Pend Oreille Paddler
Myth or Mystery
In 1984 James R. McLeod led a group of North Idaho College students in a study of Lake Pend Oreille and the mystery surrounding a "monster" alleged to be swimming its waters. Would they find the infamous Pend Oreille Paddler?
The basis for the claim of a "monster" in the lake is directly traceable to a single event occurring in the summer of 1944. Although much national attention had been focused on another reputed monster, "Slimy Slim" (or "Sharlie"), in Payette Lake in central Idaho in the early and mid-1940s, the 1944 event at Lake Pend Oreille received little note. It might have been lost to modern memory had not monster lorist Loren Coleman, in his interesting book Mysterious America, listed Pend Oreille as one of many lakes having "monsters."
References, both published and unpublished, of something large in the lake began to appear again in the early 1970s. In a January 1970 article, Mrs. Lillian E. Hall, a resident of 59 years at Kilroy Bay, observed: "Talk of some kind of 'monster' in the lake, which she hears from time to time, - mostly comes from a bottle."
What was certainly the most sensational surface sighting of the late '70s occurred in early September 1977 when a young girl was reportedly attacked by the monster near the Sandpoint City Beach. Included with the article in the tabloid What's Happening was a photo of the creature which journalists dubbed the "Pend Oreille Paddler." In late 1984 the mystery was finally solved. The photo of the "Paddler" turned out to be a 12-foot papier-mâché catfish used in a play that had appeared in Sandpoint in October 1974.
In any case, the 1977 story is of particular note in that it coined a new name for the creature, for the "Paddler" has been the most frequent label since that time and has gained widespread popularity throughout the region.
by James R. McLeod, Mysterious Lake Pend Oreille and its Monster, 1984
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