Lakes always have a certain flair of mystery about them. Every time I stand at the shore of a lake, I start to wonder what may be hidden below the smooth and calm surface. And indeed, there are enough stories and legends attached to just about any lake in the world to fire the imagination.
Sunken villages, bells of church towers still ringing underwater, capsized boats, murder as in the case of Lake Starnberg/Germany and King Ludwig of Bavaria, and, of course, the legendary monsters that lurk in the depth and are so elusive. The stories about what the supposed monsters are like are as fascinating as the attempts, scientific and otherwise, that have been made to see and even capture them. Examples include the long story about Nessie, the monster of Loch Ness in Scotland, and the monster of Lake Van in Turkey, which allegedly has been captured on video and even got a statue in the city of the same name.
Follow me on a treasure hunt of a different kind, which leads to a selection of lakes which by their very locations and appearances alone explain why people think that monsters are lurking in the depth of their waters. The images of some monsters are downright terrifying, whereas others seem to be rather cute. Truth or legend? Let’s find out.
1. Selma In Lake Seljordsvatnet, Norway
This is a rather small lake in Telmark, Norway, located 110 miles west of the capital, Oslo. The town Seljord lies on its shore and has become a center of cryptozoologists, experts who study creatures allegedly living in the water or caves, the existence of which has not been scientifically proven. Seljord’s home monster is called Selma and it is a huge sea serpent, probably not of a friendly nature. The oldest account of Selma dates to 1750 and tells the story of a man who was rowing in his boats from Ulvenes to Nes when a huge serpent surrounded his boat and pulled it under water. Since then, hundreds of sightings have been reported, mostly on hot, quiet summer nights as August is the mating season for the monster — or so the locals believe. Real or not, they are quite proud of Selma, who features in the town’s coat of arms.
2. Nessie In Loch Ness, Scotland
Nessie is probably the best known of the world’s lake monsters. Its home is deep and dark Loch Ness, located in the Scottish Highlands, 23 miles southwest of Inverness. It’s one of several interconnected bodies of water, 755 feet deep at the deepest point and murky with poor depth visibility because of the high peat content of the surrounding soil. If you go on one of several boat trips from Inverness to explore Loch Ness and do a bit of Nessie spotting as I have done, you will understand why the landscape invites legends of monsters and other weird tales.
So, what is Nessie like? According to the descriptions of eyewitnesses who have seen her emerge from the water, she is long, thin, green with black humps, a tail, and a snake-like head, and she isn’t very sociable as she tends to dive underwater after a short breeze of fresh Highland air. No, there is still no scientific proof of Nessie’s existence, but since she was brought to the public eye in 1930, Nessie fever rages to this day. You can even visit Nessieland and get a souvenir.
3. Nahuelito In Nahuel Huapi Lake, Argentina
This beautiful high-altitude lake in the foothills of the Patagonian Andes in Argentina is part of the national park of the same name and home to its own monster: Nahuelito. Although there existed stories about the monster told by the indigenous people, Nahualito came to the attention of the world thanks to an article published in the Toronto Globe in 1922 about a sighting by a journalist in 1910. The latest is a series of photos taken in 1988, but the photographer did not reveal his name — only said in an accompanying note that he had actually seen the monster’s face, which, again, is compared to a large sea snake or even a dinosaur.
4. Ogopogo In Okanagan Lake, British Columbia
Located in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, Canada, this lake is 84 miles long and has a depth of an average of 250 feet. Due to its glacial origins, its shore levels have shifted, now forming terraces that are used for fruit cultivation. Trout are found in the deep lake, but there is something else rumored to lurk in its depth: a legendary monster called Ogopogo.
Ogopogo’s history is a fascinating one, combing the beliefs of the indigenous people with a certain misunderstanding by early settlers that alternatively turned Ogopogo into a blood-thirsty serpentine monster or a protective spirit that takes care of the lake. Whatever you believe, Ogopogo has turned the lakeside town of Kelowna into a tourist attraction where a 15-foot-long green and cream statue sits on the waterfront and the monster is the friendly logo of the local WHL hockey team. For a unique experience, go on a boat ride with Moccasin Trails.
5. Canavari In Lake Van, Turkey
Lake Van is Turkey’s largest lake in the region of Anatolia, located in the far east of the country. Mountains and pine forests surround the lake, ferries cross it and take you to historical Akdamar island in the lake, and you can enjoy the view of legendary Mount Nimrut in the distance.
A lake with such a huge surface and great depth is bound to be surrounded by legends and, indeed, Lake Van is home to a curious monster named Canavari. Again, it seems to be in the shape of a vast sea snake, and there have been many alleged sightings, the most interesting being a 1997 video filmed by a local man, Unai Kozak. The video has been met with much criticism, calling it a fake because the monster only moved in one direction and doesn’t seem to breathe in and out, just to release breath in one constant stream. Be that as it may, the monster does a lot of good for tourism, and a 12-foot-high statue stands on the waterfront of the city of Van.
6. Storsjoodjuret In Lake Storsjon, Sweden
Lake Storsjon is Sweden’s fifth largest lake, located in Jamtland province in the middle of the country. The city of Ostersund is situated on the east shore of the lake. Water sports are popular on this beautiful lake, where you can ride a ferry or other boats, paddleboard, or get a canoe. Watch out though whilst doing this because you might come face to face with Storsjoodjuret, the legendary lake monster that makes its home here.
The monster, which is described as snake-like with a cat, dog, or snake head, was first mentioned in a manuscript from 1635, which reports that the monster had been tied up at the bottom of the lake by a heavy stone covered in runes. Another folklore tale about the origin of the monster is even more colorful. According to that story, two trolls were tinkering with their cauldrons at the shore of the lake when suddenly a nasty smell emerged and, from the other pot, a horrible, snake-like creature emerged and slid into the lake.
Many sightings have been reported, all of them different in their descriptions of the creature, but nothing has been proven scientifically. So, maybe you can dip into the water without fear.
7. Memphre In Lake Memphremagog, Bordered By Quebec And Vermont
Lake Memphremagog is a finger-like freshwater glacial lake that stretches between Vermont and Quebec. First nation inhabitants were the first to talk about a lake monster of snake-like appearance, apparently very similar to Nessie. Many more eyewitness accounts have been recorded, so maybe this one is real. Who knows?
In 2011, the Canadian Mint created a colored and oversized quarter coin bearing the image of Memphre. On the coin, the body is bright green, which doesn’t match with the observations of eyewitnesses, who have reported it as humped and black.
Monster or not, each one of these lakes is worth a visit for its natural beauty alone. The monster thrill is just a bonus. Love folklore and local legends? Don’t miss Unicorns, Kelpies, And Wulvers: 7 Of Scotland’s Most Captivating Mythical Creatures.