Late in the summer of 2001, terror gripped Lake Erie’s coastline communities when, in a span of less than 24 hours, no less than three people (all of whom were unlucky — or flat out foolish — enough to have taken a dip off the Pump House beach) were bitten by a relatively large, razor toothed, unidentified creature.
The animal’s first victim, 47 year-old Brenda McCormack, had slipped into the water for a sunset swim when she felt what she described as a large “chomp” on the side of her right calf. The horrified McCormack hastily thrashed through the murky Lake Erie waters toward the shore. Once on dry land she discovered a six-inch series of circular puncture wounds — in the shape of a jaw — embedded in her calf muscle.
The following morning an unnamed man and his son were assailed in the same location (presumably by the same animal) after which they were swiftly rushed to the nearest medical facility. The child required hospitalization for his injuries.
It wasn’t long before a plethora of rumors began to spread through Port Dover and its neighboring communities regarding the source of these vicious attacks. Wildly speculative theories ran the gamut from a rogue school of piranhas, which were released into the wild after they grew too big for their owner’s aquarium, to a juvenile BESSIE, which may have been swimming closer to shore in search of human prey. Patricia Hall, the nurse who treated McCormack, had this to say:
“It’s the Lake Erie monster. That’s what people are joking about.”
Other researchers have suggest that the beasts taking a bite out of swimmers in Lake Erie may be similar to the eel-like cryptids such as CRESSIE and OLD GREENY, which haunt Newfoundland’s Crescent Lake and Central New York’s Cayuga Lake respectively.
On August 13, 2001, the Ottawa Citizen published one of the first reports regarding these events. In that account the doctor who treated the victims of this creature admitted that he was at a loss as to the identity of this mystery attacker:
“PORT DOVER – Dr. Harold Hynscht has a medical mystery on his hands. He treated three patients recently who suffered major bites on their legs after swimming in Lake Erie beside the Port Dover pump house. All were in about a meter of water when the attacks occurred. Hynscht, a diver with extensive knowledge of aquatic life, is at a loss to identify the animal that caused them. The bites were not minor. Six inches separated the wounds inflicted by the top and bottom teeth, suggesting the animal has a large mouth. ‘That’s a big, honking fish,’ Hynscht said.
The doctor has ruled out round gobies, lamprey eels, snapping turtles, walleye and other muskellunge-type fish as well as piranhas. The only species that seems plausible, Hynscht said, is the bowfin, a primitive, aggressive fish that protect their nests up to nine weeks after spawning.
One of the consistent elements of the stories I’ve heard is that it happened so fast they hardly had time to react,” Hynscht said. “Whatever is doing this is doing so because of territory. It’s not doing this because it’s hungry. Hynscht is trading information and theories with a wildlife biologist in Toronto in an effort to determine the attacker’s identity.”
Whatever this creature turns out to be, the aggressive nature of the animal in question puts it into direct conflict with the human race… and that can only mean trouble ahead.