Lake Shark Legend

Main piece:

“I live kind of by a lake and there was this myth, or kind of belief, that there was a giant shark that was super big and was swimming underneath the lake. And there was even… like, someone made a fake news thing about it.”


Informant is a first year student at the University of Southern California who grew up in Seattle, Washington.


The informant and I were speaking about legends from our hometowns on evening, and she shared this recent one she had heard.


This legend revolves around the common archetype of some non-native wild animal living beyond the scope of human civilization in a major city (similar to the legend of the crocodile living in the New York City sewers). What is interesting here is that despite all common sense telling people that a large, saltwater shark would not be swimming around in a freshwater lake, the fear that this legend incites is enough to get people to share it. As was taught during the Legends unit of Tok Thompson’s Forms of Folklore course, legends contain not factual truths but rather compelling possibilities. Lakes are often mysterious places, because no one really knows exactly what lies underneath the water, so to hear even the possibility of a shark is enough to make the community fearful. In addition, it is interesting to see that this shark was taken very seriously by the citizens and even by reporters, and was not cast aside as a mere legend. It was later disproved, but when the story first hit it was a genuine fear of the community.

An article regarding the lake shark can be found here.