There is a monster on the loose, a mysterious creature haunting the icy depths of Muskrat Lake, near the small village of Cobden, Canada. On approach to the village, signs alert others to the presence of a strange beast, images of some unusual serpentine creature. However, this is not a beast of terror but one the village has embraced. Tales of its existence becoming legendary, passed down through the ages. Some prehistoric survivor, one of the name… Mussie.
Lake Muskat is around 60 miles northwest of Ottawa, 10 miles long and a mile wide, around 65 yards down at its deepest. The area around was once inhabited by the Nibachis, one of the local Algonquin tribes. Samuel de Champlain was the first known European to arrive, an explorer keen on searching this new land. On first sight of the lake, he was stunned by its beauty and its mystery. “Six leagues wide,” he exclaimed. “And two wide, very abundant in fish.”
It’s thought the legend of Mussie started with Champlain, but he never wrote about such in his journals. And why would he? The creature in question is a strange little oddity. Some say it’s 25 feet long with fins down its back. Some say it has legs. Others say it resembles a giant seal, whilst others argue it more resembles the Loch Ness Monster, except it has three eyes. Nobody can agree on its age nor its gender. Local historian James F. Robison once said, “It is described as having thee eyes, three ears, one big fin halfway down its back, two legs [and] one big tooth in front, is silvery-green in colour and stretches for twenty-four feet.” Well, if you saw that would you believe your eyes or think you’d eaten a plant you shouldn’t have eaten?
Champlain had written about other ‘sea beasts’ in his journals, including one description of ‘screaming sea monsters’. His only other note about that sea monster is that he didn’t like it very much because it kept him awake at night, which would be the least of my concerns if a sea monster was flopping around in the water next to my bed…
Despite this, Samuel de Champlain is the very man on the lake signs, holding his ‘famous lost astrolabe’, looking out over the waters. Robison says the first conclusive ‘proof’ of Mussie was likely around 1916. Originally named the Hapyxelor or the Hapaxelor, later changed to Mussie, reflecting Scotland’s very own sea beast, Nessie.
Donnie Humphries was a local man, born and raised in Cobden. He was famed as a well-known proponent of Mussie’s existence, claiming to have seen it on ‘numerous occasions’. Indeed, many of the locals believed in Mussie because of Humphries and his powerful words. He was vehement, albeit inconsistent, about his various tales of Mussie sightings. He said the name Hapaxelor ’suddenly popped into his head’ when he first laid eyes in a great serpent, with those three eyes and sharp teeth that towered over its doomed prey. He said he often saw it eating cattails along the shore.
The creature entered local folklore and was considered little more than such by most. All that changed in 1976. June 7th. 8:30 at night. Allen Childerhorse and John Hoard rushed to tell the villagers of a strange sighting of some strange creature in the lake. It was said to be large and unlike anything the pair had ever seen before. Hoard wrote of the encounter, ‘Trailing about thirty feet behind and cutting the surface of a green fin of some sort. I felt a little weird… I don’t know what to make of it…’
Another local couple out walking that night also said they saw something in the water. Mr. and Mrs. Stark reported seeing ‘two humps’ moving across the lake and then disappearing into the water. In 1988, author Michael Bradley, along with friend Deanne Theilmann-Beann, decided to set out in search of Mussie. They conducted a sonar survey of Muskrat Lake trying to find any evidence of Mussie in their small boat, the Nepenthe.
On October 5th, Bradley captured something odd. Bradley interpreted the readings as ‘two large creatures’ swimming near the surface. Six to eight feet long, swimming at a depth of 24 feet. Bradley concluded the creatures were undulating vertically. He found this remarkable because only two types of creatures do that – invertebrates and marine mammals. He concluded what the sonar ‘saw’ was a type of freshwater pygmy walrus, similar to the seals in Seal Lake, Quebec.
To gather yet more evidence, Bradley decided to interview a number of eyewitness from the decades previously. In sightings between 1968 and 1988, the creature’s length was said to be anywhere from two to four yards long, possessing a rounded head, a long and thick rounded body, described as being ‘silver green’ or ‘dusky red’ in colour. None of the witnesses said it had a long neck, so whatever it was, it wasn’t a cousin of Nessie…
One eyewitness said that Mussie appeared to have fins, whilst another described a long tooth protruding out of its mouth. Bradley wrote a book about all this, offering explanations from seals to the movement of the waves tricking people into thinking they saw some Canadian sea monster. He also offered the suggestion that it could be some distinct species of plesiosaur, a warm-blooded dinosaur with a long, thin neck, a thick body and flippers.
In the mid-1990s, Mussie became the focal point of a joint Cobden and Ottawa Valley marketing campaign. Flags, windsocks and signs sprung up all around Cobden and the entire Ottawa Valley. Some even suggested offering a one million dollar prize for Mussie’s capture. It never came to much. But what were they hoping to catch?
A seal seems obvious. Bradley believed it to be a marine mammal, but they need open water to survive in the winter and the closest source of open water to Lake Muskrat is at the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River. Mussie enthusiast Dennie Blaedow thinks the Mussie spends the winter in some form of hibernation, feeding off a cache of food deep in the caves under Muskrat Lake. High school geography teacher Stew Jack, meanwhile, thinks the belief in Mussie’s existence may be caused by strange hallucinogenic qualities of the lake itself, something that many have reported on in the past. Many claim to feel a bit strange around those strange waters…
Descriptions vary. Could it be a seal or a walrus? Could people be imagining things? Perception is individual and memory is fallible. Scientists and journalists continue to flock to Lake Muskrat, taking sonar readings and writing stories. All trying to find the monster.
Perhaps it is nothing but a seal, or perhaps, just perhaps, there is a monster lurking down there, ready and waiting to strike. Whatever the truth, I would be careful walking along the shores of Lake Muskrat…
So I’ll give this cryptid a 62 on my patented Cryptid-o-Meter, putting it 72nd in the the list of 76, with The Pope Lick Monster still bottom and The Beast of Gévauden still holding top spot.
Mussie. A fascinating cryptid indeed.
Image (Click on It to Enlarge)
1) A purported photo of Mussie…
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