Lake Pohenegamook lies about a mile north of the border of Maine, in the Province of Quebec, Canada. It is a very sparsely populated region, even today, and the landscape, particularly in the wintertime, is eerie. But this region's reputation is even weirder, including Werewolves among the lake monsters. Looming above the usually tranquil waters of the lake is the Mountain of the Cross, where a giant, illuminated Cross stands. But legend states the mountain is hollow, and there is where the "Beast of the Lake", known locally and internationally as "Ponik", makes its lair.
The scientific world seems to substantiate half of the above claim; namely that an underground "sea" beneath the mountains connects Lake Pohenegamook with Lake Temiscouata, which lies about 40 miles to the northeast. Supporting this conclusion is the fact that the water levels in both lakes remain the same, even during periods of drought and snow melts.
Lake Pohenegamook is fed by the Riviera Saint-Francois, and in deference to its shape (as seen from the mountaintops) being similar to the shape of a person in repose, it is said Pohenegamook means "sleeping man." However, others maintain that it means "mocking lake", because of the echoes heard when one shouts at the lake.
The water in the lake is full of rust, a result from the surrounding mountains which are rich in iron. It is said that being underwater in this lake was "frightening" to a team of professional divers who were searching for the body of a child. It is said the lake never gives up its dead, and so far the bodies the lake has claimed to date have never been recovered.
Typical of these far-northern, mountain lakes, white men didn't settle near Lake Pohenegamook until the 1800's. But prior to that, the local Indians, who were native to the area, told the usual tales of "the Great Beast" that inhabited the rust-colored waters that had the body of a serpent.
The first known sighting of the monster by a white man took place around 1873 or 1874. A lumberjack named Louis Berube claims he sighted " a huge fish" cavorting in the water. The creature was also seen shortly thereafter by Benoit Levasseur, one of the pioneers of the first white settlement on the lake. He saw a creature between 25-30 feet long plunge once, resurface, and then plunge down into the water again, a second and final time. From these early encounters to the present day, almost a thousand sightings have been reported.
Taken together, the reports describe a creature, or creatures, an average of 35 feet long. The longest estimates have been reported as being 45-60 feet. It has two or three humps, flippers, a neck like a barrel, and a head like a horse. A unique feature consistently reported from Lake Pohenegamook is that the creature(s) has a "saw-tooth" crest along the spine from the back of the head down to the tail. The creature does not remain above water for more than a few seconds, and when it disappears it leaves a V-shaped wake along the surface of the water.
The region is predominantly Roman Catholic, and two of the better modern-day sightings of Ponik come from priests. The first, Father Leopold Plante, saw the creature in 1957 while fishing near his church at St. Eleuthere. "The lake was as calm as a mirror." he explains, "You could see a toothpick floating. All of a sudden, about a thousand feet from shore, I saw this big, black thing floating. It was like two pieces, with a depression in the middle. Then as I was pulling my line in, it went swoosh under the water and it was gone."
Soon after this sighting, Ponik began to be seen more frequently, when demolitions took place along the shoreline by highway crews opening a new road around the lake. (A similar thing occurred at Loch Ness during the 1930's, and sightings of NESSIE escalated dramatically as well.)
The second priest, a Redemptorist, Father Calixte Berube, who saw the creature only a few years ago, witnessed Ponik in action along with fifteen other people. "It was about 4 o'clock in the afternoon," he recounts, "...we had a magnificent view of the lake. We saw the back with the dorsal fin. It frolicked like a fish, and shimmered in the sun. It disappeared and reappeared further along; one moment it began to turn around and around as if it were amusing itself. There wasn't time to take photographs. People stopped on the road to watch."
Photographs of the creature in Lake Pohenegamook are almost non-existent, unlike its frequently-photographed cousin, OGOPOGO. Those rare pictures of Ponik that do exist are of very poor quality, almost worthless, as the creature doesn't remain on top of the water long enough for one to get his bearings and shoot his camera. The photo below, however, which is probably the best there is so far, was taken at 10:20am on June 16, 1981 by Mrs. Sylvie Theriault-Lavoie, who watched the extensive wake of something very large just below the surface.
She is always ready with her binoculars, having seen Ponik before in 1975, and on the occasion of the above photo, no boat or floating debris of any kind could be detected on the water. Whatever was making the wake was "moving at a good speed."
An article that had been published in Providence, Rhode Island's Journal-Bulletin on November 18, 1979 reported that "As many as one- third of the people who live near the lake have seen mysterious shapes or water movements or even the creature itself." Legends state that Lake Pohenegamook is "bottomless", but in actuality, sonar soundings in the 1970's, and again in the 1980's, revealed the lake to have an average, official depth of 135 feet.
Long periods of inactivity in Lake Pohenegamook, while a handful of sightings take place in nearby Lake Temiscouata, lend credence to the earlier-mentioned theory that a subterranean cavern or river connects the two lakes underneath the Mountain of the Cross.