Anybody who knows me knows I’m a huge fan of local history, horror movies, and unsolved/unexplained mysteries. Every now and then, there’s a story that combines all three of those interests. And since Halloween is right around the corner, it seems like a perfect time to tell the tale of the mysterious and descriptively spooky sea creature known simply as Bobo.
What you are about to read is based on the accounts of Sal Colletto, a Monterey sardine fisherman, who worked on the bay during the early 1900s. The transcript of his accounts can be found in the Monterey Maritime Museum’s collection.
It was a Friday morning on April 27, 1934, when Sal Colletto first saw the creature. Colletto was fishing off of Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey when the serpent submerged from the Pacific Ocean. Colletto described the creature as measuring approximately four feet long with a purplish color and a grey beard.
Only one other man, Vincent Bruno, was a witness to this event. His description varies a bit from Colletto’s but is still unlike any sea creature known to man. Bruno described it as having a head like a horse and was striped black and white.
As if the sighting itself wasn’t strange enough, both men reported the serpent to have spoken to them. Colletto interpreted the communication as “good morning” and the animal promised to make a second appearance the next Wednesday at 11:00am. Plans were made to capture the creature as many local fishermen declared, “There is no closed season on sea serpents.”
However, the creature wasn’t seen again until October 19th, 1938.
Anyhow, Bobo was spotted once again by none other than Sal Colletto. Except this time everyone upon his vessel saw it.
Dominic Costanza, the cook aboard the Dante Alighieri (Colletto’s boat), was actually the first to spot what he described as a creature with a huge human face (four feet across), with a 30-foot black body that ended in a fish tail.
“It looked like the face of a very old man or a monkey,” said Costanza, “with two eyes twice the diameter of breakfast buns, and a mouth like a crescent moon. Barnacles were all over the head and also along the black body. Folds of white skin hung beneath the neck. The body was as big around as a pickup truck. It must have weighted maybe eight or nine tons.”
He called the rest of the crew to the deck, including Colletto, who also witnessed the creature make a move towards to boat before digging its two fins in the water and diving deep below the surface.
Most of the sightings occurred between the 1920s-1940s. Since then, there have been very few reported Bobo sightings…the most recent being in 1972. As a result, the story of Bobo has been slowly fading from people’s memories. At the very best, it is now told just as a folk-tale. And the stories that do exist have been told differently over the years, which make it difficult to know what is factual and what is embellished.
There have been some hypotheses about what kind of creature Bobo actually is. One theory is that Bobo is either a surviving plesiosaur or a mosasaur, both animals believed to be extinct as a result of the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous Period, about 66 million years ago.
Another theory is that this is all a hoax. Our very own local version of Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds, which coincidentally also took place in 1938.
Regardless of the different theories, the fact remains that this story has never been debunked. The Monterey Bay is home to our nation’s largest kelp forests and one of North America’s largest underwater canyons. The deepest point of the sanctuary lies 10,663 feet below the surface, which is twice the depth of the Grand Canyon. There are countless numbers of undiscovered species living the Monterey Bay. Is Bobo one of them?
The story of Bobo is similar to the horror stories told around Halloween. The logical part of the brain is telling us they aren’t real…but there’s still a small voice in the mind telling us they might be! So the next time you’re swimming in the ocean or out on a boat, I want you to ask yourself … where is Bobo?
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