Cryptids and Legendary Creatures

The Black Demon, Gigantic Shark of Mexico

It was a cold winter day in London.  The year was 1564.  English sea merchant John Hawkins had recently returned from a successful trading voyage that took him from the west African coast to the Spanish colonies of the Caribbean and South America.  Hawkins made a considerable amount of money for his London investors and on that winter day in 1564 he knelt before his queen, a dour Elizabeth the First, who granted him a 700-ton ship to continue his trade exploits.  After several successful commercial ventures to the New World the queen would eventually make Hawkins an admiral and then would knight him for gallantry displayed during the English defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588.  In 1567 Hawkins embarked on his third voyage which took him from west Africa to the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula and to the Spanish settlements in the modern-day Mexican state of Veracruz.  While in the waters around the Yucatan, Hawkins and his crew encountered a large flesh-eating fish they had never seen before.  When Hawkins asked the locals the name of this strange aquatic beast, an indigenous Maya replied “xoc,” spelled x-o-c, which was the name for the gigantic fish in the Yucatec Maya language.  When Hawkins and his crew returned to England in 1569, the seafaring Englishmen added a new word to their ever-growing lexicon, “shark.”  The word used to describe a creature not seen in the waters around Great Britain would be the only word in the English language with its origins in a Maya dialect.  Few English speakers know of the very Mexican roots of the word “shark” or how it entered everyday English.

Many varieties of sharks exist in both Pacific and Caribbean waters around Mexico.  On the opposite end of the country from the first English encounters with sharks exists a tale of terror which has only garnered attention recently.  In the waters of the Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortez, between the Baja Peninsula and the state of Sonora, a gigantic dark creature is said to lurk.  For generations fishermen have told tales of El Demonio Negro, or in English, “The Black Demon,” a massive, aggressive shark that overturns boats, attacks whales and swallows sea lions in a single bite.  Is this just a big “fish story,” or could a previously unknown species of gigantic shark exist in the cold depths of the Sea of Cortez?

Of the over 400 types of sharks on earth only 10 pose any danger to humans.  As an apex predator, sharks tend to generate a great deal of fear even though shark attacks on people are very rare.  In 2012 a 20-foot long, 2,000-pound great white shark was killed in the Sea of Cortez near the coastal city of Guaymas and was one of the largest great whites ever seen off the Mexican coast.  The Black Demon shark is said to be two or three times the size of this great white and supposedly weighs between 50,000 and 100,000 pounds.  Imagine a shark the size of a school bus weighing the same weight of 8 to 10 elephants with a gigantic tail larger than that of the largest whale in the ocean.

Although there have been numerous stories and intergenerational tales of the Demonio Negro shark, there have been no verifiable incidents of actual attacks.  No local newspapers have ever carried stories about the creature with verifiable names and dates of purported attacks.  The stories say that the shark goes after medium-sized boats and then retreats to the depths of the sea, which can go down to below ten thousand feet in the Gulf of California.  Half-eaten remnants of whales washed ashore are often cited as evidence of the shark’s existence.  One eyewitness account often cited in the literature on this creature comes from American sport fisherman Erick Mack who was sailing off the coast of Baja in July of 2008 when he had his encounter with this gigantic fish.  Mack describes it is as being around 50-feet long, dark in color and with an enormous hind flipper.  The creature hit and rocked his boat, flipped up its tail and descended rapidly underwater.  Mack never saw this huge fish again, but his story got nods from the locals and caught the attention of the TV series “Monster Quest” which dispatched a film crew to the Sea of Cortez to investigate.  The crew set up near Lobos Island about one quarter of the way down the eastern coast of Baja.  After days of investigating and filming, the “Monster Quest” show came up empty.  They broadcast their findings on March 18, 2009 during their third season on an episode called “Mega Jaws.”

Some cryptozoologists, or those who research and describe legendary creatures, claim that the gigantic black shark of Mexico may be a megalodon, a species of large prehistoric sharks that lived in the oceans from 23 million to 2.6 million years ago.  The megalodon had 7-inch-long teeth and a bite force of between 24,000 to 40,000 pounds, more than three times that of a T-Rex.  The average length of a megalodon was about 35 feet. The Black Demon fits the megalodon description pretty well, although some accounts by fishermen say the Mexican shark may even be bigger than the megalodon.

Mexican paleontologist Roberto Díaz Sibaja in his blog, “Paleos: The History of Life on Earth,” gives an explanation as to what happened to the gigantic prehistoric fish.  Translated from the Spanish:

“Megalodon became extinct before the Pleistocene began, when environmental changes caused by alterations in the circulation of marine currents cooled the world.  In this new world, the megalodon food sources began to become scarce.  Some went extinct and others packed their bags and they moved to the coldest waters, away from the shark that, when unable to adapt, perished. This happens when the creatures hyper-specialize in the exploitation of one or very few resources. ”

Megalodon teeth found by the HMS Challenger in the South Pacific in the 1870s have been scientifically dated to be only some 10,000 years old.  While some scientists have a problem with the dating methods used, others believe that this shows that megalodons survived into modern times.  Perhaps a group of these prehistoric sharks still lives in the cold depths of the Sea of Cortez among the plentiful wildlife found in that body of water.  Gigantic shark sightings have occurred in other parts of the world, too, notably off the coasts of South Africa and Australia.  Although no bodies of megalodons have ever been recovered and none have ever been filmed, clues and eyewitness accounts of massive sharks lead some to believe that the megalodon never went extinct.  Is Mexico’s Demonio Negro a living fossil?

With no physical evidence to go with, as a cryptid, or legendary creature, the Black Demon has proved to be as elusive as bigfoot.  There are many sightings of this gigantic shark, but little else to go on.  Skeptics claim that the fish is simply being misidentified.  The largest fish in the world, the docile, plant-eating whale shark is found in the waters of the Sea of Cortez and could be mistaken for something different.  Dark shadows moving under boats could also be from various types of whales which live in the area.  Untrained eyes may see a variety of things and try to explain them away by using the legend.  Until a body is produced for examination or other comparable evidence presents itself, there is very little to go on.

The internet is full of fringe theories and urban legends and sometimes these theories and legends intersect.  An interesting comment in the comments section of a YouTube video about the Black Demon tied the sightings of the gigantic shark with a supposed secret underwater base in the Sea of Cortez.  The alleged “base” was first described by researcher Scott C. Waring after he discovered some anomalies on the ocean floor when looking at Google Maps.  This 76-mile anomaly, sometimes referred to as a “sunken city” or “alien underwater base” by fringe researchers, ironically is located 45 miles off the Baja coast near Lobos Island, the site of Eric Mack’s famous sighting and the location of the filming of the “Monster Quest” show about the Black Demon shark.  A possible connection to a supposed secret underwater base brings up a whole host of new theories which, it seems, are only limited by the imagination.  Whether or not this creature exists cannot be determined at this time.  For now, the Black Demon plays into our most primal fear as humans and as all legends go the story will only grow and morph with time.





Jones, Tom.  “The Xoc, the Sharke, and the Sea Dogs:  An Historical Encounter,” in Fifth Palenque Round Table, 1983, ed. Merle Greene Robertson.  San Francisco:  The Pre-Columbian Art Research Institute, 1983.

“Monster Quest” tv show


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *