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Here There Be Monsters

Teacher's Guide

Here There Be Monsters Script

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Screen 1:

ALERT! The PROduction Company has sent you a special message on your PDA.

Screen 2:

(On the PDA) We’ve heard that some local watermen have spotted Chessie – the sea monster some people think lives in the Bay. The town is in an uproar. The mayor has called a special meeting today. Be sure you get there. THIS MIGHT BE THE BIG STORY WE ARE LOOKING FOR.

Screen 3:

Better get over to the Town Hall . . . and fast.

Screen 4:

Too late! The mayor has just left.
You can read her press release (see Screen 4A)
Eavesdrop on the Bayvillers who can’t stop talking about Chessie. (see Screens 4B4H)

Screen 4A:
Mayors Press Release:

For Immediate Release . . .

The Bayville Town Council voted unanimously to table a vote regarding their position on a recent sighting of the mythical Bay monster, “Chessie.”

Two citizens of Bayville, Bob Robinson and Walter Sloat, have reported that they spotted “Chessie.” They were returning to their dock after a day fishing on the Bay. As they approached the harbor, the two claim they saw a 25 or 30 foot long snake-like creature come along side their boat. Sloat said the animal was about as thick as a telephone pole and dark grey in color. In their rush to take a picture of the creature, Robinson says he dropped the camera overboard.

The Council will have no further comment on the incident.

(signed) Bernice Shifflet, Mayor of Bayville

Everyone has an opinion about this.
Roll your mouse over a person to find out what he or she thinks.
Use your PDA to take notes on what they are saying.

Screen 4B:
“Oh, Chessie the manatee must be back.”

What does she mean? 

In 2001, a male manatee was again spotted in the Chesapeake Bay. On his previous visits, he had been outfitted with a radio transmitter and identified based on the scars on his back, so observers were sure it was the same animal. This wandering manatee was given the nickname of “Chessie,” after the famous sea monster that some claim lives in the Bay.

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  • Why is it a big deal to see a manatee in the Chesapeake Bay?
    As a rule, manatees live in areas where the water is very warm (over 70 degrees). Most of the manatees in this country live in Florida. Until Chessie the manatee was spotted in the Chesapeake Bay, scientists thought they wouldn’t go further north than Georgia, because the water would be too cold for them. However, Chessie the manatee has been tracked swimming off Rhode Island. The water there can be very chilly. He obviously thought so too, because he turned around and began swimming south.
  • He’s been here before?
    • Summer 1987
      • A manatee is spotted swimming in the Appomattox River near Hopewell, Virginia.
    • August 1994
      • A manatee is spotted swimming in the upper Chesapeake Bay
    • Fall 1994
      • Scientists from the National Aquarium make contact with the manatee. They take him back to the Aquarium, put a radio transmitter on him, and fly him back to Florida.
    • Summer 1995
      • The manatee now known as Chessie returns to the Bay and swims north to Rhode Island before turning around. He loses his radio transmitter near Connecticut.
    • February 1996
      • Chessie is outfitted with another radio transmitter as he swims near Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
    • August 1996
      • Chessie is spotted swimming near Portsmouth, Virginia.
    • August 1996 – Summer 2001
      • People think they may have seen Chessie swimming near and in the Bay, but scientists could not make a positive identification.
    • August 2001
      • After a five year break, Chessie the manatee is positively identified. Observers spotted him swimming in a creek in Kent County, Maryland
  • What’s a manatee?
    • A manatee is a large mammal. They can live in fresh, salty, or brackish water.
    • Manatees surface to breathe. They can stay under water for as long as 20 minutes, but usually surface every 2 to 3 minutes.
    • People think that manatees resemble walruses or seals. Their bodies aren’t segmented. They start at the head, get wider in the middle, and end in a paddle-shaped tail.
    • Manatees swim by moving their tail up and down. They usually cruise at speeds between 2 and 6 miles per hour.
    • These creatures spend most of their day eating plants and resting.
    • Manatees can live as long as 50 – 60 years.
    • Manatees can grow to be over 13 feet long and weigh up to 3500 pounds. The females are larger than the males.
    • They like games. Groups of them will body surf and play “follow the leader.”
    • The West Indian manatee (Chessie belongs to this group) is an endangered species.
  • Why did he get the nickname “Chessie”?

    Scientists now think that manatees may have visited the Chesapeake Bay for many decades. It may be possible that some people who thought they were seeing a sea monster may have actually been looking at a manatee. So, people gave the manatee the nickname Chessie, the same name as the mythical sea monster.

Screen 4C:
“I never told anyone, but I’ve seen Chessie, too.”

I want more details.

“Well, I don’t know. We were out fishing in the Bay and . . . it was pretty hot. So, I dunked my hat in the water,. just too cool off, you know. Then I saw this thing in the water—sort of a black arch kind of thing. At first, I thought it was an old truck tire. But then, more “tires” appeared. There were five of them and they all moved together. All this time, I thought the heat had fried my brain.”

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  • When did people start seeing Chessie?

    Some people claim that Chessie has been seen in the Bay ever since the 1800s. However, sightings that could be documented first began in 1963, when an engineer performing helicopter tests got an overhead view of an enormous eel-like animal swimming in the Bush River.

  • How did it get its name?

    Some people call this monster the Chesapeake Bay Phenomenon because they don’t know exactly what it is.
    When people began reporting that they saw this creature in the 1970s and 1980s, the press gave it the name “Chessie.” They probably named it that because of another mythical monster that supposedly lives in Loch Ness in Scotland. That creature is known as “Nessie.”

  • Who else has seen Chessie?

    There have been many sightings over the years..

    For example . . .
    In 1982, Clyde Taylor and his daughter Carol were walking on Kent Island. They saw a huge snake-like animal near the shore of a local beach. Both of them later recalled that the “snake” was about 30 feet long with a head the size and shape of a rugby ball. Its entire body was resting on the top of the water. Carol Taylor rushed closer to see what it was. The creature dove out of sight when the girl was about 30 feet away. Mr. Taylor was an artist and, soon after the sighting, he completed a set of illustrations of what he saw.

  • A lot of people say they’ve seen the monster, but do they have any proof?

    On Memorial Day, 1982 (within 6 weeks of the Taylor sighting and in a place very near where Taylor had seen Chessie), the Frew family spotted a strange creature floating in the Bay near their home. Bob Frew grabbed a video camera and recorded what they all saw. He captured pictures of a huge, snake-like animal moving against the current.

    Later that summer, scientists from the Smithsonian Institution looked at the tape for over two hours. They decided that they couldn’t identify the creature based on the tape. However, they did say that it was definitely a living creature.

    The Applied Physics Lab at the Johns Hopkins University offered to see if the images on the tape could be made clearer. Their first results showed an “animal” form – a long, snake-like object with an oval head. They were going to do further work on the image, but money for the project ran out.

  • What do all these “sightings” have in common?
    • The creature that is seen looks like a huge snake
    • It has a football-shaped head
    • It is between 20 and 40 feet long
    • It is about 8 – 10 inches in diameter
    • Dark in color
    • No fins or other parts, such as an arm) attached to the body
    • The creature is not aggressive. It has never attacked anyone.

Screen 4D:
“It’s all some kind of plan to increase tourism around here. I bet the mayor’s behind it.”

What does she mean?

The economies of many towns around the Bay have always depended on fishing, crabbing, and oystering. The towns have suffered as the numbers of these fish and shellfish have dropped. People aren’t earning as much money. And they aren’t spending as much money.

Local governments are trying to find new ways of bringing money into their cities and towns. Making sure that tourists come to their areas can help do that.

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  • How do problems in fishing, crabbing, and oystering affect an area’s economy?

    The economy of an area is driven by a series of very connected events.

    Think about just one part of this network.

    If watermen can’t catch as many crabs, or oysters, or net as many fish as they used to . . .
    $  they probably won’t spend as much money.

    And, as a result . . .
    $  the people who sell goods (fuel for the watermen’s boats, for instance) and services (such as telephone service and cable/satellite TV) won’t get as much money.

    And, as a result . . .
    $  People who provide goods and services for the watermen will be affected. Their salary or hours might be cut. Their jobs or companies might even disappear.

  • How much money comes from tourism?

    In 2003 . . .

    • The average traveler to Maryland visited with one other person from the household, stayed 2.4 nights, and spent $310 in the state.
    • Tourism contributed $9.3 billion dollars to the state economy
    • 112,000 people worked in different parts of the tourism industry (such as hotels and restaurants)
  • Would more tourists come to an area if they thought they might see Chessie?

    Many people are curious about strange happenings. Unexplained creatures appearing out of nowhere can be very intriguing. People may want to travel to the locations where the creature was spotted, just in case these creatures may be real … and they might have a chance of seeing them.

    Take, for example, the Nessie monster in Loch Ness, Scotland. Some people say that natives of this area began circulating rumors of seeing Nessie in the hopes that they could attract tourists. Others say that the numbers of people claiming to see Nessie increased as more tourists came to the area.

    Whichever theory is true, tourism in this desolate area of northern Scotland has steadily increased since Nessie has been rumored to live in Loch Ness. Today, tourists hoping to see Nessie spend about $40 million a year when they come to Loch Ness.

Screen 4E:
“I’m sure it’s a hoax.”

What does she mean?

There are a lot of creatures that are common in the Bay. However, Chessie (if it exists) isn’t one of them.

Few people have seen the creature. Even when they claim they do, few of them have any evidence to shown others.

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  • Why would people make this stuff up?

    Some people might think they saw something weird. It might have been some other creature. For example, a lot of people who see the wing of a cownose ray sticking out of the water think they are actually seeing a shark’s fin. Their eyes might have been playing tricks on them.

    Other people love mysteries. And they love to be involved in mysteries as well. They think if they claim to see Chessie, they might get some attention. Others might be playing a practical joke or just making up a story that others would like to hear.

  • There are lots of creatures that people claim live in lakes and rivers around the world. Has anyone every proved these creatures actually exist?
    • Loch Ness has its Nessie
    • Lake Champlain has Champ.
    • Lake Okanogan has Ogopogo.
    • People have claimed to see these monsters for many years. But no one has ever proved that they actually exist.

      It’s not for lack of trying. For example, the BBC investigated Loch Ness in 2003. They used 60 separate sonar beams to scan the lake. They never found anything that could be classified as a lake monster. Their conclusion was that Nessie doesn’t exist.
  • Haven’t there been a lot of hoaxes about creatures like this?

    In 1997, people in Hamilton, New Zealand woke to radio reports that a sea monster had been found in a local lake. It wasn’t until later in the morning that the radio reports got it right. The monster was really a metal model that looked like Nessie, placed in the lake as a prank. Even the mayor of the city was in on it. The date of this “sighting” was April 1st, a traditional day to play tricks on others.

    In 1994, the most famous picture ever taken of Nessie, Scotland’s monster, was revealed to be a fake. It was known as the “Surgeon’s Picture” because it was supposedly taken by a doctor. However, just before the death of the last person who created this hoax, the truth was revealed. A group of men had made a pretend Nessie by attaching a sea monster’s head to a toy submarine. For years, the picture they had taken was used to prove the existence of the monster.

Screen 4F:
“Those guys sure have a good imagination. It was probably a log or something.”

What does he mean?

Imagination can be a tricky thing. It can convince people that they are seeing something mysterious that actually might be something ordinary.

Some people say that people who claim to have seen Chessie may have actually been looking at a strange current or tide—or even a stray log floating in the Bay.

Others say the creature these people think is a sea monster is really some variety of real animal.

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  • Could Chessie be an oarfish?

    Some people think that Chessie might actually be an oarfish. Oarfish are long and thin, resembling an eel. Some have seen oarfish that are over 25 feet long. They are bright silver in color and have a line of red spikes running down their backs. No one who claims to have seen Chessie said the creatures had red spikes. Oarfish usually live in deep ocean waters. Very few people have seen them. They usually come to the surface only when they are sick or dying

  • Could Chessie be a sturgeon?

    Some people have guessed that Chessie might be a sturgeon. Sturgeon were once very plentiful in the Bay. They came to its brackish waters to lay their eggs.

    However, sturgeon are not shaped like an eel, as Chessie has been reported to be. They also have fins and a prominent tail. In most reported Chessie sightings, the monster has neither. Sturgeon are bottom feeders and spend most of their time at the bottom of the ocean and Bay. But, in colonial times, sailors reported that they occasionally jumped completely out of the water and landed in their boats.

  • Could Chessie be a dinosaur?

    Scientists are sure that Chessie is not a dinosaur. Dinosaurs died out ages ago.

    However, some claim that Chessie, like Scotland’s Nessie, is actually a prehistoric reptile called a plesiosaur.

    But, as far as scientists know, plesiosaurs became extinct 65,000,000 years ago. Moreover, if Chessie were a prehistoric reptile, it would have a hard time living in the Bay. Reptiles do not generate heat to keep themselves warm. They would have a hard time surviving in the cold winter Bay, where water temperatures can go below 34 degrees. Sometimes the Bay actually freezes over. Reptiles could not survive these temperatures.

  • Could Chessie be an anaconda?

    Anacondas are certainly scary creatures, because of their size and habits. But are they really the sea monsters of the Chesapeake Bay?

    Anacondas are considered to be the largest snakes in the world—by weight. They can also grow to be as much as 29 feet long. They are constrictors, grabbing their prey with sharp teeth and coiling around victims to strangle them.

    Nineteenth century South American ships kept anacondas in their cargo areas to kill off rats. Some people think that some of these snakes may have escaped when these boats entered the Bay.

    Anacondas might be the right size and the right shape. But, they are reptiles. They cannot generate their own body heat. That’s why they like warmer waters. In the winter, Bay water temperatures dip well into the 30s. Reptile just couldn’t survive these temperatures.

  • Could Chessie be an eel?

    Some people feel that Chessie might be some kind of giant eel. People who claim to have seen Chessie describe it as being snake-like. Eels look a lot like snakes. And they are the same color as people have reported Chessie to be.

    But, can eels actually grow as large as Chessie is reported to be?

    The answer is probably no. Eels that live in the Chesapeake Bay can grow as large as 5 feet long. But people claim Chessie is much longer than that.

    In addition, eels are not known for cruising near the surface of the water—unless they are near death.

Screen 4G:
“It’s just plain silly. How would a creature like that survive in the Bay?”

What does he mean? 

Animals live in places where they can find enough of the kinds of food they like to eat and some kind of shelter to protect them.

What kind of a habitat would Chessie need? Well, it depends on what kind of a creature it might be.

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  • What kind of habitat does the Chesapeake Bay provide?

    The Bay itself is fairly large. It stretches about 200 miles from Havre de Grace, Maryland to Norfolk, Virginia.

    Its 18 trillion gallons of water can be as salty as the ocean or as fresh as river water, and everything in between. Its salt level varies from place to place—and from one depth of the water to another.

    The geology of the Chesapeake Bay is very unusual.

    Although it covers a large area, most of the Bay is fairly shallow. Its average depth is 21 feet. People often say it looks like a upside-down sombrero or tray. In the center of the Bay, there is a deep trough. It’s what remains of the ancient Susquehanna River. The deepest spot here is 174 feet deep.

    This kind of shape makes Bay waters hot in the summer and cold in the winter. In fact, parts of the Bay sometimes freeze over.

  • If Chessie were a mammal, what kind of habitat would it need?

    Mammals such as dolphins and manatees live in the water. So, if you think that Chessie is a mammal, then it might be able to live in the Bay.

    However, mammals are animals that breathe oxygen from the air. They have to come to the surface every few minutes to do this. If Chessie were doing this, the chances are good that more people would see the creature – and the sightings would be more frequent.

    Mammals that live in the water all the time do visit the Bay. But they don’t often stay here. In general, the Bay habitat does not provide what these animals need.

  • If Chessie were a reptile, what kind of habitat would it need?

    Some reptiles—like water snakes, some kinds of turtles and anacondas—live in the water. So, if you think that Chessie is a reptile, then it might be able to live in the Bay.

    However, reptiles are cold-blooded. They heat their bodies by absorbing heat from their surroundings. The Bay does not provide a good habitat for them. Its waters get very cold in the winter. Reptiles could not live in the Bay all year around.

    However, the Bay is an estuary, with an opening to the ocean. It is possible for a creature that visits here in the summer to escape back to the ocean and travel south to warmer waters.

  • If Chessie were a fish, what kind of habitat would it need?

    The Bay is home to many different kinds of fish. So, if you think Chessie is a fish, then the creature would be able to live in a habitat like the Bay. After all, eels are part of the fish family, and many people think that Chessie looks like an overgrown eel.

    However, there are very few fish the size of Chessie. Large fish usually live in places where they feel comfortable—such as very deep parts of the ocean. Most of the Bay is very shallow.

  • Is there enough food in the Bay for a creature the size of Chessie?

    Whether it eats only meat, only plants, or a combination of both, a creature as large as Chessie would probably need a lot of food.

    Other large animals have huge appetites. For example,

    • Anacondas are known to eat whole animals, such as goats and dogs.
    • Adult hippos eat 80 pounds of grass a day.
    • Humpback whales eat between 2,000 and 2,500 pounds of food (basically fish or krill, which are tiny, shrimp-like crustaceans) a day.

    If Chessie lives in the Bay, the results of its eating habits would probably be noticed. The number of many animals and plants in the Bay (such as crabs, SAV, and oysters) are way down from historic levels. Scientists have studied this problem for many years. They have identified several causes that may be leading to the lower populations of these plants and animals.

    None of them include the eating habits of a giant sea creature.

Screen 4H:
“Stranger things have happened. Look at all those creatures scientists have discovered that they thought never existed.”

What does he mean?

Most people think that sea monsters (or, in the case of Chessie, Bay monsters) are creatures dreamt up by the people who write science fiction and produce horror movies.

Scientists—and many others—have demanded proof. If these monsters exist, someone must have come across them and brought back something that could be studied in depth, such as a body or a skeleton.

Well, in some cases, someone has.

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  • Did people really find a fish that was supposed to have disappeared over 65,000,000 years ago?

    They are large blue fish, with a tail divided into three parts – one of which moves on its own. Their skin oozes an oily substance. Their skull hinges to allow them to swallow large prey.

    They are called coelacanths – and they supposedly became extinct over 65,000,000 years ago.

    That’s what scientists thought. But, in 18938, they found out they might be wrong. A woman in Capetown, South Africa found an unusual fish at the local market. On a hunch, she sent a description of the fish to a local expert. He came to observe the fish. There was no doubt in his mind. The fish was a living fossil. It was definitely a coelacanth. The find was called “the most important zoological find of the century.”

    Since that point, many more of these ancient fish have been caught and observed in their natural habitats in the Indian Ocean.

  • Ancient sailors used to talk about giant squid. But, they don’t really exist, do they?

    For centuries, people have told frightening stories about giant squid that could pull ships down to the bottom of the ocean.

    For many years, people thought these creatures were not real.

    But they were wrong.

    In the late 19th century, people began seeing them—or pieces of them in the ocean and washed ashore. From what scientists have seen, these creatures can be up to 59 feet long and weigh nearly a ton.

    And, in the 1930s, a 15,000 ton tanker owned by the Danish Royal Navy reported that it was attacked at least three times by one of these sea monsters.

  • Why haven’t people discovered these animals before

    Over the years, scientists have discovered many new kinds of animals that people never knew about. Many of them have been found in areas where there are not a lot of people … such as the desert or the deep oceans.

    Take, for example, the megamouth shark. It lives in the open ocean. So far, there have been fewer than 30 sightings of these huge-mouthed animals. But it does exist.

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Screen 5:

As you leave the meeting, your head is spinning. Real or not, Chessie is a problem for you. Who should you believe?

Screen 6:

It’s a bright, sunny morning in Bayville, but not for you.

You’ve spent the night trying to sort through all the information and opinions about Chessie.

And now you’re tired and your eyes ache and you’ve been up way too long.

But the PROduction Company is expecting your report.

Screen 7:

(On the PDA) “What do you think: is Chessie a real Bay creature … or just something people have imagined? What evidence do you have that supports your opinion?

I think The PROduction Company should include the Chessie story in the miniseries.
Yes      No

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Screen 8:

Walking out to the beach, you think about everything that’s happened before.

Did that guy really see Chessie? How could he be sure? With all those hoaxes about other creatures, couldn’t this just have been another?

You wander around until your stomach gets the best of you. Breakfast calls.

As you approach the house, you see the newspaper person. She waves and throws today’s edition on the porch.

Screen 9:

The Bayville Beat lands with a thud .

The Chessie story has got to be on the front page. Might as well take a look.

Screen 10:


“Chessie’s a Hoax!”

(Bayville Beat) Two local watermen revealed today that they invented a story about seeing Chessie, the mythical creature that some believe lives in the Chesapeake Bay. The two watermen said they made up the story in an effort to bring tourists to Bayville, where large drops in the amount of fish and shellfish had meant lower incomes for their company and other families throughout the area. “We just thought people would be excited about this and want to visit Bayville to see the monster,” explained Bob Robinson. Walter Sloat added “and spend money here.”


Screen 11:

You want to read the rest of the article. But something caught your eye. Out in the Bay, there seems to be some kind of animal swimming against the current about 50 feet off shore.

It sure looks big . . .

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