Brent Swancer September 2, 2021
When one think of lake monsters the first one that will come to mind for the mainstream casual reader is the Loch Ness Monster of Scotland. Some may bring up Champ of Lake Champlain in the United States, but those are the two rock stars of the lake monster world, practically synonymous with the phenomenon of lake monsters. Yet it is a big world with many lakes, and at times it seems as if pretty much any large body of water has had its very own lake monster. Some of these have gone on to become quite well-known, while others have sort of fallen through the cracks to be forgotten, and here we will look at an assortment of some of the unsung, lesser known lake monsters out there.
One lake monster that is notorious in its native land of Norway, but little known elsewhere, supposedly makes its lair in Lake Seljordsvatnet, near Telemark, Norway. The lake itself is quite ancient, going back to when glaciers melted to form its waters, and it measures about 12 miles long and one and a half miles wide, with much of its shoreline rugged and forested. Here there is said to lurk an enormous monster called Selijordsormen, or also nicknamed Selma, typically described as a 30 to 45-foot serpent like creature like a giant swimming snake, occasionally reported as having humps on its back and having a head like “a dragon.” The history of Selijordsormen goes back to at least the 19th century, and there have been many well-known reports over the years, often with a taste of the sensational. There is one famous story of a man named Bjorn Bjorge, who was out at the lake with his mother Gunhild one day when the water supposedly surged and frothed and the monster came rushing towards them. According to Bjorn, he attacked the serpent with a sword and managed to hack it in half, after which the lower half thrashed about to fall back into the lake and the upper half and head died upon the shore and was left there to rot. Indeed, many reports of Selijordsormen have traditionally described the creatures as being rather aggressive and territorial, known to attack animals or people on shore, as well as boats that venture to deep into their territory.
In the 1900s there were several reports of the creature, such as one in 1918 which described a large serpent with a “head like a horse” that came rushing at the witness’s boat before suddenly sinking below the waves to disappear. The creature was occasionally spotted venturing onto land as well. In 1920, a witness named Eivind Fjodstuft was out fishing at the lake when he saw a serpentine creature about 15-20 meters long and with a head like a crocodile and two fin-like feet on its front portion exit the water and start making its way up into the rocks on shore, moving very much like a snake would. When it realized it was being watched, it apparently quickly turned around to slither back into the water and disappear. Sightings have happened into more modern times as well, such as a 1996 account from two fishermen who claimed the creature’s head had risen 10 feet into the air right in front of them to stare at them before splashing back down into the depths. In another even more recent report from 2001, a father and son at the lake saw a “giant snake” around 30 feet long, as “thick as a car tire,” and with a head “as big as a calf’s” at the water’s edge. As they looked on in awe, the creature suddenly spun around to glare at them before slipping into the water to disappear into the gloom. There have been attempts to catch one of the creatures by several expeditions, but none have ever found any evidence of anything unusual in the lake.
Canada has a few obscure lake monsters as well, with one of them said to inhabit Great Slave Lake, which is the second largest lake in the Northwest Territories of Canada and the tenth-largest lake in the world. The massive lake covers an area of 10,962 square miles and is more than 2,015 feet deep, making it perhaps a feasible place for a mysterious water creature to be hiding, and indeed there have been many such reports over the years. Fishermen and pleasure boaters have often told of hitting something large even in very deep water, and there have often been sightings of large, dark shapes cruising below the surface or a moving hump on the surface. In the mid-1990s, some divers in the lake looking for the body of a man who had fallen through the ice in winter claimed to have seen an enormous creature with “an alligator like body with a head like that of a pike,” which swam off into the murk. The most famous and recent sighting of the monster of Great Slave Lake is probably that of a Roman Catholic priest called Father Jim Lynn, who in 2004 looked out from his home on the shores of the lake near Yellowknife and claimed to have seen “a large dragon headed creature that rose six to eight feet above the water and moved at a very fast rate of speed.” This report hit the news at the time, and brought in a deluge of other sightings in the vicinity of Yellowknife Bay.
Also in Canada is a creature said to lurk in Muskrat Lake, about 75 miles (121 km) northwest of Ottawa, Ontario, which has been spoken of since the days before white settlers even came to this land, even rumored to have been mentioned by the early explorer Samuel de Champlain. It is also quite probably one of the more bizarre lake monsters in Canada or anywhere else for that matter. Affectionately called Mussie, the creature is supposedly a giant serpent with three eyes, two horse like ears with another ear in the center of the head, a long tongue, and sharp teeth. The whole thing has the feel of a piece of folklore that has taken on a life of its own, but there have been occasional sightings of the creature in the lake, and when author Michael Bradley searched for the monster in 1998 using sonar, he captured an image of two creatures, 6-8 feet (1.8 to 2.45 meters) long, at a depth of 24 feet (7.3 m) that seemed to be “undulating vertically.” What kind of strange beast is lurking in Muskrat Lake, if any? Who knows?
Also in Canada we have the placid Shuswap Lake of British Columbia. A popular recreation destination for people from all over the region, it doesn’t particularly seem like a place where most people would expect a menacing lake monster to reside, but there have apparently been obscure reports of just such a thing going back to at least 1904, in this case an enormous grey-black monster variously said as resembling a gigantic eel or something more mammalian in nature like a whale, dolphin, or even an aquatic bear, and which is affectionately known locally as the Shuswaggi. According to cryptozoologist Adam Benedict, of the Pine Barrens Institute, who has uncovered many of these obscure reports through his research, supposedly in 1904 a local Native hunter from the area’s Secwepemc tribe actually managed to kill and skin one of the creatures, which was said to look like the hide of an enormous bear but with aquatic, webbed feet. Considering that it was sold off to a trading post shortly after, this skin has become lost to history and could have been anything. Other sightings, although sporadic and rare, have come in ever since. In 1948 there was an encounter reported by a fisherman who claimed that his boat was nearly capsized by the creature. Then it was seen again by a group of people having a birthday party at the lakeside in 1970, and yet again in 1984 when a woman saw a giant serpentine creature swim in front of her family’s boat. Considering the rarity of sightings and the rather crowded nature of the lake in modern times, one wonders what the creature could possibly have been, and if it might have gone extinct before it was ever classified.
The United States has its fair share of lesser-known lake monsters as well. One of the strangest of these is a bizarre beast that was sighted at Charles Mill Lake, in Ohio. On March 28, 1959, three young men by the names of Denny Patterson, Wayne Armstrong and Michael Lane were visiting the lake near a swampy area when out of the muck a completely outlandish beast emerged that they would never forget. The creature was truly bizarre, standing 7 feet tall amphibious humanoid with luminous green eyes, large webbed feet, and most oddly of all having no arms. At the time the terrified boys ran for their lives, but when they came back later they would find tracks in the mud that looked like they had been made with “the footgear worn by skin divers.”
Another monster supposedly haunts Lake Pend Oreille in Idaho, which is the fifth deepest lake in the United States, and with a surface area of 148 square miles (380 km2) and 43 miles (69 km) long. Called “The Paddler,” this creature is said to be a 20-foot long gunmetal-gray serpent-like creature that moves up and down in the water as it swims and leaves a large V-shaped wave in its wake. There have been only sporadic sightings of the creatures, although some have been rather dramatic, such as a 1944 incident in which a young girl was allegedly attacked by the monster while wading in shallow water. There have been some expeditions to the lake to look for the creature, such as one carried out by a North Idaho College professor named James R. McLeod in 1984, but these have turned up nothing.
In Lake Tahoe, which lies on the border between California and Nevada in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, there is yet another strange lake monster said to prowl about. The lake itself is North America’s largest alpine lake and the second deepest in the United States, known for its majestic forest and mountain scenery and outdoor recreation activities, but what many people don’t know is that it also supposedly has its own monster. The native Washoe and Paiute tribes of the area long told of a giant lake serpent that lurked in an underwater cave in the lake, and when settlers came in they also began to report seeing a large, serpentine creature with dark coloration lurking in the depths here. One of the most famous sightings of what is popularly known as “Tessie” supposedly happened in the in the 1950s, when two off-duty police officers saw a large, black hump on the water moving at a speed of around 60 mph. Another witness saw the beast in 1979, and would say of his encounter:
Myself, along with 3 others watched a large serpent-like creature feeding/hunting in a school of large trout. It was in the middle of winter of 1979 off the dock at Homewood. It was about as big around as a telephone pole and maybe 30′-60′ in length from what we could see of it. It didn’t swim like a snake side to side. It was diving up and splashing down with its head/neck? into the school of fish, which were leaping out of the water ahead of it. We were speechless for several minutes afterwards.
Although rare, other sightings have continued right up to the present, and considering there are no large species of fish known to be in Lake Tahoe that could account for these, it is hard to say just what Tessie could be. Next we come to the state of Wisconsin, and its Rock Lake, where the Natives of the area long had stories of a monster with massive jaws that prowled the lake and its rivers attacking and devouring people and animals. Since the 1800s things got more publicized with reports of something very much like a serpentine dinosaur that is known for being quite aggressive. In one early sighting from 1867, a fisherman known only as Harbeck claimed to have been hissed at by the creature, and that it had also dragged his boat along after biting at one of his hooks. Interestingly, another fisherman named Fred Seaver was out trolling in the lake when the beast grabbed his line and dragged his boat for nearly a mile at a “rushing speed.”
There were numerous other sightings of the mysterious Rock Lake monster throughout the late 1800s. In 1882 there was a rather spectacular and harrowing encounter reported by an Ed McKenzie and D.W. Seybert. The two men claimed to have been out rowing on the lake when a gigantic reptilian monstrosity with a head like a snake dove under their boats, at one point surfacing right next to McKenzie and prompting him to shout out for help to the people on shore in a panic, begging them to bring a gun as his companion screamed at him to fend it off with his oar. On witness at a nearby boat landing apparently actually did take his own boat out towards McKenzie armed with a shotgun but the creature was already gone when he arrived, leaving behind a wake and allegedly a nauseating odor. In 1943 there was a frightening encounter reported by a witness named Joseph Davis, who saw the creature rise up 7 feet out of the water right in front of his boat before diving under him and down into the murk. Interestingly, the nearby Red Cedar Lake also has its tales of a gargantuan, 50 or 60-foot-long snake-like monster with “saw-like teeth,” which some have theorized might be the same creature using some subterranean submerged passageways that connect the two bodies of water. The Red Cedar Lake monster was also seen mostly in the late 1800s, and was known for being incredibly vicious, often blamed for killing livestock and for dragging people down to their deaths.
One very bizarre and more obscure lake monster allegedly makes its home at a place called Herrington Lake, in the U.S. state of Kentucky. The lake is not even naturally occurring, instead created in 1925 when Kentucky Utilities built a dam along the Dix River for hydroelectric power generation. The Dix Dam, which in its day was the largest earth filled dam in the world, had the side effect of birthing Lake Herrington, which is the deepest lake in Kentucky. Considering that it is an artificial lake, it is all the more bizarre that this body of water should be said to be the haunt of a rather curious creature. The Herrington Lake monster is in appearance just about as strange as you can get. Usually described as being around 12 to 15 feet long, with a long body like an eel with speckled coloration that is topped off rather oddly with a head said to resemble that of a pig, it is outlandish to say the least. This unlikely appearance has led to the creature’s rather humorous nickname, the “Eel-Pig,” and making it even more spectacular still is that it is said to be amazingly fast, able to keep pace with the fastest motorboats.
Although seen since the lake was first created, the most well-known sighting was perhaps one made by a University of Kentucky professor by the name of Lawrence S. Thompson. The professor was in a unique position to sight the creature, as he lived right on the lake, and indeed he would claim to have seen it cavorting about on several occasions. The professor always maintained that it was absolutely real and that he was not just pulling a prank, and having someone of his reputation make these bold claims brought a fair amount of other people out of the woodwork claiming to have seen it. In one sighting from 1977 the witness says:
Back in 1977 I was fishing with my uncle and his best friend during the day. We had put in at Chimney Rock, but I’m not exactly sure what part of the lake we were on when this happened. Something surfaced about 15 ft. away from the boat. All we could see was its back. It’s color and skin texture reminded us of a manatee, (but it was much larger) and it swam like a whale or a dolphin. By this I mean all that ever came out of the water was its back which was longer than our boat and at least 3 feet wide from the top of it down to the water…not sure how much was still in the water. We watched this thing for over 10 minutes in broad daylight. We never saw its head or its tail and then it just disappeared. We were in such shock that we forgot that we had a camera in the boat. My uncle was here this past weekend and brought it up. Nobody ever believed us so we had just put it in the past. And no, we had not been drinking.
Considering that this is a manmade lake, as well as the otherworldly appearance of the beast, it is hard to figure out what it could possibly be. It could be some sort of creature that got trapped in the lake with the building of the dam, a misidentified large species of fish like a catfish, of which the lake is full of, or an alligator gar, or more likely is just an urban legend or hoax. Whatever it is, there is very little in the way of any evidence for the Herrington Lake Eel-Pig at all, and should probably be considered merely a curious piece of local lore, but who knows?
Interestingly, this is not the only lake monster said to be residing within a manmade lake. Perhaps one of the better known supposed lake monsters in a manmade lake is the case of what has become known as the Lake Norman Monster, of Lake Norman, North Carolina, in the United States. The lake itself was created by the Duke Power Plant between the years of 1959 and 1964 during the construction of the Cowans Fort Hydroelectric Station, along the Catawba River to bring electricity to the Piedmont Region of the Carolinas, and it has since been used by the Marshall Steam Station and McGuire Nuclear Plant for the purpose of cooling their steam driven turbines. After initial construction, the resulting Lake Norman became the largest manmade body of water in the state, with a surface area of more than 32,500 acres and over 500 miles of shoreline, and it has become a haven for fishermen, boaters, swimmers, and those looking for all manner of outdoor recreation both at the lake and the adjacent Lake Norman State Park. It is also, rather improbably, known for being the alleged home of some sort of large water beast.
For decades people have been coming forward with sightings of a large creature described as being everything from a crocodilian reptile of some sort, to a seal-like creature with thick whiskers and prominent fins, to some kind of giant fish, to the more traditional snake-like, humped sea serpent. Most sightings are of the creature swimming through the water but there have even been more aggressive incidents reported, such as a scuba diver who claimed that the creature attacked him and bit his flipper, as well as a report made by a man who claimed the monster brushed up against him while jet skiing, leaving behind some sort of slimy substance that caused a severe rash. One of the most widely known reports was from an S. Campbell of Maiden, North Carolina, who said of his experience thus:
About ten years ago in high school some friends and I were jumping from the Duke Power trestle. We had been there for about 2 hours and making a lot of noise. I went to dive in and decided to make a huge splash. When I arose to the surface everyone was like get out of the water! Yelling and screaming that something was after me. I shrugged it off and then after realizing that the water 20 feet behind me was rippling I decided to swim like crazy! I reached the surface and climbed up the rocks to see a giant shadow under the water. It was at least 14 feet long!! It surfaced a little more before finally going down, it had to be an alligator gar, but I couldn’t imagine a fish getting that big! It looked like 2 people holding on to each other swimming. So who knows what it was? Needless to say I haven’t been back to jump from the trestle anymore!
Such reports have continued up until very recent years. 2006 and 2007 saw an unusual spike in sightings of the bizarre monster, the first coming on January 22, when a Jeffery Fengoe was out with his brother on the lake shore getting ready for a fishing trip. They heard a splashing in the water nearby and reportedly then saw a huge fish the size of a shark or dolphin with an enormous black tail. On February 1, there was another report when a man named Shane Quinn claimed to have seen some giant fish methodically pulling ducks down under the surface one by one. Then on August 21 of the same year, two fishermen saw a massive creature languidly swimming at the surface that had eyes the “size of basketballs” and a “striped, squirmy tail.” In early 2007, a man only known as Tyler, from Fox River Grove, IL, claimed that he had been tubing in the lake when he fell off his tube and waited for the boat to come back around. As he did so, he says that a serpent-like head rose 5 feet out of the water about 40 yards away from his position, causing him to swim towards the boat in a panic. The driver of the boat apparently saw the creature too, and it disappeared under the water when the witness was aboard.
Considering the manmade nature of Lake Norman, there seems to be zero possibility that there is any sort of “dinosaur-like creature” residing there, or any truly large creature at all for that matter, yet there have been various theories proposed over the years as to what it might be, if anything. One of the most popular ideas is that these are introduced catfish that have reached truly gigantic proportions, which has been fueled by scattered reports of fishermen and divers encountering massive, car-sized catfish lurking in these waters, particularly near the dam. Other ideas are out of place alligators, alligator gar, Asian carp, or introduced sturgeon, all of which could be large enough and alien enough in appearance to startle those who saw them in the lake. More far out theories are that it is some sort of mutant abomination created by leaked radiation from the nuclear plant or some prehistoric monster lurking in subterranean caves below the lake. With no physical evidence as of yet, it is hard to say. In the meantime, the monster has become entrenched as a part of local lore, becoming affectionately known as “Normie.”
Joining the ranks of anomalous manmade lakes with their own purported monsters is Harriman Reservoir, in Windham County, Kentucky, which is supposedly home to a truly bizarre creature stalking its depths. The lake was created in 1965 by the damming of the Dix River. The creature in this case purportedly has the appearance of an eel-like beast, typically around 15 feet long, with a curly tail and a head reminiscent of that of a hog, and has become known for the incredible speeds at which it can travel. Indeed, it is sometimes reported as easily pacing speedboats, yet it is mostly believed to be a shy creature that prefers to keep to itself near the dam and rarely shows much more than its pig-like snout protruding over the surface of the water. As bizarre as the appearance of the Harriman Lake monster typically is, one recent sighting from 2015 seems to follow the mold of a more traditional lake monster sighting, in which local witness Martin Kasindorf described how he one afternoon heard his dogs barking and looked out to the lake to see a six-humped serpent of some sort offshore. He would say of his encounter:
Each hump was about six inches to a foot apart. It was a nice sunny afternoon, and the surface of the lake was calm. I could see the water lapping against them. At that point, the humps started moving and submerged. Then a few yards (to the right) I saw something straight, like a log, and brown moving quickly through the water. If it was a log, it was a log with a motor on it. This creature swam straight out on the surface, like a fast-propelled log. When it submerged, the whole body sank down at once, rather than the head diving down and a tail sticking up. And I didn’t see any feet, just a snakelike body.
The creature has been theorized to be anything from the remnant population of some ancient species trapped in the lake when the river was dammed, an unknown creature hiding in the limestone caves or subterranean caverns that potentially dot the bottom, an introduced species, or even otters swimming in a line. No one really knows. In the end, that is pretty much the prognosis for all of these cases, a big hodgepodge of lesser known lakes and their even lesser-known mysterious inhabitants. why is it that so may large bodies of water attract their own homegrown lake monsters? Are these all misidentifications or is there something more to them? Whatever the case may be, they certainly show that the Loch Ness Monster has company in the world, and that there are plenty of other unexplainable lake monsters that have fallen under the radar as well.