Lake monster is the name given to large unknown animals which have purportedly been sighted in, and/or are believed to dwell in lakes, although their existence has never been confirmed scientifically. They are generally believed not to exist by conventional zoology and allied sciences, and are principally the subject of investigations by followers of Cryptozoology. Sightings are often similar to some sea monsters.
The most famous lake monster is certainly the Loch Ness monster, which for many decades has been reported to inhabit Loch Ness in Scotland. In more recent years, similar animals have been widely reported, such as Ogopogo in Okanagan Lake in the heart of British Columbia; Manipogo in Lake Manitoba, and Champ in Lake Champlain.
Other locations which have been claimed as homes for lake monsters are Bear Lake (Idaho/Utah), a large, very deep lake with sightings as early as 1850. In Payette Lake, a deep glacier lake, near McCall ID, there is said to be a large sea creature. Sightings have been reported also at Flathead Lake in Montana, Lake Tianchi in China, Bala Lake in Wales and the White River in Alabama. Fulk's Lake near Churubusco, Indiana is said to be home to the Beast of Busco. The world's deepest lake, Lake Baikal in Siberia has also been cited as a monster's home, although Lake Brosno, home to the Brosno dragon is a more popular Russian location. Storsjön in Jämtland, Sweden has been said to house Storsjöodjuret. The bodies of water that make up the Lake District in the Patagonia region of Chile and Argentina, also in a mountainous region on both sides of the Andes range, are supposed to be interconnected under the surface. The lake monster in this region is also known as the Nahuelito or cuero, and has been sighted in many different lakes in the region.
All these lakes have something in common, that they are extraordinarily deep. Interestingly all these lakes are situated in areas of cold climate. This argues against the possibility of the lake monsters being reptilian. If they exist, they are probably warm-blooded.
Evidence for such animals is almost exclusively in the form of frequently-numerous eyewitness reports. Relatively few still photographs, almost no motion picture or videotapes, and no living animals or animal remains have been produced. Such photographic/film/video evidence as has been produced has, upon close analysis, been concluded by the majority of mainstream scientists (and many cryptozoologists) to be inconclusive at best, and more often to be misidentified, known phenomena or else outright hoaxes. In the case of the famous surgeon's photo of the Loch Ness Monster, one of the hoaxers has come forward, but believers dismiss his testimony. Reported sightings commonly describe either a hump or series of humps, an extremely long neck with a visible head, or both, rising from, swimming about in, and/or disappearing into the water. Reports of such animals being seen on land are rare.
There are many speculations as to what the reported lake monsters could be. Many consider them to be purely exaggerations or misinterpretations of known and natural phenomena, or else fabrications and hoaxes. Misidentified sightings of seal, otters, deer, diving water birds, large fish such as giant sturgeons, logs, mirages, seiches, light distortion, crossing boat wakes, or unusual wave patterns have all been proposed to explain specific reports. Skeptics point out 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.
Other widely varied theories have been presented by believers, including unknown species of giant freshwater eels or surviving aquatic, prehistoric reptiles, such as pleisiosaurs. 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. A few have suggested the animals actually represent some sort of psychic phenomena. More reasonably, the first true cryptozoologist Bernard Heuvelmans held throughout his life that pleisiosaur-type sighting were actually an unknown species of long-necked seal.
In many of these areas, especially around Loch Ness, Lake Champlain and the Okanagan Valley, these lake monsters have become important tourist draws.
According to the Swedish naturalist and author Bengt Sjögren (1980), the present day belief in lake-monsters in for example Loch Ness, is associated with the legends of 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 Bengt Sjögren concludes that the legends of kelpies evolved into the present day legends of lake-monsters where the monsters changed the appearance since the discovery of dinosaurs and giant aquatic reptiles from the horse-like water-kelpie to a dinosaur-like reptile, often a plesiosaur.
In popular culture
The X-Files episode Quagmire centers on an alleged lake monster named Big Blue, which is depicted in a painting as being similar in appearance to the Loch Ness Monster. The creature is only seen once, briefly, in the shadows at the end of the episode.
The Joe Citro novel, Dark Twilight, focuses upon Vermont's lake monster Champ and supposes an extra-dimensional/demonic origin.