20th Century Dinosaurs... Page  34
20th Century Dinosaurs... Page 34

The Undeniably Immense Lake Tahoe Amphibious Serpent

A Mrs. Mattie Hatcher, who now lives in Georgia but who formerly lived in Hood Valley near Crater Lake recalled seeing a huge monster in that lake while in a rowboat with friends many years ago thusly:

It swam deep down in the lake, and it was unbelievably big.

“That thing must have been a block long,” she said. “I have never been so scared in my life. What we saw that day was a monster. To me, it looked like a dragon. I know why the Indians call that place Lost Lake. They say monsters live in it. I believe them. I know, because I saw one there.”

For the record, the average city block in Manhattan is 264 feet by 900 feet, but perhaps Mrs. Hattie didn’t intend to be that accurate with her description.

A San Francisco road crew in 1983 and then the Clark Brothers, initially in 1985 reported seeing a sea serpent in San Francisco Bay that measured more than 100 feet long with a circumference of five feet.

A video analysis by photo expert Dr. Cliff Paiva, of a video subsequently obtained by the Clark brothers years after the initial sighting, indicated unknown animals of approximately 175 feet in length.

Several years ago, in the Mariana Trench, at a depth of 1.5 kilometers, Japanese researchers baited a trap only to see an unknown creature with a length of more than 180 feet slowly pass their video camera.

The Hessa Serpent seen feeding on a whale’s carcass (and easily moving it around) off the coast of Norway was said to be approximately 100 feet long.

All of the foregoing are without a doubt impressively sized “monster’s but all of them fall far short of the amphibious “monster” serpent that a Mr. I. C. Coggin, a person of some renown and status, claims he witnessed (along with others) near Lake Tahoe in 1865.

“Lake Tahoe is a 22-mile long, freshwater body wedged between the California-Nevada border. With a width of 12-miles, and an astounding depth of 1,645-feet, Lake Tahoe would seem to be a perfect environment in which to conceal a large, aquatic animal. So, naturally, there have been numerous reports a colossal creature lurking beneath the surface of the lake... a creature which the locals have dubbed "Tessie".

The animal in question has been described by eyewitnesses as being over 60-feet long, with an undulating, serpentine body, dark skin, and reptilian features. While most witnesses maintain that this description is accurate, there have been other accounts which have likened the beast to a fish, claiming that Tessie resembled a gigantic sturgeon.

Regular band concerts by the Golden Gate Park Band began in September 1882, when a number of local music lovers sponsored the first programs. Yusave Fuchs conducted a small group of musicians at a small bandstand in Conservatory Valley.

The series was expanded in 1883 when I.C. Cogging was appointed manager. The band was enlarged and regular contributions were pledged by the Park Commission, the transit companies and local merchants.

In 1886 a new music stand was dedicated on the sight of the present tennis courts and in 1900 the Spreckles Temple of Music became the Band's permanent home.

Legends of this creature first began to surface in the mid-1800's, when members of the Washoe and Paiute Indian tribes began to tell the white settlers about the "monster" dwelling in the depths of the Tahoe basin.

As fascinating as those original testimonies may be, the most intriguing account surrounding this mystery-beast did not occur until the mid-1970's, when the renowned, French oceanographer, Jacques Cousteau, lead an expedition to explore the depths of lake Tahoe.

While submerged Cousteau reportedly encountered something so terrifying that he refused to reveal what it was to the public. Sources credit Cousteau as saying, quote:

"The world wasn't ready for what was down there!"

To make matters worse, Cousteau never released any of his data - nor a single foot of film - regarding what may be the most incredible freshwater event ever encountered by a known expert on marine biology.

There have also been reports of an amateur video, which is said to reveal the creature swimming in the lake, but as of yet these accounts have not been verified”….American Monsters

(For the record, the curator of the Tahoe Historical Society doesn't believe the Cousteau event occurred).


Tessie, Just a Little “Fry”?

Getting back to our story, Mr. Coggin, the eyewitness, was the Band Leader for the Golden Gate Park Band in San Francisco California. The Golden Gate Park and the people who attended concerts there in those days were “high society” and so, were one inclined to be unimpressed today with the title and position of Mr. I. C. Coggin, understand that his testimony and his status were likely to have been given much more respect in 1897.

He told his story to the San Francisco Call, a San Francisco Newspaper which had been the morning paper in that city since 1854. The sory was published, December 12, 1897 under the following headline:Lake Tahoe's Big Serpent

He began with “this story is presented unaccompanied by affidavits and may be accepted as truth by anybody who chooses to believe it”. He notes in the preamble to his account that “everyone knows that there is living in the Atlantic Ocean a serpent of “monstrous size”, but it remains for California …to have a serpent within its borders “much larger” than any described by as many witnesses”.

Mr. Coggin explains that he was one of the earliest settlers on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe, apparently having settled there between 1862 and 1869, a period in which he was still employed as band leader in San Francisco, a 9 hour train ride away.

Mr. Coggin had taken his dog and his gun that day in 1865 out near the shore and the creek bottoms emptying into the lake in search of grouse, when he took note of a group of animals and birds including a bear, who ran close by him headed in the opposite direction, running away as in a panic, as they might from a forest fire or the like.

This went on for some time until eventually his dog smelled something he didn’t like and according to Coggin; “all at once the dog set up a howl and started for home, eight miles away, running as fast as a dog could run, and going under the cabin stayed there two days and two nights…”

(We assume he found the dog under the cabin when he eventually returned home.)

At this point, Mr. Coggin decided to climb up into a spruce tree, on which he said he climbed to a height of sixty feet or so in order to try to see if he could find out what all the fuss was about. (Plus he was feeling a bit shaky himself, he says). As he relates, he didn’t have long to wait:


“I heard a sound as if the dead limbs trees, willows and alders that grew in the canyon were being broken and crushed. Soon the monster appeared, slowly making his way in the direction where I was hidden in the tree top and passed on to the lake within 50 feet of where I was, and as his snakeship got by I partly recovered from my fright and began to estimate his immense size.

After his head passed my tree about 70 feet , he halted and reared his head in the air fifty feet or more…. His monstrous head was about 14 feet wide and his large eyes seemed to be almost eight inches in diameter and shining jet black and seemed to project more than half the size from his head. The neck was about ten feet and the body in the largest portion must have been twenty feet in diameter.

I had a chance to measure his length, for when he halted, his tail reached a fallen tree, and I afterwards measured the distance…....from tree to tree .....510 ten feet and as 70 or eighty feet had already passed me, it made his length about 600 feet.

The skin was black on the back, turning to a reddish yellow on the side and belly….His snakeship slowly made his way to the lake, glided in and swam towards the foot.

John McKinney's hunters retreat. 1875. He was one of the witnesses. .

Mr. Coggin names as other eyewitnesses; William Pomis, now living in San Francisco, John McKinney, Ben McCoy, and Bill McMasters, all at that time living on Sugar Pine Point; Homer Burton, now living in Sacramento, Capt Howland of the old steamer Governor (Blaisdell?) and others (which he names).

This story raises many questions, but primary among them would probably be; is there really such a color as “reddish yellow”. Also, if you’re up a tree with a shotgun and a 600 foot monster walks by, should you consider yourself –armed?

If we would surmise that perhaps Mr. Coggin just got a little excited and exaggerated by 50% or so, we’re still dealing with a 300 foot unknown amphibious animal. Or, he could have just made the whole thing up for kicks.

I'm impressed with Mr. Coggin's fortitude, seeing how he got down from the tree to measure. If I had seen a 600 foot monster up close 100 years ago, I still wouldn’t have been back to measure to this very day, in fact, I’d no doubt still be up in the tree.

by Anthony James,
Copyright 2006

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