The strange Merman of Banff, Alberta (Canada).

The Strange Merman of Banff: Legendary Lake Monster or Just a Trading Post Treasure?

(Read the article on one page)

As a researcher of unusual historical phenomena, I investigate strange stories, but I had no intention of doing so in Alberta, Canada.  Nevertheless, I came across something that was truly odd in the small vacation town of Banff. 

I stopped into a trapper’s store called the Banff Indian Trader Shop.  In the back was a glass case that housed a strange looking mummy, one that was supposed to have belonged to a merman.  Just looking at it, it was obviously fake: different animal parts all combined to create a creature that likely does not exist. 

However, in the same case was an article entitled A Merman in Lake Superior that had been printed initially in the Canadian Magazine and Literary Repository in 1824, and a story credited to a Stoney Nakoda named Enoch Baptiste, which was translated by Horace Holloway in 1954.  This is the story as it appears in the case:

“Northeast of Lake Minnewanka is a mountain with a high, sharp peak shaped like a tower.  From a long distance you can see snow on its top, but there is never any on its side.  The Mountain is so steep that snow does not stay on it.  Because spirits lived on top of it, Indians called it Spirit Mountain.
“The nearby lake they called Minnewanka, which means Water of the Spirits.  Whenever they traveled in the neighborhood of the lake, they heard the voices of spirits.  As they passed by, they could see nothing that made the sounds, but they could hear the sounds.
“One time when our people were camping near the lake, my father heard what seemed to be the beating of a drum.  The noise seemed to be coming from the water.  He could also hear voices down in the lake.  Soon he noticed that water was coming up on the shore.  It came close to the camp, and then it went back again.
“Soon my father saw, near the center of the lake, a strange creature rise out of the water.  It was half a fish and half human being.  It had blown the water toward the shore, and then it had come above the surface.  As my father stood watching, the fish-person sank back into the lake.
“Other people also saw the strange creature.  They were so frightened that they broke camp and never camped there again.  All Indians stayed away from that water.  There was no fishing or canoeing on Lake Minnewanka until white people came.
“Strange creatures in other lakes were sometimes killed by lightening, but I never heard of this one being killed.
“Many Indians are still afraid of the lake.  A few years ago some Indian boys were working there, helping to build a dam.  They did not want to work at that place, because they had heard about the strange fish-person.  One of the boys was killed in a strange accident.  Some people say that the accident happened because the spirits did not like to have trees near the lake destroyed.”

Obviously a strange tale, there is no information available regarding whether or not this story is even legitimate, if it is in fact a Native American legend.  Assuming that it is, we have to look at the elements of the story to venture a guess as to why it was created.  The first possibility is an unlikely one: that there actually was a creature spotted in the lake.  Another is much more plausible: the mountain near the lake and the lake itself were considered holy locations, places called Spirit Mountain and Spirit Water, yet according to the Stoney Nakoda legend, the indigenous inhabitants were afraid of the location and avoided it; only the invaders frequented the location.  The legend of a supernatural creature might have been created to keep settlers away from a perceived numinous location. 

Was a mysterious creature spotted in the lake, spurring Native American legend?

Was a mysterious creature spotted in the lake, spurring Native American legend?

Although this is certainly possible, there are other, more modern stories to explain the merman at the Indian Trading Post, located near Banff Avenue Bridge.  People in town have varied explanations, such as it coming from England in the 1940s and its creation as some kind of a freakshow attraction, but the executive director of the Whyte Museum in the Canadian Rockies has proof that another story is the true one: Norman Luxton (1876-1962), an important figure in the development of the Banff town, was the original shop owner. 

Comments

Moonsong's picture

There is a BBC mock-documentary about this. The ‘experts’ who were interviewed were later known to have been actors. I wonder if this goes further to consolidate the idea of a hoax.

 

- Moonsong
--------------------------------------------
A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world ~ Oscar Wilde

Just goes to show that you can’t believe everything you see on TV

That's incredibly depressing.

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

Myths & Legends

Open Book Photo
A legend is a tale regarded as historical even though it has not been proven, and the term “myth” can refer to common yet false ideas. Many myths and legends describe our history, but they are often treated skeptically. This is because many of them, while explaining a phenomenon, involve divine or supernatural beings.

Human Origins

Noah's Sacrifice - watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot
The imperfect state of archaeological researches in the Near East impedes any definite identification of the original race or races that created the earliest civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt. According to Gordon Childe, however, the predominant racial element in the earliest graves in the region from Elam to the Danube is the ‘Mediterranean’.

Ancient Technology

Invention of Wheel - Sumer
In today’s world, technology is developing at an unprecedented rate. The latest gadget today is tomorrow’s antique. As a result of this rapid development of technology, we often take things for...

Ancient Places

Google Earth image of manmade stone structures in Saudi Arabia
Deep in the heart of Saudi Arabia, 400 peculiar stone structures have been found, dating back thousands of years ago. These stone features were discovered by archaeologists with the use of satellite imagery, identifying what they call stone "gates" in an extremely unwelcome and harsh area of the Arabian Peninsula.

Opinion

The ancient and mysterious Sphinx, Giza, Egypt.
In 1995, NBC televised a prime-time documentary hosted by actor Charlton Heston and directed by Bill Cote, called Mystery of the Sphinx. The program centered on the research and writings of John Anthony West, a (non-academic) Egyptologist, who, along with Dr. Robert Schoch, a professor of Geology at Boston University, made an astounding discovery on the Great Sphinx of Giza in Egypt.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article