This TikToker Is Highlighting the Spookiest Lakes in the World
Swimming over dead bodies, haunted shipwrecks, and a mysterious floating stump
Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
Every day for the month of October, Wisconsin-based artist and teacher Geo Rutherford features a new spooky lake on her TikTok account, @geodesaurus. Rutherford knows a thing or two about lakes: she focused her thesis in graduate school on the Great Lakes, and her second-ever TikTok video, which was about them, went viral in August 2020. She calls herself a hobby limnologist, or freshwater scientist, and leans into the weirdness of lakes in her annual TikTok series every October. Each video runs for two or three minutes, in which Rutherford breaks down the history, science, and legend of the highlighted body of water—and ends with a “spookies” rating that judges the lake’s scariness out of ten. “I try to rate the location itself,” she says, “not the deaths that occurred there.”
We interviewed Rutherford to find out more about her annual video series and to get her list of the spookiest lakes in the world.
OUTSIDE: Where’d you get the idea for Spooky Lake Month?
RUTHERFORD:My mother and I are huge horror fans, so I was drawn to the spooky theme, and in the midst of all my lake research, I realized just how weird lakes are! There are crazy lakes all over the world, and I don’t feel like we learn about them in school. The concept of Spooky Lakes taps into our communal fear of the unknown and the uncertainty of what lies beneath the surface. Lakes rarely headline horror movies or magazines, but they can be strange, mysterious, and sometimes deadly. So, each video tells a spooky story about a lake on this planet in under three minutes. Spooky Lakes are not about conspiracy theories or the supernatural, but are instead an opportunity to learn about natural phenomena, historical events, environmental disasters, and strange happenings surrounding lakes and other hydrology.
How do you do your research for the videos? How do you choose from so many spooky options?
I essentially go on internet deep dives to follow leads that would possibly qualify for Spooky Lake Month. I’m looking for variety! I want a shipwreck, a dam disaster, an acid lake, a lava lake, a cave diving expedition that went wrong, a soap corpse, a submerged city, a mining disaster, etc. There isn’t an easy Google search that encompasses all those topics, so I’m constantly digging through National Geographic and Smithsonian articles. I feel like I just have a gut instinct for what qualifies, but my backup list is super long.
Honestly, I did some of the best lakes during my first year, so I’ve incorporated “haunted hydrology” into Spooky Lake Month. Now, I can basically do anything that’s wet. I still haven’t gotten fully into ocean topics yet!
What do you think are the top spookiest lakes and why?
What a difficult question! I do feel like it’s subjective. Everyone has different fears.
Lake Karachay (Techa River)
A nuclear disaster that led to a lake and river becoming extremely radioactive in Russia.
Lake Superior (Kamloops Shipwreck)
Lake Superior is spooky for a lot of reasons. I’ve done multiple videos on it during October, but the Kamloops Shipwreck specifically always gives me goosebumps.
A giant mysterious lake trapped under the ice in Antarctica. It’s taken them 20 years to drill a borehole in the ice.
It exploded and killed over 1,700 people.
Cave diving is just terrifying. But imagine a corpse is stuck 100 feet below your feet while the artesian spring water percolates up through the remains where you’re swimming!
Kaali Crater Lake
An impact that created a lake happened during the Bronze Age. People actually witnessed the meteorite explosion, and the folklore from the region incorporated the story of the impact!
Crater Lake: Old Man of the Lake
A 400-year-old stump that floats around Crater Lake! And scientists don’t know why it bobs in the water the way it does. Wild!