Call of the Cryptid: Bear Lake monster of Utah–Idaho


Said to look like a prehistoric alligator sea-creature, the Bear Lake monster has been discussed on Animal Planet, and draws tourists to the Utah–Idaho lake.

Sea monster cryptids are among the most respected and cherished, and there’s often an element of plausibility to them. After all, anyone who’s seen Jeremy Wade’s River Monsters  knows that, yes, there are some freaky creatures lurking in the water. So what about our subject, the Bear Lake Monster?

First of all, what does it look like? According to Wikipedia’s source, it “is reported to resemble a serpent, but with legs about eighteen inches long on which it marauds along the shoreline.”

The page for the Animal Planet show called Lost Tapes, which did a fictionalized episode on the Bear Lake Monster, cites a man named Brian Hirschi. Hirschi supposedly saw it in 2002, described it as having “dark green, slimy skin and beet red eyes.”

Being curious, I looked more into the name “Brian Hirschi.”  Someone with that name actually exists, but may be in a whole heap of trouble.  The point is, if a person making a claim actually exists, it lends at least slight credibility to a story.

Is it out there?

Speaking as a skeptical man, I don’t believe the existence of witnesses, literature or film necessarily proves a claim (especially when the footage is blurry and shaky). Supreme evidence would be that something can be routinely observed and verified.

The Bear Lake monster legend has roots in a Mormon settler and politician named Joseph C. Rich. While his story is fantastical, we can at least say he existed, as he is known as a state senator and judge in Idaho’s fifth judicial district.

Anyway, in 1868, Rich paraphrased the accounts of N. C. and Allen Davis of St. Charles, and Thomas Sleight and James Collings of Paris in the Deseret News. Incredibly, they estimated the creature to be between 40-90 feet in length, moving at the speed of a locomotive (“a mile a minute”)! If that’s not enough, there was more than one.

"“In a few minutes after the discovery of the first, a second followed in its wake, but seemed much smaller, appearing to Mr. Sleight about the size of a horse… At this turn Mr. Sleight says he could distinctly see it was of a brown color….and all agree that the velocity with which these monsters propelled themselves, was astounding.”"

It doesn’t help credibility that, apparently, Joseph C. Rich recanted these accounts later on.
More recently, though, World News Daily Report mentioned a couple, James and Christina Wilson, who found a corpse “resembling a dinosaur” in Garden City, Utah. They are quoted as saying,
“We walk here almost every day, but we have never seen anything like this.”

Of course, that website has articles with titles like Colorado: Hunter Claims he was Sexually Assaulted by a Sasquatch, or Homeless Man’ s P***s ‘Snapped in Half’ During Frantic [Love Making Session] with Manhole Cover. Probably my favorite I saw there: Elderly Woman Accused of Training Her 65 Cats to Steal from Neighbors.

Journalism at it’s finest!  The point is, it has a Weekly World News kind of vibe.

How far-fetched is the Bear Lake Monster?

On the surface, this cryptid sounds a bit like Sheb Wooley’s “one-eyed, one-horned, flyin’ purple people eater.” However, there are some pretty strange creatures out there. Consider that, initially, scientists disbelieved in the platypus.

It is, after all, a duck-billed, egg-laying, beaver-tailed, otter-footed, venomous mammal.  Still, the Bear Lake monster has been described in so many different ways, the concept becomes an enigma at best.

Some accounts make it sound violent, or capable of murders. Still, I doubt there has been a trail of victims, and there is no officially confirmed take on this beast. Fox News 13 tried to investigate a Bear Lake monster story, leaving it somewhat debunked; “Fox 13 has not been able to find a Dr. Upton with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.” I’d call that a snag to verifying the story, wouldn’t you?

One can only find fishy content. Ultimately, the Bear Lake monster sounds like a tourist attraction, like the “biggest ball of twine” or the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. It can be seen as innocent fun, whether one believes or not, much like the Loch Ness monster, which still draws plenty of attention.

Folklorist Elaine Thatcher notes:

"“My research in the Bear Lake Valley shows that the monster story has now evolved into self-parody, as locals play with the story, for themselves and for tourists.”"

Lost Tapes season 2, episode 9: Bear Lake Monster

The creature was covered in an episode of Lost Tapes, a show on Animal Planet.
In addition to an entertaining yet obviously fake “lost tape” of a land-based attack by the creature, it consults a few experts.

Bryce Nielson, a biologist, mentions something that looks like a walrus without tusks, or maybe an alligator. Loren Coleman, a famous cryptozoologist, speculates it’s “a holdover from the ice ages.” Michael E. Alfaro, an enolutionary biologist, mentions how prehistoric Mosasaurs are cousins to monitor lizards.

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They also mention how some fish can get around on land, such as catfish. Try to watch a giant catfish episode of River Monsters without thinking of them on land.  Now that would be a lake monster!

That’s it for this Call of the Cryptid! What are your thoughts? Howl at us in the comments!