Plan on visiting Oakland anytime soon?
If you happen to go downtown, you might find one of the city’s prettiest (and oddest) features – Lake Merritt.
Actually a tidal lagoon, Merritt has the distinction of being the United States’ first official wildlife refuge, an honor bestowed upon it in 1870.
This scenic body of water, which covers 140 acres, boasts a killer jogging path, killer sailing, a killer amusement park and, well, possibly a killer.
Oakland’s Lake Merritt Monster: Oak-ness
Updated 9/19/2019 – Meet Oakland’s Lake Merritt Monster, the frightening creature of legend who, some say, inhabits these waters, preying on small animals that venture too close and – if the rumors are to be believed – occasionally on unsuspecting people as well.
The lake was originally connected to the San Francisco Bay, but over the centuries it gradually became isolated with decreasing tides, and by the mid-nineteenth century it was its own body of water.
According to legends surrounding him, this is when the Lake Merritt Monster, known as “Oak-ness” by locals, originally became trapped in the area.
Stories of Oak-ness date all the way back to before the Civil War, when Ohlone natives lived in the area, and the stories continue today.
Most of the stories, as previously stated, surround the disappearance of animals.
Even today, one usually only hears about missing pets or strays disappearing. But occasionally there are stories of a more sinister nature.
“In the summer of 1843,” says a man who prefers not to be identified, but claims to be an expert on the subject, “Ohlone legend states that a party of six hunters went out near the lake at night on an extended hunting trip.
Only one of them survived, and he came back to his tribe with such vivid and horrible tales of a monster living in the lake – a creature with the eyes of a dragon and the teeth of a shark, with the torso of lizard and a fish’s gills – that his fellow tribe members believed he had lost his mind.
In 1862,” he continues, “you hear rumors circulating around about a missing scouting party from an army regiment. Same area, same M.O. One or two guys come straggling back, telling the same bizarre story of being attacked by some kind of sea creature that was half-dragon, half-fish and all-mean.
And again, history buries it because nobody believes these people are sane. They’re all convinced the rest of the party has been massacred by natives. And this just goes on and on, down through the decades,” he says, his eyes animated.
“The creature has been trapped in there a long time,” he concludes. “And maybe he’s getting old, because the disappearances are rarer. You would think, these days, that every four or five night-time joggers would be attacked and eaten, but you really don’t hear about it too much.
Don’t get me wrong – you do hear about it, such as the Lake Monster sightings in 2013. But if the current trend is to be believed, and if it’s even still alive down there, it probably only attacks occasionally.”
Asked why no one hears about these attacks on the news, he just shrugs his shoulders. “Maybe it wised up and stopped leaving witnesses.”
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