|Habitat||Raystown Lake, PA|
For decades there have been sightings of a creature in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania’s, Raystown Lake. Old photos show a large shadowy figure just below the surface. Boaters describe sudden water turbulence and strange appearances of a large water creature, which locals have dubbed Raystown Ray.
The first known photograph of Raystown Ray. Photographed by a local fisherman looking over the lake from the Huntingdon Co.
We’ve known it’s been in there a while now,” admitted Managing Director of Raystown Lake Dwight Beall when he was asked his thoughts on this astonishing discovery.
“It’s a private creature, but it comes out around this time of year (April). Call it Raystown’s own Punxatawny Phil.” In 2006, when asked his professional opinion, Jeff Krause, Wildlife Biologist at Raystown Lake submitted the following statement in writing: “I believe it must be a vegetarian. We have not seen any evidence of this animal taking fish, geese, otters, or ducks. So I would suggest that our swimmers and boaters are very safe. It appears this animal’s habits are similar to Manatees, which are completely herbivorous and gentle. The increase of weed beds around the lake is probably providing more food in the shallows for herbivores and that would increase sightings.”
Krause concluded Sources: Huntingdon County Visitors Bureau, Cryptomundo
Central Pennsylvania is all excited about Raystown Ray. Not only are testimonies being recorded from eye witnesses, some of these witnesses have actually caught this strange creature on photos. The first known photo taken was in 2006. Estimates of the creature's size from those who've seen it claim it may be up to 50 to 60 feet long.
The first recorded sighting of Ray actually occurred in 1962 at Old Raystown Dam, according to the Huntingdon County Visitors Bureau. In 1971, the dam was destroyed to create the 8,300-acre man-made Raystown Lake, which is as deep as 185 feet in some places.
Ray has gotten so popular that in 2010, Syfy Channel's Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files sent a team to investigate. The investigation included a night dive to search the lake, sonar recordings, photo recreations using a floating log to help determine the legitimacy of pictures previously taken of Ray, and the use of a large dead carp as bait (though Ray's diet is thought to be primarily aquatic plants). Their conclusion was that the sightings reported by witnesses generally seemed credible, and that it was possible there could be a large creature living in Raystown Lake.
"It was back in early May, around 2005 or 2006. I was camping at the Susquehannock camp grounds at
Raystown Lake. Having camped there many years in the past with my family,this time I was alone,I had never heard about Ray. As had been my normal routine, first thing in the morning, around 7 AM, I would go for a swim, on the south side of the camp area called the bow. This was the first time there was no one else in the area, house boats like to come there because of the no wake zone. As I was swimming I looked up and saw something swimming ahead. It was coming from the larger part of that area, from my left, into the smaller cove area. When I saw it I stopped and tread water watching. I couldn't figure out what it was. I first thought it was a deer or a bear, because of the wake following after it seemed big. Then it did something I've never heard about a deer or bear doing, it dived down and then came up again while swimming straight. When it came up it noticed me treading water and turned towards me and started coming my way. I stayed treading water until it got about half way to me and then it dived under again while coming towards me, that's when I took off swimming back towards the camp ground area. Because I thought whatever it was could out swim me I decided to go to the shore, but could not get totally out of the water , due to the high bank along the water. After standing, with a thirty pound rock in my hands, what seemed forever, I noticed the thing swam back up to where I first saw it. I waited thinking it would come up to the shore and climb out, but it never did. I swam back to camp area and never went back in, until the next year when my son and I went camping. I don't scare easily, but this got my attention."
Like many other lake monsters, Ray is often claimed to have a large, slightly humped body and a long neck which emerges from the water, leading to speculation that it could be a surviving plesiosaur-like species. However, the popular depiction of plesiosaur necks arching out of the water in a graceful S-curve has been debunked by modern research, and they are now thought to have been physically incapable of lifting their heads out of the water in the stereotypical Nessie pose.
The most likely explanation for sightings seems to be large carp, which are known to inhabit the lake, and which frequently grow to over 25lbs and several feet long. Raystown Lake vendors even sell food pellets so that visitors can hand-feed the dozens of massive carp that come to the docks. Common carp (Cyprinus carpio) are originally native to Asia, but have been stocked as a food fish in the U.S. since the 1870s. They are omnivorous, voracious eaters, and can reach massive sizes and weight upwards of 100lbs under the right circumstances.
Pennsylvania locals Bill Dann and Jack Servillo have written a song about Raystown Ray. They discuss the process that led to creation of the song here.