H.P. Lovecraft, who was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1890, is one of the most revered of all the many and varied horror novelists that have ever existed. It’s a tragedy that Lovecraft overwhelmingly failed, in the 1920s and 1930s, to see his work achieve the massive levels of popularity that it has today. And, he never would get to see it: Lovecraft died at the age of forty-six from a combination of cancer and malnutrition. He was, in many ways, the definitive starving artist. He was also a deeply weird, complex and controversy-filled character: he shunned the opposite sex (but was not gay), had a near-non-existent sex life, was a racist, and was very much a loner. While Lovecraft’s many and varied stories never made him famous (and certainly not rich, due to his early passing), there is no doubt that there are very few writers today who have achieved such fame - and infamy, in Lovecraft’s case. There is also no doubt that Lovecraft’s most famous, fictional creation of all was the hideous creature of the oceans called Cthulhu.
The monster first appeared in “The Call of Cthulhu,” a story that was published in the pages of Weird Tales in 1928. It was in that same story that Lovecraft detailed the appearance of the hellish thing. He described it as “a monster of vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like head whose face was a mass of feelers, a scaly, rubbery-looking body, prodigious claws on hind and fore feet, and long, narrow wings behind.” An entire mythos surrounds Cthulhu, and associated monsters, and concepts that keep Lovecraft’s devotees busy day and night. Not only that, there are those Lovecraft devotees who postulate that Lovecraft may not have written his stories himself – at least, not in the way most of us might assume. It’s a fact that many of Lovecraft’s creations – the aforementioned Cthulhu, and other legendary, fiendish creatures as Nyarlathotep, Shub-Niggurath, and Ithaqua, as well as ancient cities and strange landscapes – came to him in the dream state. Or, more appropriately, while in the throes of terrifying nightmares in the dead of night. Just maybe, so the theory goes, Lovecraft’s ideas were prompted by glimpses – deep in a state of sleep – of all too real monsters, creatures, and strange worlds. We’re talking about the likes of astral travel.
Lovecraft shared these experiences, in 1916, with a friend, Rheinhart Kleiner. We’re told the following by the H.P. Lovecraft website: “Rheinhart Kleiner (1892–1949) was one of H.P. Lovecraft’s earliest correspondents. The recipient of the first issue of Lovecraft’s amateur paper, The Conservative, in 1915, Kleiner challenged Lovecraft to reconsider his dogmatic views on race, literature, and society. A poet of exquisite skill and sensitivity, Kleiner inspired Lovecraft to write a number of poems directly addressed to him or inspired by his own poems.” It was in one of these letters that Lovecraft referred to the Night Gaunts as “living shadows” and of creatures with faces that lacked eyes, noses, mouths and ears. They were, then, faceless. The scenario was almost always the same: the Night Gaunts would steal Lovecraft from his bed, haul him into the skies above, and then drop him from huge heights. As the ground below came ever closer and closer, Lovecraft would awaken, in a cold sweat and in a state of terror.
It’s rare that a story of a monster crosses paths with the world of conspiracy. But, that’s exactly what happened when it came to the matter of a mysterious creature – or, rather, an alleged mysterious creature – said to have surfaced in the 1990s. It quickly became the subject of U.S. Navy interest. To fully understand the controversy, it’s necessary to go back in time to the 1960s, when the Cold War was still in full force. It was in that decade that the Navy established a top secret program known as SOSUS. It stood for Sound Surveillance System. Essentially, it was a vast network of underwater microphones that spanned much of the planet and which were designed to monitor for Russian submarines – and particularly so those that were equipped with atomic weapons. Today, the Cold War is over. The world, however, is still a dangerous place. Maybe even more so than back in the old days when we had only one enemy to worry about: the Soviets. As a result, the SOSUS detectors still exist, picking up on sound waves in what is termed the Deep Sound Channel.
It’s not just Russian (and, today, Chinese) subs that the U.S. military has recorded on its SOSUS equipment. Ships, earth-tremors, and even whales have been detected by the highly sophisticated technology. It’s technology that has been significantly improved upon since the old days and which is now overseen by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is a section of the government’s Department of Commerce. All of which brings us to a certain, deeply puzzling, event that occurred in 1997. That was the year in which NOAA recorded a very weird, and very large, “something” in the waters of the South Pacific Ocean, west of South America’s most southern tip.
Before we get to that, let’s take a look at the work of NOAA. In their own words: “NOAA provides timely and reliable information based on sound science to communities and businesses every day. From daily weather forecasts, severe storm warnings, and climate monitoring to fisheries management, coastal restoration and supporting marine commerce, Americans rely on NOAA…The National Ocean Service provides data, tools, and services that support coastal economies and their contribution to the national economy. NOS is dedicated to advancing the following priorities: Ships move $1.5 trillion worth of products in and out of U.S. ports every year. Every ship moving in and out of U.S. ports relies on navigation charts and water level information that NOS alone provides. All mapping, charting, and transportation activities and infrastructure are founded on a reliable, accurate national coordinate system. NOS is solely responsible for maintaining that system, which provides more than $2.4 billion in potential annual benefits to the U.S. economy. Businesses in the maritime community rely on NOS for a range of decisions, from how much cargo to load to choosing the safest and most efficient route between two points. They use NOS data, tools, and services to plan seasonally for ship schedules to service global trade more safely and efficiently as significantly larger vessels transit through U.S. ports as a result of the Panama Canal expansion.” All of which brings us to Bloop.
Whatever “it” was, it certainly caught the attention of NOAA and the military, who nicknamed the anomaly “Bloop.” Whatever Bloop was, he, she or it was of a certain amplitude to be picked up on tracking equipment more than 5,000 kilometers from where its movements were recorded. More intriguing, within both NOAA and the Navy there were those who suspected the signature was suggestive of Bloop being a massive, unknown animal, such as a squid of unparalleled proportions. One might even be justified in saying something akin to H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu or the legendary Kraken. Needless to say, the controversy surrounding Bloop attracted a great deal of interest. One of those who took a great deal of interest in the matter was a man named Phil Lobel. He was a marine biologist based at Boston University. Although Lobel was admittedly doubtful of the hypothesis that Bloop was a huge squid, he did not dismiss the possibility of it being something living. In fact, Lobel suggested it probably was some form of animal. When the media latched onto the story, NOAA admitted that this was far from being the first occasion upon which such anomalies – which may well have been giant, unknown animals – had been detected in the world’s oceans. Each and every one of them had been given specific names, including Whistle, Upsweep, Train, and Slowdown. As for NOAA’s stance on the matter of Bloop today, the prevailing theory within the agency is that Bloop was nothing weirder than a large iceberg that was beginning to collapse, and which provoked the sounds that were recorded and provoked so much debate. True or not, the legend of Bloop lives on, still giving hope to some that Cthulhu is something more than just fiction.
NOAA’s view on the nature of Bloop as follows: “In 1997, researchers listening for underwater volcanic activity in the southern Pacific recorded a strange, powerful, and extremely loud sound. Using hydrophones, or underwater microphones, that were placed more than 3,219 kilometers apart across the Pacific, they recorded numerous instances of the noise, which was unlike anything they had heard before. Not only was it loud, the sound had a unique characteristic that came to be known as ‘the Bloop.’
“Scientists from NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) were eager to discover the sound's origin, but with about 95 percent of the ocean unexplored, theories abounded. Was the Bloop from secret underwater military exercises, ship engines, fishing boat winches, giant squids, whales, or a some sea creature unknown to science? “As the years passed, PMEL researchers continued to deploy hydrophones ever closer to Antarctica in an ongoing effort to study the sounds of sea floor volcanoes and earthquakes. It was there, on Earth’s lonely southernmost land mass, that they finally discovered the source of those thunderous rumbles from the deep in 2005. The Bloop was the sound of an icequake - an iceberg cracking and breaking away from an Antarctic glacier! With global warming, more and more icequakes occur annually, breaking off glaciers, cracking and eventually melting into the ocean. “PMEL’s Acoustics Program develops unique acoustics tools and technologies to acquire long-term data sets of the global ocean acoustics environment, and to identify and assess acoustic impacts from human activities and natural processes on the marine environment.”
Massive, Cthulu-like monster or the cracking of an iceberg? The choice is yours. And, the story is not alone. Let us now take a trip to Oklahoma. And a certain lake where monsters dwell. It’s a deeply strange story that is very much dominated by myth, folklore, and urban legend, but which just might have at its heart a genuine mystery of cryptozoological proportions. And it goes like this: in the waters of Lake Thunderbird, Oklahoma, something monstrous and weird is said to dwell. It’s described as being octopus-like – hence the memorable moniker the creature now has – and is somewhat akin to a scaled-down version of horror-maestro H. P. Lovecraft’s most famous creation, Cthulhu. In Lovecraft’s own words, you will recall that Cthulhu was: “A monster of vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like head whose face was a mass of feelers, a scaly, rubbery-looking body, prodigious claws on hind and fore feet, and long, narrow wings behind.” The wings aside, that is not a bad description of the Oklahoma Octopus.
Most of the claimed sightings of the Oklahoma Octopus have been reported from within the depths of Lake Thunderbird. This, in itself, is curious, and for three, specific reasons: (A) Lake Thunderbird is a freshwater lake; (B) the lake wasn’t built until 1962 (which begs the question: where did the beast, or beasts, come from?) and (C) octopuses live in saltwater environments. Unless, that is, against all the odds an octopus or several have managed to cope with, and adapt to, a freshwater world. There are other, notable aspects to the story, too: the lake itself is named after another legendary creature of cryptozoological proportions, the Thunderbird, a staple part of Native American lore and history. Plus, the Native Americans that called the area their home centuries ago told stories of monstrous, Cthulhu-esque octopus-like water-beasts in the area way back then - and long before the Oklahoma Octopus was on anyone’s radar. The specific locations were the Illinois River (which snakes its way through arts of eastern Oklahoma) and the Verdigris River. As for the witness reports, they typically revolve around sightings of fairly significantly sized tentacles seen breaking the surface of the lake. Seldom is a complete creature encountered; but there are several such cases which, collectively, still leave the matter wide open. Finally, it is worth noting that NOAA have also felt the need to highlight tales of mermaids on their website – a site that is run by the U.S. government.
Precisely why NOAA chose to address this controversial issue remains unknown. Maybe, they know more than the rest of us do. NOAA tell us the following: “Mermaids - those half-human, half-fish sirens of the sea - are legendary sea creatures chronicled in maritime cultures since time immemorial. The ancient Greek epic poet Homer wrote of them in The Odyssey. In the ancient Far East, mermaids were the wives of powerful sea-dragons, and served as trusted messengers between their spouses and the emperors on land. The aboriginal people of Australia call mermaids yawkyawks – a name that may refer to their mesmerizing songs. “The belief in mermaids may have arisen at the very dawn of our species. Magical female figures first appear in cave paintings in the late Paleolithic (Stone Age) period some 30,000 years ago, when modern humans gained dominion over the land and, presumably, began to sail the seas. Half-human creatures, called chimeras, also abound in mythology — in addition to mermaids, there were wise centaurs, wild satyrs, and frightful minotaurs, to name but a few. But are mermaids real? No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found. Why, then, do they occupy the collective unconscious of nearly all seafaring peoples? That’s a question best left to historians, philosophers, and anthropologists.” And a question for seekers of monsters of the deep.