In a sunny day of February 1948, people in Clearwater, Florida – a small town of only 15,000 people – flocked to the Gulf coast. They did not go there to sunbathe or swim, but to satisfy the curiosity: rumors flew everywhere, that there was a giant penguin passed by here.
Based on three-finger footprints deep into the sand, 35 cm long and 38 cm wide, this penguin weighs 900 kg. Footprints go ashore from the sea, then go along the sand about 3 km, then return to the sea. People captured strange footprints and published newspapers, besides relying on it to make a bird's footprint, to easily imagine the size of the giant bird.
No one saw the animal with its own eyes, even though its footprints appeared everywhere along the coast, on an adjacent island, to the Suwannee River, located more than 200km north of Clearwater. Once upon a time, the Clearwater Monster, or another name, Three Three-Toes, even knocked over a beach rescue tower, leaving some feathers on the scene causing the crime.
In July 1948, a group of students at Dunedin Flight School claimed they had seen the Three Old Fingers on the river: a leafy "log" that had a head like a boar swimming in the river. Another group of people saw a large, hairy animal walking along the coast and soon disappeared after the wave.
There is no one who sees animals close up, so there are no reliable witnesses.
Around the same time, Ivan Sanderson, a famous zoologist, was particularly interested in Three Finger Old Ages. He traveled from New York to Clearwater to conduct an investigation, to shed light on the mystery that had been famous across newspapers.
Mr. Sanderson has pursued many previously mysterious animal cases, and based on the evidence left by the Three Fingers Old Man, he affirmed: a four-and-a-half-meter penguin is a plausible explanation.
Ivan Sanderson modeled a bird's leg that was cast out from the footprint on the ground.
For the next 10 years, the animal's footprint still appears around Clearwater, though no one is lucky enough to encounter the mysterious animal. Because if they see it, they will discover the local men behind this funny story.
On April 11, 1988, 40 years after the first discovery of the Three-Finger Old Footprint, reporter Jan Kirby came from the St. John's Times. St. Petersburg revealed the secret of heavenlyness: Al Williams, a famous local prankster, accompanied Tony Signorini to create a big three-finger lead set, then walk around the local coast.
Using the tools available in their auto repair workshop, they created a set of metal legs, inside with tennis shoes inside for easy access. In the middle of the night, they will sail to the coast, Signorini will wear fake legs to walk around, then climb back up to the boat to escape. What inspired them was the image of the dinosaur fossil footprint they saw in National Geographic magazine.
Al Williams died in 1969 and brought his secret with him, the zoologist Ivan Sanderson died in 1973 and never knew the secret, then in 1988, Tony Signorini announced the truth of the sky. At that time, Signorini kept her prosthetic legs, and was ready to pose for the media to take pictures, so that the world knew that he was the legendary Three Fingers.
Tony Signorini raised the newspaper.
There are still people who refuse to believe the truth, claiming that some witnesses, including Ivan Sanderson, saw the animal with their own eyes. But the zoologist adviser to the Times also gave the comment: Sanderson must have seen a manatee, not a giant penguin.
Tony Signorini died in 2013, at the age of 91, had left his son Jeff Signorini a priceless gift: the fake leg had tricked the old America. In this special case, "follow your father's step" is something too far away.
Jeff Signorini and penguin legs.
A trick that lasted for 40 years, and two "crooks" also kept secrets very well.