Four stamps of Canadian Cryptids: The Sasquatch, the Kraken, the Werewolf and the Ogopogo. © 1990 Canada Post. Image: Pib's Home on the Web.
The mood of late October in Eastern Canada is constantly shifting. One minute, leaves gleam gold and crimson in the bright sunshine. The next minute, the landscape becomes a dead husk. There are two layers in the breeze. The top layer is late summer, the underlayer smells fresh, like snow. Its a strange scent, but if you know it, it's unmistakable, the smell of winter coming. The sun races toward the horizon faster every evening, and the moon springs up into the night sky like a Jack-in-the-Box. Out in the countryside, and further up in the woods, the landscape becomes much less friendly. It both heightens your senses of your surroundings and makes you doubt them more.
The 2008 Hunter's Moon. Image: WGNTV Chicago.
We just passed October 23's Hunter's Moon, the first full moon after the Harvest Moon. According to the blogger, Ontario Wanderer: "The October full moon is called the Hunter's Moon because, in earlier times, one could continue hunting for the winter's supply of meat after sunset at the time of this full moon." It also is part of the First Nations' calendar.
Autumn sneaks up on you in the wilderness. One unsettling story I've read about this is Shirley Jackson's The Summer People (1950). A summary from Dramatic Publishing: "Like The Lottery, this macabre tale makes use of the rural New England setting and the cryptic, taciturn inhabitants of that area. Its two principal characters are kindly city people who have been visiting their same cottage by an isolated lake for several decades. They have always been treated with respect and affection by the tradesmen and local residents—until this particular year. On an impulse, they decide to break a longstanding taboo. Instead of closing their summer place and going back to the city on Labor Day as all 'outsiders' invariably do, they decide to linger into autumn. The action of the natives is one of unspoken shock and silent hostility. One by one, the villagers isolate the couple. Even the telephone service is abruptly cut off. The falling of the curtain is as chilling and as sinister as any in the literature of the one-act play." You can read a plain text version of it here.
Canada Geese in Autumn. Video: ashleystow.
The countryside yesterday evening was unsettled, the air filled with the panicked honking of fleeing Canada Geese, pursued by hunters who shot at them after sunset. Their mass migration, seeing them desperately rushing south, adds to the uneasy mood. This is hunting season, and with that come stories about venturing into the woods and, in more remote areas, speculation about cryptids. From the stamps above, I don't know much about the Ogopogo lake monster (there's a little post about the RCMP's activities on the monster's Lake Okanagan, here); but there are areas in Ontario I've been to that are unnerving.
One such place is the Lake on the Mountain, in Prince Edward County, Ontario. The county is a strange, raised peninsula jutting high above Lake Ontario, attached by such a thin isthmus that the county feels like an island. (A canal through the isthmus has technically made the county an island.) On the land side, the county faces a ring of dark, low-lying hills on the mainland. Between the mainland and the peninsula, there is a curious area of water known as the Bay of Quinte. You can see a map here.
The mysterious Lake on the Mountain, raised above the Bay of Quinte. Photo: Prince Edward County/Peggy deWitt/Paper Images.
The turquoise-coloured Lake on the Mountain is on this peninsula further south, at the top of a limestone elevation almost 62 metres above the Bay. It is no harbour for cryptids, but the Lake is surrounded by mystery, myth and legend, and was considered to be haunted by both settlers and local Mohawk tribes, as one tourist site confirms: "The Mohawks called it Onokenoga, or Lake of the Gods, and believed that spirits dwelled within its deep waters; each spring they offered gifts to the spirits to ensure a successful crop in the coming year. Early settlers believed the lake was bottomless and still others thought Lake on the Mountain led to a subterranean passage and distant water source." The lake was created as waters receded during the last Ice Age. I can tell you, having seen it, that there is defintely something going on with that lake! A choral piece by composer Mark Sirett, entitled Onokenoga, is based on a Mohawk legend of a tragic connection between two young lovers and the lake: "legend has it that the spirit of the young girl wanders the shores to this day searching for her lost mate." You can see an October 16 picture, with the Lake on the Mountain in the middle distance and the area in fall colours, on Flickr here.
Near the Lake there's a little ferry port at Glenora that takes cars and people over to a road through Adolphustown, one of the first landing spots of the Loyalists during the American Revolution. Hence it is considered one of the founding settlements of the province of Ontario. Settled in 1784, Adolphustown eventually became a haven for over 7,500 Loyalists, many of Dutch ancestry, and is a world unto itself. It is a crooked little village with a winding road, on the low-lying lands huddled up near the water. Driving through it at dusk, seeing the hordes of bats flying above the eighteenth century cemetery, the village felt to me like a version of colonial Tarrytown and neighbouring Sleepy Hollow, transplanted in Upper Canada. There are pictures of this lonely town near the haunted lake on Flickr here (although I couldn't find photos online that do the town justice).
A&E Documentary Ancient Mysteries on Bigfoot (Part 2). Video: Youtube.
A&E Documentary Ancient Mysteries on Bigfoot (Part 3). Video: Youtube.
The only cryptid site I've ever run across with truly hair-raising content was the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, which is one of several associations and sites devoted to pursuing reports of the Sasquatch. The site has a transcript of an NPR interview with renowned primatologist, Dr. Jane Goodall, in which she confirms that she thinks that the many legends of Yeti, Bigfoot, Sasquatches and the like probably refer to an unknown species of primate. All the same, she was tongue-in-cheek about it:
Dr. Goodall: Well now, you'll be amazed when I tell you that I'm sure that they exist.The Bigfoot may be one of the most compelling cryptids. But this is one of those things where all our science and tech fall away and we're relying on testimonies of terrified campers and hunters, often years after the fact. There's a list of investigated reports in the USA and Canada here, media articles here, and for the truly blood chilling and terrifying, listen to the sound recordings, claimed to be of this creature's howls, here.
Ira Flatow: You are?
Dr. Goodall: Yeah. I've talked to so many Native Americans who all describe the same sounds, two who have seen them. I've probably got about, oh, thirty books that have come from different parts of the world, from China from, from all over the place, and there was a little tiny snippet in the newspaper just last week which says that British scientists have found what they believed to be a yeti hair and that the scientists in the Natural History Museum in London couldn't identify it as any known animal.
Ira Flatow: Wow.
Dr. Goodall: That was just a wee bit in the newspaper and, obviously, we have to hear a little bit more about that.
Ira Flatow: Well, in this age of DNA, if you find a hair there might be some cells on it.
Dr. Goodall: Well, there will be and I'm sure that's what they've examined and they don't match up. That's what my little tiny snippet says. They don't match up with DNA cells from known animals, so -- apes.
Ira Flatow: Did you always have this belief that there, that they, that they existed?
Dr. Goodall: Well, I'm a romantic, so I always wanted them to exist. (Chuckles.)
Ira Flatow: (To the caller) Alright?
Caller: Thank you.
Ira Flatow: Thanks for calling. (To Goodall) Well, how do you go looking for them? I mean, people have been looking, right? It's not like, or has this just been, since we don't really believe they can exist, we really haven't really made a serious search.
Dr. Goodall: Well, there are people looking. There are very ardent groups in Russia, and they have published a whole lot of stuff about what they've seen. Of course, the big, the big criticism of all this is, "Where is the body?" You know, why isn't there a body? I can't answer that, and maybe they don't exist, but I want them to.