by Scott Wheeler
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Lake Memphremagog is home to a gigantic monster—at least that is what some people say
For many years, people have reported seeing what some consider a lake monster, or lake serpent, swimming in Lake Memphremagog and other Northeast Kingdom waters. My family has long been connected to Lake Memphremagog, so I’ve always been interested in the creature that we call Gog. I’ve often worried about the impact of this fish eating serpent has on our famed fishery. Such a creature must surely eat enough fish to diminish the supply of fish in the lake.
Is there REALLY a monster lurking in Lake Memphremagog???
I’ve been skeptical of claims about the existence of these aquatic monsters, any kind of monsters, whether it be Gog or ~ Willie,” the mythical creature that is said to roam the waters of Lake Willoughby in Westmore. Instead, I always wrote off sightings as the result of overactive imaginations. Logs, beavers, snapping turtles, schools of fish, and swimming moose are suddenly transformed into something more sinister—a salmon and walleye—eating beast.
This skepticism hasn’t stopped me from looking for it, though. More than once I’ve thought I finally spotted Gog, only to be disappointed. There was the time while duck hunting, straining to see any approaching diving ducks through the morning mist, when my over-stressed eyes suddenly detected what I thought was a huge creature paddling slowly through the mist. “Surely that is Gog come to feast on my duck decoys,” I thought to myself. Once the mist lifted, I couldn’t help but laugh. My decoys were still bobbing in the water, and as for that creature, it was only a monstrous limb of an old willow tree bobbing along in the waves.
Yes, the water can play tricks on one’s eyes.
During another hunting trip I was again convinced of Gog’s existence. Through the morning haze, it was clear to me what I was seeing—four black humps bobbing in the lake. Certainly they were the humps on the back of a horrible lake creature. Those humps kept undulating in and out of the water one after another like some kind of prehistoric water-dwelling creature from the Stone Age. One hump appeared at the same time that another one disappeared.
“Wow!”, I said to myself. “It’s Gog.” My excitement was dashed when the haze lifted. No, it wasn’t a lake serpent I was seeing, but a family of loons diving for fish in the morning light. Those loons sure did look like humps rising and falling though, as they took turns diving for fish, leaving at least one loon on the surface all the time to keep an eye out for approaching danger.
“Get a grip, Scottie,” I laughed at myself. “You’ve been watching Jurassic Park too much.”
Then there was the time several years ago, while fishing in Scott’s cove, when I thought I was on the verge of having my first encounter with Gog, an aquatic monster that my ancestors, who have spent hundreds of years living and working on Lake Memphremagog, had never even seen. Catching one fish after another, I was startled by a tremendous crashing sound coming from the direction of the nearby cattails. This wasn’t any sound that I’d ever heard before. Surely it wasn’t one of those beavers or a school of spawning fish that had tricked me many times into making me think I was going to see a certified lake monster.
“Darn!” I cursed as I remembered that I’d forgotten my camera. Why does that happen every time I think Gog is going to reveal himself to me? Bummed out, but being the adventurer that I am, I pressed on into the cattails in my boat, hoping to at least get a description of this monster to share with my friends, some who themselves claim to have seen unexplained creatures, both aquatic and land bound, but typically only after a bit of celebrating, when, of course, they didn’t happen to have a camera to support their claims. One friend, however, did something the rest of them couldn’t: Paul took a photograph of the beast he witnessed swimming in the lake. A computer enhanced version of the photo later revealed that the beast wasn’t Gog, but rather a moose out for a swim. So, the beast was still waiting to be discovered.
Pushing through the cattails, I peered into the weeds, hoping to see a lake serpent, or family of lake serpents, frolicking. Instead, all I found were two oversized snapping turtles, the size of washtubs, enjoying a romantic afternoon in the midday sun.
Another day, while fishing off the railroad bridge in Newport, I excitedly told a fellow fisherman standing near me, “Hey, where did those waves come from? Is it Gog?”
“No, stupid! Didn’t you see that boat go by a few minutes ago,” the fisherman laughed at me, explaining how oftentimes people don’t see the wake of a boat until after the boat is long out of sight. Needless to say, I felt like a fool. The spring of 2003 spelled good fishing for my boys and me. We caught some really fine fish and created some great memories. But the one thing we didn’t see was a lake monster. That would have made our day. Frustrated by my inability to see a monster, any kind of monster, land dwelling or aquatic, I decided to go in search of Gog.
“What does one need to go monster hunting?” I wondered. I’ve hunted many things in my life—rabbits, partridges, and deer—but never monsters. Looking at my leaky rowboat, I shook my head. It surely wasn’t made for such an adventure. I needed a nice boat, respectable enough to carry a certified monster hunter and all his gear. I called up Stan, a good friend of mine who owns such a boat. Stan and I met several years ago, and it’s safe to say that his life hasn’t been the same ever since. “Sometimes I think I met the Mad Hatter” he is fond of saying. Why would he say such a thing? Doesn’t everybody go in search of monsters? Heck, I’ve been looking for monsters every since I was a child when I insisted to my parents that the boogie man lived under my bed.
Stan shook his head in disbelief as I told him of my plans to capture Gog on film.
I assured him that we and his boat would be safe since I’d been told that this mythical creature wasn’t vicious, but seemed to actually like humans.
Loading up the boat with monster-hunting tools, including among other things, a pair of binoculars, and not one, but two cameras, just in case one camera should fail. I wasn’t taking any chances this time.
“Okay, what is that for?” said Stan, as he watched me load a hay fork into the boat. I explained that although rumor has it that Gog is friendly; I wasn’t taking any chances with a beast the size of Gog. Besides that, I reasoned that he, or she, must be one tough monster to live thousands of years in Lake Memphremagog.
Boarding the boat, I told Stan to steer toward Owl’s head, the picturesque mountain just across the border in Canada on the lake’s shores. Knowing there was a deep hole in the lake in front of the mountain, I surmised it would make for a perfect location to spot Gog.
As we sped along, Stan and I scanned the lake’s surface looking for anything out of the ordinary. We’d picked a good night for our expedition. The waves were little more than ripples.
“Stan, look! Over there!” I hollered over the roar of the motor, pointing toward what appeared to be humps bobbing on the horizon. The humps were headed easterly in the vicinity of the lighthouse, just off of the Lake Road.
Breaking out in a cold sweat of excitement, I told Stan to ease up on the throttle as I wiped the sweat from my eyes and grabbed my binoculars. I peered hard through my field glasses. There was no explanation for what I was seeing. Throwing down my binoculars, I grabbed both of my cameras and began to click madly away, making sure I had plenty of pictures to show my friends.
Still not certain exactly what we were seeing, we moved even closer to the beast. Suddenly, the creature made it known that he either wasn’t impressed to see us on his turf, or he viewed us humans as a hearty meal, because, that beast lunged out of the water, heading directly toward the boat. Grabbing up the pitchfork that Stan had laughed at me about, I stood on the stern, ready to fend off the attack, while Stan spun the boat so that we could escape.
No, it wasn’t a monster, or even some unknown lake creature, instead, it was a monster walleye. So, my best piece of advice to you is, if you’re coming to the Northeast Kingdom to see a monster, you’ll probably go home disappointed, but if you’re coming to look for really big fish, you’ve found the right place. Come fish the Northeast Kingdom where the fish are big and legends never die.
As for Gog and his other monster friends up here in the Kingdom, they, too, will always be part of the local lore—merry myths passed down from one generation to the next.