On the afternoon of July 22, 1933, George Spicer and his wife had an encounter that would not only alter the course of their lives, but would also change the face of pop culture in the 20th Century. The couple was traveling by automobile down the south shore of an isolated Scottish loch when a wide bodied, serpentine necked monstrosity — with a dead lamb in its gaping maw — scurried across the road in front of them.
This would prove to be the first modern day sighting of the legendary Loch Ness Monster and — along with the soon to be famous Surgeon’s photo, which would be snapped less than a year later — it would forever establish the image of the prototypical lake monster in the minds of millions. In fact, thanks to extraordinary beasts such as Nessie, Champ and Ogopogo, it’s doubtful that there’s a soul on Earth who hasn’t at least heard stories about the strange, Plesiosaur-like monsters that are said to lurk in the deep, dark freshwater lakes scattered across the Earth.
While there can be no debate that these long-necked, humped-back, flipper bearing beasts are far and away the most recognized form of lake monster, the reality is that they represent just one of the many breeds of freshwater fiend reported by literally thousands of eyewitnesses across the globe.
Assembled here is a short list of just a few of the most fascinating non-traditional lake monsters that I’ve stumbled across during the course of my research for American Monsters. This list is in no way, shape or form complete and is entirely subjective, but for my money these are some of the wackiest, wildest critters ever said to be splashing around in a body of unsalted water.
Some of these creatures vaguely resemble known aquatic animals, while others are bizarre beasts that seem to be absolutely one of a kind. So let’s begin the tour with a strange, allegedly reptilian “varmint” that is said to have made its’ home in a little Midwestern lake in the heart of America. It’s a creature we like to call the…
ALKALI MONSTER: (NEBRASKA, USA)
This 50-acre body of water is renowned for its bullhead and largemouth bass, but it is also the reputed home of an off the wall, gargantuan, mono-horned beast that’s notorious for devouring anything or anyone who comes near it.
Eyewitnesses claim that the monster in question is an impressive 40-feet in length, with a scaly, grayish-brown epidermis and, perhaps most frighteningly, a bony, rhinoceros-like outgrowth that is wedged between its eyes and nostrils, which it allegedly uses to gouge out the bottoms of fishermen’s boats. This colossal, crocodilian creature is also known for its consumption of local livestock and the foul odor which it is said to emit.
The Alkali Monster was originally chronicled in Native American folklore, but the first modern report of this odd aquatic atrocity was chronicled in a 1923 issue of the Omaha World Herald. According to this account, a fellow by the name of J.A. Johnson claimed that he and two cohorts had spied the creature moving through the water from their campsite on the shores of Alkali Lake.
Viewing the creature from a distance of 60-feet, Johnson and his pals claimed that the beast resembled a gigantic alligator, with the unique addition of the aforementioned horn on its snout. The trio further testified that as soon as the animal noticed their presence on shore, it emitted a “dreadful roar” and began to thrash its tail, creating a massive splash, before disappearing below the churning surface of the lake.
The next leg of our journey takes us to small body of water laying just 250 miles north-west of Moscow near Andreapol in West Russia, where we will go in search of the legendary…
BROSNO DRAGON: (RUSSIA)
The bizarrely bio-luminescent brute known as the “Brosno Dragon” first reared its horrific head in the 13th century not far from Moscow. According to local legend, the brutal Tatar-Mongol army was on its way to invade Novgorod when their leader, Batu Khan, allegedly stopped his troops on the shore of Brosno to rest and allow the horses to drink. It would be a decision he would soon come to regret.
As the Mongol soldiers led their horses to the lake, they were horrified to see an immense roaring beast lunge from the black waters to devoured both the animals and soldiers alike. The troops further inland were so terrified by their comrades’ fates that they immediately turned back. Thus, according to folklore, Novgorod was saved by the appetite of this “lake dragon.”
This would not be the last time that this monster would show its political allegiance. According to lake residents, during World War II — in a maneuver that would have made Winston Churchill proud — the dragon once again surface and managed to swallow a Nazi airplane (or at least it’s pilot) that had apparently attempted to make an emergency landing in the water. While chances are it was merely hungry, I’d like to think that the allies had their very own lake monster on tap.
Considering the enormity of its reputation, it’s surprising that this creature is only supposed to be about 16-feet long. Eyewitnesses depict the beast as an iridescent dragon with what is alternately described as being a fish-like or serpentine head, although, due to the often frigid climate around Lake Brosno, investigators have surmised that this creature is likely not a reptile.
When not fending off foreign hordes or Nazi aviators, this aquatic dragon — doing what a dragon must, I suppose — is said to have intermittently spread its reign of terror throughout the small fishing villages located not only on Lake Brosno, but on the nearby Volgo River as well.
In fact, as recently as 1996, the Itar-Tass news agency reported that residents of the Brosno Lake area were terrified of what the local press has dubbed “Brosnie” or “Brosnya.” The article goes on to assert that many of the citizens of these tiny communities were so upset that they had taken to fortifying their homes — as quoted from an article published by Reuters News Service:
“’I’m afraid,’ said one elderly woman, Varya, who lives in the small lakeside village of Benyok about 400 km northwest of Moscow. ‘I do not feel comfortable staying in this place. The monster could crawl into my house any day.’”
1996 was apparently a banner year for the beast as an anonymous tourist from Moscow allegedly snapped a picture of the Brosno monster after his 7 year-old son screamed that he saw a “dragon” in the Lake and in November of that same year, the Karavan weekly sent an expedition to Lake Brosno.
The expedition consisted of journalists Marina Gavrishenko and Yeugeny Novikov, the head of the Tver Regional Legislative Assembly’s press-service, Nikolay Ishchuk, photographer Anaida Jilavyan and editor-in-chief of the Karavan newspaper, Gennady Klimov. Gavrishenko had this to say about the mystery:
“At first sight, the whole of the monster story looks like a fairytale. After the expedition to Lake Brosno, I do believe that the place is actually mysterious. Stories told by witnesses prove this opinion. We met with local people who were perfectly sane and adequate. What is more, all legends about the mysterious monster trace the roots back to the old times. I am sure that legends and rumors cannot arise from nothing.”
In the summer of 2002, experts of the Kosmopoisk Research Association went for an expedition to Lake Brosno and did echo deep sounding. The result of this experiment has yielded perhaps the most peculiar development in this case to date. The Moscow newspaper “Arguments and Facts” interviewed Vadim Chernobrov, the Kosmopoisk coordinator, who discussed the strange discovery they made in the depths of the lake:
“Echo deep sounding registered an anomaly. There was a huge jelly-like mass of a railway car size landing five meters above the bottom. The mass stood motionless. We waited for some time and then decided to make it move: we threw an underwater petard, a low capacity explosive device. When the device blew up, the creature started slowly going up. We stared at the water, and it was clear; there was nothing resembling a monster, however something unusual was still felt in the lake water.”
What did these Russian scientists actually blow up? Was it the corpse or, perhaps, hibernating form of the Brosno Dragon? Or, even more disturbingly, might it have been an egg cluster like those laid by many amphibians? Could the Kosmopoisk Research Associations lack of foresight in using explosive devices during their investigation have doomed this exceedingly rare species of “dragon” to extinction? Until there’s another sighting… or attack… it looks like we’ll just have to wait and see.
Now let’s move from the icy wastes of Brosno to the isolated forests of the Chinese mainland in order to find the albino beasts known as the…
WUHNAN TOADS: (CHINA)
In an isolated, forest strewn corner of China’s Hubei province there are numerous lakes and deep, water filled gorges. While the beauty and natural splendor of the region are undeniable, there are some who claim that far and away the most interesting thing about this district are the gigantic and viciously territorial, toad-like creatures are said to lurk beneath the unfathomable waters.
According to local fishermen, Bao Fung Lake and the other gorges that dot the region are infested with colossal, alabaster-skinned, amphibious monsters known as Wuhnan Toads, whose most disturbing attributes are their allegedly voracious appetites.
This phenomenon was first brought to national attention in 1962, when a group of terrified fishermen attempted to purge their favorite fishing hole of these beasts by throwing dynamite into their murky domain. The fishermen were not only unsuccessful in their efforts, but were actually chased away from the lake by a massive toad-like menace, which the men — for reasons known only to them — dubbed “Chan.”
Legend has it that the “hopping mad” Chan pursued the explosive-happy fishermen almost 90-feet beyond the shoreline. The fishermen were, understandably, reticent to return to the lake and reports indicate that these pale-skinned monstrosities have continued to plague all those who stray too close to their watery abode.
As intriguing as the 1962 episode may be, there is an even more impressive encounter with these unexplained creatures on public record. According to an account printed in the Brisbane Australia’s Courier Mail in 1995, Professor Chen Mok Chun led an expedition of nine scientists from the Peking University to the remote Wuhnan area in August of 1987, in order to make a scientific study of the region’s fauna.
As the scientists began setting up camp along the shores of one of Wuhnan’s remote gorges, three gigantic animals reportedly surfaced in the lake and began to swim toward them. The stunned men later described the creatures as being toad-like in appearance, with a pale epidermis and large gaping maws, which seemed to exceed a width of 6-feet. The witnesses claimed that the animals’ gazes seemed both “aggressive” and “predatory,”though these observations are strictly subjective.
While these men of science stared in stunned disbelief at the gargantuan beasts that were bearing down on them, one of the creatures suddenly unfurled its gigantic tongue and — before the eyewitnesses could react — lunged forward and snagged one of their camera tripods by its leg and drawing it back into the water.
The scientists watched in awe — and more than a little terror, one would imagine — as the animal proceeded to devour its inanimate prey. As soon as its meal was complete, the expedition members claimed that the remaining animals emitted horrific shrieks before submerging into the depths of the lake and into the annals of the cryptozoological record.
Now from the wilds of China let’s head to the wilds of Canada for our next run-in, this time with a school of colossal, ostensibly man-eating eels collectively known as…
Newfoundland’s Crescent Lake harbors a quaint fishing town along its shore… and a big secret in its depths. Known to the locals as “Cressie,” this animal — or, more likely, “animals” — have been reported as being eel-like in appearance with huge, terrifyingly toothy maws.
Coming in at an average length of about 10 to 15-feet, these hefty, creatures are notorious for attacking divers during search and rescue operations and, even more frighteningly, have even been credited with assailing their victims through thick sheets of winter ice.
The first reports of these mysterious lake dwellers can be traced back to pre-colonial Native American legends, which warned of the Woodum Haoot (Pond Devil) or Haoot Tuwedyee (Swimming Demon,) both of which purportedly dwelled in the lake. Since the early 1900′s there have been numerous reports of encounters with these creatures, and not all of them have been pleasant.
One of the more recent accounts concerns the alleged underwater search for the corpse of a downed pilot, who — in a situation reminiscent of the Nazi pilot and the Brosno Dragon — had crashed his plane into Crescent Lake in the mid-1980′s. The two scuba divers, who braved the black depths of the lake in the hopes of finding the pilot’s remains, found themselves surrounded by a vicious school of what they described as “gigantic eels,” which were as thick as a man’s thigh.
Legend has it that these eels or “Cressies” proceeded to attack the pair with voracious intensity, until the divers retreated to the surface. While neither diver was severely wounded, both were said to be visibly shaken by the event.
Another bizarre phenomenon which has been associated with creatures in Crescent Lake involves the mysterious holes which have been known to appear in the ice sheet which covers the water during the brutal, Newfoundland winters. There are reports that indicate that these tremendous breaks in the ice are not caused by something falling in, but, rather, by something bursting out… no doubt to the chagrin of local ice fishermen!
Whatever lurks beneath the waves in Crescent Lake — be they giant carnivorous eels or creatures as yet unclassified by science — there can be no doubt that they are large, vicious, and one of the world’s most terrifying lake cryptids.
From Newfoundland we go southwest to Wisconsin, where we find a lake that is said to harbor not one, but two, bizarre (and allegedly dangerous) creatures. These beasts are known, fittingly enough, as the…
DEVIL’S LAKE MONSTERS: (WISCONSIN, USA)
Originally known to the Native American Nakota Sioux’s as “M’de Wakan” — roughly translated as “mystery” or “bad Spirit” Lake — this stretch of eerie, mist shrouded water now known as “Devil’s Lake” was carved by glaciers during the last ice age and is the alleged home of a pair of vicious, aquatic monsters.
One of the earliest legends involving the first of the Devil’s Lake Monsters revolves around a Nakota chief who assembled an expedition of warriors to go on a late night hunting trip on the other side of the lake. The full moon reflected off the night blackened waters as the young men and their leader slipped the canoe into the lake and began their late night trek.
The trip was proceeding uneventfully when suddenly a flurry of tentacles ripped through the surf, capsizing the canoe and pulling the thrashing, terrified men beneath the murky water. Although no one survived this ill-fated expedition, their screams alerted fellow tribesmen, who rushed onto the beach and were able to bear witness to this horrific event in grisly detail due to the moon’s lingering glow.
The surviving warriors of the tribe — in order to pay homage to their fallen brethren as well as appease what they believed to be the demon of the lake — held a festival every year, during which gifts and animal sacrifices were thrown into water. The tradition continues to this day.
As if a colossal octopus-like beast weren’t more than enough monster for one body of water, when the first Christian missionaries arrived on the shores of Devil’s Lake they were greeted by the Nakota tribe who told them about yet another creature that was revealed in the year of the “great drought.”
During that excruciating year the Natkota’s remained near the swiftly drying lake, not only because it was the only water source for miles, but also because the animals upon which they fed were forced to expose themselves in order to drink. As the summer progressed the lake grew smaller and smaller, until it eventually became two lakes, separated only by a shallow strip of mud.
One morning the Nakota’s awoke to find what they described as a huge, fish-like creature, which they referred to as “Hokuwa,” trapped on the narrow, muddy strip of exposed lake bed. The tribe watched as the apparently amphibious animal — which they described as having a large body, long neck and small head much like other prototypical lake monsters — thrashed and writhed in an effort to free itself from its drying perch. Eventually the animal made its way back into the deeper of the two lakes.
From Wisconsin we scoot back over to Russia where we’ll trek deep into the inhospitable tundra of Siberia to find the…
KHAIYR MONSTER: (RUSSIA)
Lake Khaiyr is a shallow, actively volcanic lake located in the inaccessible, permafrost ridden Yakutia region in eastern Siberia. Dwelling deep within the bowels of this primordial pocket of water is a beast which has stirred both fear and controversy ever since it first reared its head in front of a renowned Russian biologist and a team of scientists from Moscow State University.
The biologist in question was one Dr. Nikolai Gladkikh, who, in 1964, made the pilgrimage to this remote region in order to sample rare mineral deposits and survey the fauna of the region. It was in a moment of quiet on the rocky shore of Lake Khaiyr that Gladkikh had the first encounter with the beast.
Gladkikh claimed that he had woken early on that misty morning in order to gather water when he was confronted by an amazing sight. According to Gladkikh, as he fetched water on the edge of the lake he was shocked to see a small headed, primeval looking animal emerge from the water and begin to feed on the long grass sprouting up along the shoreline.
Gladkikh described the being as a massive, long-necked, dark hued, reptilian quadruped with a heavy tail and a lizard-like head with two, tiny supra-orbital horns. The creature’s most distinguishing attribute, however, was the squat, triangular fin (supported by vertical rays) that ran down the length of its spine. Gladkikh claimed that he watched as the enormous beast thrashed its tail in the water.
Wasting no time, the exhilarated biologist swiftly made his way back to the base camp in order to alert his teammates about his incredible discovery. Gladkikh, now armed with a rifle, returned to the beach with his fellow scientists in tow, but the only evidence that remained was a large swathe of flattened grass.
His cohorts were understandably dubious concerning the beast he had described, but just when it seemed as if Gladkikh was going to have his vodka ration terminated, the expedition chief — Dr. G. Rukosuyev, along with two of his assistants — claimed that they watched in awe as the very same life form reemerged in the center of the lake just two days later. Rukosuyev and his men described the animal in much the same way as Gladkikh, only their accounts included the appearance of a distinct dorsal fin:
“It had a long gleaming neck with a small head. Its body was huge, covered with black-blue skin. There was a big dorsal fin on the back of its body. All of sudden, the animal slid back into the water. Some time later I saw it standing out the water in the middle of the lake. The animal started swinging its long tail to whip the water. The waves were rippling the surface of the lake.”
It wasn’t long before word of this enigmatic entity found its way to the press and the scientists’ reports were published in the Komsomolskaya Pravda and the magazine Soviet Life. From there the story took on a life of its own, spreading swiftly across the globe. Sadly, due to the remoteness of Lake Khaiyr it wasn’t long before the public’s interest died down and the legends of this mysterious monster began to fade once again into obscurity.
Now let’s head back to the states to a tiny double-lake in Michigan, where a strange and brilliantly camouflaged creature is allegedly responsible for scaring one teenage angler nearly to death. This unusual beast has got to be one of the flat out weirdest lake monsters said to exist and they call it the…
LEELANAU LAKE MONSTER: (MICHIGAN, USA)
Lake Leelanau actually consists of two lakes, which are located right next to each other. While the lakes themselves may be relatively nondescript, the creature that purportedly dwells within their muddy confines is anything but.
Said to have a long, stump-like neck, an equally long tail and two abnormally large eyes, far and away the most intriguing aspect of the Leelanau Lake Monster is its exceedingly narrow girth. According to local legend, the beast first appeared after the Lake Leelanau dam was built in the late 1800′s.
After the dam was erected, the water level of the lake rose between 10 and 12-feet, flooding a large portion of land and creating a marsh-like environment around the lake. This is where the creature is said to thrive.
While there are purportedly scores of reports of this nefarious beast, the most detailed account of an encounter with this critter comes to us all the way from 1910. In the summer of that year, a teen named William Gauthier was perch fishing from his row boat in the shallow reeds along the shores of what was then called “Carp Lake.”
Finding that his luck was threadbare, young Gauthier decided to row out a little further, toward a section of the lake where he had never fished before. Passing several dead cedar trees, which were jutting haphazardly out of the water, the adolescent fisherman decided to moor his boat against one of the stumps and continue fishing.
Gauthier chose a tree, which he described as being approximately 5-feet tall and 6-inches wide, and pulled to a stop next to it. Little did he know that he was seconds away from the shock of his young life.
As soon as Gauthier’s rope touched the branch, two huge eyes suddenly popped open at face-level with the horrified youth. The angler was frozen in terror and after staring into this bizarre creature’s eyes for a few seconds the animal abruptly dove beneath his row boat.
Gauthier claimed that animal’s length was so impressive that he could see the submerged head of the beast appear on the far side of the boat while its tail still remained aloft. One of Gauthier’s direct descendants would later confirm that his great-grandfather had been thoroughly terrified by this encounter and that the event had shaken him so badly he avoided fishing on Lake Leelanau for many years.
One of the many things I find so intriguing about this account is the fact that Gauthier was able to paddle up right next to the beast without igniting an immediate reaction. Could it be that the creature was relying on its distinctive camouflage to keep it concealed; playing possum waiting for the boat to leave or — more ominously perhaps — laying in wait for its unsuspecting prey?
Also worthy of note is the fact that the juvenile witness did not recognize the stump for what it was until its eyes opened. This would seem to indicate that — much like stick bugs and there ilk — the animal in question had developed an incredible epidermal disguise, which allowed it to blend seamlessly into the vast morass of its stump-studded environment.
When presented with this hypothetical evidence one can’t help but to wonder how many times individuals who believe that they are merely staring at half-submerged trees are actually — albeit unwittingly — having an encounter with a genuine cryptid. Who knows?
While this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to accounts of non-traditional lake monsters — I neglected Turkey’s elephantine Van Lake monster and Argentina’s whale-like Nahuelito among scores of others– it does offer a fun overview of the not quite Plesiosaur-like beasts that have been spotted all over the world.
So the next time you’re taking a dip in your local watering hole, don’t just keep your eyes peeled for a long neck and a tiny head bursting out of the water, because something a lot more interesting… and potentially more dangerous… might be lurking right below your feet.