it simply, they fit the build of a sea serpent. They can grow in length up to thirty feet, and so this would be a very likely theory that could prove to be true for the Chesapeake Bay Sea Serpent.

Another theory is that Chessie could be a creature that we just don't know about yet. We have yet to explore all of the places in the ocean that could be harboring such creatures. Who knows if dinosaurs from the depths still exist, perhaps Chessie is just another one of these creatures whose species has survived away from human contact. Could Chessie be a descendant of the dinosaurs?

And last, there is a theory that is one of a supernatural origin. Scientists say that the Chesapeake Bay developed after a bolide impact event millions of years ago. Is it possible that that bolide could have had life on it from other planets and brought that life with it so many years ago? Maybe Chessie is a being from another planet...or perhaps its DNA make-up comes from somewhere else in the Universe. Sea Serpents definitely remind me of something alien. What do you think?

Map Showing the Chesapeake Bay

A markerchesapeake bay -
Chesapeake Bay, United States
[get directions]

Want to learn more about sea creatures of legend?

If you're interested in learning more about other sea creatures in our legends and folklore, I have written various articles on this subject. Click on the links below to take you to some of those articles.

Learn about Mermen here.

Learn about various sea creatures throughout history here.

Learn about Merrows, Selkies, and Kelpies here.

Read about real mermaid sightings.

Chessie has his own coloring book for the kids! One can see by this image that Chessie is indeed ingrained into the Maryland culture.
Chessie has his own coloring book for the kids! One can see by this image that Chessie is indeed ingrained into the Maryland culture. | Source

© 2014 Author Nicole Canfield

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Comments 5 comments

bac2basics profile image

bac2basics 2 years ago from Spain

I really enjoyed this. There must be many things hidden away in deep waters and deep forests that we have no idea about, and the chessie sea monster looks like it could be one of them. Great hub, thanks for sharing.


torrilynn profile image

torrilynn 2 years ago

I've never heard of Chessie the sea serpent before until I came across this article. thanks for the read.


Kildare05 2 years ago

Great article! I've always thought they existed all over the world. Perhaps some sort of Plesiosaur? Thanks for posting!


cool2s profile image

cool2s 2 years ago from Kewaskum, WI

Interesting hub, I to have hubs like this about bigfoot, mermaids and such so I find things like these very interesting.


word55 profile image

word55 2 years ago from Chicago

Hi Kitty, Chessie the sea serpent is only imagination. Great fiction here!

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