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Thursday, January 28, 2010


In one of my earliest blogs I wrote about cryptid material turning up in museums and the possibility of unlabelled or ‘lost’ material in collections around the world. In the state of Wisconsin some strange material, possibly related to a lake monster, was uncovered not once but twice.

The Winnebago Indians believed in two distinct types of dragon-like monster inhabiting lakes. The Wak Tcexi was a paranormal entity and was evil. The Winnebozho was flesh and blood, and benign.

There are a number of ‘monster lakes’ in the state but this story is linked to two in particular.

Lake Mendota is close to Wisconsin’s capital, Madison. Sightings of the creatures date back to the 1860s. W.J. Park and his wife were boating on the lake when they came across what looked like a large log. Mr Park poked the ‘log’, which dived, churning up the water.

Lake Mendota is linked to Lake Monona via the Yahara River. Monsters are seen here too. In July 1892 the wonderfully named Darwin Boehmer and a friend were boating on the lake when they saw the monster swimming off towards Ott’s Spring with an undulating motion. It showed 14 feet of its back above the surface.

On October 7th of the same year an anonymous man claimed that a 20-foot monster had tried to tip up a boat he had hired from John Scott’s boat livery. He said he would never venture onto the lake again for all the money in the capital. Nor would he return to Madison without a Winchester rifle and two revolvers.

Mr Scott saw the beast for himself. He and his two sons described a hump twice the length of the boats they hired out, and he refused to row two ladies across the lake having seen the beast. He was convinced it was dangerous.

Ten days later, back at Lake Mendota, twelve men spotted at 35 foot serpent whilst in the connecting river. A man claimed that a creature shaped like a ‘living log’ had attempted to overturn his boat.

The anonymous man may have used his Winchester rifle and two revolvers on the monster with no effect because that is what occurred in Lake Monona on June 11th 1897. Eugene Heath said the beast he saw looked like an upturned boat and his bullets had no affect whatsoever on it. He hastily retreated from the lake as the thing came for him. A few days earlier he claimed to have seen it eating a swimming dog.

Back in Lake Mendota in 1899, a tourist from Illinois was anchored in the lake when he saw the water swell about 100 feet from his boat. A beast 60-70 feet long, with a snake like head rose up. It seemed to be sunning itself.

In the summer of 1917 a monster with blazing eyes and a snake-like head was seen off Picnic Point, Lake Mendota, by a fisherman who ran away leaving his rod and basket behind him.

The same year a young couple were sunning themselves by the pier at Lake Mendota. As they lay on their backs and hung their feet over the edge the girl felt something tickle the sole of her bare foot and thought it was her boyfriend. However, on turning over she saw what she called ‘a huge snake or dragon’ in the water. The couple fled to a nearby fraternity house. That year piers were damaged and boats overturned - the monster was blamed.

Shortly before that wave of sightings a large, thick scale was washed up on the shore near Picnic Point. It was sent to the University of Wisconsin where it baffled experts. The State Historical Society records that one anonymous professor believed it was from a sea serpent.

Part of the lake was dredged back in 1890, near Olbrich Park, and some massive vertebra were uncovered.

The scale might have come from a sturgeon and the bones may well have been fossils but one would have thought that a university professor would have recognised these. It might be interesting to enquire if the scale is still in the possession of the University of Wisconsin, and whether the State Historical Society recorded what became of the bones as well as if they were ever examined properly. If there are any readers in Wisconsin that fancy pursuing this it may be a worthwhile endeavour.


Dale Drinnon said...

Almost certainly sturgeon all aound-but it is possibly an unidentified species of sturgeon. It may grow as much as 30 feet long but not 60-70 feet long, that would be an exaggeration.

All the same I would not count Giant Otters out of the area: some of the native "Water-panther" traditions seem to be of Giant Otters. The thing is, whatever the creatures were, they have been in decline historically and few sightings have been made at all in any of these lakes during the entire 20th century

Retrieverman said...

Sturgeon are cartilaginous, so I don't think you'd find vertebrae from them unless it was of a very recently dead individual.

Dale Drinnon said...

Certainly, that is an ongoing problem with coming up with proof of these Lake Monsters!
In this case I am assuming that the remains were indeed cartiliginous, thus presumably fairly recent, and that the carcass would be analogous to a basking shark pseudoplesiosaur on an ocean beach. Then on the other hand it is possible as Richard states, only the bony scutes (scales) were legitimately of the "Monster" and the other bones were fossils. Fossil bones of mammoths, etc, have been invoked as remains of "sea Monsters" in the area before, most likely in the case of Lake Manitou, Indiana. And the "Vertebra" of Manipogo would have been some similar relic: it is most certainly not a vertebra and it looks like an old soup bone.

spiraldance said...

I lived in Madison for several years. I took limnology and ornithology classes there along with ecology and biology. It's possible there was some sort of escapee from the university which is literally right on the lake.

thenameisVEE said...

Just yesterday, Friday July 16, 2011 my two cousins and me went fishing there. Where the private property, but acrossed it by the railroad on top of the rocks. We was fishing from like 6 in the morning til like 2. At 1-ish I saw this tail floating, I didnt wear my contacts so it looked weird, but it looks like a tail. But it was too weird.. the color of the tail was blue with some white and some pink-ish. I told my cousin "look at that mermaid" lol. He looked and said "wtf?" He told me to throw in my bait and try to hook it cause it looks dead and the tail was just floating. i had a jig with a rubber minnow. I hooked it a little and got scared. But i can see it moved a little. I was like holy shit, it just moved. My cousin threw my bait in and let it sink deeper and that thing bite! When he tried to pulled it, we can see the pole bent like it was going to break. Then it got unhooked and the hook flew all the way up, passed us, and back down, then we railed it back in. A boat came from the left side of the railroad and passed the railroad bridge. We was on the right side on top of the rocks. The "Fish" went under the boat and we can see just the back and the tail and I'm sure just that part was like 5 foot. It was not anything I've ever seen before. You can tell that the tail was clearly blue, but it also had some pinkish and white and some other color.. And it just disappeared after the boat passed. We never saw the face of that "Fish" but saw the tail. It was such at weird experiment.

Lisa Scalabrini said...

Just a few days ago it was in the news on my phones nees & weather app, on lake michigan a 22 ft. Boat with 6 people, on a warm calm day- was mysteriously lifted, flipped over, & all 6 aboard were thrown into the water. They were eventually rescued from the 45 degree water, with hypothermia- after questioned by authorities, those authorities to reporters " that the 6 people had suddenly felt hot & all jumped together into the water to cool off, & that the boat drifted away, leaving them stranded in the water." I think they were ordered not to speak with reporters,too. We all know the oncomming tourism off summer means BIG BUCKS for the state- are they hiding the truth of a dangerous aquatic creature out there to protect the money they plan to rake in? Telling folks "its safe" out there on that lake just for the money is evil. Folks need ro be told whats goin in at that lake. I wouldnt even camp there near shore.

Lisa Scalabrini said...

Folks- look into the latest " boat incident " that occured a few days ago on lake michigan. 6 people thrown from a 22 ft vessel into the water simutainiously, tho it was sunny & calm. The authorities said they all decided to " jump in cause they got hot, all at the same time" leaving the boat unmanned. They told press that. They probably told the victims to keep their mouths shut due to tourism money they expect this summer.