A lake monster (or, in Scotland, loch monster) is a variety of freshwater-dwelling megafauna that has been claimed to exist by eyewitnesses, and which sometimes appears in mythology, rumor, or local folklore, but whose existence is not currently substantiated by clear physical evidence. Lake monsters are cryptids (animals whose existence has been proposed based on eyewitness testimony, but has yet to be confirmed). A very well-known example is the Loch Ness Monster. Lake monsters' depictions are often similar to some sea monsters. They are principally the subject of investigations by followers of the study of cryptozoology and folklore.
Many skeptics consider lake monsters to be purely exaggerations or misinterpretations of known and natural phenomena, or else fabrications and hoaxes. Most lake monsters have left no evidence of their existence besides alleged sightings and controversial photographs, and a large portion are therefore generally believed not to exist by conventional zoologists and allied scientists. Misidentified sightings of seals, otters, deer, diving water birds, large fish such as giant sturgeons or wels catfish, logs, mirages, seiches, light distortion, crossing boat wakes, or unusual wave patterns have all been proposed to explain specific reports. Social scientists add that descriptions of these creatures vary over time with the values and mood of the local cultures, following the pattern of folk beliefs and not what would be expected if the reports were of actual encounters with real animals.
"...a convincing argument based, again, on data mapping. He plotted the distribution of North American lake monster sightings. Then he overlaid the distribution of the common otter and found a near perfect match. It turns out that three or four otters swimming in a line look remarkably like a serpentine, humped creature undulating through the water. It is very easy to mistake for a single creature if you see them from a distance. "This isn't speculation. I'm not making this up," Nickell said. "I've spoken to people who saw what they thought was a lake monster, got closer and discovered it was actually a line of otters. That really happens." Clearly, not every lake monster sighting can be accounted for with otters, but it's an excellent example of how our perceptions can be fooled.
As noted by the Swedish naturalist and author Bengt Sjögren (1980), the present-day lake monsters are variations of older legends of water kelpies. Sjögren claims that the accounts of lake-monsters have changed during history. Older reports often talk about horse-like appearances, but more modern reports often have more reptile and dinosaur-like-appearances, and Sjögren concludes that the legendary kelpies evolved into the present day saurian lake-monsters since the discovery of dinosaurs and giant aquatic reptiles and the popularization of them in both scientific and fictional writings and art.
Other widely varied theories have been presented by believers, including unknown species of giant freshwater eels or surviving aquatic, prehistoric reptiles, such as plesiosaurs. One theory holds that the monsters that are sighted are the occasional full-grown form of an amphibian species that generally stays juvenile all its life like the axolotl. Cryptozoologist Bernard Heuvelmans held throughout his life that plesiosaur-type sighting were actually an unknown species of long-necked seal, which also accounted for similarly-described sea serpents.
Lake monster locations and names
Well-known lake monsters include:
- Nessie, in Loch Ness, Scotland
- Morag, in Loch Morar, Scotland
- Lagarfljót Worm, in Lagarfljót, Iceland
- Ogopogo, in Okanagan Lake, Canada
- Lariosauro, in Lake Como, Italy
- Champ, in Lake Champlain, Canada and USA
- Memphre, in Lake Memphremagog, Canada and USA
- Nahuelito, in Nahuel Huapi Lake, Argentina
- Muyso or Monster of Lake Tota, in Lake Tota, Colombia
- Van Gölü Canavarı or Lake Van Monster, in Lake Van, Turkey
- Inkanyamba, in Howick Falls, South Africa
- Tahoe Tessie, in Lake Tahoe, USA
- Pepie, in Lake Pepin, USA
- Radford, Ben; Nickell, Joe (May 2006). Lake Monster Mysteries: Investigating the World's Most Elusive Creatures. University Press of Kentucky. ASIN B0078XFQKQ.
- Grabianowski, Ed (August 12, 2011). "Paranormal Investigator Joe Nickell Reveals the Truth Behind Modern Cryptozoological Myths". io9.
- Coleman, Loren and Huyghe, Patrick, Illust. Harry Trumbore and Mark Lee Rollins, The Field Guide To Lake Monsters, Sea Serpents, and other mystery denizens of the deep, ISBN 1-58542-252-5
- The Global Lake Monster Database
- Lake Monsters
- Lake Monsters of North America
- The Loch Ness Monster versus the Lake Michigan Monster
- Wagner, Herbert (1993) Wisconsin Monsters of the Deep. Originally published in Wisconsin Outdoor Journal
- Famous lake and sea monsters from around the world with some videos