Wednesday, June 19, 2013

My Favorite Urban Legends: Giant Catfish

I’m starting a new series about my favorite urban legends, which will appear on an irregular basis whenever I’m in between really good ideas. You’re welcome.

The myth of the giant catfish is one of my favorite urban legends, although I must admit that I was shocked to discover that the giant catfish weren’t real because my granddad first told me about them, and I didn’t think he’d lie. When I was a little girl, I visited Sutton Lake with my grandparents, and my granddad told me all about how the lake was infested (infested, I say) with catfish “bigger than a man.” I was like eight so I foolishly believed the old man’s tall tales.

Damn him.

Between my granddad’s subterfuge and the documentary Jaws, I am terrified of the water. Big things live in it and they will eat you. Also, I’m pretty sure zombies live under the water (well, “live”), which is why you never see them.

But I digress. I know that guy on River Monsters managed to catch a catfish that is arguably the size of a half-grown child, but my grandfather specifically told me that the catfish in Sutton Lake are big enough to swallow a person, and even the Mekong giant catfish only gets about 10 feet long, tops, which is pretty long, but I don’t think it’s long enough to eat a person. Also, they eat algae, not people, and live in Thailand, not West Virginia.

Minor details.
Image credit: Carkuni

According to the Internet’s biggest hotbed of liberal propaganda, Snopes, the giant catfish of legend are said to be found in lakes and streams all over the rural United States. Stories of their massive fishness have been circulating since the 1950s. Early versions of the giant catfish legend have the fish frightening divers as they attempt to rescue people who have imprudently driven into lakes infested with huge fucking fish. The catfish are said to be the size of Volkswagens and are described as “guarding” the sunken cars and the people trapped inside.

Over time, the legends began to describe the catfish as bigger and bigger, until, by the 80s, they were the size of Winnebagos. I’m thinking my granddad would have been referring to one of the 1950s giant nonexistent lake catfish, because even as a kid I would have called bullshit on some catfish the size of a Winnebago, even though I didn’t yet know what a Winnebago was.

I would've thought it was a type of bear.