The True Story Of The 5,000 Pound Manta Ray Caught In New Jersey And The Confusion That Followed

In the days of Instagram filters and image editing software, it's harder than ever to know if the pictures we see, especially online, are real, as Scientific American explains. Questions about the authenticity of a photograph have been around since before the days of A.I. and algorithms, though, and some such examples get passed around on the internet today. Periodically, an old photo purportedly taken in 1917 of an enormous manta ray makes the rounds online, billed as authentic. But as it turns out, while it's an actual picture, the creature depicted was a model, per Deep Sea News.

Another is-it-real-or-not controversy involving an old photograph relates — believe it or not — to an oversized manta ray supposedly seen in a picture reportedly taken in 1933. Even today, it sometimes goes viral on social media, as Snopes reports. The story of how the alleged enormous sea creature was caught, the apparent photographic evidence that followed, and questions as to whether the fish seen in the picture could have even existed, began with a fishing expedition. A powerful denizen of the deep got tangled up in the anchor line of the boat, Miss Pensacola II, captained by A.L. Kahn, off the coast of New Jersey (via Forgotten History).

It took more than 20 bullets to kill it

It's now lost to history exactly when A.L. Kahn and his crew came to realize whatever was caught in the anchor line was a manta ray, but what is known is the fish pulled the boat for some five miles over the course of three hours. All the while, those onboard grew concerned they might capsize, according to Sea Paradise. At some point, the Coast Guard came to the rescue, and with their help, Kahn and others on the vessel wrestled the leviathan close enough to the surface to shoot and kill it. It reportedly took 22 bullets fired from a high-powered rifle to bring it down, as Forgotten History explains.

Once back on land, the manta ray is said to have been measured and weighed — it was supposedly more than 20 feet wide and could have weighed as much as 6,000 pounds. But is that even possible? According to, it very well may have been. Manta rays are known to reach sizes that large and to be as heavy as Kahn's catch. No specific records remain of the 1933 mega-ray caught off the coast of New Jersey, though, beyond media coverage from the time period. In 2022, a giant manta ray was captured in a blurry photograph near a surfer off of Rambler Road beach on the Jersey shoreline, as the PhillyVoice reports. With that in mind, it's plausible that Kahn's manta was real — but what about that famous photograph?

A.L. Kahn put the manta on display

The creature A.L. Kahn caught was dubbed the "devil fish" in the media. He charged admission (which benefitted the local fire department) as crowds lined up to see the fearsome oddity, according to Forgotten History. From there, the great manta was reportedly sent to a taxidermist; if it was, it's now lost. There were also further exhibitions of the creature planned. It was also meant to end up on display at a natural history museum, but it's unclear if that happened. A picture purporting to show Kahn and other men alongside the titan was published in the Honolulu Advertiser Journal that same year, according to Snopes.

It's another photo, said to be of Kahn's bounty, that today is greeted with more controversy, though (via Snopes). That image is of a great manta ray suspended from a crane with an unidentified man standing next to it. The manta ray in the photograph is believed to have been a taxidermy model, not Kahn's manta ray in all its glory, based on Snopes reporting.