Historical Note: The San Clemente Island Sea Monster
The Moore's Beach Sea Monster of 1925.
s8int.com: By the time Howard Wilson and his mother Grace Wilson sighted the San Clemente Sea monster in the ocean from a cliff above Aliso Beach, in 1922, literally hundreds of eyewitnesses had reported seeing the creature around the San Clemente Island area.
The testimony of that many eyewitnesses over the years would have been more than enough to send 40 or 50 men or more to California's gas chamber but still isn't enough to convince science that something huge, and unexplainable lived in those waters.
San Clemente Island is in the Santa Barbara Channel, about 7o miles northwest of San Diego. The last reported sighting of the San Clemente sea monster was by the Wilson's in 1922.
Three years later, about 400 miles away on the same coastline, near Monterey, a large unknown creature matching the Wilson's description (horse-like head) and that of other witnesses of the San Clemente sea monster washed up dead on Moore's Beach (now Natural Bridges State Beach), as covered on Page 1 of this section.
San Clemente Sea Monster Sighting
by Steve Turnbull
First of all, let me say that I knew Howard Wilson to be the most modest and utterly honest man I have ever met.
He was never given to the slightest bit of exaggeration or the telling of "tall tales". Heck, he couldn't tell the tiniest fib if he tried real hard...and he would never even try anyway, as it simply was not in his nature.
So I was completely astounded when he related the following story to me, because knowing Howard, I know it's true....
He told me of a bright and clear winter day sometime back in 1922, when he was playing in the family's Aliso view Grocery store, high on the cliffs above Aliso Beach overlooking the ocean.
Something dark, way out in the water, caught his eye. He stopped what he was doing, went over to the window and took a closer look. His mother, Grace Wilson, came over to look too.
They both stood in amazed wonder at the window, as they were looking at a very large creature with a black head attached to a long glistening black neck sticking up out of the water, and it was HUGE!
It was moving serenely through the water heading south, turning it's head left and right as it cruised along. They watched it for several minutes as it traveled toward Three Arch Bay, finally disappearing as the projecting southern cliffs blocked their view.
In the book "From the Ozarks to Aliso", an oral history published by Karen Wilson Turnbull in 1975, Grace Wilson at age 88 tells us this about the incident...
Grace: "...Howard and I were looking out the window at the same time and we saw this huge horses' head sticking up out of the water. It stuck out way up high, and it just sailed along. It was quite a ways out, but it was close enough that we could see it's head bend. It was just going along."
Karen: What did you think it was?
Grace: "A Horse!" (laughter)
Karen: Now they call it the Loch Ness Monster, don't they?
Grace: "Well, I don't know. You see these sea horses on television and they're little bitty things...nothing big...but this was a real big thing. I'll never forget how that thing looked. Howard and I both know what it looked like. Has he said anything about it?"
Karen: Yes, he drew a picture of it once.
Grace: "We just called it a "sea horse", because we couldn't think of nothing else."
The "Sea Horse" drawn
by Howard Wilson augmented
by s8intcom's technical staff.
Howard confirmed the above account, and also told me that they both decided that it was probably some kind of creature "that got lost...maybe it came down from Alaska".
He told me of how he too would never forget how big it was. And how the colossal head looked left and right, how the neck would bend, and how the big eyes even blinked a few times.
I asked if it could have been a tree trunk that might have washed out of one of the rivers to the north, but Howard said no. "It was much bigger then a tree.
It would bend it's neck almost in two", as the gigantic head would occasionally dip down to the water, "then straighten back up. It turned it's head to look directly at the shore, and I saw the eyes blink." "No," he said, "It was alive."
It wasn't just drifting along with the current either. "You could see the white water splashing up the front of the neck, and the wake water trailing along behind as it swam south. It was moving along pretty fast. It must have been powerful" he said.
As a young boy growing up in a small town, he soon realized that others became skeptical when he told them what he and his mother had seen, and so he shut up about the whole thing.
They both told no one but family members about this amazing day from then on. Not even when they later began to hear tales of a large creature seen in a Scottish Loch did they mention their amazing sighting.
Now you may choose not to believe this story, but not me, because I knew Howard Wilson, and I know he wasn't joking - I could see it in his eyes.
His mother was a simple, poorly educated girl just out from Missouri, who had no idea what type of sea life was normal or not, so what did she care?
Howard was tightlipped about the incident throughout his life, and certainly wasn't looking for attention. Besides, neither one of them had even heard of the Loch Ness creature yet, or had even seen a picture of a giraffe back then either for kripes sake, so why would they both make this up?
© 1986 - 2006, Steve Turnbull. All rights reserved
More Info Here on Steve's South Laguna History Site
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