If ever a creature was found that could cause so much destruction and yet remain so elusive, it would take the whole field of cryptozoology for a troubling ride. But that’s precisely what is said to be responsible for the high mortality rate in two of Oklahoma’s manmade lakes. The only problem? Both lakes are freshwater and manmade. So how would such a deadly octopus be occupying both of them? The question takes several turns down the path of strange and into a horrifying league of its own.
Ancient seafaring legends have always warned of mysterious creatures in the salty depths that will drown fishermen and explorers alike and pull their carcasses to the briny depths of the ocean. But while these stories are thrilling tales of terror to anyone unfamiliar with the sea, most who have made a living searching the waves with nets and hooks will tell you these creatures – while likely in existence – are nowhere near as common or as aggressive as legend would tell you. And even when they are, it’s difficult for a so-called “sea monster” to successfully target a ship. But the creature or collection of creatures known as the Oklahoma Octopus are even smaller and somehow even more deadly than that.
The creatures, which have been estimated to have a length of somewhere between one and four feet may not have the strength required to attack a canoe and almost certainly not enough to take on a larger fishing boat, but over the past few decades an increasing number of deaths have been attributed to their affecting another group – swimmers. Inexperienced travelers are warned away from the area by locals who give a simple story of a four foot freshwater octopus that will attack those unwise enough to swim into its grip, drown them, and then actually eat the victims after they have been pulled underwater. Rather than depending on incredible latching jaws or the ability to claw its victims, the fresh water octopus depends primarily on its ability to tangle swimmers, making it that much more difficult to get back to shore or their overturned boat.
And yet strangely, despite eyewitness reports to the contrary and the discovery of few confirmed cephalopod corpses, there is surprisingly little evidence to back the theory that a freshwater octopus actually exists. There have, however, been other creatures normally thought to exist only in the sea that have made the transition to the lakes of the Midwest. Most states now have at least one lake where a type of freshwater jellyfish has touched down and started breeding in the waters. While their means of actually getting to the lake itself usually remain unknown, we can safely say the creatures have often found it easy to thrive in what would normally be unfamiliar waters. And while the jellyfish are not as active or as powerful as the octopi, it does illustrate further that just like the line from the film Jurassic Park, once you introduce a new form of life in a new environment, “Life will find a way.”