Monday, October 5, 2009

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

By Linda Weaver Clarke

The waves splashed gently upon the shore and the full
moon shone brightly upon Bear Lake, making the water shimmer. A deep
foreboding was in the air and the fawn, sipping from the lake, could
sense it. His ears perked up and he stood still while his eyes searched
the area. Only the sounds of nature could be heard, crickets sang and
an owl hooted, but the deer sensed that he was in danger and quickly
darted away. With great speed, he sprinted gracefully, as if in mid
air, toward safety.

A few feet from shore, the water abruptly
parted and exposed a gigantic brown lump about 90-feet long. Water was
trickling down its sides as it floated in the stillness of the night.
At first glance it looked like an enormous log that had floated to the
surface. After a couple seconds, it slowly moved toward shore. A howl
of a wolf was heard in the distance but it was instantly cut off when a
thunderous noise, like the roaring of an angry bull, pierced the night
and was heard from the shores of Bear Lake and beyond. Immediately, the
sounds of nature became silent and an eerie sense of foreboding
remained in the atmosphere.

The mystery of the Bear Lake Monster
has been an exciting part of Idaho history ever since the early
pioneers arrived in 1863. Prominent leaders of the area encouraged the
Indian legend because no one had a desire to move to the cold Bear Lake
country. The valley was located at the tops of the Rocky Mountains in
southern Idaho and the winters were harsh.

The legend of the Bear
Lake Monster made life a little more exciting for the pioneers. Some
people claimed to have seen it and gave descriptions of it. Throughout
the years, no one has ever disproved the Bear Lake Monster. A bunch of
scientists tried to discredit the monster and said it was a huge
codfish that was shipped in from the East. Does the Bear Lake Monster
exist? Is it fact or fiction, legend or myth?

The legend of the
Bear Lake Monster began with the Natives who inhabited this valley.
When the settlers arrived in 1863, the Indians told them all about the
Great Bear Lake Monster. It had captured and carried off two of their
braves while swimming. The legend came alive when people began
reporting its existence.

Thomas Sleight and John Collings of
Paris, Idaho, and Allen and M.C. Davis of St. Charles were taking six
girls home from a party in Fish Haven when they stopped off at the
lake. Some unusually large waves got their attention. They noticed four
brown lumps and six smaller ones that were heading southward. They swam
with incredible speed, about a mile a minute, until they were out of

One summer day in 1868, S. M. Johnson was riding his horse
alongside the shoreline when he saw an object floating in the water. At
first glance, it looked like a man's body. He was shocked and thought
that someone had drowned so he trotted his horse closer and watched the
object but it didn't move. When the water didn't wash the body ashore,
he figured it must have been a tree that was anchored to the bottom of
the lake with its roots still in tact. As he watched this so-called
tree, he said it opened a gigantic mouth that was large enough to
swallow a man and it blew water from its mouth and nose. Johnson said
that it had a skinny head, huge pointed ears, and three small legs that
rose up from the water as it approached the shore.

Some time
later, a group of twenty people spotted the monster and among these
were prominent men of the community. Two outstanding leaders who
reported the sighting were Wilford Woodruff and George Q. Cannon. No
one doubted what they saw. These men had integrity and were trustworthy.

interesting thing is that all the reports have pretty much the same
description. The monster's eyes were flaming red and its ears stuck out
from the sides of its skinny head. Its body was long, resembling a
gigantic alligator, and it could swim faster than a galloping horse. It
had small legs and a huge mouth, big enough to eat a man.

Is the
Bear Lake Monster fact or fiction, legend or myth? Whatever conclusion
is drawn, the legend still lives on and brings a great deal of mystery
and excitement to the community. Remember, when visiting Idaho, never
doubt the Bear Lake Monster or you'll be frowned upon. No one makes fun
of the great legend of Bear Lake Valley!

Weaver Clarke received her Bachelor of Arts Degree at Southern Utah
University. She travels throughout the United States, teaching a Family
Legacy Workshop, encouraging others to turn their family history and
autobiography into a variety of interesting stories.

Clarke is
the author of Melinda and the Wild West, a semi-finalist for the
Reviewers Choice Award 2007. The historical fiction series, A Family
Saga in Bear Lake, Idaho include the following novels: Melinda and the
Wild West (2006), Edith and the Mysterious Stranger (2008), Jenny's
Dream (2009), David and the Bear Lake Monster (2009), and Elena, Woman
of Courage (2009).

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