In which I get to the bottom of this river monster shit.

It all started with a tweet from a reader asking if I’d ever heard of Monongy.

I was like, you mean being faithful to one person? Yep.


But, no, I seriously hadn’t heard of Monongy, so I started hunting, only to discover that this rumored river monster was nothing more than a promotional cryptid  cooked up to advertise the “Search for Monongy” swim race. Some clever person added it to the Monongahela River Wiki and suddenly everyone thinks it’s church.

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 10.25.35 AM

All of that, not true.

Let me remind you that former Pirate Chico Lind’s Wiki once said he won a Latin Grammy for a bachata hit about onions. NOT LYING.

Anyway, Monongy never existed, was never really rumored to exist, and you’ll find no mention in any newspaper of any such stories from the 1900s of its rumored existence. Believe me; I spent hours hunting. Some kind soul went into Wiki yesterday and edited that ridiculousness out of the Monongahela River entry.

Shit. Gotten to the bottom of.


But that made me wonder about the true lore (is that an oxymoron? YOU’RE AN OXYMORON.) about the Pittsburgh river monster. So I went hunting. And hunting. I spent hours tracking down the origins of the Pittsburgh river monster lore.

I started with Kennywood, asking their spokesperson Jeff Filicko if the Monongahela Monster ride was named so because of the lore.

The answer? No.

The Monongahela Monster came from the ride manufacturer Eyerly. “Monster” was the generic factory name for that ride type in the 4-seat model. Idlewild still has the “Spider” which was made by the same company and is the 2-seat model for that ride type. Just about any amusement park ride that isn’t a coaster has a generic name used in industry circles. They get a fancier  themed name by the park to fit whatever they need. Calling it the “Monongahela Monster” just offered an obvious Pittsburgh twist and fun alliteration, especially with our location right along the Mon.

Shit. Gotten to the bottom of.

nicki dismissed

So I kept digging and digging, and found references to massive turtles, gargantuan sea serpents, TWO-HEADED DEER-SWALLOWING LAND/SEA BEHEMOTHS…

… and it all began with the Native Americans and a monster they named Ogua.


That’s probably the sound it makes when it’s hungry.

I wrote about the lore for Pittsburgh Magazine. A snippet:

Other accounts refer to the water-dwelling Ogua as more “serpentine” in nature but with short legs that allowed it to move terribly fast on land, where it hunted prey . . . that it swallowed whole. There’s one shady Internet report that states the creature had two heads. I’ve discounted that on account of a 20-foot deer-eating turtle sounding much more believable. Now, it’s possible that Native Americans invented the Ogua in an attempt to scare their young from getting too close to the river’s edge, where they could have fallen in. I mean, what’s more terrifying than being swallowed whole by a monster? NOTHING.

Go have a read. 

And don’t ever let me hear the name Monongy again.



  1. Mark
    January 28, 2014 12:30 pm

    So, which fabled existant or non-existant Pittsburgh river beast ate the B-25 bomber and crew back in ’56?

    • Virginia
      January 28, 2014 1:12 pm

      1. What did I say about saying that name around me?
      2. Yes, the photo is old, but the illustration of the monster included is the work of illustrator Matt Bucholz who creates such alternate histories by combining old photos with imagined creatures.
      3. There is no mention of the name Monongy in the description of the piece. Instead, Matt named his fictitious monster Minnie, and it appears he’s leaning toward the sea serpent lore.
      4. DISMISSED. ;p

  2. Butcher's dog
    January 28, 2014 3:07 pm

    Loch Ness envy, anyone?

  3. Toadsly
    January 28, 2014 7:48 pm

    Your humor piece was the best read in latest “Pittsburgh Magazine.”