Bennie the Garda Monster and mysteries of the Lake
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 first mythical sighting
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.
Most recent sightings
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.
River Monsters and Garda torpedo catfish
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...
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Credits: images taken from bresciatoday.it - bresciasettegiorni.it - quibrescia.it
Note: The image of the monster is an archive photo