Loch Ness, Scotland. Lake Van, Turkey. Lake Hodges, California. Seljord Lake, Norway. All these areas have had reported sightings of monsters. Well, North Carolina has its own alleged monster of the waterway called The Lake Norman Monster, or “Normie” to his close friends.
Being the adventurous traveler who’ll scour the highest mountains and lowest valleys to get to the truth of the story, I headed out to the Carolinas in search of this legendary creature.
A little history
Lake Norman is North Carolina’s largest man-made lake. It was created between 1959 and 1964. It took four years to build the Cowans Ford Dam and two additional years to fill the lake, still fed by the Catawba River. This project brings electricity to the Piedmont Region of the Carolinas, and provides water to Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Catawba Indians lived off this area and the river for hundreds of years before it was settled by the Europeans. It was fought over by farmers against the British at Cowans Ford (now under water) in the winter of 1781. With industrial progress would come the distinction in 1928 of the Catawba River being “the world’s most electrified river”, featuring ten dams and twelve power houses. But one more dam and man-made lake was in the works to be completed to help flood control. The flood of 1916 lingered in the minds of the locals.
On a map, Lake Norman looks like a giant inkblot. It has some 520 miles of shore line, but is only 34 miles long and 50 square miles, holding about 32,000 acres of water (roughly 3 billion gallons). It’s not surprising that a monster allegedly lurks here amidst all the lake’s nooks and crannies, whose fingers-like shoreline is filled with ostentatious-looking homes and thriving trees from the pine, oak, and willow family. The monster, if it does exist, can hide in 130 feet of water in its deepest part (the south end at the Cowans Ford Dam, less than 15 miles from downtown Charlotte). The average depth of Lake Norman is only around 30 feet.
Meeting Captain Gus
The day before getting on the boat, I had a chance to talk with a local boat captain named “Captain Gus”, who’s lived in this area since 1960 and guides lake cruises and fishing tours. Captain Gus thinks that when people claim to see The Lake Norman Monster, what they may see is a 4-foot female gar who’s spawning and being followed closely by 15 to 20 male gar (three feet long), which Captain Gus calls “a Daisy chain”, giving off the impression of a long monster-type fish.
Gregarious Captain Gus is very philosophical about this pre-occupation with the alleged monster in the lake. He believes that if people talk openly about seeing UFOs or lake monsters such as “Normie”, then others will think they’re crazy. Yet creating a website about these subjects is considered more acceptable in the minds of people.
Adding to the mystery is the fact that a species of mysterious freshwater jellyfish have been found in Lake Norman. Two-point-five foot long salamanders known as “hellbenders” have been spotted too, as well as decades-long reports of seeing human-sized catfish near the Cowans Ford Dam. Captain Gus caught one weighing 52 pounds! Eels and snakeheads exist here also. Could any of these strange creatures of Mother Nature be “Normie”? Other sightings included long and serpent-like creatures with strange fins. Some claimed to have seen a monster on the shoreline. The Grass Carp was introduced into the lake several years ago to help rid nuisance plants. Given that carp can grow big, were people mistaking them for the sea monster?
Into the lake
It was a cloudy and blustery day when I ventured out into the southern part of Lake Norman on a large 67-foot vessel called Yachta Yachta Yachta in hopes of being able to say that I saw ol’ “Normie”. The man captaining the boat told me he would have to think about my questions regarding “Normie”, but he never did get back to me.
Lucky for me, another licensed boat captain named Troy Neil was on board serving as a crew member. He has had well over 20 years of experience on boats, including six years working in the Caribbean on 40-110 foot yachts, where people asked him more about pirates than they did sea monsters. He has guided some of the rich and famous on the waters, though I swore I wouldn’t give out any names. Without openly proclaiming his former high profile clients, this seafarer gladly talked about his other sailing experiences. Yet Captain Neil also has great insight into human nature when it comes to folks being fascinated by and looking for sea monsters, then reporting what they supposedly witnessed.
“It’s more urban legend”, Captain Neil quips. “From past experience people exaggerate the size of fishes, even on the islands (like dolphins or rays). The cause is human curiosity or wanting to be the person who has discovered it, but [the process] gets misconstrued.”
Captain Neil said he never saw one sea monster, even while sailing on the Puerto Rico Trench. He has seen dolphins, whales and whale sharks countless times. He went on to comment, as my eyes kept darting the bluish-green and rather calm waters of Lake Norman hoping to see “Normie”, that when something is emerged in water, its size is magnified by 25 per cent. Even the captain running the ship commented to Neil that he didn’t know that.
I didn’t see anything on my peaceful 90-minute cruise, not even one small fish. That's all right. Talking to experienced men of the waters gave me more insights into this issue about monsters. On one hand, it’s fun to think that such ominous creatures exist in the hopes that one can be of the few to document the actuality of such legends. On the other hand, when facts and established common sense are applied, getting to the actual truth is easier and sometimes more interesting.
If you’re fascinated by tales of monsters like Bigfoot or “Normie”, pursue it as I did. You never know what insights your travels will lead you to, like learning more about the human condition!
Other activities at Lake Norman
Besides monster hunting, there are other outdoor activities in this area at the 1,300-plus acre Lake Norman State Park at the lake’s north end. Fishing for catfish, yellow perch and white bass are popular. Visitors can boat, water ski, camp, hike, swim and bike ride. While exploring, you might see opossum, frogs, snakes, turtles, pine warblers, wild turkey and herons.
Check out Lake Norman Tourist Information
Biography: Roy A. Barnes lives in southeastern Wyoming and is a frequent contributor to BootsnAll.com. He is fascinated by the strange, the bizarre and the unexpected, and is often deemed as such himself!