In our previous video on the top 10 creepiest places in Canada, three British Columbian lakes made the final cut. These eerie bodies of water included Devil’s Lake, an alpine pond in the Lillooet Mountains shrouded in disturbing native legends; Green Lake, home to UFO sightings, Sasquatch encounters, and the vanishing of Clancy O’Brien; and Pitt Lake, the site of a legendary lost gold mine, numerous Sasquatch sightings, an alarming number of unsolved disappearances, and, according to several commenters, a local population of mysterious giant black lizards. In this piece, we will take a look at ten more spooky lakes in Canada. Enjoy!
#10: Lake Minnewanka
If you drive fifteen minutes north of the town of Banff, Alberta, at the eastern end of Banff National Park, you’ll come to a 3-mile-long glacial lake called Lake Minnewanka. Like other lakes with similar-sounding names in North Dakota and Michigan, Lake Minnewanka’s wild-sounding appellation derives from an old Siouan Indian term which translates to ‘Spirit Water’.
Like the proximate Ghost Valley, Devil’s Head Mountain, and Deadmen Hill, Lake Minnewanka is shrouded in mystery. One of the oldest and most widely-disseminated legends surrounding this glacial body of water contends that the lake is home to some sort of monster. Although various versions of this legend have assigned different identities to the lake’s mysterious inmate – prominent candidates including evil spirits and a predatory wildman who haunts the surrounding mountains – all agree that something powerful and otherworldly lives in or near Lake Minnewanka.
One variant of this local tradition contends that the monster is a giant fish. As a 1924 newspaper article put it, “One of the first Indians who saw this lake did so from the summit of one of the highest mountains which surrounds it. In the lake he saw an enormous fish, so large that, from where he stood, it appeared to be as long as the lake…”
Another version of the legend can be found in the Banff Trading Post, a historic gift shop established in 1903 by Canadian Renaissance man Norman Luxton. At the back of the shop is a glass case containing what appears to be the desiccated corpse of a merman. A note attached to this horrific exhibit describes an old Stoney story about a creature in Lake Minnewanka which was half human and half fish. Every once in a while, the legend contends, visitors to the lake can hear voices and drumming coming from beneath the water, these mysterious noises ostensibly having some connection with the lake’s monstrous resident.
It must be mentioned that the atrocity on display in the Banff Trading Post bears striking resemblance to the Fiji mermaid, a stuffed chimera composed of the head and torso of a monkey sewn onto the body of a fish, which American showman P.T. Barnum once exhibited in his museum in New York City. Although the legend of Lake Minnewanka might have something to it, the abomination at the Banff Trading Post probably does not.
This beautiful body of water at the edge of Banff National Park holds another secret which only adds to its eeriness. Beneath the mirror-like surface of Lake Minnewanka lies an entire village, perfectly preserved by the frigid glacier-fed waters. Once a small lakeside resort town, this forgotten settlement was completely submerged in 1941, when a hydroelectric dam was built on the lake for the purpose of supplying wartime Canada with much-needed electric power.
#9: Lac Ste. Anne
Five hours north of Banff, and about an hour west of Edmonton, lies Lac Ste. Anne, Alberta, a large eutrophic lake connected with a fascinating tradition. For 133 years, thousands of Roman Catholics, most of them of Metis or First Nations heritage, have travelled to Lac Ste. Anne to bathe in its plankton-rich waters, hoping to benefit from the miraculous healing powers they are said to possess.
Although the annual summer pilgrimage to Lac Ste. Anne is a Catholic tradition, belief that the lake is home to some extraordinary power predates the importation of Christianity onto the Canadian plains. Before 1795, when agents of the Hudson’s Bay Company established Fort Edmonton on the shores of the North Saskatchewan River nearby, local natives purportedly told stories about a large serpent that lived in the lake, which whipped up strong currents and dangerous winds with the lashing of its tail. Another old Stoney legend tells of a Sioux chief who travelled to the lake from what is now North Dakota, following the throbbing of a mysterious invisible drum. He followed the sound to an island in the lake, where he came upon a beautiful woman in a buckskin gown with feathers in her long black hair. After producing a miraculous vision in which thousands of children could be seen standing on the lake’s shore, the woman vanished.
The names which the local natives applied to the lake reflected their reverence for the mysterious power they believed dwelled within it, both the Stoney and the Cree referring to it as the ‘Lake of the Great Spirit’ in their respective languages. Taking their cue from the natives, Hudson Bay Company employees who set up shop on the North Saskatchewan nearby called the body of water ‘Devil’s Lake.’
In 1844, a French-Canadian priest named Jean-Baptiste Thibault, who had travelled on horseback across the Canadian prairies two years prior to minister to the Metis and Cree at Fort Edmonton, established a Roman Catholic mission on the shores of Devil’s Lake. Discontented with the diabolical epithet the HBC had applied to his backyard body of water, Thibault blessed Devil’s Lake and renamed it ‘Lac Ste. Anne’ in honour of the grandmother of Jesus and mother of the Virgin Mary.
The religious pilgrimage for which Lac Ste. Anne is famous today began in the summer of 1889, during a particularly severe famine. Led by an Oblate missionary named Father Joseph Lestanc, hundreds of native and Metis Catholics descended on the lake on July 26th, the feast day of St. Anne, to pray for rain. After saying the Rosary and the Litany of the Saints, some of the petitioners waded into the water to cool off. As they submerged themselves in the lake’s murky waters, something miraculous happened. Many of those who had come to Lac Ste. Anne with illnesses and disabilities emerged from the water instantly and inexplicably cured of their afflictions.
Ever since, Catholics from all over Canada and the United States have made annual pilgrimages to Lac Ste. Anne to pray and avail themselves of the lake’s healing power. One woman whose life-long hip problem disappeared after washing herself in the waters of that sacred lake described her experience for a journalist in 1992, saying, “It’s a funny feeling. It’s just like something enters in you and you feel like you could just float away. You feel light. It’s the Holy Spirit entering your body. I felt like I could get up and run.”
Although ‘spooky’ might not be the most appropriate description for the mystery that surrounds it, Lac Ste. Anne is certainly one of the most extraordinary lakes in Canada.
#8: Turtle Lake
If you drive about four hours and forty minutes due east of Lac Ste. Anne, you’ll come to Turtle Lake, Saskatchewan – a long, narrow body of water which sits at the junction of the northern prairies and the boreal forest. Local tradition has it that this secluded body of water owes its name to an old Cree legend which tells of a monstrous aquatic animal that inhabits its depths. This creature was said to have made its home in three especially deep pockets of water near the lake’s eastern shore, off a promontory called Indian Point, which Indians made a point to avoid. According to Cree elder Catherine Okanee, whom journalist Catherine Lawson quoted in an article in the November 9th, 1981 issue of Saskatoon, Saskatchwan’s Star-Phoenix, “It was said if you went around that area you would never come back…”
Not content with a consignation to the misty confines of Cree mythology, the monster of Turtle Lake has made its presence known to local whites for as long as any living resident of that quiet Saskatchewan backwater can remember. In the winter, it tears huge holes in the nets of fishermen, and in the summer, it occasionally breaks the surface of the water to frighten swimmers and boaters.
Eyewitness portrayals of the monster are roughly consistent, and decidedly non-turtlelike. The creature is usually described as having a length of three to nine metres (10-29 feet), with smooth or scaly skin of a black or grey complexion, with or without a long fin along its back, and with a bestial face resembling a dog, horse, or pig. Some witnesses liken the creature to an animated log, while others have described seeing three distinct humps on its back.
Most residents of Turtle Lake who have an opinion on the matter suspect that the monster of Turtle Lake is probably a freakishly large sturgeon, despite that no member of that piscine species, big or small, has ever been caught in the lake. A minority propose that the creature might be a relict freshwater plesiosaur – a long-necked, large-bodied aquatic dinosaur which most paleontologists agree went extinct long ago. And many more refuse to speculate as to the creature’s identity, yet remain firmly convinced of its existence.
#7: Old Wives Lake
At the opposite end of the Saskatchewan prairies, south of the city of Moose Jaw, lies Old Wives Lake, the second-largest saline lake in Canada. An island in this lake, called the Isle of Bays for the unearthly howls which occasionally emanate from there, is said to be haunted by the spirits of old Cree women who were massacred on the lakeshore long ago, in the event which gave the lake its strange name. A roadside sign erected by the provincial government just east of the lake tells one version of the story.
“An Indian legend from the 1800s,” the sign reads, “reveals how Old Wives Lake to the west was named. One winter a Cree party went beyond their traditional area in search of buffalo. They ventured into territory claimed by both the Cree and Blackfoot.
“The Cree were rewarded by a successful hunt. At their lakeside camp they were surprised by a Blackfoot war party. After a brief skirmish, the Blackfoot went back into the hills to wait for dawn. The Crees fires burned into the night as they decided what to do.
“The old Cree women suggested that they stay and tend the fires, allowing the rest of the Cree to get away.
“At sunrise the Blackfoot were enraged to find only the grandmothers tending the fires. It is unlikely any women survived. The Cree called the lake Notukeu for the old women.
“On windy nights you may hear the old wives laughter mocking their Blackfoot enemies.”
#6: Wahleach Lake
Scattered throughout the province of British Columbia are a handful of secluded lakes which both the Interior Salish Indians of the Interior Plateau and the Coast Salish of the Pacific Northwest traditionally regarded with fear and respect. These places were said to be saturated with dangerous preternatural power which manifested in the form of bizarre apparitions or unnatural-looking creatures, which one old legend attributes to the spirits of ancient evil medicine men who drowned in a great flood long ago. When passing these lakes, natives painted their faces black or red for protection, and averted their gaze from the water lest they catch a glimpse of some shocking or death-dealing apparition. The Interior Salish called these places ‘land and water mysteries,’ while the Coast Salish referred to the strange beings that could be seen there as ‘slalakums’.
Anthropologist James Teit described several water mysteries in his 1900 ethnological treatise on the Thompson Indians. One of these was Devil’s Lake, a small body of water in the Lillooet Mountains, which appears in our video on the ‘Top 10 Creepiest Places in Canada.’ Another is a nameless lake which Teit described thus:
“A lake in the mountains near the country of the Coast tribes has never been known to freeze over, no matter how cold the weather. There is sometimes seen on its waters an apparition in the shape of a boat with oars, manned by Hudson Bay employees, dressed in dark-blue coats, shirts, and caps, and red sashes. They always appear at the same end of the lake, and row across to the other end, where they talk with one another in French. Then they row back as they came, and disappear. If four men are seen in the boat, it is considered a good omen; but if eight men, the reverse is the case, and the person seeing the apparition will become sick, or will die shortly afterward.”
This author has previously identified this body of water as Seton Lake, a lake of a brilliant emerald hue near the town of Lillooet, BC, once traversed by Hudson’s Bay Company employees, where monstrous fish have been reported, and which is said to never freeze in winter. However, a passage in anthropologist Wilson Duff’s 1952 treatise on the Upper Stalo Indians indicates that Teit’s nameless water mystery may actually be Wahleach Lake, a small body of water in the North Cascade Mountains east of Chilliwack and southwest of the town of Hope, BC, which was once known as Jones Lake. According to Duff’s informants:
“Up in the mountains, deep in the forests, and in certain bodies of water, lived all manner of strange unnatural creatures, which were called slalakums… In former days the sight of one of these powerful supernatural creatures was apt to cause soul-loss sickness, unconsciousness, and an upset stomach.
“Certain places, usually bodies of water, were known to be the homes of slalakums, or to have slalakum properties of their own. Jones Lake was one. Strange men had been seen rowing there, then disappeared; water-spouts and large waves were frequent, and sometimes the sound of beating hoofs was heard.”
#5: Lake Superior
The largest of North America’s five Great Lakes, Lake Superior is home to more ghost stories and unsolved disappearances than any other body of water in Canada. Called Kitchie-Gami, or ‘Big Lake,’ by the local Ojibwa, this freshwater sea has swallowed hundreds of ships over the past four centuries, including massive freighters like the SS Edmond Fitzgerald, and the SS Kamloops, whose sunken skeleton serves as the final resting place of a chalk-white corpse which is said to approach divers who visit the wreck. Its vast waters are a playground for ghost ships like the shade of the SS Bannockburn, a steamer which vanished without a trace on a snowy November day in 1902, and its wooded shores are said to be haunted by the Wendigo, an evil spirit of Algonquin tradition said to imbue its victims with an uncontrollable appetite for human flesh.
In addition to nautical mysteries and native legends, Lake Superior is home to a handful of reputedly haunted lighthouses. Although most of Kitchie-Gami’s ghostly beacons, like those at Crisp Point, Point Iroquois, Split Rock, and Stannard Rock, are located in the American states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, there are a few which line its northern shore. The St. Ignace Light, for example, located on tiny Talbot Island south of St. Ignace Island, is said to be home to an evil spirit which brings nothing but misfortune and death to its keepers. When its third and final keeper met a sticky end in 1872, the accursed lighthouse was abandoned, and ever since, sailors who pass by Talbot Island have reported seeing a woman with long white hair wandering along its rocky shore. Far to the east, the ghost of a former lighthouse keeper has been seen walking around the old keeper’s house in lonely Slate Islands Provincial Park.
#4: Lake Champlain
East of the Great Lakes, and south of the city of Montreal, Quebec, lies Lake Champlain, a long freshwater lake which Quebec shares with the states of New York and Vermont. The lake is named after Samuel de Champlain, a French explorer and colonist who founded the city of Quebec in 1608.
In his 1613 memoir, Les Voyages du Sieur de Champlain, the so-called ‘Father of New France’ described a strange fish in Lake Champlain which the natives called Chaoufarou, some of which allegedly reached a length of ten feet. “I saw some five feet long,” he wrote in French, “which were as large as my thigh; the head being as big as my two fists, with a snout two feet and a half long, and a double row of very sharp and dangerous teeth. Its body is, in shape, much like that of a pike; but it is armed with scales so strong that a poniard could not pierce them. Its color is silver-gray. The extremity of its snout is like that of a swine. This fish makes war upon all others in the lakes and rivers. It also possesses remarkable dexterity, as these people informed me, which is exhibited in the following manner. When it wants to capture birds, it swims in among the rushes, or reeds, which are found on the banks of the lake in several places, where it puts its snout out of water and keeps perfectly still: so that, when the birds come and light on its snout, supposing it to be only the stump of a tree, it adroitly closes it, which it had kept ajar, and pulls the birds by the feet down under the water.”
Today, most historians agree that the extraordinary fish to which Champlain referred was probably the bony-scaled pike, or gar pike, which animals do occasionally eat ducks. Monstrous though they may be, gar pikes are not the only large and unusual fish believed to inhabit Lake Champlain. Since at least the early 1800s, visitors to the lake have reported seeing a huge serpent-like monster which propels itself through the water by vertical undulation. Prior to the 1960s, the creature, now commonly referred to as ‘Champ’, was usually described as having fiery eyes, glistening scales, a fishlike tail, and a proclivity to spout water. Reports from the 1960s through the latter half of the 20th Century often described Champ as being dark or black in colour, with a horselike or snakelike head with two horns or ears and a mane.
Over the years, several theories have been proposed as to the identity of the monster of Lake Champlain, the most popular contending that the animal is a hoax, a wave, a floating log, or a lake sturgeon. Others suspect that Champ might be a rogue harbour seal, a relict plesiosaur, or a freshwater variety of an ancient species of whale called Basilosaurus. Whatever the case, sightings of Champ continue to be made on Lake Champlain to this very day.
#3: Okanagan Lake
We return to the province of British Columbia, to the home of Champ’s legendary cousin, the Ogopogo.
In south-central British Columbia, at the eastern edge of the Interior Plateau, lies a long, narrow lake of remarkable depth. Before American explorers in service of the Pacific Fur Company first set foot on its shores in 1811, local Okanagan Indians told stories about a powerful and dangerous spirit that lived in this Okanagan Lake, which conjured rough waters and strong winds whenever it was displeased. Beginning in the late 1800s, white pioneers began to have their own encounters with the lake’s legendary inmate, which they described as a giant black serpent with a sheep-like head, with or without two tall horns, which moved by vertical undulation. As reports of the creature continued to be made throughout the 20th Century, the monster of Okanagan Lake was given the name ‘Ogopogo’.
Sightings of the Ogopogo are still made with casual frequency today. As recently as mid-October, 2022, Okanagan residents Dale and Colleen Hanchar and their friend, Myrna Germaine Brown, saw something unusual in Okanagan Lake while boating. Concerned that the mysterious object might pose a hazard for fellow boaters, Dale snapped a photo it, noted its approximate location, and returned to shore with the intention of alerting the relevant authorities. Upon examining the photo more closely, Dale found that the mysterious subject resembled a dragon-like head with two tall horns, very much evoking the legendary Ogopogo. Canada’s Global News, which broke the story, concluded its piece with an analysis by Wisconsin-based cryptozoologist Adam Benedict, founder of the Pine Barrens Institute. Benedict, whom this author can only assume has never seen a duck in his life, proposed that the image which Hanchar captured was really a “water bird” in the process of diving.
Water bird or not, the Ogopogo is not the only usual creature said to haunt Okanagan Lake. Both Okanagan Indian tradition and classic Bigfoot books are filled with stories about giants and hairy wildmen which haunt the hills and mountains beyond Okanagan Lake.
#2: Courtney Lake
About an hour and a half west of Okanagan Lake, not far from the city of Merritt, BC, lies a much smaller body of water called Courtney Lake. In September 2021, this author was contacted by a man from Quesnel, British Columbia, who claimed to have experienced something unusual at Courtney Lake in the 1970s when he was a teenager, when he lived with his family in Merritt.
While camping in an old abandoned bunkhouse on the lake’s shore, my informant and his teenage friends found themselves suddenly surrounded by a herd of cattle, driven by rugged-looking cowboys clad in old-fashioned clothing popular in the late 1800s. One of the cowboys was clearly astonished to see the teenagers, and after getting control of his horse, which seemed to be in a state of panic, he dismounted and walked towards them. Afraid that they would be penalized for trespassing, the teenagers abandoned the bunkhouse and fled down a nearby hill. When they finally looked back to see whether they were being pursued, they found the valley quiet and empty, despite that a huge herd of cattle had occupied it mere moments before. My informant suspects that he and his friends had encountered a portal in time – some sort of rift in the temporal dimension which opens infrequently to allow temporary congress between people and objects from different time periods. He also suspects that this phenomenon might have some bearing on the alarming number of men and women who have disappeared from British Columbia’s Interior Plateau without a trace.
#1: Harrison Lake
Of all the lakes in the Great White North, among the spookiest is Harrison Lake, located between the eastern edge of Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Canyon. Sometimes referred to as the ‘Sasquatch Capital of Canada,’ Harrison Lake and the adjacent Agassiz-Harrison Valley were the settings of some of Canada’s most famous Sasquatch encounters, most of which took place in the early 20th Century. In May 1909, for example, a Chehalis Indian man named Peter Williams claimed to have been chased by a Sasquatch at the foot of Mount Keenan, a mountain located at the southwestern end of Harrison Lake. In September 1941, a large male Sasquatch repeatedly harassed the Chapmans, a Chehalis family who lived in a cabin southeast of Harrison Lake, stealing dried fish from their shed and shrieking outside their cabin in the night. The following month, residents of Port Douglas, at the northern end of Harrison Lake, fled in terror when a hairy 14-foot-tall wildman sauntered into town and attempted to enter some of the houses.
In addition to the many Sasquatch encounters said to have taken place there over the years, Harrison Lake is also the setting of several unsolved disappearances. Among the strangest of these is that of Raymond Salmen, a 65-year-old outdoorsman who vanished while camping on the western shores of Harrison Lake. This case appears in David Palides’ 2019 book, and has been retold on the Coast to Coast AM radio show. Like many of the case studies Palides presents in his books, the disappearance of Raymond Salmen, upon closer investigation, is not quite as mysterious as the Missing 4-11 author makes it out to be. Nevertheless, the dramatic details of the story, coupled with the inexplicability of several of its particulars, as well as the storied setting in which it took place, invites consideration of whether there might be more to it than meets the eye.
On the afternoon of May 28th, 2013, Salmen, apparently stranded on a certain small beach about 400 metres south of his impromptu campground, used his rifle to fire three shots into the air, and another three into two different vehicles parked in other unofficial campgrounds about 500 metres away. Recipients of the gunfire, unaware of where the shots had come from, informed the RCMP. The police investigated the scene of the disturbance and found Salmen’s camper trailer empty, with his two dogs, Elmer and Bandit, whom his wife claimed he always took with him on his backcountry adventures, locked inside.
Drawn by the sight of distress balloons, the RCMP found Salmen’s clothes, rifle, and spent shell casings on the beach from which he had fired the shots. Of the missing man, however, there was no sign. Police were also unable to find Salmen’s knife and belt, and suspected that the 65-year-old outdoorsmen had used them to create a tourniquet, apparently being under the impression that he had badly injured himself.
Operating on the assumption that Salmen had attempted to swim to a more accessible stretch of beach and had drowned in the process, an Idaho couple equipped with a remotely operated underwater vehicle scoured that part of Harrison Lake for the woodsman’s body, but was unable to find any trace of him. To date, Raymond Salmen’s fate remains a mystery.
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