The Walgren Lake Monster (also known as the Alkali Lake Monster and Giganticus Brutervious) is a cryptid of varying description reported in Walgren Lake near Hay Springs, Nebraska. A cryptid is an animal whose existence is disputed or unsubstantiated by science. Different accounts offer wide-ranging descriptions of the creature. One of the earliest and most famous accounts by a local man named J.A. Johnson described an animal that was dull grey or brown and similar to an alligator, but much larger and heavier with a horn between its eyes and nostrils. Johnson and two others claimed to see the monster from twenty yards away and the men estimated the creature to be about forty feet long. Other reported sightings claim that the creature was similar to a very large catfish or mudpuppy. The Nebraska State Historical Society reports that contemporary accounts believed Johnson actually saw an unusually large beaver.
The original legend of the Walgren Lake Monster claimed to be corroborated by Native American accounts of a similar beast inhabiting the lake. The initial story of a lake monster which devoured livestock sparked curiosity throughout Nebraska and abroad, even reaching the London Times. According to some articles published at the time, unsuccessful efforts were made to capture the monster. In her 1935 biography Old Jules, Mari Sandoz mentioned the monster and its notoriety. Sandoz claimed local fundamentalist Christians believed that the monster was created by Satan to test the faith of locals: “The same devil that scattered the fossil bones over the earth to confound those of little faith could plant a sea monster among the sinners”. As time went on, the legend of the monster evolved to include the supposed supernatural abilities of the creature. The July 1938 issue of the Federal Writers Project in Nebraska’s Tall Tales monthly publication offered a description of the monster’s massive size, which reportedly caused the earth to tremble whenever he moved such that “the farmers become seasick for miles around”. The article went on to claim that the monster came ashore daily to eat large numbers of livestock and in doing so created a thick, green mist which disoriented travelers in the area. The January 1962 edition of Outdoor Nebraska repeated the story as recorded in the 1938 telling, specifically corroborating the disorienting fog. The 1962 article exaggerates the claims of the 1938 story further by claiming a group of “eastern innocents” had fallen victim to the creature’s earth-shaking and had been bounced from Hay Springs to Valentine, over one hundred miles away.
Legend and Legacy
The legend of the Walgren Lake Monster was likely created and distributed by John G. Maher, a Nebraska politician and newspaperman, as a sensational story to sell more newspapers. The sea monster is referred to with aliases and has varying dimensions depending on the witness telling the story. An Outdoor Nebraska article written by Jack Reid in 1962 said the Alkali Lake Monster, Walgren Lake Monster or Giganticus Brutervious is an elusive 300-foot long dragon-like beast that opens its gargantuan mouth and lets out a roar. Reid wasn’t the only one to write about the beast. Over a dozen Hay Springs News articles mentioning sightings of the beast can be found in Hay Springs’ centennial book, the earliest dating back to 1921. The first few stories refer to the monster as a mermaid or grey whale, mentioning a 20-foot creature, far smaller than Reid’s estimations, that had the ability to spout water 10 to12 feet into the air. The possibility of Nebraska’s own monster became a popular subject in the news during the subsequent few years as Hay Springs News gave the beast its title of the Walgren Lake Monster.
The Walgren Lake Monster lives on through retellings of the legend, causing watchful eyes to scan the lake many years later, still searching for the fabled sea monster of the Great Plains.