Bear Lake Monster
The Bear Lake Monster is a cryptid from the folklore of the Bear Lake area in the Western United States. Bear Lake is a freshwater lake straddling the Utah-Idaho border.
According to folklore, the monster lives in the lake and lurks along its shoreline.
The legend of the Bear Lake Monster reportedly originated in the writings of Utah native Joseph C. Rich, first published by Deseret News in 1868.
Bear Lake Monster is a serpentine creature
There are various conflicting descriptions of the Bear Lake Monster. However, the most popular version of the folklore describes the creature as a serpentine monster with many legs. The accounts are unclear about the number of legs it has. But alleged eyewitness accounts estimated the limbs to be about 18 inches long.
Bear Lake Monster has a long serpentine body about 30-50 feet long. But some accounts say the creature is about 40-200 feet long and has a light cream or brown skin color.
Folklore offers various descriptions of the head. Some folks claim it has a bovine (cow-like) head. Others claim the head resembles that of a tuskless walrus, an otter, an alligator, or a crocodile.
The creature had large dark eyes set wide apart. It has structures resembling scales or spikes on its back. The scales run from the base of the head along the back to the tail.
The Bear Lake Monster is a fast swimmer
Many accounts emphasize the creature’s swimming prowess. It is reportedly a fast swimmer. It can swim at speeds up to 60 mph. However, it is slow and awkward on land.
Some claim that Bear Lake hosts more than one individual of the monster species. But there is no consensus on how many monsters live in the lake.
Some alleged eyewitness accounts said there were two monsters, while others said there might be multiple juvenile individuals alongside two adults, implying a family of monsters.
Sightings and Tales
The first reports about alleged sightings of the Bear Lake Monster came from articles published by Deseret News and attributed to Joseph C. Rich.
Rich later admitted that his stories were fictional. But by then, the excitement over a monstrous creature in the calm blue waters of Bear Lake had subsided.
However, thanks to the efforts of the local authorities, the legend continues to attract a steady trickle of tourists and cryptid hunters to the area.
Sporadic reports of sightings continued into the early 21 century.
Joseph C. Rich Deseret News stories
Deseret News started publishing Rich’s articles in 1868.
According to Rich, the legend of the Bear Lake Monster originated among local Native American tribes, such as the Shoshone, who considered the creature a water spirit.
Rich christened the water spirit the Bear Lake Monster. He claimed that some white settlers had also reported sighing it.
Rich’s articles included multiple accounts of encounters with the creature by alleged eyewitnesses.
Sightings: Mr. S.M. Johnshon
In a typical incident, Mr. S.M. Johnson, a white settler on the east side of the Bear Lake at South Eden, reported seeing the creature in July 1868.
Johnson was traveling from South Eden on the Utah side of the lake to Round Valley when, halfway through his journey, he saw something in the lake. At first, he thought it was a person drowning. He rode quickly to the water’s edge to look.
He soon realized there were strange animals in the lake. He had no idea what they were.
Rich’s stories about ordinary people seeing monsters caused a stir.
Many took the accounts at face value and believed they represented real-life incidents.
Brigham Young’s LDS Church investigated
The stories caused such a stir across Utah that the leadership of the Latter Day Saints Church (LDS) felt compelled to investigate the claims.
Brigham Young, the leader of the LDS church, also became interested in the reports. The church decided to send agents to the communities to investigate. They even considered a plan to capture the creature.
The LDS agents interviewed people in the region to establish facts about the alarming allegations. Multiple people gave testimonies that appeared to confirm the newspaper stories.
Many residents claimed that they or someone they knew had seen the creature.
The LDS church leaders reportedly concluded that the locals must have seen something remarkable. But they were convinced it must have been larger-than-normal fish.
Deseret News coverage stirs controversy
Deseret News’ continued coverage of monster stories soon stirred controversy, and some competing media outlets criticized the newspaper.
However, other local newspapers started publishing reports about alleged sightings of monsters in Bear Lake and other places in Utah.
Reports about similar or identical creatures in various lakes across Utah led to increased interest in lake monsters. It also sparked speculation about why people were reporting what appeared to be the same monsters at multiple locations.
Some cryptozoologists suggested there were subterranean tunnels linking the various lakes and rivers in northern Utah and that the monsters sighted at other places were the same as the Bear Lake Monster.
People often compared the Bear Lake Monster with Scotland’s Lochness Monster. According to Deseret News’ Alan Edwards, some locals even believed the monsters were the same species. Others said the two creatures were the same individual and that there might be an underground channel connecting Bear Lake and Loch Ness.
Joseph C. Rich admitted fabricating the stories
Rich’s series of articles alleging sightings inspired independent claims. And even after he admitted that he fabricated the stories, claimed sightings continued.
However, the excitement over the creature had long subsided when Rich admitted the stories were fiction.
New claims generated less stir due to local newspapers taking less interest.
For instance, in 1907, a local newspaper in Utah published a report about a Bear Lake Monster encounter near Logan, Cache County, Utah.
Two men claimed that a monstrous creature invaded their camp in the woods and killed their horses. In 1946, a Boy Scout leader reported seeing a strange creature in the woods.
In June 2002, Brian Hirschi (a local businessman) claimed to have seen the monster.
The local authorities tried to promote the monster legend for tourism. They organized tourist events, including boat excursions.
In 1996, local authorities organized a competition to have children name the creature. Many children submitted names. The judges eventually settled for Isabella, suggested by an 8-year-old schoolgirl.
Where to find
https://www.deseret.com/utah/2022/5/21/23130943/bear-lake-monster-tale-origins-brigham-young-utah-idaho, “The legendary tale of Brigham Young and the Bear Lake Monster(s),” accessed on March 4, 2023.
https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/details?id=23153792, “Desert Evening News | 1868-08-27 | Page 2,” accessed on March 4, 2023.
https://www.deseret.com/2003/8/9/19740541/bear-lake-monster-gets-no-respect, “Bear Lake Monster gets no respect,” accessed on March 4, 2023.
The Bear Lake Monster is native to lake on the Utah-Idaho border. Pic credit: Pixabay