We’ve all heard of Scotland’s Loch Ness Monster, or as it is more affectionately known, “Nessie”. The huge water-dwelling beast is probably Scotland’s most famous personality and in my opinion, infinitely more interesting than, say, Andy Murray.
But as I discovered recently, there’s a similar creature that is not as world-famous as Nessie and it lives right here in Australia. In NSW, no less. And it’s called the Hawkesbury River Monster.
I fell into a deep research hole looking into this monster putting together the latest episode of the true crime / mystery podcast that I co-host, All Aussie Mystery Hour.
And while I might have only semi-believed in its existence when I started, I became more convinced as I read more about it.
Sightings of the Hawkesbury River Monster date back to thousands of years ago, when the Dharuk people (the Indigenous group who lived in the area before European settlement) created rock art depicting a beast with a long neck, thick body and two sets of flippers. Some of this art still exists around the Hawkesbury and Central Coast areas.
Researcher Rex Gilroy, who runs the site Mysterious Australia, has been looking into the Hawkesbury River Monster for years, collecting some seriously alarming anecdotes from people who claim to have encountered the beast.
Here’s a couple for your enjoyment.
From a man named John Nelson in 1945:
A few hundred yards away to the north of us there was a large yacht anchored, and we could see at least 12 people moving about on it. Then suddenly, 50 yards away to the east of our launch, there was a disturbance in the water and we got the shock of our lives when this ugly, snakelike head rose from the surface, looking directly at us.
We reckoned later that its neck was at least two feet thick and that the head was a good two-and-a-half feet long by about one-and-a-half feet wide. Within moments, the head had risen up to about 10 feet above the water, the scaly creature being a dark grey in colour but for the underside of the neck which was a pale yellowish-white.
By now we could see humps appearing above the water as the monster’s body came into view there were two of them about 20 feet apart and two to three feet above the water. We could also see a disturbance in the water coming from flippers barely visible below surface, and there was some disturbance behind the creature, presumably from a moving tail. We watched the monster as it looked slowly about for perhaps five minutes, as it made no effort to harm us. Anyway, Bob suggested we leave so we moved off toward the shore.
At this, the monster suddenly splashed below the surface and we got a momentary glance of its tail, paddle-like and perhaps 15 feet in length. By now, the people on the yacht had sighted the creature also and were moving about, agitated and shouting. We could see the head re-appear just above the surface as the monster headed toward the yacht, submerging about 50 feet from the craft.
We waited a while, and there being no more sign of the monster we motored over to the yacht and its occupants. Some of them had observed the animal’s flippers-four of them and up to several feet in length, thrashing about below surface. We all agreed, the monster could have been from 45 to 50 feet in length.
At Lower Hawkesbury in 1949, when a young couple in a rowing boat saw a bull on a sandbank about 300 yards away from them, drinking from a creek flowing into the river. As they looked in the direction of the bull, they also spotted a large snakelike head-a good three feet in length-appear from the water and rise up on the end of a long neck at least 20 feet out of the water.
A large humped body appeared up to three feet above the surface and was perhaps about 30 feet in length. The reptile grabbed the bull, dragging it into the water. With the girl screaming, the boy rowed in a panic for the shore. The whole incident was over within seconds, it seemed, and although they told locals later, not everyone wanted to believe them; but the owner of the bull did find blood on the sand and the marks of a struggle -and, of course, the bull had disappeared.
And this completely horrifying Hawkesbury River Monster tale from 1979:
George and Jan Cayley were living in a houseboat moored in Broken Bay near Pittwater in mid-1979. One early morning in bad weather with rain pouring down outside, they were laying in bed when suddenly they felt their home being lifted up out of the water. Their bed, furniture and other items tumbled over, ending in a heap to one side of the room as the vessel was tipped to one side. Then the vessel splashed over, righting itself in the water once more.
Fighting their way out of their bed and the maze of overturned furniture, and finding the rest of the living area a total wreck, they emerged onto their deck hoping to see what had caused the accident-a boat, they thought at first. However, through the downpour they were horrified to see an enormous body moving out across the bay-a long-necked, serpent headed beast, paddling toward the opposite shore and then gradually submerging out of sight.
“Friends who later helped us clean up all the broken crockery and other household goods had no difficulty believing our story. They said other people had similar stories to tell,” George said to Rex Gilroy several years later.
For more stories about this terrifyingly huge (but maybe not homicidal) creature, check out the Hawkesbury River Monster episode of All Aussie Mystery Hour, entitled S3E4: The Hawkesbury River Monster Is Australia’s Very Own “Nessie”.