Susquehanna’s Mystery Thing

Posted by: Loren Coleman on August 16th, 2009

Outdoor guide and writer Ken Maurer of the Sunbury, Pennsylvania’s The Daily Item was asked recently during a panel discussion about his most “mysterious sighting” while in the wild. He recalled a large creature that he saw swimming in the Susquehanna River.

Then Mauer decided to write about his experience, late last night:

For those of you who missed the “most mysterious sighting” question asked of The Daily Item’s Great Outdoors panel, I told of a large creature that I saw swimming in the Susquehanna River.

I have to say that I received several comments concerning my eyesight, mental state, and imagination. Well, I saw what I saw, several times actually. I don’t know what it was and I have thought about it quite a bit.

The other day an acquaintance who shall mercifully remain nameless came up to me and told me he read of my experience in the paper, and he was amazed because he witnessed the same mysterious sighting. His sighting was a couple of miles downstream from the area where I saw it. We discussed it at length. He felt that because of the size of it, it was a mammal of sorts, similar to a seal or otter.

I felt it was a fish of some kind. After much discussion, we sort of agreed that it must be a fish because the head never comes out of the water. I have witnessed seals, otters and beavers swimming, and the head always comes out of the water somewhere along the line.

Now, as to how this all started. About eight years ago, a good friend of mine told me about this “thing” he saw swimming in the river. He described a small submarine about to surface.

Of course, I thought he was nuts. Then one evening we went fishing and the “thing” showed up. At first I thought it was a deer swimming across the river, then it turned and came upstream. When it got closer, there was nothing sticking out of the water. It pushed a wake that made waves that lapped up on the shoreline. At about 50 yards, it sank out of sight. Creepy. Over the next year or two, I saw it several times and it always sank out of sight before it got close enough to be seen clearly.

The only fish I can think of that could create this disturbance is a huge carp. I’ve never seen a carp act like that, but what else could it be? It’s not a mammal because nothing ever comes out of the water. Between those of us who have seen it, we think it must be at least five or six feet long, which is far larger than any carp I’ve ever seen.

Before you jump in your boat and go looking for it, sightings are rare. I haven’t seen it for years, although last summer a guy told me about a very similar sighting in the same general area.

We live in a very civilized area. How could any creature live around here, on land or water, that we don’t know about?

Well, we don’t know everything. When darkness falls, the forest turns into a very different place. Many hunters have seen and heard things in the pre-dawn darkness that are hard to understand or explain. Coyotes, for example, are very common around here, yet many people have never seen one. Who would have ever thought someone would catch a gar out of the river? We have pictures of that.

The outdoorsman Izaak Walton said it best: “Rivers and the inhabitants of the watery elements are meant for wise men to ponder, and fools to pass by.”

Ken Maurer, Herndon, is a licensed fishing guide and a regular contributor to the Outdoors section.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

11 Responses to “Susquehanna’s Mystery Thing”

  1. Roddy Hays responds:

    Maybe a Siamese carp ? Could someone have released one into the waterway ? Are there any in the US at all ? They reach that length and can attain weights of over 300 lbs.

    This is just an offer for your “carp” theory, grin. There’s all sorts of other possibilities, of course……..

  2. swnoel responds:

    Could it have been a sturgeon?

    They reach to large size and do on occasion jump out of the water.

  3. coelacanth1938 responds:

    A Dakwa maybe?

  4. shdwmnkyX responds:

    Possibly a Catfish. In the dark its skin could look like a seal. And I don’t think a five or six foot Cat fish is out of the question.

  5. Fhqwhgads responds:

    It would be nice to know the seasons in which the sightings have occurred. Rare sightings may indicate this is not a permanent resident.

    Of course, manatees have been seen in other waterways that flow into the Chesapeake, and I don’t think they lift their heads entirely out of the water — they just get the nostrils above the waterline.

  6. springheeledjack responds:

    YEs, the more info we get, the actual shot of making a known guess on the critter…but a large swimming creature could literally almost be anything.

    How about a rough size guess-timate, coloring, shape, time of day, season (good call Fhqwhgads), etc. That is a lot of what creates more mire for the crypto to slog through…getting detailed accounts helps determine whether we actually have a big fish, some known critter invading new waters, or actually have something that does not fit the known creatures.

    SO, I guess the mantra for the rest of the year should be–give us detailed information!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Quacker1 responds:

    While I don’t know the catfish situation in the northeast, down here in the south catfish over 6 feet are not entirely unheard of. He mentioned gar being caught in the river as well. I don’t know what species of gar live in the Susquehanna, but alligator gar can get over seven feet long, and since they often live in low-oxygen environments, they’ve evolved the ability to take in gulps of air to supplement their oxygen needs. I’m not sure if other gar do this as well. However, both of these fish can get massive, and could easily confuse someone who has never seen a fish of that size surface, (especially if you can’t see the entire fish). However, while gar would be more inclined to surface, since they surface quite often, you’d think more people would have noticed over time. Since he mentions he only sees this creature once every few years, and others see it only sporadically, I’m throwing in my vote to very large, very old catfish that’s occasionally spotted surfacing for whatever reason, (perhaps multiple very large catfish). Of course, the Susquehanna is a very old river, so there are probably tens of species it could be. We’ll probably never know.

  8. cryptidsrus responds:

    I wish Maurer would have been thoughtful enough to have brought along a video recorder and/or camera to record the “whatever.” Would have saved a lot of speculation and unfortunate “ridicule” for the man.
    But—as it is, great story. He’s right—there is so much we do not know about what our rivers and oceans contain it’s really not funny. Great post, Loren.

  9. Fhqwhgads responds:

    Yes, and on re-reading the account, I don’t think manatees ever move fast enough to send waves lapping on the shore, either.

  10. mikfoss responds:

    Not far from there in Kinzua, PA, you can stand on the damn and watch catfish that are six feet and longer. I grew up in northwestern Pennsylvania and remember many times going up to the damn and watching them for hours.

  11. Ironhorse_Gunner responds:

    I know this is an old thread. But came across it looking for something else, and I can state, emphatically, that not only have a seen one, I have seen it both on land and in the water and up close, from 10 feet away.

    My background. I am retired military, an Engineer and Businessman and I have no reason to tell this story other than to say “we” did see it, clearly and know what it is. That is not to say it is the same thing everyone else saw, but I know plenty of other people who knew about these things and have seen them plenty.

    I grew up in Baltimore and Harford County, Maryland. I have spent a lot of time in the Forests and Deserts all over the U.S., Asia and the Middle east, other than this one sighting I have never seen any animal outside of it’s normal habitat (And who know’s, in this case it may be it’s normal habitat). My father was an outdoorsman, hunter and fisherman and we spent a lot of time on the Susquehana at the Conowingo Baja. I mean a LOT of time, and many nights. To this day I could take someone to the very spot that we, and others saw this animal.

    People in the area already knew about it. Nothing unusual to see one. As you are coming towards the Baja there used to be a Dairy Queen, you would take a left and the paved road would change to a dirt road, in the 1970’s there was a house right where it changed to dirt on the left. There was a 93 year old woman living there in 1973 or 74, and she told us plenty about them, my father and our family had never seen one. They even had a nickname. At one time three were spotted at the same time by the residents back in the 60’s, they called them “The Three Nuns” and that is what the old lady told me in ’73 or ’74.

    So one morning in July of ’74 my father, as usual wakes me up at 1 in the morning and says we are going fishing (He used to pull me out of school in the middle of the day to go fishing and hunting), he goes to his friends house and his friend Harold and his younger brother went with us, we took Harold’s car. My father decided this fishing trip would be a good time to drink some Jack Daniels and Harold agreed. I sat in the front with Harold driving and my father was in back with Harold’s younger brother, he was drinking Jack and in case we got pulled over didnt want to be in the front seat. I of curse at 11 years old or so was not drinking, at the time Harold was not drinking and Harold’s younger brother was not much older than me and wasnt drinking.

    We went on down the dirt road, crossed the railroad tracks and the road is narrow on the water side so we crept on up to our normal fishing spot. It was just before a train bridge and embedded on the bank on the left was a concrete block, on the right on our side of the bridge is a bend the train comes around and just before that was where we always camped. It was an open area at the base of a small mountain and the Railroad kept stacks of railroad ties there. When we were camping we would build a fire out of railroad ties and they would burn all night. We were not camping this night, we just went fishing and around 4 AM we were sitting next to our spot when a train started coming around the bend.

    It was very dark and when the train light started shining around the bend, something on the tracks got up and I yelled to my father to look, something is getting up off the tracks. It was obviously black and pretty large, at first my father thought it was a bear then Harold hit the headlights and it was obviously no bear. My father was afraid of nothing in the woods, but when Harold saw it get up for some reason he panicked and wanted to leave, in fact he was yelling for us to “Get the F out of there”. Instead my father hands me the flashlight and tells me to follow him, pulls out his knife, he always carried a large knife into the woods, fishing or wherever we were going, and still, Harold was going off the wall, Harold younger brother like me, wanted to know what it was.

    This thing was only ten feet away, the train had it lit up, the car headlights were on it and I was shining a flashlight on it. My father and I were standing there looking at it and he yells to Harold “It’s a Walrus, what the hell is a walrus doing at Conowingo?”. I said I dont think thats a Walrus, doesnt look like a Walrus and isnt big enough”. Plus it didnt have tusks. (I dont know if all Walruses do or not but this definitely was no a Walrus). Harold is still in the car yelling, started backing up, his younger brother wanted to get out but Harold wouldnt let him.

    My father started walking towards it and Harold was screaming that he was a crazy MF’r and he was going to leave us there. We were no more than 3 or 4 feet away and it was struggling across the road. We couldnt figure out what it was but it looked like a really big Seal. The difference was that instead of having a face like a Seal, that face like a Dog look, it had a flat nose. Later that day my father was telling my mother that it looked like it had got tore up on rocks or some big fish were hitting on it and maybe thats why it was out of the water. It had flippers, the shape but slightly larger than a Seal and a flat nose.

    This thing went to the edge and dropped right off, slid down and plopped into the water and was gone. The whole time Harold was yelling and hollering and blowing the horn and as soon as we got in the car Harold threw it in gear, backed up full speed, with my father yelling for him to stop before he drove us into the river, he backed up to the crossing then hit it full speed up that dirt road. We made it to some closed gas station, but barely. When we pulled in smoke and steam was pouring out of the hood. My father waved someone down who went and got a cop. The cop got us a tow truck and filed a report, my father told us everything he saw. If those Police Reports are around today in some archive, it would be there.

    The cop left, the tow truck took the car and terrified Harold and the rest of us started walking and walked to the old ladies house. By this time the sun was coming up and when we got to the ladies house she was standing out on the porch smoking a cigarette. 93 years old if not older and lived alone. We went into the house and I sat on the couch next to the door, Harold was still shaking in his boots and my dad told her what we had seen and she told Harold he could calm down it was just one of the Three Nuns, they are out there all the time. But that was the first and last time we had seen one.

    I am of the opinion it was a member of the Sirenia family. I say this for several reasons. First and foremost at least from the 1970’s it seemed like everyone who lived there knew these animals were there, it was no secret and some of these people were old and had lived there all their lives, by old I mean some of these people were in their 80’s and 90’s and knew from when they were young they were there.

    Secondly, in the 70’s when I was growing up, more than once Manatees, along with Whales and Sharks and everything else came into the Baltimore Harbor. Although if one were spotted it was usually a big deal to the residents of Canton, it was not considered unusual.

    Third, in 2009, Illya the Manatee was tracked from Miami, entering the Chesapeake Bay then entered the Susquehana.

    In my opinion, if someone finds one, gets a picture of one or whatever, they will find that it is nothing special in the Susquehana and it most likely will not be some unknown mammal, or new find, but more than likely a wayward member of the Sirenia family.

    I have no idea why this particular one was on land and laying across the railroad tracks. I am not an expert on Mammals, or Ocean creatures or anything else. There isnt much I have not seen in Forrests and Deserts around the world, but never anything that wasnt supposed to be there. But I can say this unequivocally, I saw it, on land, from 3 or 4 feet away, lit up with bright lights and there is no two ways about it, they are or were there.

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