Nature July 31, 2017
The Story Behind This North Carolina Lake Will Give You Chills
While North Carolina’s largest manmade lake is a popular respite for swimmers, boaters, and relaxers looking to enjoy the summer sun, there might be something terrifying beneath the shores of Lake Norman. While many of us have watched shows like “River Monsters” and heard stories of monster fish in far away lands, it’s not too far off to think one might exist right in our own state.
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Fed by the Catawba River, Lake Norman was formed between 1959 and 1964 and today exists and the largest, manmade body of water in North Carolina. Sometimes called the "inland sea" of North Carolina, Lake Norman has over 500 miles of shoreline, spans 50 square miles, four counties, covers 32,000 acres and provides electricity to the Piedmont region of North Carolina. When Lake Norman was created, many existing structures were not demolished, instead completely flooded, vanishing beneath the water. Structures included homes, bridges, mills, an entire battleground and Native American historical sights.
Flickr / Gene
One notable submerged structure belongs to the son of a Revolutionary War hero. John D. Graham's Elm Wood plantation home now exists in a shell of its former self beneath the water. There's also many family gravesites, while Duke Energy removed headstones, many bodies still remained in the ground. There's even an entire bridge, the original Highway 150 Catawba Bridge that connected Irredell and Catawba County. Prior to the lake being flooded, the bridge was only partially demolished. Another partially demolished bridge, Beatties Ford Bridge, today you can find the bridge lingering 75 feet beneath the waters surface. There's also the plot of land in which the Battle of Cowan's Ford took place in February of 1781. But...we aren't even at the spooky stuff yet.
If you've frequented Lake Norman, it's possible you've heard the legend of Lake Norman's monster fish with a sweet name, "Normie." While Normie might have an endearing presence in the fictional persona (there's even a children's book about Normie), sightings of a scaly, larger-than-life water dweller have been reported for over 40 years.
Lake Norman's own monster fish has been related to the famed, Loch Ness, or, Nessie. While both creatures might possess adorable names, sightings leave many on Lake Norman in shock and fright. The Lake Norman Monster even has
its own website
where people post their sightings. The creature is normally described as sturgeon-like, monster snake with fins, reptilian, or even dinosaur-like. Some descriptions even get creative, relating Normie to Nessie by describing it as "three-humped serpent." While there's been 50-some sightings in the past 40 years, one chilling aspect is the frequency of which the sightings have occurred. Two were reported in the last month. One of the most recent reportings might date back to the 1970s, but the man from Clemmons who submitted it did tell a bone-chilling story.
He starts by describing the history of the lake and tales of its creation, "In the late 1970’s, when my grandfather was still alive, he used to tell the grandkids about how he was a foreman in the 1930’s for a mobile lumber camp that had the job of clearing trees from the valley that is now Lake Norman. Mom grew up as a cook for the camp and she always swore that when they flooded the valley, several settlements, complete with houses, barns etc…were just left on the bottom when the lake was filled. I didn’t think much about it, but mom said that when they started flooding the lake, people started dumping buckets of fish into the lake so that the lake wouldn’t be bare of fish."
When you think about it, something like dumping buckets of fish seems pretty harmless. What could go wrong? The man who reported the story worked as a diver, and saw firsthand what could possibly be Normie, inside a submerged building.
"I went SCUBA diving in the lake looking for the old buildings in hopes of bringing back some old bottles and such. After consulting old 1920’s maps from the library, we picked a few sites to dive on, and loaded up our equipment and RHIB, and set up camp at the lake. On the 3rd dive, we found a small group of 3 buildings, one of which was a house, still with glass in the windows and a collapsed front porch at about 80 feet down. We thought we might get lucky and spotted a big hole in the side of the small house and decided to go in the hole instead of risking collapse of the front porch on us. We never made it in. We had Krypton underwater lights and while the water clarity was near perfect, it was dark, and black inside the hole, so we shone our lights into the big hole and to our complete astonishment, we saw a huge fish. It was enormous, bigger than a diver in full SCUBA, at least 8 feet long and 3 feet across the mouth. We hovered in the water for a good 5 minutes with our lights on it, not believing what we were seeing. I’ve never seen a freshwater fish that big. We were both a bit alarmed by what we saw, and still talk about it from time to time." Some sightings get a bit outlandish, like a five-foot long neck and head emerging out of the water and staring at an unsuspecting swimmer. Others claim it's a "breeding population of alligator gar," fish that can reach 10 feet and weigh up to 300 pounds. Others, like the scuba diver mentioned above, relate Normie to a giant catfish. If you're a River Monster's fan like myself, you know that usually, it's always a giant catfish haunting the water. While it's still up for debate if Normie is an actual freshwater monster or just another misunderstood giant catfish, the legend and mystery certainly make for a great story.
Have you had any Normie sightings or witnessed strange things beneath the surface of Lake Norman? Share your stories!
Just like some might be learning about Lake Norman’s possible monster fish for the first time, many of us don’t know these
eight places in North Carolina are rumored to be haunted.