The Nondescript was, according to Peter Dance,
zoologist and author of Animal Fakes & Frauds, "probably
unique in the annals of taxidermy, politics and caricature."
The story of the Nondescript starts with Charles
Waterton, a wealthy, adventure-naturalist of 19th century
England. During his travels Waterton amassed a huge collection
of stuffed birds and animals. The most popular of the specimens,
a monkey-like creature, he named the "Nondescript."
According to Waterton he procured the animal
during a journey into the wilds of Guiana. The creature had
a "thick coat of hair and great length of tail" said Waterton.
The most unusual feature, noted the naturalist, was the face.
Waterton, saying he was unable to carry the whole creature
out of the jungle, displayed only the head and shoulders of
the animal in his home.
Visitors who saw the creature said it had a
strangely human, almost familiar, face. They were right. Waterton,
a master taxidermist, and practical joker, had used the torso
of a red howler monkey, then cleverly manipulated the face
to give it the appearance of a man. Not just any man, but
J. R. Lushington, a treasury official who had made Waterton
pay an exorbitant duty on his collection.
Copyright 1996 Lee Krystek.
All Rights Reserved.