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Sightings Of Monsters

In the middle of the nineteenth century, lakes in Canada seemed to furnish a number of sightings of monsters. One of the most famous was Ogopogo or, as he was known to the Indians, Naitaka.

While taking a team of horses on a raft across Lake Okanagan in British Columbia in 1854, an Indian came in contact with this monster. He claimed to have been "seized by a giant hand which tried to pull me down into the water." He got away, but the horses weren't as lucky. The multi-armed creature pulled all of them under the water and drowned them.

Ogopogo seemed to be particularly fond of horses. A pioneer named John McDougal said that he had gone through the same type of experience as had the Indian. He lived, but his horses were drowned.

Early in the twentieth century, a captain in the Canadian Fishery Patrol saw the monster and described it as being like "a telegraph pole with a sheep's head." An American was said to have been struck dumb with horror on seeing it.

Ogopogo was supposedly sighted on July 2, 1919 by the Watson family of Montreal and their friend Mr. Kray. The story appeared in the newspapers: "What the party saw was a long sinuous body, thirty feet in length, consisting of about five undulations, apparently separated from each other by about a two-foot space ... The length of each of tht undulations ... would have been about five feet. Then appeared to be a forked tail, of which only one-half came above the water." By the 1920s, Ogopogo was so famous that a song was composed in London. Ogopogo was supposedly sighted by R. H. Millar, the owner-publisher of the Vernon Advertser. He wrote this descriptionfor his paper's issue of July 20, 1959:

Returring from a cruise down Okanagtn Lake, traveling at ten mies an hour, I noticed, about 250 feet in our wake, what a:)peared to be the serpent. Onpicking up the field glasses, my thought was verified. It vas Ogopogo, and it was traveling a great deal faster thai we were. I would judge around fifteen to seventeen miles an hour.

The head was about nine inches above the water. The head is definitely snakelike with a built nose ... Our excitement was short-lived. We watched for about three minutes, as Ogie did not appear to like the boat coming on him broadside; [he] very gracefully reduced the five humps which were so plainly visible, lowered his head, and gradually submerged. At no time was the tail visible. The family's vesion of the color is very dark geenish ... This sea serpent glides gracefully in a smooth motion ... This would lead one to believe that in between the humps it possibly has some type of fin which it works ... to control direction.

Ogopogo was again sighted in February 1977. Bruce and George Elliott (aged fourteen and sixteen years) of Kelowna, British Columbia and John McNation and John McNaughton (both sixteen years old) of Rutlancl, British Columbia claimed to have seen the surfacing of two or three black, humplike protrusions and a sizeable wake.

Ogopogo apparently has many Canadian brothers all(] sisters. There is Manipogo, a serpent with a bellow like a train whistle, in Lake Winnipeg. There are Igopogo, the dog-faced monster in Lake Simcoe, fortv miles north of Toronto, and T-Zuni-A in Lake Shuswap, British Columbia. And don't forget Hapyxelor in Muskrat Lake, sixty miles northwest of Ottawa.

The first appearance of the Great Sea Serpent of Silver Lake occurred in 1855. A party of six, four men and two boys, were fishing on that lake in northwestern New York State. They thought that they saw a large log off the stern of their boat, but it turned out to be the head of "a most horrid and repulsive-looking monster." It seemed to be thrashing about, and its waves nearly swamped the boat.

Monster hunters seemed to be attracted by the story. Two days later, Charles Hall and his family were out on the lake when the creature rose up alongside their boat. They all "sat quietly in the boat and looked at it. It appeared to be of a dark color at first, but as it moved off going into the water, it was of a lighter color, of a copper color ... Its head and forward part was above the water at least a yard and upon its back it appeared to have a fin as wide as father's hand ... Its head was as much as fifteen or sixteen inches around and its back was much larger ... It [the head] was as large as a calf's head."

Nobody suspected that it might be a hoax at that time, however. But a man named A. B. Walker owned a hotel in Perry, New York that was the only one anywhere near Silver Lake. Business had not been good, but after the sightings of the monster, it was booming. Everyone wanted to stay over in hope of seeing the creature.

Then, in 1857, Walker's hotel burned down. The Perry firemen found in the ruins something that looked suspiciously like the remains of a large model of a sea serpent. Walker left town. The model of the monster was about sixty feet long and was made from waterproof canvas. The canvas was supported by a coiled wire frame. A rubber hose was attached to the serpent that ran under the water to a shack on the shore, where it was hooked up to a bellows. All Walker had to do was sink the model in the lake, and when he wanted it to rise, he would activate the bellows. Air would go into the body and the serpent would rise. The motions of the model were directed with ropes from the serpent to the shore.

Lake serpents have been sighted in Utah, too. In 1860, The Deseret News of Salt Lake City told of the monster of Bear Lake. The Shoshone Indians had seen this "beast of the storm spirits" for years, but they were not taken seriously. The newspaper this time, however, wrote of a respected local citizen who had been on a horseback ride on the eastern shore of the lake. It was reported:

About half-way, he saw something in the lake which ... he thought to be a drowned person ... He rode the beach and the waves were running pretty high ... In a few minutes ... some kind of an animal that he had never seen before ... raised out of the water. He did not see the body, only the head and what he supposed to be part of the neck. It had ears or bunches on the side of its head nearly as big as a pint cup. The waves at times would dash over its head, when it would throw water from its mouth or nose. It did not drift landward, but was apparently stationary, with the exception of turning its head.

On July 28, the next day, the monster was seen by four other people. But this time it was moving and swam "much faster than a horse could run on land." Reports of the Bear Lake Monster continued for several decades. Also in 1860, the English clergyman and author Sabine Baring-Gould wrote of the Skrimsl of Iceland. It was supposed to be fifty feet long and might have been a relative of Nessie. Baring-Could wrote: "I should have been inclined to set the whole story down as a myth, were it not for the fact that the accounts of all the witnesses tallied with remarkable minuteness, and the monster is said to have been seen not in one portion of the lake [the Lagarflot] only, but at different points."

Baring-Gould also told of the slimy, gray-brown animal that had been seen in Lake Suldal in Norway. The head was described as being as big as a rowboat. There was a story about a man who was crossing the lake in a small boat when his arm was grasped by the mouth of the monster. He was released only after he had recited the Lord's Prayer, but his arm was so mangled that it was useless to him from then on. Dr. Farquhar Matheson and his wife were sailing one day in 1893 on Loch Alsh in Scotland. The weather was beautiful and the time was a little after two in the afternoon. Dr. Matheson later wrote:

I saw something rise out of the loch in front of us - a long, straight necklike thing as tall as my mast ... it was then 200 yards away, and it was moving toward us.

Then it began to draw its neck down, and I saw clearly that it was a large sea monster ... It was brown in color, shining and with a sort of ruffle at the junction of its head and neck ... It moved its head from side to side, and I saw the reflection of the light from its wet skin.

When it appeared a second time, it was going from us, and traveling at a great rate ... I was interested, and followed it. From its first to its last appearance we traveled a mile, and the last time we saw the thing it was about a mile away.

I saw no body - only the ripple of water where the line of the body should be. I should judge, however, that there must have been a large base of body to support such a neck. It was ... of the nature of a gigantic lizard, I should think. An eel could not lift up its body like that.

These are hardly the words of an hysterical observer. Twenty miles from Loch Ness is Loch Morar. It, too, has its monster. Named Morag, this creature was first sighted in 1895. The dweller in the lagoonest lake in Britain also has had a song written about it.

In 1969, it was supposedly sighted by two fishermen. An aquatic biologist, Elizabeth Campbell, described the incident: "The two fishermen were on the loch, when they saw a black-brown hump moving toward their boat through the water. The hurnp was about eighteen inches above water level and a huge dark shape could be seen below. The monster rammed the boat. One of the fishermen attempted to beat it off with an oar, but the oar snapped in half when it struck the monster." Duncan McDonnell, one of the fishermen, said, "Its skin was like that of an eel, only rougher in texture. I do not believe it came to attack us and I do not believe it is a monster. I think it is some sort of an overgrown eel."

In 1970, Dr. Neill Bass, a British biologist, headed a team to survey the loch. On the afternoon of July 14, Bass and two members of the team were taking a walk on the north shore. The surface of the loch was broken by a "black, smooth-looking, hump-shaped object," according to the scientist. A second disturbance was followed by "a spreading circular wake or ripple which radiated across the waves to about fifty yards' diameter." In August, Alan Butterworth, a zoology student, said he sighted the monster through his binoculars. He claimed to have seen a "dark-colored hump." It was, he said, "shaped like a dome and looked like a rocky inlet."

In 1913, the German government sent a special expedition to the Cameroons in Africa. Led by Captain Freiherr von Stein, the object of the expedition was to map the territory. Von Stein wrote that the people who lived by the rivers told him of a mysterious beast that lived in the waters. It was of a "brownish-gray color with a smooth skin, its size approximately that of an elephant. . . . It is said to have a long and very flexible neck and only one tooth, but a very long one: some say it is a horn. A few spoke about a long muscular tail like that of an alligator."

Ivan T. Sanderson has been described as a first-rate naturalist whose works are respected all over the world. In 1932, he was in a canoe on the Mainyu River in West Africa. In a canoe in front of him was his fellow explorer, Gerald Russell. Accompanying them were two African aides, Ben and Bassi. Then, as Sanderson wrote, something astonishing happened:

The most terrible noise I have ever heard short of an oncoming earthquake or the explosion of an aerial torpedo at close range, suddenly burst forth from one of the big caves on my right. Something enormous rose out of the water ... This "thing" was shiny black and was the head of something, shaped like a seal but flattened from above to below.

Natives later told him that what he had seen was the M'koo. Sanderson also said that if those creatures lived in that river all the time, it explained why there were no crocodiles or hippos in the Mainyu River, while there were hundreds of both in the nearby rivers.

Over the years, the White River Monster was reportedly seen by several people. The first sighting of the White River Monster occurred in the vicinity of Newport, Arkansas in 1937. Bramlett Bateman, a plantation owner, swore that he had seen the thing several times:

I saw something appear on the surface about 375 feet away. From the best I could tell, from the distance, it was about twelve feet long and five feet wide. I did not see either head or tail but it slowly rose to the surface and stayed in this position for some five minutes. It did not move up or down the river at this time, but afterward on different occasions I have seen it move up and down the river.

Several thousand people descended on Newport that year to catch a glimpse of the monster. Some of them even paid twenty-five cents each to stand in a fenced area near the river and look. But the monster never appeared. Then the Newport Chamber of Commerce hired a diver from Memphis to descend to the bottom of the river to see what he could find. He was down for seventy-five minutes, but saw nothing. According to an unnamed witness:

I just saw a creature the size of a boxcar thrashing in the White River ... It was smooth, gray, and long ... very, very long. It didn't really have scales, but from where I was standing on the shore, about 150 feet away, it looked as if the thing was peeling all over. But it was a smooth type of skin or flesh ... The thing was about the length of three or four pickup trucks, and at least two yards across ... Water began to boil up about two or three feet high, then this huge form rolled up and over; it just kept coming and coming until I thought it would never end. I didn't see his head, but I didn't have to; his body was enough to scare me bad.

Another person, Ernest Denks, named the monster "The Eater" when he first saw it because "it looked as if it could eat anything, anywhere, anytime." He described the beast: "a huge creature ... that would probably weigh over a thousand pounds. This thing I saw looks like it had come from the ocean. It was gray, real long, and had a long pointed bone protruding from its forehead."

There was a rash of White River Monster sightings in 1971, and several citizens had presented a proposal to the board of directors of Newport. They wanted a stretch of the White River from Newport to Batesville declared as the "White River Monster Sanctuary and Refuge." A song had even been written about the creature - "The White River Monster Anthem."

In 1941, there appeared a new monster that became a competitor for space in the newspapers. This was Shiny Slim, a serpent in Lake Payette in Idaho. During July and August of that year, about thirty people saw the monster. Most of them were boating on the lake at the time; most of them did not believe their eyes. Finally, Thomas L. Rogers, the city attorney of Boise, told a reporter: "The serpent was about fifty feet long and going five miles an hour with a sort of undulating movement ... His head, which resembled that of a snub-nosed crocodile, was eight inches above the water. I'd say he was about thirty-five feet long, on consideration." Almost immediately, hundreds of camera-carrying tourists descended on Lake Pavette. Slim seemed to become shy after an article appeared about him in Time magazine. At any rate, little more was heard or seen of him.

South of Clifden in Connacht, Ireland, there is a boglaud in which a stream connects a chain of three small lakes, the largest one being Lough Fadda. In 1954, Mrs. Georgina Carberry was fishing with three friends on that lake. They saw "a black object which moved slowly, showing two humps. The head was about three feet out of water, in a long curve."

There were three other sightings of the Lough Fadda Monster. A man named Pat Walsh was in his boat when a head and neck emerged from the water. A family of seven watched "a black animal about twelve feet long," with a hump and neck. A local shepherd saw a monster on the land near the lake.

In the 1960s, Captain Lionel Leslie, an explorer, led an investigation of lake monsters in Ireland. In 1965, he went to Lough Fadda. There, hoping that a Peiste (a lake monster) would come to the surface to see what was going on, he exploded a small charge of gelignite against a rock. A few seconds later, a large black object came up about fifty yards from shore. The captain told a reporter from the Irish Independent: "I am satisfied beyond any doubt that there is a monster in Lough Fadda." He tried to net the creature, but with no success.

Ireland is also a hotbed of monsters-second only to Scotland. On May 18, 1960, three Roman Catholic priests, Daniel Murray, Matthew Burke, and Richard Quigly, were trout fishing on Lough Ree in the River Shannon. It was warm, the water was calm, and the fish were biting. Suddenly, they saw a large, flat-headed animal about one hundred yards away from where they were sitting. One of them later said:

It went down under the water and came up again in the form of a loop. T'he length from the end of the coil to the head was six feet. There was about eighteen inches of head and neck over the water. The head and neck were narrow in comparison to the thickness of a good-sized salmon. It was getting its propulsion from underneath the water, and we did not see all of it.

Not to be outdone by the Scots and the Irish, the Russians said that a sea serpent was sighted in Siberia in 1965. Geologists that year reported seeing a huge animal twice at Lake Haiyr, near the Laptevykill Sea, in a region called Yakutia. "The animal had a small head, a long, gleaming neck, jet-black skin, and a vertical fin on its back," said the report filed by these scientists. "That the lake is inhabited by a monster has long been known to the local population. Nobody would approach the lake because of it." The geologists who claimed to have seen the creature both on land and in the water brought back a sketch of the beast.

Finally, there may be a monster in the Washington, D. C. area. This one was seen by more than thirty people along the Chesapeake Bay in the summer of 1978. Nicknamed "Chessie," it seemed to have returned in 1980. But this time it was sighted in the Potomac River about sixty miles northeast of Richmond, Virginia.

Goodwin Muse, a farmer, and five friends were walking to the beach and saw a ten- to fourteen-foot-long monster in the water. Muse said: "I had spyglasses and was up on a bank eighteen feet high, and out thirty yards in the river you could see this long, dark streak in the water." The creature's body was "somewhat uniform in size, about as big around as a quart jar," and its head was "as large as my hand or rnore." He added: "Absolutely none of us drink."

The group watched the serpent for fifteen minutes and then it disappeared. John V. Merriner, a fishery scientist at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science was inclined to believe that it was a large, tropical snake. "I would lean toward an anaconda type," he said.

Monsters have been seen in lakes in France, Australia, Argentina, Ireland, Scotland, the Scandinavian countries, the United States, the Soviet Union, and many other countries. In the United States, there have been sightings in almost half of the states.

These creatures may be real animals that we have yet to classify. Too many sensible, seafaring people have seen them and too many scientists are looking for them for us to say for sure that they do not exist. If these stories and reports are just myths, why are scientists trying to unravel the mysteries surrounding them? It is too early to reject the possibility that monsters do - or even did - exist. In the meantime, why don't we keep our eyes and minds open?

Thomas G. Aylesworth. Creatures in the Sea. Other Creatures in the Water. Science Looks at Mysterious Monsters Julian Messner, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, U.S.A., 1982.


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