Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. He is the author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), Dragons: A Natural History (1995), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), The Unexplained (1996), From Flying Toads To Snakes With Wings (1997), Mysteries of Planet Earth (1999), The Hidden Powers of Animals (2001), The Beasts That Hide From Man (2003), Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), Dragons in Zoology, Cryptozoology, and Culture (2013), The Menagerie of Marvels (2014), A Manifestation of Monsters (2015), Here's Nessie! (2016), and what is widely considered to be his cryptozoological magnum opus, Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors (2016) - plus, very excitingly, his first two long-awaited, much-requested ShukerNature blog books (2019, 2020).

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Sunday 15 July 2012


Richard Svensson's reconstruction of the Lake Myllesjön whale-fish (Dr Karl Shuker/Richard Svensson)

I am greatly indebted to Swedish cryptozoological artist/sculptor/film-maker Richard Svensson for bringing this hitherto little-reported lake monster to my attention, and also for so kindly presenting me with his wonderful model of it, depicted above.

Lake Myllesjön is situated in Richard's home province of Blekinge, in southernmost Sweden, and since at least the middle of the 19th Century reports have been circulating of a piscean monster inhabiting its cool waters, which is popularly referred to as the whale-fish. A flurry of sightings occurred during the 1920s and 1930s. One eyewitness, while riding by the lake on his bike, saw what he initially thought to be a massive log - until the water surrounding it began to churn, and the 'log' abruptly dived out of sight. Another observer claimed to have seen a huge fin-crested back rise above the surface, and considered it to be an immense pike, but no-one else supported this identity. Pike or not, local fisherman Sven Johan discovered two of his fishing nets ripped apart after hauling them out of the lake, and yet another man stated that he had seen a whale-like beast frolicking at the water's edge.

These and other sightings encouraged local talk about attempting to capture the monster, and after three girls fled from the lake, screaming in terror, after supposedly spying an animal resembling a whale basking in shallow water near the shore, an official plan of action was drawn up and set in motion. As Richard revealed in his account that he sent to me:

"The local blacksmith made a hook the size of a ping-pong bat, a piece of board was made as a float, and a steel wire chosen as line and tied around a slim oak tree. A butcher donated a dead piglet for bait, and the entire contraption was hurled out into the lake. The next day the oak tree was found uprooted, bobbing about in the middle of the lake, where it stayed for a whole week until it sank. Nothing more happened and the monster was believed to be dead."

Until August 1962, that is, when sightings of 'logs' splashing in the lake gained attention all over again. This time, the local response was to unleash a veritable hunting party in the monster's wake, consisting of 425 fishermen - each one competing against all of the others not only for the honour of procuring (and thence himself becoming) a living legend, but also for the financial recompense of 1000 Swedish kroner. Perhaps, however, it was a case of too many anglers spoiling the lake, because the biggest fish caught was a 2.9-lb perch.

Richard Svensson's illustration of the Lake Myllesjön whale-fish in my book Mysteries of Planet Earth, 1999 (Richard Svensson)

Returning to Richard's account of Myllesjön's monstrous history:

"In November 1962, several large hooks were manufactured and baited with dead chickens and calves' heads. Most newspaper stories say that the efforts went resultless, but others claim that at least one of the calves' heads disappeared. During 1963, the diving log was seen again, and in September another fishing competition was held: now with the prize of 10,000 Swedish kroner. Again, it proved to be an uneventful event."

Nevertheless, Richard knows of reports concerning Lake Myllesjön's mystifying whale-fish from as late as the 1970s. However, he fears that it may have since become an unsuspected victim of modern-day urbanisation. In 1996, he visited its watery domain, and discovered to his horror that a two-lane motorway had been constructed right next to the lake, and that the few houses still nearby are themselves newly-built, with their owners having little or no knowledge of the monster.

Richard has learnt of one other lake that was once said to harbour something similar to the Myllesjön whale-fish, but he now considers it likely (as do I) that both of these unidentified water beasts were specimens of Siluris glanis, commonly known as the wels or European giant catfish. According to Richard, the largest confirmed specimen ever caught in Sweden, in 1871, measured 3.6 m (11.8 ft) long. Moreover, the largest claimed specimen of all was a true monster of a fish, allegedly measuring 15 ft, which was caught in Russia's Dneiper River during the 1850s, but there is no physical validation for its size. Tragically, the same is true for the very existence of Lake Myllesjön's enigmatic whale-fish - gone if no longer forgotten.

Wels catfish landed by angler and photographed before being released again (public domain)

This post is excerpted from my book Mysteries of Planet Earth: An Encyclopedia of the Inexplicable (Carlton Books: London, 1999).


  1. Lake monsters are fascinating and there are many on all continents except Antarctica. In Africa's Lake Victoria lives a very dangerous creature called the Lukwata. Its physical description identity and size are controversial and conflicting. Its said to be anywhere from 12 feet to 100 feet long. One source says its 20 feet to 30 feet long. Some say it has a round head and some say it has a square shaped head. Some sources say it has a long neck(4 feet long) and some sources say it has barbs on its snout like a Catfish. Its body is said to be black or brown on top and white underneath. Most sources dont mention any limbs or flippers. Some say it has a Dolphin like body. It makes bellowing roars and is said to be violent and dangerous. It attacks and kills people and any animal it can catch. It frequently kills and eats large Crocodiles. It would lose pieces of its skin in these fights which some natives collect as amulets. Its been known to overturn canoes and kill the occupants in it. The European Sir Clement Hill saw a Lukwata in 1900 as it tried to snatch a man from his boat. Biologist E.G. Wayland collected a bone fragment from a Lukwata and heard its bellowing roars. If its a Mammal then its a Dolphin of Whale living in freshwater. If its a fish then it could be a Catfish or an Eel. Some believe its a snake such as a Python. Snakes generally dont roar and generally dont have vocal cords. Others believe its a Plesiosaurus or a longneck such as Nessie yet most sources dont mention any flippers. It could be an unknown species of Amphibian or fish. I personally believe its some kind of Dolphin or Whale living in freshwater. There are a few species of small Dolphins living in freshwater. These are gentle creatures. If the Lukwata is a Dolphin or Whale its an aberrant one as its unusually aggressive towards humans. Some believe the Lukwata has supernatural powers and magical powers. Parts of its body are believed to have magical powers. The role playing game Pathfinder has included the Lukwata and Dungeons and Dragons is considering adding it to its list of monsters. Authors Bernard Heuvelmans Michael Newton George Eberhart Daniel Cohen and Peter Costello mentions the Lukwata in their books. Alot remains a mystery. What is the population of these animals? How often is it sighted and at what points in the lake? How often does it attack and kill people and livestock? Its been sighted close to shore but it prefers more remote parts of the lake miles from shore. It seems it rarely comes close to shore. If it did it would be seen more often and there would be more attacks on people and livestock. Its a smart idea to stay out of the lake and especially the remote parts of the lake far from shore. The farther from shore the more dangerous it gets. Lukwatas are the most dangerous animals in the world. They have an aura of awe and power. A Lion is just a pussycat compared to a 20 foot to 30 foot long Lukwata. These animals are scary to say the least. Lukwatas are among Africa's deepest darkest mysteries.

  2. Hey anoymous know of any dark/deep secrets in other parts of EurAsia,Australia,South&North America that the natives speak of aquatic monsters?

  3. Yes. Other lake monsters are the snake like Ogopogo of Okanagan Lake in Canada, and Champ of Lake Champlain which resembles a Plesiosaur. The Lake Monster fish in Sweden doesn't resemble any other animal I know.
    There are several possible contenders for both lake monsters and sea monsters. The extinct snake like Zeuglodons were primitive whales and could account for some sightings such as Ogopogo. Giant Pinnipeds or seals are another possibility, and Sirenians are yet another possibility. These unidentified lake serpents and sea serpents could also be unknown mammals in an order of their own, or an unknown reptile in an order of its own, or an unknown amphibian, or an unknown fish.
    The Lau of southern Sudan is said to be a 40 foot to 100 foot long monster resembling a cross between a snake and a fish. Its a feared man eater and makes loud calls.
    The only other information I have found on the Lukwata is that an explorer named W. Grant encountered one of these monsters while sailing Lake Victoria. One of his men was eaten by the monster. The most recent Lukwata sighting I know of was in 1959 when T.E. Cox and his wife saw a long neck animal with a thick body with two humps on its back swimming near the shore. The animal didn't try to attack them because they were safely out of reach on dry land and the animal seems to be strictly aquatic and can't leave the water. Had they been in the water they would have been attacked. From this description the Lukwata most closely resembles the Lochness monster and Morgawr the Cornish monster in having a long neck, and two humps on its back. Author Bernard Heuvelmans has three excellent books, such as On the Track of Unknown Animals, In the Wake of the Sea Serpents, and the nearly impossible to find The Last Dragons of Africa. I believe these animals are all real. I don't recommend people traveling to these locations to see them and photograph them. One suggestion would be to send aerial satellites or drones with cameras over places such as Lake Tele and the Likouala Swamp where the Mokele-mbembe lives, and to put underwater cameras in Lake Victoria and Lochness, and whatever is there can be photographed. It would be too dangerous to approach these unknown animals and too dangerous to travel to the locations where these cryptids live. Let the satellites with cameras, drones with cameras, and underwater cameras do the work. Maybe someday we might have good quality up close photos of Nessie, Mokele-mbembe, Ogopogo, the Lau, and the Lukwata, and prove to the skeptics these creatures are real.

  4. I love reading books and watching documentaries about cryptids and unexplained phenomena. Thanks and praise go out to authors who have done a lot of research to produce exciting books on unknown animals and other unexplained phenomena. My favorite authors are Karl Shuker, Bernard Heuvelmans, Grover Krantz, Roy Mackal, Loren Coleman, Jerome Clark, and Brad Steiger. Fate and Fortean Times magazines are also excellent. Its an awesome achievement if one can travel to remote locations such as Lake Tele and the Likouala Swamp.It would be too dangerous and too difficult for me. Many thanks also to the explorers who have gone to equatorial Africa and have taken photos and produced documentaries. Africa is awesome and has a unique aura unlike any other continent.

  5. In Eastern Tennessee (USA) where I live is the Norris Dam, built by Roosevelt's TVA in the 1930s. The reservoir is about 100 feet deep, and stories abound of scuba-diving workers coming to the surface in a panic after confronting monstrous catfish in the depths. Sadly I don't think one has ever been caught.

  6. if there's one thing I've learned from Jeremy Wade's "River Monsters" it's that lake and rive monsters like this usually turn out to be some kind of catfish or pike...

  7. Some very interesting information has appeared about the Lukwata monster of Lake Victoria recently. The last recorded sighting of a Lukwata in Lake Victoria was in December 1959 with the T.E. Cox and his wife sighting. There have been no more recent Lukwata sightings. It's possible that it might be very rare or extinct in Lake Victoria as the lake is heavily polluted. Lake Victoria is connected to other bodies of water, and today, the Lukwata is likely to be found in these other lakes and rivers. In Lake Tanganyika there's a similar long neck, dangerous animal. The name Lukwata could be a generic term to refer to any large, ferocious, aquatic animal in Lake Victoria and in other lakes and rivers in East Africa that's unknown to science. The Lukwata has also been confused with the Lau and the Dingonek. These are three different animals.
    According to one source, the Lukwata still exists in Lake Victoria near Rubondo Island, which is a tourist area. The incredible news is that in one recent source, its claimed that this dangerous, ferocious animal is playful and no longer attacks humans! This is incredible. This source claims that the Lukwata tips over boats but doesn't attack the people in it. How could this be? These animals have a reputation for being violent predators which attack and kill humans. So the question is this, is it possible for a carnivorous, predatory, aggressive, man killing, man eating species of animal to suddenly change their behavior towards humans? Maybe not every single Lukwata is violent. Maybe they vary in temperament and behavior. Or maybe this friendly, playful behavior is really from some other unknown animal, and its not the Lukwata. It still is not safe to go in the water with these animals. No way are they harmless. The vast majority of sources claim they are dangerous man killers and man eaters.
    Are these animals from the Dolphin family or Whale family? Lukwata have a dolphin like body with a long neck and no flippers and no limbs. What kind of aquatic animal has a long neck with a dolphin like body with no limbs? It can't be a Plesiosaur, which have flippers. According to the T.E. Cox report in 1959, the animal was sighted near the shore and began to swim with a vertical, undulating movement. This suggests its some sort of Mammal based on its movement. It's not a catfish. It seems to be an unknown Mammal in an order of its own, or an unknown Reptile in an order of its own, and it might be related to other long neck aquatic lake monsters and long neck sea serpents.There's still many things that are unknown to science.