Cryptid Quest: Shadow Under the Lake

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Chapter 6: What Could it Be?

The Bridgetown Public Library lied on Main Street, and many say the library was located smack dab in the middle of the town. The two young investigators walked into the library, making sure to wipe their feet on the giant mat in front of the door. Rick especially, cause his sneakers were covered in the mud from the creek. After that, they were greeted by an elderly looking woman sitting at the front desk, who was familiar with the two kids before, but had never seen them together as a group.

“Good afternoon, Caroline! Oh! And good afternoon to you too Rick! Here to scan the Fortean Magazines in the bin?” asked the old woman.

“Nah… I already read them all.” Said Rick as Caroline gave him a disappointed look. “Do you have any books about wild life in Bish Bash Lake?”

“Hm… Wildlife in Bish Bash Lake?” repeated the old woman, thinking it over. “As a matter of fact... I think I have something right here!”

The women bends down underneath her desk. After some shuffling around, she pulled up a stack of heavy books. The kids were astonished by the size of the stack. She then skimmed through the books, and doing so, notices a piece of paper sticking out between two of the books. With her boney fingers, she gripped the side of the sheet and slides it out. The sheet had a plastic coat over it, yet was dirty from years of neglect.

“Here we are!” she said as she handed the piece of paper to Rick. The two kids were astonished. The sheet had a diagram of a few fish species, a few crustaceans, a few mollusks and a single jellyfish.

“What! That’s it?” said Caroline, dumbfounded by the lack of biodiversity in the lake. The librarian simply shrugged.

“I’m sorry Caroline. But there isn’t a whole of fish in the lake. Now, there’s enough for a fisherman, don’t get me wrong, but nothing to fancy animal fanatics like you two.” The Librarian said with a disappointing smirk.

“But... These are all small fish. None of these could have knocked over the boat!” said Caroline.

Caroline looked up from the sheet, only to see Rick giving her a cocky grin. Caroline shoved the sheet into his hands and stormed off. Rick followed, only to find her skimming through the nonfiction biology section of the library. She collected any book that detailed lake ecology, fauna of New England or Massachusetts, and even a few books about lake monsters, granted these were books that debunked the legends. Funny, cause she already read them.

Rick, meanwhile, sat in a chair, adjacent to her, and read one of his cryptid hunting books. But before he did, he took out his phone again and took a selfie of him in front of Caroline and the large stack of books. This time Caroline was more annoyed than frustrated. Still, she really wished Rick wouldn’t do that. Rick then went back to reading his book.

Though he was skimming through the pages, he was waiting for Caroline to give up in defeat. Yet Caroline remained determined to figure out what could have overturn the boat, and more importantly, what she had saw an hour earlier.

Yet, after an hour and a half of research, Caroline had skimmed and studied all the books she could have collected. Though she was at a lost, she wasn’t willing to give up just yet. It was clear to her she needed more clues. After all, all she had to work off was the first hand accounts of the monster by the fisherman and what she saw on the canoe. It was hardly enough evidence to point to any conclusive being, let alone a suspect.

“Can I say something?” asked Rick, only to get an annoyed look from Caroline.

“What?” She snarled. Rick turned his book around and showed Caroline an illustrated picture of a long neck lake monster.

“I think this is what we are dealing with!” said Rick, only to get the same annoyed look from Caroline.

“What? A dinosaur?” asked Caroline.

“Not just any dinosaur, a plesiosaur!” announced Rick, much to Caroline’s dismay. “They were marine dinosaurs with long necks that lived along side the terrestrial dinosaurs! They supposedly died off with the dinosaurs, but think that they survived, and are responsible for most of the lake monster sightings seen around the world!”

“So let me get this straight.” Said Caroline, as she leaned back in her chair. “You think that the thing that knocked Dale Freeman off his boat was a marine dinosaur that has been extinct for over 66 million years?”

“Yeah! Why not?” Asked Rick. It was then that a devilish smile came on Caroline face.

“Well, I’ll tell you why!” announced Caroline as she began her speech. “Let’s start with anatomy. Plesiosaurs had a neck structure that prevented them from making the swan shape that you typically see in lake monster sightings.”

Caroline pointed to a picture of the infamous “Surgeon’s Photo” that was printed on the same page next to the plesiosaur illustration.

“Second of all, plesiosaurs had lungs, so they had to constantly come up for air to breathe. If they did exist, we’d see them more often. Third, they were cold blooded, meaning they needed to live in warmer climate in order to survive. Lakes like Loch Ness or Bish Bash cannot support a creature like that. Forth, a creature that size would need tons of space in order to move around and populate. Fifth, such a population would be big enough to where they would be seen more often. Sixth, such large creatures would need vast amounts of food in order to survive! As shown on the fish sheet, there isn’t much prey out on the lake! Seventh, last and most importantly, there is no evidence from the fossil record that plesiosaurs or any dinosaur survived the mass extinction period that wiped them out!”

Rick was taken aback and was speechless. Caroline clearly did her research before coming here. What could he say that wouldn’t make him look like a fool?

“Yeah… Well… Maybe they evolved out of those things!” Mumbled Rick. Caroline just gave him a look, shook her head, and went back to reading.

One of the books Caroline read was a 200 page detailed debunking of lake monsters called, Monster, My Foot by Sir Ian Locksley. Though the book focused mostly on the Loch Ness Monster, the author made it pretty clear that everything that happens on Loch Ness Monster has been repeated on several other lakes throughout the world.

In fact, the Loch Ness Monster was not the first lake monster ever reported, or received world wide press coverage. There was Champ, the Lake Champlain Monster, that made headlines in the late 1800s. Though during that time, the monster was called “The Lake Champlain Sea Serpent”. Why was it called a sea serpent if it was in a lake? Cause at the time, the most famous cryptid was the sea serpent. Back then, sea serpent belief was common, with some scientists trying to classify them with real animals. Decades of research put an end to these claims.

According to Locksley, a majority of lake monster sightings are just misidentification of known animals and objects. He described a Scottish Red Deer swimming through the lake, and how from a distance it could resemble a long neck lake monster. He also explained that seals would sometimes find their way to the lake, confusing locals as the species are rarely found there. But it has happened, and Locksley suspects that more seal sightings on Loch Ness would be reported if one accounts for Nessie sightings being misidentified seals.

He even states that a wave could fool someone into thinking a lake monster was real. Wakes left behind by boats tend to stay afloat, giving the illusion of something big swimming through the water. To the average observer, it could resemble a lake monster.

As fascinating as these theories were, they could not explain what happened to Dale Freeman and his friend. A seal, no matter how big, couldn’t have knocked over the boat. The same thing goes for a deer or any known animal near Bish Bash Lake. And it certainly wasn’t a wake that overturned the boat. So again, Caroline was left empty handed.

She had hoped to find something similar to what they were going through. Another instance of an unknown force causing a boat or ship to capsize, which was later blamed on a cryptid.

For that, she had to turn to the internet. She used the library’s free access to computers in order to do this research. She browsed several news websites, some going all the way back to the 1990s.

She read about a story of a girl who was thrown off a canoe by a 23 foot crocodile in the Philippines, but last time Caroline checked, there were no crocodiles or alligators in Bridgetown. She then read about the Seneca Serpent, a lake monster seen on Lake Seneca in New York. This story was reported all the way back to 1899, where a side-wheeler steamship called the Otetiani supposedly hit a reptile like monster. Only the story claims the captain purposely drove his ship into the monster. The attack wasn’t the monster’s fault by any means. And even then, that could be explained away as an encounter with a Lake Sturgeon or a Gar, large boney fish that look serpent like.

She looked high and low throughout the internet for stories on lake monsters attacking boats. Some websites didn’t let her access the article unless she sighed up and paid $9.99 a month. Others were clearly clickbait and offered no information outside of vague over-generalizations. She even clicked on the second page of the Google search to find information, something she had never done before. And yet, she couldn’t find anything that satisfied her.

Rick, meanwhile, complied a list of what he considered to be the best evidence for lake monsters. And boy were there a ton to choose from. There was the Mansi Photograph, taken on Lake Champlain by a woman in the 1970s, which shows a long neck creature emerging from a lake. There was a video taken in 1997 at Lake Van in Turkey of a large, oily brown hump rising out of the water. There was even one from a British newspaper about a mysterious creature that washed ashore on a lake. But the website asked Rick to sign in and pay 15.99 pounds to read the article, so he just logged off.

But without a doubt the best evidence Rick had for the existence of lake monster was the most famous monster photo of them all; the Surgeon’s Photo. The iconic black and white photo of Nessie silhouetted on the loch, neck protruding out of the water and hump slightly seen behind. The photo was taken by a surgeon named Robert Kenneth Wilson while he was taking a stroll out on Loch Ness. The photo has since been the face of, not just lake monsters in general, but of cryptozoology.

Rick was prepared to show Caroline each one of these photos in order to convince her that lake monsters were real. Rick walked over to Caroline, who was busy skimming through one of the books she had read. In his hands were photocopied pictures of the famous photos. He slapped them down on the desk in front of Caroline, causing her to jolt up from her book.

“God! What was that?” she yelled, causing a librarian to “shush” her.

“I have found the best evidence of lake monsters the world over!” bragged Rick. “Try debunking these babies!”

Caroline looked down at the photos. Her eye immediately fell on the Surgeon’s Photograph, causing her to burst out laughing. She was shushed again by the librarian, causing her to shut up. Rick, however, was furious by this response.

“What’s so funny?” he asked, pointing to the photo. “Do you know what that is? That’s the Surgeon’s Photograph! The most famous photo of Nessie ever captured!”

“Yeah, and it’s also a massive hoax!” exclaimed Caroline. Now Rick wasn’t having any of this. He sat right across from Caroline and looked her dead in the eyes.

“There is no way you know that!” he said, but under his breath cause he didn’t want the librarian to shush them again. “This has been one of the biggest mysteries in all of cryptozoology! No one has been able to prove its a hoax!”

“Think again, Sherlock!” said Caroline, grabbing one of her books. Rick looked over and saw she had grabbed Monster, My Foot. He gasped, cause he was warned about that book in Professor Fiona Pembroke’s book, “The Legend of the Loch”. Caroline flipped through the pages and stopped on one that had a picture of the Surgeon’s Photograph.

“Here we are! The poorly misnamed Surgeon’s Photograph! The most well know photo of the Loch Ness Monster… Which turned out to be a hoax!”

“That’s not true!” said Rick. “And what do you mean, misnamed? How is it misnamed?”

“See, the news sourced that published the photograph came up with the name.” Explained Caroline. “But turns out the man who supposedly took the photo wasn’t a surgeon, he was a gynecologist!”

“What’s a gynecologist?” asked Rick. Caroline gave him a look, leaned in to him and whispered the meaning in his ear. He instantly recoiled in disgust. “What!”

“Oh shut up, Rick!” snarled Caroline. “You seriously have never heard about that before? You need to get out more.”

“Okay… Well, who cares if they changed the profession! That doesn’t Dr. Wilson faked the photo!”

“True, but shows what tabloid newspapers are willing to do in order to make a more appealing story for the general public.” Said Caroline. “But I digress. Turns out Dr. Wilson wasn’t even the one who took the photograph!”

“Yeah he was!” replied Rick. “He took a picture of it while he was walking along side the lake!”

“Nope. That’s just what the hoaxer wanted you to think! And for sixty years, it unknown how the hoaxer did it! Then, in 1999, the grandson of the hoaxer came forward and told the world the truth, that his grandfather Marmaduke Wetherell was the hoaxer!”

“Marmaduke Wetherell?” said Rick stupendously. “I’ve heard of him! He tried to pass off some tracks he made as authentic Nessie prints! But turned out they were just made with stuffed hippo feet!”

“I’m impressed!” exclaimed Caroline. “I didn’t think you’d be aware of that. But yes! And after the newspaper ridiculed Wetherell for that failed hoax, he vowed revenge against them! So he and his friends and family created a model out of a toy submarine and some clay. They then took some photos of the toy out on the loch. Afterwards, they gave it to Dr. Wilson to act as the delivery man. Wilson agreed cause he loved taking part in pranks.”

“But… But…” stuttered Rick. “It couldn’t have been a toy sub! The thing in the photo is way to big!”

Rick then picked up the photocopy of the Surgeon’s Photo from the desk and showed Caroline. Caroline merely chuckled at this.

“Rick… You do know that’s a cropped photo?” she asked. Rick was stunned to hear this. He looked at the photo and then back to Caroline.

“Cropped? What do you mean, cropped? The photo isn’t cropped!”

“Oh my dear little child, you have been brainwashed by bad cryptid media. No, that isn’t the real photo.” Caroline then spun her book around. Rick’s jaw almost dropped upon seeing a photo that greatly resembled the Surgeon’s Photo, but this was of a smaller silhouette drifting on a much wider lake surface. On the tippy top of the photo, you can make out the land on the other side of the lake. Though this photo cropped out where the beach was on the photographer’s side of the lake, it didn’t take a skilled camera man to understand the perspective of the photo.

“That’s right, Rick…” continued Caroline. “This, is the real photograph!”

And just like that, Rick was defeated. His favorite photograph of all time was a hoax. Yet he didn’t want to admit defeat in front of Caroline. He simply gathered up the photocopied pictures and walked away. He didn’t even bother to try to vouch for the other ones, for he was scared that Caroline would debunk them too. Caroline was satisfied, none of the less, and went back to reading.

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