Is the Malevolent Sea Monster in Apple TV Plus's Miniseries 'The Essex Serpent' a Real Legend?

Apple TV Plus's miniseries 'The Essex Serpent' highlights how hearsay about a British cryptid sea creature instills fear in a community. Is it real?

Bianca Piazza - Author

May 12 2022, Published 4:22 p.m. ET

'The Essex Serpent'
Source: Apple TV Plus

Is the beloved cryptid creature the Loch Ness Monster real? What about Bigfoot? The whole appeal of urban legends like these is their ambiguity and the word-of-mouth excitement factor. When it comes down to it, it's fun to be hopeful that mystical monsters are really out there. Finding Bigfoot has lasted 12 seasons for a reason.

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Apple TV Plus's forthcoming limited series The Essex Serpent follows the residents of Aldwinter — a small, religious Essex village petrified by sightings of a sea monster known as the "Essex Serpent." After the death of her long-abusive husband, protagonist Cora Seaborne — who's portrayed by Emmy winner Claire Danes (Homeland) — packs up her life and moves from Victorian London to said coastal Essex village in the 1890s, stirring the pot in the conservative community with regards to science and skepticism.

Unlike her neighbors, Cora is enlivened by the possibility that the beast is real. It isn't long before the progressive woman is blamed for bringing about the supposed return of the devilish urban legend's presence. Of course, it's all hearsay, as none of the main characters have actually seen the gilled creature. Considering The Essex Serpent boasts all the characteristics of a real legend, is it based on truth?

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'The Essex Serpent'
Source: Apple TV Plus

Is 'The Essex Serpent' real? The series is based on the 2016 book of the same name by author Sarah Perry.

Directed by BAFTA nominee Clio Barnard and written by BAFTA nominee Anna Symon, The Essex Serpent also stars Emmy nominee Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Frank Dillane (Fear the Walking Dead), and Clémence Poésy (The Tunnel). The story comes from the mind of award-winning British author Sarah Perry, whose debut book, After Me Comes the Flood, was published in 2014. While her 2020 work, Essex Girls, is nonfiction, Sarah is more well-known for her fiction.

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That being said, she found inspiration for The Essex Serpent inside a 17th-century pamphlet.

"I first heard of this mythical serpent courtesy of my husband, who’d been reading a little 1938 book called Companion Into Essex. The book includes an excerpt from a pamphlet printed at Clerkenwell in 1669, which relates the appearance of 'a Monstrous Serpent,'" Sarah's post on the British Library's Living Knowledge blog reads.

The pamphlet (which she later found in the British Library catalogs) was titled The Flying Serpent, or, Strange News out of Essex.

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She went on to detail that the mysterious little pamphlet included information about the slithering serpent's "length, proportion, [and] bigness" as well as its main habitats and "what means hath been used to kill it."

That's essentially the extent of The Essex Serpent's "nonfiction" roots. While we certainly can't say the Essex Serpent is real ... we can't necessarily tell you it's not real.

The Essex Serpent premieres on Friday, May 13, 2022, on Apple TV Plus.

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