Along the northern border of Vermont is a finger lake known as Lake Memphremagog. It’s the second largest lake in the state and is shared by Canada. Though a seemingly tranquil spot, it has been the home of many tales of a strange and frightening beast; a mysterious monster that some say the local Indians warned the settlers to avoid.
The creature in Lake Memphremagog has long been a part of the lore of the Abenakis, the indigenous people who gave the lake its name. When the settlers arrive the Abenakis warned the settlers not to bathe or swim in the lake due to a predatory monster that patrolled the lake and was known to devour unsuspecting humans.
The earliest modern record of the beast dates back to 1816 when Ralph Merry and his wife saw what they described as a creature that was the color of a skinned sheep, and had “12 to 15 pairs of legs.” Around the same time Uriah Jewett, known as ‘Uncle Riah’ by the locals, became obsessed with proving the existence of the creature. He believe that the serpent had found it way to the lake through a subterranean channel entering Lake Memphremagog at Owl’s Head, the deepest portion of the lake which most of the legends are drawn from. He felt that it had become trapped in the lake because it was far too stupid to find its way out.
Jewett spent much of his free time trying to catch the monster. He would bait traps with lambs head. He said that when he returned in the morning the heads would be gone. Over time the locals dubbed the monster, Uriah’s Alligator. Though he was not successful in snaring the serpent, he had no problem captivating the locals with his gritty tale about the monster and his attempts to trap it.
In 1891, William Watt witnessed the beast swimming across the lake. William said it was approximately 25 – 30 feet long, while it neck rose 3 feet above the surface of the lake. In 1929 Dr. Curtis Classen and his two friends had seen a toothy creature crawl out of the lake. They compared it to an over sized alligator and supported their claim with tracks along the shoreline.
Over time the description of the monster began to change. In the 30’s it appeared to be more snake like. In 1933 passengers on a cruise ship described seeing an “elongated snake-like fish measuring over 50 ft. in length and almost 10 ft. wide.” In 1935 a local diver claimed to have seen several unidentified eels “6 – 8 ft. long and as thick as a man’s thigh,” while five young swimmers came face to face with a 30-ft. creature not unlike a freakishly large dark-skinned eel four years later.
In 1961, two fishermen swore they had a close call with Monster. They watched a black creature about 20 feet long swim alongside their boat. They reported it as having a “round back and an oddly shaped head that defied definition”. As the men watched the creature in fear, it was heard making a strange sound.
From the 70’s on Memphre has taken on a more dragon like appearance. It was reported being as 50 ft. long, with a long neck, cowlike head, and large, red eyes in 1972, a beast resembling “a seal with a long neck,” in 1976 and 75-ft. animal with a horse-like head” at recently as 2000.
Sighting of this mysterious continue to be reported every year. Though many locals laugh at it as the product of a fertile imagination, there are those who still heeding the warning shared by the Abenakis. They might feel safe in the shallower waters of the local beaches; they still keep far from the dark waters near Owl Head, where the beast lays waiting for its next meal.
~ Strange New England
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