The Lake Koshkonong Monster
Written and contributed by Ben Feld
Watertown Republican, November 1887
When Watertown first learned of the famous Scottish Loch Ness monster in 1933, they had been talking about the monster in Lake Koshkonong for at least 46 years. For nearly half a century skeptics and believers alike had enjoyed telling and retelling the tale of the alleged sighting by two storytellers on a duck-hunting expedition long ago.
To be sure, the Koshkonong monster was not the size of the Loch Ness monster. It couldn’t be, given the shallowness of the lake. No aquatic beast of any great size could find an area of sufficient depth to conceal itself in that reed-filled pond. But it was sighted, not once, but six times, albeit the other five sightings were in Red Cedar Lake a few miles away. Strangely, the Red Cedar Lake sightings were not mentioned in the newspapers until quite some time after the fact.
The one sighting which did find its way into the Watertown Republican took place in early November, 1887, when two men, A. I. Sherman of Fort Atkinson and his cousin, Charles Bartlett of Milwaukee, were duck hunting on Lake Koshkonong. While rowing down the south edge of a bay in the northeastern part of the lake, they both spotted, about 150 feet away, a huge snake-like object swimming toward the center of the lake. It swam with the head raised about two feet above the water, and about ten feet of the trunk, which appeared to be eight inches thick, was partly visible. The water being very calm at that time, the highly visible wake left by the creature indicated it was about thirty or forty feet long.
Without a thought about the wisdom of their actions, and following the instincts of the inveterate hunters they were, Sherman and Bartlett put their oars into the water and began rowing at top speed toward the animal hoping to kill it and examine it at close range. But the creature, for it could not truly be called a snake, a fish, or a lizard, spotted them and at once slipped under the surface leaving the pair befuddled, astonished, and thoroughly disappointed at having to abandon the chase.
Forever after, the two nimrods stoutly maintained they were in no way under the influence of the ardent spirits and they never failed to remind the skeptics that at least six times a similar sighting had been reported in Red Cedar Lake only afew miles away.
One wonders, were A. I. Sherman and Charles Bartlett still around when the newspapers announced the sighting of the Loch Ness monster 46 years later? Was their veracity doubted any less? Did they feel they had finally been vindicated?
Or did the skeptics conclude that the sighting of a strange creature in Lake Koshkonong and a monster in Loch Ness, in Scotland, prove that hallucinations are not limited by national boundaries?