; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Monday, August 05, 2013

Lake Monsters in...Wisconsin

It’s a 10-page booklet published in 1942 by the Wisconsin Folklore Society, written by Charles E. Brown. It’s titled Sea serpents;: Wisconsin occurrences of these weird water monsters in the Four Lakes, Rock, Red Cedar, Koshkonong, Geneva, Elkhart, Michigan, and other lakes

The book details Lake Monster sightings from the late 1800s to the 1920s. One of the funniest stories is about "Bozho," the mischievous serpent that lurked in Madison’s Lake Mendota. The animal reportedly tipped canoes, chased sailboats and on one occasion tickled a sunbathing young lady.

"Turning over quickly she saw the head and neck of a huge snake, or dragon, extended above the surface," Brown writes. "It had a friendly, humorous look in its big eyes. With its long tongue this animal had been caressing the soles of her feet."

Rock Lake in Jefferson County was also terrorized by a creature known as the "Rock Lake Terror" and was first reported in 1882. It frightened boaters and fisherman by popping out of the water and hissing at them. One fisher claimed the monster "seized his trolling hook, and pulled his boat along over half a mile at a rushing speed before he let go."

The last entry in the booklet indicates that Milwaukee might have had its own water beast out in Lake Michigan. The booklet relays the story:

"In the late Nineties, or early 1900s, some market fisherman who were setting nets one day in Lake Michigan off the Jones Island shore saw the head of a ferocious-looking beast above the surface. They were not far away, so got a good look at the creature before it submerged. Returning to shore, they told of what they had seen but were laughed at.

"Not long after this some young men who were sailing a catboat in Milwaukee Bay saw what they thought to be a large cask floating some distance beyond their boat. When they passed near it they saw it was the head of a large serpentine animal which was floating at rest. They had no desire to investigate it at closer quarters."

Since this animal wasn’t given a catchy nickname, I’d like to suggest "Michy."

Although reports of Champ continue today – it was just sighted this June by a family on a fishing trip – Lake Monster Fever seems to have died in Wisconsin by the 1920s. What happened to Bozho, the Rock Lake Terror and Michy? Did they ever exist at all? Unless conclusive proof is presented, we’ll just have to use our imagination. - OnMilwaukee


Lake Mendota serpent sightings fairly common in 1940s

Anthropologist Charles Brown collected Wisconsin folklore for half a century. In 1942 he published reports he had gathered of monsters in our lakes.

Several came from Madison, where in 1917, "a fisherman angling for perch off the end of Picnic Point received the fright of his life when he suddenly saw a large snake-like head, with large jaws and blazing eyes, emerge from the deep water not more than a hundred feet away."

That same summer two sun-bathing students "were lying on their stomachs with their feet toward the lake. They had been in this position but a short time when the girl felt something tickling the sole of one of her feet...

"Turning over quickly she saw the head and neck of a huge snake, or dragon, extended above the surface... She quickly aroused her companion and the two bathers were soon running as fast as they could go to the shelter of the nearby frat house."

After that, sightings of the Mendota sea serpent became fairly common. Students nicknamed it Bozho after the Ojibwe folk hero Winnebozho. "Bozho was, on the whole, a rather good-natured animal," Brown reported, "playing such pranks as overturning a few canoes with his body or tail, giving chase to sailboats and other lake craft, uprooting a few lake piers and frightening bathers by appearing near beaches. People made more use of the lake when he finally disappeared."

Brown recorded similar tales from all over southern Wisconsin, including Rock Lake, Pewaukee Lake, and Lake Koshkonong. - Wisconsin Historical Society

Haunted Wisconsin: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Badger State (Haunted (Stackpole)) (Haunted Series)

Field Guide to Lake Monsters, Sea Serpents, and Other Mystery Denizensof the Deep

Unexplained!: Strange Sightings, Incredible Occurrences, and Puzzling Physical Phenomena


The 'Place of Many Dead' - Devil's Lake, Wisconsin

Devil's Lake of Wisconsin has its share of geological oddities such as glacier scratches on unusual rock formations and petrified sand waves of an ancient sea, but it is the Amerindian mounds that are especially interesting. Three major effigy mounds are located in Devil's Lake State Park. One in the shape of a bear and another, which resembles a lynx, are at the north end of the lake. A bird-shaped mound is at the southern end. Did the moundbuilders wish to acknowledge real animals or phantom creature forms that haunted the shores of Devil's Lake?

From nearby Baraboo (three miles north of Devil's Lake), stories were circulating in the seventies of giant ghost elephants. Or were they mastodons? August Derleth, author and follower of H. P. Lovecraft, likes this area of southcentral Wisconsin because he felt it contains "Cthulhu power zones."

During the summer of 1970, campers at Devil's Lake complained of shadowy "somethings" prowling around their tents. Department of Natural Resources personnel stated that no bears are found in the area. However, Bigfoot accounts are well known from Wisconsin. Devil's Lake is also the location of an 1889 lake monster report. Additionally, the surface of the lake is broken with the ghostly wake of a phantom canoe seen in the mists of cold, still nights. The place does have an aura about it. Folklore tells of an Indian maiden and her lover leaping to their deaths. In general, the site is said to be a "place of many dead."

When the first missionaries arrived in the Devil’s Lake area they where greeted by the Nakota Tribe, who told them about a year in which the area experienced a great drought. During this drought the Nakota Tribe remained near the swiftly drying lake, not only because it was the only source of water for miles, but also because it drew animals from all over to its shores in order to drink, providing the tribe with a stable food source. As the summer drew on and the drought continued to lower the lakes levels it eventually became two lakes, separated by a shallow strip of mud which ran through the middle.

One morning the Nakota people awoke to find what they could only describe as a huge, fish like creature trapped on the strip of mud which now divided the two remaining bodies of water. The tribe described the large creature as having a long neck, small head and wide body that it thrashed and wiggled in an attempt to free its self. After several days the creature was able to free its self and slip into the deeper of the two remaining pools of lake water.

Researchers tend to vary in opinion as to what the Devil’s Lake Monster might be, some have suggested a form of giant fresh water octopus while others have looked to a more familiar face in the lake monster world, suggesting it may be a plesiosaur that found its way into the lake after the last Ice Age. Either way what ever the Devil’s Lake Monster is, or was, there has been no real sightings of the creature for some time, leaving some to speculate what ever the creature was may be long gone by now.


Some say that this octopus-like beast was responsible for an untold number of deaths, but the Nakota Indians tell a tale about a struggling creature which is uncannily similar to the allegedly extinct Plesiosaur.

Located in Sauk County, Wisconsin, Devil’s Lake is an eerie, mist shrouded, body of brackish water, Carved by glaciers during the last ice age, this bluff quarantined lake could generated a deep-bone chill even if it weren’t the alleged home of a pair of vicious aquatic monsters.

Originally known to the Native American Nakota Sioux’s as “M’de Wakan” — roughly translated as “Mystery” or “bad Spirit” Lake, although some insist that it simply means “sacred” — this stretch of deep, cold, salt-infested water has been known by many names over the centuries But it wasn’t until white settlers finally claimed the land in the middle of the 1800′s that the lake finally gained its current appellation: “Devil’s Lake.” It is a name, which residents claim, the lake lives up to.

One of the earliest legends involving the creature of Devil’s Lake revolves around a Native American Indian chief who assembled an expedition of young warriors to go on a late night hunting trip on the fauna fertile lands across the lake. The full moon reflected off the night blackened waters as the young men and their leader slipped the canoe the water and began their late night trek.

Suddenly, a flurry of tentacles ripped through the surf, capsizing the canoe and pulling the thrashing, terrified men beneath the brackish water. Although no one survived this ill-fated expedition, their screams alerted fellow tribesmen, who rushed onto the beach and were able to bear witness to this horrific event in grisly detail due to the moon’s lingering glow.

The surviving warriors of the tribe, in order to pay homage to their fallen brethren — as well as appease what they believed to be the demon of the lake — held a festival every year, during which gifts and animal sacrifices were thrown into water.

The tradition continues to this day, although nowadays the annual event is treated more along the lines of an annual picnic that celebrates tribal legends and traditions.

As if a colossal octopus-like beast weren’t more than enough monster for one body of water, when the first Christian missionaries arrived on the shores of Devil’s Lake they were greeted by the Nakota tribe who told them about yet another creature that was revealed in the year of the great drought.

The Natkota’s remained near the swiftly drying lake, not only because it was the only water source for miles, but also because the animals upon which they fed were forced to expose themselves in order to drink, providing the tribe with an ample — and relatively simple to hunt — food source. As the summer progressed the lake grew smaller and smaller, until it eventually became two lakes, separated only by a shallow strip of mud, which ran through the center.

One morning the Nakota’s awoke to find what they described as a huge, fish-like creature, which they referred to as “Hokuwa,” trapped on the narrow, muddy strip of exposed lake bed.

The tribe watched as the apparently amphibious animal, which they described as having a large body, long neck and small head thrashed and writhed in an effort to free itself from its drying perch for days.

The sight filled the Nakota with both awe and terror and not even the bravest warrior dared to approach the creature, which they believed it to be an Unktizina — the vile progeny of the evil spirit Unk and the lizard beast known as UNKCEGI — for fear that the spirit’s wrath would bring on even greater hardships than just the drought. Eventually the animal was able to free itself and (presumably) make its way back into the deeper portion of the lake. - americanmonsters.com

Monsters of Wisconsin: Mysterious Creatures in the Badger State

Weird Wisconsin: Your Travel Guide to Wisconsin's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets

Strange Wisconsin

Lake and Sea Monsters (Mysteries, Legends, and Unexplained Phenomena)

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