BEAR LAKE MONSTER IN UTAH
Herald-Journal, Logan UT
By Kelly Hafen
The first documented siting of the Bear Lake Monster was in July of 1868 by a number of pioneer settlers.
Their recorded witness was not only the beginning of a number of personal accounts of the Bear Lake Monster as well as other such aquatic species in Northern Utah, says Monsterologist Will Bagley, but also the beginning of a sort of identity for people who live in the area.
"It is those stories that make us a people and make us who we are," he said. "The telling of that human experience is absolutely a wonderful adventure."
In a talk titled "The Bear Lake Monster and Utah's Other Infamous Aquatic Animals," Bagley spoke Thursday to his audience about what he says is evidence that supports the existence of this reptilian beast located in the Caribbean of the Rocky Mountains. The speech was funded by the Utah Humanities Council and given to a full room at the Logan Justice Center.
"The history of the Bear Lake Monsters deserves serious consideration," Bagley said, explaining that the Bear Lake Monster(s) travels in pods, which indicates there may be more than one freshwater serpent.
As Utah's self-proclaimed leading monsterologist, a historical consultant and an author of several books, Bagley defended that this creature, which has been described as a sort of serpent no shorter than 195 feet that can travel up to 60 mph, is supported by anthropological evidence from Shonsone tales relating to the Bear Lake Monster.
But he said the most compelling evidence was established by early leaders of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the many supportive articles printed in the Deseret Morning News.
Bagley sites several prominent religious members, including Brigham Young, George Q. Cannon, John Taylor, Lorenzo Snow and Joseph F. Smith, as strong believers in the Bear Lake Monster. All but Brigham Young, claimed they had seen the serpent, he said.
"The Deseret News refused to back down on reporting about the Bear Lake Monster," he said. "And although he never saw, Brigham Young not only believed in the Bear Lake Monster, he invested in the Bear Lake Monster."
In devising a trap for the Monster, early settlers made use of 300 yards of steel cable, a buoy and a rope used as a leader for a hook baited with a sheep. Bagley said Brigham Young himself donated the rope to trap the Caribbean serpent.
"This is among the most compelling pieces of evidences about the Bear Lake Monster," Bagley said.
Bagley said the trap was successful because sheep often disappeared. But the Bear Lake Monster was never caught.
"Clearly we're dealing not with a resilient animal that can deal with a number of environmental challenges. But one that is very smart and can figure out how to get sheep off of a hook," he said.
Besides the Bear Lake Monster and among the belief of lake monsters worldwide, Bagley entertains the idea of several "Other Infamous Aquatic Outlaws" throughout Utah. He includes in the list of inhabited waters Panguitch, Sevier, Utah and the Great Salt Lakes.
He said there have been more recent and more believable reports on the existence of a Utah Lake monster.
Among reports of sitings of a Utah Lake monster from duck hunters, fishermen and children, there has been physical evidence in the form of a recovered skull exhibiting a single horn. "Which indicates that we have a unicorn-style lake monster in Utah Lake," Bagley quipped.
Stories of a Salt Lake monster lacked credibility, Bagley said. This monster is described as more reptilian, resembling a crocodile. But crocodiles would have a hard time living in water as salty as the Great Salt Lake, Bagley said.
"All the reports come of the Salt Lake Monster from scurrilous gentiles who were all drunk out of their heads when they actually spotted the Salt Lake Monster," he said. "We have been unable to link the Salt Lake Monster in with the family of lake monsters that I believe survive to this day in Utah."
But even Bagley admitted he once had his doubts about the Bear Lake Monster. He questioned its existence until he heard a personal story about an encounter with the creature from Bear Lake resident Brian Hirschi, who owns the pontoon-boat replica of the Bear Lake Monster.
Hirchi told Bagley that it was his "civic duty that finally compelled Brian to come forward to warn people to be on the lookout for the Bear Lake Monster because it is still alive and lurking." Bagley said.
The above monsters are not the only ones reported. Wallowa Lake in eastern Oregon is known to have a similar "monster" in it. Back when only Indians lived in the area they reported seeing this undulating creature. Then there is the Ogopogo in Okanagan Lake at Kelowna, BC. Pictures have been taken of that one. I believe these are hold overs from the dinosaur age. And what about "Nessie?" That one is well known. - Aileen