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Legends and Lore: The Monongy

Artist's rendition of Monongy

Artist's rendition of Monongy

The Monongy

Rivers are beautiful, ugly, vast, small, and wondrous forces of nature. They can bring life to a city and wreak havoc and destruction. They are homes to all manner of wild life, some stranger than others. There are mysteries within a river’s depths that have yet to be solved and stories yet to be told. A winding river that holds such mysteries is the Monongahela river of Southwestern Pennsylvania and Northern West Virginia.

In the waters of the Monongahela, locally known as the Mon River, are the Monongy. The Monongy are mysterious creatures said to be half man and half fish. They have been dwelling in the Mon River for thousands of years. Native Americans told tales of fish the size of humans for hundreds of years before colonial settlers arrived in the area.

Danger in the Water

During the French and Indian War, soldiers commonly reported sightings of the Monongy. Soldiers would avoid the river for fear of angering the Monongy, which had supposedly attacked several men who were crossing the river. The Monongy are said to have long teeth and claws with which they attack unsuspecting victims near or in the river.

The sightings did not end with the French and Indian War. In the 1930s, near Pittsburgh, people reported seeing the creature swimming in the murky waters. The number of reports grew so large that a small task force was assembled to investigate the sightings. Much like The X-Files, the task force was not taken seriously by the rest of the police force and was either quickly disbanded or very few records were kept of it.

In 2003, a boater claimed to have seen the creature and had taken photos of it. The photos were posted to various web sites but have since been lost to the bowels of the internet or have been removed entirely.


Some scientists believe that the Monongy has a more logical explanation rather than paranormal. Cat fish and alligator gar tend to grow very large in the Mon and Allegheny Rivers. One theory suggests that sightings in the 1700’s could have simply been abnormally large and aggressive river fish. Another theory suggests that this is merely a tale created by parents hundreds of years ago to keep their children from venturing into the dark and strong waters of the Mon River.

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Scientific theories aside, crypto-zoologists and monster hunters alike have not stopped hunting for the Monongy, keeping the legend of this elusive merman alive. In fact, a swimming race was named after the creature. In 2010, The Search for Monongy was started. This three-event swimming race would take place in Pittsburgh near Heinz Field for several years.

The Mysterious Mon Merman

Are the Monongy a real life merman type creature? Are they just big catfish that have been misidentified? Could it just be a story created by wary parents or people trying to drum up attention? With how heavy the Mon River is trafficked today, it’s most likely just a story. But hey, Bigfoot hasn’t been officially discovered yet either. Maybe there’s still hope that we’re swimming with the Monongy.

Further Reading and References

© 2019 Lindsey Burek

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