Bear Lake monster |jon_downes||10/06/03 at 15:59:06|jon_downes|xx|0||Recent witness says Bear Lake monster 'is still alive and lurking'

Will Bagley
The Salt Lake Tribune
Sunday, October 5, 2003


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