The Fish of Your Nightmares Is Lurking in the Sands of Virginia Beach

The stargazer, traditionally found in deep waters, packs a punch thanks to venomous spines and electric shocks. (Photo: By Ethan Daniels/Shutterstock)

Allow me to ruin every future beach stroll you may take along Virginia Beach.

Meet the stargazer, a predatory fish that comes packed with an arsenal of deadly weapons to match its charming good looks. Traditionally found in deeper waters, the specimen featured in a recent Facebook post by the East Coast Surfing Championships was discovered lurking in the sand by someone walking along the beach.

Stargazers are a family of fish composed of 51 species worldwide, and they all have eyes on top of their heads. They use this unique evolutionary advantage to bury themselves in the sand and ambush prey unlucky enough to swim overhead. Oddly enough, that's actually the least interesting thing about them. Not only are they equipped with large, venomous spines near their gills and above their pectoral fins, but they can also generate painful, 50-volt-equivalent electric shocks.

To lure prey, stargazers discharge sea water through their gills, causing the sand to dance like there's a meal hiding beneath it. Some stargazers also have a worm-shaped lure that grows out of the bottom of their mouths. Once a fish or crab gets close, the stargazer leaps out of the sand, sucks in its meal, and further adds to its legend as a horror of the sea.

“They’re the meanest things in creation,” fish scientist William Leo Smith, who owns a stargazer, told the New York Times. “I was so excited to get it. It’s the worst pet on earth.”

Enjoy this compilation video below of a stargazer ambushing prey. (Once it gets rolling, the video is set to jazz music, of all things.)