Member of The Crypto Crew:

Please Also Visit our Sister Blog, Frontiers of Anthropology:

And the new group for trying out fictional projects (Includes Cryptofiction Projects):

And Kyle Germann's Blog

And Jay's Blog, Bizarre Zoology

Monday, 3 March 2014

Central European Water Monsters

The matter of Swiss Water-monsters and dragons  came up recently in regards to the "Nothosaur" said to reside in in Lake Como in Italy.
 I said a sequel was following then but there were delays, and so to contribute toward tat discussion, here is the information from George Eberhart's Mysterious Creatures (2002) concerning Water Monsters in the general area of the highlands of Central Europe:

Chiemsee, Bayern State. Max Pertl hooked a
huge fish on June 22, 1991, probably a Wels catfish
(Siluris glanis). Ulrich Magin, Trolle, Yetis,
Tatzelwürmer (Munich, Germany: C. H. Beck,
1993), pp. 48–49.
Frickenhausen, Bayern State, lake near. Johann
Nepomuk Sepp, Altbayerischer Sagenschatz zur
Bereicherung der indogermanischen Mythologie
(Munich, Germany: E. Stahl, 1876).
Mummelsee, Baden-Württemberg State.
Athanasius Kircher, Mundus subterraneus (Amsterdam:
J. Janssonium and E. Weyerstraten, 1665);
Hans Jakob Christoph von Grimmelshausen, Der
Abenteuerliche Simplicissimus Teutsch (Nuremberg,
Germany: Johann Fillion, 1669).
Seealpsee, Bayern State. Contains a sleeping
DRAGON. Karl Reiser, Sagen, Gebräuche und
Johann Nepomuk Sepp, Altbayerischer Sagenschatz
zur Bereicherung der indogermanischen Mythologie
(Munich, Germany: E. Stahl, 1876).
Starnbergersee, Bayern State. Legendary animal.
“Drache,” in Hanns Bächtold-Stäubli, ed., Handwörterbuch
des deutschen Aberglaubens (Berlin: W.
de Gruyter, 1929–1930).
Uelmansee, Rheinland-Pfalz State. Two huge
fish appeared before the death of an Uelman heir.
Philipp Wirtgen, Die Eifel in Bildern und Darstellungen
(Bonn, Germany: A. Henry, 1864–1866).
Walchensee, Bayern State. A “giant whale” [sturgeon?]or
serpent allegedly lives here. Friedrich Panzer, Bayerische
Sagen und Bräuche (Munich, Germany: C.
Kaiser, 1848–1855); Johann Nepomuk Sepp, Altbayerischer
Sagenschatz zur Bereicherung der indogermanischen
Mythologie (Munich, Germany: E.
Stahl, 1876).
Weiße Elster, Sachsen-Anhalt State. Huge fish.
August Witzschel, Sagen aus Thuringen (Vienna:
W. Bräumüller, 1866); Robert Eisel, Sagenbuch des
Voigtlandes (Gera, Germany: C. B. Griesbach,
Ziereinersee, Brandenburg State. Legendary animal.
“Drache,” in Hanns Bächtold-Stäubli, ed.,
Handwörterbuch des deutschen Aberglaubens
(Berlin: W. de Gruyter, 1929–1930).
Zwischenahner Meer, Niedersachsen State. A
12-foot animal was seen several times in April
1979. Possibly a Wels catfish (Siluris glanis). Die
Rheinpfalz, August 30, 1979; Ulrich Magin, “A
Brief Survey of Lake Monsters of Continental Europe,”
Fortean Times, no. 46 (Spring 1986):

Lago Amadoier. Ulrich Magin, “A Brief Survey
of Lake Monsters of Continental Europe,” Fortean
Times, no. 46 (Spring 1986): 52–59.
Lago di Como, Lombardy. Rumors of a scaly
monster seemed to be verified when a large Sturgeon
(Acipenser sturio) was caught in November
1946, though a smugglers’ submarine was also
confiscated the following year. “Sea Monster Reported,”
New York World-Telegram, November
20, 1946; Gary S. Mangiacopra, “The Lake Como
Monster,” Pursuit, no. 71 (1985): 122–123.
Lago Maggiore, Piedmont.
Ulrich Magin, “A Brief Survey of Lake Monsters
of Continental Europe,” Fortean Times, no.
46 (Spring 1986): 52–59.
Po di Goro, Emilia-Romagna. A black, 10-foot
“snake with legs” was reported in June 1975 by
Maurizio Trombini. Experts claimed it was an escaped
crocodile. La Stampa (Turin), June 28–29,
1975; Edoardo Russo, “Meanwhile in Italy: The
Goro Monster,” Pursuit, no. 35 (Summer 1976): 62.
Die Rheinpfalz, July 21, 1982; Ulrich Magin,
“A Brief Survey of Lake Monsters of Continental
Europe,” Fortean Times, no. 46 (Spring 1986):
Tiber River, Rome. In the sixth century, a
DRAGON appeared when the river was flooded. Its
body was like a large beam of wood. Gulielmus
Durantis, Rationale divinorum officiorum (Augsburg,
Germany: Günther Zainer, 1470).

River Glan, Kärnten State.
Goggau See, Kärnten State. Fish with a sawtooth
dorsal ridge. Georg Graber, Sagen aus Kärnten
(Graz, Austria: Leykam-Verlag, 1944).
Toplitzsee, Steiermark State. A 48-foot animal
bit through an underwater video cable and threatened
two divers. John Kirk, In the Domain of Lake
Monsters (Toronto, Canada: Key Porter Books,
1998), p. 244.[Possibly an exaggerated account of a big fish]
Urisee, Tirol State. “Seeschlange,” in Hanns
Bächtold-Stäubli, ed., Handwörterbuch des
deutschen Aberglaubens (Berlin: W. de Gruyter,

Czech Republic
Zachrast’any, East Bohemian region, stream
near. Marie de Vaux Phalipau, Les chevaux merveilleux
dans l’histoire, la légende, les contes populaires
(Paris: J. Peyronnet, 1939), p. 258.

Doubs River, Canton Jura. A snakelike animal
with a blue back and yellow stomach was seen
in 1934. It moved by undulating.
New York Herald Tribune, June 20,
Lake Geneva, Canton Vaud. Ulrich Magin, “A
Brief Survey of Lake Monsters of Continental Europe,”
Fortean Times, no. 46 (Spring 1986):
Reuss River, Canton Luzern. In 1468, a DRAGON
emerged from the Vierwaldstätter See and swam
into the River Reuss. Other appearances took place
in 1480 and 1566. Renward Cysat, Collectanea
chronica und denkwürdige Sachen pro chronica
Luchernensi et Helvetiae [1614] (Lucerne, Switzerland:
Diebold Schilling Verlag, 1961–1972); Johann
Jakob Scheuchzer, Helvetica (Leiden, the
Netherlands: Petri Vander Aa, 1723); Alois Lütolf,
Sagen, Bräuche, Legenden aus den fünf Orten Luzern,
Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden und Zug (Lucerne,
Switzerland: J. Schiffmann, 1862); Theodor von
Liebenau, Das alte Luzern topographisch-kulturgeschichtlich
Geschildert (Lucerne, Switzerland:
C. F. Prell, 1881).
Rotsee, Canton Luzern. In 1599, a serpent
emerged from the lake and provoked a panic; an
animal that looked like a wooden beam also lived
there. Renward Cysat, Collectanea chronica und
denkwürdige Sachen pro chronica Luchernensi et
Helvetiae [1614] (Lucerne, Switzerland: Diebold
Schilling Verlag, 1961–1972); Johann Leopold
Cysat, Beschreibung dess berühmbten Lucerner- oder
4.Waldstätten Sees (Lucerne, Switzerland: David
Hautten, 1661).
Selisbergsee, Canton Uri.  See ELBST.
F reshwater Monster of Switzerland.
Etymology: From the Old German albiz
(“swan”).[Alternately a reference to the Alps, ie, "Alpine"]
Physical description: Serpentine. Sometimes
looks like a drifting log. Reddish color.
Head the size of a pig’s. Scales. Clawed feet.
Behavior: Favors stormy weather. Creates a
big wake. Travels on land at night. Eats sheep and cattle.
Distribution: Selisbergsee, Canton Uri, Switzerland.
Significant sightings: First reported in 1585
and last seen in 1926 by workers building a new
Sources: Renward Cysat, Collectanea chronica
und denkwürdige Sachen pro chronica Luchernensi
et Helvetiae [1614], vol. 4 (Lucerne,
Switzerland: Diebold Schilling Verlag,
1961–1972); C. Kohlrusch, ed., Schweizerisches
Sagenbuch (Leipzig, Germany: R. Hoffmann,
1854); Josef Müller, Sagen aus Uri aus dem
Volksmunde gesammelt, vol. 1 (Basel,
Switzerland: Gesellschaft für Folkskunde, 1926).

[Lake Zurich Monster noted on Cryptozoology message board]

[A similar water monster is reported in Romania, I do not know the name for it]

Former Yugoslavia
Carska bara, Serbia. Smashing, bubbling, and
croaking sounds are heard. Karl Shuker, “Serbian
Swamp Squid,” Fortean Times, no. 150 (October
2001): 21.

In the seventeenth century, the Olm
(Proteus anguineus), a cave-dwelling, aquatic
salamander of Yugoslavia and northern Italy,
was thought to be the offspring of a Dragon.
It has an eel-like body, white skin, three
pairs of external gills, four tiny legs, and
vestigial eyes. It grows to about 12 inches
long. When washed out of their caves by
heavy rainfall, Olms gather in deep pools,
but they will not voluntarily leave the water.

This potentially means that the young of dragons resemble olms.
Young dragons are supposed to be wormlike and they are called "Wyrms"

Most "Dragons" reported in this area are big water lizards that are often reported as being loglike, often in the range of 5-10 feet long: probably none of them are very large. Ordinarily they seem to be like the larger form of Tatzelwurm (with four legs) but this kind ordinarily lives in the water and does not usually leave it (They are commonly blamed for losses in livestock, however) they are ordinarily brownish or black on the back and paler on the belly, also said to be spotted . The head is big, round and blunt, and often compared to the head of a pig.    

Secondary regions where the same species seem to occur include the Celtic lands of the British Isles and around the Baltic Sea. They have been becoming scarcer throughout historic times.

It is probably the modern survival of Andrias Scheuchzeri the famous "Man witness to the Flood" fossil found near Lake Constance, which is on the border of Switzerland  

 Andrias scheuchzeri is an extinct species of giant salamander, which only is known fromfossils. It lived from the Oligocene to the Pliocene.[1] It and the extant A. davidianus [The Chinese Giant Salamander] cannot be mutually diagnosed, and the latter, only described in 1871, is therefore sometimes considered a synonym of the former.[2]
History: In his book Lithographia Helvetica from 1726, Johann Jakob Scheuchzer described a Miocene fossil found in Oeningen as Homo diluvii testis (LatinMan, a witness of the Deluge), believing it to be the remains of a human that drowned in the biblical Deluge. The fossil was about 1 m (3 ft) long, lacked its tail and hind legs, and could thus be interpreted as showing some resemblance to the remains of a violently trampled human child.
In 1758, the first to doubt his theory was Johannes Gessner, who thought it was a giant catfish (Siluris). In 1777 Petrus Camper thought it was a lizard (Lacerta), and at that time there was no differentiation between reptiles and amphibians by the scientific community. In 1802Martin van Marum bought this fossil along with a fossilized swordfish for 14 Louis d'or for the Teylers Museum, where it can still be seen in the original showcase. In 1811, the fossil was examined by Georges Cuvier, who recognized it definitively as not being human. After hacking away gently at the fossil, he uncovered the foremost limbs and the specimen was recognized as a giant salamander. The difference in color of the stone shows what Scheuchzer saw and what Cuvier later could see.
The specimen was renamed Salamandra scheuchzeri by Holl in 1831. The genus Andrias was only coined six years later by Johann Jakob von Tschudi. In doing so, both the genus,Andrias (which means image of man), and the specific namescheuchzeri, ended up honouring Scheuchzer and his beliefs. The Teylers Museum has several other specimens in their collection in addition to this one. 
In Fiction: The fictional descendents of Andrias scheuchzeri are the primary antagonists in Karel Čapek's 1936 science fiction novel War with the Newts. 


  1. Jump up^
  2. Jump up^ Amphibian Species of the World 5.1. Genus Andrias. Accessed 2008-04-10
"Homo Diluvii Testis"

  [Cryptobranchus is the Hellbender of North America and it is generally conceded that this is a separate but related genus of Giant salamander]

                        Above, the living version of the species from China, which is a "Known" animal
Below, range maps for the Chinese giant salamander and then the Japanese giant salamander map at bottom. I found a second Chinese giant salamander map showing reports from outlying districts and superimposed that on the other map. The base maps are from BBC Nature and the red dots map is attributed to TEN - Treasure Sites [Threatened Species - Endangered Reptiles & Amphibians] on the reference site where I got the information (Think Quest) [NB, the European creature is NOT a Cryptid if this is its true identity]

Homo_diluvii_testis_by_Gastrolito on Deviant Art


  1. Dear Dale,
    Very interesting post and thanks for the list. I am currently going through and trying to find additional sources on the beasts. Now I came to the following conclusion: The list incorporates pretty much every alpine lake that has a legend of a monster. Now, unlike many lochs in Scotland, most of the legends are along the lines of " there is 1 monster in the lake, hero comes, kills the monster, monster wont be seen ever again". So I would be careful which of these reports may account for some biological entity (also many of the beasts and dragons are winged and described as classic medieval dragons). Furthermore, we have an astonishing high rate of mermaids/nixen in those lakes that have been thrown in with other beasts... Makes me wonder what would have inspired those legends..seals and aquatic monkeys I would think are rather unlikely in alpine lakes and salamanders are by far to ugly to count as mermaids...would rather be "Lindworms".
    Now the "Giant Serpent of Rotsee" (1599) proves interesting, since I can actually find sources that arent complete legends. They say that tracks of a great wurm have been found and that several honorable persons testified to have seen it. One person saw it rolled together on a stone and then it just let itself fall into the water. Other persons said that they found the tracks and they usual stopped at the lake, which made them assume (some doubts on their side here) that the beast lives in the lake. Now the most interesting part: They said that most of the time the beast was living in a pit at the lake which was full of fishbones of its meals. Last but not least, the ferryman of the lake testified in 1661 that he had seen an ugly and terrible monster, and that it should not be confused with many small fish swimming together to create the shape of one big fish, the likes of those having often been seen. He actually differentiates the monster from the log-shaped beasts that under scrutiny always seem to be small fish swimming together. So the form isnt specified too well.
    Concerning the Elbst ( a fascinating beast): In short, in 1914 there were people around 60 years old alive who said they had seen the beast as children. Also in 1921 and the construction workers report states, something along the line that even though they dont constitute a believable source, their foreman had also seen it at the same time and therefore the statement is trustworthy... The comparison to a pig seems more about the size than appearance, i.e. head the size of a pig, the body the size of a pig, etc. And we are probably talking about at least two beasts here, 1) a big fish, which also causes a shortage of small fish and 2) a serpent/salamander/dragon thing, that kills livestock, has nasty claws (marks seen on livestock corpses) and strangles its prey (probably a mistake arisen from the serpentine shape). Also the texts say that "it writhes/rolls itself" on land ("wälzt sich an Land") so it seems a bit clumsy on land.
    Toplitzsee...well the lake doesnt have oxygen after a depth of 20m, however, there live 23cm long worms of the genus Lumbricus which would be a nice food source for whatever...
    So, thanks for the list and will let you know if I find out anything new, special, etc.

  2. Eberhart makes no distinction between folklore and sworn depositions or reports but I are leaving out part of the equation: there is a sort of a "Chupacabras" in operation here and it is the thing involved in killing the livestock, the Water Monster need not come out on land at all. Which makes the giant salamander once again a good candidate, seeing as we do have some of the sightings specifying something very much like a giant salamander overall (For which see Ulrich Magin on Tatzelwurms) These matters have already been discussed on this blog before.

  3. I am imagining freshwater monkeys are at the base of stories about Nixies in general, but once again there is a distinction to be made between actual reports and local legends. Interestingly enough, some of the Chinese stories about the giant salamanders do represent them as a sort of Merfolk and of course "Homo deluvii testis" was mistaken for the remains of a human at first

  4. Very interesting. Thanks! For completeness sake I thought I'd mention the mountain lakes of Lona, Larduzan and Esserce in the Canton of Valais, which are well known for a beast called "La Vuivra". Pretty close to the british Wyvern, however, it is supposed to have a "crowned" head and lives in lakes most of the time, even though it is able to fly (somewhere on this blog you mentioned the confusion between eel fins close to the head and wings, guess here it might be a similiar case, or it actually is/was a bird). The thing is actually separate from the more commonly known "Vouivre" (also mentioned in Eberhart) which you already mentioned on this blog before and which is very prominent in Switzerland in the Cantons of Valais, Neuchatel, Jura and most of the french speaking part. Swiss national tv actually made a very short documentary about the legend of the Vouivre. Personally I think it might be distinct from the "Boa" and definately distinct from the "Tatzelwurm". Sad, that there isnt that much material about alpine/european cryptids.. Here the link to the short documentary:

    1. I am of the opinion that the "Boas" is a giant eel and the "Voivre" (=Wyvern) is a bird, but both names have been applied to other things and the reports confuse different things.There are some suspect "Giant Eel" reports in Northern Italy and the High Alps, but more definitely so in Southern France, Southern Italy and Sicily.The Wyvern (at least sometimes=Cockatrice, perhaps they are two sexes of one species) is specified to have hornlike extensions or a "Crown"on the head in traditions, but pheasants do have hornlike structures on their heads also. The Water Monsters that are most like the giant salamanders are said to be large 4-legged lizards shaped somewhat along the lines of crocodiles but ordinarily look like logs in the water until they come to life. There is a separate tradition for these in the Black Forest region also, as well as Bavaria, and I think they are indistinguishable from the larger kind of Tatzelwurm sightings. The 2-legged Tatzelwurms are distinct, and can occur in terrestrial environs that have no connection to the water.


This blog does NOT allow anonymous comments. All comments are moderated to filter out abusive and vulgar language and any posts indulging in abusive and insulting language shall be deleted without any further discussion.