The monster Amhuluk, whose home is a lake near Forked Mountain, Oregon, had but one passion — to catch and drown all things, and when you look into the lake you see that he has even drowned the sky in it, and has made the trees stand upside down in the water. Wherever he set his feet the ground would soften. As three children were digging roots at the edge of the water he fell on them and impaled two of them on his horns, the eldest only contriving to escape. When this boy reached home his body was full of blotches, and the father suspected how it was, yet he went to the lake at once. The bodies of the children came out of the mud at his feet to meet him, but went down again and emerged later across the water. They led him on in this way until he came to the place where they were drowned. A fog now began to steam up from the water, but through it he could see the little ones lifted on the monster’s horns, and hear them cry, “We have changed our bodies.” Five times they came up and spoke to him, and five times he raised a dismal cry and begged them to return, but they could not. Next morning he saw them rise through the fog again, and, building a camp, he stayed there and mourned for several days. For five days they showed themselves, but after that, they went down and he saw and heard no more of them. Ambuluk had taken the children and they would live with him forever after.
Crater Lake, Oregon, was a haunt of water-devils who dragged into it and drowned all who ventured near. Only within a few years could Indians be persuaded to go to it as guides. Its discoverers saw in it the work of the Great Spirit, but could not guess its meaning. All but one of these Klamath stole away after they had looked into its circular basin and sheer walls. He fancied that if it was a home of gods they might have some message for men, so camping on the brink of the lofty cliffs he waited. In his sleep, a vision came to him, and he heard voices but could neither make out appearances nor distinguish a word. Every night this dream was repeated. He finally went down to the lake and bathed, and instantly found his strength increased and saw that the people of his dreams were the genii of the waters — whether good or bad he could not guess. One day he caught a fish for food. A thousand water-devils came to the surface, on the instant, and seized him. They carried him to a rock on the north side of the lake, that stands two thousand feet above the water, and from that they dashed him down, gathering the remains of his shattered body below and devouring them. Since that taste, they have been eager for men’s blood. The rock on the south side of the lake, called the Phantom Ship, is believed by the Indians to be a destructive monster, innocent as it looks in the daytime.
So with Rock Lake, in Washington. A hideous reptile sports about its waters and gulps down everything that it finds in or on them. Only, in 1853 a band of Indians, who had fled hither for security against the soldiers, were overtaken by this creature, lashed to death, and eaten.
The Indians of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas believed that the King Snake, or God Snake, lived in the Gulf of Mexico. It slept in a cavern of pure crystal at the bottom, and its head, being shaped from a solid emerald, lighted the ocean for leagues when it arose near the surface.
Similar to this is the belief of the Cherokee in the kings of rattlesnakes, “bright old inhabitants” of the mountains that grew to a mighty size, and drew to themselves every creature that they looked upon. Each wore a crown of carbuncle of dazzling brightness.
The Indians avoided Klamath Lake because it was haunted by a monster that was half dragon, half hippopotamus.
Hutton Lake, Wyoming, is the home of a serpent queen, whose breathing may be seen in the bubbles that well up in the center. She is constantly watching for her lover but takes all men who come in her way to her grotto beneath the water, when she finds that they are not the one she has expected, and there they become her slaves. To lure victims into the lake she sets there a decoy of a beautiful red swan, and should the hunter kill this bird he will become possessed of divine power. Should he see “the woman,” as the serpent queen is called, he will never live to tell of it, unless he has seen her from a hiding-place near the shore — for so surely as he is noticed by this Diana of the depths, so surely will her spies, the land snakes, sting him to death. In appearance, she is a lovely girl in all but her face, and that is shaped like the head of a monster snake. Her name is never spoken by the Indians, for fear that it will cost them their lives.
Michael Pauw, brave fisherman of Paterson, New Jersey, hero of the fight with the biggest snapping-turtle in Dover Slank, wearer of a scar on his seat of honor as memento of the conflict, member of the Kersey Reds — he whose presence of mind was shown in holding out a chip of St. Nicholas’s staff when he met the nine witches of the rocks capering in the mists of Passaic Falls — gave battle from a boat to a monster that had ascended to the cataract. One of the Kersey Reds, leaning out too far, fell astride of the horny beast, and was carried at express speed, roaring with fright, until unhorsed by a projecting rock, up which he scrambled to safety. Falling to work with bayonets and staves, the company dispatched the creature and dragged it to shore. One Dutchman — who was quite a traveler, having been as far from home as Albany — said that the thing was what the Van Rensselaers cut up for beef and that he believed they called it a sturgeon.
About the Author: Charles M. Skinner (1852-1907) authored the complete nine-volume set of Myths and Legends of Our Own Land in 1896. This tale is excerpted from these excellent works, which are now in the public domain.