What Was That!
Are North American lake monsters living among us?
Every month, Innovative Editing features a creative writer or non-fiction writer who caught its editorial eye. These authors can be self-published or traditionally published, Innovative Editing clients or outside recommendations.
But regardless, they stand out!
If you think you do too, let me know about you and your published work right here.
This month, we're featuring a subject that's kind of impossible not to get intrigued by: things that go bump in the night. I dare you not to be curious about People Are Seeing Something. It author, Denver Michaels, combines the perfect blend of open-minded awareness with scientific skepticism to explore the often murky waters of North American lake monsters.
Thought that Nessie was the only lake monster out there? You might want to rethink that notion – before you go swimming again.
April’s Author of the Month: Denver Michaels
Featured Title: People Are Seeing Something
Genre: Nonfiction – Social Sciences – Folklore & Mythology
Age Appropriate: All
Bio: Denver Michaels is an author with a passion for cryptozoology, the paranormal, lost civilizations, and all things unexplained. At age 42, the Virginia native released his first book People are Seeing Something – a culmination of many years of research on the lake monster phenomenon. Since then, he has gone on to write two other books. Michaels is employed as an engineering technologist and works full-time. He is married with three children. In his spare time, Michaels enjoys the outdoors and traveling, and he continues to perform research and writing for future works.
Jeannette: Denver, thanks so much for being a part of the Innovative Editing community! Let’s dive right into the monster-filled waters. People Are Seeing Something is all about cryptids – a new word I got to add to my vocabulary thanks to you. So why don't you explain what that word means and how you came to write about the sometimes serpentine subject.
Denver: Cryptozoology is the study of hidden animals. Therefore, cryptids are the "hidden animals" themselves. Think Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster – creatures that are not proven to exist.
Having a lifelong passion for cryptozoology, the paranormal, and the unexplained, I took the plunge a few years ago and combined my interests with my love for writing.
Jeannette: And a very well-documented plunge it was. I have to admit to being highly skeptical reading Something more than once – though not with the critters explored.
I really appreciate your willingness to expose hoaxes and give credibility where credibility is due; but some of the fish explanations for certain sightings seemed pretty far-fetched. How can a fish – even a really long, thin fish like a sturgeon – that swims by making side-to-side movements be mistaken for a huge snakelike creature with multiple humps dipping up and down in the water?
Denver: I think you really hit on the crux of the matter with your question. Lake monster sightings are often explained away using known animals such as sturgeons even though the explanation often doesn’t fit with eyewitness testimony. This tactic is sometimes even used in lakes that don’t have resident sturgeon populations.
With that in mind, I believe we need to think outside the box when looking for answers. Is it possible that some sort of prehistoric species escaped extinction, and that is what people are seeing today?
Jeannette: Personally, I’d love for that to be the answer. I used to be absolutely in love with dinosaurs when I was younger, and I now have my two-year-old niece reviving that interest. So let’s dive a little deeper. There really do seem to be only three good explanations for all of these North American lake monster sightings throughout the centuries – with no recognized proof of anything actually existing:
People are seeing something, but these cryptid critters really value their privacy.
People are seeing something, but the government is covering up the evidence for whatever reason.
People aren’t seeing something, and there’s a bunch of liars or hysterics in our midst.
Denver: I rule out government cover-ups when it comes to lake monsters. I think the answer is a mix of 1 and 3. Hoaxes surely factor into the equation, and so does hysteria. Hysteria sweeps through communities at times, often originating through a case of misidentification of a known animal. When it comes down to it, I genuinely believe that 90-95% of cases can be explained by natural phenomena, misidentification, and hoaxes. What about the remaining 5-10%? That brings me right back to my last answer in that I believe a small group of something prehistoric is using our large water bodies and perhaps underwater caverns to conceal themselves.
Jeannette: When I’m a billionaire, I think I’ll commission some exploratory studies into exactly that. Until then, which do you think is the most compelling story you documented in People Are Seeing Something?
Denver: I really love the tale of the White River Monster. The creature took a small town in Arkansas by storm in the 1930s – with the local chamber of commerce even getting involved – and then abruptly disappeared. In the 1970s, the White River Monster came back to town, causing an uproar until it disappeared yet again.
The Arkansas legislature has now carved out a safe place for Whitey, creating a refuge along the river where it’s illegal to disturb the enigmatic creature.
Jeannette: For me, it's Chessie, though I have to admit something embarrassing on that note. I never knew about it before – despite living in Baltimore for nine years. I always thought the little dragon paddleboat rentals in the Inner Harbor were a lame little knockoff of Nessie. Yet the stories about the Chesapeake’s own cryptid – or cryptids! – were among the most persuasive ones you documented.
What do you think? Is something going on out there? Denver: Yes! In fact, I think two factors are at play. A great many Chessie reports describe something humped about 12 feet long. I believe manatees can explain these sightings, since they’ve been spotted as far north as Cape Cod. With the abundance of aquatic grasses in the Chesapeake, it’s a natural stopping point for a wayward manatee. However, other reports – which include some compelling video footage – peg the creature as being 20-30 feet in length and much more serpentine in appearance. This lends itself more to the idea of a “sea serpent” having visited the Bay.
Jeannette: I might just have to rent a boat out there and see if Chessie will make a chance appearance for me. You never know. It could happen. How many of these places have you yourself gotten to visit? And have you ever seen anything suspicious?
Denver: I’ve been to well over half the locations in the book, many of which I’ve visited multiple times. And while I can’t say I’ve seen a lake monster, I have done a double-take a few times wondering if I caught a quick glimpse of something. It was probably just a wave...
Jeannette: What advice would you give to novice cryptozoologists or anyone who’s intrigued by the idea of cryptids in general?
Denver: First, I’d suggest reading up on the subject. Scour the internet for new sightings, and search newspapers and periodicals for old forgotten reports. You never know what might turn up.
Secondly, get out there! Spend time in the woods and on the water. Sure, chances are minuscule you’ll have your own encounter, but you'll increase the odds by being out where they are.
You'll also gain an appreciation for the vastness of the waters and how much open space is out there. It’s a great way of realizing that nearly anything could be lurking in the wild.
Jeannette: One of the many reasons that make life so fascinating! That and writing, of course. Do you have any additional insights for other non-fiction writers on this or any other topic? Any research, writing, publishing or marketing advice you’d like to give?
Denver: You have to really love your topic. Writing is hard work backed by grueling hours of research, followed by the frustration of trying to market your work. There is often little reward at the end. And did I mention the pay stinks? So having a passion for the subject matter is critical. It keeps it fun. Plus, your finished product is a reward unto itself. Jeannette: I’d imagine that getting other people interested in the same subject matter is a perk too, something you certainly did in my case. So I am more than happy to ask this last question...
Where can people find you and your cryptids stories?
Jeannette: Denver, thanks again for studying and documenting so many intriguing North American lake monsters – some of which apparently might be in our own local waters. And readers, you can find this oh-so interesting read right here!