Dan Baines has posted the fourth and fifth entries in his FeeJee mermaid build. It's glorious.
I'm pressed for time this morning, so I'll update this post later with some more thoughts. One thing I did want to discuss is the nature of "classic" gaffs. I've had a few email discussions about Mr. Baines' project with folks puzzled that the mermaid looks odd. That's entirely intentional, and true to the original ones from the 19th and early 20th century.
Back then the upper body of a monkey grafted to a large fish was a wonder and an amazement. It's an aesthetic that defines a classic FeeJee mermaid. A modern version would likely make a few tweaks to the plausibility of the gaff by replacing the lower body from a fish with one patterned after marine mammals like a seal or a killer whale. Different audience, different aesthetic.
One of the interesting things about the history of gaffs is that there was a quite intentional split between realistic creations and more stylized, almost "cartoony" ones. It was brought about thanks to a cultural backlash against the whole idea of displaying oddities. Well meaning folks found it distasteful that both living and dead "freaks" would be exhibited for the amusement of the masses. That lead to a variety of local ordinances against obscene and disturbing performances. Exhibitors responded by either recasting their exhibits as scientific curiosities, embracing the realistic approach, or making them intentionally ridiculous.
One path gives us the Minnesota Iceman, crafted by Hollywood special effects experts. With a museum-style display it had the defense of "historical or scientific value" against any kind of obscenity charge some small town lawman could throw at it. The other path leads to "classic" style gaffs that are obvious fakes. Doug Higley's work is a good example of the latter approach taken into the modern era.