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Exploring American Monsters: Idaho

There’s a series of maps that made the rounds on the Internet showing the average Brit’s knowledge of United States geography. Out of twenty-two participants, only four got Idaho correct, probably because they’d guessed. A man named Paul wrote over Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho, “No one knows these ones.” Sorry, but Paul’s right, across the world and, sadly, even for people in the States. Idaho deserves better. The earliest known human habitation there dates back 14,000 years. Butch Cassidy and the Hole in the Wall Gang tore through Idaho in the 1800s, and author Ernest Hemingway committed suicide there in 1961 (not Idaho’s fault). The geography is stunning. Majestic, snow-covered peaks of the Rocky Mountains overlook wide, sweeping, forest-covered valleys, and lakes, if you like that sort of thing. It’s called the “Gem State,” because almost every known gem has been found there, and also the “Potato State” because, you know, they grow potatoes. The governor of Idaho is named “Butch” Otter, which in itself is awesome. Apart from its beauty, and Butch Otterness, Idaho boasts its share of monsters – especially wet ones.

Artist’s conception of the Bear Lake Monster.

Bear Lake Monster

Bear Lake, the “Caribbean of the Rockies.” is 109 square miles of clear, cold water that crosses the borders of Idaho and Utah. Surrounded by mountains (and golf courses), Bear Lake is a popular spot for fishing, jet skiing, and snow sports. Visitors can also swim, if they don’t mind the creature that dwells beneath the surface of the lake.

Reports of the Bear Lake Monster first surfaced in an 1868 edition of the Salt Lake City, Utah, Desert News, when the newspaper published numerous sightings of the monster by locals. The beast has been described as everything from an enormous alligator with blazing red eyes, to a walrus without tusks, to a dinosaur.

The last reported sighting was in 2002 when local businessman Brian Hirschi claimed he saw “these two humps in the water” near his boat, according to the Desert News. The humps disappeared, but something lifted his boat, and he saw a giant serpent neck break the surface. The beast had dark green skin, topped by a toothy head with “beet-red eyes.” The beast roared, and disappeared back into the 208-foot deep lake.

Although the person who filed the original report in the 1800s later claimed he’d made up the story, that doesn’t account for American Indian sightings, Hirschi’s, and others.

Sharlie. Does a plesiosaur  lurk in the depths of Idaho's Payette Lake?

Sharlie. Does a plesiosaur lurk in the depths of Idaho’s Payette Lake?

Sharlie

Another lake monster, Sharlie (or Slimy Slim) is said to inhabit the sparkling blue waters of Payette Lake, an eight-mile long, two-and-a-half-mile wide lake near the Oregon border. American Indians spoke of an evil spirit swimming in its 392-foot depths.

The first modern(ish) sighting of the creature was reported in 1920 when people working on the lakeshore saw what they thought was a log in the water, until the log swam away. Groups of people saw the monster in 1944, and again in 1946, all describing it as a plesiosaur between 30 and 40 feet long. The creature has been seen dozens of times between 1946 and 2002.

Despite scepticism about the creature, according to a report on Boise, Idaho’s KTVB, locals are convinced Sharlie exists.

If you see this in Idaho, don't shoot it. That only makes it stronger.

If you see this in Idaho, don’t shoot it. That only makes it stronger.

Living dinosaur

From the depths of Idaho lakes, to its mountains, reports of monster reptiles abound. One of these reports occurred a few days before 17 December 1909 when two men saw a “giant” lizard that crushed trees when it walked.

A 1909 article in the Carbon County News claimed Joseph Cliffe and Walt Glifford were hunting in the hills when they heard a sound from an unknown animal. Moments later, crashing through the trees was a giant lizard with a crest behind its head, and horns on its face. The ground shook beneath its feet. The men ran up the hill, and eventually stopped to look down. The monster, they said, was scaled, with “a row of bony spikes” along its back. The animal, they estimated, was more than 80 feet long. Cliffe shot at the creature with his hunting rifle, but only managed to anger it. The hunters ran back to town, and told their story. Groups of armed men ventured out in search of the monster, and some saw it fleetingly, but they never got close enough to get off a shot.

Next up: Illinois.

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Jason Offutt is paranormal investigator, an author of several paranormal books such as “What Lurks Beyond,” “Darkness Walks: Shadow People Among us,” “Haunted Missouri,” and “Paranormal Missouri” and a teacher of journalism at Northwest Missouri State University.
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