Saturday, 22 January 2022

The Monster of Lago Di Garda


A recent photograph has circulated on social media purporting to be the legendary beast of Lake Garda in Italy. Now this is a cryptid tale I am not familiar with but I had a look into it for this piece. The actual posts on the picture were in Italian and so a translation was required. From the Italian:

Ciao a Tutti Fatto questa foto a Manerba sul Lago dl Garda queste estate! Prova a aprire la foto Forse sono solo lo che vedo qualcosa di strano o anche voi? 

Ho fatto delle elaborazioni della immagine del lago di Garda . immagine piu chiara e definita. SI vedono le pinne sotto il pelo dell'acqua i sole che si riflette su parte della testa e sulla parte del corpo esposta al sole (macchie bianche). Per la lunghezza se qualcuno puo elaborarla avendo come punti di riferimento la barca, a occhio non piu di 5/8 metri. Lascio a voi un giudizio.

We get this through Google Translate:

Hello everyone Made this photo in Manerba on Lake Garda this summer! Try to open the photo Maybe I'm just seeing something strange or you too?

I did some elaborations of the image of Lake Garda. clearer and more defined image. You can see the fins under the surface of the water the sun reflecting on part of the head and on the part of the body exposed to the sun (white spots). For the length if someone can process it having as reference points the boat, to the eye no more than 5/8 meters. I leave a judgment to you.

I know, it is a bit terse when you use Google Translate, but we get the gist of the text and that the poster is the taker of the image. His brief post suggests he was no aware of anything in the picture until he examined it more closely. Here is the wider photograph of the lake with the object of interest to the bottom left. After this is a processed image by the owner, whose identity we do not know yet as it has been edited out.

As a digression, Lago Di Garda does indeed have a monster tradition as this text from a tour cruise website summarizes:

Aside from many historical legends about the towns surrounding its shores, with its castles, kings, princesses, princes, and battles, Lake Garda also has a myth about a creature that inhabits its abyss. According to some, inside Lake Garda there may be a prehistoric monster called Bennie, that may even be related to the well-known Nessie, the monster of Loch Ness, in Scotland.

The hypothetical presence of a beast of colossal size in the placid waters of Lake Garda has ancient roots. Since the middle ages there have been sightings of sea monsters that terrified fishermen, local inhabitants, and monks of the monastery on Garda Island. But the legend of the monster of Lake Garda began in the 20th century. The most renowned sighting dates back to the 17th of August 1965 near Mermaid Bay (Baia delle Sirene) on the eastern coast of the lake, not far from the town of Garda.

It was here that a group of about 10 tourists claims to have seen a huge 10 metre long sea creature with a shape similar to a snake rise from the water, and then plunge back into the underwater caves of Garda Island, where it may live shrouded in darkness. The event was reported by many national newspapers and immediately became one of the most intriguing mysteries of Lake Garda.

Garda isn’t the only Italian lake to have its own monster. Even Lake Como has its own legend that talks about a monster roaming its waters called Lariosauro (Lariosaurus). The presence of fish monsters has become one of the main Garda related news in the past few years.

Over the decades, the sightings became more and more frequent, especially from the year 2000 forward. There are about 15 sightings or so, and the “monster” of Garda Lake earned the nickname “Bennie”, in honour of Lake Garda’s ancient name: Benaco. In 2001 a diver claims to have seen Bennie near Gargnano, a later sighting was reported by a hotel owner in the area of Manerba, and in 2013, once again in the area of Mermaid Bay, which seems to be the most mysterious part of the lake, a family claims to have seen a creature over 15 metres in height, with the scary mixed appearance of a snake and a whale.

The last sightings of the Lake Garda monster date back to 2016 and 2018, and Bennie’s international fame has in recent years brought to the origin of many lake tours dedicated to him, as well as many souvenirs and gadgets.

Bennie, named like this by Armando Bellelli, native to Desenzano and expert in mystery stories, is considered to be a “good” monster who has never attacked anyone, and is, in the collective imagination of the locals, depicted as a good fellow, a timid guardian of the lake, who protects it from pollution and excessive exploitation from men.

The mystery of Bennie and its presence in Lake Garda has aroused great interest not only among those passionate about mysteries and legends, but also among the media, like in the TV show “Mistero” (Mystery), on air on Italia Uno, and scientists, like biologist Jeremy Wade, director of the BBC show dedicated to mysterious sea creatures called “River Monsters”.

During an episode dedicated to Lake Garda, that went on air in August 2019, Jeremy Wade has actually caught a giant torpedo catfish over 120kg in weight and 2m in length, but this doesn’t seem enough to describe the mystery of the Garda Lake Monster.

It is in fact believed that in recent years the number of catfish in Lake Garda has been on the rise, with the fishing of some specimen around 80kg in weight, but sightings of the innocuous Bennie continue. To go “hunt” Bennie there have been explorative missions with robots and sonars to scan the depths of the lake, but the mystery, just like with Loch Ness, has yet to be resolved...

Lake Garda itself is located in the North of Italy, about 100 km east of Milan and a similar distance to the west where the sea is. It is about 44 km long and varies between 2 and 10 km wide, so it is of a similar size to Loch Ness. So it has a monster tradition and of a size big enough to harbour one. But what about the photograph? A YouTube reference to the picture was dated to September 2017, so it is over four years old. A quick look at Lake Garda and comparing the picture with satellite coastline gives the location of the picture and confirming it as near the town of Manerba.

Not that this tells us nothing about the genuineness of the photograph. The poster refers to the white boat to the left of the object and I would guess is at least 15 foot long, making the object at least twice as long at thirty feet long - a typical Nessie length. However, that would make the boat a mere sixty feet from the object, which naturally raises the question - did the boat occupants see this object? 

The boat is moving away from the object, if it is moving at all as I cannot see any wake. I see no one on board but that is a hunch. I get the impression it is shallow water, but again this is something I cannot be dogmatic on. There is also a pier to the left at a similar distance with buildings and there are other boats further out - how did no one see this and get some superb pictures? To a lesser extent, why did he not see it at the time?

Which brings us to the main point. It is easy to produce such a picture using image manipulation software - as we saw with the recent so called drone footage of Nessie. In fact, the ease of production and the ready availability of people ready to hoax has made many take the default position that any such picture will be a hoax until proven otherwise. It's really a case of guilty until proven innocent in the world of cryptid images and proving your "innocence" is no easy matter.

So the first task is to find a plesiosaur image of similar posture on the Internet which may have been overlaid into the original photograph or find the original photograph minus a monster. On my own searches of the first few hundred plesiosaur images on Google, I saw nothing which matched well and a look at tourist pictures of the bay did not show up the bay with the same boat in position but with no "Bennie". 

Of course, my search was not exhaustive and the bay photo may have been a picture taken by the poster but I invite others to have a look around. So, as I said, it is guilty until proven innocent these days and time must be allowed to make progress on finding the two incriminating pictures I mentioned before further comments are made.

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  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Quite a coincidence that Bennie looks just like his cartoon counterparts. And check out 14 seconds into this video (don't know when it was posted):

    1. Thanks, the youtube dates this picture to at least 2017 - updated blog.

  3. There's this:

    Apparently the fellow took the photo last summer and has the initials "T.B." The Italian translation at the end says, ". . . the fact that T.B. both a logo with the words 'B the monster' suggests that it is a mise-en-scène, a found useful to rekindle interest in the phantom creature of Benaco."

    Looks like a hoax.

    1. Yes, it would be useful to find the original images and template monster ... four years on the google search results will be different.

  4. Hi GB,
    There maybe a monster in Lake Garde, but that image is not it. No wake or water disturbance around it, the image is just planted into the lake, sorry that looks like a fake to me. Something that big coming up out of the lake, causing no ripples of water, there is actually no difference to the water environment around it. The image looks as though it has been touched up, to highlight the head and neck, back right flipper and tail of the object. Due to the high density of population at this location, it is a mystery, how there is not hundreds of photograghs of this sighting. The population density around Loch Ness has no comparison to this location. There also seems to be some discrepancy of the near photograph of the object and the distance to the cruiser, which you suggest is 60 feet, but in the distant photograph, of the entire bay, the 2 objects look much further than 60 feet apart, and comparing the land to the left of the objects as a reference you would think the distance between both objects were at least 200 yards apart. Eoin O Faodhagain.

  5. Oh great, another jokester playing around with Photoshop. Had a feeling it would be. Not so sure if this was an actual attempt at hoax, as much as someone just having fun. To me it looked oddly too large in context with the overall surroundings. And that boat is no small one either “Bennie” looks like it was just plopped on top of the water with little suggestion of submergence.

  6. Well, looks like no one is buying this one.

  7. This danish "TB" could be Thomas Brenner, director of the video that Ron give the link.
    Anyway, I have no idea what is this but I think it is possible to watch briefly at 0:14 in that video.

  8. Funny coincidence that this is the first post I see after checking your blog out again in a while, because on my own blog I just posted an article about Bennie's "twin-monster" Lariosauro in Lago di Como. There are a few very important things to keep in mind when it comes to the validity of any large, undiscovered animal living in any of these two lakes:

    1) Their monster-"traditions" only extend into the mid-twentieth century. There are no earlier stories or folklore of any mystery animal living in any of these lakes, which is immediately suspicious, as Northern Italy has been densely populated and highly urbanized since earliest antiquity (for reference, the city of Como was founded by Julius Caesar himself). If there really were any such monsters living in the lake, you would definitely expect the Romans to have noticed or for there to be mentions in Medieval/Renaissance bestiaries, like with the alpine Tatzelwurm, but, at least as far I could find, there is no such thing. Compare this with Nessie, which at least has the Columba account and the kelpie-stories attached to it.

    2) Like Loch Ness, both lakes were formed in geologically very recent times by being carved out by massive glaciers at the end of the last ice age. Unlike Loch Ness, the lakes do not have easy access to the sea. Any Nessie-sized animal could not be native to the lakes, but would have had to have swum in from the Adriatic, up the Po river and then up the Adda or Mincio rivers before ending up in these lakes. For animals of that size this would probably be quite arduous, especially as there are no other big lakes in-between.

    3) Around the times of the first sigthings, extensive palaeontological excavations were undertaken in the nearby Monte San Giorgio, where various fossil marine reptiles from the Mid-Triassic were discovered and garnered a lot of attention. Especially the Lariosauro sigthings seem to have been made in order to capitalize off the fossil hype, as it is directly named after the real life nothosaur genus Lariosaurus whose remains are found closeby.

    1. Thanks for those points. What is you blog?

    2. Click on my name and it's the first one on the profile, named "Manospondylus".