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Sunday, 1 January 2012

Walker Lake Monster, Tahoe Tessie and California Monster Snake-Fish

[Above: Tahoe Tessie as represented in children's books and at right, the real thing, a photo taken in 2006 allegedly showing the creature poking a big fishy head out of water and photographed as it was submerging]

Recently I had been posting a couple of articles on the CFZ Canada blog as a guest blogger. I was basically reviewing a statement in the press made about Native North American water-monsters, which was implying all such monsters were similar and possibly all based on finds of fossils. I considered this to be misleading and I explained that the problem included several other separate things, and I might have been trying to make it too complicated because not all of my material got posted through on the blogs there. However, I basically was done with it except that I felt I should explain a couple of the matters in more detail on this blog. To quote the posting on CFZ Canada:

Back in 2007, Craig Woolheater wrote an article for the Cryptomundo site which touched upon the interrelatedness of some Native North American water-monsters and uncovered fossils which were supposed to have inspired them. The discussion at that point included some quotes from one Adrienne Mayor, author of a book on fossil discoveries and related mythology, and cited a recent find of a fossil fish-tailed crocodile in the state of Oregon.
'...Most intriguing, the initial restoration of the fossil croc bears a striking resemblance to a mythic animal of some Native American tribes, the Kiowa, Sioux, Pomo of northern California and others, says Adrienne Mayor, a visiting scholar at Stanford University, author of Fossil Legends of the First Americans. A University of Oregon artist’s depiction of the crocodile greatly resembles the Kiowa artist Silverhorn’s 1891-94 sketch of a water monster with scales, a long narrow head with needle teeth and a forked fish-tail drawn to illustrate water serpent legends, Mayor says. The Pomo Indians described a fish-tailed, needle-toothed water monster called Bagil, as well.' [Similar water monsters are described in several lakes along the California-Nevada border, including the 'serpent' of Walker Lake. The long toothy jaws and flinty-hard scales, together with the 'snaky' head and body with the forked fish-tail, all remind me irresistably of some sort of a garfish - DD] '...A very similar dragon-creature is described from northeastern California, Parkman adds. The Ajumawi people have a legend of a big serpent-like creature with fish tail ... similar to Bagil...'

In this case I would like to review those creatures most like Bagil, the flinty-scaled, alligator-headed, needle-toothed, long-jawed, fork-tailed serpent-fish around the borders of California.
Cecil the Sea Serpent of Walker Lake, Nevada

Read more at Suite101: Cecil the Sea Serpent of Walker Lake, Nevada |

  • posted Sep 13, 2011
  • by

  • Folklore or fact? Fiction or fable? The Paiute of Walker Lake have told of sea serpents inhabiting its depths for many years. Local legends of Cecil concur.
    Walker Lake is a beautiful natural lake in Nevada, approximately 75 miles southeast of Reno. It is a terminus lake: a lake with no outflow, fed by the Walker River. It’s known for fishing for cutthroat trout, boating, camping, but most especially, for the legend of the Tawaga, or Cecil, the Sea Serpent of Walker Lake.

    The History of Walker Lake

    Walker Lake is a rare remnant of ancient Lake Lahontan, an inland sea that covered much of northwestern Nevada during the Ice Age. As Lake Lohantan retreated, many “dry lakes” such as this were formed. Walker Lake, fed by the Walker River, has dried up completely several times in its long history.
    Native Americans have inhabited the area surrounding the lake for approximately 11,000 years and in 1874, a reservation was formed on the lake’s northern shores for the Paiute Agai-Dicutta (“trout-eaters”) tribe. Unfortunately, the use of the Walker River for irrigation of surrounding desert lands has caused a severe drop in the level of the water in Walker Lake, increasing the salinity of the lake and putting the ecosystem in danger. Paiute tribal tales and local folklore have long claimed the existence of huge reptiles dwelling within depths of Walker Lake.

    The Story of Cecil: Southwest Loch Ness Monster or Ichthyosaur?

    Walker Lake is a beautiful place with a rich history. Over 200 million years ago, the sixty-foot long [fossil]Ichthyosaur lived on the floor of the ancient sea that became Walker Lake. This “fish-lizard” is Nevada’s official state fossil.
    Forty of these gigantic creatures became stranded in the mud flats in central Nevada, and were discovered in 1928 during the geological exploration for mining near the town of Berlin, NV. In 1957, this region became Ichthyosaur State Park.
    Local folklore abounds in this area of the country. You have rich urban legends, tales, fables and stories no matter where you travel. If Paiute legends are to be believed, Walker Lake may be home to a mysterious creature that is known as Tawaga, or more affectionately, as Cecil, the Sea Serpent.

    Tribal folklore tells us the tale of two sea serpents, which were once a man and woman, now inhabiting the deepest regions of this lake. Paiute children were warned not to tease them or make fun of them. In 1868, white settlers described a creature “with a head similar to a crocodile, four feet [thick] near the neck, an enormous tail covered with scales.” Is this Tawaga, or [an] icthyosaur?
    [Neither the Ichthiosaur nor the fossil crocodile have the requisite thick scales. However the overall crocodile-headed fish-tailed "serpent" pattern is quite clear already-DD]

    Fact or Fiction?

    Some locals have reported sightings of this large reptilian creature in the lake, likening it to the Loch Ness Monster. There have historically even been rumors that huge serpents have been killed in the region. Some say that Cecil inhabited Walker Lake by day and slithered across the old highway to the nearby caves at night. Without concrete proof, and with his reputation of living deep in the depths of this glacier-formed lake, one can’t say for sure. But wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if prehistoric reptiles had, indeed, found a home in this rich environment?
    For now, we may have to make do with the “Cecil” float that emerges every Armed Forces Day to cruise the streets of Hawthorne, NV. Whether fact or folklore, giant prehistoric reptile, or the serpent of Paiute legend, Cecil is a local favorite, possibly the best-known sea serpent around. Except, of course, for the Loch Ness Monster.


    A historical report sent in by Jerome Clark to the Cryptomundo site follows. Loren Coleman offers no classification for the creature sighted:
    Serpent in Nevada Lake
    Mining Man Brings Strange Story
    to Goldfield.

    From the Savannah Bee.
    A report from Walker Lake states that a monster sea serpent has been seen at the northern end of the lake. Dan Cornelison, a mining man of good reputation for veracity, brought the story to Goldfield.
    Cornelison says that he and a companion named John McCorry sighted the reptile while fishing from a boat half a mile from the northern shore of the lake. The monster was then making its way toward the east shore of the lake. Cornelison says that at first sight he took the serpent for a man in a skiff, and when it disappeared for a moment he thought the boat had capsized, and rowed toward the spot, when it suddenly reappeared, giving them a good view of its proportions, which they estimated to be about thirty feet in length and six feet across the back.
    Another resident of that vicinity, a man named Peters, is said to have discovered the serpent sometime ago reposing in shallow water near the shore, and on being aroused it disappeared in deeper water. There is also said to be a legend among the Piutes around Shurz concerning the existence of a serpent in Walker Lake.Washington Herald, September 22, 1907
    Thirty feet long and six feet across might be considered a maximum, and for purposes of argument we might make the minimum fifteen feet long and three feet across. It depends on how close the witnesses were and how good at estimating sizes of objects on the water; the general run of actual sightings has a series that will say fifteen to twenty feet long and three to four feet across the width of the back, and a series at a much larger size of forty to sixty feet long and as much as four or five feet out of the water - but in the latter case there is a very good chance this describes a wave rather than the creature's body. A longer blog entry with some of the further-out legends from this area follows.


    by Skylaire Alfvegren
    Cecil, the mechanical serpent who does double duty as Hawthorne’s goodwill ambassador and high school mascot is no PR pipe dream. Indian legend says that when Lake Lohontan began to dry up, a pair of serpents were forced apart. The male made his way to what became Walker Lake, while the female burrowed north into the land, creating Sand Mountain. 600 feet high, the shifting sands sing: it’s said the music is simply the serpent whimpering for her beloved.
    Historically, the Walker Lake monster has Nevada’s strongest record of sightings, and we don’t mean Cecil’s patriotic lumber down Main Street in Hawthorne’s annual Armed Forces Day parade.
    When white settlers founded the town on the south end of Walker Lake in 1881, they noted a strange absence of fishing boats--the local Paiutes refused to traverse its waters. According to the Hawthorne Arsenal, it was “believed to be have been the only lake in the country near which resident Indians had no boats, and they had no desire for any.” Traditional teachings said one or more huge serpents lived in the lake.
    According to legendary Fortean John Keel, “Early Indian settlers around the lake became annoyed because the monster occasionally dined on members of the tribe. They decided to launch a major effort to trap and kill the creature. But, somehow, the swimming sneak overheard the plot, surfaced, and held a pow wow with his persuers. A bargain was struck. If the Indians promised not to kill him and turn his hide into moccassins, he would promise to eat only white men.” When a small steamer was launched by whites in the summer of 1876 and quickly decommissioned, the natives weren’t surprised.
    The Walker Lake Bulletin reported in August 1883 that settlers near the lake were “awakened by a horrible, soul-shrinking screech” when a pair of monster pythons, writhing in battle, took it ashore. The Paiutes made a peace offering of the loser’s corpse, which was measured at exactly “seventy-nine feet, seven inches and a quarter in length.” The victor slithered back into the lake—but, like many of his brethren, was fond of sunning himself lakeside. A quarter century later, local businessman E. J. Reynolds told the Goldfield Daily Tribune the uncoiled beast was seen “wallowing” on the sand, and estimated its length at as least 70 feet.
    Walker’s giant water snake piqued the curiosity of professor David Starr Jordan, president of Stanford University. In the summer of 1907, newspapers reported Jordan, “generally conceded to be the foremost icthyologist in the United States,” and his colleague planned to high-tail it to Nevada upon the next sighting, capture the beast and send the dissected remains to that most reviled of institutions—the Smithsonian.
    Samuel Pugh, superintendent of the Walker River Indian Agency, apparently rethought what he had chocked up as Indian superstition after “several white men claimed similar visions” of the serpent. In 1909, it was sighted by a Reno police captain; two years later, miners made a fuss of the monstrous “serpent-like fish” which disturbed their work. After a highway was built around the lake, “respectable” tourists and locals reported seeing “a huge monster, wholly unlike any fish inhabiting the waters of the lake, swimming about.” One hermit even asked the district attorney how much he would be paid in exchange for its scalp. A 1930s account in the Hawthorne News claimed it was sighted in a cave at the base of Mount Grant. The witness went to retrieve his gun—but by the time he returned, it had vanished.
    As recently as 1956, a couple from Babbit, Nevada wrote to the editor of Hawthorne’s newspaper, claiming to have seen “something moving in Walker Lake at a terrific speed” which actually outpaced their automobile. It performed an aquabatic 100 yard dash before plummeting below the surface. The fall 1969 issue of non-fiction magazine Old West reprinted their letter, which continued, “It must’ve been 45 to 55 feet long and its back stuck up above the water at least four or five feet when it was swimming fast.”
    Lake monsters are perennial newspaper fodder; nicknamed Sarah in the early 1900s, the Walker Lake monster was exploited for Hawthorne’s 1964 centennial celebration. One old coot claimed May 15 as Serpent’s Night at Walker Lake. He told the Nevada State Journal that every 100 years on the dot the serpent surfaces and seeks his prey. “He never fails, the old timers say he is as regular as the Capistrano swallows and far more dangerous.” As part of the celebration, local Paiutes attempted to lure the beast ashore with “an hours-long serpent dance,” even halting Naval frogmen from their exercises for fear it would be disturbed. Luckily the creature continues to elude capture.

    Move Over Nessie, Make Room for Cryptid Lake Tahoe Tessie

  • posted Sep 2, 2010
  • by

  • Loch Ness' Nessie is probably the most famous water monster. Lake Tahoe has its Tessie who has been sighted by many witnesses. What could she be?
    Lake Tahoe, a natural crater lake, borders Nevada and California. It’s twenty-two miles long, twelve miles in diameter and 1,645 feet deep. The lake is one of several that are the remnants of a huge inland sea, Lake Lahontan, which was 8,500 square miles.
    In the 1800s, members of the Paiute and Washoe Native American tribes told white settlers about a monster living in the lake. There have been many sightings since then. The locals dubbed the aquatic cryptid Tessie.

    Lake Tahoe Tessie – Description

    The vast majority of witnesses describe Tessie as being more than sixty feet long, with reptilian features, an undulating serpentine body and dark skin; however some say she looks like a giant sturgeon

    The reptilian accounts remain consistent from sighting to sighting and many compare her appearance to that of Nessie’s of Loch Ness.

    Jacques Cousteau Investigates Lake Tahoe Nessie

    In the 1970s, the highly respected French oceanographer is said to have led an expedition to investigate Nessie after he heard about the sightings of the water monster. It was reported that Cousteau encountered something so frightening that he refused to reveal any information to the public about what he had seen. He never released any of his information or films. Cousteau told his colleagues that the world wasn’t ready to find out about what lurked in Lake Tahoe.

    Cave Rock and the Lair of Lake Tahoe Tessie

    This is a large rock formation by the southeastern shore of Lake Tahoe. About three million years ago, it was part of a volcanic vent when the lake was deeper than it is now. Waves crashing against the rocks created the caves.

    Cave Rock was sacred to the Washoe Indians. It’s alleged that the tribe tossed their dead off of the rock. It's said that several spirits perform tribal rites there and people can see the Lady of the Lake in the rock formation. There have been reported sightings of a female specter garbed in clothing of the late 1800s, seen floating below the water’s surface. Cave Rock is said to be above Tessie’s underwater lair.
    Selected Sightings of Lake Tahoe TessieSightings of Lake Tahoe Tessie include:
    • Ashley ___ sighted a cryptid that looked like Nessie and said it was black, green and brown.
    • Rick Osborne and three other people witnessed a large serpentine creature hunting and feeding on a school of large trout in the winter. It was about the size of a telephone pole in diameter and, approximately, thirty to sixty feet long. It dove up and splashed into the school of fish.
    • Ingrid and her aunt saw Tessie one morning. The water was still and clear, without waves. Suddenly there was a wake that caught their attention. They saw four dark blue humps in the lake, but couldn’t see a head or tail, before the humps sank into the water.
    • Samantha and her family were watching Fourth of July fireworks and heard something swimming near their boat and felt the vessel shake. They saw a long serpentine creature that swam by, then disappeared.
    • Barry and a friend watched Tessie swimming for thirty minutes from the highway on the eastern side of the lake. She was black and serpentine-shaped, like a huge snake. He estimated she was fifty to sixty feet long. She floated in shallow water about ninety yards from the shore as if she was sunning herself. Then, she swam to deep water and disappeared.
    • Gene St. Denis and a friend sighted spotted gray creature about ten to fifteen feet long swimming in Lake Tahoe. On another occasion, St. Denis and another person were swimming over a large hole in the bottom of the lake and felt an explosion underneath them, followed by seeing what appeared to be a sixteen feet long creature swimming away. After the silt settled, they found large fin prints where the creature had been.

    What Might Lake Tahoe Tessie Be?

    The only evidence that the water monster exists is the accounts of witnesses and an alleged video tape that hasn’t been released to the public. There are about six sightings reported every year. The majority of witnesses say she’s serpentine, while some say she resembles a sturgeon. It could be possible that there is more than one water monster in Lake Tahoe.
    The late Dr. Bernard Heuvelmans, Father of Cryptozoology, the study of unknown mysterious animals, classified water monsters in his 1968 book, In the Wake of Sea Serpents. According to him, there are eight types of these cryptids. While Nessie is probably the most famous water monster, these cryptids have been documented world wide.
    In addition to Tessie, there are the Lake Norman’s Norman or Normie and Lake Eerie’s South Bay Bessie. Some postulate these cryptids are giant sturgeons or mutant species of know aquatic animals, such as catfish. Others postulate they are surviving species of dinosaurs believed to be extinct. The coelacanth, a fish, was believed to be extinct until one was caught in the last century. Since then, schools of this fish have been found in the ocean. The tuatara, an animal resembling an iguana, is another example of a living fossil. There is a museum and a hotline dedicated to Tessie in the Lake Tahoe region. Perhaps, some day, one or more will be captured alive and join the rank of the living fossils.

    Articles Related to Cryptid Lake Tahoe Tessie

    Readers who enjoyed this article might like Cryptid Sea Serpents or Monsters –Categories, along with Lake Norman's Cryptid Water Monster and South Bay Bessie Lake Erie Water Monster.
    Cryptozoology A to Z, Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark,(Fireside, 1999)

    Read more at Suite101: Move Over Nessie, Make Room for Cryptid Lake Tahoe Tessie |
    Tessie, the Monster of Lake TahoePost by blacky on Feb 1, 2010, 1:44pm

    The state’s largest freshwater lake, Tahoe has long been rumored to be home to both an underwater Mob graveyard and a huge unknown creature.

    A story often told around Tahoe is that a few years back a fisherman trawling off the south shore got his hook caught on something in the deeps. When he finally freed it and reeled his 'catch' back to his boat, he found a well preserved human ear on the end of the line. (Another version of the tale has the fisherman snagging a three-fingered human hand.)

    According to local legend the 900-foot-deep waters off South Shore served as a dumping place for Mob victims from the 1920s to the 1950s. Hundreds of gangsters’ corpses are suspended in the depths, they say, preserved from decay and prevented from gas-bloated surfacing by the near-freezing deep waters. So pervasive is this tale that many local fishermen refer to the area as “The Graveyard,” and a Tahoe-boat Mafia execution was featured in the climax of The Godfather Part II.
    Even stranger are the tales of “Tessie.” Locals maintain that a large, unidentified, serpent-like creature lives in the deepest parts of the lake, and usually appears around June in even-numbered years. Dubbed “Tessie” in imitation of Loch Ness’s Nessie, the beast allegedly appears in Washoe Indian legend, and may have first been spotted by 19th century settlers.

    Tessie made headlines in the San Francisco Chronicle on July 12 1984 when the paper reported that two women had seen the Lake Tahoe leviathan a month earlier. Tahoe City residents Patsy McKay and Diane Stavarakas were hiking above the west shore when they spotted the creature swimming in the lake.

    McKay said the beast was about 17 feet long. She watched it closely and saw it surface three times “like a little submarine.” Her companion said that the creature had a humped back and seemed to surface in a whale-like, lethargic manner. She was also sure that it wasn’t a diver, a log or a large ripple.

    Two years earlier a pair of off-duty Reno policemen had also taken a turn with Tessie. Officers Kris Beebe and Jerry Jones were water-skiing in the lake in June 1982 when an “unusually large” creature swam by them.

    Yet another story about Tahoe asserts that there’s an underground river system that links the lake with Pyramid Lake in Nevada. Apparently the bodies of people who have drowned in Tahoe have surfaced in Pyramid Lake, fifty miles to the north. This phenomenon, however, might be due to the corpses floating over the north Tahoe spillway onto the Truckee River, and then downstream to Pyramid Lake.
    The closest anyone ever came to figuring out Tahoe’s mysteries was in the mid-1970s. Famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau brought a mini-submarine to the lake and did several dives in search of the 1,600-foot bottom.

    He returned to the surface allegedly saying, “The world isn’t ready for what is down there,” and to his death refused to release any pictures or data from the expedition.

    What did the legendary diver find? Pin-stripe-suited, bullet-riddled corpses bobbing in the dark depths? A colony of living, amphibian dinosaurs? Or something even weirder?

    The answers lie in the chilly depths of blue Lake Tahoe.

    Re: Tessie, the Monster of Lake Tahoe
    Post by darrylmckay on Feb 6, 2010, 12:11am

    The closest anyone ever came to figuring out Tahoe’s mysteries was in the mid-1970s. Famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau brought a mini-submarine to the lake, and did several dives in search of the 1,600-foot bottom.
    I have been trying to find info on this and it appears to be a myth that this ever happened.

    Re: Tessie, the Monster of Lake Tahoe
    Post by blacky on Feb 6, 2010, 4:12pm

    the submarine part is the myth? hmmm

    --in the case or Tessie we have several of the same features, basically a creature described as either a big fish or a "Serpent": we need not wonder at the common reports of a train of humps or a "Long undualting/ 'Serpentine' body" because that is not the body of the creature, that is the wave on the surface of its body passing underwater. Several creatures can produce the effect: there are other wave effects as well, and the Walker Lake sighting of 1956 could well be a seiche wave or a "Surge" unassociated with any living creature. The general run of reports also sounds much like Ogopogo, and Ogopogo reports seem similarly at base a big sort of fish and a long series of sightings of wave effects. All the same, the identification of the "big fish" reports at Lake Taho are possibly not sturgeons as stated. Mapping out the probable sturgeon reports elsewhere in North America shows that Tahoe and associated lakes are well outside of the usual territory for such reports: and then again the usual riun of reports and traditions insist that the creatures have long jaws full of sharp teeth. So it may be that Tessie is really Bagil under a new and less threatening guise.

    In the case of the last discussion on Tessie, the one reconstruction of the whole animal offered is very much like the Altamaha-Ha. I think the Altamaha-Ha is a sort of Alligator gar and that furthermore the Bargil, Cecil and Tessie reports represent the West Coast variant o a similar creature. As a matter of fact, some internet sources refer to alligator gars as being reported around California, but they are assumed to have been introduced secretly by sportsmen in order to spice up their local fishing possibilities. It is possible they might be native there. If so, there is a fair possibility that they are the same species as the alligator gars in the east, since they are regularly identified as belonging to the "Known" species.

    Below, some Easterner sports fishermen show off their alligator gar catch. These photos came from an Indian site which specializes in recirculating photos off the internet and so I do not know their original source. These fish are known to reach ten feet in length, although reports of 20-footers are not uncommon. Some "Monster" reports from Lake Norman are known to be such.

    Snakeyes. The pattern of scales also reminds some people of snakes

    Generalized area of BAGIL or TAWAGA Reports

    UPDATE: of probable interest is this recent article about an alligator gar caught in Arizona:


    1. What I dont understand is if Jacques Cousteau went down in a submarine an seen things he has not spoken about an was the only person who knew an died with it. why with all this updated submarines etc dont someone go down there an explain he was not spoken on. After reading this i am completely interested an curious. I bet alot of other people are too.

    2. You are quoting the passage highlighted in orange in the article above. The original poster was drawing attention to the line and then he said, directly following, "I have been trying to find info on this and it appears to be a myth that this ever happened."

      In other words that part of the story was a hoax. The comment made in reply to that was "the submarine part is the myth? hmmm"

      The really strange part of the whole business would seem to be, YES, That part about Jacques Cousteau was the Myth. The Monster is a completely natural, completely known type of very large fish already known to be native to the continental USA.

      Best Wishes, Dale D.


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