Written by Luke Greensmith
Originally published on August 17, 2020
This episode, I am excited to say, is a listener request! A little while back a new Patron to the Ghost Story Guys Anne reached out to me on Facebook, one quick check to make sure I wasn’t under attack by a marketing bot later we got to talking about LukeLore and a topic she was interested in got raised: Lake Monsters. Especially the Ogopogo monster of Okanagan Lake.
So, here we are! Lake Monsters LukeLore. Potentially a part 1, and not even touching upon Sea Monsters yet.
I’ve taken us down to the water a few times on this show to point at it and loudly declare: NOPE. Do not go in there. All part of the ongoing Ghost Story Guys PSA:
NATURE. Stay out of it. Especially trees and water.
Episode 6 was flat out titled “Stay Out of the Water”, and half of the Yokai in Episode 12 made the waterways of Japan their home. I’m pretty excited for this, there’s something weirdly compelling, and exponentially terrifying, about what could be lurking in the dark depths of an element we are so vulnerable in!
Let’s dive straight in, pun intended, with the original request: the Ogopogo monster.
Otherwise known quite delightfully as just Oggy, this is a sea serpent in Canada’s Okanagan Lake. They seem a lot like British Columbia’s Nessie, being directly referred to as such in some places, getting a lot of local love in statues and merchandise. Let’s face it, having a local monster is pretty cool when it’s balancing the fine line of being relatively easy to stay away from while also being relatively easy to go looking for.
The Ogopogo Monster even has a song originating somewhere around the 1920s! Let’s see if I can get at least close to this, it’s quite a jaunty foxtrot…
His mother was an earwig,
His father was a whale;
A little bit of head
And hardly any tail—
And Ogopogo was his name.
Urgh… I suck for music. Why couldn’t it be a poem?
Modern day sightings began with settlers in 1872, and are as recent as 2018 with modern phone camera footage reporting to see the lake monster.
I say modern sightings, because the First Nations peoples have their own stories, and these stories are a bit less cute…
The original name instead being Naitaka, sorry if I butchered the pronounciation, and they viewed the monster as an evil to be wary of. The direct translations of the name being something along the lines of "water-demon", "water god", or "sacred creature of the water" according to Wikipedia. The Naitaka would demand sacrifice for a crossing, small animals would be butchered to placate them and allow a canoe crossing. So the stories go, one man refused and made a big point of not offering anything to cross the lake with his family. As they got halfway across in trying to make their point, a vast tail emerged to whip up the lake dragging the canoe and all occupants below the surface never to emerge. There are plenty of stories where the tail of the Naitaka is able to cause freak weather or else manipulate the surface of the lake to show its displeasure should no offering be given.
It may well be that Oggy has not, in fact, chilled out in their old age following a rebranding with an upbeat song, and it is just that modern technology is consistently foiling the lake monster. Bigger faster boats, and the option to drive around the lake on roads, has made people start taking the Ogopogo monster for granted. That, to me, just strikes me as having an extra angry water-demon waiting to happen to the unwary. If you’re determined to go on the lake looking for them, maybe take them a nice bloody steak as an offering and try not to be too dumb looking for a good photo opportunity.
I mentioned Nessie above, and I can’t not talk about the Loch Ness Monster. Quite easily the most globally famous of the local water creatures, so although we’re cheating a little going from Lake to Loch I pretty much have to name check this one. The Scottish Tourism board certainly hasn’t slept on the appeal of Nessie!
Films, cartoons, books, toys and oh so much other merchandise, not to mention semi frequent documentaries trying to find proof of Loch Ness’s resident monster. The Loch itself has refused to give up any proof either way over the years, but the sightings as well as the appeal of trying to get one a picture yourself has consistently generated interest.
Being such a world renowned cryptid, Nessie has also had more than their fair share of confirmed fakes sadly. The allure of fame selling these faked pictures has just been too tempting, and muddied the waters where actual sightings are concerned.
For all the fiction, for all the fakes, there’s an appeal to the Loch Ness Monster which just hasn’t died. They’re the benchmark for a local monster more romanticised than feared, and anywhere with a similar local legend tends to be framed as the area’s own Nessie to contextualise the stories for tourists. As I mentioned at the start, the Ogopogo Monster is referred to online as British Colombia’s Nessie.
Sightings in Loch Ness have quite the weighty providence behind them. Not that others do not, but Nessie got the special treatment of being written down. I don’t simply mean the written accounts that emerge as early as the biography of St Columba in 565 either. Local caves have stone carvings left by the Picts depicting a mysterious creature that has what looks to be flippers. The most common descriptions seems to follow that Nessie is more a prehistoric creature like a plesiousaur than the giant snake-like creatures more commonly found in folklore around the world, which leads to all sorts of strange potential speculation what could be going on there. While this is supposedly from the basis of the iconic 1934 “surgeon’s photo” newspapers of the time published, The fact that the Picts carved flippers onto their depiction of the resident beastie shows the far wider reach of these stories.
With famous sightings comes charlatans trying to cash in, sadly. Some of the hoaxes are pretty stand out here, I think my favourite is from the year before the “surgeon’s photo” was published. Some joker using an umbrella stand with a hippopotamus foot for a base managed to get big game hunter Marmaduke Wetherell hired by the Daily Mail newspaper to go chasing around the area surrounding the loch for a while until the zoologists of the Natural History Museum inspected the suspicious footprints and shut the farce down.
While sceptics like to speculate that any credible footage of Nessie must be one of the loch’s resident eels grown to an impressive enough proportion to fool the unwary, the sightings and accompanying photographs just keep on coming. There’s a new photograph from June of this year to go look up for yourself. Plus, holiday destination! Loch Ness alone accounts for an estimated $80million USD each year to Scotland. Promoting your national folklore for long enough seems to eventually start paying for itself. It’s certainly a scenic area I want to go explore some day soon.
We’ve had the Picts and the First Nations Peoples of Canada’s stories, but I want to go for one more somewhere else in the world. So East we head to Russia and Lake Brosno, purely because when I was having a nosey at a list of lake monsters this one was called the Brosno Dragon and it sounded cool.
Lake Brosno itself is pretty cool too! A typical lake will be about 10 metres deep, while at its deepest point Lake Brosno hits 43 metres deep. It also has a sunken church inside of it’s Western side, which is pretty neat. It certainly has the size to hide a monster, which I now have an image in my head of using said sunken church like a goldfish with a tank ornament. The life within the lake itself is incredibly biodiverse, which lends further credence to something weird and undocumented lurking in its depths. The Brosno Dragon itself has centuries of infamy to its name, most often being known as a sudden gaping maw that disappears a fisherman from time to time boat and all, the stories make this creature sound alarmingly large in size. I mean, any given amount of monster is too much monster, but we’re talking “mistaken for sandbanks, swallowed an island once” big here. Yet the dragon is also something of an incidental folk hero. Not because it may suddenly decide to be nice, but because of invading forces having alarming dragon encounters that turn them back away from the lake and it’s nearby town. One such story is of Batu Khan and his Tatar-Mongol army back in the 13th Century. On their way to attack the town of Novgorod the troops stopped to water their horses. Buffet now being set, the Brosno Dragon attacked the surface to snap up as many horses as it could along with any troops tending them who didn’t run away fast enough. And run away they did! Having been greeted by a dragon they decided this wasn’t a town they were up for raiding, back in those days “Holy crap a hungry dragon” being a bad omen of sorts.
The Dragon is even supposed to have swallowed a German airplane that for a brief moment probably thought it had made a safe crash landing, but for even the monsters of Russia were having none of Germany’s crap during World War Two as well as the weather and the entire damn country’s population.
That’s all for this episode. Let me know if you want more Lake Monsters, there’s really just so many of them out there! I’ll probably do Ocean Monsters at some point soon, and then a little after that a Miscellaneous Waterways Monsters episode as I came across some cool stuff that was neither lake nor saltwater. Thanks again to Anne, because this is a fun topic and it was lovely to chat to you over Messenger. Anyone always feel free to reach out to me, I thrive on attention and any excuse to procrastinate away from my drawer of draft scripts is always a bonus, not to mention that discussing LukeLore really helps guide where LukeLore can go in the future.
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Goodbye for now.