Talking Lake Monsters for Canadian TV in the New Mexican Desert
November 25, 2011
New Mexico's Rio Grande river looks nothing like British Columbia's Lake Okanagan, but it was close enough for TV when I was interviewed on November 14 for a Canadian science show called Daily Planet. Daily Planet, which is produced in Toronto and launched in 1995, features daily news and discussion on the scientific aspects of current news stories. It airs on Discovery Channel Canada, Monday through Friday at 7 and 11 p.m. ET.
A producer from Daily Planet called me up not only because I'd been on the show twice before, but also because I co-authored a book (with Joe Nickell) about lake monsters, Lake Monster Mysteries: Investigating the World's Most Elusive Creatures. They wanted me to comment on a news story that had been making the rounds about a Canadian man who claimed to have sighted, and videotaped, the monster said to dwell in the lake: Ogopogo.
The show dispatched a cameraman to interview me, hoping for a background that suggested something watery-and the scrub dunes near my Rio Rancho home did not fit the bill. So, thinking fast, I remembered the area where the rope swing used to be, down by the river in the woods near the Rio Grande, and we headed down there.
According to a Nov. 3 article in the Vancouver Sun, "An Okanagan man has video he says proves the Ogopogo may be more than just a figment of our imagination. Richard Huls says he always believed in the possibility of the monster rumored to be living in Okanagan Lake. Last Thursday, while visiting a West Kelowna winery, Huls shot video that he believes proves something does indeed live in the water. ‘It was not going with the waves,' Huls said. ‘It was not a wave obviously, just a darker color. The size and the fact that they were not parallel with the waves made me think it had to be something else."
Huls admitted that his video is not definitive proof: "It proves something is down there," he said. "Whether it's Ogopogo or not, it's a different story." Huls is certainly correct about that; he did videotape something in the lake. But is it a monster? When I first heard about the Huls video, I was intrigued. I had investigated the monster and its history in-depth for a National Geographic television series, and devoted a chapter in my book Scientific Paranormal Investigation to the beast. I have a strange monstery affection for the creature, and though I doubt it exists I'd love to see evidence proving me wrong.
Many who live around the lake have also embraced the monster as their pet mystery; the coat of arms for the city of Kelowna, on the shore of Lake Okanagan, features a seahorse, which, according to a city brochure, "in heraldry is the closest approximation of our Ogopogo." Ogopogo sightings date back to at least the 1920s, and the creature is often described as having dark skin and a characteristic series of humps. There are only a handful of photos and videos allegedly of Ogopogo, though none have provided any real evidence for the creature, and at least one famous video was later revealed as footage of a beaver.
So what about the new video evidence? I examined it all in preparation for the TV interview, and it's difficult to know what Huls' video shows.
The video quality is poor, and the camera is shaky, so it's hard to tell what the object is, or even if it's moving. But a closer look at the 30-second video reveals that, instead of one long object, there are actually two shorter ones, and they seem to be floating next to each other at slightly different angles. There are no humps, nor head, nor form; only two long, darkish, more or less straight forms that appear to be a few dozen feet long. Perhaps most frustratingly, the video only lasts half a minute. If we'd been able to see what the "monster" did over the course of several minutes, that would have provided important information about its identity. Significantly, the objects that Huls filmed don't move at all.
What could those two unmoving long, dark, straight objects be?
The most likely explanation is that Huls spied two logs that had escaped from a timber boom. Logging is one of the major industries in the Okanagan Valley, and there are countless logs floating in the lake that look exactly like the objects that Huls recorded. It is of course possible that a mysterious monster lurks somewhere in the cold depths of Lake Okanagan. But if so, it seems that it's as camera-shy and elusive as ever.
I reviewed all this in my head as I drove through Corrales with the cameraman in tow. I knew I'd only be able to explain about one-tenth of this because it would appear in the five-second sound-bite world of television. But I'd do my best.
I reviewed my notes as the cameraman set up, and I took my mark on a small sandbar a few feet from the bank. The only real difficulty was hearing the host's interview questions. Normally on television you're addressing someone just off camera, or at least a face on a television screen you can hear through an earpiece. But in this case I was addressing the camera directly, which can be a very strange experience. The cameraman's cell phone wasn't getting reception, and so we had to use mine; I put it on speakerphone and carefully balanced it atop a camera tripod I'd brought along just off camera. It would have looked odd if I did the whole interview holding a cell phone to my ear!
The interview only lasted about five minutes, and we recorded it "as live," meaning that it wasn't live (and wasn't claimed to be live), but looked like it was live. Therefore we didn't do multiple takes of the same thing as you might do in a sit-down interview, though we did go back and record a short segment with a plush Ogopogo doll prop that I had brought along.
I didn't see the show when the episode aired (I don't get the Discovery Canada channel, and even if I did, I don't like seeing myself on television). I ended up writing a column on the case for Discovery News. You can read the full account, and see the video online at https://news.discovery.com/animals/canadian-lake-monster-capturedon-video.html.