Our State Magazine Article

Nessie’s North Carolina Cousin
By Caroline Kelly
Our State Magazine
Published July 30, 2018

There’s something down there, that’s for sure. Exactly what “it” is — a creature that darts around the depths of Lake Norman — is harder to determine. Since 2002, dozens of sightings of an unexplained creature have been reported in this lake that boasts 520 miles of shoreline and spans four counties northeast of Charlotte.

Cap’n Gus Gustafson, a fishing guide who spends 300 days a year cruising the lake, tells the legend as it has evolved in the 55 years since the man-made lake was completed: As he tells it, marine biologists conducting experiments with fish farming crossbred Wyoming Buffalo Carp with Arkansas Blue Catfish in a pond near Denver in the early 1960s. They fed the already large fish some chicken laced with steroids, and when furious rain damaged the Cowans Ford Dam, the steroid-enlarged monsters escaped and found their way into Lake Norman.

The biologists, Gustafson says, “didn’t say a word about it, because it was kind of a clandestine operation to begin with.” One mysterious lake monster is worrisome enough, but multiple lake monsters — the result of a science experiment gone wrong — well, that sounds more like a tall fish tale. But in a lake as large as Norman, with a depth of 130 feet in some places, Gustafson says there’s bound to be more than one of these giant catfish-like creatures, which have been collectively dubbed “Normie.”

As the number of Normie sightings has increased over the years, Matt Myers created a website — LakeNormanMonster.com — to give folks a place to report sightings. Details vary: Some reports refer to a 200-pound creature and describe it as “Nessie-like.” Others report seeing a giant fish that steals smaller fish right off the end of a line. And more eye-witnesses claim spotting inexplicable waves in otherwise calm waters with no boats around.

“Certain lakes in certain places just have some kind of a legend,” Gustafson says, “and Normie is ours.” Be careful, though, if you head out on the lake on the night of a full moon: Sightings reach their peak then, which begs the question: Does the moon make Normie — or the people who look for him —go a little crazy? That’s a mystery for another day.

This article is reprinted with from the online edition of Our State Magazine.
Written by Caroline Kelly – an editorial assistant at J&J Editorial in Cary. She was a spring 2018 editorial intern.