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Exploring Canadian Monsters: Ontario

Ontario is the second largest Canadian province (fourth largest when you count the territories) and the most populated, boasting 38.3 percent of the country’s people. It’s home to Canada’s largest city, Toronto (population 2.7 million) and the nation’s capital city of Ottawa. The main topographical traits of the province are forests to the north (66 percent of Ontario is composed of forestland), farmland to the south, and water. Lots and lots of water. Most of Ontario’s border with the United States is either composed of rivers or four of the Great Lakes. Famous people from Ontario include actor Dan Aykroyd, World War One flying ace William “Billy” Bishop, director James Cameron, the band Rush, journalist Peter Jennings, hockey player and co-founder of the Tim Hortons restaurant chain Miles Gilbert “Tim” Horton, the first prime minister of Canada Sir John A. Macdonald, Superman co-creator Joe Shuster, “The Lone Ranger” actor Jay Silverheels, and the first female doctor in Canada Dr. Emily Stowe. It’s also the final resting place of Jack Fiddler. As the story goes, Fiddler was a killer of Wendigos.

 

Wendigo

The wendigo, a creature feared for centuries across Canada and the northern United States, is a monster that was once a man. The man, during a time of starvation, fell victim to the will of an evil spirit and resorted to cannibalism. A wendigo appears as a tall, emaciated, two-legged creature with bones pushing against its skin. The beast has glowing red eyes and the head of a deer.

Wendigo killer Jack Fiddler was bornZhauwuno-geezhigo-gaubow in 1839 to the Anishinaabe people in northwestern Ontario. The Anishinaabe were the last indigenous people of Canada to live under their own rule. He gained the name Jack Fiddler (and his brother the name Joe Fiddler) from white fur traders who gave First Nations people European names.

Jack, a shaman, was revered for his ability to protect tribes from spells and was known to be able to summon animals to him. He was also said to have defeated fourteen wendigos, some sent by hostile tribes, others were his own people who had succumbed to cannibalism (although a few Anishinaabe who wanted to eat human flesh had not and simply asked to be killed before they did).

In an effort to bring the Anishinaabe under Canadian law and to convert them to Christianity, in 1907 the North-West Mounted Police were sent into the region to arrest Jack and Joe Fiddler for murder. Jack Fiddler killed himself in captivity. During Joe’s trial, a witness to one of the wendigo killings, Angus Rae, told the court the Anishinaabe people honestly believed in wendigos and that the Fiddler brothers were the only ones who could rid the world of their evil. Joe Fiddler was sentenced to death in 1909.

 

A photograph allegedly of Old Yellow Top taken in 1923.

Old Yellow Top

When silver miners founded the town of Cobalt in September 1906, they discovered the area came with an unexpected resident – a 2.1-metre-tall ape-like creature with a mop of yellow hair on its head. People reported seeing the monster for sixty-four years.

Two prospectors, J. A. MacAuley and Lorne Wilson spotted the creature in July 1923 testing their claims for silver. They both thought they saw a bear in a blueberry patch near the town, but it was Wilson who picked up a rock and threw it at the beast. The creature stood upright on two legs and the men saw it was no bear. It resembled an enormous man covered in black fur except for a blonde mane that fell from its head across its shoulders.

Old Yellow Top wasn’t through with Cobalt. In April 1947, a woman and her son walked along the railroad tracks toward town to grocery shop when the mother saw what she also thought was a bear. It was not. A monster that walked like a man went across the tracks in front of them taking no notice of the two. She said it was covered in dark brown hair except for a yellow patch on its head.

The last sighting was in August 1970. A bipedal creature walked across the road in front of a vehicle carrying miners. The driver, Amos Latrielle, lost control of the vehicle and nearly drove it off a rise. Like the other accounts, the monster had dark fur except for a long, blonde head of hair.

 

Dogmen

Stories of dogmen – two-to-three-metres tall canines that can walk on two legs – have been reported across North America for centuries. They’re still reported and quite a few come from Ontario.

Per the blog of Linda Godfrey, author of “The Beast of Bray Road,” and other books about dogmen, a man fishing near Bancroft, Ontario, saw something he couldn’t rationally explain on 7 July 2015.

He drove to his cabin in the woods when the headlights of his truck hit what he thought was a man standing on the gravel road. The truck was equipped with extra lights on top and when he switched them on, he saw something that was not a man.

“It was a creature about seven feet tall, black with greyish-silver parts, hunched over with a dead rabbit in its hands,” he explained to Godfrey. “Its feet seemed to be bent backwards. It turned its head and shoulders and looked right at me. I could see its yellow eye shine.”

The beast growled at the fisherman when he decided to floor it, driving straight at the creature which simply disappeared; whether by jumping out of the way or ducking flat under the high clearance of the truck the man didn’t know. The creature wasn’t through with the fisherman, however. The man said something large prowled around his cabin later that night.

From the website dogmanencounters.com, a woman named Eleanor described her dogman encounter from Fall 2014. She drove west toward Hamilton, Ontario, when she saw a dog shoot from the bushes on the side of the road and run out in front of her. This “dog” was at least two-and-a-half-metres long, not including the tail.

 

Photograph of Ontario’s version of the Montauk Monster.

The Ugly One

In early May 2010, two nurses walking their dog on the shores of Big Trout Lake near the town of Kitchenuhmaykoosib, Ontario, found the corpse of an unknown animal amateur cryptozoologists on the internet dubbed the new Montauk Monster (it resembled the corpse of a mysterious animal discovered on a beach in Montauk, N.Y. in 2008). However, legends of the local First Nations people, the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, have the lake home to everything from mermaids to a giant serpent to something that resembles what the nurses discovered.

“…our ancestors used to call it the Ugly One. Rarely seen but when seen, it’s bad omen, something bad will happen,” per an article in Science.

The creature, dragged from the water by the nurse’s dog, had a long hairy body with bald patches on its head, feet and tail, which was “like a rat’s tail and it is a foot long,” per a story in the U.K.’s Daily Mail. The nurses, who had no idea what it was, snapped a number of photographs of the beast that made their rounds on the internet.

People speculated the animal could be anything from a raccoon, an opossum, an otter or, maybe, just maybe, the Ugly one.

 

Lake Ontario Monster

It sounds like it’s right out of a Godzilla movie. The Seneca Indians of Lake Ontario had a legend of an enormous creature, the Gaasyendietha, that lived in the lake. It was shaped like a giant serpent with massive teeth – it could also fly and spit fire. Oh, and the Gaasyendietha’s favorite meal was people.

The Seneca weren’t the only ones to see this monster. Per the 14 August 1829 Kingston Gazette and Religious Advocate, European immigrants claimed to have seen a “hideous water snake, or serpent, of prodigious dimensions” near what is now St. Catharines, close to Niagara Falls. The newspaper went on to claim “there can be no doubt of the existence of such monsters in our inland seas.”

On 1 July 1833, the captain of the schooner Polythermussaid he saw a 53-metre blue serpent in the lake, and in 1842 boys playing near Gull Beach claimed to have seen something similar, although brown and somewhat shorter at 12 metres.

Other reports came from 1872 to the 1930s, but they seem to have tapered off over the decades.

Similar stories of monsters in lakes throughout the region are too numerous to mention – with the exception of Igopogo.

 

Photograph of Igopogo taken in 1976.

Igopogo

Legend has it that a monster lives in the waters of the 41-metre deep Lake Simcoe in southern Ontario (about 64 kilometers north of Toronto). The lake, the fourth largest that rests entirely in Ontario, has ‎240 kilometres of shoreline and is the perfect size for a creature. Igopogo, named after the more famous lake monster Ogopogo of British Columbia, is shier than its western cousin; only a handful of sightings are on record. Sightings became so rare that until a sighting in 1991, the people who lived around the lake thought Igopogo had died.

It is described as looking like a seal, but one that is 18 metres long. Its face is like a dog with bulging eyes. The body has multiple dorsal fins and the tail of a fish.

To the area First Nations tribes, Igopogo is known as an invisible, but noisy, god. Igopogo is also known as Kempenfelt Kelly, named after a deep bay in the lake, and Beaverton Bessie by the city of Beaverton.

Some of the more famous sightings by Lake Simcoe-area residents occurred in 1952 and 1963. A study of the lake resulted in a “sonar sounding of a large animal” in 1983, per LiveScience.com. A monster hunter captured what he claimed was video footage of Igopogo in 1991. In 2005, Discovery Canada’s program “Daily Planet” attempted to flush out the monster using a boat with an underwater camera and sonar, although the crew didn’t find anything out of the ordinary.

 

Toronto Tunnel Monster

Legends of hairy, child-sized humanoids that live in the waterways of Ontario stretch deep into the history of the Algonquian tribes. When the city of Toronto was built over numerous streams and rivers, they think these water spirits, the Memegwesi, may have become hidden beneath the city as well. Those streams and rivers still exist, running through the sewers and culverts under Toronto.

Although the Memegwesi were known to be easy-going creatures, when offended, they would steal objects from the tribe or send canoes adrift. And what would be more offensive than being buried?

In 1978, a Toronto man reported an encounter with one of these creatures, per the 25 March 1979 Toronto Sun. The man, who would only allow to be identified as “Ernest,” went looking for missing kittens when he crawled about two metres into a culvert. “I saw a living nightmare that I’ll never forget,” he told The Sun. The creature was “long and thin, almost like a monkey, three-feet long, large teeth, weighing maybe 30 pounds with slate-grey fur.” Its eyes glowed orange. The thing hissed at Ernest, telling him to “go away” before it ran deeper into the darkness.

Ernest’s wife Barbara told The Sunher husband came back to their apartment visibly shaken. “I believe Ernie saw exactly what he says he did,” she said.

When Sunreporters investigated Ernest’s claim, they discovered the culvert emptied into the city’s sewer system – and they found a dead cat.

Next up: Prince Edward Island.