Sea serpent Bessie is not as well-known as the Loch Ness Monster, but it may be considered a distant cousin.
The creature’s habitat appears to mostly be around the Ohio side of lake Erie. There have been multiple sightings reported, and some attacks have been attributed to the creature.
Bessie, or rather her ancestors, might have inhabited Lake Erie well before European settlers arrived. The Seneca Indians have a tale about the Good Spirit and the Evil Spirit. The Evil Spirit controls an enormous serpent that swims in the Niagara River and Lake Erie.
Bessie is reputedly able to live on land and in water. It is thought that the legendary creature could have been inspired by the local sturgeon population, given that sturgeons have no limit to their growth potential and can live for more than 100 years. In fact, the largest sturgeon ever recorded was 12 feet long and weighed 1100 pounds.
Skeptics say that a creature the size of Bessie could not possibly live in Lake Erie – the habitat is, they argue, just not able to sustain such a creature, let alone a breeding population. The waters are relatively shallow and also warm.
Counter to this, some cryptozoologists believe it would be possible for such a creature to adapt to its environment over time; thus, Bessie could, in theory, be real.
Bessie is thought to be in the region of 30-40 feet long. Her body is estimated to be 1 foot wide, and her skin seems to be dark gray or grayish.
Other descriptions of Bessie have varied greatly; in some reports, she has a dog’s head, ostrich eyes, and fins, but she is mostly described as snake-like with humps. The creature’s skin has been described as grey, copper, or silver.
Many cryptozoologists suspect that Bessie may be an ancestor of the plesiosaur, a massive marine reptile creature that was thought to have gone extinct with the dinosaurs.
Lake Erie is a busy, populated area with a high number of tourists, so there have been plenty of sightings over the years. Bessie began life as part of the native American culture but has now passed into the fabric of modern Ohioian culture. Bessie even inspired the name of the hockey team, Cleveland Monsters.
There is a financial reward for anyone who can capture Bessie humanely and alive. Is Bessie in there somewhere, or is she a legend?
Sightings and Tales
Reports of Bessie go all the way back to the end of the 18th century. The earliest sighting was made in 1793 by the crew of a vessel called the Felicity. The vessel’s captain said they were near Sandusky, Ohio, when they accidentally disturbed the creature while shooting at ducks.
Two notable sightings were recorded in 1817. One ship’s crew said they saw a large, dark-colored serpent measuring approximately 40 feet long. A second crew said they came across a copper-colored monster that was around 60 feet long.
In Toledo, Ohio, in the same year, two brothers called Dusseau reported a huge monster thrashing about on the beach. They said it resembled a sturgeon but was 30 feet in length. The brothers went to find help, but on their return to the scene, the monster had gone, apparently leaving behind some silvery scales.
Flashing forward to 1985, Dale Munro from Lorain, Ohio, was boating when he came face-to-face with what he believed was Bessie. Noting the monster as being black and having three humps, he also calculated that it was twice the size of his 16-foot boat. He observed the monster for three or four minutes in calm water near to the Lorain Coastguard Station.
David Monk says he saw Bessie in 1986. Being a mere 7 feet away from the creature, he was able to observe its ostrich-like eyes positioned on the side of its head. The black creature did not seem to have a nose or mouth, and its head was 18-24 inches wide.
In 1990, Harold Bricker and his family said they encountered the creature swimming past their boat. Less than a week later, Jim Johnson and Steve Dircks saw the monster lying still in the water for around six minutes. They described it as being dark blue or black and between 30 and 40 feet long.
In addition to sightings, some attacks have been linked to the monster. An incident on the lake in 1992 left three people dead, with one survivor insisting the group had been attacked by a creature with a head the size of a car. This report cannot be confirmed, so it may simply be a local myth.
On August 13, 2001, the Ottawa Citizen ran a story about a creature attacking swimmers near the Port Dover pump house on teh Canadian side of the lake. Examination of the swimmers’ bites did not generate any conclusions, but it was posited that the bites might have been made by a primitive fish called a bowfin.
Bessie does not seem too concerned about encroaching on highly populated areas. In 2021, a Cleveland.com guest columnist, Greg Evans from King University in Bristol, Tennesse, reported a strange sighting in the Cuyahoga River, near its mouth into Lake Erie but right in the middle of Cleveland.
Evans reported seeing a large shadow, about the size of a kayak, just below the surface of the water. He described it as slow moving, like a turtle crossing the road, but claims it disappeared when he averted his gaze just for a moment.
Evans admitted that there were multiple possibilities for what he saw; however, it is further indication that something strange may be lurking in the waters surrounding Ohio.
|Other Name/s||Lemmy, Lake Erie Monster, South Bay Bessie, Lake Erie Cow Monster, Great Snake of Lake Erie|
Where to find
national-paranormal-society.org, “Bessie, the Lake Erie monster,” accessed September 12, 2017,
freewebs.com, “Ohio Cryptids,” accessed September 13, 2017,
cryptoreports.com, “Bessie (Lake Erie),” accessed September 13, 2017,
newyorkparanormal.tumblr.com, “Lake Erie’s Bessie,” accessed September 13, 2017,
thesupernaturalfoxsisters.com, “Category Archives: Cryptozoology,” accessed September 13, 2017,
mysterycasebook.com, “Lake Erie’s Bessie,” accessed September 13, 2017,
https://greatlakes.guide/ideas/meet-bessie-the-loch-ness-monsters-canadian-cousin-livin, “Meet Bessie, the Loch Ness Monster of Lake Erie,” accessed February 20, 2023,
https://www.cleveland.com/opinion/2021/11/what-was-it-in-the-waters-of-lake-erie-that-day-greg-evans.html, “What was it in the waters of Lake Erie that day?” accessed February 20, 2023.
Top image: Bessie has haunted Lake Erie for centuries. Pic credit: Tom B. Free/ParanormalPapers.com
An image of a lake monster. Pic credit: Pixabay
Last modified on October 10th, 2023 at 3:14 pm