Published: 11:00 AM - 11-01-11
HUNTINGDON COUNTY -- A large, gray, shadowy figure appears just under the water's surface, visible off the port side of a fishing boat bobbing on the water a couple hundred feet out from Seven Points Marina.
A grayish brown mound surfaces for a moment then disappears back under the murky water of Raystown Lake. The fisherman on board the boat is left speechless.
For decades, a mysterious aquatic creature has been seen by dozens of people in various places of Raystown Lake.
Could it be a baby cousin of the Loch Ness monster?
At least three sightings early this year -- recorded April 2, May 9 and June 21 -- continue the belief that something bigger than a fish "out there."
Vickie Smith, Raystown Lake visitors center manager, said people record their sightings of a creature that has been named Raystown Ray in the center's wildlife sightings data book.
"He was seen a lot more last year," Smith said. "He was first brought to our attention in 2006 or 2007."
The visitors center has a photograph of Raystown Ray at a distance, taken in 2007 from the back deck of the center.
"It's big," Smith said. "A couple weeks ago a fisherman reported something -- he was not sure what he saw but it was bigger than his (fishing) boat. All he could see was a head coming out, then he saw a tail. He said the whole length was longer than his boat."
A press release from Huntingdon County Visitors Bureau had a statement from wildlife biologist Jeff Krause: "I believe it must be a vegetarian. We have not seen any evidence of this animal taking fish, geese, otters, or ducks. So I would suggest that our swimmers and boaters are very safe ... The increase of weed beds around the lake is probably providing more food in the shallows for herbivores and that would increase sightings."
The press release stated that with a lake span of about 30 miles and depths of more than 185 feet, there is "plenty of room for 'Ray' to hide."
Smith allows for belief.
"I tell people anything's possible because of the nuclear plant in Saxton (in Bedford County, in operation from 1961 to 1972) who knows if it's some sort of lizard that got into something up there."
Yes, it's a manmade lake, she said, but there was an old dam before the Army Corps of Engineers built the current lake in the early 1960s.
Ray has his own website at http:// www.raystownray.com.