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

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

LINDSAY SELBY: Okoboji Lake Mystery

Okoboji Lake is in Dickinson County in northwest Iowa. It is part of the chain of lakes known as the Iowa Great Lakes.. The East lake is said to be not very deep , with a depth of 22 feet (7 metres). The West Lake however is estimated to be 140 feet (45 metres) deep. They are described as glacial potholes, a remnant of ice age 12000 years ago..The towns of Spirit Lake and Okoboji sit on its shore. Apparently it has a monster within the lake. It is described as a giant fish with a head the size of a bowling ball and as being a dark green colour., Obojoki, as it’s been nicknamed by local residents, has been reported brushing against the sides of lake-users’ boats for many years. One of the first

Mr. and Mrs. Charles Bartlett were at the lake a few days ago on a fishing excursion. They saw something, or rather saw where something was. They have no idea what it was. It might have been a sea serpent, or it might have been some kind of a fish that had grown to unusual and extraordinary size.They were out in the lake in a boat, when they noticed a short distance from them a terrible commotion in the water. The thing, whatever it was, was moving quite rapidly through the water and quite close to the top, and had the appearance of being as large as an overturned skiff. It made waves so large that Mr. Bartlett was really alarmed, fearing they would swamp his boat.He does not pretend to know what it was and declares he would not have believed there was such a creature in the lake had he not seen it with his own eyes the commotion made by it.

Source: Vindicator & Republican Estherville, Iowa July 3, 1903

There is also a you tube video of the satellite photo of the creature:

Then there is also this:

"One day (June 23 2001) my family and I were on vacation at lake Okoboji (in Iowa). We were at a small resort, with a dock. I must make this clear, first: Okoboji is a huge lake. This lake was naturally made multiple dozens of thousands of years ago, and it is undoubtably hundreds of feet deep and possibly hundreds of acres from shore to shore. Anyways, my two children and I (one 10 and one 13) were sitting on the dock eating some icecream cones looking at the water. It was a calm evening, probably about 7:30 so it was still light outside but just starting to darken. The water was still, like glass, with ripples only from passing boats (no fancy boats, just normally cheap little things, and none came anywhere near close to us). When my 13 year old daughter nudged me in the arm and told me to "look here" and pointed at a waked spot in the water. it was churning, almost creating a small whirl pool.. A massive hump (well ok it wasnt that big but it was bigger than anything I wanted to see) slowly and gracefully rose out, about 1 foot away from the churning water. Then it moved quickly about 2-3 feet and rapidly went back under. I remember it didnt have scales like a fish, more like a snake or maybe it had some kind of pattern that made it look like scales. It was dark dark dark greenish or blue. We were playfully "freaked out" while we watched for more, not thinking about the safety of us. Then, we saw a head... a very good-sized oval or sphere, a bit bigger than a bowling ball (but it wasnt perfectly round, it was like a lizard or a horse's head). The head arose, i could see it had the same pattern and colour as the hump i had previously seen. It had its head out and about 2 inches of its neck, and it swam very very very quickley through the water. The only part of its body that made the wake was its head, and i knew the creature must have been big, so it must have had a fairly LONG neck for its body to not disturb the surface. It swam probably a dozen yards, then its mouth opened, it appeared to take a gulp of air, then it went under. Just a split second later i saw the same hump role under the water, then i saw the last part of its tail (it was a fairly stumpy tail) splash out. My children and I were too dumb-founded to say or do much. Then we saw its head again and it was coming toward our dock. About 1-2 feet away from the dock supports (the poles that hold it up), it went under. Less than a second later we felt a huge bump and a large "THUD" sound. The dock shook violently for a few seconds. By this time, we were terrified. we ran back to the shore as fast as we could. http://theshadowlands.net/sightings.htm

So what was it? I think it may have been a Wels Catfish. It is a scale less fish and depending on it’s environment can be green brown in colour. It is recognisable by its broad, flat head and wide mouth. They can live for 30 years and will eat anything and can grow to enormous sizes. What does anyone else think, a known fish or an unknown monster?


Dale Drinnon said...

Not wels, but definitely a catfish. Wels are not native to the USA but we have other Giant catfish reports aplenty. I have a very nice scale mockup of one if you should care to see it.

Aaron T said...

An interesting challenge. The information is in three parts. Part Two is my starting point - on the youtube video, we have an anonymous gentleman who saw "something" like a huge fish, then went home that afternoon and checked GoogleEarth and sure enough, there it was - on the satellite picture! Strange that his boat wasn't also on the image then. As GE images are typically uploaded months after they are taken, and only refreshed every few years, the dark patch obviously wasn't the same event as he had seen that morning.

Part Three offers the main clues:- a creature diving, splashing with its tail, and something solid hitting the dock structure are normal behaviour of a beaver manoeuvring some timber underwater. Beavers are well known on the lake and can grow up to 60 lbs, so would appear bigger than any fish especially if dragging tree parts around.

This takes us back to Part One; could a beaver manoeuvring tree branches around fit the bill here too? I think so. ATN

Dale Drinnon said...

There are catfish around that are far bigger than any regulation-sized beavers, both in length and in body mass. But the part about a beaver smacking the water with its tail is plausible enough. The presence of a possible beaver does not rule out the possible presence of a big fish in the same body of water, either.

Aaron T said...

Hi Dale,
I think there are Channel catfish in the lake, and I think the record catch there is 38 lbs. I am not saying that any particular observation was >not< a catfish, but I am just pointing out that the most likely non-human cause of something big thrashing around and stuff thumping into dock timbers, in a lake where there are beavers is a beaver. Catfish don't behave that way. The phrase "Occam's Razor" comes to mind.

Best Wishes, ATB

Dale Drinnon said...

Yes, and Occam's razor is subject to individual interpretations. In my case, I have heard many similar stories from other lakes in the region and the overall pattern is Giant Catfish, and the big round head is the main feature of all of those reports whether or not the barbels are seen. And other reports in other areas include splashing at the surface and sometimes bumping into things (like boats) So the features which you selected as determinative of a beaver are not necessarily so.

If it was just the one report in just the one case, it would be no big deal. And we are NOT really talking "Cryptozoology" in this case: the catfish would still be presumably an outsized specimen of a KNOWN species. If it were a beaver, then the possibility is intruduced that it is an outsized beaver of an UNKNOWN species, thereby complicating things. I think the point that catfishes grow larger than beavers is the decisive point in invoking Occam's razor.

Aaron T said...

No real disagreement, Dale.

It's just that I'm favouring a known mammal of a known size displaying known behaviour which has been frequently filmed; and you are proposing an unrecorded size / species of nocturnal bottom feeder.

I'm happy to let the matter rest there :-) ATN