Indians know about the 'Underwater Panther'|Richard_F||08/29/04 at 23:16:44|richard_f|xx|0||Indians know about the 'Underwater Panther'

Chebyogan Daily Tribune (MI)
August 2, 2004

I once saw an old handbag woven out of an inner bark the basswood tree. On the side of it was a figure of a thing that was long and had a head similar to that of a cat, with prominent ears that stuck out. Its body was long and sort of thin and it had four legs that protruded out of its sides.

I asked an old grandmother what it was and she answered me in Indian and said, "It is called the Underwater Panther and it lives down in the deep waters of the lakes." I asked her more questions, but she didn't answer me, so I knew I was asking about something she that people didn't talk about back then.

In later years I asked an elder woman by the name of Susie about it, and she sat down and told me the following story, because she had seen the Panther three or four times when she was a little girl.

Susie lived in Cross Village in the northwestern part of Emmet County. At that time, there were a lot of Indian people living therein what is called Wah-ga-nuk-see. This word is spelled differently by many Indian people, but this is the way Susie spelled it. She was more comfortable spelling it out in Indian than in English, which she learned when she went to the blackrobes school and left it when she was a young girl, because she thought she had learned enough.

She told me at one time they called it the Underwater Panther (Mahibzhii) because of the shape of its head and the two pointed ears like a cat. It had been seen by many of the old people, and they said, "When it is storming and the waters are riled up on the lakes, it is because the Underwater Panther was mad and made the waters go as such." The only way to appease the Underwater Panther was to pick someone who was brave enough to go out into the deep waters and make a sacrifice of a dog or cat.

Since she told me that, I have heard from other people of their sightings, only in different areas. An elder man said he saw the Underwater Panther in Torch Lake, while another saw it off Northport, so putting all of these sightings together, it is believed that there is an underground river that connects the Inland Lakes and Lake Michigan.

Some good friends of mine who lived in the village of Burt Lake said that they, too, had seen it a long time ago in Burt Lake on the northern shore. Once they saw a small groove in the sand that led down to the lake, where it looked like something had moved down to the water. They guessed that maybe the Underwater Panther had been in that lake at one time or another. I also heard it from another source that they had seen it a couple of times in Burt Lake.

A local paper printed an article about it sometime in the 1880s, about a big thing in the water. At that time hardly anyone talked about it, because th ey didn't want to be called liars. My grandfather told me also that he had seen a trail where one had slithered across the road, but this time it was near a river.

In the early 1950s, I think about 1951 or thereabouts, when Petoskey was celebrating its centennial, they had a drawing of what they had heard of as a sea serpent. Unbeknownst to the people of the paper, they were talking about the thing the local Indians called the Underwater Panther.

Since all of those people who talked about this are all gone, there is no one around here who has mentioned it to me, so I guess I've been around here more than most people.

Now, does that make me old? No, it means that I have grown wiser and matured gracefully in my latter years. Besides, the number of years one has lived is only a number. You are only as old as you feel, and I feel the same as I did when I was 50.

With that I say ... walk in peace.