For centuries there have been tales of unknown water monsters lurking within some of the world’s waterways. Utah is not stranger to these legends. Danny B Stewart attempts to shed a little light on Utah Lake Monster Lore!
There are some wonderful and eerie tales crawling out of Utah’s lakes and waterways. Stories that involve what pop-culture and cryptozoology would characterize as “lake monsters.” I don’t like to use the word monster though. Instead I like to refer to these whatevers as “unknown creatures.”
The tales of unknown aquatic-creatures are a global phenomena with many oral and written legends stretching back centuries. Some of these legends have become very pop-culture-fied. You’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone that hasn’t at least heard of the “Loch Ness Monster,” which is probably the most famous of all water-legends. This creature, sometimes referred to as a “Water-Horse” is often described at a “plesiosaurus-like.” It was first recorded sometime around 560 CE.
“The Creature of Utah’s Bear Lake” is probably the most well known of our local unknown-water-beasties. Although I do not know many details, the surrounding Native American Tribes (Shoshone, Ute and Bannock) were the first to speak about this creature. It was described as a “giant serpent, or dragon-like-beast that would capture and carry away any and all that dare swim in the lake. In the early 1860s Mormon settlers began to see these creatures.
“Brother” S.M. Johnson claimed to have seen something akin to a “downed carcass” floating in the water. It had cluster-like ears the size of “tea-cups” and spurt geysers of water from it’s nose. He believed that is must have been of enormous size because it didn’t drift to the shore so it’s legs must have been embedded in the muddy-bottom of the Lake. Most all of the sightings of this creature describe is as a kind of dragon, or freakish-alligator like beast. Personally I think it was some kind of abnormally large Beaver or other like mammal.
There are several Utah lakes that are supposed to be home to some kind of mysterious creature: Mud Lake, Sevier Lake, Clear Lake, Lake Powell, and The Great Salt Lake, but the creepiest and my all time favorite of Utah’s aquatic-mysteries is Utah County’s Utah Lake! Man! This place has always creeped me out. I honestly believe there is something mythical and mystical going on there. Throughout the years there have been many sightings of strange and out of place… Things in this lake, large serpents with greyhound like heads, and an alligator like beasts with huge red eyes, among other oddities.
In 2000 a close friend of mine, James Chase noticed something strange swimming in the lake near Pelican Point. He was about forty-yards away from it. He claimed to have seen something that was a little larger than a “barrel drum” in width, surface like a whale, and then submerge again. He said it was “shimmering silver in color with large yellow stripes running vertically along its mid-section.” James was a Hawaiian transplant and had encountered many different forms of ocean life, but he said he had “never seen anything like this.”
Which brings us to “Water-Babies!” Be afraid! Be very, very afraid… Or at least be careful! Whether you call them the aforementioned “Water-Babies,” “Water-Kelpies,” or “Merfolk,” they’re are something far-more dangerous than some meager “water-monster!” The local “Water-Babies” originate from Native American Ute folklore, but can be found allover the world and fall into the category of “Undine” a water-species (Water-Spirit) of “Faerie.” They can be very dangerous if you disregard, or disrespect them. Man just thinking about these little buggers gives me the goosebumps! You know when you’re out on, or walking by the shore and you hear the distant crying of babies? THAT’S THEM! Most people will only hear them, because if you see them… It’s probably too late! Many a boater has come upon what looked like floating reeds or lake-weed, but in actuality it is the HAIR OF THE WATER BABY floating at the surface, and just below it the “Water-Baby” hides waiting for the unsuspecting fisherman to fall into it’s trap!
Now I’d like to share with you a story from my youth. The tale of “Aquatic Canal-Boar” of Orem Utah! Back when I was much shorter than I am now, I’d often find myself staying with my Grandma and grandpa Spaulding. The Spauldings were avid gardeners and had “water-rights” to an open canal that ran right in front of their house. It wasn’t super deep, the canal base was probably no deeper than four-feet, and the water rarely rose above eighteen inches, it was about five or six-feet wide. It ran from an open stream that came through a nearby farm, traveled under the road, and opened up right in from of the Spauldings home. I like most children loved playing in water and I was fascinated by the canal. My grandma knew of this fascination and out of fear of me investigating it too closely and drowning she’d often tell me about the “Gigantic-Aquatic-Boar” that lurked in the covered section of the canal. It was a “man-eater!” and would only come out at night and when small unsuspecting children got too close to the edge of the canal! This story did the exact opposite of what my grandma intended! I became Hellbent on discovering this beast and would often jump down into the water and peer into the underground section of the canal. Alas I was never able to catch a good glimpse of the it… I’m starting to think my grandma was full of crap!
Danny B. Stewart is an “anomalogist”—a scientist of anomalies, a performance artist, teacher, lecturer, and professional storyteller. He also spent two years in a passionate relationship with a very mischievous water-nymph. It did not end well.
For more photography by William Huff visit his website.