“”The Indians have a tradition concerning a strange, serpent-like creature inhabiting the waters of Bear Lake, which they say carried off some of their braves many moons ago. Since then, they willnot sleep close to the lake. Neither will they swim in it, nor let their squaws nor papooses bathe in it.
Now, it seems this water devil, as the Indians called it, has again made an appearance. A number of our white settlers declare they have seen it with their own eyes. This Bear Lake Monster, they now call it, is causing a great deal of excitement up here. S.M. Johnson, at South Eden, was riding along near the lake the other day when he saw something a number of yards out in the lake which he thought was the body of a man. He waited for the waves to wash it in, but to his surprise, found the water washed over it without causing it to move. Then he saw it had a head and neck like some strange animal. On each side of the head were ears, or bunches the size of a pint cup. He concluded the body must be touching the bottom of the lake. By this time, however, Johnson seems to have been leaving the place so rapidly he failed to observe other details.
The next day three women and a man saw a monstrous animal in the lake near the same place, but this time it was swimming at an incredible speed. According to their statement, it was moving faster than a horse could run.”
This was the second-hand account of a mythical lake creature, as reported by Joseph C. Rich, a Mormon colonizer, and published in The Deseret Evening News in the year 1868. The article created quite a stir in Salt Lake City, so much that L.D.S. Church leader, Brigham Young, visited the area to investigate. L.D.S. Leaders dialogued with Charles C. Rich and other settlers from The Bear Lake Valley, regarding the lake monster. Considering the testimony that had been given “by so many individuals, who have seen a creature in so many places and under a variety of circumstances,” they considered the story to be “indisputable.” Brigham Young went so far as sending a large rope to Paris, Idaho to aid in capturing the monster.
The Deseret News continued to publish articles about the monster—waffling back and forth, first as a skeptic, and then defending its existence. The Salt Lake Tribune wrote that the monster was the “twin brother to the devil and a cousin to Brigham Young.”
Young wasn’t the only person interested in capturing the creature. A local resident proposed using a large, baited hook attached to a twenty-foot cable and three hundred yards of one-inch rope, at the end of which was a large buoy with a flagstaff inserted, and an anchor to keep it in a perpendicular position. From the buoy, one hundred yards of three-quarter-inch rope was to be extended to a tree on shore. (Wow…I wonder if that resident went on to design the game, “Mouse Trap” or something…) If captured, the community felt the monster could serve as freak show type competition to the famous traveling circus of P.T. Barnum.
What does the Bear Lake Monster look like? The descriptions vary:
• Its size was reported anywhere from 40 to 200 feet long.
• It’s eyes were very large and wide apart.
• It had a large undulating serpent like body with about 30 feet of exposed surface at each sighting.
• It was cream colored early on and somehow morphed into a dark, slimy green at last sighting.
• It had ears about the size of a pint cup.
• Although it had an unknown number of legs, their length was firmly established at eighteen inches long, Although walking on land was difficult for the beast, it was quite speedy in water.
• There are claims of the monster swimming faster than a horse could run on dry land, or even faster than a locomotive (New name for the beast! Clark Kent, aka the SuperMANster!) reaching speeds of 60 m.p.h.
• Some sightings even spoke of a second member of the species and smaller monsters as well.
Articles about the Bear Lake Monster continued to appear, either reciting new sightings of the creature(s) in Bear Lake and spreading to sightings at outlying rivers and lakes in the Utah Territory, or calling the sightings into question. The number of appearances of lake monsters across northern Utah caused some people to speculate that there was an underground channel connecting the Great Salt Lake and other waterways to Bear Lake. (An underground snailroad for sea creatures?)
As interest died down about the monster, twenty-six years following his first article and allegations, Joseph C. Rich finally admitted that it had all been a “wonderful first class lie.”
The Bear Lake Monster appears in Animal Planet’s “Lost Tapes,” drama series, in which it is depicted as similar to a crocodile or a mosasaur. The show portrays a group of girls who were attacked by the monster while staying in tents beside the lake.
Most recently the search for this creature was the subject of SyFy Channel’s Haunted Highway Season 1, Episode 1 (2012) “Bear Lake Beast; vs Hairy Man.” In this show the investigators found a cow bone in a submerged cave, leading to the question: How did it get there?
Since its first reported sighting in 1868, the Bear Lake Monster has become a part of folklore and a source of pride for the locals. In more recent years it has become a tourist attraction of sorts as the legend of the Bear Lake Monster has prompted an influx of tourists hoping to catch a view of the lake beast.
A 1907 letter published in a Logan, Utah newspaper claimed that two men had seen the Bear Lake behemoth attack their camp and kill one of their horses.
A man spotted the monster early one evening as he was walking along the lake. He tried to shoot it with his rifle. The man was a crack shot, but not one of his bullets touched that monster. It scared the heck out of him and he high tailed it home faster than you can say Jack Robinson. He left his rifle behind, claiming the monster ate it.
My father, David Jasper Kearl III, shared a story with me recently about the monster. It was 1930-31 and he was all of 4-5 years old at the time. He recalls the excitement in town as members of the community came running up from the lake claiming that the monster had surfaced. The entire population of Laketown converged at the water’s edge in anticipation of spotting the mythical beast. It ended up being a rather large, swimming moose.
A four-year-old claimed to see it in 1937
A Boy Scout leader spoke of seeing it in 1946.
The last reported sighting of the monster was in June 2002. Brian Hirschi announced that he had seen the creature, but skeptics were quick to point out that his story hit the newspapers on Memorial Day weekend — the start of the summer Bear Lake tourist season.
It happened, he insists, one night in June 2002 as he was anchoring his large pontoon tour boat — ironically shaped like a sea monster — after a day of ferrying tourists around the 20-mile long, 8-mile wide and 208-foot deep crystal blue lake.
After anchoring his vessel, he saw “two humps in the water” about 100 yards from the boat. At first, he thought they were water skis, but they disappeared. Then, his boat lifted up. “The next thing I know, a serpent-like creature shot up out of the water.” He said it had “really dark, slimy green skin and deep beet-red eyes.” It sunk back down under the water as quickly as it arose, but not before making a sound like a roaring bull.
Hirschi feared everyone would think he was crazy or out on the lake too much. But a year after his experience, he chose to break his silence.
To scoffers who claim his revelation was nothing more than a publicity stunt to boost the Bear Lake tourist trade, he replies: “Once you’ve seen the monster, you really don’t care what other people say.”
For years, Hirschi’s Bear Lake Monster Boat offered a 45-minute scenic cruise of Bear Lake with folklore storytelling. During the Raspberry Days parade, there have been float entries manned by local children, labeled “The REAL Bear Lake Monsters.”
With the monster being quiet for the last little bit, people have started to say it is gone for good. What they don’t know is that while tag teaming the tethering of some skinned sticks in preparation for erecting a Tipi at last year’s BEAR LAKE RENDEZVOUS, Fuzzy and Kash were playing a lively game of “I Spy” when the monster surfaced again.
“I spy a lake monster!” Fuzzy shouted. “Yeah, right,” Kash played along. “No! Really!” Fuzzy exclaimed. Being skilled trappers, one with imposing size and the other quick reflexes, Kash and Fuzzy took on the beast. The resulting skirmish went on for days, stirring numerous micro bursts around Bear Lake as the monster tried to drown the Mountain Men by blowing lake water from its tuba horn sized nostrils. (Remember how rainy the Rendezvous was last year? Well, it all makes sense now, doesn’t it…) Kash flung the monster by its tail to Fuzzy, who whipped the demon seed above and around his head so fast and high that it sailed halfway around the world, landing in Scotland’s Loch Ness. Mountain Men are known for their tall tales and this one seems mighty steep, but I do have it on good authority that CLARK KENT, THE SUPERMANSTER is making his way back home, via that watery, secret UNDERGROUND SNAILROAD, seeking what is sure to be a tale (yes, I meant tale, not tail) whipping, ginormous rematch with our fearless Members of the Board at the Rendezvous come August!
So, when you travel to Bear Lake for the 2015 BEAR LAKE RENDEZVOUS, if you look long enough and hard enough, you just might catch a glimpse of the beast emerging from its exile. Aim your eyes on the lake at dusk. Don’t even blink! And don’t say I didn’t warn you about swimming in Bear Lake after the sun goes down…