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Lake Erie Bessie

Lake Erie is the 4th largest of the 5 great lakes that sit on the North American continent. Formed about 14,000 years ago as the ice sheets from the last great ice age retreated, it is an average of 62 feet deep, with the deepest point being 210 feet. 

A variety of fish and plant life calls Lake Erie home, with the biggest known animal in the lake being the Lake Erie Sturgeon which comes in at 300+ lbs. and 10+ feet long.

According to some people, however, the Lake Erie Sturgeon isn't the biggest thing in the lake.

Tales of the Lake Erie Monster go back to at least 1793, when the captain of a sloop named The Felicity reportedly sighted a creature swimming around the lake that was more than a rod (16.5 feet) in length. 

24 years later, in 1817 there were several sightings reported over the course of the year:

  • Two brothers with the last name of Dusseau reportedly found a creature lying on the beach, dying. They panicked and ran off to go find help. Upon returning with more people, they would find the creature had vanished. Left in the spot where it had been, they would find some large, silver, scales that were about the size of a silver dollar. No word on what happened to the scales following this encounter.

  • Late in the year, the crew of an unnamed ship reported sighting a creature that was at least 60 feet long, thrashing around in the water. The shot at it but failed to kill it.

  • In July, the crew of a schooner reported seeing a 30-40 foot long, serpent-like creature swimming in the lake.

These sightings were not documented in any newspapers or meaningful way that I could find. It seems like they were most likely passed down by word of mouth until they were eventually written down either in some book or website.

Lake Erie Sturgeon.jpg

The Lake Erie Sturgeon can be 10+feet and over 300 lbs.

Swift sees Bessie.jpg

The first documented sighting I could find was written in the Elyria Democrat on November 26, 1856 and recounts a story of a sighting from 1829 made by Joseph Swift.

Mr. Swift reported that he had been hoeing corn in June of 1829, near the Vermillion River, when he heard some crackling of brush and dry wood near the river. Assuming it was some cattle making the noise he headed over, intent on shooing them away. 

As he approached the area where the sound was coming from, he found that it wasn't cattle making the noise, but rather a large serpent that was moving around in the brush. Frightened at the sight of the snake, he stayed back a good distance until it had left the area and moved back toward Lake Erie.

Swift would estimate the snake had raised its head 4-5 feet off the ground based on the height of the weeds and he guessed it was between 25-30 feet long. 

Sightings would continue through the late 19th century, including a report from July of 1892 where the crew of a ship going from Buffalo, NY to Toledo, OH spotted a creature wrestling around in the water. It appeared to them that it was fighting with some unseen entity. As the ship approached for a closer look, the creature would stop thrashing around and lay out flat, appearing to be about 50 feet long and 4 feet in diameter and they could see sparkling eyes and large fins on it. It would disappear under the water as they approached, and they would not see it again.

Another sighting was reported in the Cincinnati Enquirer on May 29, 1897 and describes an encounter that William Grubb and Adam Oper had with the creature the day before.

William was the keeper of the Pellee Island Lighthouse and Adam was a sailor on a fishing boat on the lake. According to the report, on May 28, Adam Oper was bringing in the nets on his fishing vessel when he noticed the water nearby was disturbed by something thrashing about. He started moving his boat toward the disturbance and was shocked to see a large head attached to an even bigger body that was thrashing around in the water. When the creature didn't attack his boat, he turned it toward shore and headed in as fast as he could.

William Grubb would witness the event, as well as others on another boat seeing the serpent-like creature before it sank beneath the waves.

Cin Enq 29 May 1897 Monster.jpg

Additional sightings through the 20th century would be few and far between and were not documented very well. While many ideas have been put forth about the possible explanation for the sightings of what appears to be a monster in Lake Erie, none of them hold any weight. Being as shallow as it is, and only about 14,000 years old, the animals that inhabit the lake are well known and there isn't really a very good chance that something as large as has been reported could sustain a population of any type.

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