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Horror Mystery and Lore

Arctic Sea Serpent: The Tizheruk

Folklore on the Tizheruk

Meet the Tizheruk, fighting with a polar bear
Artwork by HodariNundu

There are so many cultures that have tales of Sea-Monsters, particularly of the serpent variety, that it would almost be a shock to learn that the Inuit culture didn’t possess one. It is only natural to fear what we do not know, and the list of phobias that have spawned from “not knowing” is fairly long. Fear of the dark is a prevalent phobia for many people, which is why it’s such a commonplace tool for creators of horror movies and scary stories. Another common phobia is fear of the unknown in the depths of the sea. The common theme here is that many fear not only what they do not know but also what they cannot see, dual traits that make the habitat of the Tizheruk (tiz-zer-ook), also known as the Pal-Rai-Yûk (pall-rye-yook), that much more frightening.

Not unlike the Loch Ness Monster, the Tizheruk is described as being a sea-serpent. Its visage is quite interesting; with a head that is purportedly seven feet long, it is said to be estimated at only fifteen feet in total length. In some cases, the Tizheruk is said to have a fishtail, while still in others it is said to be more of a flipper, but those aren’t the only inconsistencies that make up the lore of the Tizheruk. As can be observed in the pictures that accompany this article, there are a wide variety of different accounts of what the Tizheruk actually looks like.

Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology

According to Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology by George M. Eberhart the Tizheruk has thick fur, a snake or crocodile-like head, short horns, and a long tongue. Eberhart’s version of the Tizheruk has three pairs of legs and three dorsal fins, and his version also has the description of a flipper for a tail. He references that the Tizheruk could be an evolutionary off-shoot of a long-necked seal that ventured from the shores of the arctic ocean to the fresh-water rivers that fork inland from Key Island in Alaska.

Without a doubt, the most terrifying form that the Tizheruk is said to have is that of a giant eel-like creature with transparent skin and flesh, which not only allows the observer to see still-digesting victims but also allows the creature to be less visible when stalking its prey. This version of the Tizheruk can also venture into water as shallow as one foot deep, meaning it can compress its body small enough to fit in such a space. This makes it easier for it to ambush predators and snatch prey. It also results in any still-living victims in its belly being brutally crushed.

Tizheruk drawing
Tizheruk by Felipe Krull

There is surprisingly not a great deal of lore about the Tizheruk available to give the full extent of this creature’s history, but there have been quite a few sightings, including the possibility of it being caught on camera. NBC News even did an article about Alaska’s Loch Ness Monster being captured on tape. While I couldn’t locate the footage that supposedly resurfaced in 2009, I did find a more recent clip from when I first arrived in Alaska in 2016 filmed by the Alaskan Bureau of Land Management.

Having watched the clip, it’s unclear what it really is, but as the video shows the Department of Fish and Game did their best to debunk this sighting. What are your thoughts on this water-bound cryptid?

Interested in other Alaskan cryptids? Take a look at these fascinating creatures of the arctic!

Ogopogo

Historical Image of the Basilosaurus
Historical Image of the Basilosaurus

Date of Discovery

In 1872, the first detailed account of Ogopogo from a white settler came from Susan Allison. As the first non-native person to live in the region closest to Lake Okanagan, she confirmed her sighting with the native people of the area, who told her about N’ha-a-itk–the original name of Ogopogo. It’s clear from her experience that the indigenous people of the area were clearly aware of this lake monster well before it became a part of the written lore of the region.

Name

The Ogopogo, or Oggy is often referenced to by its original name which is N’ha-a-itk, and Naitaka which it received from the indigenous population. N’ha-a-itk in Séliš (the anglicized version, Salish) which translates to the “spirit of the lake; snake of the water; or water demon.”

Physical Description

Lake Okanagan in 1897
Lake Okanagan in 1897

Ogopogo is most commonly described as being a serpent that is between forty and fifty feet long, and Karl Shuker, a British cryptozoologist that has categorized it as a many-humped variety of lake monster. It has often been suggested that the Ogopogo is actually the same kind of primitive serpentine whale as a Basilosaurus. Physical evidence for this lake monster has been limited to unclear photographs, which cause these sightings to be doubted, giving way to explanations that they’re really misidentified otters swimming in formation, or floating logs.

Origin

Originating from the indigenous people in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Canada–the Ogopogo lives in Okanagan Lake. It is sighted most frequently around Rattlesnake Island, where it is said he lives in a naturally occurring cave underneath the island. Lake Okanagan is the largest of five inter-connected freshwater fjord lakes in the Okanagan Valley, and it is named after the indigenous tribe that first inhabited the area. The lake was created by melting glaciers when they flooded the valley over ten thousand years ago, and it stretches approximately seventy-nine miles. With a maximum depth of 762 feet and an average depth of 249 feet, the Okanagan Lake has frozen over during only eight winters in the last 110 years.

Indigenous Petroglyph of the Ogopogo
Naitaka Petroglyph

Mythology and Lore

Ogopogo is more closely intertwined with the area’s native folklore than any other lake monster known to exist. The Secwepemc and Syilx tribes called the lake monster Naitaka and N’ha-a-itk, and they regarded the creature as an evil supernatural entity with enormous power and malicious intentions. Within the folklore of these tribes, it was said that Naitaka demanded a live sacrifice in order to allow safe passage across the lake, so for hundreds of years, the people of these tribes would sacrifice small animals before entering the water.

In some of the oral traditions that are passed down, there is a visiting chief by the name of Timbasket, who rejected the idea of sacrificing an animal for safe passage–he rejected the very idea that Naitaka even existed. In response to this insult, Naitaka, “whipped up the surface of the lake with his long tail,” which caused the canoe to capsize and its occupants to be sucked down to the bottom of the lake. There are many stories in which Naitaka has been described to have used its tail to create a fierce storm in the water and drown its victims.

Within local folklore, Sir John Lambton was claimed to have killed a “wyrm,” from the lake, which resulted in all of his descendants to be cursed by a witch that would not allow any Lambton to die in bed. In 1855, John MacDougal, a settler claimed that his horses were pulled down into the water and his canoe would have followed if he hadn’t cut the line just in time.

Modern Day Sightings

In 1968, Art Folden noticed something moving in the lake while driving on Highway 97–he pulled off of the road and filmed footage that he claimed was the lake monster in a large wake that was moving across the water. He estimated that Ogopogo was around 300 yards off the shore of the lake and computer analysis of the footage concluded that it was a solid, three-dimensional object. Folden said he noticed something large and lifelike in the distance of the calm water which caused him to pull his home movie camera to capture the object.

Just off the beach at Kelowna, in 1980 a tourist by the name of Larry Thal from Vancouver shot some 8mm film that lasted for approximately ten seconds, while he and around 50 other tourists watched what they claimed was a forty-five minute long Ogopogo sighting. Many skeptics believe that it was a misidentified sighting of swimming otters. In 1989 John Kirk believed he saw an animal that measured between 35 and 40 feet in length, black in color, had a lashing tail, and five sleek humps. In Kirk’s opinion, the creature looked to be moving at approximately twenty-five miles per hour.

July 24, 1992 a video appeared of something that was swimming just beneath the surface of the water–the person who filmed it, DeMara, also made two subsequent videotapes that skeptics have debunked to having just been formations of otters. Much of what followed for documented sightings in 2005 were supposedly debunked was also explained away as fallen trees or yet even more often otters. John Kirk, along with Benjamin Radford, and Joe Nickell conducted an investigation in 2005 for National Geographic Channel’s Is It Real? In this investigation, they used boats to calculate the actual distances that this creature was being sighted from, but found that it was much closer than originally believed. This result gave them the conclusion that

Since technology has improved, more videos have surfaced from cell phone video captures, but this also leaves room for more mistaken sightings being more widespread, due to the availability of the technology.

Speculations About the Sightings

Author and renowned skeptic, Benjamin Radford, believes that most sightings can be explained away as misidentifications of waterfowl, otters, or beavers. He stated that the indigenous people of the land were never talking about a real monster when referencing Ogopogo, but more of a water spirit that were only myths and legends to teach people to be wary of the open water.

Modern Pop-Culture References

In Arlene Gaal’s book, Ogopogo: The True Story of the Okanagan Lake Million Dollar Monster, she tells of a Vancouver reporter by the name of Ronald Kenvyn who composed a song that included the following stanza.

His mother was an earwig,
His father was a whale;
A little bit of head
And hardly any tail—
And Ogopogo was his name.

Ronald Kenvyn
https://youtu.be/5qnzkcC_6o4

Books & Literature



Is there anything we missed about the Ogopogo? Let us know in the comments section below!