This long necked, dorsal finned, canine-featured critter is one of the most unusual lake beasts reputed to dwell in North America.

Located in Southern Ontario — just 40-miles north of Toronto — Lake Simcoe is the fourth-largest lake in the province and a remnant of the colossal, prehistoric freshwater sea known as Lake Algonquin. Algonquin’s basin also included Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, Lake Nipigon and Lake Nipissing. When the ice dam melted at the end of the last ice age it dramatically reduced water levels in the region, leaving behind the lakes we see today.

In the 17th century the lake was known by the Huron natives as “Ouentironk” or “Beautiful Water.” In 1687, the Lahontan people changed it to Lake Taronto, an Iroquoian term meaning gateway or pass. Finally, in 1793, by John Graves Simcoe — the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada — renamed the lake in memory of his father, Captain John Simcoe.

This relatively small, island riddled, oval shaped body of water, which is approximately 20-miles long and 16-miles wide, is known for its clean water, fantastic fishing and, most notably, the bizarre beast that’s said to lurk within its gloomy, freshwater depths.

This unusual animal was dubbed Igopogo — no doubt, in honor of her famous cousins OGOPOGO of Lake Okanagan and MANIPOGO of Lake Manitoba — by the local fishermen.

That having been stated, there seems to be a bit of a rivalry over the beast’s appellation as, depending on whether or not you hail from Kempenfelt Bay or Beaverton, the monster’s has a few alternate nom de plumes, including “Kempenfelt Kelly,” “Beaverton Bessie” — which is, in and of itself, an homage to Lake Erie’s more notorious BESSIE — and even “Simcoe Kelly.”

It was even suggested by George M. Eberhart in his book “Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology” that its most famous name, “Igopogo,” comes from Walt Kelly’s seminal comic strip “Pogo,” which featured a cadre of memorable swamp critters, including one who ran a mock presidential campaign utilizing the slogan: “I GO POGO.”

Considered by many cryptozoologists to be unique, even amongst her amazing peers, Igopogo is a rarely seen beast, which has been described as having a neck which resembles a “stove-pipe,” crowned by an unusual canine-like head.

This ostensibly mammalian description — which, it must be admitted, has in no way remained consistent throughout the many years of Igopogo sightings — has led some to speculate that this creature may biologically akin to AQUATIC ENIGMAS such as the notorious “Irish crocodile” the DOBHAR-CHU or even the Australian BUNYIP.

While tales of this cryptid go as far back as aboriginal legends and accounts from the earliest Europeans to settle the area, the first modern report hails from July 22, 1963.

The eyewitnesses involved with this sighting, including one Reverend  L.B. Williams, claimed that they saw not a typically mammalian, but a serpentine creature — not unlike Newfoundland’s eel-like CRESSIE — with multiple dorsal fins, that was anywhere from 30 to 70-feet in length, undulating in the water. It was also described as having a “charcoal covered” epidermis

This creature was allegedly captured on film while two, uncharacteristically calm, children watch from the shore. While there is no written account of when or by whom the obviously aged, black and white image was snapped, it remains an intriguing — if somewhat controversial — piece of potential photographic evidence of Igopogo’s existence.

Over two decades later, on June 13, 1983, William Skrypetz — a sonar operator with Lefroy’s Government Dock and Marina — took sonar reading which revealed a creature with a massive body and long tapering neck that seemed to look very much like the archetypal LAKE MONSTERS such as CHAMP or the LOCH NESS MONSTER.

During the 1980’s — author, cryptozoologist and president of the BCSCC (British Colombia Scientific Cryptozoology Club) — JOHN KIRK III, investigated this phenomenon and came to the conclusion that whatever might have lived in the lake had either migrated or had become deceased.

Kirk’s assessment of the situation was not without merit, as the sightings of this animal — with the notable exception of Skrypetz sonar hit — had dwindled to virtually nothing since the 1970’s. Kirk’s opinion of this creature’s status changed in 1991, however, when he was given a copy of a videotape by former British army officer and fellow cryptozoologist, Don Hepworth.

The video — which was purportedly shot from the shores of Lake Simcoe during that same year — apparently shows a terrifying lake demon rearing its head during a hydroplane race.

According to the unnamed videographer’s account, one of the racers her knew suffered a mechanical breakdown while on the south end of the lake and was forced to halt and make repairs. Just as the racer lifted the engine hatch in order to assess the damage, a large animal suddenly surfaced directly in front of him, stunning the racer as well as the spectators on the shoreline.

The landlocked crowd began to panic, fearing the worst for the downed competitor. The racer himself would later claim that this possibly prehistoric apparition would continue to stare at him it slowly lowered its head, finally submerging completely beneath the water.

Apparently, Kirk — upon repeated viewing of the controversial footage — confirmed that this creature was 9 and 12 feet long and had mammalia or, what he believed to be, pinniped (seal- or sea lion-like) features. Unfortunately the quality of the video and proximity of the creature to the camera did not allow for a more thorough investigation of its species.

This video evidence — which is infamously difficult to find — has raised the profile of this creature considerably, yet skeptics continue to insist that what people are seeing is nothing more than normal seals who have slipped into the lake via the rivers that connect it to Lake Huron. Still others think it may be related to the now famous Pacific Ocean dwelling SEA MONSTERS known as CADBOROSAURUS.

While the “seal” theory may debunk some of the unusual sightings, it in no way explains away the strange sonar hit reported in 1983. Even now, a decade into the 21st century, Lake Simcoe remains one of the most under explored cryptid habitats remaining in North America.

© Copyright Rob Morphy 2002 — 2011