Do you remember when Halloween was scarier than the state of the economy? When monsters would refer to hairy man-eating beasts and not religious fundamentalists? To hearken back to those glory days of things that go bump in the night, here is a list of local monsters waiting to be hunted, captured, and put on display in a lavish theatre, probably in chains that can’t contain their enormous strength and power.
British Columbia: Ogopogo
We have more lakes than any other country on the planet, so it stands to reason we would have at least one serious lake monster. Sightings of the Ogopogo in BC’s Lake Okanagan date back to the late 1800’s. Up to 15m in length, it looks strikingly similar to cousin Nessie in Scotland’s Loch Ness. Must be a shy family, because neither has been conclusively proven to exist, despite grainy photographs and blurry video. Known to have attacked horses, the Ogopogo has been confused with giant sturgeon or mischievous beavers (both of whom, I imagine, don’t have a taste for stallion). If you do want to see the Ogopogo in the flesh, you’re guaranteed a sighting on the jerseys of local hockey team, the Kelowna Rockets.
Northwest Territories: Wendigo
The Algonquian tribes had a nasty deterrent for any would-be cannibals. A wendigo is a powerful supernatural spirit that can possess your body and eat your soul. Physically, it looks not unlike a zombie: pale, lifeless skin over a skeletal frame, with wide hungry eyes. Consuming souls, the wendigo grows in size and strength, although he can never satisfy his craving for more. It’s easy to tell if your date in Yellowknife has been possessed by a wendigo. Chances are he/she will want to nibble your ear, and take bite size chunks out of everything else. Wendigos, like their victims, crave human meat. Tribes across Northern Canada have variations of this monster, from furry giants to forest-lurking fire-breathing demons.
Deep in the waters of Lake Ontario is a dragon that would give heartburn to those pups on Game of Thrones. Seneca mythology believes Gaasyendietha not only breathes fire and leaves fire in its wake, it is literally made of fire. Try riding that Daenarys!
British Columba: Sasquatch
True story: I was approached by a production company in LA to host a Bigfoot TV show. They were offering the “biggest cash prize in TV history!” to the participants who delivered indisputable proof of the existence of a large, hairy, ape-like “wild man” that legend believes roams the forests of the West Coast. Sasquatch is the Salish word for “hairy man” which could be a monster, or just your Uncle Larry when he steps out of the hot tub. For decades, monster hunters referred to blurry photo and video footage of a tall gorilla-like creature loping through the woods. It’s pretty much believed to be a giant hoax, although does make for bizarre reading. The lack of evidence hasn’t stopped wingnuts looking for a creature that has seemingly perfected the art of hide and seek. Which is why the producers of the TV show know their money is perfectly safe too.
Quebec: Loup Garou
Quebec’s Loup Garou are pussycats compared to European werewolves. Native American legends talk about shapeshifters for a variety of creatures, but it was French settlers who brought the wolf-hate from the Old World. Let’s face it, while the Big Bad Wolf haunts fairy tales, shy wolves don’t exactly seek out little pigs or girls in red capes. The French legends of the loup garou differ from your traditional European werewolf. Gone are the full moons. The loup garou can turn on their own will, usually only for 101 days. Unlike werewolves, the loup garou also retains human consciousness and therefore doesn’t snack on human jerky. Essentially it’s a hairy curse. By the way, my favourite werewolf movie is France’s Brotherhood of the Wolf, which stars that guy from Iron Chef as a Native American ninja.
Northern Territories: Aklhut and Mahaha
You gotta give to animal hybrid monsters. The Akhlut is an Inuit wolf-orca hybrid that hunts humans and animals on land, leaving tracks at the beach. At least it won’t tickle us to death like the mischievous, long-nailed shapeshifter Mahaha the Tickler.