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On a good day, a walk along the beach might net you a view of beautiful sunset, a handful of brilliant seashells, and more sand in your shoes than you thought possible. But after a slew of storms rocked the coast of North Carolina, residents and beachgoers started finding some strange—and unsettling—souvenirs.

As Denny Bland strolled along the shoreline of North Topsail Beach, a surfing hot spot outside the city of Wilmington, he picked up what looked like a fragment of some driftwood. The truth, however, was that he’d stumbled upon evidence that something truly frightening was lurking in the water…

In 2015, Denny Bland had been walking along the sands of North Topsail Beach, a popular surfing location along the coast of North Carolina. It was there that an odd object in the sand caught his eye.

The object seemed, in some ways, like a piece of driftwood. Striations ran vertically toward a dulled tip and the object’s black base looked almost rotted. But Denny quickly realized that it wasn’t driftwood at all. In fact, it was something much more terrifying…

Just like Denny, our ancestors from centuries ago discovered similar objects, which they boldly declared petrified dragon tongues—indisputable evidence of a terrible monster, of course. The scary part, however, was that they weren’t too far off.

That was because Denny had actually picked up the fossilized tooth of a megalodon, a massive prehistoric shark! Cynthia Crane, director of the Aurora Fossil Museum in North Carolina, shed some light on Denny’s find and the monstrous predator.

“Megalodon was this large, humongous shark that roamed the ancient seaways during the Miocene-Pliocene time—mainly mid-Miocene to Pliocene—which was about 15 million to five million years ago,” Cynthia said. Yikes!

The enormous fossilized tooth of the beast only affirmed estimates of the ancient creature’s size. The theory goes that a shark grows 10 feet for every inch of tooth. So a six-inch tooth like the one that Denny found would mean its owner was 60 feet long!

At that size, the megalodon shark would be three times larger than your run-of-the-mill great white shark, its modern-day ancestor. But how in the world did the sharks grow so big in the first place?

Paleoecologist Dr. Catalina Pimiento offered an answer: “Perhaps,” she said, “something was going on with the productivity and climate that produced that pattern, or with their prey and their competitors that made the species become large.”

After unearthing evidence of the shark, Denny was ecstatic. “I couldn’t get a million dollars and be any happier,” he said. “Even the small shark’s tooth just excites the heck out of you… I felt like I was a lottery winner.” But he wasn’t the only one who felt that way…

In fact, according to a photographer for the Surf City Gazette, one or two megalodon teeth typically wash up at that beach each year. One man from West Virginia would’ve been happy to hear that…

Greg Smith, a former community relations director at Camden Clark Medical Center who later became a firearm salesman, shared Denny’s enthusiasm for megalodon teeth. In fact, his enthusiasm pushed him to collect fossilized teeth.

“I was trying to think of something that was good for grandpa and grandson,” Greg said, and in his research, he learned about the megalodon shark and all its massive teeth. So he dispatched his grandson to research them.

After researching, Greg’s grandson returned. “He said, ‘Grandpa, it’s a huge shark with a mouth as big as a garage!’” Happy that the shark piqued his grandson’s interest, Greg sent him a giant tooth of his own—and the kid loved it!

Over time, Greg collected more fossilized megalodon teeth until he had what he called “a huge collection.” And he wasn’t kidding. As of 2018, he had over 1,000 megalodon teeth in his collection!

Naturally, even the must enthused megalodon fan would be a bit relieved the enormous animals didn’t make it out of the Pliocene era. Believe it or not, some weren’t so sure the enormous animals leaving teeth all over the coast were really extinct to begin with…

Numerous reports from off the Baja Coast in Mexico (pictured) alleged a massive black shark routinely patrolled the waters there. This shark was seen so often that it even earned a nickname: the Black Demon of Cortez. But was it real?

If you’d spoken with fisherman Eric Mack, you might have thought so. He claimed the Black Demon rocked his little boat and stuck an enormous tail out of the water. Skeptics, however, weren’t so sure about his story…

After all, the Baja waters were already known for a diverse ecosystem. Eric and others could have seen just a big ol’ whale shark—even, quite possibly, just a really big great white shark with skin defects. Could they ever know for sure?

Until the reports could be confirmed, collectors like Greg and Denny would keep legends like the Black Demon of Cortez alive. As people collect and find megalodon teeth along the shore, we’ll never forget the unbelievable creature that we once shared a planet with!

Whether the megalodon still patrols the Earth’s depths or it’s extinct for good, you’ll want to check out Denny’s unbelievable find. Isn’t it crazy that something so ancient can just wash up onto a public beach? It makes you want to go beachcombing for your own fossils…

It’s terrifying to imagine that an animal with dozens of sharp teeth the size of a human hand could still be roaming our oceans. But is the megalodon a terrifying monster better left to the past, or a beautiful wonder sadly missing from our oceans?

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