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Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

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Wednesday, June 02, 2010

LINDSAY SELBY: Freshwater Octopi

In Oklahoma, Lake Thunderbird, Lake Tenkiller and Lake Oolagah (sometimes spelt Oologah) have become the subject of media attention due to stories that a freshwater octopus living in them pulls down swimmers to their deaths. The creature that supposedly resides there is described as reddish-brown, leathery skin and approximately the size of a horse. Some say it looks like an octopus , others like a shark with tentacles.
All the lakes are man made. Lake Thunderbird is a reservoir constructed between 1962 and 1965 for the purpose of providing municipal water to nearby towns along the Little River. (The lake is named after the Native American legend of the Thunderbird, a supernatural bird of power and strength.) Lake Tenkiller was created by damming the Illinois River. The earth-fill dam was constructed between 1947 and 1952 for purposes of flood control and hydroelectric power generation. Lake Oolagah was finished in 1974. The recent nature of the lakes makes it unlikely that any ancient creature resides there.


There are Native American stories about the octopus, going back nearly two hundred years. Most of the tribes in Oklahoma were transplanted there in the 1830s. The tribes settled around the water ways, which then became the lakes. The local legends talk of creatures that lived in the spring-fed ponds that dotted the area before the lakes were there. The stories go on to say that the ponds were linked underground so the tentacle creature would lurk just beneath the surface waiting for prey to come for a drink. It would then drag them to their deaths. When the lakes were made the creatures moved in but still lurked in the old springs that lead to the lake bottom.


Tyler Shuman, Ruthie Simple, and Bruce DelRoy were three teenagers reported to have drownED, pulled down by the creature and the newspaper reports also apparently said the two other teenagers with them had blister like wounds and scabs , like the marks caused by Octopus suckers. However I have been unable to confirm this.
In January 2009 A group of teenagers apparently filed another sighting of the Octopus .(again I have been unable to find official confirmation of this)


Many say a freshwater octopus is not a possibility, however there may be another explanation . Divers in the lakes have seen giant catfish and it is now known that large cat fish will drag a swimmer down and they are carnivorous. It is possible the long whiskers of such a huge fish(Some say as big as a car) could be mistaken for tentacles waving about. There have also been reports of juvenile alligators being seen .I would think the catfish is the most likely culprit. It may not be as exciting as an octopus, but just as deadly and just as interesting.

3 comments:

Dale Drinnon said...

Catfish, definitely. I had an early posting on the matter in the Frontiers-of-Zoology group and the solution of a gigantic catfish very definitely fills the bill most economically. And there are several reports of gigantic catfishes all over the united states. Even my brother Benny (who is generally conservative in his opinions and scoffs at freshwater octopus reports) allows that some catfishes can grow to 20 feet long. That is in line with the reports but certainly well above the usual scientific opinion allowed on record.

Dr Dan Holdsworth said...

I tend to agree with the catfish being the culprit; these are known to attack swimmers and to be able to live in freshwater. Cephalopods are not known to be able to tolerate freshwater, or at least not to be able to breed in it since their eggs take up salts from the water during development, and freshwater doesn't permit this. Had cephalopods made the transition to living in fresh water, they'd probably have carried on towards being semi-terrestrial and this world would probably look a lot different now. As it is, they never solved the osmoregulation difficulties that coming out of the sea poses, so I find the notion that one isolated species managed it to be far-fetched, at best.

stormwalkernz said...

Another point too is a giant Catfish would definately explain the "Tentacled Shark" that is sometimes described.
When I first heard this description the word Catfish immediately came to mind, as alot of species of catfish especially when excited by food hold the Dorsal Fins very high and errect.