The Bear Lake Monster-Facts, Fun and Fancy
Almost seventeen years after he wrote the articles he was most noted for at the time and today, another literary mind strongly encouraged Joseph C. Rich ("Saxey") to end his quiet period and "load up and fire another shot at the indiscreet and reckless" by unsheathing his "glittering Faber [and] smite where duty calls, and awaken the better natures of mankind to life and happiness." (1) While he who made this clarion call did not necessarily have this particular piece in mind, without it the call most likely would not have occurred. Nevertheless, the message was pertinent and possibly as timely as at the earlier time. Center stage was an oblong body of water known as Bear Lake, straddling the Utah-Idaho border with an unusual resident or main character—a reputed monster. This small fresh water lake had a maximum length of just over eighteen miles with a width of seven miles and an average depth of ninety-four feet and a maximum
Earliest known photo of Bear Lake taken in 1871 by the
U.S. Geological Survey (Used by permission from the Bear Lake GenWeb site)
depth of 208 feet at a small location on its lower east side. Its beautiful setting and water of intense turquoise blue was important in 1868, primarily due to the fish it contained and the water fowl that used its water, providing food for humans on the struggling frontier settlements. Today the lake is a recreational location during all seasons and praised by many as a paradise; however, once it was thought to be the home of a feared large lake monster or family of such creatures. For a time the lake’s reputation had both dispelling and attractive aspects and characteristics. This legend was born in 1868 and for over a decade was strong with several sightings of the creature and then followed a series of long periods of no sightings followed by brief reappearances of what became known as the Bear Lake monster. A debate of sorts has ensued ever since over whether the supposed mythological lake monster was real or a hoax. In all there are very few facts with much fun and more fancy dealing with this supposed denizen of the deep. Perhaps another rendering of the story should be attempted with a slightly different orientation of this tale that began over seven score years ago.
It began with Joseph C. Rich, the son of Apostle Charles C. Rich who began the Mormon settlements in the Bear Lake Valley in 1863. Both Rich County and St. Charles, Idaho were named by Brigham Young for Elder Charles C. Rich who was esteemed venerable in the area. The younger Rich had been born in Nauvoo, Illinois in 1841, and he was in fact a pioneer on his own being in his early twenties when he, with his father, moved from Franklin, Idaho to the Bear River Valley. Joseph, although he received only a few months of formal schooling, was highly motivated and with self-initiative plus family and church contacts which rounded out his learning to the point that he became proficient in reading and writing, civil engineering, church leadership and was in the process of studying to become a lawyer. He was well traveled, covering from Nauvoo, Illinois, to Utah to California, returning to Utah to England and back to Utah and finally Idaho. He served in the so-called Utah war, served a mission for his church in England and helped found the Mormon settlements in Bear Lake Valley. He served as a surveyor laying out the towns, roads and irrigation systems. He owned and operated a store, served as the first telegraph operator in Bear Lake Valley and held leadership positions in the local area church. Chosen to represent his area at political convention in January of 1868, he was appointed the assistant clerk in the Utah Territorial Legislature (his area mistakenly believed to be part of Utah while really in Idaho). The same year he became the established correspondent for the Deseret News from the Bear Lake Valley. He was a prankster and humorist extraordinaire. From his earliest published writings he showed a literary bent with talent and ability with the pen wherein words appeared to come easy for him, and he relished the fame his pen brought to him. In addition he quickly developed a deep affection for the Bear Lake Valley, and he had another love which he endeavored tirelessly to cultivate with a young lady from one of Salt Lake City’s most prominent families. The problem with this relationship was the lady was strongly against become stuck in the isolated frontier settlement in Bear Lake Valley by giving up her comfortable surroundings in the city. (2)
Joseph C. Rich at his home at Paris, north of Bear Lake, unmarried at age twenty-seven, worried and wondered if the love of his life would ever consent to marry him and live on the harsh, isolated frontier. While he had much on his mind with many irons in the fire, the summer of 1868 would prove to be the most propitious time for his next escapade or quest, best for the creator and probably for the valley residents. In late July he took his pen in hand to foster some of his desires. For his valley, according to his biographer, he wrote "one of the most amazing pieces of regional publicity ever devised," that made his valley one of the most discussed and known places in the entire region. Not only did it generate excitement but it gave him the opportunity to create something by way of his mind and pen, which in essence was along the line of what the literary man wanted him to do again seventeen years later—"load up and fire another shot at the indiscreet and reckless . . . smite where duty calls, and awaken the better natures of mankind to life and happiness." Just possibly if all played out right, it might help persuade his love interest to decide that Bear Lake wasn’t quite the end of the civilized world. His goal was to develop something out of the tiny scattered seeds of Indian traditions and local superstitions that would have an impact. Joseph set about to fabricate a tall tale using his position as correspondent to the leading Salt Lake newspaper, and two decades later he admitted he had lied and fabricated the monster report. However, in 1868 he would use the guise of being a true reporter with both witnesses and Indian lore to support him but with several hints of caution and forewarning signs at the same time. Most likely this discretion or prudent circumspection could serve as a safety net in case his monster story misfired and failed to meet its creator’s expectations. (3)
He addressed his letter to the editor of the Deseret Evening News at Salt Lake City dated at Paris July 27, 1868 initially explaining why he had not written sooner about the "important events" that continually happen in the Bear Lake Valley, as he was "constitutionally tired." Then he showed his great love and devotion for his home area by writing: "It is a mystery to me that all the leading journals of the world have not correspondents in Bear Lake, in fact I don’t know how the people tolerate their publication without." He advised his readers that he would deliver his report with headings so they could quickly find the more interesting parts of his letter. The first three heading were Paris, Grasshoppers and Bad Luck. Starting out like the typical letter to the newspaper reporting local news and events, according to Joseph, the town of Paris was noted for being the residence of the author and its fashions. With much levity he described some of the fashions of dress, public facilities and structures (including cow sheds) and advised the locals had adopted a fish diet that was "strictly sucker." In regards to the invasion of the insects he made it a war with military terminology with "extensive grasshopper casualty." The misfortune was what befell a recent emigrant who ran his team into the river, drowning his mules, damaging his wagon and loosing $400 money washed away in the river's current. To that point he functioned as the local correspondent in a creditable and above average manner. Thereafter, with delicate care he began weaving his creative tale which was the center piece of his letter under the fourth heading "BEAR LAKE MONSTER." In the process he provided the name for the supposed creature as well as naming well-known people of his valley as witnesses to some amazing events, but because he never revealed the detailed initial incidents in his belated acknowledgement of lying, we can only speculate on how the inner working of the yarn was formed. Without some support or collusion by at least a few others, his tale didn’t have a chance with his already established reputation for playfulness with his words and stories, written and oral, full of fun and cleverness. Therefore, since he couldn’t pull it off by himself he needed some assistance to establish credibility. Possibly at minimum the named witnesses to his monster episode were mainly supporting the implementation of a tall tale providing their claimed witness or acquiescing by allowing their names to be involved but for the most part remaining behind the focus with an occasional nod, smile or acknowledgment. On the other side of the scale there could have been two or three who were closer to being collaborators. (4)
Of all the mysteries of the Bear Lake monster lingering today, the greatest puzzle remains as to the involvement of others in the tale. The fabrication of the monster tall tale began with the witnessed sightings during a short period in July of 1868 at a couple of locations on the lake. If they had told their stories to the author and he related them close to the truth, then he would have had no cause to recant his written account and brand it a grand lie several years later. Yet, because he created the monster account on his own, he couldn’t claim he was duped, for his purpose was to hoodwink his readers and any learning of it by word of mouth. We are in a better position in regards as to why Joseph C. Rich did it all. His intent was to awaken and lighten up his readers in the best spirit of the "Keep-A-Pitchinin" movement. The basic core reasoning for this fabrication was amusement, humor—pure fun—and he wanted to challenge or test the credulity of his readers, local and beyond. Secondarily, he wanted to publicize his beloved Bear Lake Valley plus have an opportunity to expand his reputation and thought his monster letter would facilitate this. In addition, possibly he hoped it would cause his loved one to change her mind about the limitations of life on the frontier near Bear Lake. In those aspirations he was successful to an inordinate degree. Some later writers have suggested Rich had sought monetary gain since he ran a store, but they missed the mark by not understanding the man or his motives.
His setup, bearing in mind the author’s admission of it being a grand lie, must be taken with care as to anything he related from Indian tradition to unnamed incidents of other sightings of the monster. According to his structuring or orientation, all lakes, caves and dens have their own legends because tradition throws "her magic wand" on them to produce fairies, giants and monsters of various types and Bear Lake had her own "monster tale to tell." Then the author placed his first caution telling the readers that he left it to them to decide whether the Indian tale he presented had any merit or was just an old legend or oral tradition. He gave the Indians’ version that a monster lived in the lake, described as being serpent like with legs about eighteen inches long allowing it crawl onto the shore a short distance and it spouted water upward out of its mouth. Long ago this creature caught and carried away some Indians in or near the water, causing the natives not to swim or bathe in the lake or sleep close to the water. The creature, called among other names, a "water devil," had not been seen for many years since the buffalo were still in the valley. Until "this summer  the ‘monster question’ had about died out," at least among the Indians as a "number of our white settlers declare they had seen it with their own eyes." Rich continued his primary disclosure couched to appear that the author was only the transmitter rather than the creator and person naming the phenomena. His written account declared: "This Bear Lake Monster, they now call it, is causing a great deal of excitement up here." Disclaiming any personal sighting or naming of the denizen that he later claimed he both made up and named. Then he related the first sighting which became a crucial cornerstone of his tale. At a place on the southeastern side of the lake some three weeks earlier (making it in early July) Mr. S. M. Johnson, who lived nearby, was traveling along a road within sight of the lake and "he saw something in the lake," which he thought was a drowned person, causing him to leave the road and go closer on the beach. Due to high waves Mr. Johnson thought the object would wash ashore, but it didn’t and eventually "two or three feet of some kind of an animal that he had never seen before" raised out and above the water. He didn’t see any part of the body except the neck and head which had "ears or bunches" the size of a pint cup. The high waves washed over the thing’s head causing it to spout water from its nose or mouth but didn’t move the object any closer to the shore. The observer took this to indicate a huge body which must have maintained contact with the bottom of the lake. With this the author concluded the incident citing his source for the information with—"This is Mr. Johnson’s version as he told me." Also being a disclaimer of sorts as to the author’s personal involvement (5)
While the crafted introduction connected to the Indians had the monster "about died out" earlier, there was a sudden revival with the sightings or stories of the monster coming fast and furious. The day following the sighting in the southeastern section, a man and three women saw the strange animal or monster swimming, covering the distance "much faster than a horse could run on land." As with apparently all sightings of the beast in the lake, the news spread rapidly among the residents of the area, and this sighting, coupled with the earlier one, caused, according to the author, the people to believe "the story was not altogether moonshine." Most likely this was another cautionary hint by the writer-creator. Then Rich developed the remaining foundation and pillars to the monster tale. According to Mr. Rich’s letter dated on July 27, 1868, on the previous Sunday (probably July 19th) two men from St. Charles (N. C. Davis and Allen Davis) and two men from Paris (Thomas Slight and J. Collings) along with six women were returning home from Fish Haven, traveling north, when half way to St. Charles they were attracted by a "peculiar motion or wave in the water" about three miles away. The lake surface was not rough but showed the effects of a light wind, and one in the party claimed he distinctly saw the sides of a "very large
animal" judged to be not less than ninety feet in length. Another man taking the lake’s waves and the animal’s wake thought these indicators put the animal’s length as not less than forty feet. All of these witnesses agreed on one point that it swam with a "speed almost incredible to their senses," being propelled through the water at such astonishing speeds as faster than a locomotive or making "a mile a minute, easy."
Even more outstanding or outlandish, there appeared several more of the same type creatures, one the size of a horse and finally a total of four large ones and six small ones, all with a brownish color. The author of the letter ended his story of the monsters with: "This is substantially their statement as they told me. Messrs. Davis and Slight are prominent men well known in the county, and all of them are reliable persons whose veracity is undoubted." Perhaps nothing more could be said, except to anyone familiar with Mr. Rich’s letters as he frequently used the same ending regarding reliability and "veracity" which could not be doubted while telling a definite whopper such as the one about the old mountaineer whose "veracity cannot be impeached, as he is known to be the most talented liar in the Rocky Mountains," as recorded in his letter to Ann Eliza Hunter two months before the monster letter. Besides, the author had no doubt that some of the witnesses would make affidavits to their statements. (6)
Mr. Rich signed off his letter to the newspaper with his initials "J. C. R.," only after a far-reaching conclusion as impressive as anything else in the letter. He wrote: "There you have the monster story so far as completed, but I hope it will be concluded by the capture of one some time. If so large an animal exists in this altitude and in so small a lake, what can it be? It must be something new under the sun, the scriptural text to the contrary, notwithstanding. Is it fish, flesh or serpent, amphibious, am-fabulous or a great big fib, or what is it? I give it up, but live in hopes of some day seeing it, if it really exists, and I have no reason to doubt the above statements." Then he had a suggestion, or possibly two, as he thought there was an economic opportunity at hand if some group could catch one of the monsters and beat Mr. Barnum (P. T. Barnum the noted American showman who promoting a wide range of things and persons from hoaxes to the circus) in making this monster a prize exhibit and charge for the viewing of it by the public. While he stated that some of the citizens of the area were talking of forming a joint stock company for just such an enterprise, it might well be this was his original idea as the time from the last multiple sighting and his letter was at most a week. Then as a postscript to the letter to the newspaper editor came the following added note: "Dear Brother Cannon:--I have talked with some of the parties in relation to the monster story, and it is as Joseph has stated it. I am, yours truly, CHARLES C. RICH." (7) Such a testimonial from the Church authority and leader of the Bear Lake settlements by the Mormons might seem to be the capstone to the story by his son, but the father possessed a well-developed sense of humor and knew his son better than anyone else. This tall tale wouldn’t be squelched like the "prophesy hen" (covered later) as he was familiar with tall tales, and besides his son had seemingly covered both sides of the monster issue and the father knew which side his son was on. This was not regarded as a time and place for "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth." So the tale was left to see how it would be taken and what would become of it. By the first week of August of 1868 not even Joseph C. Rich or others involved in any manner knew what would happen or how long it would last.
The Salt Lake City newspaper published the long letter by correspondent Joseph C. Rich in its daily (except Sunday) edition on Monday August 3rd, and repeated it in the weekly newspaper a couple of days later. The weekly was designed for the out-lying areas of the Mormon country which included the Bear Lake area. There were undoubtedly many who enjoyed the article, taking it as it was intended as a tall tale or prank, and there were others who were skeptical along with many who took the written word at face value. However, the sharpest and loudest reaction came from those who branded the story a fraud and charged the newspaper with complicity in this report. These pointed charges caused the Deseret News in both its daily (Aug. 6th) and weekly (Aug. 12th) editions to publish the following item acknowledging the excited negative comments of their monster article such a short time earlier.
EXCITED.--Various and sundry parties, more
noted for ardent temperaments than
strict attention to the governing rules of veracity, are manifesting a degree of excitement,
altogether unwarranted under the circumstances, concerning the description of the Bear
Lake monster by our esteemed friend, J.C.R. and endorsed by Pres. C. C. Rich. The Bear
Lake monsters have the advantage of some nearer. This point in originality, though not
being so well known; hence, probably, the reason why the veracious individuals alluded
to are excited. We know monsters who are so familiar to the public that no one now thinks
of calling them by their right names; but these Bear Lakers are the genuine article, of
original texture, the great distinguishing characteristics between them and the others alluded
to, being, we think, their massive size and lack of speech. We sustain the tangibility and
reality of those mysterious denizens of Bear Lake. (8)
The Deseret News chose to stick with its original report that the monsters were real and tangible, and it continued to have correspondence that was friendlier such as a letter from Mountain Green. The author reported, with regret, that they had no monster in their area at present, "but have no doubt we shall have one like other places in time. Nil Desperandum! I wonder if one of those at Bear Lake could not be spared for this settlement." The Latin phrase meant "never despair," and the letter writer signed his name as "KEEPAPITCHININ," a name but also a term for a beginning literary movement that had some impact in Utah from 1868 into the mid-1870s focusing on humor. Some called to mind other lakes in Utah, in particular Utah Lake, in which there were stories, witnesses and Indian traditions that paralleled and possibly rivaled those concerning lake monsters, and suggested: "The wonders that exist in Utah are only beginning to be talked about!" (9)
After holding his pen for over a month Joseph C. Rich started another long letter to the editor of the Deseret News dated Rich County on September 12, 1868, and when published and took up more than half of the front page of the weekly edition on September 30. He reacted to some of the criticism of the monster story, surely with his tongue in his check and mighty chuckles, with words that were complete humor as follows: "I noticed with feeling of profound regret that there existed in Utah certain persons disposed to doubt the veracity of the published account regarding the monsters of Bear Lake. I supposed the mere fact of the appearance of my initials to any communication or statement, however incredible apparently, would have rendered its authenticity indisputable." He retorted that there were always some in the rear that failed to comprehend "great facts," and he was sorry for them because they might come to Bear Lake and by their unbelief be not cautious and be "gobbled up by the ‘Water Devil.’" Acknowledging there were a "very few people" even at Bear Lake who "disbelieve the ‘monster doctrine,’" and he maintained these do not prosper, their intellects tottering, not considered competent to be fence viewers and eventually the government will deprive them the "blessing" of paying any tax or internal revenue. After that forward, he turned to more supportive sightings. His old Paris acquaintance, N. C. Davis, had recently "seen two more of the monsters" as they entertained themselves in the lake shooting spouts of water ten feet high with a volume of "large barrel-full" each time. Mr. P. W. Cook and others had seen one of the monsters "jogging along" or swimming "about a mile a minute," which the viewers were sure wasn’t its top speed. In addition Mr. Cook wanted it distinctly understood that his eyesight remained good and hadn’t been fooled in fifty years, and he "firmly believes in the ‘Water Devil’ (the Indian name for the creatures in the lake) . . . in the Bible, or anything else that’s true." Mr. Rich added "I could mention in the neighborhood of a score others who had seen the ‘varmint.’" (10)
The author went on to detailed plans to capture one of the monsters. Mr. Cook, mentioned above, "the Lord being his helper," planned to capture one next summer since he was not prepared for such at present. The plan involved having a large bearded (barbed) hook made to which would be attached twenty feet of cable chain that couldn’t be bitten off and connected to 300 yards [another version has 300 feet] of one inch rope also connected to a buoy with an American flag on top with another smaller rope of the same length from the buoy to a tree on shore. He suggested, "The hook being baited with a leg of mutton or a young Indian." While Mr. Cook was confident of success with this hooking plan, there were others working on plans to erect "dead falls [traps] at different places in the lake." If these plans failed to get a monster, Mr. Joseph C. Rich had a fail-safe one whereby he would "draw one of them up near the shore with a spy glass and harpoon it; or, will sub-let the capturing business to N. F. Austin, who will run the lake through a fine strainer, and starve him to death for want of water." Rich turned to determining the "exact length of the monster." Apparently Rich received a number of letters seeking the physical dimension of the lake creature. An individual in Salt Lake City wrote "that he will believe the whole yarn if I [Rich] will only knock off the length and velocity." Accordingly Rich went to the person who claimed its length as not less than 90 feet and labored with him for some time before succeeding in getting the witness to drop a quarter of a foot from the length, "providing that difference be added to its velocity in running." Thus, the writer, with hilarity, glee, delight and pride of accomplishment that such a discussion was taking place and the adjustment of its size, declared the "animal now remains exactly eighty-nine feet and eight inches long, and still growing." (11)
Continuing his amusing letter under the heading "KEEPAPITCHININ," referencing another person’s pen name and request to share one of the Bear Lake monsters. Rich stated this idea couldn’t be considered for the monsters were "absolutely essential to keep the fish from over-running the country." However, they had in the lake area some "monster-ously pretty girls" with wonderful "rosy cheeks, dimpled chins, pearly teeth, gazelle eyes, and so forth, that are not on the loan," and if the Keepapitchinin person wanted one for keeps and would come to Bear Lake then Rich would assist him to see what could be done. Under another heading "INFIDELITY" Mr. Rich added: "There is a man in this country who says he don’t want to see over fifty feet of that monster, and as far as regards its going a mile a minute, he don’t believe it, because a man can’t see a mile a minute!" Outside of his jesting and wit there was not the degree of caution as displayed in his first letter, but there were minor elements of it; for example, in the absurdity of using young Indians as bait on the hook designed to catch the monster and sub-letting the capturing business to N. F. Austin. Joseph C. Rich ["J. C. R."] concluded the monster portion of his long letter with the following sentiments: "I did think of dropping the monster topic as it is getting common, so many of them turning up everywhere . . . ." (12) Perhaps he was also signaling there would henceforth be a change with no more "J. C. R." letters on the monster, but his effort would come by way of author pseudonyms (or "nom de plume") letters or articles.
His initial rending in this way came in a letter to the editor to the same Salt Lake newspaper published on November 25, 1868, some sixteen weeks after the Joseph C. Rich’s first monster letter. Under the pseudonym of "MONSTERIO," which was about as subtle as being hit on the head with a monster, Rich portrayed himself as a visiting seeker after the "eighth wonder of creation," with a need for brevity tells of journeying from Franklin across the mountains to the Bear Lake Valley with details on dug ways, precipitous mountains, the condition of his horse and viewing a magnificent panorama. Ending with the thoughtful quip: "I felt deeply impressed with the idea that sublime scenery and victuals are much superior to sublime scenery without victuals." Whereupon he finished his seeking with a short paragraph as follows:
I reached Bear Lake Valley next day. There I
had the felicity of meeting with and
enjoying the society of our friend of monster notoriety. I would have called him our
‘genial’ or ‘humorous’ friend but those phrases have already been used up by the papers.
Although I stayed in the vicinity of Bear Lake a few days, I could easily obtain the
signatures of nearly twenty respectable people to the effect that ‘I never saw the monster.’
That monster business is in my opinion, decidedly a rich affair. Should I ever get close
enough to the monster it is my intention to brand him J. C. R. on the left hip.
Yours truly, MONSTERIO. (13)
Yes, indeed, the monster business was a "rich affair," branded or not, with the first letter capitalized to Rich. After the self meeting and greeting himself, both "the friend of monster notoriety" and "Monsterio" passed from the scene after this revelatory letter. By this time an increasing number of people, local and otherwise, had become convinced that Joseph C. Rich was the creator of the Bear Lake monster, the first detractor of the monster story, friend of the monster and Monsterio, all wrapped into one. After this latest acknowledgement-confession to some degree, perhaps Mr. Rich chose to back off and let the whole thing develop on its own for a while, and/or he became deeply involved in other activities. He married his long time love interest, Ann Eliza Hunter, on January 14, 1869, and they lived in quarters behind their log cabin store in Paris. In the fall of 1869 Rich was called on a mission to the East where he served until May of 1870, and when he returned, his wife delivered their first child. The family returned to Bear Lake Valley, the store was eventually given up and he became a lawyer. He was called to serve in the Bear Lake Stake presidency from 1870 to 1874. During this time his first child died. He was involved in a large Rich family reunion in Massachusetts, and another land survey finally decided that most of the Bear Lake Valley was in Idaho, and he was engaged in helping set up a new county, county seat, court house, local officers, etc. He was more than busy attempting to take care of all that was on his plate of life. And possibly there was some consideration about a stake leader being an active humorist and jester. (14) Thus, there was a quiet time in regard to the tall tale that he gave life to in 1868. Probably it might be well to dig a little deeper into some of Joseph C. Rich’s activities than the brief coverage given so far.
Essential to the concern of this paper, Joseph C. Rich became associated in a literary way with a group of men (some were the sons of general authorities of the Mormon Church) with similar interests and persuasions. The eventual leader of the group was George J. Taylor (eldest son and sometime business manager of Apostle John Taylor) who held a host of positions from being a member of the Church’s Salt Lake High Council, regent and instructor at Deseret University, Salt Lake City councilor, chief clerk of the territorial legislature’s upper house, and a member of the editorial staff of the Deseret News. The multi-talented individuals were apparently bound by blood and belief to their religious faith while believing that Mormonism had become "dull, dark and torpid" and they and the world needed a "waking up," or a dose of humanity, possibly best served by way of humor rather than intellectual pretension or dull sermons. Using metaphors, sarcasm, satire, jests and puns, they playfully dealt with even the most ticklish conditions or questions. To make a lengthy story short, this movement was moving towards their contributions to the Mormon outlook by publishing their written works by way of a strange sounding title—Keep-A-Pitchinin—which became one of the earliest illustrated journals and humor periodicals in the West. It came by progressive steps, commencing in 1867 as an occasional advertising broadside with some space for the literary works of this group. Then in 1870 it became a regular bi-monthly issue (with the published slogan of "A Semi-Occasional Paper, Devoted to Cents, Scents, Sense and Nonsense") wherein it was published by the press used for the Deseret News, which also recommended the new publication to the Saints. Financial support may have come from the Mormon leadership, as the paper turned much of its jocularity and facetiousness on the liberal minded Godbeites when revenue from subscriptions and advertisements didn’t provide sufficient funds. The movement and its paper dispensed its spirit and humor frequently full of exaggeration. Comments and remarks about the Bear Lake monster appeared in this publication on a regular basis, always in a jocular manner in regard to such items as the various attempts to catch the monster and reasons for its absence or the friendlier side of the beast complaining of "no ‘tobacker’" on occasions. Most of those who read or heard of these things found them refreshing and alive, however on the larger scale they inferred much more. The suggestion of having a conversation with the monster was another sign given in print that the story was a tall tale with the lighthearted pulling the legs of any believers in a real monster. Little wonder at the growing numbers of those who determined that Joseph C. Rich was the source from which it all came. (15)
Narrowing the focus to Joseph C. Rich, in 1866 he and a partner established a store at Paris north of Bear Lake. This establishment, like many others, was a public place where things were bought and sold but also a service center where local events and news were gathered and passed on. This store quickly became a haven where the young surveyor-merchant-aspiring law student shined forth because of his drollery and banter. People would gather there after closing time to hear Joe Rich’s commentaries on the state of things, local or the world, and where his jokes, pranks and oral rending provided laughter and companionship seldom found in the isolated outpost. This evolved into Joseph making notes of the best news during the week, and then holding a Saturday evening (bull) session each week wherein the week’s news was related, read and commented upon to an appreciative audience. Sometimes a story or practical joke was so good and handled in such a way that it gripped the village for several days. Such was the case that came to be referred to as "the prophesying hen." A lady in the community had a Plymouth Rock hen that lay large eggs quite distinctive from any other hens in the area. As part of a prank, Joseph obtained some invisible writing ink and began secretly writing scriptural passages and bits of philosophy on these unique brown eggs. Then before an audience he placed the eggs in a solution that revealed the hidden writing before their eyes. The first time the amazement and laugh value at the fete was high but in subsequent episodes some of the more credulous began taking the messages on the eggs as spiritual advice to the saints, if not prophecy, as the excitement began to build. Who knows where it could have led, but Apostle C. C. Rich stepped in and stopped the egg-message demonstration. The senior Rich was known for a "salty sense of humor" but stopped this nonsense declaring in a public meeting that if and when the Lord wanted to reveal something, He would do it through recognized authority and "not through the hind end of a hen." (16)
In January of 1868, Joseph accompanied his father to Salt Lake City to attend the session of the Utah Territorial Legislature where he was appointed assistant clerk of the house. This gave him experience in the ways of laws and contact with many important men. It provided him an opportunity to express himself not in speaking but with his facile pen. His position had him helping to record the proceedings with no responsibility in forming or promoting legislation. In his spare moments at his desk he began an exercise of writing down his observations and impressions of many members gathered there, most often directing his ready wittiness toward the legislators and others. He spared very few, ribbing most of them including his father. He even included himself: "J. C. Rich, assistant clerk; he believes the polar continent is in the vicinity of Bear Lake." Then he composed this into an article which was published by the Deseret News and young Rich became the talk of the town. Besides this letter he wrote two others in this same period which were noteworthy of mentioning. The first dated May 20, 1868, was to the Deseret News describing his difficult and lengthy trip home from Salt Lake City with roads blocked due to snow, mud and flooding forced him to detour far northward to Soda Springs before turning southward to Paris, Idaho, in his team and wagon filled with goods for his store. His humorous letter described the trials of his "most round-about route" and perhaps was the first by Rich as a correspondent for the newspaper. The second letter came a week later to a young lady he had known before he left on his mission in 1860, and he wanted to married her but she had serious concerns about living in the frigid isolated Bear Lake area. He wrote in part: "Once more I undertake the pleasing task of writing you a few lines; but not, I’m sorry to say, in answer to any received from you. I attribute the cause to a false notion you entertain that you are unable to satisfy yourself in the letter writing department, at least, I infer that to be the cause from what you have told me about writing . . . . you must overcome all such absurd doctrinal points and ‘keepa pitchinin.’ If you can’t do as well as you wish, do as well as you can, knowing it is an impossibility to commence younger. . . ." (17) The creator of the monster tale was very much apart of a small but significant Keep-A-Pitchinin movement within the Mormon faith, an extraordinary prankster, resourceful and interested and involved in using his pen to make a point and gain recognition.
Returning to the budding monster tale, its development can be traced after its creation by Mr. Rich’s letters in 1868. Once the dye had been set with the author’s carefully formed setup, the monster account took on a life of its own. It set free an energy that even enlarged the original plot or scheme and stirred memories and minds to spinning in a number of directions. It probably went far beyond the most sagacious expectations of its creator. Soon the creature hiding in the lake became the talk of the area adding a spark of excitement seldom seem in the ordinary boring routine in this out-of-the-way place. It drew people into it, causing them to think, investigate, support and attempt to improve by enlarging. Perhaps some lent their support possibly by sightings in which they witnessed something they couldn’t understand and tied it the mysterious monster. The number of known cases where imagination has had a way of twisting and inflating the slightly out-of-the-ordinary until it becomes extraordinary is massive. Others, wanting to be involved to such a degree that they induced a self-illusion (termed self-delusion in the newspaper of the time) of seeing just what they wanted to view. In addition, several, for a variety of reasons, may have created a reported faked sighting (hoax) strictly to support the monster cause, whether for personal recognition and some hope of fame or other devious reasons such as an attempt to quiet the skeptics and/or economic incentives. It is currently believed that most of the reported sighting can be explained as illusions, misidentified observations of other known creatures or phenomena such a reflection, a shadow or other movement in the lake. Whatever, but this much is verifiable—before 1868 this Bear Lake and its valley were vaguely known to be somewhere just below the moon, east of San Francisco and west of the Mississippi River and possibly a remote substation of Salt Lake City. After the advent of the monster many knew of it and its location and a number went there for no other reason than a hope to see the creature.
The numerous critics of monster sighting and skeptics of the tale were most active in oral communication and personal letters, not inclined to exhibit their disbelief in the public press and little attention will be directed to them because of Rich’s confession of lying about the monster. On the believer side there were a couple of interesting responses in the press. One written in March of 1870 expressed the idea that if the amphibious animals said to be in Bear Lake and called monsters was correctly called by their proper names; their existence would cease to be strange and marvelous. The writer cited a case recently in Utah where a couple of animals called "Mountain Devils" caused considerable excitement until they were purchased by a Menagerie (a place where animals were kept for exhibition) in Salt Lake City. On viewing the ferocious creatures, the keeper of the facility observed they were simply a pair of Wolverine, not very well known in Utah. Citing volume and page number of a famous encyclopedia wherein were descriptions of different seals which might be tied to the Bear Lake monster, this person closed his speculation with these words—"hence little doubt remains that these ‘monsters’ are simply a species of the seal tribe." Along the same line, another newspaper story reported the latest sensation among the wonders of the deep, not as a sea serpent but the "balloon fish" which had been recently seen, described and identified by the captain of a schooner. Another newspaper article heralded that "Bear Lake is not the only place where monsters are seen," noting such coverage from a South Carolina paper of a river where a sighting of one "which bears considerable resemblance to the description . . . of the Bear Lake Monster, only the creature did not swim quite so fast." (18) Frequently there were reports of sea serpents and lake monsters being seen, so believers thought the one in Bear Lake was no different, and even in Utah there were reports of monsters in four or five of its lakes.
Then in 1870 came one of the most detailed sightings ever recorded. Charles C. Rich, Jr. (younger brother of Joseph C. Rich) from Paris in Bear Lake County was in Salt Lake City and told of a sighting in more depth due to reporting it directly to the newspaper. He informed the paper that the monster had been seen once more in May by a young man named Marion Thomas and three sons of Phineas H. Cook. They were in a boat fishing opposite Swan Creek on the western side of the lake between Garden City and Fish Haven. During the fishing Mr. Thomas spotted something at a distance which he presumed to be a duck but jesting to the Cook boys that it might be the reputed monster and began rowing towards it. The boys stood up to get a better view and quickly became alarmed that it was the monster which some of them had seen before. When Thomas paid them no mind, they threatened to jump out of the boat and finally gained his full attention. According to Rich, Mr. Thomas did not believe anything about the monster and it was his skepticism which produced his jesting and rowing towards the thing in the water, but he quickly changed to become a believer. He now believed and had the opportunity of closely inspecting it, so that he was able to describe it with "some degree of accuracy." According to Mr. Thomas’ description through Mr. Rich’s report, he was so close to it that he could have shot it if he had had a rifle. The monster’s head was shaped like a serpent with only about twenty feet of its body visible, which was covered with hair or fur, "something like an otter, and light brown." Extending from the upper portion of the body were two flippers which he compared to the blades of the boat’s oars. At the end of this report the Deseret News interjected some of its views to the extent that this detailed eye-witness testimony with those that preceded it "should do away with the doubts of the most skeptical," and "We think that this ought to squelch all doubts that may have existed, heretofore, in the minds of any of our people in respect to the existence of the monsters in Bear Lake." The newspaper suggested that some of the enterprising and adventurous citizens of the area should "devise plans and means of capturing one of these denizens of their beautiful lake, it certainly be a great haul, and would be worth considerable trouble." (19)The paper’s call to somehow capture one of the monsters came nearly twenty months after Joseph C. Rich had suggested it in his original monster account, and undoubtedly some were so engaged or working to that end. For an unquestionable specimen of the monster would prove its existence more than the newspaper declaring that the witnesses’ accounts removed any and all doubts or skepticisms. By now the Deseret News became fixated to prove the authencity of the Bear Lake Monster, and the Salt Lake Herald (founded in 1870) shortly joined in the same pursuit. In the latter paper on June 7, 1870, there appeared a short quip playing with emphasis on certain words upon the situation. It stated: "LATEST FROM BEAR LAKE.—The Bear Lake monster is not yet captured but one man has barely escaped. The people can’t bear the idea of such a bear-faced monster bearing down upon them. They have come so near him that they have secured one of his teeth which can now be seen in the Menagerie. It weighs something less than four pounds." The writer signed his name as "SAXEY" aka Joseph C. Rich, back home in the West after his mission to the East, and very likely the one mentioned as narrowly escaping could well have been the writer. (20) No longer would he be putting forth direct information to support his creation. Instead he would use his quick-witted talents to make observations and comments on various aspects of the unfolding story regarding the Bear Lake sensation sometimes with a sort of stirring-the-content to produce an instable fluctuation to prevent the easy determination of whether the tale was fact or fancy.
In late July or early in August of 1870, Milando Pratt, son of Apostle Orson Pratt, arrived in Salt Lake City from Bear Lake Valley with personal news of another monster sighting. Although news of a monster had been circulating around Bear Lake for two full years, Milando claimed he never believed any of the stories, thinking them tall tales. However, a little over a week earlier in the evening he and Thomas Rich, son of Apostle C. C. Rich, were traveling on the road adjacent to the lake just south of Fish Haven and were discussing the possible existence of the reported monster. Both men agreed how "gratified they should be by a sight of his scaliness" to end the debate between believers and non-believers. Soon their attention was attracted by some unusual commotion out on the lake and they saw "the head and a portion of the body of a creature larger round than the body of a man." Its head "resembled somewhat the pictorial representation of the walrus, minus the tusks." They were only able to view about ten feet of the creature’s body. They grabbed weapons and fired several shots at it but assumed they missed as it swam away, heading across the lake towards the east side. The two men watched the serpentine track of its wake on the surface of the water and guessed the monster’s entire length was around forty feet. Their observations lasted about fifteen minutes. Mr. Pratt advised that one enterprising citizen of the area was determined to catch the creature using a baited strong hook fixture with a large rope connected to a stout tree, which Pratt believed would catch the Bear Lake monster "at last." The best estimate of the attempts to catch or capture the creature had been in operation for at least one year. (21)
By mid-August of 1870, another resident of the Bear River Valley made a two day business trip to Ogden and Salt Lake City. This was William Budge, who earlier in 1870, was called personally by President Brigham Young to leave Providence in Cache County to relocate to the Bear Lake Valley to become the presiding bishop of the stake that included over ten Mormon wards. To the Salt Lake Herald Budge gave a report on the situation in Bear Lake under "The Monsters," which stated: "Bishop Budge informed us the Bear Lake Monster has been seen very frequently of late. Even the most skeptical are giving way. One reliable gentleman saw three of them together recently; and a large number have been seen by different persons at different times within a short period. It is to be hoped a specimen will be captured and placed in the Museum in this city." Half a week later the Deseret News followed with an article on the geological evidences found in the Rocky Mountains including some in Utah that were deposits of primitive marine life. According to the newspaper, this showed that "the monsters of Bear Lake, whose existence is now authenticated beyond doubt, are no doubt the descendants of denizens of the mightier ocean that once submerged these regions." This was followed three weeks later by another newspaper proof: "Numerous reports have been in circulation concerning monsters having been seen by one and another in Utah Lake and on its borders. Men, whom we would readily believe upon any other subject, have stated that they saw a monster, and have described it with a minuteness that has left their hearers but little foundation to dispute them. These reports were the topic of conversation a few years ago; but, latterly (lately), we have heard but little about them; the interest in such things having been absorbed in the many statements which have appeared concerning the Bear Lake monsters." (22) It was all pretty heady assessments but would prove troublesome in the long run when nothing but sightings would ever be forthcoming.
Joseph C. Rich's article on the Bear Lake monster in the summer of 1868 initiated public comment on the same issue, bringing forth a wave of remembrances and sightings of lake monsters along with tying them to older Indian legends in various Utah lakes such as Bear Lake, Utah Lake, Great Salt Lake, Sevier Lake and others. The corresponding swell of eyewitness stories about these creatures reached the newspapers through various channels seeking publication of what they saw or thought they observed, placing the newspapers in the position of deciding which to print or ignore. Such factors as public interest or newsworthiness in the topic together with the source of the story, whether considered good and reliable, were important. Thus for the Church newspaper, the Deseret News, and the pro-Church Salt Lake Herald, such a report from a good church leader, member, or man with an established reputation for honesty helped in making the decision to publish. Overall most of the Mormon press was somewhat cautious about the eyewitness reports; still, many were published in these newspapers, and they continued to publish what they viewed as corroborating evidences along this line. On the opposite side of the spectrum were the anti-Mormon papers which may have faced different obstacles such as few, if any, first hand witness accounts were submitted directly to them; paper owners/editors thought the idea of monsters in the lakes was primarily superstitions, and/or they opposed almost anything the Mormons seemed to favor. As a result of these factors the anti-Mormon press had much less on reported sightings of monsters, and if they did, it was with ulterior motives. Thereby, in at least a couple of instances they printed fictitious accounts with the intent to make fun of the Mormons and belittle them, by using the monster issue. During the period when the lake monsters received attention, there were several small papers published at Corinne, the railroad community that boasted that no Mormons lived there, and the newly founded Salt Lake Tribune published at the Territorial capital. A short case history on these may be enlightening even though the main focus of this paper is concerned with the Bear Lake Monster.
At Corinne, while just a tent encampment, the first newspaper was issued in April of 1869, and as the town developed, several newspapers came into being. All were anti-Mormon with at last one a rabid sheet making wild vicious charges and accusations against the Mormons across a wide range of topics from Adam to Zion, including the monster issue. With a wild West approach and shooting from the hip with no holds barred, the Corinne Reporter (with other preceding titles) stated in 1870 that many cattle belonging to the LDS Church tithing herd kept at Antelope Island had disappeared. The newspaper suggested or created the notion that a subterranean cavern or passageway existed between far off Bear Lake and the Great Salt Lake, allowing the migrating Bear Lake monster to use both lakes. Then the paper declared that some faithful Mormons believed the missing cattle had been eaten by this monster while others people believed this was an invention to allow Mormon leader, Brigham Young, to profit from this deceitful affair. Most likely the whole newspaper story was fiction with the purpose to belittle the Mormons and call their leader a thief, which would be the mildest charge they ever made against him. A year later in the summer of 1871, the Corinne paper reacted to an account in the Deseret News in early June wherein Bishop William Price with others saw a large monster in Utah Lake. The Reporter asserted: "The story invented by Bishop Price, that our monster has changed his abode to Utah Lake, is a sheer fabrication. The big fish was at Monument Point last Monday." The Corinne paper had become possessive using the "our monster" title to give its community all the publicity and denying any claims from Utah Lake as not true, and did some inventing of its own by fabricating a story about some night workers at the salt boilers hearing noises and seeing a seventy-five foot "great animal" that looked like a crocodile or alligator with a neck like a horse in the Great Salt Lake. The editor added his comment that "The story is probably a hoax," nevertheless, the story came from "a man whose veracity cannot be impeached." This was followed by one more monster article by the Reporter, the primary newspaper at Corinne published September 11, 1871, concerning the original Bear Lake monster residing in the Great Salt Lake most of the time, which will be covered in detail below. The fire-breathing editor, while not changing his outlook on the Mormons, toned down his words and tactics and closed his paper in mid-1873 with the new owner using the same title declaring it would "not by a rabid course to excite faction" but instead follow a policy "to produce more harmonious relations than now exist." (23)
The editor of the Reporter thought he was the main archenemy of Brigham Young and the Mormons and for two to three years he probably filled that role as he boasted that the Mormon leader threatened to excommunicate any member who subscribed to his paper. This editor, Dennis J. Toohy, frequently decried the Salt Lake Tribune as too easy on the dominant faith wanting "to oppose the union of church and state in Utah without stopping to quarrel about church doctrines." Besides this he asserted the Tribune was two-faced and "A Lying Oracle," and "stark mad in claiming to be the founder" of the free press in Utah, which Toohy thought should be his paper. However, in time the Tribune became the prime nemesis and reached that status in stages sometime in the latter half of 1873 when the original founders of the paper (reformist Mormons who became excommunicated) sold out their struggling publication to newspapermen from Kansas, who improved and expanded the paper and turned up the heat on the Mormon Church to become the ultimate anti-Mormon paper after September of 1873. Two articles illustrate the change in their coverage of the lake monsters. The first published in May of 1873 before the change of management, gave a report from a gentleman of seeing several monsters in salty Sevier Lake with the largest monster being about fifty feet long. The paper summed up its opinion by stating: "Their existence then in our lakes would be nothing particularly strange or startling if proven to be true, although it must be admitted it would be a very interesting fact." Unlike all subsequence articles on monsters in Utah lakes, there was no anti-Mormon editorializing. A year later on June 4, 1874, the Tribune came forth with another report on a Utah monster, wherein the paper spent much ink and space than the total sum of remaining comments on the Utah monsters. A writer for the paper took three visitors ("tourists") on a fishing trip to Utah Lake using a boat, and the writer recounted the experience in an article entitled, "The Devil Fish," with a descriptive subtitle—"The Monster that has so Long been a Terror in Utah Lake Finally Captured by a Tourist, May the Fearful be at Peace." While fishing, one of the guests hooked something unknown and with many words, doubts and fears, it was landed in the boat and identified at a "wooden shoe." A great much ado about a wooden shoe, but was closed with a subtle jab at the Mormons—"Ye Enochite, look out for the monster, he swallows wholesale." Essentially the article was a spoof with a parting shot at the predominate church. Thereafter, the Tribune never reported on a sighting of the monster unless it could make sharp jabs at the Mormons in some way. This paper focused most of its attention on what it called the "Mormon monsters"—LDS Church, Brigham Young, polygamy, etc. (24)
At Bear Lake the hoped for news of the capture or catching the monster never came in 1870 and the winter was mild with little snow, still the lake eventually froze over. A report in February of 1871 from Montpelier carried the notation "the ‘monster’ has not yet been caught." During that winter "A pleasure boat was built at St. Charles that could carry twenty persons and scheduled to be launched in mid-May. This boat was designed to meet the wishes of travelers and pleasure seekers who may be somewhat encouraged to enjoy the beautiful lake, as the ‘monster’ has not, that we hear of, yet made his, or her, or its first appearance this season." The year 1871 played out, monster-wise, with perhaps little activity other than the claimed sighting of the monster by Joseph Alley in the fall of the year. However, at Bear Lake the realization was established that the monster stories could bring in visitors and money could be made as anxious visitors attempted to get a good close look at the fabled monster. From this point on the economic motive became an important factor in regard to the Bear Lake Monster. (25)
Then from the very short-lived newspaper at Corinne (published only for three months) came a notice on July 8, 1871, only significant enough to make page three in the four paged paper, it stated:
MONSTER CAPTURED.--We were informed yesterday
by a reliable gentleman
direct from Bear Lake Valley, that a junior member of the notorious Bear Lake monster
family was captured near Fish Haven last week, and is now in possession, and the
property of an enterprising citizen of that place who has been fishing for it nearly two
years. This latter day wonder is said to be about twenty feet in length, with a mouth
sufficiently large to swallow a man without any difficulty, and is propelled through
the water by the action of its tail and legs. From the description of it we imagine
there is a striking family resemblance between it and the monster represented on the
trade mark of the Home Bitters. Our informant states that it was caught in a large trap,
manufactured for the special benefit of itself and relatives, and set in the water near
the shore of the Lake. There is a good opening for Barnum or some other enterprising
The day after the Corinne newspaper carried the story on the supposed capture of the monster, the two leading Salt Lake City papers, who took the task of verifying the strange creature in Bear Lake was real, reprinted, some to all, of the Corinne paper’s story. The Deseret News in an abbreviated paragraph, while the Herald reprinted the whole release and placed it on the front page of its Sunday edition on July 9th. (27) While much of the intermountain area waited in anticipation of further news, with the sanguine hope that the final proof of the Bear Lake monster was soon to be revealed, four days later one old humorist using a pen gave his views on the situation under the heading of "The Sequel of that Monster Yarn."
As many persons of seeming respectability have
asked me about the veracity
of that monster capture, in Bear Lake, or Bear river, I will say, for the satisfaction
of the righteous, that the report was taken from the Corinne Journal by the
HERALD, and is therefore entirely unreliable. I deem the above just to the
editors of the HERALD, in consequence of their undoubted reliability at the
commencement of their career as public journalists. SAXEY.
The Herald couldn’t resist adding a note to these remarks, declaring: "Saxey is modest. He should have added, ‘their continued reliability,’ as he has been engaged on the editorial staff at a figure that would make a Rothschild stare." (28) Analyzing the developing situation and the various responses reveals the intriguing thought that perhaps without knowing it the newspaper, with an agenda to prove the reality of the monster, had just hired the person who created the monster in 1868, none other than the ubiquitous Joseph C. Rich, who kept showing up everywhere on both sides of the debate on the monster, including his own account of it all. Certainly he was the person most positive that the report of the monster’s capture would be unreliable, since he created it in the first place. Except for the Deseret News and the Salt Lake Herald reprinting the Corinne paper’s notice of this capture, no other details were ever reported on this supposed captured specimen. Either the reported capture was not correct or the specimen didn’t measure up to the monster’s description. Numerous times startling discoveries make the headlines but washout so thoroughly that they are never explained or discussed afterwards.
A few months later on September 11, 1871, the Corinne Reporter newspaper which made merry with Mormon monsters, beliefs and whatnot, struck again as mentioned above. In a report that the community of Kelton tried some one-upmanship over the city of Corinne concerning the latter’s steamboat used on the Great Salt Lake. Whether real or imagined, Kelton built a similar boat and on its first run in the great lake, it steamed into an angry god who hailed the ship and had an interview with the crew, revealing this was none other than old Neptune, god of the sea in Roman mythology. Old "Nep," as he was called, was upset about being "forsaken" (possibly mistaken) for the Bear Lake monster, while in reality that place was just his summer resort as this lake was his home base. Of coarse old Nep was a polygamist with two or three hundred mermaids, and he warned the men of the steamboat to keep clear of his girls "or worse than the Danites would get after them." (29) Corinne would fight to the end for their monster in their sea—The Great Salt Lake—and poke fun at the Mormons at the same time.
In spite of the fizzled story of the capture of one of the monsters, the attempts to catch the monster started early, probably by the spring of 1869 and possibly continued for five or six years at most.
One of these attempts was by Phineas W. Cook, living at Swan Creek on the west side of the lake just south of the present Utah-Idaho border. Mr. Cook’s name was among those cited by Joseph C. Rich in establishing his monster story in 1868 and a couple of years later three of his sons were involved in a sighting of the beast while fishing in a boat. As mentioned earlier, Mr. Cook early devised an elaborate arrangement to catch the sought prey by use of a large metal barbed hook that would be baited with a sizeable piece of mutton with the hook attached to a twenty foot length of chain or cable that the monster couldn’t bite off, and then the carefully thought-out plan anticipated the beast would not give in easily but fight and resist mightily. To withstand this struggle the idea was to have 300 feet of inch rope tied from the chain attached to the hook, connected to a buoy which cushioned the pressure and still remained afloat. The buoy needed to be connected to a strong tree on shore by a smaller rope 300 feet long. Perhaps the only hang-up was the 600 feet of rope, which was expensive and not readily available locally by the settlers. Brigham Young agreed to furnish the rope and entered into a business agreement with Cook to share equally anything gained from the effort or, as the historian relating the story stated,—"to catch the serpent in the Lake at halves." If there were monsters in the lake and if they were as big and strange as reported, and if a catch and capture could be made, there was a potential of great profit. It is quite apparent that Young was among those who believed there might be something to all the sightings of the monster. But no catch was made by the Cook-Young enterprise or any other. Later in August of 1876 Young wrote to Cook inquiring as to what had happened to all his rope, perhaps seeking to reduce his personal loss. Cook wrote back, "I spent my time faithfully during the season but did not succeed." He then explained that during one of President Young’s tours of the northern settlement, the rope had been used by Dudley Merrill to ferry Young and his entourage across Bear River. Cook then got to the main point saying, "I shall expect you to square the account." (30) The historian who related this story believes the Cook-Young enterprise came sometime after May of 1874, if so, then it came very late in the effort and at a time when Young’s health had largely stopped his trips north. This author thinks the attempt came much earlier.
Bear Lake had been put on the map and a place to visit if for no other reason than one might catch a glimpse of the famed monster. If other things brought a person to the lake area and they were fortunate to see the monster, it was a pure bonus. Among those in this class were those participating in the periodic tours into the Bear Lake area by Church authorities holding conferences and taking care of other church concern. They and others traveling the road along the western side of the lake oft times had their eyes affixed on the lake, hoping to be fortunate enough to see the famed monster. In 1871 and into 1872 the numbers of known sightings were drastically reduced, and by August 6th of the latter year there had been none. On this summer day J. Morgan sent a very long report of the situation in the Bear River Valley that literally covered almost all important or interesting aspects. Then one sentence at the end of letter read: "The ‘monster’ has not yet made his appearance this season, but is doubtless only awaiting the return of his cotemporary in fame, ‘Saxey,’ from the East, that his debut may be properly chronicled." (31) Along with the assurance that all would change when Saxey returned home from his trip to the eastern states, the writer was reflecting the growing connection and association between the two names with the most perceptive making that relationship—creator and creation. The drought of monster sightings continued into 1873. In late July of that year in an article appeared in print recounting an Indian seeing a large land serpent, reminiscent of a tale circulated earlier of such in the mountains in Utah County. The writer of the article related that those acquainted with the Indian brave "generally believed" his story of seeing the huge snake, "but like the stories of the Bear Lake monster, and also of the Utah Lake serpents, it had been regarded as a myth by the general public." (32)
A month later from St. Charles, George Q. Cannon, a member of the Council of Twelve Apostles of the LDS Church and editor of the Church newspaper, wrote a report of President Brigham Young and his party’s trip to the area. Included in the entourage, besides President Young and Cannon, were Church officials George A. Smith, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Brigham Young, Jr., James A. Young, E. F. Sheets, A. M. Musser, Jr., J. P. Freeze, Samuel H. B. Smith and Thomas Taylor. Much of their focus was on the lake, observing that the Biblical Sea of Galilee was only half the size of Bear Lake and "not near so picturesque or beautiful situated." Cannon wrote:
The greater part of the way the road runs along
the edge of the lake, the pellucid
waters of which and the grand views of mountains and the lake were constant objects
of admiration and remark. There is a sort of mysterious interest connected with these
waters in consequence of the many statements made by thoroughly reliable persons
on other subjects, about monsters which they have seen swimming here. So many
persons unite in these statements that one is forced to believe that there are creatures
of an extraordinary character in the lake, or these persons are the victims of an optical
delusion. It would have been a gratification to the company to have had one of these
monsters show itself as they passed along, and the surface of the lake was watched by
them with a scrutiny which would not have been exercised under other circumstances,
with the hope that, perhaps, a monster might be seen. But up to present writing, no
monster has put in an appearance. (33)
Only in passing reference was the lake’s noted resident mentioned such as the letter from St. George to the newspaper complaining of their poor mail service. The writer wanted to know about the unprincipled contractor and "where is he? Gone to Bear Lake, or some other lake, to find the monster?" (34)
The Bear Lakers and monster believers wanted to know where their monster had gone as well. The mystery continued into May of 1874 when on the 27th day of the month the Deseret News announced the latest news "The Bear Lake Monster Described by an Eye Witness—Its Existence Authenticated." The newspaper was able to make this known because Brigham Young gave them a personal letter he had received from Presiding Bishop William Budge of the stake in Bear Lake Valley dated at Paris, Oneida County, Idaho on May 18th, 1874, giving the particulars.
Dear Brother: -- Last Friday morning (May
15th), on our return from Conference,
William Broomhead, Milando Pratt and myself were in a light wagon traveling north-
ward by the Lake shore, when our attention was attracted to an object in the water
about a hundred years ahead of us and about twenty-five yards from the shore. At first
sight we thought it might be a very large duck, as we distinctly saw ducks nearer the
shore, but as we got near, we saw that it was an animal, the head and a portion of the
back about a foot from the head being visible, leaving also about the space of a foot
between the back part of the head, and the beginning of the back where the animal
was not visible, the invisible part no doubt being the neck. When we were within about
70 yards the animal dived under the water, and from is action he judged it was not more
than five or six feet long, still we did not see its length. When it went down we stopped
our wagon and waited, hoping it would come up again, which it did in perhaps about a
minute, a little behind us and probably 25 yards from the shore, and not more than 35
yards from us. Its face and part of its head were distinctly seen, covered with fur, or
short hair of a light snuff color. The face of the animal was apparently flat, very wide
between the eyes, and tapering to the nose, with very full large eyes and prominent ears,
resembling those of a horse, but scarcely as long. The whole face, in shape, was like
that of a fox, but so large that the space between the eyes equalled that of the
common cow. It did not look ferocious, and was in no hurry to go, but kept moving
slowly, then diving again, came up and moved off into the Lake as fast as a man could walk.
We had an excellent opportunity to see what was
above water, and the Lake was
As there has been considerable interest excited in regard to the ‘Bear Lake Monster,’
I submit a description of what we have seen, thinking it might be acceptable to you.
Very respectfully, / Wm. BUDGE. (35)
This was one of the most detailed observations, both of the experience and the description of the monster that had been written down, assuredly because it was sent to President Young. This was the first time Bishop Budge had seen the creature although years earlier he, while in Salt Lake City, had told the newspaper that several others had seen it in 1870. For Milando Pratt this was his second viewing of the strange animal, and this son of an apostle had married Apostle C. C. Rich’s daughter in 1870 with his wife being the half-sister of Joseph C. Rich. The size of the animal was greatly reduced from those of other descriptions, greatly diminishing the size down to "not more than five or six feet long." From the beginning one of the factors used by the skeptics was the widely varying and sometimes conflicting description of the creature. Now in the seventh year of published reports of sightings, the Deseret News in fulfillment of its quest declared the last view by eye witnesses was of the Bear Lake monster and its reality was beyond question and "Authenticated." However, although not realized at the time, there was a fly in the ointment of authenticity. Apostle Wilford Woodruff was at Bear Lake and noted in his journal that what Budge, Pratt and Bankenhead viewed as the monster, he thought was just a large otter. Over the years, primarily by oral stories or rumors rather then documented evidence, the names of several other leading men’s names were connected with the monster at Bear Lake, among them Brigham Young who put an investment into catching it, his son Brigham Young, Jr., who gathered information of the pre-Mormon period, George Q. Cannon, John Taylor, Lorenzo Snow and Joseph F. Smith. (36) Probably the motive in any attempt to connect noted people to the belief in the monster was to support the various reported sightings of the monster. For the same purpose there was a filling in of the Indian tradition or legend of the same, and possibly due to some overzealousness this soon became a slippery slope with numerous paths and tales. Taking what Joseph C. Rich put in his first letter, there was a huge buttressing of the Indian tradition, but the filling in of the Indian tradition was so riddled and puffed as to be extremely suspect, even as much as the monster tale itself. (37)
Up through 1874 there was some activity towards catching the monster but with no success, and a continued trend of fewer sightings of the monster in Bear Lake. In June of 1875, the Tribune made reference to the Bear Lake monster not in a featured article or report but in three sentences of ridicule, not on the monster but against the Mormons. It read: "The Bear Lake monster at the Museum relishes a fat Mormon bishop the most. He smacks his jaws in great delight every time he swallows one. He’s twin brother to the devil, and cousin to Brigham." It was printed not for what information it brought forth but because it suited the paper’s orientation. Apparently at the Salt Lake City museum (Deseret Museum also known as the Museum and Menagerie) there was some depiction or representation of the Bear Lake monster from an artist’s impression of the beast in the northern lake. There was enough talk and press coverage of various monsters, land, lake or sea, that by mid-July of 1877 and just after a "creature of the reptilian order" was sighted in Utah Lake, causing the Church newspaper to write "that ‘Monsters’ are becoming fashionable." That was the latest thing in talk but not so much in seeing, preferred in jests such as explaining the loss of subscribers to the Corinne newspaper being due perhaps to the Salt Lake monster swallowing most the subscribers and advertisers since that paper had been "unable to swallow the monster even with the aid of Barnes & Co. salt." A man from Bear Lake wrote to the editors of the Deseret News early September of 1878 explaining that while he lived between St. Charles and Fish Haven and within forty rods of Bear Lake, he had "never yet see the Bear Lake monster." Still he was concerned enough to endure a fast rush somewhere for "a proof to myself of his identity," but not "disputing the truthfulness of the statements of Saxey and others founded on the evidence of eye-witnesses." And gladdening the newspaper with the statement: "That there is such an animal, serpent or fish is too well authenticated to be seriously doubted yb (sic- by) the general public." (38)
A few people, not from the area, upon learning of the Bear Lake monster mentioned it in some form, and the two examples deemed the more significant will be mentioned as no actual sighting was experienced. The first involved Captain John Codman, a sea captain from Boston with a remarkable career of over three decades with many voyages to China, India, Turkey and elsewhere that included a lucrative shipping business that made him a considerable fortune. While so engaged, he ventured into the world of letters as a writer that blossomed into a second career as a public figure. His writings displayed his wide ranging interests with accurate observation, definite opinions based on his practical experience while maintaining an impartial view on several controversial topics. He was a strong anti-imperialist, for free trade and believed the immigrant Chinese, Negroes and Mormons were treated unfairly. In 1873 he visited the Mormon country for a summer and later published a book about it. The following year Codman took his wife and daughter on a long round trip from their east coast home to the Pacific coast and then by land through six western states and territories. In regard to the Mormons, whom he liked but disagreed with on some key points, he made some interesting and astute insights. In October of 1874 the Codmans were in southern Idaho and at Soda Springs they met Joseph C. Rich, who offered the hospitality of his home at Paris in Bear Lake County. The Codmans stayed three days at the Rich’s home and met most of the Rich clan, including aged patriarch, Charles C. Rich. The latter was described later in the book about the trip (published in 1879) as "jollity" to the degree he could be supposed to be a bachelor rather than the husband of five wives. From his hosts, Codman learned of a big Rich family reunion at Cape Cod recently where his "venerable friend" was present and made an impression on the gathering. Between what he saw and what the Richs told him, Codman wrote that Bear Lake was only visited by a few "passing strangers" but would develop when it became better known as a tourists’ haven. In addition, the Richs told the travelers of another attraction in the area that lived in the nearby lake, a monster or so. This story was supplemented as the visitors left Paris and moved to the lake and traveled down its western shore and talked to several of the Mormon settlers. At Swan Creek, Mr. Cook (the primary resident and owner) even took Codman out on the lake in a small skiff to its "deep waters" where the bottom could clearly be seen. When Codman published his book of this trip, he broke the monster story into two parts, the origin of the creatures and the recent views of it.
Codman’s beginning didn’t quite agree with Joseph Rich’s 1868 Indian legend account. In this version, centuries ago two Indian tribes were at war with each other, when a chief of one tribe fell in love with a maiden from the other tribe. The love of this couple didn’t resolve the conflict, forcing them to flee to escape the anger of both tribes, who merged into a league to seek mutual vengeance against the couple. The two lovers were chased over mountains and canyons until they came to a lake that blocked further escape from the deadly weapons of their fellow tribesman. In desperation the two Indians jumped into the lake but instead of perishing, the Great Spirit changed them into "two enormous serpents" who now sought their vengeance on their pursuing relatives. The two serpents raised their huge heads from the water and discharged from their mouths a volley of "beach stones" with devastating affects on the chasers with "but few" escaping to hand down to later generations the tale of and warning about this "enchanted lake." Thereafter the Indians from the lake area no longer took their canoes onto the lake; they didn’t bathe in it, pollute its waters or take any fish from it, for now all belonged to the dreaded serpent proprietors of Bear Lake. In conjunction with this Indian tradition, many years later people had seen the lake serpents, causing Codman to reflect: "Aside from all such superstitions as this, there really is good reason to believe the lake is inhabited by some abnormal water animals." The travelers had talked with seven persons (including Bishop Budge) who told of occasions when they saw it and advised there were many others who could verify the same. The length of the monsters in these accounts varied from thirty to eighty feet with the bodies covered with fur like a seal and a head similar to an alligator. As Codman analyzed the situation, he thought that the Mormons were a "very credulous people" with strong beliefs in revelations, angels and the diabolical, thus susceptible to such orientation. He concluded his account with these observations: "Some allowance should therefore be made for this tendency of their minds, but with all that considered, it cannot be possible for so many people to be utterly mistaken. There are unquestionably in Bear Lake some fish larger than the ordinary salmon trout. Whatever they may be, they did not exhibit themselves for our benefit." (39) While accepting the Mormon accounts of sightings of lake monsters, after his two trips to their homeland with considerable contracts ranging from Brigham Young to those in the Bear Lake Valley, he thought there was just a misidentification problem. From his perspective he couldn’t conceive that his Mormon host at Paris, with others, had created and perpetuated a tall tale of this proportion, and he didn’t see or understand the link between drawing people to the area and the monster in the lake.
Another of the strangers passing the lake came in 1877 when a field party from the United States Geographical Surveys (known as the Wheeler Survey) engaged in a topographical examination and mapping of an assigned area north and east of Ogden, Utah, over to the Wyoming border. Field expeditions were also to collect data and make scientific observation on natural history, geology, geography, climate, weather and ethnology. Leader of the surveying party was Lt. Samuel E. Tillman, a graduate of the Military Academy at West Point (third in his class), with about eight years of service of alternating tours of teaching at the academy and surveying the last unexplored portions of the American West. Besides the leader there were seven other men (a topographer, meteorologist, an odometer recorder, two packers, a cook and general utility man) with scientific instruments, essential equipment and supplies all transported on mules as were the men. The survey group had assembled at Ogden, Utah, in late May and on June 5, 1877, they left the city and moved into North Ogden Canyon to begin their work and established a triangulation on a mountain. Then they moved into southern Cache Valley beginning their topographical work, and continued northward along the mountains. Once it became known that the party intended to cross the mountains into the Bear Lake Valley, the locals they met told them of a "lake monster" of immense size that threw up water several feet when it was in motion. At Franklin they picked up rations that had been forwarded there and shortly moved over the mountains to Bear Lake Valley. Here they received more reports on the lake monster, which, according to Tillman, there was no doubt in the minds of these people as to the existence of the monster. This intrigued the survey party to the point that Tillman wrote: "As we were to work entirely around the lake we knew we should have opportunity to verify or refute the reports of the monster’s existence." They had been in the field three week by the time they reached Bear Lake Valley and camped one night and moved ten miles and camped on the lake shore.
By this time they had established a routine with their mules each night, most were left to range free with a bell mare with only two mules tied up for use in rounding up the loose mules if needed. On the party’s third morning (June 28, 1877) at Bear Lake, they unexpectedly found that for the first time the loose mules had left the bell mare and couldn’t be seen. The chief packer’s bell-mare and Tillman’s mule had been tied, and these two responded by mounting and began the search for the missing mules. From the terrain and lake position, they were assured the animals had gone either north or south along the lake shore. The packer went south while Tillman traveled north, thinking the animals may have wandered back to their previous camp of the night before. The lake at this early morning hour was "completely overspread with a layer of fog, only a few feet thick and clear atmosphere above."
Tillman rode quickly over six miles where he heard in his front a noise from the lake like "a distinct clapping sound of two solid bodies" followed by a spray of water which could be seen above the layer of fog originating from the same location. Continuing on he heard and saw the same "phenomena" more clear and closer to him, suggesting "some sort of lake animal." Since his prime objective was to find the missing mules, he didn’t stop but continued rapidly on. However, he shortly reached a narrow portion of the path he was riding on which showed no evidence that the mules had been over it. So he turned back and returned to where he earlier heard the unusual sounds determined this time to investigate its source. Once again he heard the clapping noise and saw the spray of water, thinking and hoping he "might be the discoverer of some unusual beast, perhaps the veritable monster we had heard much frequent mention."
At the point where the phenomenon appeared the closest, he dismounted and tied his mule, took his carbine and went on foot to discover the source of the mystery. As he moved toward the lake shore he became more enveloped in the layer of fog and came to where he viewed the water at the shore line and saw the waves of water rolling in toward the shore. Moving closer he made out in the fog "indistinctly some dark objects" which appeared to be the cause for the waves and the repeating clapping sound and spray. While not very comfortable in the limited visibility in the fog, he knew he had to close in before he could make a positive conclusion. Keeping a large leaning tree between him and source of disturbance, he cautiously moved forward as the noise repeated itself and the waves increased in size as he arrived at the vantage point by the tree. Now he saw two bulls facing each other standing in the water up to their sides as they fought each other with their horns clashing. Each time they attempted to gore the other their heads went under the water filling the bulls’ nostrils with water. Both were forced to raised their heads and clear their nostrils by blowing out a spray of water and air with a noisy outburst. Seeing the battle was being waged under very unfavorable conditions for "energetic action" producing a stalemate, Tillman went to his mule, mounted and went into the lake hoping to separate them and drive them out of the lake where they could continue their struggle in earnest, but the bulls had other ideas and left the water and went separate ways.
When Tillman included this experience in his official record, he denoted that his account was not exaggerated, and he wrote: "However, if my investigation had not been carried to a complete solution that morning of June 28, 1877, I should probably have felt able to endorse the probability of some sort of a lake monster and I submit that the real explanation of the phenomena observed is so remarkable that, it would probably never have been known." In the meantime the packer was successful in his search of the straying mules. The survey crew made a complete circuit of Bear Lake and returned to the western side of it without seeing any sign of the reported monster. Tillman in his final report of his crew’s work stated: "This lake, according to the neighboring inhabitants, has its monster. That the statements made to me in regard to the monsters were in good faith I have no doubts, and the fact that these people have been deceived into their present belief as remarkable as would be the discovery or a large and unusual animals." (40) Right, wrong or in between, he was calling the shot as he viewed it, not being able to accept the monster in the size and description given in the reports he heard. His judgment was similar to Codman’s but more firm.
Notwithstanding these two gentiles’ views, the believers in the monster in the lake found some encouragement and support in the numerous sighting of sea-serpents on the high sea. The Deseret News reported on these more often than the Tribune, and had two such articles in October of 1877. The former paper admitted there was a "great deal of skepticism" on the actual existence of sea-serpents but could see no reason to doubt the testimony of sensible eyewitnesses who had no interest in deceiving the public. Besides, it didn’t violate any principle of natural history to believe the aquatic monsters of ocean, river and lakes were the "aquatic compeers" of the land monsters whose fossils were being frequently discovered by the scientists. The Church paper in an editorial expounded on the news of some fishermen off Newfoundland finding a dead specimen of the largest "devil fish" (octopus) who had it preserved in alcohol and placed in a New York museum where it was a wonder attracting people to see it. The newspaper closed by stating: "Now let somebody capture a sea serpent, a lake monster and a river leviathan," and it could become a great attraction like the fossils of "other gigantic land creatures." Unquestionable here was another call for greater activity to obtain a live or dead specimen from Bear Lake. In addition there were reports from ship crews of finding dead remains of unknown animals with detailed description of size, shape and appearance. The skeptics wanted to know why these remains were not brought to a port for study and possible identification. An article first run in a Detroit newspaper was reprinted by the local newspaper at Logan, Utah in mid-July which covered this problem in an article entitled "It Always Happens So." It argued that "there always is something which prevents anybody from seeing a sea-serpent—except the fellow who saw it." It summarized the situation with—"But a dead sea-serpent is as rare as a dead monkey or a dead post boy—according to Dickens nobody ever saw either." In others words, seen but never produced in evidence, and doubly so in the case of the Bear Lake Monster. (41)
The newspapers played a key role in delivering the story of the monsters as what they did or didn’t print in their papers, and how they handled it affected how much the public learned and received subtle impressions fostered by the newspapers’ outlook. In that respect 1880 was somewhat a watershed year in regard to newspaper coverage of the monster issue. In June of 1880 two young boys were taking a combination bath and swimming in Utah Lake near Provo when some distance out in the water they noticed something that appeared to be a dog or beaver coming toward them. They paid it little attention until it roared and came at them with its head rising out of the water and seeing four legs which frightened the boys. They quickly swam to the shore with this thing only a few yards behind them. They hurried home and told their story which was soon turned into an experience with the lake’s monster. The local Utah County and Deseret Evening News papers reported the adventure but the weekly issue of the Desert News (the issue sent to places like Bear Lake) had nothing on it. The Herald covered it with brevity: "Another lake monster is reported; this time from Utah Lake. Bear Lake must hurry." (42)
This caused the Tribune’s return to the monster issue after an absence of five years, but its revisit was in the same manner, tone and purpose. Its issue of June 11, 1880, reacted to the story of the two boys on Utah Lake: "Two boys of Provo, who have partaken of the spirit of Latter day, spin a yarn to the effect that one day recently while bathing in Utah Lake, a water monster with mouth wide open, made for them, chasing them out of the lake and scaring them nearly out of their wits. The Provo Enquirer gave currency to the story, and the whiskey down there is just as villainous as ever." A couple of weeks later the Tribune expounded further having more fun with the Utah Lake object and the Mormons publishing a biting attack: "And now the brethren discredit the big whale story. They say no such fish was ever seen in Utah Lake. By the bye the brethren will disbelieve the Book of Mormon, will swear Joe Smith was a lying prophet and Brig was his successor." Again the attacking newspaper with its facts-be-damned tenor didn’t inform anything more than their distain for the Mormons, and it did not explain if there was a linkage to the last sighting on Utah Lake. Unless this was another canard, which the Tribune used frequently on the Mormons, it possibly had at least some element of truth in their statements which at this late date can only be guessed. Perhaps on the Utah Lake sighting some church leader may have suggested it might be a large fish, and it gained some traction to the point that other officials denied such a fish ("big whale") had been seen in the lake. The newspaper’s ridicule and pooh-poohing was attempting to turn the monster issue into a folly Mormon thing. (43)
In the meantime, a Mormon and long time fisherman who lived at Spring Lake in Utah County, David T. LeBaron wrote an informative letter to the Deseret News which was published a day before the Tribune’s latest blast. LeBaron wrote that he had been on the Utah Lake hundreds of times in his quarter of a century of fishing and he had never seen the reputed monster. However, during those trips on the lake he had seen, or better his first impressions of something observed, wherein he thought he saw "animals of almost every imaginable size and shape, also large vessels, floating logs, etc., but they always turned out of be rushes, bunches of moss, pelicans, else some kind of ordinary animal or fowl, which being magnified upon the water, multiply their proportions to a great degree. At times a rush not larger than a man’s finger drifting at a distance, looks like a mammoth saw log, and any one at first seeing it would declare it to be such." His thoughtful letter on his personal experience was not rebutted by published articles, and it applied not only to Utah Lake but to Bear Lake as well. According to a local county historian, D. Robert Carter, the combination of LeBaron’s informative argument and the Tribune’s scornful treatment and ridicule of the Utah monster story had an impact. For forty years the Utah Lake monster received no press coverage and was briefly revived in 1921, only to quickly disappear from further coverage. (44)
While the solution to the Utah Lake monster story was quick and decisive, such didn’t follow with the Bear Lake monster. Some of the locals wondered where their monster had gone during the ever-lengthened periods when it was not seen. Joseph C. Rich suggested it might be off looking for gold. According to individual reports, there were many believers and those wanting to believe in "their" monster. Possibly the division of believers and skeptics at Bear Lake was impossible to establish, being distorted by the more vocal believers element, but there was a sizeable hard core who didn’t believe the monster was real with some thinking since it didn’t do any harm except to nerves, it might be best to leave it alone. Perhaps this helps explain why the residents of the area didn’t mount a co-operative effort to get to the bottom of the monster mystery other than the attempts to catch the monster with baited hooks and a few shots at something they thought was the monster. Apparently none took to reasoning along the line that fisherman LeBaron suggested on the Utah Lake monster as cited above. In addition another long time fisherman, Peter Madsen, after fourteen years of experience on Utah Lake, expressed an interesting opinion in a letter to the Deseret Evening News in 1868. He had never seen a lake monster and did not believe they existed, but from his long experience on the lake he offered an idea about what some of the eyewitnesses may have seen. He wrote that on the lake there was a peculiar duck-like bird called a "hell diver" (which may have been either an American Coot or a grebes) with short wings, insufficient feathers according to this fisherman. It couldn’t fly or walk very well, but it could dive and remain underwater for an extended period of time up to fifteen minutes. While it could fly, it took much effort to get airborne, and according to Mr. Madsen: "It sometimes makes it way across the water with great velocity, flapping its short and almost featherless wings, and leaving a wake behind it that gives the appearance of a serpent dashing along." All would help explain the monster witnesses’ repeated mentioning of the water serpent’s fast movement, dashing along or wakes. (45)
After the summer of 1880 the Deseret News remained firm in its stand that the Bear Lake monster was a real living creature, and would undergo at least one more installment of revealing that "the Bear Lake monster is a living, veritable fact." However, by 1881 it was the about the only newspaper extolling the authenticity of the creature for a short time longer. On the larger scene the Church organ paper was fighting losing battles in the government’s crusade against Mormonism heralded by the anti-Mormon printed media. In its circling-the-wagons situation the Deseret News frequently lashed out sharply at the unfairness of the American press in broad and general terms that didn’t specifically cite the monster issue, but reading between the lines the criticism seemed to encompass it. A couple of new local newspapers came onto the scene, one at Logan in 1879 and the following year the Bear Lake Democrat published at Paris, Idaho. Joseph C. Rich was a founding partner and co-editor of the latter paper first published in the fall of 1880. The Logan newspaper’s coverage was very limited at first to items such as its residents going for visits to Bear Lake and hopefully would report back if they saw the monster, which none did. (46)
Editor Joseph C. Rich continued his precedent of providing no direct information on the monster, just adding bits of humor around the edges of the story. During his five and a half months of being editor of the Democrat he only twice mentioned the Bear Lake monster. The first came in early November in 1880 in an editorial entitled: "A GRAND SHOW IN PROSPECTIVE – TALMAGE AND THE BEAR LAKE MONSTER." The editor’s article featured the noted clergyman, lecturer and reformer’s latest attacks on the Mormons along his concept of "If we do not destroy Mormonism, it will destroy us!" After lashing out at the "loud mouthed clergy" from Brooklyn’s ideas and solution, Editor Rich concluded with these lines: "We would rather like to see the gentleman in Eastern Idaho, we might give him a berth where we exhibit the great Bear Lake Monster, both have become somewhat notorious, the former may be a notorious ass, and the latter a notorious fizzle; but the combination would not doubt, in the hands of Barnum or other good showman, make a first class exhibition." Focusing on the editor and creator of this monster assessment that it was a "fizzle" after a dozen years of enlivenment at Bear Lake, can be taken as a continuance of his way of being on both sides of the tale and possibly a foretelling of what was to come in his later acknowledgement of creating the tall tale. The other mentioning came in mid-February of 1881 when there was a "Rhymes for the Time" by "Shortfellow" (unquestionably Editor Rich) with some lines on the lake and valley that stated in part: "A great man say, that a monster so gay, / (To the truth of it I wouldn’t swear:) / Some hundred feet long (the yarn’s rather strong.) / Makes his home in the lake of the Bear. / I look at the lake, till my eyes often ache, / He is never at home when I’M there; / . . . . The brain of our Saxey, was getting quite waxey." On April 2, 1881, Joseph C. Rich stepped down as "chief editor" at his own request due to personal reasons, leaving his partner James H. Hart as the editor. Within a month, Hart was called to New York to oversee the Mormon immigration, and the editorship of the Democrat went to George Osmond, a councilor in the Bear Lake Stake presidency to William Budge. (47) The Democrat with Editor Osmond was still to play a significant role in the tale of the monster, and he was well acquainted with Joseph C. Rich via church service and county business.
There remained no monster sighting at Bear Lake until late summer of 1881 when the most important sighting in several years was reported during President John Taylor and party’s visit to the Bear Lake settlements. The entourage was divided into several conveyances when on Wednesday afternoon of August 3rd at about 6 p.m., one party was riding with Brother Merrill in his buggy from Garden City towards St. Charles and consisted of George Q. Cannon, a member of the First Presidency and former editor of the Deseret News along with his wife and a Sister Little, and they "had the pleasure of seeing the ‘veritable monster.’" The party described seeing an object about thirty feet in length and traveling at a speed surpassing that of a railway train, and as it ploughed through the water, leaving distinct traces of its course in its wake." It was observed at a distance of three miles. Besides this sighting, President Cannon reported another sighting later of the monster or "something of that kind this evening while strolling along the lake." It didn’t take long for the news to spread throughout the visiting party and the Mormon settlements that the monster was back. After the Church leaders returned to Salt Lake City on August 24th, the Church newspaper was furnished a synopsis of the recent tour which it published the monster details for at least the third time. With these sighting the Deseret News stated it had good eyewitnesses who could testify that "the Bear Lake monster is a living, veritable fact." (48)
The Salt Lake Tribune believed quite the opposite, and couldn’t leave this situation alone and had to get in its views and blows on this sighting with its normal blast:
BRIGHAM’S __?__ and greatest liars are abroad
in the land. In an article in
the Church organ last evening, under the heading, ‘President Taylor’s Tour,’ we find
the following. ‘While on the way from Fish Haven, a number of the party saw
what they supposed was the celebrated Bear Lake monster. It was described as a
large undulating body, with about thirty feet of exposed surface, of a light cream
color, moving swiftly through the water, at a distance of three miles from the point
of observation.’ As John Taylor, who was one of the party, didn't get his urum [sic-
Urim] and thummim out to examine the monster, we are left in the dark as to its true
character. Perhaps it's the Endowment House devil out on a jamboree, the ghost of
Joe Smith, or a whaling Mormon lie. (49)
The Bear Lake Democrat was the first newspaper to have this reported sighting in print on the third day afterwards with a short article on "The Bear Lake Monster," that consisted of only two long sentences on the editorial page without further comment. While the Deseret News heralded this sighting as proof that "Bear Lake monster is a living, veritable fact," and anti-Mormon press at Salt Lake heaped ridicule upon it, the Bear Lake Democrat remained silent for two weeks before expressing its opinion. Then on its editorial page George Osmond addressed the question of the Bear Lake monster at length, and out-shone the two newspapers from the big city by a wide margin. The paper prefaced its remarks with: "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. We have taken some pains to glean from every authentic source, such facts as would enable us to present our readers in a clear and comprehensive form, the sum total of what is known to his monsterial majesty. We have been prompted to this, not only by a [sic] acuse of our duty as a public journalist, but also by the innate love of the science of natural history." The newspaper went on to state the testimony or evidence of the monster was "voluminous and exhaustive" and by analysis of its personal appearance and habits could be deduced with "most satisfactory exactness" with its length ranging from two feet six and a half inches up to one hundred and ninety-five feet nine inches while its diameter went from six inches to six feet. Its speed of motion in the water went from four to sixty miles per hour. Undoubtedly the wild ranging measurements with the accompanying "exactness" produced a big smile on the editor’s face. A "similar exactness" (or variance) was found in the description of its outer hide (epidermis) and shape of its head. It apparently was retiring or bashful not often seen, and while reputed to be fond of Indians it never bothered the local girls who bathed in the lake frequently during the summer right in the home of the "lurking monster."
Leaving behind the tinge of humor used in the preceding presentment, the small local newspaper struck straight to the point with clarity as follows: "To speak seriously, there are no doubt some queer fishes or animals in Bear Lake that have yet to be caught and thoroughly examined, and their proper place assigned them in the animal kingdom. This must be the work of the future . . . . and the sedentary monsters of which we now only catch occasional glimpses, and whose forms are perhaps exaggerated by the equally powerful influences of fear and wonder, will be scientifically examined, and we think will be found to belong to species of fish or animals already known to naturalists; at least we venture this as our opinion, and perhaps our children will live to smile as they tell their children of the wonderful stories once told of Bear Lake monsters, and that the monsters eventually proved to be only large specimens of ‘what do you call ‘em?" (50) The attempt was to explain rationally on some of the sightings of the monster without digging deeper into the origin of the monster story. It was a good or better than any efforts in this regard and was certainly prime material to be reprinted by the other newspapers in the area but no known papers did. There had existed a cordial relationship between the Deseret News and the Democrat with each often quoting or citing the other in their columns frequently, not surprising since one was the Church newspaper and other owned and run by Mormons with similar outlooks. However, now on the Bear Lake monster there was a sharp break in this orientation. One believed a real veritable monster existed as described by witnesses while the other opposed that concept. As soon as the Salt Lake organ of the Church read the Democrat’s latest editorial on the monster, it fired a loosely worded barrage that included the Bear Lake newspaper in with the other misdirected papers belittling their views. The Democrat took the charge personally and fired back its own salvo under the title "Et Tu Brute!" (A Latin phrase representing Julius Caesar’s last words to Brutus) as follows:
To our non Shakesperian readers it is perhaps
necessary to say that in writing
the above caption we do not charge any with eating two brutes, but to express intense
sorrow at the unfriendly cut given us and our fellow editorial sufferers by the Deseret
News of a recent date. The many indignities and hardships by editors of patent weeklies,
should excite the commiseration and magnanimity of metropolitan editors and not their
ridicule and scorn. So badly do we feel about this unkindly cut that we would at once
resign, were it not for the very liberal salary that like ‘Will o’ the Wisp’ is alluring us
on and on to perhaps an editorial destruction.
The Deseret News mingles Bear Lake Monsters, editors of patent weeklies and
associated press reporters, all together in one chaotic and ridiculous heap. And must
we endure all this! (51)
However, instead of the expected war of words between the two newspapers, the dispute received no further mention in the respective newspapers. They could have quickly resolved their differences by themselves, or very likely were directed to that end by higher authorities. Nevertheless, the Democrat did not back down from its declared position as evidenced by a move two months later. In late October this newspaper elicited more local response from the people it served by requesting its friends send in anything of interest including birth, marriages, deaths, elopements or "earthquakes, volcanoes, monsters (not the Bear Lake kind)" that would be of interest to their readers. (52) The one defined exception (anything on the Bear Lake monster) invites an observation and some speculation. From the time the paper published its August 20, 1881, opinion on the monster, it did not include in its issues any letters from readers expressing their views or reporting recent sightings. Either it never received such letters or chose not to publish them plus the further conjecture that along with the Democrat’s strong stand maybe the outlook of the Bear Lake area residents in regard to the monster had taken a decided turn away from the idea of a lake monster. The Deseret News in the short term continued it old policy, but the brush with the Idaho weekly paper and the tenor and reasoning of its stated position may have elicited some second-thoughts for the big city paper which produced over the next decade a big change whereby they eventual came around to the same position.
Meanwhile, after the last sighting and a few days following the Democrat’s published position, the Deseret News published a long letter from a person using the pen name of "ONE-WHO-KNOWS," giving his assessment of the monster situation. He introduced the "Bear Lake Monster" subject with this preface:
It appears that the Bear Lake "monster" has
been made mention of again as having
been seen by some of President Taylor’s Party while en route on their northern trip
along the shore of the limpid waters of the beautiful Bear Lake.
There has been such convincing testimony given concerning the existence of the
"monster" type, by reliable persons, at various and numerous times, during the last
twelve or fifteen years, that it seems as if there must be no room left for doubt in the
minds of the skeptically [sic] inclined.
Then the writer addressed a few of the critics and scoffers’ concerns by decrying that large things need a home as well as small things as nature had endowed both sizes. He focused on the skeptics’ claim that reason alone make it that such monsters as reported could not exit in the winter season when the lake was covered with ice as they must have air. His response was what about small animals such as fish that live year around in the lake. Besides those who have traveled out onto the ice covered lake had noticed large holes in the ice thought to be "air holes," and suggested the creatures could have made these ruptures or nature made them to withstand such conditions. To those who questioned the monsters residing in the lake when so seldom seen, and where do they keep themselves when not seen. He affirmed there were many who lived on the lake shore for years and never saw any such creatures or sign of them, but countered this was "no reason for their non-existence." Besides, he thought if the lake was thoroughly "explored and sounded" most likely large deep holes would be found. Such holes could afford ample homes for the monster tribe, "who may keep themselves mostly secluded in them," coming occasionally to the surface for air and search for food, thus "account for them being so rarely seen." The writer concluded his letter with this summation: "There are other theories that might be advanced why the larger as well as the smaller species of the animal kingdom can exist in the Bear and other lakes, but we have the testimony of numbers of reliable persons that such things do exist; therefore it is not necessary to take up your valuable space in trying to convert, with argument, those who would not believe short of a view with their own eyes." (53) The writer attempted to throw more light on the monster issue but his presentation lacked the insight and experience of LeBaron and Madsen on the Utah Lake situation, the observations of Tillman or the reasoning of the Democrat’s August 20th opinion.
The argument concerning the actual existence of the monsters basically remained the same from inception in 1868 through 1881. The believers could furnish no proof but the various sightings, while the other side could not prove the non-existence of the creatures except somewhat by argument, using reason and natural history tinged with science. The attempts to catch, capture or shoot the monster were unsuccessful. From the other side of the mountains in Cache County came an idea for another approach to the problem by a suggestion in a newspaper hardly two years in existence. As this newspaper saw it in September of 1881—"The Bear Lake Monster yarn seems to have been regenerated of late, and the papers either have letters or something to say on the subject." The revival of the old argument fostered by the long absences of the monster had produced "An incredulous feeling possesses the minds of a good many people in relation to the truth of this affair." A suggested possible solution would be to have some "artist" (photographer) to take his place up at Bear Lake and when the monster showed itself "to photograph it." The newspaper felt sure the creature would stay up long enough above water to do this, and they were certain it would pay the enterprising person well who accomplished it. Nothing further has been ascertained in regard to attempts at "Bear Lake Monster Photography." (54) While the idea was worthy of consideration, it was at best a very long shot with one or a few trying to capture a picture of the monster on the lake where they could only cover a tiny area and when the creature was so seldom available or non-existent. The astronomical odds were probably worse than the catching/capturing attempts. While personal cameras were now available, guns were more so and the more readily available in getting a chance at any monster. In addition, even after cameras became very commonplace no known photograph of the monster in Bear Lake was taken.
Some twenty months later in May of 1883 the Logan newspaper, in its fourth year of existence and seeking to have an influence in the adjacent Bear Lake area, sent a reporter to find the local news and hopefully build a bridge or two with the Bear Lakers. In the letter back to the newspaper, the writer told of the monotonous travel over bad roads in poor conveyances to reach Bear Lake in early spring. He gave a description of the valley, the lake and small talk on a couple of locations near the lake before turning to his main topic for the remainder of his article. In the writer’s words "A MONSTER has been made to inhabit the deep waters of this lake, and quite a number of people really believe there is a huge being living here. Quite a number have seen it, or they think they have; they would swear to it, if you would let them."
And, "It is just like a monster ought to be"—with a length from sixty to 200 feet with a mane like a horse, large eyes a foot apart and about the size of person’s head. Due to the supposed age of the beast the writer supposed it must wear spectacles by now as it was believed to feed upon Indians so long ago. The letter with this information was dated from Bear Lake Valley on May 1, 1883.
The Logan newsman focused on what a fisherman related about the monster. The fisherman had fished both night and day in all seasons on the lake, and because he had never seen the monster, he didn’t believe it existed. Still, he was converted and explained how it happened. Some time earlier a group from either Randolph or Woodruff came on a fishing excursion to Bear Lake, and they were able to catch enough to fill "several wagons full." The fishing party had on new clothing and did not want to clean their own fish so they employed this fisherman to do it while the excursionists looked on. According to the fisherman the cleaning was taking place on the very spot where some Indians "were gobbled" by the monster. While the fisherman cleaned the fish "with his hands full of sucker entrails," someone watching the cleaning "spied an object out on the water moving towards the shore." Immediately tales of the monster flashed in the minds of every man with much fear. The previously skeptical fisherman stared at the approaching object with mouth wide open and his limbs paralyzed, and like Paul in the New Testament, he was instantly converted at seeing the being he doubted existed. To the fear-gripped fisherman the approaching object appeared to be a "little less than one hundred feet long" and headed straight for a promontory at a "terrific speed." Another person seized a gun and ran to a good vantage point and shot at the object, which was quickly followed by a "fearful splash" then all was quiet; the object could not be seen and all appeared, according to the fisherman, as "though no monster had ever floated upon" the lake’s surface. Then "an object rose to the surface and floated on the water apparently "Dead or Dying." Several men jumped into a nearby boat and "approached the monster. . . . and hauled it into the boat, and found it to be a half grown beaver. Yet so curiously did it reflect itself on the water that it really appeared to be from 50 to 100 feet long." The newspaper writer made no attempt to explain the inconsistency of the fisherman’s conversion after discovering the beaver was what had been seen; however, the story was told better the way the fisherman related the story. (55) It might hold a key to understanding many of the claimed sightings of the monster with huge dimensions by casting doubts on the accuracy of eye witnesses, and possibly there was something to the fisherman’s observation wherein a half-grown beaver in the translucent waters casting a reflection that appeared many times its real size.
The monster sightings remained seldom through 1883 into 1884, however, in jest and as comments in passing it was not forgotten. In March of 1884, William G. Kimball of Paris, Bear Lake County, Idaho, was en route to Arizona to see if there were better opportunities there with the land than in Idaho. He stopped in Salt Lake City to pick up his brother to go with him to "spy out the land." Mr. Kimball was queried on how things were going in his place of residence, and among his comments were that he had seen more snow in the past season than any of the seven previous years he knew about. Probably someone asked him about the monster and if his relocation was connected to the feared creature. The newspaper account of his reaction stated: "Brother Kimball does not believe in the Bear Lake monster, and sternly repels the insinuation that it is fear of this as yet invisible horror that impels him southward. He felt perfectly safe in leaving his family in Paris." Almost six months later, the Bear Lake Democrat printed a short statement on the monster which the Deseret News reprinted on September 3, 1884, which read: "The Democrat says the Bear Lake monster has again been seen. This time it is about thirty feet long, travels nearly a mile a minute, and throws the water about ten feet high." If this was a change of position for the Democrat’s published statement of 1881 it came because Osmond was no longer the editor as he was on a mission in Europe. To add to the mixture, a group from Logan traveled in mid-August of 1885 to Bear Lake, "the country that is famous among other things, for the extravagant and inconsistent monster stories." They viewed the "grandeur" of the lake with its translucent waters "as clear as it is possible for water to be," with nary a monster or even a recent story of a sighting. (56)
There still existed two opposing sides on the monster, and it would appear that the believers were losing ground in their numbers. The public had generally lost faith in the existence of lake monsters, and the newspapers were no longer allied to the cause. The Herald no longer gave any attention and didn’t cover the August of 1881 sighting by the Church dignitaries, and the Deseret News no longer cited positive proof and authenticity anymore. In September of 1886 the Deseret News reflected on a sea serpent story from a Boston periodical wherein a report of the huge sea serpent with humps was first sighted by those on a ship, that is, they thought they had seen this. However, when the ship went closer to this object, the reported sea serpent "resolved" itself "into a small school of porpoises" whose actions in swimming resembled the humps attributed to the sea serpent. Conclusion, according to the newspaper that—"Distance is an arch deceiver in the serpent business." (57) To add to the observations regarding distance on monster sightings, far away on the east coast of the United States there was a report of "The Latest ‘Sea Serpent.’" It came when a schooner was traveling down the Patuxent River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. The men on the ship saw what they thought was "a large serpent" in the river declaring it a "horned serpent." As the vessel went to investigate this strange object, it turned and made directly for the ship with some of the crew getting out long poles and pikes to repel it. "They were not used," according to the news report, as "the animal proved to be a gray squirrel, which was taken, tired out, from the water and given his liberty on the schooner." (58) However, if the schooner had not moved closer to investigate the incident, it probably would have been another sea serpent sighting of some magnitude.
Within a few days of the squirrel confusion, came a story from the Logan newspaper of October 2, 1886, carrying headlines with a startling claim such as "Captured at Last," "‘The Supposed Monster of the Bear Lake Waters Paralyzed,’ A Rifle Ball Reaches Him and the Mystery is Settled." This sensational news came to the newspaper by way of a letter received by a gentleman in Logan with the information. The details were that the capture took place east of St. Charles when a party of men saw the monster in the water, and "they jumped into a boat and when within shooting distance of it, shot it through the neck." The shots only stopped the monster but did not kill it. Instead an ax was used to split its skull to end its life. They towed the monster to the shore and then weighed it. The letter gave no description of the animal, and the newspaper declared—"It certainly is a monster of some kind and will excite much attention." The above account was set in type ready for printing to reveal the astonishing story when further information was received from Bear Lake on the captured "monster." The new information was inserted in the newspaper after the original account as a "LATER" supplement explaining they had belatedly further details—"From a source we have every reason to believe to be authentic, we learn that the animal captured was a large sized Moose. This animal is rarely seen in this part of the country, being mostly found from the northern part of the United States to the Arctic Ocean . . . . having a short, thick neck, with a mane, a long, horny muffle, and broad, slouching ears, and the fact of its being so rarely seen in these parts, has probably given rise to the belief that it was the great monster." (59) Hence, from the examples cited above, sightings whether on the seas or Bear Lake, it was almost certain, if an attempt to investigate further was made, that the closer the view the smaller the strange object became with a corresponding more accurate and knowledgeable identification.
During another period of non-activity by the monster in 1887 through 1889, about the only mention of the monster was in some type of passing reference. The Salt Lake Herald directly boosted the Bear Lake County as coming to the front in politics while possessing the best climate in the world and an unrivaled body of water that would soon have sailing boats on a lake abounding with fish, "and the Bear Lake monster still lives and breathes in that beautiful body of water."
This from the Herald was quite surprising since that paper had not reported anything on the monster for several years. (60) In lieu of better and more concrete items about the monster, the newspaper coverage had slipped to retelling old tales or passing reference. They would report what came to them but it appeared the monster was a tall tale with few believers and more scoffers and skeptics. By 1888, two decades after the first story on the monster broke in the newspapers, it seemed to have run its course. Most of the enlightened people familiar with the monster account in its various aspects had come to the conclusion that it had been made up by Joseph C. Rich as a humorous prank. Perhaps there were some who were sure of this by direct inquiries to the supposed creator; and with Rich’s latest responses the idea spread forth in the area. Sometime in the mid to late 1880s Joseph C. Rich was no longer denying his fabrication of the tale but acknowledging it as a fact. He didn’t publish this admission in the newspapers but did so by conversation and letter. To the doubters, skeptics and the like, this was positive proof that there was no monster living in Bear Lake. Nevertheless, some diehards continued to believe in "their" monster. It took time for some to learn of Rich’s admission and others wouldn’t believe this confession because they thought they had seen the monster. However, most of the people knew this by 1888, and possibly any monster sightings after this date should be denoted as a post disclosure or confession. The only version of Rich’s statement in his writing came in 1894 when he was trying to promote the launching of a steamboat on the lake by writing a press release for the newspapers in southern Idaho and northern Utah. In it he stated: "I discovered and made famous by publication in the Deseret News that wonderful first class lie—The Bear Lake Monster." (61)
While reason may suggest that this should have written "finis" to the story, but not necessarily as verily oft-times truth is stranger than fiction as some believers continued in the struggle as to whether the monster was real or not. One of the strangest sightings came shortly after Rich’s confession. In the spring of 1889 the Salt Lake Herald assigned an established correspondent, Jake Miles, who had been writing articles with his byline for some time, to make an excursion into southern Idaho and furnish articles on his travels to the various settlements. In May the reporter made his first trip through the Bear Lake area, covering most of the settlement and produced a signed article published on May 25, 1889. He made only a passing reference to the monster as residing in the picturesque lake. On August 25th of the same year correspondent Miles had two articles in the Sunday issue of the paper. The first was a report on Gentile Valley with colorful coverage of deputies chasing polygamists but no deviations of the facts and nothing on the Bear Lake Valley. The second article dwelt on the Bear Lake Valley at considerable length under a heading "Six Years Hence," trying to look into the future as things "will be in 1895." In addition there were two subheadings "The Bothwell canal Scheme - The True Story of the Bear River Monster, ‘Taken on the Spot.’" Using his unusual approach, he covered the settlements (Lake Town, Garden City, Fish Haven, St. Charles, Paris, Bloomington) with comments and speculation as he bounced back and forth between the present and six years in the future. All during his trip he made it a point to "sound" or ask the residents about their "notorious Bear Lake monster." At a store in Garden City he brought up the subject to a lady clerk and asked her if she had ever seen it. She replied: "Oh, no; I haven't seen the monster for some time—the only one I ever saw was a string of ducks, or some boys or girls in bathing." (62) The lady’s response (or possibly the writer’s interpretation) was a confusing doublespeak contradiction or mix-up of a shaded positive expression cancelled out by a more definite negative assertion. The same type of situation as with the fisherman converted to believing in the monster after discovering the object seen was a beaver. In both cases there really was not an eyewitness sighting of the monster.
After Mr. Miles went into detail about a giant irrigation project, he reverted to his 1889 excursion to Bear Lake. He found the residents of the area took "pride and great delight in telling of ‘their’ Bear Lake monster." One man in particular "with all soberness" told of going early one morning to the shore of the lake below St. Charles and was greatly surprised that the bulrushes were depressed close to the ground "as if some enormous monster had been that way." News of this discovery flew to the town and spread that the monster had been seen again in a positive view not just as depressed bulrushes which might indicate it had been there. Expounding, he reported that the Indians no longer bathe in the lake due to a tradition they have dating to "once upon a time" a "huge serpent" sneaked close and scooped up a score of their youngsters while in the lake bathing.
The writer retold another "story (true, of course)" learned from the present residents that "many years ago" someone offered a $100 reward for the monster dead or alive. One man attempted to catch the monster using a large steel fish hook over a yard in length connected by rope to a large floater and connected to another rope fastened to a big cottonwood tree. With a killed sheep the man set up his catching rig by rowing out in the lake 200 yards, baiting the hook with the sheep and dropped it into the water at night. He returned to shore and the next morning went and pulled up the hook and found the bait was gone. The following night he baited the hook with mutton and tried again with the same result, and continued "until his entire flock of sheep" was used as bait. Feeling the monster had been watching all this time, he decided on another lure, a jug of strong whisky, which he attached to the hook and returned to shore. The man took a position in hiding with his "sixteen shooter" to shoot the thief stealing his bait. An hour later two Indians came, rowed out, pulled up the jug of whisky and returned to shore. Instead of shooting, the man with the gun "swooned," but when revived he followed the tracks of the Indians only to be astounded again, finding fifteen drunken Indians at their campsite where heaps of sheep bones were strewn about with an empty jug nearby. The man fished no more for the monsters. The local residents told the reporter where he could go see the huge hook used in this attempt. (63)
Mr. Miles stated he heard so many and varied stories of the monster that he concluded that "there must be something in them." Besides, he thought, Herald reporters were always on the "alert for something new, spicy and startling." As fate would have it, he found what he was searching for, while not new, it was "spicy and startling" as he told of his personal experience at Bear Lake. He prefaced his story with this sentence: "The following must be taken for what it is worth, for we do not force truth upon anyone." Explaining that due to the "number of exciting stories" he had heard concerning the monster, the reporter decided to set up a watch for it. At night he went to the shore of the lake and hid in the thick brush lining the southwestern side of the lake and began his vigilance "for some signs of the big fellow." Through two long and dreary nights he anxiously watched with no success. Undaunted he returned for a third night "thoroughly tired of my self-imposed task," and as he "gazed sleepily" out over the broad surface of the lake, he saw or thought he saw something. According to Miles’ words—"I imagined I saw two small lights rise out of the water to the north and directly disappear. In a few moments they re-appeared, seeming as large as two small lanterns; again they seemed to sink into the bosom of the lake . . . the shelterer of the unknown." Half awake, still excited and shaking, it seemed to him that each second was like an hour. He assumed it was all gone and he "would see no more," at the same time thinking, "Could this be the monster?" while hoping "No, certainly not." For what happened next, the reporter’s words tell it best:
But I was wrong, for soon two great round balls
of fire like the head-lights of a
locomotive appeared once more on the surface of the waters, only a few miles away.
Two long streaks of light flashed over the placid waters, which was so bright as to
dazzle my very eyes. The lights seemed stationary for a moment, then shot across
the waters like a flash. When they were turned from me, I discerned a long, black,
snakey form following them. The sleek, black head enlarged abruptly where it was
joined to the body, and sloped down to a point, giving it the shape of a monster pig
head minus the ears. "THE ROUND, FIERY EYES, seemingly a foot in diameter,
were deep set and well back. The whole appeared at least 300 feet in length, and
for size would discount any antediluvian sea monster that ever rode the main.
The entire surface of the lake became disturbed
by the maneuvers of this king
of monsters; the waves came roaring to shore and dashed themselves . . . against
the rocky beach. The water raised several feet, and I was compelled to shift my
position in order not to be caught in its frothy arms.
The monster wheeled, passed in my front like a
dark meteor and ran his head
ashore a few hundred yards below. A long, thin, blood-red tongue darted out,
wrapped itself several times around a huge clump of bushes, and before I could
tell it, the snapping of roots was heard, the enormous jaws opened and the bushes
disappeared down its hideous throat. This feeding, on a grand scale, was indulged
in for some time and witnessed by me with horrified astonishment. The undergrowth
and birch trees which the monster rooted up and swallowed so easily and with such
apparent satisfaction, could not have been torn out by ten yoke of oxen.
After satisfying his herbivorous appetite he
turned round, sped out near the center
of the lake and disappeared. I have never seen it since. (64)
Mr. Jake Miles was not through with his account and explained that he had not previously breathed a word of this experience to anyone because, as he expressed it, "I knew my story would be discredited." Then slipping back into his literary approach of "Six Years Hence," he was speaking from the year 1895 and now felt safe and secure to reveal what he witnessed. All because the next season (1896) would likely be a drought year and every foot of water in the lake would be utilized with the lake being drained due to a tunnel or canal from Cache Valley to use the lake’s water with the lake drained dry. Therefore, the "sea serpent will surely be found at the bottom," so, stated Jake Miles. (65) Literary games-man-ship, hoax, hallucination, psychosis, or was there just something in the water or about the water of Bear Lake that caused people to see things different than what really existed. Perhaps it was a combination of these factors with a heavy dose of fun taking off from the earlier spoof. Whatever, the first published sighting after Mr. Rich’s disclosure that he had created the monster in 1868 was a wonder, truly beyond belief; possibly, close in stature to the original lie by Rich except very few, if any, believed Miles’ account.
Somewhat surprisingly this 1889 grand monster
tale came from one of the newspapers that had moved from its pro-monster status
to giving the creature almost no notice. About two months after Miles’ story,
the Herald noted in an issue in October of 1889 that "JOE RICH,
frequently referred to as the ‘Bear Lake monster,’ but once known as ‘Saxey,’ is
in our midst, having come down from his northern perch on legal business." With
sadness the paper stated that Rich’s late arrival precluded a chance for "a very
interesting interview." Surely that interview would have included Rich’s recent
recanting of his monster story possibly coupled with his opinion of Miles’ story
on the monster. Whatever, at the Herald this was the last time
they took the bait on a monster tale. Five years later in the summer of 1894, a
reporter from the Salt Lake Tribune went to the Bear Lake area and
filed his articles back to his paper. After covering a Fourth of July
celebration at Meadowville, the reporter moved north to the lake, observing: "As
we gaze on its clear, translucent bosom, we thought of the story of the Bear
lake monster, as described in the ‘Keep a Pitching In’ in the early 70’s by Joe
Rich. We wondered if there was any truth in the story, and if Joe had outlived
that pet hallucination, or does he still see monster serpents as he takes his
daily stroll along the lake shore." (66) Again sightings of the monster were hard to
come by and the occasional newspaper coverage of the Bear Lake creatures either
mentioned Joe Rich or made a passing reference to it in connection to a story of
sea serpents on the ocean by suggesting the lake being was "possible descendants
of the great sea snakes of bygone ages." Then in July of 1895 the Tribune,
without the normal biased opinion for the first time, hit the nail square on the
head with an assertion and suggestion: "It is a number of years since the Bear
Lake monster was seen. Some one who loves his country should see to it that it
is seen." (67) That idea or call, whether printed or just thought of, had been heeded
possibly too often by those who love the Bear Lake region, thereby causing the
monster tales to be resuscitated again gaining their second wind for a short
time and falling off again; the cycle repeated over and over.
Unquestionably the Bear Lake region remained the bed of support that the monster existed and was real, but even here by the summer of 1900 there was a change. A local citizen’s report to the Salt Lake Deseret News noted the conditions from St. Charles on the lake’s north side with the weather warm to hot and bathing just beginning at the lake. The locals hoped the "shores will be dotted with white tents of visitors from Salt Lake," and a hearty welcome was extended to all to leave the heat and bustle of city life and come to Bear Lake for a grand time boating, bathing, hunting and fishing. It advised—"There is no fear now of the famous Bear Lake monster . . . which was a superstitious delusion existing mainly in the minds of some of our southern neighbors and the Indians, which had become extinct. Students of natural history who would know more of him, now that Washakie, Pocatello and other red men . . . gone to the ‘happy hunting ground’[,] may for an accurate description of him apply to Judge Joe Rich who has made the monster famous both in song and story." At least for some this was turning a sharp corner, believing that some visitors came for a day or two to see if they could glimpse the monster, but it would be better to stress the best features of Bear Lake and have people come and camp for a week or longer. The economic reward would be better with the monster extinct, merely a superstition, rather than as the main drawing card for the area. (68) This position would vacillate back and forth depending on the vested interests of the various parties, but in both instances the cash register became an increasingly important factor after 1900.
For several years some visitors to the area continued to mention their hope to see the famed monster, and they dutifully reported back almost always that they didn’t encounter the thing. One such report was in a Davis County newspaper for August 9, 1907: a family went, rode in a boat and never saw an abnormal thing. Five weeks later came another report by way of a Logan newspaper which caused a stir with headlines that the "Bear Lake Monster Appears" with a story that it devoured a horse. A letter to the Logan Republican dated at Bear Lake on September 12, 1907, reported that a few nights earlier two men had encountered the beast on the eastern shore of the lake. This report was signed by the two men who stated they camped on the lake at sundown, tying their horses to a tree and fed them. Then while preparing their supper, one of the men saw something about half a mile out in the calm lake. It would dive under the water and come back to the surface repeatedly, and as it came closer they took it as "some water monster." The men took their 30-30 rifles and fired at the monster not being able to determine if they hit it. The monster turned slightly then turned directly for the men at a faster speed. The men’s horses became frightened and one broke loose and ran away. The men retreated into the trees and fired away at the monster, which growled devilishly and continued towards the men "like a mad elephant." They retreated to a rocky hillside and resumed shooting, but every shot seem to give the beast more strength in its pursuit and growling as it closed to the shore. As a last resort the men thought to protect the remaining tied horse and returned to their camp area. Just as they reached the blazing campfire they saw the monster lift "his paw and strike the horse to the ground." The monster turned away going for deep water with the men firing again at it. The monster turned back towards the shore and with a loud growl and a "terrible swish" in the water and came ashore. Where, according to the two men, it grasped the horse with its "two front paws, opened his monstrous mouth and crashed its teeth into it like a bullterrier would a mouse." It tore the horse badly, and returned to the lake and with a growl plowed through the water and was gone. According to the men, they would never forget the terrible sight. (69)
The report was signed by Messrs. T. R. Mooney and Fred Horne, and their written description of the monster was: "It seemed to be all head, two large staring eyes as large as a front wagon wheel, nose and mouth like a great large fish. It’s [sic-its] arms seemed to come out on either side of its head where the ears naturally would be. The hind legs were long and bent like that of the kangaroo. Then the hind end was like the tip end of a monster fish." The newspaper took some literary license to have it as a "Leviathan . . . . combination of dragon, bear, fish, measuring twenty feet in length and possessing the roar of a lion." With this account, the newspaper closed the story with—"The Republican would like to know who these men are and the brand they use." (70)
Even with the newspaper’s negative sentiments, it was still in the lead on the potential story and maybe they could get a real scoop and sell more papers, so they pursued the story. The newspaper contacted a noted Bear Laker, Aquilla Nebeker, who was an early settler in Rich County and large land owner, who in the 1890s served as the county’s prosecuting attorney and had association with Joseph C. Rich on a few cases, and later served in the state legislature. The newspaper asked Nebeker for his opinion of the Mooney and Horne report, and a few days later they received a letter in reply to their request. According to the newspaper, "Mr. Nebeker not only confirms the main features of the Mooney-Horne story, but tells of his own experience with the monster, which throws further light on the size, temperament and disposition of this wonderful Bear Lake terrorizer." Mr. Nebeker wrote: "In response to your inquiry, I can confirm the main facts of the ‘Bear Lake monster’ story published in your last issue, but Messrs. Looney and Corn were probably too greatly excited to give you the details in an unexaggerated form." To the perceptive the misspelling of the two men’s names should have been a sign of what was to come in some of Nebeker’s treatment of Looney-Corn with at least a double portion of the goofy mixture. He started with the small and least significant points such as reducing the size of the monster’s eyes from as large as wagon wheel to close to the dimensions of headlights on a Logan automobile; but for good measure insisted as an "undisputed fact" that each eye of the creature shined forth a light "ten times more intense than any Logan street fixture." Focusing on the more important, the monster (giving a choice ranging from leviathan to a "mastodonafishicus" or whatever) "was as vicious and bloodthirsty as the villain in" a famous author’s play. He gave direct proof of this by claiming the same night it killed the horse mentioned by the two witnesses, it came to the Nebeker ranch. It overturned the pigpen, devoured eight of his shoats, and while returning to the lake ate a small stack of hay and "terribly lacerated" two of Nebeker’s finest "milkers."
Not being satisfied, the monster came near the ranch house between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. awakening the sleepers by the bright glow of the beast’s eyes that flooded the whole area with light. The people in the house saw the terrible monster, "easily fifty feet long, fifteen high, and covered with scales like armor plate," with "countless arms and legs." As it came closer to the house its eyes took on a greenish hue and its face showed a "ghastly, ghoulish appearance" while its tail switched back and forth so fast it caused the air to move close to a cyclone. In its hungered rage the monster "tore down a dozen bales of barbed wire standing" near the Nebeker’s barn and "gulped them down as though they were delicate morsels." Nebeker tried to think of anything to divert the monster’s interest to protect those living in the house. Maybe, he quickly thought, pies would do it, but sensed it wouldn’t do. At this point the family dog began to howl and attracted the monster’s attention, causing it to come at "full tilt, mouth open wide enough to swallow the front porch." During his account Nebeker alone remained claim and collected while his family was just the opposite. According to Nebeker at the crucial moment of danger he responded as follows:
Here was my time for action, and while I
dislike to speak of myself, I must confess
that I arose to the emergency. As I attempted to kick my dog into silence, I noticed my
large graphaphone [graphophone – an improved version of the phonograph] standing on
the table ready for use. An inspiration struck me—I called to mind the value of music
in taming the snakes and wild animals of the forest—and I decided to try it. Hastily
winding up the machine, I opened wide the front door, squarely in the face of the
approaching monster and turned loose my music.
As it happened, the record on the machine was
that incomparable tune, ‘Home,
Sweet Home,’ and as its strains floated out on the midnight air, I noticed that the
monster halted, then stopped. His head being low, a reminiscent smile played o’er
his features, and as the chorus was reached we were surprised to see the monster's
tail switch ‘round toward his neck. As we watched we noted a stringed instrument,
something like a lyre, at end of the animal's tail, and as ‘Home, Sweet Home’
continued, that monster didn't do a thing but utilize his several hands or feet in playing
an accompaniment to that grand old tune. Ah, but it was sweet, and as ‘the band played
on’ we really fell in love with the Bear Lake monster. As I moved to his side, the
monster seemed to welcome me as a friend of other days, and before ‘Home, Sweet
Home’ was ended the animal's head rested on my shoulder and we were mingling out
All was going splendidly and I had definitely
decided to adopt the animal and make
him a member of my family, but just here sorrow, deep and tearful sorrow, shook the
frame of my newly made friend, and he began to weep. Great streams of tears poured
from his eyes, and finally they flowed so copiously that the monster floated away in
them. Thoughts of his subterraneous home were too much for him, and though he
seemed loath to go, he waved a sad farewell and disappeared from sight.
A point of particular interest just here is
that as the monster passed the barn it left
my barbed wire stacked up nicely, and on top the pile left that lyre on which it played
that accompaniment. Imagine my surprise at discovering that stringed instrument to
be a portion of a bale of that wire and a part of my pigpen worked up into the most
approved form. (71)
Mr. Nebeker wasn’t finish yet, he requested that the newspaper not call Nebeker’s new friend a "monster any longer, for he is wondrously human," a friend they had learned to love. Aquilla closed by stating—"this is the straight of that ‘Bear Lake monster’ story." Advising that if any in Cache County or Logan wanted further proof, he could show them the barbed wire eaten by it and the graphophone which subdued whatever Nebeker said not to call him—"this monster." The closing stated, "Yours respectfully and truthfully, AQUILLA C. NEBEKER." (72) Once again, if ever there was sign or code word for the best teller of tall tales it revolved around true, truth, truthfully, etc. A couple of days later the Deseret Evening News reprinted the whole article on September 23, 1907, while the Salt Lake Herald wisely didn’t touch the fanciful story.
The Logan paper probably didn’t get their desired scoop except for Nebeker’s dose of Looney-Corn, and almost immediately that was more than this newspaper wanted. Outside of the September 18th report of another sighting of the monster and the September 21st spin on the story by Nebeker, the newspaper did not have any follow up stories on this latest sighting and only three times mentioned the monster in passing. The first of these came as a local news item two days after the Nebeker’s depiction. It had the coach of the football team at the Agricultural College at Logan going to the Bear Lake area seeking recruits for his team but found the "lake people wouldn’t let their athletes go until the Bear Lake monster had been headed off." According to the news report, the coach remained in the area until "a six strand barbed wire fence, had been erected across the lake, a distance of ten miles." The item closed with the expectation the fence would hold the monster, but if it didn’t the football coach might return to recruit the monster for use in his line. Another reference in the same issue noted a man with a bandaged hand may have had a mix up with the Bear Lake monster. A week and a half after the newspaper’s last report in connection with the monster, it came when a high official of a firm which leased the Smithfield Roller Mill was in Logan and addressed an audience telling about the mill, wanting the trade of the farmers, keeping local money at home and bringing in money from the sale of goods they produced. At the end of his remarks, the Logan newspaper tried to get the man, John M. Bain, to talk of "Smithfield politics, Bear Lake monster, or the trusts." The gentleman, with wisdom, didn’t take the enticement on any of the three topics proposed, saying he didn’t know anything but the "mill" and he had talked enough about it. (73) Apparently the monster question had resurfaced with a regeneration of the old argument of whether the monster was real or not. Although the newspaper was disappointed in their failure to get the man to delve into the hotly debated topics, they were soon to adopt the same policy thereafter by refusing to take the tempting lure on more Bear Lake monster sightings.
A year later on October 17, 1908, Joseph C. Rich (Saxey) died at Centerville, Utah, after an acute attack of pneumonia. In an obituary the Deseret Evening News, recited his 67 years of experience as a pioneer ranging far and wide but emphasized his close link with the growth and history of southeastern Idaho, where the lawyer became a judge until failing health forced him to retire and relocate in Utah. As almost an epitaphist the newspaper stated: "He was gifted and known as natural wit, having originated the ‘Bear Lake Monster’ and other stories." This newspaper had completely reversed its stand on the existence of the monster and they were now in the unbelieving camp. Rich’s body was returned to Paris, Idaho for burial. His biographer had much to say of the man and his achievements, but in a nutshell he wrote of Joseph C. Rich—"his Bear Lake Monster stories made him famous; and his humor has become a legend," and his monster tale made "Bear Lake the most talked of and widely known section in the entire territory," and was "one of the most amazing pieces of regional publicity ever devised." (74)
With the newspapers taking a hands-off approach and the true believers in the monster being reduced significantly, the Bear Lake monster began what appeared to be its final course to being placed as a tall tale, myth or superstition. In that demise, one additional historical item may be of interest. In 1929 at a girls’ summer camp on a nature trail in the Bear Lake Mountains, one of the leaders inquired what the girls knew about the Bear Lake monster, and was surprised to find the youngsters did not know anything about it. Research by this leader revealed the parents and adults were not keeping alive the local monster stories "lest they [adults and youngsters] should be thought superstitious." The leader considered this "very silly" for it was rare fun to hear these stories that provided rich and strange things to talk about without any harm. Possibly keeping the monster in the came category as the tooth fairy, Santa, Paul Bunyan, etc., much like
Editor George Osmond had it in his newspaper’s assessment in August of 1881. Very much along the line of an official Church magazine article maintaining that the Bear Lake monster was "A Monster Worth While." (75)
The late 1880s acknowledgment of Joseph C. Rich
fabricating the Bear Lake monster or the post- confession sightings hasn’t put a
complete damper on the monster sightings. There were others (1937 sighting by a
four-year-old, 1946 by a Boy Scout leader and the 2002 claim by the owner of the
monster sightseeing boat) and there will be more until the lake is completely
drained, revealing the monster or evidences of such, or showing that the small
lake didn’t and couldn’t support such a huge creature or creatures. The easy way
out of the monster in the Bear Lake dilemma and probably the most profitable is
to agree there was and is one. Much more challenging and difficult would be to
try and show or explain how willful deceit, misinterpretation and
misidentification of something seen such as a flash, shadow, otter, beaver,
moose or whatever else brought forth mistaken sighting of a monster. There are
as many such monsters in the lake today as in yesteryears and they total zero.
The sightings are the only evidence and they were vague, exaggerated,
conflicting and suspect in some cases. Even using the early date of 1868 the
following century and a nearly a half has failed to find any direct or
creditably evidence of the monster or specimen. Few will venture down the path
of explaining how such creatures could have existed and lived in such a confined
space with so little exposure and leave absolutely no physical evidence of being
there. For well over a century people with boats and later sonar have traversed
all of the small lake’s surface and much of its depths, and have not found
anything as real physical evidence of even the smallest of the monsters in the
various sightings. Instead, a little ingenuity with some collusion and much
imagination and/or misidentification of known animals fostered by some out-right
hoaxes and deceit, conjured up, twisting and inflating perhaps the slightly
out-of-the-ordinary until it became extraordinary in scope, size and number. In
brief, the only facts on the Bear Lake Monster are its creation by Joseph C.
Rich, otherwise there were a series of sightings, yarns, tall tales and failed
attempts to capture. Thereafter, the fun and fancy took over beginning with the
various sightings and those few attempts to close in on it or investigate, which
brought something far different from the first impression in size and reality,
turning these eyewitness episodes into something far removed from facts or proof
of a monster. In the end it could be wished that more of the viewings had been
investigated as to what was actually seen or thought to have been observed. In
other words, there isn’t much other than fun and fancy to the Bear Lake monster,
and that is that as far as this writer can state it!
1. Salt Lake Herald (Salt Lake City, Ut.), April 16,1885.2. Ezra J. Poulsen, Joseph C. Rich—Versatile Pioneer- On the Mormon Frontier. (Salt Lake City, Ut: Granite Publishing Co. 1958), 9-20, 87-96, 146-148, 161-218.
3.Ibid., 215 -218.
4. Deseret Evening News (Salt Lake City, Ut.), Aug. 3, 1868, The Deseret News (Weekly), Aug. 5, 1868. Poulsen, Joseph C. Rich—Versatile Pioneer. . . ., 215-218.
5. Deseret Evening News, Aug. 3, 1868, The Deseret News, Aug. 5, 1868.6. Ibid. See J. C. Rich letter to Ann Eliz Hunter dated May 27, 1868 copied in Poulson’s Joseph C. Rich, p. 211-212. 7. Ibid. For more on Charles C. Rich’s leadership with more tolerant ways and views for the Bear Lake Saints whereby they took themselves much less seriously than those in Cache Valley see Charles S. Peterson’s "The Valley of the Bear River and the Culture Between Utah and Idaho, Utah Historical Quarterly, Vol. 47 (Spring, 1979) 194-214 and John Codman’s characterization of Rich discussed later in this article.
8. Deseret Evening News, Aug. 6, 1868. Deseret News, Aug. 12, 1868.
9. Deseret News, Sept. 2, 1868.
10. Deseret News, Sept. 30, 1868.11. Ibid. 12. Ibid.
13. Deseret News, Nov. 25, 1868. Most researcher who have gone beyond the first level have concluded Joseph C. Rich and Monsterio to be the same person.
14. Poulsen, Joseph C. Rich—Versatile Pioneer. . . ., 219-243.15. Ronald W. Walker, "The Keep-A-Pitchinin or the Mormon Pioneer was Human," BYU Studies, Vol. 14, No. 3 (1974, 331-344), 331-334, 338-340. Keep-A-Pitchinin (Salt Lake City, Ut.), Nov. 15, 1870. Available at Western Americana Library, University of Utah. 16. Poulsen, Joseph C. Rich-Versatile Pioneer, 199-201, 257. 17. Ibid., 206-209, 211-213. Joseph C. Rich letter to Ann Eliz Hunter dated May 27, 1868 quoted in the volume cited. Deseret News, May 20, 1868.
18. The Deseret News, April 6, 13, 27, 1870.
19. Deseret Evening News, May 26, 1870. Deseret News, June 1, 1870.
20. Salt Lake Herald, June 7, 1870.
21. The Deseret News, Aug. 3, 11,1870
22. Salt Lake Herald, Aug. 20, 1870. Deseret News, Aug. 24, Sept. 14, 1870. Poulsen, Joseph C. Rich-Versatile Pioneer, 243.
23. The Deseret News, June 7, 1871. Corinne Daily Reporter (Corinne, Ut.), June 7, Sept. 11, 1871, July 25, 1873, Sept. 8, 1873. Salt Lake Herald, July 13, 1877 quoting references from the Corinne paper. D. Robert Carter, "The Meandrous Monster Migrates to Utah Lake," Daily Herald (Provo, Ut.), May 6, 2006.
24. The Daily Corinne Reporter, Oct. 20, Nov. 27,1871, Feb. 10, Sept. 8, 1873. Corinne Daily Journal (Corinne, Ut.), July 29, 1871. Salt Lake Daily Tribune (Salt Lake City, Ut.), May 12, 1873, June 4, 1874.
25. Deseret News, Feb. 8, May 17, 1871. Deseret Evening News, Oct. 31, 1871.
26. Corinne Daily Journal, July 8, 1871
27. Deseret Evening News, July 9, 1871. Salt Lake Herald, July 9, 1871
28. Salt Lake Herald, July 13, 1871.
29. The Daily Corinne Reporter, September 11, 1871.30. Will Bagley, "Monster Tale Haunts Shore of Bear Lake," Salt Lake Tribune, April 1, 2001. Somehow the ropes used in the capture attempt were reduced from 300 yards to 300 feet.
31. Deseret Evening News, Oct. 31, 1871. Deseret News, Aug. 21. 1872.
32. The Deseret News, July 30, 1873.33. Ibid., Sept. 3, 1873. 34. Ibid., Oct. 15, 1873. 35. Ibid., May 27, 1874. 36. Bagley, "Monster Tale Haunts Shore of Bear Lake," Salt Lake Tribune, April 1, 2001. Kelly Hafen, "Bear Lake Monster in Utah," Herald Journal Logan, Ut.), March 23, 2007.
37. Desert News, Aug. 5, 1868, Deseret Evening News, Dec. 15, 1906. Ogden Daily Herald (Ogden, Ut.), Aug. 27, 1881. Salt Lake Herald, Aug. 25, 1889. This included even how the monster came into being, and the "water babies" turning the seized Indian into more monsters. Much emphasis was placed on the Indians fear of the lake with various angles to either pacify or catch the monster with baited hooks wherein the Indians were fooled to use venison or mutton which fed a disabled mountain man or the Indians stole the bait from the whites' bait of mutton or whisky to feast and party. Another had the Indians substituting sucker fish for the more desirable mutton, and the beat went on.
38. Salt Lake Tribune, June 19, 1875. Deseret News, July 18, 25, 1877, Sept. 18, 1878. Salt Lake Herald, June 11, 1880.39. John Codman, The Round Trip by Way of Panama, Through California, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Idaho and Colorado with Notes on Railroads, Commerce, Agriculture, Mining, Scenery, and People, (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1879), 179, 269-276. 40. Dwight L. Smith, "The Wheeler Survey in Utah, Idaho, and Montana: Samuel E. Tillman’s Tour of Duty in 1877," Utah Historical Quarterly, Vol. 59 (Spring, 1991), 146-152.
41. Deseret News, Oct. 24, 31, 1877. The Logan Leader (Logan, Ut.), Mar. 12, July 16, Aug. 20, 1880. Salt Lake Herald, Sept. 23, 1880.
42. Deseret Evening News, June 10-11, 1880. Salt Lake Herald, June 11, 1880.
43. Salt Lake Tribune, June 19, 1875, June 11, 26, 1880.
44. The Deseret Evening News, June 25, 1880. D. Robert Carter, "Lake Utah Monster," Internet source http://meta-religion.com/Parmormale/Cryptozoology/Other/lake_monsters/lake_utah_monsters
45. Deseret Evening News, Oct. 30, 1868. Poulsen, Joseph C. Rich-Versatile Pioneer, 243,247, 249, 262. Walker, "The Keep-A-Pitchinin or the Mormon Pioneer was Human," 338-339, quotes Rich’s "perhaps prospecting" comments from the Keep-A- Pitchinin, Nov. 15, 1870 issue page 72.46. Poulsen, Joseph C. Rich-Versatile Pioneer, 243,247, 249, 262. Deseret News, July 30, 1879, Aug. 23, 1882, Mar. 9, 1883 and Nov. 21, 1888.
47. The Bear Lake Democrat (Paris, Idaho), Nov. 6, 1880, Feb. 19, 1881, April 2, May 14, May 21, 1881.
48. The Territorial Enquirer (Provo, Ut.), Aug. 13, 1881. Deseret Evening News, Aug. 16, 1881. Deseret News, Aug. 24, 1881. Leonard J. Arrington, Charles C. Rich: Mormon General and Western Frontiersman (Provo, Ut., BYU Press, 1974), 314, 365 (citing from Journal of Leonard John Nuttall, 1876-1904 in LDS Archives).
49. The Salt Lake Daily Tribune, Aug. 18, 1881.
50. The Bear Lake Democrat, Aug. 6, 20, 1881.
51.Ibid, Aug. 27, 1881. 52. Ibid, Oct. 29, 1881.
53. The Deseret News, Aug. 31, 1881.
54. The Logan Leader (Logan, Ut.), Sept. 2, 1881.
55. Utah Journal (Logan, Ut.), May 11, 1883.
56. The Deseret News, Mar. 19, 1884, Sept. 3, 1884. Poulsen, Joseph C. Rich-Versatile Pioneer, 258,269. The Utah Journal, Aug. 19, 1885.
57. Deseret News, Sept. 15, 1886.
58. The Salt Lake Daily Tribune, Sept. 26, 1886.
59. The Utah Journal, Oct. 2, 1886.
60. The Deseret News, Sept. 14, 1887. Salt Lake Herald, Aug. 8, 1888.61. Poulsen, Joseph C. Rich-Versatile Pioneer, 297-299.
62. Salt Lake Herald, May 25, 1889, Aug. 25,1889.
63. Salt Lake Herald, Aug. 25, 1889.64. Ibid. 65. Ibid.
66. The Salt Lake Herald, Oct. 20, 1889. The Salt Lake Tribune, July 29, 1894. The Salt Lake Herald's drought of Bear Lake monster references started in the latter portion of the 1870s and reached acute proportions in the 1880s with no mention from 1880 through October of 1887 and then only a passing reference in November of 1887 and one short sentence in Aug. of 1888 (mentioned above) that the monster was alive. After Miles’ 1889 articles the same trend extended through the 1890s.
67. The Utah Journal, Aug. 18, 1894. The Salt Lake Tribune, July 18, 1895.
68. The Deseret Evening News, June 25, 1900.
69. Davis County Clipper (Bountiful, Ut.), Aug. 9, 1907. The Logan Republican (Logan, Ut.), Sept. 18, 1907.
70. The Logan Republican, Sept. 18, 1907.71. Ibid. Sept. 21, 1907. For more on Nebeker see Deseret News, Mar. 11, 1893 and Salt Lake Herald, Sept. 20, 1900. 72. Ibid.
73. The Logan Republican, Sept. 25, 1907, Oct. 2, 1907.
74. Deseret Evening News, Oct. 19, 1908. Poulsen, Joseph C. Rich-Versatile Pioneer, Introduction and page 215.
75. "Summer Camps: On the Nature Trail in Bear Lake Mountains." The Young Woman's Journal, Vol. 40 - (August 8, 1929), 528. A Monster Worth While," Improvement Era, XXXII, (Oct. 1919) p. 987.