The Serpent in the Lake

Pal Rai Yuk

The Alutiiq are a group of Eskimo people native to the Southern coast of Alaska. Like all the indigenous inhabitants of this part of the world, the mythology and folklore of the Alutiiq is varied and complex, but only one of their legends concerns us today.

The Pâl-Raí-Yûk.

The Pâl-Raí-Yûk, also called the Tizheruk, is a long, serpentine creature that was rumoured to lurk in marshes and swamps, until it was hunted to near extinction. As the waters of Alaska cooled, those that remained are said to have moved outward and in to the warmer bays and lake areas.

In most descriptions the creature has long fins or spines upon its back, thick fur covering its body, and a pair of short horns on its head. It is often depicted as having six legs and three stomachs. Its length varies depending on the teller; some go so far as to venture that its head alone is seven feet long. Apparently it was such an efficient hunter, it could stalk a man on land and snatch him away without even a sound.

Depictions of this fearsome beast were painted on the bottom of kayaks to ward the creature off, and its likeness was also used on harpoons and other hunting tools as a symbol of strength.

To this day, the legend persists that it can be summoned by tapping on a pier or rapping on the bottom of a boat out on the water.

Modern sightings of the Pâl-Raí-Yûk are few and far between, and, unlike the Loch Ness Monster and its American cousin Champ, there exist no alleged photos or footage of the beast.

And yet, the legend persists.

MapLake

1st July 2001

Johnathan Fuchs is a ruddy-cheeked bear of a man, with the complexion of one who has spent most of his days out in the wilderness. He describes himself as a ‘man of leisure’, owing to the fact he inherited a large fortune as a child, and, by his own admission, he has never had to work a day in his life. He also cheerfully calls himself, in a thick Texan drawl, a ‘seeker of adventure’.

In March of 1964, he and a friend found themselves in a cabin on the south shore of Hasselborg Lake, Alaska.

I meet Mr Fuchs, oddly enough, in a grotty underground bar in Hamburg, and over a pint or two of strong German beer he recounts his tale.

“I was twenty five at the time, and my friend, Steve, he was, oh, let’s say twenty two. Yeah, that sounds about right. He was like me, a gentleman of independent means, a kindred spirit, and we’d been travelling around Alaska for about a week, more or less.”

“We’d chartered a small plane up to the lake, and we’d reserved a lovely picture of a cabin for a few days. The first day we hiked a trail in the forest, and we got back quite late. We had some dinner and cracked open a bottle of scotch.”

“The best scotch, of course.”

He grins over his beer.

“The next day we woke up with fuzzy heads, if you know what I mean, Doc? So we took the little boat that we’d rented along with the cabin out on to the lake to see if the fish were biting.”

“They weren’t, but it was still a nice day.”

“Now, Steve, he had this thing; he couldn’t sit still for longer than two minutes. He used to absent-mindedly tap his foot against things, and he was doing it that day on the side of the boat. It was a nervous twitch, I suppose.”

“You know, Doc, that’s the sort of thing that can start to get to a guy.”

“I told him to knock it off, and he did, but after half an hour or so he’d start again.”

“Three or four times this happened. Every time I asked him to stop, and every time he started again.”

“Anywho, after a few beers I decided to just let him get on with it.”

“We’d been out for a while, and we hadn’t caught a thing, so once the sun started to go down, we decided we’d give it another hour or thereabouts before we went back to the lodge.”

“Steve was still doing that damn tapping with his foot.”

“I’d stood up in the boat and was taking a whizz off the side, when I noticed that the tapping had stopped.”

“I heard Steve whisper my name, then again, but louder. I turned round to see what he wanted, and he was looking out over the lake, at this… ‘disturbance’ in the water.”

“Next I know, this… enormous… ‘thing’ reared itself up out of the blue.”

Thing? I ask him to elaborate.

“It was like a snake, but covered in fur, and with these stubby arms. Its head was about eight, nine feet above us, and I just knew that there had to be a lot more of it under the water.” 

“I think I might even have shit my pants at the sight of it. Damn thing looked like it had come straight out of Eskimo Hell itself.”

“Then it made this noise. Not like a roar, but more like a… a trumpet, sorta, booming sound, and then it just smashed down on to the boat, sending Steve and me both flying.”

“Luckily I had my life jacket on, and I’m a strong swimmer. Steve was too, so I thought he’d get back okay. But when I made it to the shore, there was no sign of him, or whatever that… that thing was. The lake was still, just bits of the boat floating about.”

“I got a torch from the lodge and spent the whole night looking for my friend, searching the banks, calling his name.”

Did you find him?

“No. I never saw Steve again.”

The next day, Mr Fuchs managed to make his way back to civilization and report what had happened to the authorities. A party was gathered together and returned to the lake the next day to search for his companion.

According to the lead ranger’s rather brief notes, the head of the party discovered what appeared to be a section of shed reptile skin at about noon. The piece of skin in question was far too large to belong to any of the local fauna.

At approximately four thirty p.m, a black mass was observed moving under the water and away from the shore by two members of the search party. It left a v-shaped wake as it went.  The pair could not identify this mass, although they concede it could possibly have been a large cutthroat trout.

At five p.m, the team took a short break to replenish their energies, resolving to continue looking for Mr Fuch’s missing colleague until nightfall.

However, the search was never resumed.

Just after 5.30pm that day, the Good Friday Earthquake struck.

All emergency services were immediately diverted.

A few days later, Mr Fuchs returned home to the United States. His friend was assumed lost in the earthquake, a fact that Mr Fuchs rather ashamedly tells me he did not dispute.

He assures me that, apart from the members of the Alaskan search party and a very expensive psychiatrist, he has never told anyone else of what happened that night on Lake Hasselborg.

Lake1

Leaving my personal opinions of Mr Fuchs’ behaviour to one side, is it possible that his companion fell victim to the Pâl-Raí-Yûk? The description would certainly seem to suggest so.

I could find no further reports of anything even vaguely similar showing itself in that particular area. But with Lake Hasselborg attracting more and more tourists every year, perhaps it is only a matter of time before the beast of Alutiiq legend rears its head once more.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

Please forgive any misspellings on my behalf. I swear the good doctor’s handwriting gets worse the more of his files I read. And yes, he’s right, the guy mentioned in this file does seem to be a bit of a dick – C.R. 

‘What News of Blackburn Rovers?’

Cat2

The following is an old British folk-tale, the earliest written account of which can be found in the short novel Beware the Cat written by one Gulielmus Baldwin in early 1553. The version I recount was told to me by my grandmother, when I was but a very small boy.

‘One dark but temperate evening, a weary traveller named Paul eventually arrived at his homestead in Aldwick. Hanging up his hat and greatcoat and removing his boots, the exhausted man took his seat by the fireplace.

“Why, whatever has happened?” asked his wife, who’d been awaiting his return for some time. “You’re the colour of death.”

“It was the queerest thing, dearest. I was on my way home when I heard a shrill voice a-calling?”

“A voice?”

“Yes. I looked around and there was naught but a cat coming towards me?”  

“A cat?”

“Yes, just like ol’ Jon-boy here.”

Jon-boy awoke from his slumber by the fire and raised an eyebrow at the mention of his name.

“Then to whom did the voice belong?” enquired Paul’s wife.

“It belonged to the cat. It told me to tell Johnathan of Aldwick that Arthur of York has passed away. But I don’t know of any ‘Jonathan of Aldwick’, do you?”

At that news, the previously languid Jon-boy leapt in the air and declared, in a shrill voice, “Arthur is dead! Then I am the King of the Cats!”

And with that ol’ Jon boy shot under the door and was never seen again.’ 

Coffe&Paper

Tales of talking animals abound throughout the myths and legends of all cultures, but if you were to speak to an individual now who claimed to have conversed with a cat, you would be well within your rights to question that person’s sanity.

I have met such a person.

In May of 1995 I found myself in the Spanish coastal town  of Valencia. I had been sent to investigate local accounts of a satanic cult active in this area. When this turned out to be nothing more than a group of local teenagers dressing in black and listening to some very silly music in a cave upon the beach, I decided to find a cafeteria in which to sit and write up my report.

I ordered a coffee and was soon joined by a young gentleman who, noting that I spoke English, seated himself at my table. We got to chatting and it transpired that this fellow was also an Englishman, a professional footballer no less, who had been sent here by his club to recover from an injury in the warmer Mediterranean climes.

This footballer became rather animated when the conversation turned to my work, and he recounted to me a rather strange event that had happened to him about a week previous, at another cafeteria in a small village a little further up the coast.

These are his words:

“I’d sat down for a cup of tea and some breakfast. I went there ‘coz they actually had proper British tea. Hard to find on the continent, as I’m sure you’re aware.”

“I’d got a hold of a copy of the Daily Mirror from the day before and was reading up on the football scores on the back pages. I might be out of the game for a bit but I like to keep up with the results, as you do.”

“Anyway, I’m sat there with the paper and this little black cat starts rubbing itself up against my legs. I’m more of a dog person myself, but he seemed happy, purring away, so I let him get on with it.”

“After he’d been doing this for a bit I thought I’d give him a little rub behind the ears. I bent down to stroke him, and this cat looks at me, and I’m not fucking kidding, he says to me ‘what news of Blackburn Rovers?’”

“I was absolutely dumbstruck.”

“He asked again, ‘what news of Blackburn Rovers?’”

“I guess I was too taken aback and I didn’t want to appear rude, so I told him that Rovers had lost by a goal to Liverpool yet had still won the Championship. With that, the cat smiled  and sauntered off, leaving me there with my jaw swinging like a barn door in a breeze.”

“The owner came out with another cup of tea for me, and she must’ve seen the look on my face. I told her what had just happened and she replies with ‘not to worry, that’s just Alfonso. He likes to keep up with the  fútbol’.

“Apparently he asked a French kid a month before how Saint-Étienne were getting on in Ligue One!” 

Cat1

The footballer asked me not to reveal his name*, no doubt for fear of ridicule on his return to England. He did tell me the location of the cafeteria in question, however when I arrived there an hour or so later the place was closed for the siesta.

Unfortunately I had a plane to catch and could not linger, but I do intend to return when the opportunity presents itself.

How I would relish the chance to meet Alfonso and discuss the merits of playing two up-front with this eloquent feline.

Dr Thomas Gotobed

* I would love it, absolutely love it if I could find out the name of this footballer! Does anyone have any ideas? – C.R.