Skip to content

Kempenfelt Kelly: myth, real or simply just fun?

Barrie’s waterfront is widely known to many as a place where many of the community activities and festivals are held. What isn’t as well known are the stories of a lake creature that lurks deep inside Kempenfelt Bay.

Kempenfelt Kelly is the lesser known cousin of British Columbia’s Ogopogo in Okanagan Lake or the world famous Loch Ness Monster in Scotland.

Not many have seen Kelly, or Igopogo as it’s sometimes referred to, but those who have describe it as having a stove-pipe neck with a head and face that slightly resembles a dog.

One sighting has Kelly at a length of approximately 12 feet, but a couple sonar usages have a creature larger than some sightings have suggested.

There have also been conflicting reports about whether the creature in the bay is serpentine in nature or more mammalian.

John Kirk from the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club (BCSCC) is not only an expert in the field of animals yet to be determined by science, but is familiar with the case of Kelly.

"I went out in the lake in 1988 and did a circumnavigational look, but really didn’t come up with anything at the time," said Kirk. “That wasn’t to say there was nothing there. The lake at the time, and I haven’t been back in many years, was very able to sustain a large array of aquatic life. It was very pristine and habitable.”

A video in 1991 helped Kirk see that indeed something was in the lake, but just what it was remained a question.

While on the Shirley Solomon show, a Toronto talk show at the time, a gentleman presented Kirk with a video of the Kempenfelt creature, a video that the crypto zoologist believes proved a lot of folk’s right.

“The video is clear as day of something jumping out of the water and frolicking about,” said Kirk. “My honest opinion was that it looks like a massive seal, a seal of some sorts, but sincerely very big. I’ve never seen anything like it before, but that would be my opinion.”

Although he has the video in his possession, Kirk made a promise to the people who recorded it, to not publicly show it without their permission.

As far as the mystery goes, it still remains. No one else has solid evidence for or against it's presence.

“This should be fascinating to the areas that share that lake,” said Kirk. “I honestly feel with no sightings for years that the creature is gone, but the detractors who say that its impossibility are [also] wrong. Unless someone can go over every very large inch of that massive lake from Barrie to Couchiching to the Trent-Severn Waterway, and do it every day, there is always a possibility.”

From an attraction point of view, a lake serpent can be very beneficial to an area. In 2012, it was estimated that 1 million tourists a year put 25 million pounds (almost 36 million dollars) into Scotland’s economy. People travel from afar in order to catch a glimpse of the famous Loch Ness Monster.

While Barrie doesn’t do anywhere near that for Ontario, it is nice to have a little fun with our Kelly.

“The kids that see the mascot at events love it,” said Tourism Barrie’s Executive Director Kathleen Trainor. “The City of Barrie has a full outfit that lets kids imagine that Kelly has come out from the lake in order to have fun with the community.”

An event that Kempenfelt Kelly (the mascot, not the 'real' creature) was involved in was the 2016 MASH Bash at Snow Valley.

The event is in support of the Royal Victoria Hospital’s Child and Youth Mental Health services.

The famous Bed Pan races are back and Kelly joined other mascots in sitting on one and throwing themselves down the hills.

“We’ve had the Kelly mascot at the Tourism Week in Toronto as well,” said Trainor. “It is fun, but it’s also educational. Periodically on our Twitter account, we have a 'Where’s Kelly' tweet. The mascot is somewhere in the area, which could be a landmark or historical location, and the Twitter followers have to guess where it is. We’re all about getting folks involved in the community fun.”

Trainor suggests that families spend some time by the lake and see if you can spot the elusive lake serpent.

If you don’t have a sighting, she’s sure you could spend your time in worse ways.

“It might be fun to take the kids down to the bay and get them looking for Kelly,” said Trainor. “If they don’t see anything, chances are good that they’ll at least have a fun time in the fresh air enjoying the many sights and sounds of the city.”