One sunny morning, on the 25th of March 1962, a group of children were waling along a beach several miles from Pensacola, Florida. They came upon what they thought was the drowned body of a teenaged boy. To there amazement the youth was still alive, barely. He was rushed to Pensacola Naval Base Hospital suffering from shock, exposure and exhaustion. He was identified as Edward Brian McCleary who had been missing since the previous morning along with fur friends. When he was strong enough he spoke to the Director of Search and Rescue Units E.E McGoven. His story was truly amazing, like something from a horror novel. McCleary claimed his companions had been killed by a sea serpent.
It began on the morning of 24th March 1962 when Edward along with Eric Rule, Warren Sulley, Brad Rice and Larry Bill set out to go diving at the wreck of the Massachusetts, several miles off the coast of Pensacola. As they rowed out on their 7-foot Air-Force life raft, they found that the tide was stronger than they had anticipated. Strom clouds began to gather and the boys decided to turn back. Several of them swam behind the raft and pushed it. As the waves grew higher, swamping the raft, they swam to a 20 foot buoy and clambered onto its metal scaffolding.
In the violent storm that followed the raft was sucked under and the buoy rocked by lashing winds and icy rain. Finally the maelstrom passed and a fog rolled in as the sea became mill-pool calm. A foul smell, akin to dead fish filled the air. A strange wining cry echoed through the dark. Then something as long as a telegraph pole reared up out of the water and plunged back in.
They boys panicked and jumped off the raft. Behind them they heard hissing and splashing. Suddenly Warren yelled out “Help me! It’s got Brad, its got Brad.”
Warren’s cries were abruptly cut short. The three remaining boys huddled together and tried to swim for shore. Then something grabbed Larry from below and dragged him under. Eric was becoming exhausted and Edward tried to help him stay afloat but the sea, now turning choppy again pulled them apart.
Then a monstrous, reptilian beast reared up from the deep. It had a snake like neck, gleaning green eyes and a gaping maw that fell down on Eric and dragged him under.
Swimming for his life and expecting to feel the sea dragons teeth in his flesh at any moment Edward became exhausted and felt the tranquillity of death take over him. He recalled nothing further until he was in hospital. Unsurprisingly he suffered a breakdown afterwards. The police decided it would be better for them all if they kept the sea dragon out of their official report but E.E.McGoven said to Edward “The sea has allot of secrets. There are a lot of things we don’t know about. People don’t believe in these things because they are afraid to. Yes I believe you. But there’s not much else I can do.”
Subsequently Edward suffered from a breakdown. Apparently he still lives in the area today but refused to talk about the awful events that befell him and his friends on that fateful day.
Attacks on humans by marine monsters are very uncommon but this case is one of several exceptions.
Moving into fresh water attacks from aquatic monsters are not unknown. Llyn-y-Gadair is a small round lake near to Snowdon. In the 18th century a man decided to swim across it. His friends, who were waiting for him on the bank, were horrified to see a serpentine creature coiling after him as he swam. As he approached the shore the thing reared up and wound about him like a python. He was dragged back into the lake never to be seen again.
One of the most dramatic lake monster stories was that of a dragon-like creature inhabiting Lake Wembo (sometimes referred to as Membu or Lake Wembu) in Tibet. In June of 1980 people living around the lake reported a house-sized creature with a long, scaly neck and large head. It was reputed to have destroyed boats and rafts and was supposed to have eaten a fisherman. It also devoured a yak tethered close to the lake that belonged to a communist party official.
The Canadian lake monster known as Ogopogo to westerners was called N’ha-a-itk by the Indians and was much feared. A serpentine beast of great size t was said to have a horse like head and a spiny crest running along the side. The local tribes would carry some animal with them as a sacrifice to appease the lake dragon. The animals were tossed overboard so that the monster would eat them rather attack the Indians canoes. One visiting chief called Timbasket, ignored the rite. Apparently he and his canoes were never seen again. In 1860 a trader called John McDougall was crossing the lake by canoe with his horses swimming in tow. He was horrified to see them being pulled underwater one by one and had to cut his ropes to avoid being dragged under himself.
Early white settlers carried guns to protect themselves against the beast when they were close to the shores of Lake Okanagan. In recorded cases of the creature being shot at the bullets seemed to have no effect whatsoever.
One early of the thousands of witness to the monster was Edythe March. She saw the serpentine animal three times during her life. She was also convinced that it had eaten her schoolteacher’s father.
“I had been told of Ogopogo by my father, Henry J Blurton, who worked as a game warden when I was a child. The Indians advised him never to go canoeing on the lake without first tying up a grouse or piece of venison behind the canoe as a precaution against Ogopogo upsetting it, for they believed that if an upset should occur the elusive monster would go after the bait rather than the man.
Our teacher’s father, who often went fishing at the northern end of the lake, failed to return one day. They found his boat o the lake right side up and all the fishing gear intact, but no Mr Homuth. I truly believed Ogopogo had gotten him.”
Ogopogo has been liked with other disappearances as well. In 1932 Henry Murdoch was practicing a marathon swim for the Okanagan regatta. He was swimming from the Maud Roxby bird sanctuary point to the Eldorado Hotel. He was accompanied by his friend John Ackland who was rowing a boat about 20 feet ahead of him.
When Ackland reached the shore at Boyces Field Murdoch was nowhere to be seen despite being a strong swimmer and a lifeguard. There were no undercurrents in the area. A search failed to find his body.
A similar event happened in 1988 when Allan Skarbo and his fiends were swimming from his houseboat. A breeze blew off a hat belonging to Dan Ker and another friend swam out to retrieve it. Despite being sarong swimmer he was never seen again. A protracted search with underwater cameras failed to find his body. The vent scared Skarbo so much that he sold his houseboat and never went back to the lake.
A creature much like Ogopogo is said lurk in Lake Superior. On Memorial Day 1977 Randy L Baun was camping at Presque Isle, north of Iron Wood, Michigan. Looking out across the lake he saw a long, undulating for approaching him. Baun described it as ‘like an anaconda the width of a Volkswagen.’ Grabbing his 35mm Yashica camera he took a shot as the beast’s horse like head rose up. It had large eyes and twitching, catfish like whiskers. He should not here that oriental dragons, allays associated with water rather than fire, are invariably shown with these appendages.
Baun’s photo shows a dark head with a large eye reflecting light. It remained in view for 30 seconds. Baun was frozen with fear and later had nightmares about the monster eating him. Apparently there had been a number of disappearances in the area that had never been explained. Baun was sure the creature was responsible for devouring the missing people. He may or my not be right but in 1997a fisherman claimed to have seen a full grown male deer get bittern clean in two by something in the water.
Howick Falls in South Africa is said to be the lair of a water dragon called Inkanyamba. It is said to be linked with rainfall like dragons elsewhere. In 1998 storms affected the Greytown, Ingwavuma and Pongola areas. 52 miles per hour winds and tennis ball sized hailstones made 2000 people homeless. Inkanyamba was blamed.
Cave paintings and bushman rock art depict the god as a serpentine horse headed animal with horns and a crest running along its back. It is shown spewing water. Archaeologists have dubbed it ‘the rain animal’. Inkanyamba’s pedigree is a long one.
Conservation Services Manager Mr Buthelezi was walking with a companion along the Umgein River near the Midmar Dam in 1962 when he claims to have seen the beast. The horse headed monster was on a sandbank and slithered back into the water as the men approached.
Johannes Hlongwane, care taker of a caravan park near the falls says he has seen the dragon twice in, 1974 and again in 1981. He said it ha a long, snake like body thicker than his own. It raised its head 30 feet out of the water. It had a crest running along its back.
The local Zulus and their Sangomas (witch doctors) say that the god devours human victims and they to appease it with chickens. Around 35 years ago Inkanyamba was said to have dragged a Zulu girl under water and eaten her. To this day people vanish around Howick Falls. It could be the work of crocodiles or then again an even bigger reptile might be at work!
In West Africa a similar aquatic beast known as Ninki-Nanka is blamed for human deaths. Back in 2006 I hunted for this beast in the swamps of Gambia. The level of fear the creature engendered was almost unbelievable. Our native guide refused point blank to enter the swamps were it was thought to lurk, leaving us to trek on alone to an abandoned village. The inhabitants had left the village decades before after one of them had reported a Ninki-Nanka.
One man told us his grandfather had seen it in some lakes near Banjul in the 1940s. It was a massive serpent with shining scales and a crest of fin on the head. The man ‘Papa Jinda’ died soon after. There is a strong belief that to look on the dragon means death. A guide at Abuko National Park said that the Ninki-Nanka was like a python but large enough to swallow a whole cow. It had small bat like wings and four small legs. Another witness, Momounadou claimed to have seen a Ninki-Nanka in Kiang West swamps a few years before. He described a horse like head with a crest and a vast serpentine body covered with scales that shone like mirrors. Afterwards he fell ill and his body was covered in lesions. He went to see a local iman or holy man who said instantly ‘you have seen a dragon haven’t you?’The iman gave him a potion that cured him. These cases may simply be psychosomatic but the creature has supposedly killed people with physical attacks as well. One story tells of a recently erected bridge that was built near a hole were a Ninki-Nanka was supposed to live. The angry monster was said to have emerged and smashed the bridge to matchwood tossing two people fatally into the waters.
Another possible man-eater lurks in the Hawkesbury River, north of Sydney, Australia, an area much too far south for crocodiles that are found only in Australia’s tropical north. The Aborigines called the water monster Mirreeulla and art from the Dharuk tribe dating back 3000-5000 years depicts the beast
In 1949 a young couple boating on the river saw a full grow bull dragged into the water by a monster with a 20 foot long neck and a 3 foot head. The girl screamed hysterically and they boy rowed away as fast as possible. The farmer later found blood stains and drag marks on the sandbank.
In May 1967 a farmer near the town of Spencer was overlooking his cattle as they drank from the river. Suddenly a huge reptilian head and neck exploded from the water and sized a cow. The creature effortlessly dragged the hapless bovine away.
In 1979 the monster was supposedly trapped for a while in the nearby Nepan River at Yarramundi near the junction with the Hawkesbury. Bushwalkers said they saw it take a cow here.
The point is, if the Hawkesbury monster can drag off a bull so easily then what could it do to a human? The monster has, in fact been blamed for a number of human deaths
In the mid 1970s a woman and a boy who had been rowing on the river vanished. The shattered remains of their boat were found a Broken Bay. Further inland two young couples vanished at Coal and Candle Creek. The smashed remains of their 20 foot, 200 horse power boat was found overturned. Another man, from Sydney went swimming in a lagoon near Ebenezer. The only part of him that was ever seen again was his hand that washed up on a sandbank.
In 1960 a policeman was among the guests in a yachting party at broken bay. He vanished without a trace whilst standing near the stern rail. One of the other gests said…
“One moment he was there. We all looked away when someone was talking, and when one of us looked back he was gone. There was a disturbance in the river as if something had come up out of the water and snatched him.”
Another incident happened in 1977. A fishing party were enjoying the view from their boat one afternoon, just east of Brooklyn. Then they noticed that one of their party who had been standing at the stern had vanished. Once again there was a big disturbance in the water.
Some of these incidents may have been accident that had nothing to do with the creature but it is worth noting that the Hawkesbury River monster is said to have rammed houseboats on the river several times.
Makes you wonder what is waiting just below the surface doesn’t it?
We are very grateful to Richard Freeman for allowing us to publish his articles. Richard’s recent book – Adventures in Cryptozoology: Hunting for Yetis, Mongolian Deathworms and Other Not-So-Mythical Monsters, is available to purchase here