Of all the mysterious water-based beasts on record, there’s no doubt that the most famous (or, perhaps, we should say “infamous”) are Scotland’s Loch Ness Monster, Ogopogo of Okanagan Lake in British Columbia, Canada; and Champ, which is “… said to live in Lake Champlain, a 125-mile (201 km)-long body of fresh water shared by New York and Vermont, with a portion extending into Quebec, Canada.” While there are numerous tales of lake monsters – that can be found all across the globe, no less – one of these creepy critters doesn’t really get the coverage that it should. Whether you buy into the story or not, the fact is that it’s a fascinating tale. It’s the saga of Nebraska’s most famous lake monster. I’m guessing that, right now, many of you might be saying “Huh?” That’s right: the mysterious animal is not that well-known at all. So, I figured that today I would put things straight and share with you the strange tale of this lesser-known beast of the deep.
The lair of the beast is Nebraska’s Lake Walgren. Nebraska Game Parks say the following: “Perhaps best known as the home of the Walgren Lake Monster, this northwestern Nebraska attraction on the edge of the Sandhills offers a wide variety of activities in a serene setting. Whether or not you see the Walgren Lake Monster, a mythical Loch Ness Monster-like creature that made national headlines decades ago, with a little luck you might see monsters of another variety – fish. The 50-acre lake is known for its excellent panfish population, shaded campgrounds and stone picnic shelter. The lake is located 2 1/2 miles east of Hay Springs and 2 1/2 miles south of U.S. Highway 20 on gravel roads.” With that said, now onto the matter of the monster. History Nebraska say:
“The first official reports appeared in the Hay Springs News in 1921. An article on September 16 was headlined, ‘If It Isn’t a Whale It’s a Whaler of An Animal.’ A subsequent article on October 21 discussed a proposed seining to catch the monster but “game officials did not think they had a seen large enough to hold him so the undertaking has been delayed indefinitely.’ The August 11, 1922, issue reported ‘The Huge Water Animal Again Seen on Surface.’ The Omaha World-Herald picked the story up in 1923 when a man named J. A. Johnson claimed he and his friends saw a water monster ‘forty feet long, dull gray/brown in color with a horn-like object between its eyes and nostrils. They said it looked similar to an alligator but was bigger and heavier than an alligator. When the creature noticed the men, it emitted a ‘dreadful roar,’ thrashed its tail about and then dove under the water.’”
Also known as the Alkali Lake Monster, the thing has somewhat of a following. Check out the following, for example, from the “Alkali Lake Monster” page. In part, it adds more to the early days of the creature’s roaming: “A second written report appeared in a 1923 printing of the Omaha World Herald. According to this report a man named J.A. Johnson claimed that he and two friends saw the creature while camping on the shores of Alkali Lake. The three men reported that they saw the creature from a distance of 60 feet and stated that it looked a lot like an alligator, complete with a rhinoceros like horn. They claimed that when the creature noticed them it began to violently thrash its tail and disappeared beneath the churning surface. Some researchers of the Alkali Lake Monster have suggested evidence that the creature was nothing more than a hoax. They state that at the time stories of the creature first appeared the Hay Springs News employed a man by the name of John G. Maher, who reportedly had a flair for tall tales and hoaxes.”
It should be noted that no photos of the beast have ever been taken (so far as we know, at least), and, on top of that, nearly all of the cases on record are from decades now long gone. Did the creature die decades ago? Was the whole thing a myth? Is it still lurking in the waters of the lake? It’s the questions that ensure the story continues to have legs. Or flippers.