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Exploring American Monsters: Nevada

Nevada is a big state. Nestled in the American Southwest, Nevada takes up 110,567 square miles (roughly the size of Italy), making it the seventh largest state in the union. Although known for its deserts (it has ten), Nevada is also a state for mountains, many topping 10,000 feet. The name “Nevada” is derived from the Spanish “Nevado,” which means “snowy.” Nevada is one of the largest gold producers in the world, and produces a fair amount of silver. This state is also known for the forbidden. With legal gambling, legal prostitution, and the mysterious Area 51, you’d think the state of Nevada would have enough going for it without being home to monsters. I guess not.

Tahoe Tessie. Is that a bump, or are you just happy to see me?

Tahoe Tessie. Is that a bump, or are you just happy to see me?

Tahoe Tessie

Lake Tahoe covers an area of 191.6 square miles (the size of the Micronesian country of Palau) and stretches across the Nevada state line into California. At 1,646 feet deep, it’s the world’s tenth deepest lake. The story of a beast dwelling in the lake goes back centuries. The Washoe and Paiute tribes had a legend of a serpent-like monster that lived in a cave beneath the lake. Sightings of a serpent that stretches up to eighty feet long have continued to modern days.

In 1959, police officer Mickey Daniels and a fellow fisherman were on Lake Tahoe with his 43-foot boat when a wake rocked them. However, there were no other boats in the area. “It’s not a wake from the boat,” Daniels told the Los Angeles Times. The wake came from something under the water, then it disappeared.

In 1979, a witness claimed he and three people watched an enormous serpent hunting a school of trout. “It was about as big around as a telephone pole and maybe thirty to sixty feet in length from what we could see of it,” the anonymous source told WeirdCalifornia.com. “It didn’t swim like a snake. It was diving up and splashing down with its head (and) neck into the school of fish, which were leaping out of the water ahead of it. We were speechless for several minutes afterwards.”

Fishermen reported seeing a fifteen-foot-long serpent swim underneath their boat in the 1980s. Numerous witnesses in the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s have claimed to see the hump, and head of an enormous creature in the lake.

Explanations range from a surviving plesiosaur, to a freshwater eel, to a sturgeon.

Tsawhawbitts, a thirty-foot-tall cannibal giant said to lurk in Jarbidge  Canyon.

Tsawhawbitts, a thirty-foot-tall cannibal giant said to lurk in Jarbidge Canyon.

Jarbidge Monster

The unincorporated town of Jarbidge sits in the 113,167-acre Jarbidge Wilderness in the mountains of Elko County in northeastern Nevada. A thirty-foot-tall giant is said to lurk nearby. The name Jarbidge is a Shoshone Indian word that means “monster that lurks in the canyon.” Local legend claims the giant named Tsawhawbitts grabbed anyone who ventured into his canyon, put them into a basket, and carried the victims to his cave where he’d eat them.

The Shoshone chased Tsawhawbitts into the cave, and imprisoned this man-eating monster by blocking the entrance with boulders.

Motorists claimed to have seen a living pterosaur in Nevada in 2015.

Motorists claimed to have seen a living pterosaur in Nevada in 2015.

Living Pterosaur

Two men from California were driving near Winnemucca, Nevada, in June 2015 when they encountered a grey, leathery “bird” on Interstate 80, according to the website Cryptozoology News. Their headlights shown on the creature at about 11 p.m. It had a long, thin neck, a long beak, and a head crest. There were claws on the end of its seven-foot-wide bat-like wings. The creature struggled to get airborne, and barely cleared the top of the man’s car. The driver identified it as a pterosaur.

Although thought to have been extinct for 65 million years, sightings of living pterosaurs have been reported across the world, and in “Exploring American Monsters” in Arkansas and Kansas.

The skull of what may be a Neanderthal was uncovered in Nevada.

The skull of what may be a Neanderthal was uncovered in Nevada.

Lovelock Skull

In 1967, an ancient skull was found near Lovelock Cave that resembled that of a Neanderthal. The skull had a protruding brow ridge, sloping forehead, and a large occipital bun – all traits rare in modern humans, although not unheard of. It did not resemble the skull of American Indians. Local Paiute Indians had a legend of red-haired barbarians who killed the Paiute for food. The Paiute hunted down this tribe of barbarians and exterminated it.

Much like the Loess Man skull discovered near Omaha, Nebraska (see Exploring American Monsters: Nebraska), Neanderthal remains in North America are considered impossible by mainstream science. Neanderthals – limited to Africa and Eurasia – went extinct 40,000 years ago.

The story of enormous flying monsters was reported in the October 1959 edition of "Flying Saucers Magazine."

The story of enormous flying monsters was reported in the October 1959 edition of “Flying Saucers Magazine.”

Gliders

In 1925, a pilot named Don Wood, Jr., encountered something in the Nevada desert he couldn’t explain. Although he kept silent about it for thirty-four years for fear of ridicule, in 1959 he wrote a letter to the magazine “Flying Saucers” to explain what he saw.

Wood landed his two-seat airplane on a mesa near Battle Mountain, Nevada, early one afternoon. While exploring the top of the mesa, Wood and his companion saw something about eight-foot-wide attempting to land. It was round and flat with a red belly. It stopped, and when Wood and his friend approached it, they discovered it was alive. “It was hurt,” he wrote in the letter. “And as it breathed the top would rise and fall, making a half-foot hole all around it like a clam opening and closing.”

After observing the creature for about twenty minutes, it began to pulsate. “So help me the thing grew as bright as all get out,” Wood wrote. “Except where it was hurt.”

Suddenly a shadow covered the men, and they looked to find a similar thirty-foot-wide creature descending onto the mesa. It grabbed the smaller monster with “four sucker-like tongues” and took off into the air, disappearing with incredible speed.

Up next: New Hampshire.