PSICAN - Paranormal Studies and Inquiry Canada

Cryptozoology

Written by Sue Demeter-St.Clair
When we hear of reports of Sasquatch or Bigfoot we tend to think of British Columbia or the Pacific Northwestern United States. This also holds true in regards to lake monsters. With the mere mention of these creatures our minds tend to conjure up images of gloomy Scottish lochs (Nessie) or closer to home picturesque Okanagan Lake, B.C (Ogopogo). Therefore, it can be quite a surprise to some readers to learn that Ontario is also ‘home’ to several lake monsters, with numerous reports of sightings both historically and in more recent times.

So what are lake monsters? Are they all just figments of an over-active imagination or tall tales told on dark and stormy nights in order to entertain? In answer to these questions the probability that some reports are indeed misidentification or outright hoaxes is high. Many credible researchers of this type of phenomena would agree with that statement. However, there has and continues to be those cases, which offer enough evidence that would allow for at the very least speculation that these creatures are in fact an as of yet undiscovered species or a relic from another age.

Quoting John Kirk from his book In The Domain Of Lake Monsters (see sources listed below): “From the evidence – film, video, photo, and anecdotal – we have not succeeded in convincing the scientists that there are anomalous phenomena in the lakes and rivers around the world that are of such extraordinary description that they deserve proper scientific investigation. However, the fact remains that many people continue to see objects that cannot be explained away by the old saws of wave and light effects, known animals, and boat wakes. It is preposterous that so many close-range sightings by educated and intelligent witnesses are blithely discounted as errors of judgement or perception.”

We are not going to attempt to convince you the reader of the existence of lake monsters. That is not our intent nor purpose. Instead we will give you some examples of sightings made throughout Ontario or within bodies of water connected to the province, which have been gathered from various sources. We encourage you to evaluate them on your own.

Please note that the following accounts are far from being a comprehensive listing; for further information a good place to begin would be our recommended reading list found below.

Lake Ontario

There are several accounts of varied descriptions in regards to L. Ontario going back two hundred years and probably longer.

During the fur trade a ‘great snake’ was spotted in the water forcing the unexpected return of a boat from Toronto (York) bound for the Niagara area. Described as 30ft long by witnesses who swore an oath before a magistrate.

On July 3rd, 1817 the crew of a ship witnessed the appearance of a blackish snake-like monster “one foot in diameter and 30 – 40 ft in length” approx three miles offshore.

Two children stated that they saw a “20 – 30 ft.” snake-like creature near Grantham on  August 5th, 1829. Their experience was recounted in a local paper, which went on to state that “this wasn’t the first sighting in Lake Ontario and, doubtless, that such serpents lived in the lake.”

In 1968 a Scarborough resident (east end of the GTA) saw a 20ft eel-like creature with a “mane of some sort” in the waters off Toronto.

Kingstie is a name given by some to creature sightings in the Kingston area or eastern portion of the lake. Over the years many extraordinary sightings have been witnessed in this general location:

An early mass sighting occurred in September 1881. Passengers and crew of the steamship ‘Gypsy’ saw a creature approx. 25 – 40ft in length with small legs and a large tail.

In the channel between Wolfe and Simcoe islands two sailors reported seeing a serpent creature during the summer of 1888.

In July 1892 a couple was reportedly “attacked by a huge serpent with eyes like balls of fire” near Brackey’s Bay. The husband fended off the monster with his fishing pole.

Two physicians spotted a 30ft creature described as having “one eye in the middle of his head as well two antler-like horns” as they sailed from Alexandria Bay to Kingston’s yacht club in August 1931.

During the 1970’s an employee of the Ministry of Natural Resources twice witnessed “a large creature dive into the lake from the shores of Prince Edward County.”

Lake Simcoe

Known as Igopogo this creature is described as a “large dog-faced animal.” It has been spotted by many people over the past 100 years particularly in the south end of the lake and Kempenfelt Bay. There may in fact be several of these creatures inhabiting Lake Simcoe according to researchers. Reportedly Igopogo was caught on videotape in 1991.

Lake Erie

Similar to L. Ontario many accounts of various descriptions have been reported over the past two centuries involving Lake Erie.

While shooting at ducks north of Sandusky Ohio in 1793; the captain of the sloop Felicity startled a large creature (snake) described as “more than a rod (16 ½ ft.) in length”

An extraordinary sighting took place by the entire crew of a ship bound from Buffalo NY to Toledo Ohio in July of 1892, which was carried by local newspapers. The crew (including captain) saw a large area of water approx. one half mile ahead of them churned up and foaming. As they approached they saw “a huge sea serpent” that appeared to be “wrestling about in the waters, as if fighting with an unseen foe.” They observed as the creature relaxed itself and stretched out full length (estimated at 50ft and 4ft in circumference) with it’s head sticking up above the water an additional 4ft. The brownish creature’s eyes were described as “viciously sparkling” and large fins were also noted.

Crystal Beach near Fort Erie was the scene of another sighting on May 5th, 1896. This time there were four eyewitnesses who watched for 45 mins. as a 30ft. creature with a dog shaped head and pointy tail churned up the water as it swam about until finally disappearing before nightfall.

A more recent series of sightings, which gained a lot of attention, occurred in 1993. A family witnessed a 30ft creature swimming close to shore near Lowbanks, Ontario. A fisherman presumably spotted the same creature earlier on near Kelley’s Island. It was again spotted in the same area this time by five fishermen. Then on August 24th of the same year the ‘Weekly World News’ ran a front-page story on the reported attack of a 38ft sail boat by a “200–ton sea monster.” The boat had been “crushed like an eggshell” according to the five witnesses who had escaped without injury. A photo of this event purportedly taken by a camera-toting occupant of a low-flying aircraft in the vicinity accompanied the published story. A substantial reward was offered by a group of Ohio businessmen for proof of the creature’s existence. This reward was never collected.         

Lake Huron

In 1975 a large group of creatures were spotted near Kincardine. John Kirk speculates within his book (see below) that “relic seals” may have been responsible for this mass sighting, which was reported on in the London Ontario Free Press of July 12th, 1975.

“Two, long, log-like” creatures were reportedly observed in the Goderich area in 1989.

Georgian Bay

A giant (8ft) seal-like creature was sighted off Wasaga Beach in 1938. There have been many reports of creatures within Georgian Bay over the years, but are usually on a smaller scale size-wise than those reported from other areas.  

Lake Superior

Traditionally Natives believed that Lake Superior was the home of a gigantic sturgeon that was capable of holding “an entire village in its mouth.” This creature was often blamed for the disappearance of natives whilst on the lake.

According to a sworn statement made by a North West Company voyageur in front of two judges in Montreal PQ; he and four others saw a “merman” on May 13th 1782 in the vicinity of Pie Island, Thunder Bay. The merman was described as having the upper half of a human body, including head, and appeared to look child-like approx. “seven or eight years of age.” Another voyageur reported a similar encounter in the same locale on a separate occasion. Natives in the area referred to this merman creature as “Manitou Niba Nibais – god of the water and lakes.”

Many ‘odd’ occurrences involving the lake and ships, which often caused much damage to vessels during the early 20th century are recounted in Fredrick Stonehouse’s ‘Haunted Lakes’ (see below). These include ships ramming into solid objects when charts showed depths at 1000 ft., sudden violent churning of water again at depths of 1000ft. and ships being battered by “strange windless storms.” Occasionally attempts at explanations such as sudden squalls, other freak weather conditions, or earthquakes, were made. These were inadequate in light of surrounding facts and more often than not no explanations were offered at all. Natives would blame these occurrences on a “monstrous fish,” which in some instances proved to be a more plausible speculative thought than other theories.

Two fishermen reported seeing a large, strange, aquatic creature (snake-like) in the Picture Rocks area in the mid-1930s.   

Lake St.Clair

An eel-like sea serpent was reportedly responsible for the death of a horse left ashore by some fishermen in 1897. A witness saw the animal as it was dragged out into the lake by a creature that presumably devoured it.

In the same year a man at the Riverside Hotel observed a creature moving at a “terrific rate of speed” in the St. Clair flats.

Muskrat Lake

Mussie has been described as “serpentine, prehistoric, and resembling a giant seal.” Reports of Mussie can be dated back to 1916. Two of these creatures were also caught on film. Detailed accounts are available in John Kirk’s book ‘In The Domain Of Lake Monsters’ and Michael Bradley’s ‘More Than A Myth: The Story Of The Muskrat Lake Monster.’

Other bodies of water with reported lake monster sightings include:

Lake Of Bays

Berens Lake

Deschenes Lake

Detroit River

Mazinaw Lake

Nith River

Ottawa River

Lake Temiskaming

Sources And Recommended Reading List Include:

  •        In The Domain Of Lake Monsters By: John Kirk
  •        (1998 Key Porter Books Ltd)
  •        Haunted Lakes By: Fredrick Stonehouse
  •        (1997 Lake Superior Port Cities Inc.)
  •        Haunted Lakes II By: Fredrick Stonehouse
  •        (1999 Lake Superior Port Cities Inc.)
  •        More Than A Myth: The Story Of The Muskrat Lake Monster By: Michael Bradley
  •        (1989 Hounslow Press: Willowdale)
  •        Mysterious Canada By: J. R. Columbo
  •        (1988 Doubleday)