It Happened in Lethbridge! Fact or Fiction? The Henderson Lake “Monster”

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henderson lake monster

by Paul Krajewski, photo courtesy of Galt Museum & Archives

How good are you at determining what’s truth and what’s a lie? How well do you know your Lethbridge history? In the latest issue of Lethbridge living we challenge you with 12 tales from Lethbridge history, but what do you think of this one? Is it fact or fiction?

The Henderson Lake “Monster”

1912 was a big year for Lethbridge – the last major land rush had come to an end, streetcars began appearing on city streets, natural gas officially came onto the market, and Henderson Lake Park was quickly becoming a recreational hotspot for residents – but it was also a strange one.

Is it fact or fiction? Odd and unusual sightings reported throughout Lethbridge’s history at Henderson Lake.

In early March, the city began receiving complaints of a noxious smell coming from the Henderson Lake Park area, located at the time on the city’s outskirts. City officials determined the smell to be natural gas coming from the lake. It was determined that a deposit buried beneath the lake’s floor ruptured, sending gas bubbling to the surface and leaving behind a 10 by 30 metre deep cavern in the lake’s bottom. The park was temporarily closed.

The deposit quickly fizzled out, and on March 13, 1912, it was reported that Henderson Lake Park had reopened.

In the years following, there were increased reports of missing pets and livestock from farms around the park. To make things even stranger, residents were also reporting an unexplainable blood-coloured gelatin-like substance on the rocks on the lake’s shores. One report states the substance on the northwest corner covered roughly 10 metres of the shoreline, prompting witnesses to state, “It was like someone had killed and gutted a whale, leaving nothing but the blood behind.”

Some theorized it was the work of a resident wolverine, while others claimed it was a pack of coyotes already known to the community, yet proof of either was never captured or reported. However, there is another theory, one that actually has some proof ­– a single photograph taken weeks after the natural gas rupture.

The photo was taken on March 28, 1912, from the south shore of the lake as a large unidentified animal moved through the water just before sunset. The photographer, and other witnesses, described it as a “serpent-like monster stretching the length of a horse and carriage.” The photographer claims it surfaced for a few short moments before sliding back under the water. The photo was declared a hoax, yet reports of missing animals and random substance splatter continued to trickle in throughout the summer. By the time the lake froze in late December, it was reported that the trend in missing animals had slowed.

Some believe the photo to be real and is an image of the relative of the plesiosaur, an aquatic dinosaur from the Jurassic Period roughly 66 million years ago. It is said to have many of the same features – an oval-shaped midsection with four fins front and back, a tail, and an elongated neck with a jaw shaped like a Northern Pike. It was estimated to be between 10–15 metres in length, and that if it was related to its Jurassic counterpart than it would be a carnivore with a powerful bite-force able exert 33,000 lbs of pressure – more than enough power to effectively snap the neck of a cow.

Although its sounds unbelievable, Henderson Lake is not the only place you can find this plesiosaur-like animal. Since 1802, residents inhabiting the Scottish Highlands surrounding Loch Ness have been reporting sightings of a massive “serpent-like” animal which they call the Loch Ness Monster, and since 1926, British Columbia’s Okanagan Lake has been home to a similar type animal known as the Ogopogo.

In Lethbridge, over the years, reports of a missing animal, oddly splattered rocks, and the occasional spotting of a large unidentified animal, have continued to surface, but again, a carcass is never found, the spattered substance never explained, and all but one single photo of proof exists to this day – leaving everyone scratching their heads as to what is really going on at Henderson Lake.

Fiction: There was and is no Henderson Lake Monster (that we know of). This was our April Fool’s Day joke. Thank you to the folks at The Bridge 98.1 for helping us spread the word!

To see what other legends, myths and possibly false stories related to Lethbridge’s history, check out this issue of Lethbride living.

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