New Hampshire’s "Lakawaka": Terror of the Isles of Shoals

An enigmatic entry in an 1872 story speaks of something terrible–“self-illuminating, like a glow-worm,” that was “seen for many years near the shore” of the Isles of Shoals

What exactly was a “Lakawka“?

The intriguing chapter is taken directly from “Ancient and modern Isles of Shoals: from their first discovery to the present time” by Dr. M. Tzl. Montegeu; Boston: G.Alex Emery, 1872, page 32.

An Ancient Allegory
An unpublished tale in connection with one of these islands, but which one
is not stated, consists of the following, which seems more miraculous than ancient tales of the Northern Kraken, or even our modern ghost feats:–“LAKAWAKA, who is represented as self-illuminating, like a glow-worm, was seen for many years, near the shore, still holding the lyke-wake of [over] the body of her deceased husband.”  This exhibition to mariners, on the darkest nights, was to their superstitious minds a constant terror, so much so that they invariably gave this island a wide berth after nightfall

We can deduce that the Lakawaka is apparently is a female entity since  “it” is holding a “lyke-wake of the body of her deceased husband”…

I had not heard the term lyke-wake before.  Apparently a lykewake is a Scottish term for a wake where family members, friends and neighbors take turns watching the corpse, to prevent it from being occupied by demons before it is buried… Oh?

I grew up in a half-Irish family… so I am familiar with an Irish wake… the only demons I ever saw were the bottled kind.

That the term “lykewake” is Scottish, is not a huge surprise. The Scotch-Irish immigrated in large numbers to this area around 1719, and a few before then.  My Uran ancestors were hardy Isles of Shoals fishermen by the mid 1600s.

White Island certainly has tales associated with it of a Lady ghost, presumably one of Captain’s Kidd’s many wives, left behind to guard his treasure, but not her husband’s body, as is stated in the mysterious book chapter.

So even after quite a bit of research, I haven’t figured out if this “Lakawaka” is a ghost, or a sea creature.    I could find a few stories about the sighting of ghosts, but only one mentioning “glowing” and certainly none about sea monsters.

In her story, Among the Isles of Shoals, (p. 586) Celia Thaxter talks of a male ghost on Appledore Island, that of “Philip Babb, or some evil-minded descendant of his” who haunts the place. One eye-witness of the spectre said the “stripes in the frock gleamed like phosorphescent light, so did the awful eyes..”

I’ve heard of self-illuminating sea creatures, but not the kind that show up at the same spot on a regular basis.

Perhaps it is time for New Hampshire to have its own official state monster… after all we don’t want to be left out.

–  Vermont has its “Champ” of Lake Champlain.
– Maine has its own version of the “Bigfoot” story … or maybe not, I’ve heard rumors that he died..
– Even Massachusetts has its monster shark and monster tax stories..

Now New Hampshire apparently has its very own glowing “Lakawaka.”

If you have knowledge of the Lakawaka, please let me know (or even if you just want to take a stab at figuring what it was).


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One Response to New Hampshire’s "Lakawaka": Terror of the Isles of Shoals

  1. Pingback: New Hampshire Missing Places: Gosport, Isles of Shoals | Cow Hampshire

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