Ponik

Freshwater Monster of Québec, Canada.

Etymology: A shortened form of Pohénégamook. This name was given to the monster in 1974, the centenary of the town of St.-Éleuthère.

Variant names: Cheval Marin (French, "sea horse"), Mantouche (Cree/Algonquian), Vache marine (French, "sea cow").

Physical description: Dark color. Length, up to 40 feet. Horse-, cow-, or dolphinlike head. Horn sometimes reported. Long neck. several humps. sawtooth back sometimes reported. Two pairs of pectoral and ventral fins.

Tracks: Circular prints, like a horse's.

Distribution: Lake Pohénégamook, Québec.

Significant sightings: An unnamed lumberjack saw a strange black creature in the lake in 1874.

In May 1957, Philippe Gagné and his wife were fishing in the adjacent St. François River when they saw a creature 15 feet long with the head of a fish. It submerged with a splash and resurfaced 25 feet away.

The curé J.-Leopold Plante, pastor of the parish of St.-Éleuthère, saw "a long overturned canoe crossing the lake, leaving a wake behind"

in 1957.

Vadim D. Vladykov of the Québec Department of Game and Fisheries visited the lake in 1958 to investigate monster sightings. The reports he collected describe a brown or black animal 12—35 feet long with a sawtooth fin down its back. However, after several months' investigation, he was unable to report anything conclusive. The report that he submitted to the ministry disappeared in 1960 after he left to go to the University of Ottawa.

Farmer Louis Fournier saw a large, black thing with three humps in the lake on July 8, 1976.

In the summer of 1977, Vital Nadou was walking along the beach near the Hotel Po-hénégamook with his wife and children. They saw three humps of an animal 20 feet long in the water some 300 feet offshore.

A sonar trace of a large animal was obtained in the summer of 1977 by Robert Murray, Donald McPhee, and Josef Vykydal. They were drifting down the lake in about 135 feet of water when the sonar showed an object 25 feet long at a depth of 25 feet under the boat. As soon as they started the motor to follow it, it disappeared.

In May 1978, Louise Briand watched a large, black object twice rise up out of the water in the lake in front of her house, then sink down again.

Gilles Lavoie and Régis Bouchard saw a long, black object "like an overturned canoe" in the lake on November 7, 1979.

Early on the morning of August 3, 1998, Louis Therrien-St-Pierre saw a 20- to 25-foot animal with a long, high fin about 200-300 feet in the water of the municipal beach at St.-Éleuthère.

Possible explanations:

(1) A deer or moose swimming across the lake.

(2) A seal that made its way into the lake.

(3) The Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrhynchus) swims up coastal rivers to spawn in freshwater lakes. According to several residents of St.-Éleuthère, Vladykov learned that a former pastor of the local church had brought a number of live sturgeon from a nearby St. Lawrence River port town and put them in the lake, planning to raise them domestically for their caviar, but the sturgeon escaped. Other people had done the same, purchasing live fish at St. Alexandre or Rivière-du-Loup and bringing them back to the lake, only to lose them. Sturgeon are not now considered native to the lake, however.

Sources: Guy Théberge, Saint-Eleuthère de Pohénégamook, 1874—1974 (Pohénégamook, P.Q., Canada: Comité de Centenaire de Saint-Éleuthère, 1974); Michael Bradley, "The Ponénégamook Creature," Pursuit, no. 35 (Summer 1976): 61-62; Nick Thomas, "'Something' (Maybe) Lurks in the Depths of a Quebec Lake," Wall Street Journal, November 17, 1977, p. 1; Thomas Pawlick, "Québec's Answer to the Loch Ness Monster," Harrowsmith 4, no. 5 (January 1980), on line at http://www.geocities.com/monstreponik/ eindex.html; Norman Boucher, "Six Ways of Looking at a Monster," Quest, May 1981, pp. 56-59, 88-90; Gary S. Mangiacopra,

438 PONIK

Sea Monster Ponik
The POOKA, an Irish water horse. From Thomas Crofion Croker, Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland (London: John Murray, 1825). (Fortean Picture Library)

"Canada's La Bête du Lac: The Beast of Lake Pohénégamook," Of Sea and Shore 12, no. 3 (1982): 138-140, 181; Michel Meurger and Claude Gagnon, Lake Monster Traditions: A Cross-Cultural Analysis (London: Fortean Tomes, 1988), pp. 41-49, 226-230, 249-255; L'énigme du monstre de Pohénégamook, http://www.geocities.com/monstreponik/.

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