Nebraska’s Walgren Lake Monster
When you hear people talk about Nebraska, the first thing I think of is Corn. I mean, even their basketball team is named the Cornhusker’s. What you don’t think of is Lake Monsters.
Scotland has the Loch Ness Monster. Here in the United States, we have our share of lake monsters too. We have Chessie, the Chesapeake Bay’s Monster. Minnesota’s Mishebeshu, but I have never heard of the Walgren Lake Monster.
Two and a half miles east of Hay Springs, Nebraska, is a 50-acre recreation spot. Walgren Lake State Recreation Site is beautiful and serene with shaded campsites. It’s a perfect place for fishing and picnicking and enjoying the outdoors. Yet, lurking beneath the tranquil blue waters of the lake is the monster.
The Walgren Lake monster has many descriptions. Descriptions of the beastie ranged from a massive catfish to a large mudpuppy. Some witnesses say it’s a giant horned alligator-like beast. Whatever it is, the monster attacks unsuspecting livestock. Although witnesses differ on what they saw, the first official sighting was in 1921.
Hays Springs News printed an article on September 16 with the headline blaring, “If It Isn’t a Whale It’s a Whaler of An Animal.” Another article appeared on October 21. This one talked about plans to capture the elusive monster. That didn’t pan out because the hunters didn’t have a large enough containment container for it.
Then on August 11, 1922, the lake monster made another appearance. Witnesses saw it swimming on the surface of the lake, and the size of it amazed the watchers. The Omaha World Herald picked up the story because of the information they received.
It seems a man named J. A. Johnson and his friends saw a forty-foot-long monster. Johnson said it looked like an alligator but much larger and heavier. It was dull gray/brown with what looked like a horn between its eyes. Johnson also told the Herald that once the monster spotted the men, it let out a gigantic roar. It whipped its tail around in the water before diving beneath the surface.
The monster sounds pretty scary to me, and I’m not sure I would have stayed even with it leaving.
After the fantastic story told by Johnson and his friends, the Walgren Lake monster quickly became famous. Other news sources ran with the story, including the London Times.
The London Times has plenty to write about with Scotland’s Loch Ness Monster. Why would they be interested in a tiny town monster?
It turns out that a Nebraskan by the name of John G. Maher gave them the story. Maher talking to the Times isn’t the story. The story is that Maher built a reputation creating hoaxes. He was so good at making stories from cons, Louise Pound wrote an article.
Pound’s article was titled, “The John G. Maher Hoaxes.” The report came out in December 1952. Maher had a very colorful life as a newspaperman, veteran, businessman, and politician. Pound wrote Maher was most successful as a newspaperman. In this role, Maher created some of the most elaborate hoaxes of his time.
One of those hoaxes was a “petrified man” Maher planted for archeologists to find. The unsuspecting scientists dug it up near Chadron and declared it genuine. Maher’s fake proclaimed as the real deal toured around the county. Another scheme of Maher’s is when he sank bags of soda in boiling springs. He announced the springs had healing properties. If that wasn’t fascinating enough? Maher somehow convinced people the British Navy was invading Nebraska.
Yeah, the British Navy was traveling up the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers to get their revenge on Irish immigrants. Why anyone would believe that story is beyond me, but they did.
The Walgren Lake monster is supposedly Maher’s longest-lasting hoax. However, there have been stories of the Walgren Lake monster dating back centuries. The watery critter is a story told for years by Native Americans. They talk of a beast that eats livestock that roams too close to the lakeshore.
Is the story true?
1985 is the recorded last sighting of the Walgren Lake creature. Although this is a dubious sighting since the date also correlates with the Hay Springs Centennial celebration.
Whether or not the monster exists, Hay Springs has adopted the strange cryptid. The town has yearly celebrations with parades and monster costumes. They distribute T-shirts with the creature’s face, and one fan created a scrapbook.
Mary Hansen of Hay Springs put together a scrapbook of all the Walgren Lake monster clippings. Any pictures and stories of sightings by witnesses. Hansen believes that the monster at one time existed. That there was a watery creature that lurked at the bottom of the lake. It waited for unsuspecting cows or birds to creep too close. However, whatever was in the lake, she believes, is gone.
Where it went is anybody’s guess, since Walgren Lake used to be known as Big Alkali Lake. As the name suggests, the lake has a high Alkaline content. This lake’s maximum depth is 11-feet, so not much room for a monster to hide. Rainfall and snowmelt determine the depth of the lake. During drought conditions, the water level would be so low no monster could hide in it.
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has a fishery where they determine fish kinds to stock the lake. The alkaline content makes it difficult for fish to survive.
Is the monster real?
It isn’t likely, as the lake water has moderate alkaline levels. The depth of 11-feet doesn’t give it much hiding space. Facts don’t stop Hay Springs from having fun with the idea, though. Downtown Hay Springs sports a mural of the monster. Local Art students pained the mural on the wall. There are also memorabilia displayed in the Hay Springs Heritage Center Museum.
If that’s not enough monster fun? Then check out their yearly parades and festivals: plenty of monster costumes, T-shirts, and buttons with the creepy monster face. Plus, tons of fun for the kids and families.
When visiting the Walgren Lake State Recreation Park, keep an eye turned to the lake. I could be wrong, and the monster is there waiting for unsuspecting tourists to get too close. The selected image is by Pixabay.