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Florida Three Toes | The Giant Penguin of Clearwater Florida

Everyone knows that Florida is too hot for a penguin, right? What about a giant penguin .... could there possibly be one living in the Gulf of Mexico? The legend of Florida Three Toes had many people asking that question in the 40s and 50s when tracks of a gigantic penguin-like creature kept appearing on the beaches of Clearwater, Florida.

Florida Three Toes

Florida Three Toes was a myth of epic proportions, as people scrambled to figure out what was leaving behind the gigantic three toed footprints in the sand near Clearwater.

The Giant Penguin of Clearwater dominated headlines and people's imaginations for over 10 years. Florida Three Toes was such a prominent urban legend that many people were convinced of its existence.

The Florida Three Toes legend turned out to be a giant penguin hoax!


Clearwater, FL  33755
The Giant Penguin

On a February morning in 1948 while walking the beach in Clearwater near Tampa, a resident stumbled upon what looked to be footprints belonging to a giant monster. The tracks were large (14 inches long, 11 inches wide) and they had three long toes with claws. Whatever had made them apparently had come out of the Gulf of Mexico at the south end of the beach and, taking 4-foot to 6-foot strides, had walked for more than 2 miles in the soft sand before returning to the water.

The monster was dubbed “Florida Three Toes” and over the next 10 years, its footprints appeared frequently on beaches from Clearwater to Sarasota. Several sightings were reported, describing the creature as a giant bird-like creature, or a “furry log with a head shaped like a hog’s”. Ivan T. Sanderson, a noted Zoologist and science commentator for WNBC in New York as well as the science writer for the New York Herald Tribune, spent months studying the prints and various reports. He concluded that the tacks had been made by some form of Giant Penguin.

On June 11th, 1988, in an issue of the St. Petersburg Times, writer Jan Kirby revealed that the whole thing was nothing but a hoax. Tony Signorini, a Clearwater resident came forward and admitted that he and the late Al Williams, a local and well known prankster, had left the prints in the sand all those years ago. The real monster is a pair of cast iron feet connected to high-top black sneakers, each weighing 30 pounds. Williams created them to look like dinosaur prints at a time when the world was enthralled with the Loch Ness Monster.

As for the sightings, Signorini maintains that he and his partner had nothing to do with those. In response to a particular sighting called in by a pilot flying over the beach, he said, “You know, that’s a funny thing, because we never knew who was flying that plane and made the report. It wasn’t us.”

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This article was contributed by in January 2013 and updated in December 2014. It has been viewed 3,627 times.

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