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Flo and Eddy said that the shaking had caused several shelves full of dishes to fall on the floor at the Eat-A-Lot Diner. Pete Sokal over at the Bait and Brew said that he remembered it from the last time and he knew what it was. Elizabeth McBeth, at the Lakeside Funeral Parlor and Crematorium, said that it had knocked one of their “clients” right off the slab. Viola Dufaux said that her bed was shaking so badly that she thought there was a man under it. Sheriff Wysocki said that that was wishful thinking on the part of Viola Dufaux.
What really had happened was we had an earthquake. The earthquake was actually centered up in the northern Adirondacks, but was felt all over upstate NY. As you may remember, I had mentioned in a previous writing that Oneida Lake is on an ancient fault line. Every once in a great while we have an earthquake. Usually about every twenty years or so. There was no major damage and luckily, no one was injured. To the people on Oneida Lake this could mean only one thing – Onie!
Onie, according to legend, is a large monster that lives at the bottom of Oneida Lake and only surfaces when there has been an earthquake. The quake had occurred at 6 in the morning and by 9:30 the lake was ringed with people looking for Onie. People around Oneida Lake will jump at any excuse for a party on the lake.
By noon the search for Onie (or should I say party?) had drawn a huge crowd around the lake. People were driving up from Syracuse and down from Pulaski to join in the “search,” but no Onie had been sighted. And then, about two o’clock, all of a sudden there it was. Coming out from behind Frenchman’s Island and headed down the lake. It had a very long neck and round head with a green body. Everyone was really excited because they never really expected to see Onie. Although upon closer inspection with binoculars, Onie’s neck appeared to look more like a telephone pole with a football helmet stuck on the end of it. It was at that moment that fire began to blast out of the rear end of Onie. This was a source of immediate pride on the lake. Not only did we have a monster, the same as Loch Ness and Lake Champlain, but ours could fart fire. “I’d like to see Nessy try that,” said Old Ladd. This new-found pride was short lived, however. Almost immediately, the fire began to engulf all of Onie, who began listing badly to the left. Then Onie began to submerge (or should I say sink?). Those with binoculars could clearly see two men jumping off of it. And then Onie exploded. The first boats on the scene found a singed Stinky Williams and Tommy Migliori splashing around in the water and yelling at each other.
Stinky and Tommy had been preparing for this moment for almost twenty years. The last time there had been an earthquake and subsequent search party (emphasis on the word party), Stinky and Tommy were in their teens. Since no Onie had appeared that time, they both agreed that the next time there would be an Onie, even if they had to make it themselves. And that’s exactly what they had done. In an old boat shed in the back of the U-Sink-Em-We-Salvage Marina, Stinky and Tommy had been working on their Onie for about ten years. They had taken an old 30 foot cabin crusier and attached a telephone pole on the top of it to act as the neck (upon which they had placed a football helmet for the head). They had used green plastic tarps draped over the old cabin crusier for the body. Their plan also included having Onie spit fire. To this end they had attached a long garden hose to a barbeque grill butane tank. They ran the hose up the telephone pole to the helmet and attached a nozzle. There had been several discussions between Tommy and Stinky as to how to light the butane. Stinky was sure that if he lit a match and stuck it in the hose and then quickly connected it to the butane tank and turned it on, the fire would go up the hose and out the nozzle. Tommy thought that it sounded like a good idea to him. (Even though both Tommy and Stinky are volunteer firemen, their knowledge of pyro-techniques is very limited). Once they had their Onie on the lake and actually did this, it all went wrong. The whole back end of the cabin crusier had caught on fire and then spread to the tarp, at which point they both dove into the water.
Meanwhile, back on the shore, the word had spread quickly that what people had seen was not the real Onie but only one of Tommy and Stinky’s bad ideas. The search party continued for the real Onie, but by six that evening the real Onie had not been sighted. Some folks had left the lake but others decided to make the best of it. Since it was bullhead season and would be getting dark soon, they decided to stay and fish for bullheads. And what a time it was. I guess the earthquake must have done something to the bullheads because large numbers were caught that night. Those that stayed to fish swear that at about 10:30, a large dark object could be seen in the moonlight, moving up the lake toward Sylvan Beach.
And that’s the news from Oneida Lake where all the men love to fish for bullheads, where all the women hate to clean bullheads and all the children refuse to go swimming in the lake because they don’t want to be eaten by Onie.
Copyright James W. Kelly, July 1, 02, on Oneida Lake
Previous News from Oneida Lake can be found at