Kathy Antoniotti

LAKEMORE: Old-timers whisper of secrets that lie hidden beneath the calm, glassy surface of Springfield Lake.

They tell of a creature, half man, half fish, that comes out at night to terrorize Lakemore and Springfield Township children.

Well, at least some of them.

“I was about 10 or so when I stayed overnight at a friend’s house, and his dad told us about the Welp,” Lakemore Mayor Rick Justice said.

If the story of a monster rising from the murky depths of Springfield Lake to grab unsuspecting children was conjured up as a way to keep mischief makers in line, it worked, Justice said.

The creature is said to have a long arm shaped like a claw to snag recalcitrant youngsters and drag them down to its lair.

The late Fred Archer, a lakefront homeowner and the father of Justice’s boyhood friend, Ted Archer of Lakemore, confided the tale to children who would attend sleepovers at his home.

“He told us it came out of the water running at 60 miles an hour to get us,” Justice said.

A real monster couldn’t compare to the one Justice created in his imagination of an oversized bluegill rising out of the lake with Justice in his sights, coming to get him on its very long, fast-moving legs.

“I told him I would just go upstairs to sleep and he said, ‘No good. He can climb up the side of the house,’?” Justice said. He remembers lying awake and listening for sounds outside the window.

The mayor said he has tried to warn his own children and their friends with the cautionary tale.

They scoff at the idea of the Welp, he said.

“I guess they are too sophisticated these days to believe a story like that,” he said. “But, I’ll tell you what. It kept me off the lake for a long time.”

Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or kantoniotti@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow on Twitter at: @KathyAntoniotti and on facebook: www.facebook.com/KathyAntoniotti.