"George" the Monster of Lake George
"George" was born, or rather was created, in 1906 in the town of Hague, Warren County, New York as a wager between two wealthy summer residents ... artist Harry Watrous, one time president of the National Academy of Design, and Colonel Mann, editor of the New York scandal sheet, Town Topics.
The Colonel one day contrived to have caught a massive trout which would have weighed 30 to 40 pounds if it had been made of trout. It, however, was made of wood, a flagrant violation of sportsmen's ethics, which Mr. Watrous promptly suspected and detected. Turning his own wizardry to wood, Mr. Watros fashioned a fearsome marine monstrosity from a pine log, artfully splotched it with paint, and gave it two bulging green eyes. Mr. Watros then rigged up a rope, anchor, and pulley system by which, manipulated from his boathouse, this dreadful dragon could be suddenly surfaced and quickly submerged in waters around Island Harbor in Lake George.
One evening, neighbor Mann rowed homeward along the Hague shore in the gathering dusk, and up popped the monster. There were conflicting accounts of what happened between that fateful moment and the Colonel's dripping arrival at his cottage door. Mr. Watrous claimed the poor fellow screamed like a banshee, knelt to pray, flung himself overboard, and thrashed ashore. The Colonel insisted he maintained his dignity, though momentarily startled and stumbled into the drink because he stepped on a shadow he mistook for his dock.
Probably the most celebrated performance of George occurred when it loomed up in a gathering twilight and paralyzed a pair of honeymooners in a canoe. It was inevitable that they'd go overboard, which they did. Tossing gallantry to the fish, the groom lit out for an island, leaving his shrieking bride at the mercy of the menace. When the little woman finally reached shore, she expressed gratitude to the monster for showing her that her husband was also a monster, whereupon she bustled away and got a divorce. Once a tipsy fisherman was so unnerved when the granddaddy of all hang-over horrors appeared, he took the pledge never to touch another drop. Another of George's victims vowed it to be 200 feet log and higher than a two-story building.
As the tourist industry grew in Hague on Lake George, and the story of the monster widened to include many New York papers, a request was made by the hotel owners in Hague to curtail the monster's activities.
George was stored at the Island Harbor House and in 1931, when it burned down, it was thought that George was gone forever.
In 1961, Walter Grishkot, well-known photographer and publicist from Glens Falls, New York, discovered "the monster" in the garage of Louis Spellman, Sr., in Silver Bay, New York. His discovery resulted in feature stories being published in area newspapers once again.
Kay Bailey, a resident of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, was vacationing in the area when she read the story of the monster. Because she always wanted to own a monster of her own, she contacted Mr. Spellman and purchased George for $25. Because George was to be shipped to the Virgin Islands, Rodney Bucklin, Executive Director of the Lake George Chamber of Commerce, suggested having a farewell party for the monster, which was then christened with the name "George."
After George spent two years in the Caribbean, where he was officially launched into island society and island carnivals, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Grishkot decided to bring him home, even though Joan and Walt had their monstrous problems. They had to carry George with them as they toured the islands of St. Maarten and Martinique. When they passed through customs, the officers did not know how to estimate the duty on George because, in their books, there was nothing listed under "monster!" The Grishkots finally got home and George is now on display at the Hague Community Center.
Hague, which is located on beautiful Lake George, cannot only boast about being the most beautiful area to spend a vacation but it can also boast about having its own monster, to be enjoyed by all!