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BellaOnline's Canadian Culture Editor

Canadian Monsters

While berry picking in the summer of 2008, an Ontario woman and her mother claimed to have spotted a Sasquatch lurking among the tress. Meanwhile, in the deep, vast waters of some of Canada’s lakes swim shy creatures captured only as fuzzy blurs in photographs, or mysterious movements caught on film. In the vast wilderness of Canada, there may be lurking monsters.

Some may know the hairy, ape-like creature that lives in the North American forests as Bigfoot, but to Canadians, he’s Sasquatch, a native Salish word for “wild man” or “hairy man”. A timid and reclusive creature, Sasquatch is described as large and hairy, with big eyes and a pronounced sloped brow. Many Sasquatch spotters have reported that Sasquatch is so quiet and light footed that they never would have noticed him hiding behind the trees had it not been for his strong and pungent order. At times he’s described as more ape-like, other times he appears to have more bear-like qualities. Said to be camera shy, Sasquatch leaves his extremely large foot prints as the only sign that he has visited.

Canadian icon Rene Dahinden spent over 40 years of his life searching Canada’s wilderness looking for Sasquatch. First hired in 1957 by British Columbia’s Harrison Hot Springs to lead a Sasquatch search in celebration of the province centennial, Dahinden ended his career having never found any definitive proof, other than footprints, that Sasquatch freely roams the back country. But Sasquatch isn’t the only Canadian monster that is reluctant to come out of the shadows; Okanagan Lake’s Ogopogo has been both fascinating and hiding from locals and visitors for well over a century.

It is told that in the deep waters of Okanagan Lake swims a mysterious creature, the elusive Ogopogo. At 135 km long and roughly 5 km wide, Okanagan Lake has a lot of water to hide in. The Native people living along Lake Okanagan had named the mysterious water beast Naitaka, or “Lake Devil”, but it wasn’t until a popular dance hall song in 1924 that Ogopogo got its infamous moniker: “His mother was an earwig, his father was a whale. A little bit of head and hardly any tail. And Ogopogo was his name.”

Said to be “shy” and “bashful”, Ogopogo has been spotted numerous times since the first recorded sighting in 1872. Described as a many-humped, serpentine creature with a horse-like head, Okanagan residents are quite fond of their local lake creature. Ogopogo has been captured in many blurry or unclear photographs and home movies, often appearing as a strange disturbance in the water or strange wave formations rippling across the lake. Absolute proof has not yet been found that Ogopogo is anything more than a beaver, otter, lake sturgeon, or passing log, but Canada’s love for Lake Okanagan’s mysterious resident remains.

Ogopogo is not alone lurking in Canada’s deep water. Swimming between Quebec, New York, and Vermont, Lake Champlain’s Champ has been eluding residents and tourists since first being spotted in the mid-1800s. Long and snake like, Champ caused quite a commotion early 2008, when two local fishermen caught a unclear short movie of him swimming by their boat on their digital camera. At the turn of the 20th century, famed showman P. T. Barnum offered $50,000 for Champ, dead or alive. No one was able to nab Champ back then, and he continues to intrigue and delight people around the Lake Champlain area.

Deep in Quebec’s murky Lake Memphremagog a resident reptile-like creature named Memphre, was last reported seen in 2005. Manitoba’s Lake Manitoba has had sightings of a mysterious serpentine creature since 1908. Named Manipogo, echoing famed Ogopogo, it was described by one eyewitness as looking like a “dragon with a horse head”. Kempenfelt Kelly, also known as Igopogo, swims Ontario’s Lake Simcoe. Seldom seen, Igopogo prefers to stay out of the limelight attracted by its bolder cousins.

There is no hard evidence that any of Canada’s famed monsters are any more than a trick of the light, a case of mistaken identity, or a by-product of one too many nips at the Canadian whiskey. There is a lot of room to hide here in Canada's dense evergreen forests and deep cool lakes. Perhaps it is the perfect place even to hide a monster or two.

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