Recent witness says Bear Lake monster 'is still alive and lurking'
The Salt Lake Tribune
Sunday, October 5, 2003
In its long and venerable life, the Deseret Evening News occasionally got things right. It was definitely correct when, in 1881, it revealed that eyewitnesses were willing to prove "the Bear Lake monster is a living, veritable fact."
As devoted readers know, History Matters has "taken some pains to glean from every authentic source, such facts as would enable us to present to our readers in a clear and comprehensive form, the sum total of what is known of the monsterial majesty," as the Bear Lake Democrat put it so eloquently.
Thanks to overwhelming documentation found by Ardis Parshall, our state's finest historical sleuth, thinking Utahns now know that the monster is no myth.
This columnist has been widely ridiculed for providing compelling testimony of the creature's historical reality. But fact is, the monster has kept a very low profile for a very long time. Four-year-old Ronald W. Hansen made the last well-known monster sighting in 1937 -- until now.
The Lava News of Idaho reported Ronald's astonishing story, verified by lake-chronicler Bonnie Thompson in 1974. The intrepid youngster was playing on a 12-foot plank when Bear Lake's fickle winds blew him more than a mile offshore into 90-foot-deep water.
While onlookers rushed to get a motorboat to save him, Ronald struggled to stay afloat until a long, serpentine head emerged from the water and two reptilian eyes sized him up as a possible snack. "I saw him," Ronald said later. The lad did what any resourceful Utah youth would do: "I hit him with a little stick!"
The boy's rescuer grabbed Hansen's heel and plucked him from the churning waters as he was going down for the count.
Ronald's harrowing adventure is part of a substantial collection of reports on the Beast of Bear Lake that extend back to the region's ancient inhabitants who, the News reported in 1881, "asseverate the truth of this savage tradition."
August 1881 marks the peak of monster activity, when LDS prophet John Taylor and President George Q. Cannon visited Bear Lake. "While on the way from Fish Haven, a number of the party saw what they supposed was the celebrated Bear Lake monster," the News reported. "It was described as a large undulating body, with about 30 feet of exposed surface, of a light cream color, moving swiftly through the water, at a distance of three miles from the point of observations."
Meanwhile, the Democrat testified, "The clouds of doubt and uncertainty that have hitherto befogged the personality of the mysterious 'what is it' are beginning to disappear before the penetrating rays of evidence and unprejudiced conviction."
The Democrat (yes, Rich County once had enough Democrats to support a newspaper) was no slave to the party line, as its contempt for the LDS Church's official newspaper reveals. "The Deseret News mingles Bear Lake Monsters, editors of patent weeklies and Associated Press reporters, all
together in one chaotic and ridiculous heap," the newspaper retorted after the News heaped "ridicule and scorn" on the weekly Democrat. "And must we endure all this!"
Should any doubts remain, remember Brigham Young not only believed in the Bear Lake Monster, he invested in the creature. Still, 66 years is a long time for the beast to go unseen, suggesting it might be extinct.
A crushing workload has long prevented this historian-cum-investigative reporter from visiting the lake and sizing up the situation firsthand, but once monster season opens next spring, duty dictates a journey northward to speak to the latest highly respected eyewitness.
In summer 2002, a veteran local navigator had a hair-raising encounter with the creature. It is essential to "let people know to be on the lookout for the Bear Lake Monster," he says, "because it is still alive and lurking."
Did you realize that a new book classifies the Bear Lake Monster together with other Utah Lake Monsters in a novel and revolutionary fashion?
Read more in the just-published 370-page The Field Guide to Lake Monsters, Sea Serpents and Other Mystery Denizens of the Deep: