BEIJING, China (Reuters) — China’s legendary “Lake Tianchi Monster” has surfaced anew, with local officials reporting sightings of as many as 20 of the mysterious and unidentified creatures in a lake near North Korea.

Sightings of the strange beast — China’s version of the “Loch Ness Monster” — date back more than a century, but like Scotland’s famed “Nessie,” reports vary and remain unconfirmed. On the morning of July 11, several local government cadres caught sight of a school of mysterious creatures swimming through the lake in the Changbai mountains, in northeastern Jilin province, the Beijing Youth Daily said on Tuesday.

“Within about 50 minutes, the monsters appeared five times,” it quoted one of the officials, provincial forestry bureau vice-director Zhang Lufeng, as saying. “At times there was one, at times there were several. The last time, there was as many as about 20.”

He said the creatures, two to three kilometres (1.25-2 miles) in the distance, appeared only as white or black spots. But from the ripples in the water, he and others determined the spots were “living beings.”

Officials were not reachable for comment.

In 1903, according to local records, a creature resembling a huge buffalo with a deafening roar sprang out of the water and attempted to attack three people before one them shot it in the belly six times. The beast roared and disappeared back into the water.

A more recently documented sighting compared the head of the monster to that of a human — except with big round eyes, a protruding mouth and a neck 1.2 to 1.5 metres long. It also had a white ring separating its neck and torso and smooth, grey skin.