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A Monster in the Kawartha Lakes???

November 14, 2021

Is that the Monster?

In the 1870s and 1880s the Kawarthas were infested by a terrifying creature, first recorded in the Bobcaygeon Independent in 1872:“A strange fish of most monstrous size had been seen in Sturgeon Lake, that two persons (each in a canoe) had been compelled to flee for their lives, and that it had chased the [Steamship] Ogemah with extreme fierceness and voracity … as large as a saw log, with horns two feet long, a prodigious snake-like neck, and a gigantic head resembling a swan’s, plus the aforesaid horns.

”One night a party of locals went out and fired on the creature, though they dared not approach it, and apparently missed. It was said that the steamer Coboconk was the only one with the nerve to approach it. As the reports continued to pour in, there was much speculation about what it could be: A giant sea serpent? A circus escapee? Or to doubters, a saw log? Sightings were especially common on Cameron Lake until about 1890. We will never know what became of the Cameron Lake Monster, but since it was in all the local papers it must have been real!

A Monster in the Kawartha Lakes???

In the 1870s and 1880s there were many reports that Kawarthas were infested by a terrifying creature, first recorded in the Bobcaygeon Independent in 1872:

“A strange fish of most monstrous size had been seen in Sturgeon Lake, that two persons (each in a canoe) had been compelled to flee for their lives, and that it had chased the [Steamship] Ogemah with extreme fierceness and voracity … [It was] as large as a saw log, with horns two feet long, a prodigious snake-like neck, and a gigantic head resembling a swan’s, plus the aforesaid horns.”

In the years that followed, observers debated what the mysterious animal might be: A giant sea serpent? A Reptile? A circus escapee? A whale? An alligator? It seemed a great many people had their own theory, but no one ever got close enough to give a definitive answer. One night a party of locals went out and fired on the creature, though they dared not approach it, and apparently missed. It was said that the steamer Coboconk was the only one with the nerve to draw near.

In the late nineteenth century, there were many reported sightings of water monsters. Predating the peak interest in the Loch Ness Monster by half a century, it seemed that many communities had their own uniquely dreadful creature. In those days, there was no television or radio, and many people amused themselves by gathering and telling stories with their friends and neighbours—and there were many blood-curdling tales to tell.

But there were always skeptics. Some thought that the famed monster was nothing more than a saw log. Another journalist remarked, “one result of the carrying of prohibition in Canada will be the disappearance of the sea-serpents that infest the lakes and rivers of that country”—prohibition was then a cause with broad popular appeal, and many local communities were dry for decades.

Despite the naysayers, there were regular sightings, especially on Cameron Lake until about 1890, though no one ever seemed to be quite sure what the monster really was. Then, after one last report from prominent Fenelon Falls resident W.E. Ellis, who claimed that it was actually a great spawning sturgeon, it seems to have disappeared. We will never know what became of the Cameron Lake Monster, but since it was in all the local papers it must have been real!

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