Jun 18, 2022 I Nick Redfern

Lesser-Known Lake Monsters: There Are Plenty Of Them

When it comes to the matter of lake monsters, just about everyone has heard of the Loch Ness Monsters of Scotland. If you're into cryptozoology, you'll almost certainly have heard of Champ, Ogopogo and others. Today, however, I'm going to put all of these famous beasts to one side and share with you some of the far-lesser-known water-based monsters of our world. Scandinavian history and folklore is filled with strange tales of all manner of monsters, rampaging beasts, and deadly creatures of a fantastic nature. Very few, however, were as feared as the lethal lindorm. It was a huge, wriggling, snake-like animal that, like today’s lake monsters such as Nessie, Champ, and Ogopogo, chose to live in deep, massive lakes. There was one big difference between the lindorms and other, similar monsters, however. The lindorm never stopped growing. This, rather ironically, was its very own downfall: as it grew bigger and bigger, it got heavier and heavier, something which eventually ensured it could no longer support its own weight and it would sink to the lake bed, unable to ever again move its massive bulk, and where it would eventually die.

There are stories in Scandinavian legend of lindorms having a particular hatred of Christian churches and chapels, which they would reportedly coil around and crush into rubble with their powerful, flexible bodies. Perhaps this was a result of the fact that the dragon was a beast revered in pagan times, but far less so when Christianity was brought to Europe. There are also tales of huge bulls reared to fight lindorms – and to the death, no less. Fortunately for the bulls, they were well trained and very often successfully killed the snake-like monstrosities with their powerful horns. While the lindorm is, today, a creature relegated to the world of myth, Scandinavia can boast of being home to a multitude of lake monsters and sea serpents. With that in mind, perhaps the lindorm is still with us, but just under another name.

(Nick Redfern)

While many sightings of lake monsters are somewhat vague and open to interpretation, one which occurred in 1878 is not. It came from a man named Martin Olsson, a mechanic at the nearby Ostersund, Sweden sawmill, and who lived in a cabin at the edge of the lake. He described his dramatic encounter with the monster:  “I was fishing near Forson Island when I got a strange feeling someone was watching me. I looked behind me and the lake creature was not more than forty meters behind my boat. I dropped my pole and line in the lake when I saw it. The weather was bright and sunny and I got a good view of the animal. The neck was long, about as round as a man’s body at the base where it came up out of the water. It tapered up about six feet to a snake-like head that was larger than what I figured the neck could support. There was a hairy fringe just back of the neck. Hanging down the back. This ‘ribbon’ was stuck close to the neck, possibly because of the wetness. The color was greyish brown. The thing had two distinct eyes that were reddish in appearance. There were a couple of dark humps visible beyond the neck. Both of these humps, and the part that was out of the water, glistened in the sunlight. I did not see scales. There was a skin on the animal that resembled the skin of a fish."

 The story continues: “I didn’t want to alarm the animal, but I did want to get away as quickly as possible. Moving very cautiously, I took my oars and pulled slowly away from the spot. I became even more frightened when I had rowed about ten meters distance and the animal began to swim towards me. I stopped rowing, and the thing just lay there in the water staring at me. This much have gone on for about five minutes. I’m uncertain because my mind was on anything but the passage of time. There was no doubt in my mind that this thing could have overturned my little boat. I thanked god when he dropped beneath the water and I saw a blackish hump move out in the opposite direction.”

Make mention of Scottish lake monsters to most people and it will inevitably conjure up imagery of the world’s most famous unknown water beast, the Loch Ness Monster. It’s a little known fact, however, that there are more than a few Scottish lakes with legends of diabolical creatures attached to them. While many of the stories are decidedly fragmentary in nature, one of them is not. Welcome to the world of Morag, the resident beasty of Loch Morar.  At just over eleven and a half miles in length, it has the distinction of being the deepest body of freshwater in the British Isles, with a depth of just over 1,000 feet. Unlike Loch Ness, the water of which is almost black, Loch Morar can boast of having practically clear water. It takes its name from the village of Morar, which is situated close by and specifically at the western side of the loch, and which was the site of the Battle of Morar – a violent, death-filled confrontation between the Mackenzie and MacDonell clans.

As for the monster, Morag, the tales are many. What makes them so different to the ones coming out of Loch Ness, however, is not the descriptions of the creatures, but that such reports are often hard to uncover. Unlike Loch Ness, Loch Morar is an isolated, seldom visited loch. It is bereft of much in the way of a large population, and not particularly easy to access. The result is that tourists to Scotland very rarely visit it. The same goes for native Scots, too! For that reason, just like Las Vegas, what happens at Loch Morar is very often destined to stay there. Nevertheless, there are enough classic cases on record to strongly suggest strange things lurk in Loch Morar. Moving on: 

One of the most interesting theories for some (but, certainly not all) sightings of lake monsters is that they may actually be giant-sized eels. On a particular September day in 2009, England-based monster-seeker Jonathan Downes, his wife, Corinna, and Center for Fortean Zoology colleague Max Blake headed out to Ireland’s Lough Leane, a small but engaging body of water. It was late afternoon on September 17, 2009 and Tony “Doc” Shiels both a creature-hunter and an Irish wizard - had invited the trio to spend some time with him. It was fortuitous, indeed, that Downes accepted the invite. Notably, Shiels said that the trio should keep their eyes focused on one particular stretch of water. As Corinna Downes notes, something very strange appeared before them: “I saw a trail left by something as it made its way from the island to the shore to the east of it… I was to be pressed for an answer I would probably suggest a large eel.” Max Blake recorded his thoughts on the encounter, too: “If I had to make a guess, I would say that it was most likely to have been a giant eel.”

(Nick Redfern)

On November 5, 1885, the Wallowa Chieftain newspaper ran an article on its resident monster, which has been given the distinctly non-monstrous name of “Big Wally.” It is said to dwell in Wallowa Lake, Oregon, an approximately fifty-one square-mile body of water with a depth of around 300 feet. The article states: “A prospector, who refuses to give his name to the public, was coming down from the south end of the lake on last Friday evening in a skiff shortly after dusk, when about midway of the lake he saw an animal about fifty yards to the right of the boat, rear its head and neck up out of the water ten or twelve feet, but on setting him it immediately dived. He ceased rowing and gazed around in astonishment, for the strange apparition which he had just seen, when it raised about the same distance to the left, this lime giving a low bellow something like that of a cow. It also brought its body to the surface, which the prospector avers was one hundred feet in length. The monster glided along in sight for several hundred yards. It was too dark to see the animal distinctly, but it seemed to have a large, flat head, something like that of a hippopotamus, and its neck, which was about ten feet in length, was as large around as a man’s body.”

A resident of Lake Windermere, England, "Bownessie" was hardly heard of prior to 2006. In terms of the publicity stakes, however, it has certainly done a great job in catching up. As for Lake Windermere itself, Britannica.com state the following: “The lake is 10.5 miles (17 km) long and 1 mile (1.6 km) wide and has an area of 6 square miles (16 square km). It lies in two basins separated by a group of islands opposite the town of Bowness on the eastern shore and is drained by the River Leven. Part of Lake District National Park, Windermere is a popular tourist center with facilities for yachting and steamers operating in the summer.”  As the above data demonstrates, Lake Windermere is much smaller than Loch Ness; yet, that has not stopped a mysterious creature from appearing in its depths, which extend to 219-feet at their deepest. Now, with that all said, let us take a look at the saga of Bownessie and how and why it has become a monster of the modern era. The first person to have encountered Bownessie was a journalist named Steve Burnip, who saw the creature in 2006. He said of his close encounter of the monstrous type: “I saw a straight line of broken water with three humps. It was about twenty feet long and it went in a straight line up the lake. I nudged my wife and watched open-mouthed as it gradually faded from sight. The water was not choppy, so I know it wasn’t the wind, and I know what the wake from motor boats looks like and it wasn’t that either.” The sightings still continue.

Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

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