The Canadian Lizard Man of Vancouver Island

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As Retold by Bekah Ferguson

In the Vancouver Island, evergreen wilderness of the first regional conservation area in Canada, there is a shimmering, cobalt-blue body of water known as Thetis Lake. In the summer of 1972, the Victoria Daily Times reported on a spine-chilling encounter two local teens had with a monstrous humanoid creature. Robert Flewellyn and Gordon Pike, 16 and 17-year-olds, were alone at a beach on Thetis Lake on August 17th, when an isolated section of water began to swell—drawing their eye.

As they watched, transfixed, a spiky head with barbed fins appeared, water streaming down a silvery-blue, scaly face. The creature moved toward the shoreline, leaving the deep, and more of its body emerged; revealing additional barbed fins on its scaly arms and legs. It reached its full height of five feet in the shallows, where it suddenly turned and looked at the boys.

The two young men stood dumbfounded until it gave chase. Spinning on their heels, they ran from the beach as the creature lunged for them—slashing the hand of one of the boys with sharp, webbed fingers. Luck was on their side and they managed to outrun it, peeling away in their car, and leaving the monstrosity staring after them in the dust.

Heading straight to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to report their bizarre story, they stated that the lizard-like monster had roughly resembled Gill-man from the classic film, Creature from the Black Lagoon. The police actually investigated, believing the boys to be sincere and clear-headed. But the case was eventually closed when a local man called in to say he’d lost a pet Tegu lizard a year prior and wondered if that might be the explanation.

The police were satisfied that this missing lizard was indeed what the boys had seen, despite two particular incompatibilities: one, that a Tegu lizard wouldn’t have survived a Canadian winter, and two, such a lizard is only half the height the teens described.

Sources:

Below BC

Fandom – Cryptidz

Exemplore

Cryptopia

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The Lost World of the Nahanni Valley, NW Territories

(4 minute video version)

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As Retold by Bekah Ferguson

The Nahanni River winds its way through a mist-shrouded gorge known as “the Valley of the Headless Men,” in the Canadian Northwest Territories. The national reserve is filled with canyons, caves, geysers, towering peaks, untouched forests, and a waterfall twice the height of Niagara Falls. With its wailing winds, the mysterious valley can only be accessed by foot or plane. What’s more, it is believed by Indigenous peoples to be haunted, whose oral history speaks of lurking spirit creatures.

Indeed, the “Headless Valley” namesake came about due to several unexplained deaths during the Gold Rush of the early 20th century. In 1906, the McLeod brothers set off in search of gold, but their bodies were later found by a creek: both decapitated, heads never found. In 1917, the headless body of a Swiss prospector was found near a river. Then in 1945, the body of a miner from Ontario was found in his sleeping bag—again without a head. While some speculated the deaths to be the work of a serial-killing hermit, others disagreed; too much time had passed between each killing to be the work of one madman.

The Dene, Dogrib, and Inuit tribes of the area had a different explanation altogether. For centuries they had feared a violent race of ape-like humanoids they called the Nuk-Luk, as well as a large canid creature called Waheela. In 1964, John Baptist, a European, along with his trapper companions, reported a frightening encounter with these Nuk-luk, describing them as a hairy, bearded Neanderthal race, less than five feet tall; dressed in moose-skin and carrying clubs.

But the Waheela are more terrifying still. Believed to be evil spirits that protect the land against human intruders, they travel alone, taking only the heads of their victims. Looking like snow-white wolves with the broad face and clawed paws of a bear, they resemble the long extinct bear-dog known as Amphicyonidae. Thus it has been said that the Nahanni Valley may well be a “lost world,” a remote land stalked and guarded by surviving relics of a far earlier time. Those who dare venture into the unknown depths of this vast reserve do so at their own peril, for many who have gone did nary return.

Sources:

The Outdoor Journal

steemit

Strange Outdoors

Macleans

Wormwood Chronicles

Image by DarkWorkX from Pixabay

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The Fort Saskatchewan Wendigo of Alberta

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As Retold by Bekah Ferguson

Swift Runner crouched down in the trampled snow next to the dead body of his hunting partner. After weeks of being stranded in ever-accumulating snow drifts with nothing to eat, Runner was starving. Now, having made up his mind, he pulled a knife from the sheath of his belt. When the feverish deed was done, he fell asleep with a bloated belly next to the stripped bones of his partner.

He awoke in the murk of dawn to a hissing sort of breathing–like a man whose lung has been punctured by an arrow. The sound came from a tall form standing in the gaps between trees, snow falling heavily all around. It moved out into the clearing, leaving bloody footsteps in its wake, and peered down at Runner with glowing eyes in a deer-like skull. The smell of decaying flesh wafted from its desiccated body as Runner heard a voice enter his mind, saying, “You have become me.”

In the spring of 1879, years later, Swift Runner’s estranged Cree community began to question the whereabouts of his wife and five children, who had not been seen by anyone since the early winter. Unsatisfied with Runner’s explanation (he claimed they’d all starved to death that winter) and noting his rounded torso—they sent the police in to investigate.

After days of searching the woods, a pit of charred wood and ashes was discovered, with human skulls and weathered bones scattered about. A tiny Moccasin shoe had been stuffed inside one of the skulls; a beading needle protruding from the eye socket. The police gathered the remains together and determined them to be Runner’s missing family; accusing him of cannibalism. He denied nothing, saying, “I did it,” and became the first man to be legally hung in the Canadian Northwest Territories.

Sources:

Wikipedia

Legends of America

Murderpedia

Image by Tomasz Manderla from Pixabay

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The Tunnel Monster of Cabbagetown, Ontario

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As retold by Bekah Ferguson

In the early 19th century days of Toronto there were many rivers, streams and creeks branching across the land like veins and arteries. Endless trees towered above the developing city rather than skyscrapers. And down in the riverbeds of these yet rural wilds lived a race of water spirits known in Algonquian mythology as Memegwesi (pronounced “may-may-gway-see”). These elusive humanoid creatures were elfish, small and hairy, with voices said to be like the high-pitched drone of a dragonfly. When city builders rerouted these waterways into solid underground tunnels that merged with the sewer system, it is thought that the Memegwesi were unknowingly buried with them.

By the early 20th century, Torontonians had long forgotten the existence of these vast tunnels—that is, until one summer’s day in 1978 in an area of the city known as Cabbagetown. A man named Ernest stumbled upon a secret entrance to the tunnels while searching for a lost kitten. Certain he had heard distressed mewling down in the alley beside his Parliament Street apartment the night before, he decided to army-crawl into the culvert about ten feet, flashlight in hand.

The tunnel gradually widened, its black depths like an abyss. Something skittered ahead and he steadied the flashlight beam, hoping to see his kitten. But it was no cat caught in the beam. A pair of slanted red eyes bulged at him above the gaping, large-toothed mouth of a hairy, grey, bipedeled creature about three feet long. “Go away, go away!” it screeched, then ran off into a side tunnel. Terrified, Ernest shimmied backward out of the tunnel and waited a full year before admitting to the Toronto Sun newspaper what he’d seen. However, when they went in search of the tunnel’s entrance, they found it collapsed in upon itself, and no one has ever admitted to such a sighting again.

Sources:

The 13th Floor

Fandom

Little People (Mythology)

Memegwesi

(Image via the archives of the Toronto Sun newspaper.)

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Why I changed my genre (Pt. 2)

Previous: Why I changed my genre (Pt. 1)

Beginning with my first elementary school trip to a pioneer village in Port Carling, and to Black Creek Pioneer Village in Toronto with my grandparents, I developed a lifelong fascination with all things 19th century, especially the Victorians.

Over the years I’ve carted the hubby and kiddos along to several pioneer villages. As we wander from one creaking room to the next, cicadas buzzing and birds chirping outside the windows, there’s this feeling of stepping into liminal spaces; of being caught in a time warp between two worlds. But I also feel something else: a craving for tiny doors too small for even my foot to fit through. Tiny doors that lead…where?

As a teen, I discovered by chance that I loved Celtic instrumental music. It was both melancholy and uplifting, and so enchanting and mysterious; whisking me away. I was a maiden standing on the edge of a cliff, skirts and shawls flapping in the wind as I gazed out to sea. It was a mood I found haunting yet strangely decompressing. I’m second-generation Canadian born, but because I have mostly Scottish and British ancestry, I’ve long felt a connection to the United Kingdom. So for me, Celtic music was a portal between worlds.

I grew up in Muskoka, Ontario, with a family cottage in Haliburton County. My parents love the woods and took me and my siblings on endless hikes, canoe rides, and drives through the countryside. For as long as I can remember, forests and woody landscapes, fields, barns, and century homes – especially decrepit and abandoned/boarded up ones – have struck a chord in me.

Sunbeams on a forest floor, wildflowers, mossy logs, brooks, swamps, ponds, lily pads, gnarled trees… I’ve always looked at them with a sense of whimsy or an eerie intrigue, as though a faerie might appear or some sort of spook. I also feel a mild disappointment each time when of course, nothing ever does appear; my mind urging me to fill those nooks and crannies with otherworldly, shapeshifting creatures.

Image by Prawny from Pixabay

Whenever I’d see a hole in a knotted tree I’d shrink down and explore it from a squirrel’s eye view. A Victorian mansion? I’d explore the rooms in my mind’s eye, searching for secret passageways leading to mysterious chambers, attics and cellars. An overgrown country cottage being consumed by nature? I’d peek into the decomposing rooms and hear the whispers, see the shadows, of wandering spirits. Modern shops housed in 19th century buildings? The street becomes overlayed with horse and carriage; the pedestrians garbed in wide-skirted dresses and petticoats, feathered hats, tweed suits and top hats.

G.K. Chesterton put it well when he said of such peculiar sights: what story waits here to be told?

This is how my mind works, how I think, but I’ve kept it largely to myself until recently. When it comes to much of my fiction writing, I’ve barely scratched the surface of my imagination – I was too busy writing for adults! Well, now the time has come to put to pen what I’d previously chalked up to childish fantasies. I find cryptids and faerie lore most fascinating, and that’s why my first youth fiction is about a werewolf.

C.S. Lewis wrote in a letter, “Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.

I’m old enough now to start writing them… 😉

Image by AD_Images from Pixabay

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Why I changed my genre (Pt. 1)

I’ve always been a bookworm but it wasn’t until my early twenties that I seriously began tinkering with fiction writing. Over the course of the next decade I proceeded to co-write a murder mystery novel with my youngest sister and two solo novels in the contemporary Christian fiction genre (which is drama with a subplot of romance).

Then one day, while I’d already started a third solo novel, my other sister asked if I wanted to co-write a fantasy genre novel with her. She had already plotted it and created the characters and setting, so I took a look at what she had and quickly agreed. After that it took us four years of collaborative writing to complete the novel, and we named it The Attic.

While absolutely LOVING the experience of writing fantasy (especially exploring all those secret passageways in the Gothic mansion!) and considering it a marvelous adventure, I didn’t quite feel I was capable of plotting fantasy fiction on my own. So I finished writing my third solo project: another Christian drama/romance.

BUT once that novel was completed I distinctly felt like I’d reached a dead end: or a finish line if you will.

The wind was out of my sails. I felt like I’d said all I ever wanted to say in the contemporary Christian fiction genre. So what to do next? I didn’t want to write drama without romance and I didn’t want to right full-blown romance either. I also didn’t want to write murder mysteries because they require too much knowledge of police and detective work (all that inside legal and procedural stuff, not to mention forensics).

So it was at this point that I began writing short stories in order to play my hand at a variety of genres. And it was here I serendipitously discovered in allegorical fiction a niche in which I could write for a mainstream audience (like we did with The Attic) while still being inclusive of my Christian faith and values.

Then one summer on a whim, I bought a youth fiction novel because the synopsis appealed to me and it had a delightful title: A Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano. It had simply never occurred to me before that I might enjoy youth fiction, of all things, but the book just popped out at me from the shelf. I went on to read many more novels for middle graders after that first one. But in reading this particular book I felt an awakening, like I’d found something I didn’t even know I’d been looking for!

Continue reading Why I changed my genre (Pt. 1)

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