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20th Century Dinosaurs PAGE 9

Bear Lake Monster may have a long-lost cousin . . . in Sweden

Will Bagley

HISTORY MATTERS

Bear Lake is not alone.

Lake Storsjoen, Sweden's fifth largest, is home to what one witness described as "a snakelike animal with a dog's head and fins."

Since the Serpent of Storsjoe first appeared in 1635, around 500 people have seen the beast. Like Utah's monsters, they were relentlessly persecuted.

But officials in Jaemtland Province placed the beast on Sweden's endangered-species list in 1986, and Magnus Cedergren made worldwide news last week when he was denied a permit to hunt for its eggs.

"It is prohibited to kill, hurt or catch animals of the Storsjoe monster species," an environmental court ruled, "or hurt the monster's eggs, roe or den."

Could we get Utah's Division of Wildlife Resources to protect the Bear Lake Monster?

Few Utah historians would be willing to stake their reputations on proving the existence of a legendary creature, but courageous chroniclers have compiled reams of historical data -- including eyewitness testimony from LDS Church presidents Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow and Joseph F. Smith -- proving our own Bear Lake Monster is no myth.

The "Monster Boat". Source: BearLakeFun.com Click and drag photo to resize. Script from The Java Script Source

Although prime Monster season runs from Memorial to Labor Day, this historian visited Bear Lake last month to conduct an on-site investigation. The experience would convince the most cynical skeptic that Bear Lake is more than the "Caribbean of the Rocky Mountains."

The investigation required a cruise on the Bear Lake Monster Boat, a 65-foot replica that Conrad Nebeker of Indian Creek created to entertain his grandchildren. Based on our best descriptions of the Beast -- "long neck, mouth with teeth, tail, very colorful, a big green Bear Lake Monster," according to one USU professor -- the replica matches the reputed size, coloring and temperament of the real serpent.

Brian Hirschi, an Eagle Scout and Coast Guard-certified captain who is the boat's current owner, spends hundreds of hours ferrying tourists on the lake each year.

During the summer of 2002, Capt. Hirschi had the most terrifying experience of his life.

While anchoring the boat at sunset a couple hundred yards offshore in about 40 feet of water, Hirschi saw two dark humps appear astern. "The small ripples in the lake were breaking against the humps making them stand out," Hirschi recalled, and he thought it was a lost water ski and its boots. Then the humps disappeared below the surface.

"I thought this was strange," he said, "but I had seen stranger things on the lake."

Something scraped the bottom of the Monster Boat, lifting it out of the water -- and an 8,000-pound boat "doesn't just get lifted out of the water easily."

Suddenly, not 50 feet away, a huge animal shot out of the water, creating enormous waves that rocked the boat violently. "I grabbed the rail to keep my balance as I tried to keep an eye on whatever had just come out of the water," he reported.

It was a serpentine creature about as long as his 65-foot craft.

"It had a skin color of dark slimy-green, beet-red eyes, and sort of a mist coming out of its nose," Hirschi claimed. "At first it made low throaty rumbling snarls and then finally a terrible squeal like a roaring bull as it submerged back into the water."

The beast resurfaced some 200 yards away, racing toward the middle of the lake.

Hirschi stood transfixed. "Did I really just see what I saw?" he asked. "Was it going to come back?" As darkness fell he finally came to his senses, jumped on his SeaDoo and raced to shore, "almost beaching the watercraft with the engine still running."

Everyone was gone from the business Hirschi runs not far north of the Utah State Marina at Garden City. Lacking any witnesses to his encounter, he decided to keep the story to himself, lest people think he'd gone crazy.

Civic duty finally compelled Hirschi to come forth and warn people "to be on the lookout for the Bear Lake Monster because it is still alive and lurking."

Or visiting kinfolk in Jaemtland.

Historian Will Bagley is a descendant of Bear Lake pioneers, who had to have "plenty of hair on 'em to be tough enough to stand the climate."

Sweden Probes Lake Monster Being on List



By TOMMY GRANDELL, Associated Press Writer

Two Images of the Monster from 1996-from the same incident.
One a video still and the other a painting done by eyewitness
M. Wallin. Source: Storsjon Click and drag photo to resize.

STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- A government watchdog has asked a regional council why it placed a mythical monster on Sweden's endangered species list.

The Parliamentary Ombudsman's office in Stockholm also asked the environment court in the Jaemtland province of central Sweden to explain why a businessman, who said he wanted to raise monster babies, was denied permission to search for its purported eggs.

"During a routine inspection of the environment court in Jaemtland recently, we came across a decision that attracted our interest," Parliamentary Ombudsman Nils-Olof Berggren told the AP on Monday.

"It was the local environment court, as a superior instance to the regional council, that had turned down an application from a man who wanted to search for and hatch the monster's eggs, probably believing it was just a joke."

However, Berggren also found that there was an actual decision from 1986, placing the monster under protection.

"So far we decided to have a closer look at how the listing came about, and how it is applied. If a court decided that it cannot be applied, we want to find out if the monster really needs to be protected or if the decision can be scrapped," Berggren said.

He added that it may take between one and three months before he will decide on his next move. The regional council and court had not yet responded by Monday.

Legend has it that the giant serpent, similar to the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland, has lived for centuries in Jaemtland's lake Storsjoen, Sweden's fifth largest lake.

Although about 500 people claim to have seen the monster, described by one purported witness as a snakelike animal with a dog's head and fins on its neck, it hasn't been captured on camera.

With such vague evidence of its existence, the ombudsman last week asked the Jaemtland county administrative board to send documents that led to its 1986 decision. The issue came to the ombudsman's attention by a man who was denied permission to search for the monster's eggs.

Magnus Cedergren said he wanted to hatch the eggs to raise monster babies and turn them into a tourist attraction.

"It is my idea to hopefully contribute to the business development in the Jaemtland county, by creating new possibilities for adventure tourism," Cedergren said in the complaint.

The environment court turned down his application, saying local nature preservation rules stated that "it is prohibited to kill, hurt or catch animals of the Storsjoe monster species," or "take away or hurt the monster's eggs, roe or den."

The Storsjoe monster was first mentioned in print in 1635, when Mogens Pedersen took down a legend about two trolls who were boiling a mixture in a large kettle on the shore of the lake. Having boiled the mixture for many years, the contents of the kettle began to wail and groan and then there was a loud bang.

"A strange animal with a black serpentlike body and a catlike head jumped out of the kettle and disappeared into the lake. The monster enjoyed living in the lake, it grew incredibly big and terrorized the people living on the shores.

After some time it extended all the way around the island in the middle of the lake, and could bite its own tail," Pedersen's chronicle said.

Copyright 2004, The Associated Press

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