The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), August 9, 1867, page 1

Full Text
Description of the Animal By a Fisherman
Communication of a Vessel Captain - The Monster Seen at Michigan City

The Chicago Tribune says: That Lake Michigan is inhabited by a vast monster, part fish and part serpent, no longer admits of doubt. We have already published the fact that the crews of the tug George W Wood and the propeller Sky Lark had seen him off Evanston, lashing the waves into a tempest. It is to be regretted that those vessels were not able to approach nearer to him, as from the [culled?] testimony of so many persons we might have been able to obtain an accurate idea of the nondescript. As it is, the evidence of the crews sufficiently establishes the fact that the animal is between forty and fifty feet in length, his shape serpentine, the size of his neck about that of a human being, and the size of his body about that of an ordinary barrel.

The monster was not again seen until yesterday morning, when he suddenly made his appearance just below Hyde Park, about a mile and a half from shore, where the bed of the lake suddenly dips to a great depth. The facts that we are about to state we have derived from a fisherman living in that vicinity named Joseph Muhlke. Mr. Muhlke is an intelligent German who gains his living by fishing, and is well known to the residents of the southern part of the city, where his cart and fish-box have been constant callers for the past three or four years. We have no reason to doubt his statement, as he is entirely honest, and had no means of knowing that others had seen the fish or described him. While their general statement is confirmed by him, he adds many details which are new.

Mr. Muhlke, as is his custom, took boat and lines at daybreak yesterday morning, nearly to the edge of the flats, where fish are abundant, threw out his anchor and set his lines. It was a bright, clear morning, a gentle south breeze just rippling the surface of the lake, but not sufficiently strong to impart any motion to the boat. For some reason, his usual good fortune did not attend him. He fished on for about half an hour, and still no bites. It was now growing light very fast, and he determined to go in nearer to shore and fish awhile for perch, and return to his grounds after the sun was up. He therefore drew in his lines, and was about to weigh anchor, when he became aware of a singular motion of his boat. The ripple of the lake was not sufficient to cause it. There could not be a swell on the lake, as the weather had been very still during the past two or three days. Again the wind was from the south, and his boat was headed to the north, so that if the disturbance had been the result of natural causes his boat would naturally have had a corresponding motion, while in reality the motion was lateral, or from east to west, and different from that caused by a swell, not being long and gradual, but abrupt and broken. He turned his eyes to the eastward, but could see nothing, and still the motion of the boat increased. Alarmed by this unusual phenomenon, he again commenced pulling in his anchor, but was this time interrupted by a sound to the eastward -- a peculiar noise, half puffing like a heavy breath and half an actual vocal sound, harsh and grating as the fisherman described it, like the noise a catfish makes when first caught, only a great deal louder and more frightful.

He immediately let go the rope and turned his eyes in the direction of the sound, and for the first time became aware of a dark object in the water, oval in shape, resembling very much a boat keel upward, and only about eighty rods* distant.

At first, the object seemed stationary, but as he watched it, it gradually increased in bulk, still preserving an oval, or rather the segment of a circle in form. Suddenly the motion ceased, the object apparently rising out of the water, at its highest point, about three or four feet. In a very short time, another object commenced rising about 20 feet nearer to him, as he judged, which he could clearly enough see was the head of some animal, as the eyes were plainly visible. Almost at the same time, the tail became apparent, equidistant from the first part of the animal he had seen. As he judged, about two-thirds of the monster was out of the water. Thus far the animal had made no forward motion, and manifested no disposition to do so, the only signs of activity displayed being a gentle motion of the head, north and south, as an occasional uplifting or stretching of a long neck out of the lake, and a few splashes of the tail upon the water, but not by any means with that fury described by the crews of the Wood and Sky Lark. The fisherman, rightly judging that an animal so huge would not approach the flats, determined to watch him until he could get a good idea of his general appearance.

As we have said, his estimate of the length, which, he informs us, was five times the length of his boat, very nearly tallies with the previous accounts, while his estimate of the circumference is equally confirmatory. The general color of the animal was a bluish black, darkest in the center, graduating nearly to blue towards the head and tail. The underside of the animal was only visible as he lifted his head and tail occasionally, and this appeared to be of a grayish white, resembling the color of the dog-fish somewhat. The head was a little larger than the human average head, growing smaller toward the mouth, and sloping gradually toward the neck, somewhat like a seal's. Toward the snout, which was triangular in shape, the head was very much depressed, and on the extreme end of the snout, Mr. Muhlke thinks there were barbels, but of this he is not sure. No teeth were visible. The eyes were large, larger than the human eye, but of their color or shape, Mr. M. could form no idea whatever. Only a portion of the neck was visible. This appeared to be rough and along its upper surface and extending nearly to its tail, was a series of what looked like the bony plates of a sturgeon. This ridge extended over the fist section of the animal, which, Mr. M. saw, but apart from this there was no appendage visible on the forward part of the animal. Mr. M., however, was confident that there were either fins or legs, toward the head and under the water, as there was a constant wash of the water on either side of him, near that point, as if he was sustaining his huge bulk by the motion of such appendages. A few feet forward of the tail there was a well developed fin of a greenish hue, corresponding with the dorsal fin of the sturgeon, but many time larger, and evidently more powerful. The entire fin had a lateral motion, and the various spines of which it was composed had an individual longitudinal motion, so that sometimes the fin almost closed up like a fan. Immediately beneath this was an anal fin, possessing the same characteristics, but different in shape, being very long and the spines of equal length. Immediately in front of this were two well developed legs. Mr. M. thinks they ended in a web foot. In any event, they were jointless, but were so flexible that the animal could draw them up to the belly when they were not in use. By analogy, therefore, we should infer that the animal had similar legs at his other extremity, which favors the supposition that he walks at times on the bed of the lake, in search of his prey, and at once banishes the supposition that he might be of the sturgeon family. The tail itself was of great size and strength, very unsymmetrical in shape, with something resembling long hair covering its entire upper surface, the under surface being diversified with sharp ridges, radiating to the outer edge.

Media Type:
Item Type:
Column 2
*80 rods = about 1/4 mile or 400 meters
Date of Original:
August 9, 1867
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Language of Item:
Dave Swayze
Copyright Statement:
Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), August 9, 1867, page 1