Kentucky Case Files: The Bluegrass Cryptid Aquarium

Welcome to Midnight in Kentucky’s Bluegrass Cryptid Aquarium!

Second only to the state of Alaska in navigable waterways, the Bluegrass state’s intimate connection with it’s lakes, streams, and rivers is well documented. From legends of exploration by historic figures like Daniel Boone and Abraham Lincoln, to the seasonal tourism brought to Kentucky in more modern times, water is as important to the Commonwealth as horse racing or bourbon. As we have discussed several times on MIK, running water seems to be a major factor in many paranormal encounters and supernatural experiences, and attractor of different types of phenomena. While dogmen stalk the banks of the Land Between the Lakes and Mothman beats its wings along the surface of the Ohio river, what unknown entities and unfathomable creatures lurk in the depths of Kentucky’s waters? Come along as we plunge the murky bluegrass waters in search of the monsters that may call them home. From Herry, the Herrington Lake Monster, a supposed pig-eel creature, and the Lake Linville Monster, described by some witnesses as a large black slug released into the lake by machine-gun toting G-men, to a Nessie-like serpent said to make the Ohio river near Henderson, Kentucky it’s home, and unnaturally gigantic specimens of Catfish and Alligator Gar, we’ve drug the waters in search of them all! Tonight, Midnight in Kentucky is your personal guide on this full moon lit tour through the unusually unnatural inhabitants of the Bluegrass Cryptid Aquarium!

Herry the Herrington Lake Monster

Artist rendering of Herry the Herrington Monster; from The Pine Barrens Institute

Herrington Lake is an artificial lake located in Mercer, Garrard, and Boyle counties in Kentucky. In 1925, when Kentucky Utilities implemented plans to build a dam by flooding the Dix River, the creation of Herrington Lake soon followed. At the time, the dam was the largest Earth filled dam in the world, and Herrington Lake would become the deepest lake in Kentucky with a depth of 249 feet.

Immediately after its creation, people in the area and visitors to Herrington Lake began reporting an unusual aquatic dwelling creature that supposedly resembled an ‘eel-pig,’ with, just as it sounds, the body of an eel and the head, snout, and curly tail of a pig. The Herrington Lake Monster, or Herry, as he has become known, is described as being roughly 15 feet in length with a skin tone similar to that of a speckled fish and moving very quickly, sometimes as fast as a boat.

Though sightings of the creature began as early as the dam’s completion in the early and mid twenties, it was the encounters reported by University of Kentucky professor Lawrence S. Thompson in 1972 that brought Herry’s name into the annals of Cryptozoological research. Thompson, who’s lake home sat on the shores of Lake Herrington, said he had seen the creature an uncounted number of times and that after this many encounters still could not determine Herry’s species. In an interview with the Louisville Courier, the Professor is quoted as having said, “It’s only a monster in the sense that one would call an alligator a monster if they had never seen one before.”

Theories range from the building of the Dix Dam having opened a passage into an underground cave system, whereby a mysterious eel-pig species emerged into Lake Herrington, or Herry being a prehistoric remnant which gained access to Herrington Lake after being trapped when the dam was built, to more mundane explanations such as oversized alligator Gar, or an out-of-place alligator itself. Though there have been more recent encounters with Herry, none have been so prolific as Thompson’s in the early 70s, and the identity of the creature remains to be discovered over 95 years later.

The Calk Lake Monster

An illustration of an alleged sea serpent spotted off the coast of South America in 1881.
The creature in Sid Calk Lake is described as having this classic sea serpent appearance.

Sid Calk Lake in Mount Sterling, Kentucky, is a private fishing lake named for Sidney Johnson Calk, a now deceased local resident who passed away at the age of 85 in October 1975, presumably peacefully and naturally, and not as a result of a lake monster attack. However, the Lake that bears his name was the sight of at least three water monster encounters in the late 60s that became somewhat dangerous to those involved.

Those three most widely known sightings occurred in the summer of 1967. The first incident occurred when a boat carrying three night-fishermen became entangled in some debris. One of the fishermen jumped out of the boat to help free the jam but when he stood up on a submerged log it quickly uncoiled, splashed, and swam away. In the full moon’s light the three of them saw a serpent like creature as big as a telephone pole.

A few days after this incident, another fisherman was excitedly reeling in a large bass when what he described as ‘a snake with a head as big around as a trashcan’ chomped down on his catch, ripping it from the line, and made off with it. Later that summer, a young boy spotted what he believed to be the creature, saying it was as long as a house and as big around as a man. Though sparse reports continue, sightings of the creature never quite reached the height of the summer of ‘67.

The Lake Linville Monster

Artist rendering of a giant slug from the ‘Forgotten Realms’ RPG,
similar to the witness descriptions of the Lake Linville Monster in Rockcastle County, Kentucky.

Lake Linville in Rockcastle County, Kentucky, is a man made lake that was created as a result of the creation of Renfro Dam in 1968. The maximum depth of Lake Linville is only 36 feet, with an average of 16 feet.

Though documented reports are sparse, the Lake Linville Monster has become the stuff of legend in the community around the lake. Unfortunately, some of the best information on the creature came from the now defunct Topix local community message board website. One of the most notable posts on the Lake Linville Monster came in 2008 when one member said it would be best if everyone stayed away from the lake and relayed a personal incident with the creature. One evening while canoeing, they claimed, a large blue-green snake-like creature, head the size of a basket ball, attacked his vessel, snapping it in half, and leaving him for dead in the water.

Though many questioned the validity of the poster’s claims, many more came forward with their own accounts of encountering something in Lake Linville. One of the most profound, if not most probably one of the most embellished incidents with the Lake Linville Monster, came from a poster claiming to be from a resident of the area who was a little girl at the time of the lake’s creation. Her story reads:

One afternoon, we decided to take a hike in the woods after our picnic and we had been gone for about an hour when we heard the helicopters.

There were three of them and one was huge, the size of an Army helicoptor or something. We stayed in the woods and watched as men with guns got out.

Mom was afraid and made us all hide. The next thing I knew, a large crate, big enough to hold a car was brought off of one of the helicopters. Then six men with guns who were wearing black masks opened it. I was astounded and almost screamed as a huge, black snail looking thing came out. It seemed to be looking at the men and one of the men yelled, “Go!” real loud and then the thing swished into the water.

The men went back to the helicopter where two more crates were taken off and two more of the slug like animals were let go. All of a sudden the men with the guns began to back up and we saw that one of the giant snail like things was scooting towards them. That’s when we heard the shots.”

Genny, the Geneva Monster

Chronicled in influential Kentucky high strangeness experiencer and investigator Barton Nunnelly’s deep diving 2007 compendium of supernatural and paranormal encounters in the Bluegrass, Mysterious Kentucky, Genny, the Geneva monster, as she has been termed by Nunnelly and those who have seen her, is described as a Nessie-like sea serpent creature, having a bill like that of a duck. Genny is said to inhabit the waters of the Ohio River in and around Henderson, Kentucky, especially in Geneva River Bottoms portion of the Sloughs Wildlife Management Area.

It would be in this area, on a bright morning in the late 80s, that two local boys would supposedly witness Genny making her way up the Ohio river. The pair, given the monikers Andy A and Mike B by Nunnelly in Mysterious Kentucky, had been driven to the remote portion of the Geneva River Bottoms by Mike’s father, who remained in the car reading the news paper, while the boys got in some target practice with a small .22 pistol by shooting turtles off of logs.

When Andy noticed something bobbing up out of the water however, the two stopped shooting and turned their attention to whatever mysterious creature was now rising from the depths of the river. As the boys watched the movement, five separate ‘humps’ rose from the water close together, one after the next, and appeared to have ‘lizard skin.’ Next, an elongated neck with a serpentine like head, affixed with a snake like snout and dark eyes, shockingly rose from the waters ahead of the humps. Upon seeing the witnesses on the shoreline, the boys described the creature surging forward and disappearing into the muddy river. The entire incident lasted only 10 to 15 seconds.

When Nunnelly interviewed Andy in ’99, he described the creature as being over thirty feet long, and the investigator found him to be very credible and this credibility was further backed up for Nunnelly when he again interviewed Andy in 2005, when the witness provided the same details as his first report. When asked why the boys didn’t fire on the creature, Andy told Nunnelly that the sheer size of the thing and the belief it could have swallowed them both whole had it wanted, dissuaded both the boys from acting aggressively toward the creature. Mike, as many witnesses to the strange and unusual do, has refused to discuss the incident from the beginning.

This would not be the only sighting of Genny however, with Barton detailing a 2001 sighting of the creature by one James Kennedy, during a fourth of July campout. Kennedy described a much smaller creature than that described by Andy and Mike, appearing to be only around three feet long, but with a beak like a duck and swimming with its head raised from the water. Though around the size of residential snakes, Kennedy feels assured that this was no snake, due to its movements in the water and its appearance. Additionally, this sighting was much longer than the 10 to 15 seconds reported by Andy and Mike, with James reportedly watching the creature for as long as two hours as it swam in shallow waters only 3 to 4 feet from the shore. This sighting took place within two miles of Andy and Mike’s original report.

Nunnelly himself reports having seen a similar type of creature on at least two occasions, one sighting of which was in the company of other witnesses, in the Ohio River, around twenty miles away from the Sloughs Wildlife Management Area in the Stanley area of Daviess County, Kentucky. Nunnelly says though his sighting was at a greater distance than the other witnesses, (around 50 feet) it appeared to be the same type of specimen with a serpentine like body and face, and a bill like a duck. Though smaller than Mike and Andy’s sighting, the creature seen by Nunnelly was around the size of a man’s forearm jutting from the water, and Barton believes it may have been a juvenile, though not as young as that seen by Kennedy.

Green River Sea Monster

The Green River is second deepest in the world, second only to the Amazon River. Long stretches are considered bottomless and it is the only north flowing River in America. This article, which appeared in the Bowling Green Daily News in their Way Back When In Warren County segment, on December 13th, 2020, a reprint of the original article which was printed on December 9th, 1941, supposedly documents an encounter with a creature in Green River’s depths and some questionable human offence that followed.

“On Dec. 9, 1941, the Daily News reported a sighting of the “sea monster of the Green River” near Warren County by J.J. Potter of Parrish Mill.

Potter claimed he had the monster in his net, but it thrashed about until it tore the net and got loose.

Jack Meloan, a Brownsville newspaperman who had been following the “sea monster” story, also reported a possible attempt to dynamite the monster. However, he couldn’t find anyone to verify the account. He conceded that “anyone would be reluctant to admit that he had dynamited the river.”

-Way Back When in Warren County from BG Daily News

Evansville Lagoon Creature

‘Gill-man’ from ‘The Creature of the Black Lagoon,’
some theorize the Evansville lagoon creature may have a similar appearance

The Ohio River flows through an area of Evansville, IN, called Dogtown, which lays just across the water from Henderson, KY. On August 21st, 1955, the very same day as the infamous Hopkinsville alien invasion, something just as strange was reaching up from the dredges of the Ohio in an attempt to pull down one Dogtown resident. Naomi Johnson, along with her three children and her friend Louise Lamble, had sought the river’s cool water that day as a way of escaping the summer’s pressing heat, which was hitting up to 95. Only around 15 feet deep in the Evansville area, and moving around a mile an hour, The Ohio seemed like a paradise.

That is until Naomi was calming paddling about 15 feet out from where her children sat with Louise, who was sunbathing on the shoreline, when suddenly the peace was shattered when something wrapped itself around Johnson’s knee. Naomi responded by splashing hard and attempting to escape the grasp of the mystery assaulter, which she would later describe as ‘hairy and claw-like’. Naomi’s struggle almost proved to be unsuccessful when she was pulled under by the aquatic attacker. Johnson however, underwater now and being pulled ever deeper, did manage to kick away from whatever was dragging her to the depths and bob back to the surface where she was able to let out a scream before she was grabbed again.

Luckily, Johnson grabbed a nearby innertube and climbed aboard, escaping the mysterious grasp and making it to her friend and children on the shore. Despite being shaken, Naomi was safe, being treated for simple cuts and bruises when medical help arrived following a call to authorities from an unknown source. Medics did draw attention to a strange abrasion on Johnson’s knee at the spot she was supposedly grabbed. On her leg was a strange blue-green stain, the size and shape of a large handprint, that could not be removed and remained on Naomi’s knee for several days following the incident.

Man Sized Catfish

280 pound Catfish caught in Italy in 2015, similar in description to those supposedly
witnessed in Kentucky’s waterways

Stories of unnaturally gigantic specimens of natural species pervade legends throughout the Bluegrass. Sit with enough fishermen at gas station breakfast tables in the Bluegrass and you’re bound to hear a story of a Catfish, Alligator Gar, Snapping Turtle, or other native Kentuckian aquatic fauna that has achieved a growth unheard of and thought impossible. In the portion of the article below, originally printed in Kentucky Living in July of 2004, an incredibly large Catfish goes on record after being caught in Owensboro, Kentucky.

“Hang around any school of anglers long enough and eventually you’ll hear about the Monster Catfish. The tale, usually told around the campfire, claims a diver performing an underwater inspection at a nearby dam surfaces, then quits on the spot. The reason? There’s catfish down there as big as a man and he’s afraid of getting swallowed.”

There is a kernel of truth to this urban legend. In 1999, Owensboro resident Bruce Midkiff wrestled a 4-1/2-foot-long, 104-pound blue catfish from the Ohio River. That wasn’t the biggest blue out there, either. Several years ago, a commercial fisherman netted a 125-pound blue catfish from Lake Barkley.”

-From the article ‘Sea Monsters’ from Kentucky Living printed July 1st, 2004


  • Cryptozoo-ocity; Lake Monsters In Kentucky