Tuesday, March 4, 2014
What comes to mind when you hear the phrase "lake monster?" If you're anything like me, you think of a Nessie-like creature. It lives in a deep, remote lake; it's large and mysterious; it's reptilian, and probably serpentlike. Igopogo defies virtually all of these expectations. Lake Simcoe's native cryptid is an unusual beast -- small, mammalian and remarkably close to civilization.
A monster in Lake Simcoe has been reported for centuries -- tales of the beast date back to Huron legend. But modern sightings began just decades ago, peaking during the '60s and '70s. By this point, several other lake monsters had risen to global prominence. While Nessie was the most famous, it was Ogopogo (a fellow Canadian) which gave the Simcoe Monster its name. Locally, it is also known as Kempenfelt Kelly and Beaverton Bessie.
As I said, Igopogo is a fairly strange lake monster. The easy accessibility of Lake Simcoe is odd enough -- it's only an hour north of Toronto. But that's just the beginning. Igopogo, according to witnesses, sounds nothing like your classic "sea serpent." One (likely hoaxed) photo shows a multi-humped creature-- but few other sources describe it this way. Generally, it is cited as small and doglike, about nine to twelve feet in length. The beast is usually seen in the water, but is occasionally said to bask on shore.
The most famous Igopogo sighting was actually recorded on video. While racing hydroplanes, an unnamed witness was shocked to see the beast emerge right in front of him. Cryptozoologist John Kirk believes the creature in the video is a pinniped -- a relative of the seals and sea lions. These animals do seem a good match for the Simcoe cryptid. The largest of them can reach twenty feet in length -- making Igopogo seem modest by comparison. There are also plenty of seals in Canada, making the explanation parsimonious.
The seal theory has one major downside -- Lake Simcoe is hundreds of miles inland. Seals live on the coast, not in lakes -- and it's easy to wonder how one could end up there. Theoretically, one could travel through the river system and migrate short distances across land. But what could motivate it to do so? And why would seals do this in sufficient numbers to establish a population? Furthermore, if there were seals living in Simcoe, surely they would be seen more often. All mammals have to surface for air, and though Lake Simcoe is large, it's not exactly remote. It's hard to believe seals could live there and remain undetected.
Read more about Igopogo:
Image (public domain and probably hoaxed) from http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/8/8b/Igopogo.jpg