Famed paranormal author Charles Berlitz wrote a 1977 book, Without a Trace, in which he claimed that a Captain Marvin McCamis claimed to have seen a plesiosaur-like sea creature from a submarine, DSV Alvin at 300 ft:

"...I was astonished to see a thick body with flippers, a long neck, a snakelike head with two eyes looking right at us. It looked like a big lizard with flippers - it had two sets of them. Then it swam upwards with its back turned before we could get the cameras angled. They were set to photograph 15 to 25 feet in front of the submarine and the thing had already swum out of the camera angle but was still around."

Did this research submersible spot a living plesiosaur at only 300 feet?

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    A single person's testimony from over 50 years ago, has any evidence from that occasion surfaced in the meantime, photographs, sonar? Could you add that in support. Trouble is, even if we'd definitively discovered the existence of live specimens since, there's no guarantee that this particular claim can be verified. Apr 29, 2021 at 0:28
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    It's a one of those :absence of evidence does not constitute evidence of absence" claims, unfalsifiable, no matter the credibility of the witness. Apr 29, 2021 at 0:47
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    This is a notable claim that was asked with a clear reference and as such is perfectly on-topic for this site. The fact that this attracted downvotes is beyond me. Apr 29, 2021 at 10:52
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    @Jordy At what point will ghost reports from a "famed paranormal author" stop being notable? His tenth claim? Hundredth claim?
    – pipe
    Apr 29, 2021 at 11:41
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    @pipe, you're either attacking a straw man or I'm missing your point. From what I could find this is the first question on Skeptics about Charles Berlitz, so we are very far from his tenth or hundredth claim. If the questions will eventually become too similar that's a reason to close, not to downvote. Either way, it has nothing to do with notability or this question. Apr 29, 2021 at 12:18

1 Answer 1


On one hand, it disappoints me that we are still debunking Charles Berlitz's nonsense accounts about the Bermuda Triangle (which includes the Tongue of the Ocean) over 40 years after they started.

On the other hand, debunking the claims from his book Without a Trace is actually harder than debunking his earlier books because by the time the 1977 book came out, people had realised he was just making up stories without evidence, and didn't put in the same effort to show this.

The Skeptics Dictionary explains:

Over the years there have been dozens of articles, books, and television programs promoting the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle. In his study of this material, Larry Kusche found that few did any investigation into the mystery. Rather, they passed on the speculations of their predecessors as if they were passing on the mantle of truth. Of the many uncritical accounts of the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle, perhaps no one has done more to create this myth than Charles Berlitz, who had a bestseller on the subject in 1974. After examining the 400+ page official report of the Navy Board of Investigation of the disappearance of the Navy planes in 1945, Kusche found that the Board wasn't baffled at all by the incident and did not mention alleged radio transmissions cited by Berlitz in his book. According to Kusche, what isn't misinterpreted by Berlitz is fabricated. Kusche writes: "If Berlitz were to report that a boat were red, the chance of it being some other color is almost a certainty." (Berlitz, by the way, did not invent the name; that was done by Vincent Gaddis in "The Deadly Bermuda Triangle," which appeared in the February, 1964, issue of Argosy, a magazine devoted to fiction.)

In short, the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle became a mystery by a kind of communal reinforcement among uncritical authors and a willing mass media to uncritically pass on the speculation that something mysterious is going on in the Atlantic.

Live Science echoes the debunking.

So, we have a proven unreliable narrator, giving an unsubstantiated report, from a person, about an alleged sighting of an unidentified creature.

There is no reason to believe that this is evidence of a plesiosaurus.

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    The captain mentioned as the one who sighted the animal died in 2004 whoi.edu/who-we-are/about-us/people/obituary/marvin-mccamis so it does not seem like this 'Captain Marvin McCamis' was fabricated.
    – user53407
    Apr 29, 2021 at 5:00
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    @LarsKnowles Unless there is a statement from Marvin McCamis about having done the interview, the author could still have made it up and just used the name of a living person to lend credibility to the story. I get a lot of spam from people claiming to have won the lottery, and they link to a news report of an actual person who won the lottery, but I don't think it's the real person anyway.
    – pipe
    Apr 29, 2021 at 11:39
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    @LarsKnowles: You make a good point - I overstepped. Corrected. My google searches with "Captain" didn't find any evidence that didn't lead back to Berlitz, but drop the "Captain" and there are other records. Interestingly, he later wrote about his adventures on the DSV Alvin in Oceanus and the sighting (if it happened) wasn't important enough to rate a mention.
    – Oddthinking
    Apr 29, 2021 at 15:55
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    @Oddthinking Adding that link and the fact that the captain didn't mention the alleged sighting would, I think, improve an already excellent answer.
    – TripeHound
    May 1, 2021 at 7:28

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