Friday, June 15, 2018

Is There a Monster in Your Lake?

Posted by: Dani Harper, Author
Image: Bigstock.com
Ah, summer! Flipflops, swimsuits, and picnics by the lake. If you decide to take a dip, however, do you know what might be swimming below you?

My friend, Angela Campbell, wrote a wonderful post on Here Be Magic about her fascination and affection for the Loch Ness Monster. And this month scientists will be sampling the dark waters of that mysterious lake, hoping to tease out a DNA sample. Personally, I’m cheering for them – as a fantasy and paranormal writer, I can’t help but love a good monster!

While we wait for those results, let’s talk about Nessie’s possible relatives. Did you know there are several other legendary water beasts scattered throughout the British Isles? And here in the United States, approximately 22 Nessie-type creatures have been reported! That's enough to give a person pause before swimming in deep waters...

As a Canadian, I can attest that the Great White North has its share of aquatic monsters too – over a dozen, not counting the ones that share waters with the U.S. I've been lucky enough to visit a few of the lakes, and one more than once: Lake Okanagan in British Columbia. About 80 miles long and surrounded by steep-walled mountains, it’s been compared to a coastal fjord with depths of nearly 1,000 feet in some places. 

It certainly seems like an ideal home for the most famous fresh water monster in Canada: “Ogopogo”.

Lake Okanagan, British Columbia, Canada
Image: Bigstock.com
First Nations peoples told stories about the “water demon” or “snake in the lake” long before European settlers arrived, and some native pictographs (rock art) have been found that are said to represent the beast. The Salish people in the area called the lake monster N'ha-a-itk, or “lake demon”. The Chinook peoples called it "wicked one" and "great-beast-on-the-lake." 

In 1924, however, a Vancouver newspaper reporter parodied a British song, “Ogo-Pogo, The Funny Foxtrot” in order to make fun of the reported sightings of the time:

His mother was an earwig, his father was a whale;
A little bit of head. And hardly any tail.
And Ogo-pogo was his name.

Unfortunately, the original native names for the monster were promptly forgotten or ignored, and the mysterious creature has been called Ogopogo ever since!

Reports of the Okanagan monster by Europeans predate the first sightings of Nessie in Scotland by about 60 years. In 1854, settler John MacDougall was in a canoe, swimming his team of horses across the lake. Without warning, the horses were dragged under by forces unseen. He was forced to cut the lead ropes to save the canoe from being pulled under as well, and narrowly escaped. The horses disappeared without a trace.

Image: Bigstock.com

The first recorded sighting of the creature was by author Susan Allison in 1872. She was watching the lake for signs of her husband returning from a canoe trip, when suddenly she spotted an unusual animal swimming against the waves. And in 1880 a shipment of timbers was going to be floated to Osoyoos. As the hand-sawn timbers were being made into a raft, the monster was seen to raise its head from the water and watch! In 1890, Thomas Shorts was captain of a steam ship on the lake and claimed to have seen a finned creature about sixteen feet long with a head like that of a ram. It disappeared when he turned the ship in its direction.

Sightings have occurred ever since—including some by large groups of people at the same time! On September 16, 1925, a large creature was seen swimming in the lake by about 30 cars of people parked along a beach. (The government subsequently announced that the new ferry being built for travel across the Okanagan Lake would be equipped with special "monster repelling devices".) On July 2, 1947, several boaters reported seeing the monster . On July 17, 1959, a number of people claimed to have seen a huge creature with a long neck for about three minute before it submerged.

Most witness accounts describe a serpentine creature from 12 to 70 feet long. It's usually glossy black or brown and undulates through the water. It isn’t clear if the creature actually has a number of humps or if it just looks like that because of its method of locomotion. The Ogopogo is described as having a goat-like or horse-like head on a very long neck. And sometimes the creature has been spotted emerging from the water and onto the shore!

So is it possible that Okanagan Lake has an undiscovered animal, or “cryptid”, living in it?
Image: Bigstock.com
Maybe. In 1989, a fisheries scientist named Jim Walker drafted an amendment to British Columbia’s Wildlife Act (http://www.kelownadailycourier.ca/news/article_e2a5f54a-5c88-11e7-92c9-2b85dc01e30b.html ). The result was that Ogopogo enjoyed protected wildlife status for several years.

Meanwhile, each summer brings thousands of tourists to the beautiful shores of Lake Okanagan for waterpark fun, for camping and fishing, for beautiful scenery – and maybe, just maybe, a glimpse of its most famous non-human resident.


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The fae are cunning, powerful and often cruel. The most beautiful among them are often the most deadly. Hidden far beneath the mortal world, the timeless faery realm plays by its own rules—and those rules can change on a whim. Now and again, the unpredictable residents of that mystical land cross the supernatural threshold…

In this enchanting romance series from Dani Harper, the ancient fae come face-to-face with modern-day humans and discover something far more potent than their strongest magic: love.


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