Excitement was caused in Northam when it was reported that a strange creature had been seen on two or three successive nights in the Avon River, near the Central Bridge.
On 14 January 1929, The West Australian broke the story of the strange creature in the Avon River. While some swore that what they had seen was a small alligator resting on a sandbank, others stated that it was a shark. Most people however felt that both speculations were incorrect and that it was most likely just a large lizard. Whatever it was, Police found the claims to be serious enough that, at 1am in the morning, they attempted a search and, during the day, a Constable patrolled the bridge with a rifle. With no success, a more thorough investigation was organised to take place on 15 January.
Hundreds of people lined the riverbanks and the bridges and watched the Police carry out their search, all to no avail. Despite descriptions (said to be five feet long) and the occasional sighting, the monster eluded capture.
By the 16 January, the monster was still at large.
Great excitement prevails here and hundreds of townspeople lined the river banks again last night, some staying until the early hours of the morning. The animal was seen again about 11:30 p.m. by Inspector Johnson, who estimates its length to be about eight feet.
The story took hold and with no clear answer to the mystery, speculation began to dominate the news. Convinced that what they were searching for was a crocodile (often referred to as an alligator), The Daily News theorised that someone from the north must have left it on the riverbank when only a baby or when it was still an egg. The West Australian added further detail to this theory:
The search continued, people continually watched the river and a Policeman still patrolled the area with a rifle. While reports of the creature increased during the night, nothing was seen in daylight hours. Despite the summer heat, no one went swimming in the Avon.
Perth newspapers received daily reports from Northam which generally proffered no new information. On 18 January 1929, The West Australian touched upon the word ‘hoax’ but immediately discounted it due to the fact that the Inspector of Police had also seen the monster and was determined to capture it.
The Beverley Times (published weekly – Beverley is under an hour away from Northam) finally had their chance to publish the story on 18 January. Unlike the metropolitan newspapers, they went into greater detail stating that the monster was first seen by Mrs Whitworth, some youths, young men who had attended the band concert and, finally, Inspector Johnston (Inspector of Police).
Despite the many eyewitnesses, the creature remained at loose in the Avon River. The Inspector generally advised against using rifles however when a report was received stating that the creature was visible, a Constable was immediately sent to the area.
A constable was despatched to the seen [sic] and after firing two shots at the alleged alligator, the second of which found its mark, it was discovered to be a piece of timber.
The Police remained convinced that something was in the river and even though it had not been identified, the search continued.
An investigator from the Mirror eventually made their way to Northam and the story (in true Mirror fashion) was printed in a rather sensationalist manner.
Apart from criticising their contemporaries, much of what was printed was similar to what had already been told. They did however make an interesting statement with respect to “wide and varying” tales.
Since then almost everybody in Northam seems to have had a peep and the dimensions of the freak now range from five to thirty-five feet in length. Sometimes it is equipped with a crocodile’s head, sometimes it is like a shark, and sometimes it has a horrible snout like a pig…
Then the Truth got hold of the story and immediately rubbished the claims of a monster in the Avon. They stated that its existence and the furore following it was reminiscent of similar stories from around the country where no clear evidence of the monster could be found.
That there can be no doubt about the existence of the monster is indicated by the fact that its habits appear to be identical with all the other monsters which have ever appeared – it keeps out of sight during the day and appears at night, just like bogies and Bunyips.
Further mocking the sightings, they ran with the needling headline, “Populace Keeps Anxious Night Watch For a Pink-Striped Spnorter“. They were also the only paper to print an image of the monster albeit fictional.
The Sunday Times soon followed with poems; a short one which referred to various people who had lived in Northam throughout the years (below left) and a much longer one which speculated and questioned but often ended with the words, “Northam only knows!“
By 25 January 1929 (just over ten days since the monster was first reported) The Beverley Times ran an article stating that it still had not been captured. The people of Northam continued to line the riverbanks but it was noted that the original excitement had died down and that children were once again swimming in the river.
No longer of the opinion that the monster was a crocodile, Inspector Johnston had come to believe it was probably a large fish. This was further fuelled by the words of Mr Jessup who stated that Murray Cod (known to grow to quite a large size) had been released in the river in about 1914.
By the end of January the search may have continued but with no new sightings or information, the story of the monster in the Avon River at Northam fizzled out of the news. When it did appear, it was often in the form of a mocking joke with the newspaper, Truth, revelling in the chance to continue to make fun of the story.
Presumably, with no success and nothing more to go on, the Police search would have also eventually come to an end. Having eluded capture, the monster and what it was exactly, remained a mystery.
If you can add any more detail to the story of the monster of the Avon River, please feel free to leave a comment below.
- 1929 ‘EXCITEMENT AT NORTHAM.’, The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), 15 January, p. 12. , viewed 15 May 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article32251609
- 1929 ‘”MONSTER” IN AVON’, The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950), 15 January, p. 1. (HOME FINAL EDITION), viewed 17 May 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article83477405
- 1929 ‘STILL AT LARGE’, The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950), 16 January, p. 1. (HOME FINAL EDITION), viewed 17 May 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article83479036
- 1929 ‘RIVER MYSTERY AT NORTHAM’, The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), 16 January, p. 14. , viewed 17 May 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article32251843
- 1929 ‘NORTHAM RIVER MYSTERY.’, The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), 18 January, p. 18. , viewed 17 May 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article32252574
- 1929 ‘Avon River Scare.’, The Beverley Times (WA : 1905 – 1977), 18 January, p. 2. , viewed 19 May 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article201796957
- 1929 ’15 AVON “CROCODILE” REALLY A BIG GOANNA?’, Mirror (Perth, WA : 1921 – 1956), 19 January, p. 1. , viewed 19 May 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article76416581
- 1929 ‘NORTHAM’S MONSTER’, Truth (Perth, WA : 1903 – 1931), 20 January, p. 7. , viewed 22 May 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article208716893′
- 1929 ‘ALLEGED LAND DEAL CONSPIRACY’, Truth (Perth, WA : 1903 – 1931), 20 January, p. 7. , viewed 22 May 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article208716892
- 1929 ‘TOPICAL TITBITS’, Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902 – 1954), 20 January, p. 6. (First Section), viewed 22 May 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article58411509
- 1929 ‘Avon River “Monster.”’, The Beverley Times (WA : 1905 – 1977), 25 January, p. 2. , viewed 22 May 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article201797050
- 1929 ‘TOODYAY SENSATION’, Mirror (Perth, WA : 1921 – 1956), 26 January, p. 1. , viewed 22 May 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article76414999
- 1929 ‘THIS and THAT Enormous Matrons’ Ball.’, Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 – 1954), 7 February, p. 3. , viewed 23 May 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article38877288
- 1929 ‘NORTHAM MONSTER.’, Truth (Perth, WA : 1903 – 1931), 27 January, p. 9. , viewed 23 May 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article208717042