Wednesday, December 15, 2010
South Bay Bessie
Above is one of the only sketches made of the mysterious lake monster in Lake Erie. She is affectionately called Bessie or South Bay Bessie to locals like me, the name derived from Nessie of Lock Ness like so many others.
First spotted in 1817 she's been seen sporadically for over thirty years. Most describe her as snake like, anywhere from 30-40 feet though some say as much as a hundred, and estimates on weight run near 4,000lbs. Her coloring tends towards dark muddy brown on top with a lighter belly or even just a dull gray color and a head shaped like a camel or horse but definately with reptilian features. Her girth is described as about as round as a bowling ball and a few sightings mention odd flippers at the front on the end of short 'arms' though the majority never mention flippers. It has also been mentioned that she smells like rotten flesh.
The local population, or those that know of her that is, take great pride in having a lake monster in Lake Erie. I for one would love to camp up on the lake for a few months and just watch, though she hasn't been sighted in many years...who knows, there may be a chance.
The Great Lakes Brewing Company even has a seasonal beer named Lake Erie Monster with a picture of a serpent on the bottles and from their sight they say it is "an unfiltered imperial India pale ale with huge hop flavor". It's available in 2011 from May to July, so if you're in the area pick some up, I've tried it myself and it's not that bad for a microbrew.
Along with them, our local Hockey team is named after her. They're called the Lake Erie Monsters and they are the AHL affiliate to the NHL's Colorado Avalanche. You can see their logo below:
In August of 1992, Bessie was blamed for attacking a sail boat and devouring three people. The lucky survivors, two out of the origional five that left to go sailing, said the head of the creature was as 'big as a car'. The Weekly World News, a fictional newspaper and highly suspect one for the kinds of stories they write featured the story, but it was documented in the local papers as well (though I don't have the article in question). You can see the obviously photoshopped lead-in for the article below:
Some of the other sightings are listed below with sources for them under that:
1960 - Ken Golic was fishing off a pier in Sandusky when he heard two rats. He decided to throw a couple of rocks at them when he saw the creature. He stated that it was cigar-shaped and came out of the water about 1-1 1/2 feet. It was about 11:00 PM on a clear, calm night.
1983 (app.) - Mary M. Landoll told John Schaffner about her encounter with Bessie off Rye Beach in Huron. Mary went out to the front porch just before dawn when the lake was quite placid. From the left end, she heard a rowing sound and saw what looked like a capsized boat. It was a greenish-brown color about 40-50 feet in length. Landoll realized that it wasn't a boat, but an animal of some sort. It had a long neck and an eye was visible on the side of the head with a grin going up one side The creature appeared to be playing in the water, but still put a scare into the witness.
Summer, 1985 - Tony Schill of Avon, Ohio was boating with friends north of Vermilion when they reported the serpent. It was dark brown and had a flat tail. Tony stated that "5 humps came out of the water. No way it was a sturgeon."
September 4, 1990 - Harold Bricker and his family were fishing north of Cedar Point Amusement Park when a serpent type creature swam by their boat about 1000 feet away Their description- 35 feet long with a snake-like head. It moved as fast as their boat. Later, the Bricker's reported their sighting to the ODNR rangers at East Harbor State Park.
September 11, 1990 - Fire inspectors, Jim Johnson and Steve Dircks, of Huron saw the creature from a third story window facing Lake Erie. They decribed it as dark blue or black at about 30-45 feet long. He further stated that he saw three parts of the creature above water. "It laid there motionless for three to six minutes and was flat on top."
Week of September 16 1991 - Dennis Szececinski, of Toledo saw Bessie near Toledo's water intake structure three miles offshore in Maumee Bay. He was fishing in the bay when something long and black slithered in front of him.
(The Beacon, Ottawa County, 9/90 Dayton Daily News, 10/7/90 Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, 9/23/90 Columbus Dispatch 9/26/90, original reports compiled by Ron Schaffner and John Schaffner, no relation)
As you can see, if she's not still there, she may have been at one point and since the health of the lake itself has been declining for many years it wouldn't surprise me if she or they just died off and sank. The zebra muscles would have found a good home on the carcass and the fish living there would have had a feast not to mention the silt buildup would have covered it so there may be no way to ever find a body despite the shallow depths of the lake. It would sadden me if she or they had died off, but it wouldn't surprise me.
Loren Coleman, noted Cryptozoologist and creator of the Cryptozoology Museum in Portland Maine, wrote lovely articles about Bessie and other Ohio Cryptids in "Weird Ohio", a book by James A. Willis and Andrew Henderson. I adore the book because it's one of the few that chose to tackle the Cryptids of Ohio, so check it out if you live here, it's chock full of interesting oddities from the state!
You may have noticed that I choose to call Bessie by "her" and that's because I like it, not because it's actually been determined what sex Bessie is, though the name alludes to it being female; the name was picked in a contest many years ago and stuck.
So in closing, if you're ever on or near Lake Erie, keep your eyes open...you never know what you might see...
Happy "Hunting" my friends!