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Man Retells the Terrifying History of the Bear Lake Monster in Utah

Everybody loves a good origin story!

In a wild twist of history, a failed desert state led to the persistent legends of the Bear Lake monster of the American southwest. In the mid 1800s the Church of the Latter-day Saints proposed creation of the State of Deseret which included nearly all of present day Utah and Nevada along with large portions of California and Arizona, and parts of Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon. They also decided to procure a printing press and begin the Deseret Newspaper to service the community they were trying build. Then along came a Mormon pioneer by the name of Joseph Rich who wrote to the paper describing a fantastic water devil said to inhabit the waters of Bear Lake.  

The Bear Lake monster is described as serpentine but with stubby legs and knobs on its head the size of pinecones. It was said this wasn’t a single animal but a small population of these animals ranging in size from a horse to a dinosaur. They were reported as swimming very fast, faster than anything available to humans at the time, and spouting water like a whale exhalation when it surfaces.

The article in the Deseret News suggested that if somebody were to catch this lake monster that it would show up the famous American showman P.T. Barnum. This was really following in the footsteps of Barnum who glorified his fakes as fakes so well that people still flocked to see them and refused to believe they were in anyway less than authentic, accusing Barnum of saying they were fake merely to create more business. 

After the publication of the news story on Bear Lake and it’s alleged monster population, many of the local residents began to attest to sightings themselves and tried to imbue a sense of legitimacy to these claims by citing Native American legends that supposedly spoke of these creatures.

Joseph Rich went on to become an elected official and about 25 years after the Bear Lake article had been published he admitted it was a first class lie designed to drive more interest and settlers to the area, which it did although they ultimately failed to create a single Mormon state from the territory. Sightings of the lake monster do occasionally still pop up but the lack of continued sightings nor admittance of its fabrication have not diminished cryptozoology tourism to the area, which the town has happily encouraged with such things as an official boat tour in a monster-shaped boat. 

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