By Jason Offutt
Lake Memphremagog stretches 51 kilometres south from the city of Magog across the U.S. border and slightly past the Vermont town of Newport. The lake is long, longer than the lake home to Scotland’s Nessie (Loch Ness at 36.3 kilometres), but not nearly as deep. The maximum depth of Loch Ness is 227 metres; Lake Memphremagog’s maximum depth is 107 metres, about the length of an American football field. This may be plenty deep enough for a monster named Memphre.
When European settlers arrived in the area, the First Nations people warned them about a huge serpent that lived in the depths of Lake Memphremagog. The first official sighting by settlers was in 1816.
Memphre researcher and self-proclaimed “dracontologist” Jacques Boisvert, who died in February 2006, made more than 7,000 dives into the lake looking for the monster, but he never found it. His research into Memphre uncovered many references to the monster in the local press, including a 21 January 1847 article in The Stanstead Journal in which an eyewitness said, “I am not aware whether it is generally known that a strange animal something of a sea serpent … exists in lake Memphremagog.”
Sightings continue to this day and usually describe the creature as having a hump and a long, slender neck topped with a horse-like head.
The locals have taken advantage of having a famous monster in its midst; narrated monster tours are offered aboard the L’Entre-gens II, a twelve-passenger pontoon boat. Patrick Corcoran, who worked for Tours Mempremagog in 2011, told Canadian Television he’s not convinced there’s a monster in the lake.
“The fact that the lake is 360 feet deep in two sections, there’s a good chance there is a large fish, because that’s where it would be,” he said.
In 2011, the Royal Canadian Mint honoured Memphre by putting the creature on a full-colour collector quarter in its “Mythical Creatures” series. And, yes, the mint gave Bigfoot some love as well.
Lake Champlain a 788.5-square-kilometer, 122-metre-deep freshwater lake, is mostly in New York State, but goes into Vermont and Quebec. It’s also the home of Champ, one of North America’s most famous lake monsters.
Like the First Nations people who lived near Lake Memphremagog, the local inhabitants of the area surrounding Lake Champlain warned early white settlers of the monster. The first newspaper account was from July 1819, when Captain Crum of the ship Bulwagga Baysaw a 57-metre black monster swimming nearby, per the Plattsburgh Republican. The monster had a head like a horse, which stuck about 4.5 metres from the water
The monster was also seen by a railroad crew, a county sheriff, vacationers and fishermen.
Monsters aren’t just purported to swim in big bodies of water. The 9.1-kilometre-long, 41-metre deep Pohenegamook Lake on the border of Maine has its own stories.
The first report of the monster of Pohenegamook Lake was in 1874, but sightings were rare until dynamite was used to renovate Route 289 during 1957 and 1958. The explosions apparently dredged something from the depths. Many people have reported seeing the creature, which is generally described as a dinosaur-like beast with four legs, a long neck and tail, although some have said it looks like a crocodile and others a manatee. Those who’ve claimed to see Ponik include lumberjacks, children and a priest.
Researchers travelled to the town of Pohenegamook in 1982 to discover more about the creature. “We weren’t interested in finding lake monsters. We were interested in the sighting of lake monsters by people,” Claude Gagnon, a University of Quebec philosophy professor told UPI. “But when you compile all the evidence, you realize there must be something there because the stories are all so similar.”
The professor and French writer Michel Meurger spent six months in the province doing research for their book, “The Monsters of Quebec’s Lakes.”
Documented sightings of Ponik in modern times include a dark figure that’s large dorsal fin broke the water in 1974, and a living creature about eight-metres-long researchers using sonar discovered moving under their boat.
Inhabitants of the town of Pohenegamook named the monster Ponik in 1974.
Hunters and trappers beware. Stalking the deep forests of the province may be a shape-shifting monster that sometimes walks the earth as a man and other times in the form of a wolf.
Per a story on the CBC, in the early days of Canada, a man named Léo camped with men he did not know, André and Hubert Sauvageau. While Sauvageauwent off into the trees, a werewolf – a loup-garou – thundered into the camp and attacked Léo. Reacting swiftly, André threw his good-luck charm at the monster which cut the beast’s head. The loup-garou’s body thrashed and changed before them, turning from a human-like wolf into Sauvageau. Andrés attack apparently freed Sauvageau from the loup-garou curse.
Forests weren’t the only places to be mindful of attacks; in the mid-1700s, people wandering Quebec’s city streets were also warned to be on their guard.
Accounts of a loup-garou terrorizing the province began in July 1766 and lasted until December 1767. The 21 July 1766 Quebec Gazettereported a beggar seen in the Saint-Roch neighbourhood who would attempt to persuade passers-by to follow him, only to transform into an animal and attack. “This Beast is said to be as dangerous as that which appeared last Year in the Country of Gevaudan; wherefore it is recommended to the Public to be as cautious of him as it would be of a ravenous Wolf,” as per the newspaper account.
The Quebec Gazettereported on 11 December of that year the beggar-turned-wolf man also caused mischief in the nearby town of Kamouraska. “Beware then of the Wiles of this malicious Beast, and take good Care of falling into its Claws,” per the newspaper account.
Sightings of the big hairy guy are synonymous with Canada. Although encounters in Quebec aren’t as common as they are in the western provinces, the sparse population in its northern reaches probably accounts for that. However, there are sightings, such as this 2013 encounter by a hunter of the Cree community of Wemindji near the shores of Hudson Bay.
Melvin Georgekish saw a pair red eyes glowing at him from the trees as he drove through an area of woods near Wemindji, per the CBC. He thought about those eyes as he drove and realized no animal in that area had red eyes, or stood that tall. He turned the truck around and went back to the spot, but the creature had gone. “I am a hunter and I’ve never seen something like that,” he told the news agency.
The next day he returned to the spot and found enormous footprints pressed into the thick mossy ground cover. One was 20 centimetres long, the other 35 centimetres. “You can see the toes, too,” he told the CBC. “It’s like a human foot, but way bigger than a human foot. Wider, too.”
Something Tolkienesque may be stalking the forests of Quebec. In August of this year, Audrée Tanguay Fréchette was shooting video of a moose when a white, nearly two-metre-tall spindly humanoid crept into view. Fréchette said it was apparently stalking the animal.
“I was filming a moose on a roadside in Gaspésie, Québec, Canada,” Fréchette wrote alongside a post of the video on YouTube. “Looking at the video I saw this strange shape at the back left. can someone tell me what it is?”
It resembles the wicked creature Gollum from the J. R. R. Tolkien’s novels “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings.”
Look at the video and decide what this thing might be.