THESE vintage photos show a new visitor arriving in Southend back in 1932.

The visitor in question was a 73ft long, 65 tonne finback whale named ‘Eric’ who has been captured and killed off the coast of America.

His body had been preserved with a ‘pickling solution’ and Eric has been turned into a major tourist attraction and macabre sideshow which saw him being lugged and exhibited all over America and then transported to the UK.

In February, 1932, Eric arrived in Southend ready to become the centre of a major new exhibition at the Kursaal in time for the Easter Weekend.

The monster whale would become a huge draw in the town, with thousands and thousands of visitors paying to see Eric’s mummified body and clambering to learn more about the capture of whales from ‘experts’ who gave lectures at the Kursaal.

Basildon Standard:

Eric’s demise had been gruesome. He had been swimming off the coast of California when he was spotted by a whaler.

The whaler used a harpoon with a bomb attached to its head in a bid to capture the doomed finback - the second largest species on earth after the blue whale – but the attack was botched.

The harpoon was fired at Eric and penetrated his head but the bomb did not explode. For sixteen hours Eric suffered a slow, painful death which saw him thrashing around in the sea, helpless to escape.

After such time Eric – presumably wanting his pain to end – took an extra deep dive and drowned himself.

Then began his odyssey of travel. Eric was towed to a whaling station where he was pickled with 60,000 gallons of formaldehyde. His huge heart was removed for experts to study.

Eric became the seventh dead whale owned by the Pacific Whaling Company and all of them were exhibited across America, where they were said to have ‘dazzled’ and ‘captivated’ visitors due to their titanic bodies, the size of which had never been seen amongst the general public before.

In December 1931, Eric began his journey to England from Boston. He eventually landed at the Royal Albert Docks in east London before going on show at the Olympia and then moving down to Southend for his Kursaal appearance.

The logistics of transporting Eric from the capital to Southend were complex and the lorry procession carrying his body moved at a snail’s pace.

The Southend Standard reported: “Crowds gathered as news of Eric’s approach was passed from man to man.

“Progress naturally was slow but London Bridge was safely crossed and there followed an extremely slow procession through the city.

“The great box containing Eric was resting on two girders, the extremities of which rested in turn on four-wheeled bogeys, the wheels being covered with rubber, to ease the effects of the jolts.”

Eric passed through Whitechapel and Stratford before entering Essex via Romford.

Once he reached Southend an entire day was spent guiding the lorry containing Eric to a resting spot at the Kursaal on the north side of the water chute.

The whole project was then shrouded in secrecy until the exhibitions’s public opening on Good Friday and no photographs of the whale’s body were allowed.

It is not certain what happened to Eric but he was later sent up north to entertain the crowds. It is rumoured he was eventually buried underneath a rollercoaster at an amusement park in Morecambe, Lancashire.