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La serpiente marina de Nantucket, una estafa


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En el verano de 1937, comenzaron a aparecer en los periódicos locales de historias y fotografías sobre enormes huellas halladas en la playa. Con la larga historia de avistamientos de serpientes marinas que se había desarrollado en Nueva Inglaterra, los rumores comenzaron a circular reportando que, por fin, una de las criaturas había encallado en la costa. Copias de las fotografías incluso habían sido enviadas a ser analizadas científicamente, aunque el director de la Zoológica de Nueva York se mostró escéptico:

Ningún mamífero marino habría podido dejar las huellas ya que no se mueven apoyándose en sus aletas sino en sus segundas articulaciones y en sus vientres. Cualquier evidencia de su paso se habría visto en la playa apenas. Y en cuanto a un mamífero terrestre no hay ninguno en Nantucket que pudiera dejar tan grande rastro.

De cualquier manera, algunos días después, se encontró de hecho una gigantesca criatura en South Beach. La gente llegó a investigar pero en vez de encontrar a la muy esperada Serpiente Marina de Nueva Inglaterra encontraron algo bastante distinto; aunque parecía definitivamente una serpiente de algún tipo, resultó ser del tipo inflable.

Todo el asunto resultó ser una elaborada publicidad realizada por el titiritero Tony Sarg (en el centro de la última fotografía), que esperaba poner a Nantucket dentro de las noticias y, sin duda, reunir un poco de atención para su negocio en la ciudad: Tienda de curiosidades de Tony Sarg. La instalación fue un gran éxito y se mantuvo durante varias semanas en la playa antes de que fuera llevada a la ciudad de Nueva York para protagonizar el desfile de Acción de Gracias de Macy’s. Sarg se hizo de una buena reputación (que le valió el título de “padre de los nuevos títeres”) y creó instalaciones dimanares para Macy’s en la década venidera y en la Feria Mundial de Chicago de 1933. Desafortunadamente para Sarg, su fortuna económica comenzó a decaer hacia el final de la década cuando otros titiriteros se volvieron más competitivos. Terminó en bancarrota en 1939 y murió tres años después debido a complicaciones derivadas de una cirugía de apéndice.

Este artículo fue originalmente publicado por The Public Domain Review.

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Mariana Ortiz

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