Move over Bigfoot, El Chupacabra and assorted creepy South American gnomes — you've got some fierce and fearsome aquatic company.
While you're probably well-aware of Nessie, Scotland's legendary lake-dwelling cryptid, she's not the only spooky, serpentine creature that has emerged from the deep for a photo op over the years. From California to Canada (what is it with Canada and the disproportionate number of lake monsters?), there are numerous unidentifiable swimming objects — USOs, if you will — that reputedly reside in deep, freshwater bodies of water around the world. Giving bored locals something to gossip about, tourism boards something to promote and cryptozoologists a reason to exist, lake monsters have long been a staple of mythology and regional folklore. Sure, most sightings of these watery beasts are believed to be simple cases of mistaken identity — logs and other debris, sturgeons, eels, seals, otters, etc., the result of overactive imaginations or straight-out hoaxes — but the thousands of people who claim to have seen a Loch Ness-esque critter, first hand, may beg to differ.
Below you'll find five of the most notorious modern-day lake monsters out there. Have you ever witnessed something "go bump in the lake?"
The Loch Ness Monster (aka Nessie)
Residence: Loch Ness, Scotland
Description: "... a long tapering neck, about 6 feet long, and a smallish head with a serpentine look about it, and a huge hump behind which I reckoned was about 30 feet long. It was turning its head constantly." — Alex Campbell (1933)
Notable sightings: 1933 by George Spicer; 1934 by Dr. Robert Wilson; 1972 by Father Gregory Brusey.
Pop culture cryp-toid: Nessie, the undisputed grand dame of lake monsters, has been the subject of numerous films including the cheese-tastic "The Loch Ness Horror;" the Ted Danson family flick, "Loch Ness;" "Incident at Loch Ness," a mockumentary starring Warner Herzog; and, of course, "Scooby-Doo! and the Loch Ness Monster."
Residence: Lake Champlain, New York/Vermont/Quebec
Description: "20-foot serpent thick as a barrel with a head like a horse" — Samuel de Champlain (1609)
Pop culture cryp-toid: During the height of Champ mania in the early 19th century, showman P.T. Barnum offered a $50,000 reward for "the hide of the beast" so that he could exhibit the carcass of the legendary monster.
Residence: Nahuel Huapi Lake, Argentina
Description: "an animal with a huge neck like a swan, and the movements made me suppose the beast to have a body like that of a crocodile." — Martin Sheffield (1922)
Notable sightings: 1910 by George Garrett; 1922 by Martin Sheffield; 2006 by anonymous.
Pop culture cryp-toid: Nauelito, otherwise known as the Patagonia Plesiosaur, was featured in an episode during the first season of "Destination Truth," a Syfy program hosted by paranormal researcher Josh Gates.
Residence: Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada
Description: "blotchy gray creature about 10 to 15 feet in length." — Gene St. Denis (1982)
Notable sightings: 1982 by Gene St. Denis; 2005 by Beth Douglas.
Pop culture cryp-toid: Rumor (big emphasis on the word "rumor" here) has it that during a diving exploration in Lake Tahoe in the 1970s, legendary French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau stumbled across something — perhaps the reptilian monster itself — to which he could only describe: "the world isn't ready for what was down there."
Residence: Okanagan Lake, British Columbia
Description: "A tremendous creature with a snake-like head and a blunt nose" — Mr. and Mrs. R. H. Miller and Mr. and Mrs. Pat Marten (1959)
Notable sightings: 1872 by Susan Allison; 1926 by multiple witnesses; 1989 by Ernie Giroux.
Pop culture cryp-toid: Originally referred to as N'ha-a-itk or "Lake Demon," Ogopogo, in all his bearded, serpentine glory, was the subject of a Canadian postage stamp in the 1990s.
A few other famous lake monsters: Bear Lake Monster (Bear Lake, Utah/Idaho), Manipogo (Lake Manitoba, Canada), Cressie (Crescent Lake, Newfoundland), Memphre (Lake Memphremagog, Vermont/Quebec), Bessie (Lake Eerie), Storsjöodjuret (Lake Storsjön, Sweden) and Lake Van Monster (Lake Van, Turkey)
Photos: Wikimedia Commons; MNN homepage photo: iStockphoto