Our local paper had a story about the Bear Lake Monster today. For those unfamiliar with Bear Lake, it’s located on the eastern Utah/Idaho border. Bear Lake is at an elevation of 5,904 feet, and is 20 miles long and 8 miles wide with a depth of 208 feet. The water has a beautiful turquoise hue which is caused by limestone particles suspended in the lake. It also has an alleged monster.
The first documented sighting of the Bear Lake Monster was in 1868 by a group of settlers. Or so they say. I live about 40 minutes from Bear Lake, and did a little research about five years ago. Most of the documentation about the monster was in the form of folkloric sensationalism to please the tourists. The early sightings are accompanied by lots of generalities and very few details, making it all very suspect.
One story tells of two men around the turn of the century (though the time can vary by decades) actually capturing a young monster from the lake. The story, like so many others, ends there, conveniently excusing any explanation of what became of the captured creature.
Other stories tell of the Shoshone fearing to go near the lake because a huge monster grabbed unsuspecting bathers, and dragged them into the water to satisfy its ravenous appetite. Unsurprisingly, there is no substantial documentation to support the early American lore. To the contrary, journals and diaries of the first settlers tell of Native Americans fearlessly fishing from the lake. You all may be happy to know that since (and including) the first settlers, no one else has ever been dragged into the lake, or eaten by the monster. Perhaps humans don’t taste very good.
The general description of the monster, which comes strictly from the settlers, gives it the appearance of an enormous greenish brown snake, with fin-like appendages on its head, which can travel up to 60 miles an hour. It ranges in size anywhere from 50 feet to an astounding 200 feet, and roars or bellows like a bull when its head emerges.
In the newspaper article about the Bear Lake Monster, mention is made of a Will Bagley. He is a man I will simply call an eccentric thinker. The article calls him Utah’s self-proclaimed leading “Monsterologist”. I’m not sure why they didn’t call him a “cryptozoologist”. Perhaps they didn’t want to offend other cryptozoologists, or perhaps it was just too hard to spell.
Bagley calls Bear Lake the Utah Caribbean, and claims that early state leaders built an extremely large trap to capture the creature. He claims that the trap was successful in luring the monster, because sheep would be gone from the trap. No one, of course, saw them taken. He also claims that being able to get the sheep without springing the trap makes the lake monster very intelligent.
In addition to the Bear Lake Monster, Bagley also believes other Utah lakes contain monsters. His boldest claim is a strange skull that came from Utah Lake. He says the skull sports a single horn, making it a unicorn-like creature. According to the article, Bagley also believes a monster resides in the excessively salty Great Salt Lake. It’ll be interesting to see how he explains that one.
Back to Bear Lake; since the early settlers, I’m only aware of three sightings. One in 1973, another in 1994, and a third in 2003 by a man who operates a tour boat designed to look like a lake monster. (He has no incentive to see the Bear Lake Monster, does he?) The news article states that Brian Hirschi was reluctant to talk about his sighting. I believe him. I mean, who wants all those tourists climbing all over your boat at $15 a ride? “Fortunately”, Bagley was able to convince Brian that it was his “civic duty” to tell everyone what he saw. For those who are curious, Brian Hirschi’s sighting can be found here (http://www.bearlakefun.com/mbstory2.html).
Well, I’ll be keeping an eye on our local “monsterologist”. I can’t wait to see what he makes up, I mean, discovers next. In the mean time, I might pay a visit to the local university to see what they have on the history of Bear Lake. It might be fun to compare notes.