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Bear Lake Monster may have a long-lost cousin . . . in Sweden

Will Bagley

Bear Lake is not alone.
  Lake Storsjoen, Sweden's fifth largest, is home to what one witness described as "a snakelike animal with a dog's head and fins." Since the Serpent of Storsjoe first appeared in 1635, around 500 people have seen the beast. Like Utah's monsters, they were relentlessly persecuted.
   But officials in Jaemtland province placed the beast on Sweden's endangered-species list in 1986, and Magnus Cedergren made worldwide news last week when he was denied a permit to hunt for its eggs. "It is prohibited to kill, hurt or catch animals of the Storsjoe monster species," an environmental court ruled, "or hurt the monster's eggs, roe or den."
   Could we get Utah's Division of Wildlife Resources to protect the Bear Lake Monster?
   Few Utah historians would be willing to stake their reputations on proving the existence of a legendary creature, but courageous chroniclers have compiled reams of historical data -- including eyewitness testimony from LDS Church presidents Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow and Joseph F. Smith -- proving our own Bear Lake Monster is no myth.
   Although prime Monster season runs from Memorial to Labor Day, this historian visited Bear Lake last month to conduct an on-site investigation.
The experience would convince the most cynical skeptic that Bear Lake is more than the "Caribbean of the Rocky Mountains."
   The investigation required a cruise on the Bear Lake Monster Boat, a 65-foot replica that Conrad Nebeker of Indian Creek created to entertain his grandchildren. Based on our best descriptions of the Beast -- "long neck, mouth with teeth, tail, very colorful, a big green Bear Lake Monster," according to one USU professor -- the replica matches the reputed size, coloring and temperament of the real serpent.
   Brian Hirschi, an Eagle Scout and Coast Guard-certified captain who is the boat's current owner, spends hundreds of hours ferrying tourists on the lake each year.
   During the summer of 2002, Capt. Hirschi had the most terrifying experience of his life.
   While anchoring the boat at sunset a couple hundred yards offshore in about 40 feet of water, Hirschi saw two dark humps appear astern. "The small ripples in the lake were breaking against the humps making them stand out," Hirschi recalled, and he thought it was a lost water ski and its boots. Then the humps disappeared below the surface.
   "I thought this was strange," he said, "but I had seen stranger things on the lake."
  Something scraped the bottom of the Monster Boat, lifting it out of the water -- and an 8,000-pound boat "doesn't just get lifted out of the water easily."
   Suddenly, not 50 feet away, a huge animal shot out of the water, creating enormous waves that rocked the boat violently. "I grabbed the rail to keep my balance as I tried to keep an eye on whatever had just come out of the water," he reported. It was a serpentine creature about as long as his 65-foot craft. "It had a skin color of dark slimy-green, beet-red eyes, and sort of a mist coming out of its nose," Hirschi claimed. "At first it made low throaty rumbling snarls and then finally a terrible squeal like a roaring bull as it submerged back into the water."
   The beast resurfaced some 200 yards away, racing toward the middle of the lake.
  Hirschi stood transfixed. "Did I really just see what I saw?" he asked.
"Was it going to come back?" As darkness fell he finally came to his senses, jumped on his SeaDoo and raced to shore, "almost beaching the watercraft with the engine still running."
  Everyone was gone from the business Hirschi runs not far north of the Utah State Marina at Garden City. Lacking any witnesses to his encounter, he decided to keep the story to himself, lest people think he'd gone crazy.
   Civic duty finally compelled Hirschi to come forth and warn people "to be on the lookout for the Bear Lake Monster because it is still alive and lurking."
  Or visiting kinfolk in Jaemtland.


   Historian Will Bagley is a descendant of Bear Lake pioneers, who had to have "plenty of hair on 'em to be tough enough to stand the climate."


More information on the Bear Lake Monster (pages 192-201) and Stotsie (pages 36, 79, 80, 263, 294) can be found in The Field Guide to Lake Monsters, Sea Serpents and Other Mystery Denizens of the Deep (NY: Tarcher-Penguin, 2003)

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Utah's Bear  Lake Monster

Utah's Bear Lake Monster may have a long-lost cousin . . . in Sweden

The Salt Lake Tribune
Sunday May 9, 2004