The Gill Man of Thetis Lake
Cadborosaurus isn’t the only monster that’s been sighted in waters around Victoria. On August 22, 1972, the Victoria Daily Times reported that two teenage boys were chased from the beach at Thetis Lake by an animal “roughly triangular in shape, about five feet high and five feet across the base.” In addition, one of the boys said he had been cut on one hand, “by six razor-sharp points on the monster’s head.” A few days later, two more boys said they’d seen a similar creature swimming in the lake, “shaped like a human body,” but with “a monster face” and “covered with scales.”
The mystery was solved soon afterward. On August 26, the Province newspaper said police got a call from a man who’d lost a teju lizard (below left) in the area the previous year. Tejus, which are native to South America and often kept as pets (their mottled black-and-white skins are also used for cowboy boots), grow up to three feet long. The police decided the lizard matched the monster’s description, and closed the case.
Since teju lizards live for about 15 years, the one in Thetis Lake is likely dead by now – although W. Haden Blackman suggested in his 1998 Field Guide to North American Monsters that something's still lurking around. “If you do come across it, remember these kind of creatures are all considered extremely dangerous,” wrote Blackman, who told would-be hunters to carry a flaming torch to prevent an attack – a bit of advice far more deadly in the tinder-dry park than any old reptile.
UPDATE (November 17, 2009): Daniel Loxton, the Victoria-based editor of the kid-friendly Junior Skeptic magazine, has been hot on the trail of the Thetis Lake Monster ... and he suggests that nothing was in the lake at all back in 1972.
Loxton wasn’t satisfied with the theory that a pet teju was loose. He spoke with a Royal B.C. Museum expert, who said the South American lizard probably wouldn’t have survived a Victoria winter. Loxton also noted a strange coincidence: a week before the first sighting, local TV station CHEK broadcast Monster From The Surf (aka Beach Girls and The Monster), a B-movie about a gill-man with a triangular head attacking teenagers. Watch the goofy trailer:
Then, in an investigative coup, Loxton tracked down one of the boys involved in the second sighting. Now 49 years old, the guy confessed that the story “was just a big lie,” cooked up by his friend to get attention.
So why does the legend endure? Loxton says it’s mainly because cryptozoologists (mystery-creature researchers) have continued to write about it, embellishing the descriptions over the years with details like “webbed hands,” giving the story a realism not found in the original news reports. The lesson for young readers, Loxton says, is that “cryptozoologists don’t do their homework.” But the publicity hasn’t hurt: thanks to those writers, the Thetis Lake Monster was immortalized as a plastic figurine by a Japanese toy company in 2002.