29 July 2008, JellyBean @ 4:54 am

A creature has supposedly been sighted in the murky waters of Flathead Lake in western Montana, USA, since the late 1880s.

The first sighting allegedly occurred in 1889, when passengers and crew of the lake steamer U.S. Grant, commandeered by Capt. James C. Kerr, viewed the beast.

The whale-like object was at first thought to be an approaching boat, but it was soon noticed to be alive, whatever it was.

Sporadic appearances have been viewed by scores of people since then. Documented sightings were reported in the early 1900s, 1912, 1919, 1922-23, 1934, 1937, 1939, and in every decade since.

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The most numerous sightings were reported in 1993 – nine of them. On July 29, about 1:30 p.m., a vacationing Illinois policeman and his wife and three kids all witnessed a “nessie” as it surfaced about 50 yards away from their boat in calm waters off the north side of Wild Horse Island.

The creature appeared inthe middle of a school of small fish. It swam past their boat about a hundred yards away but was easy to follow visually because of the wake. They described the creature as shiny with a small ball-sized head and about 15-20 feet long. They also mentioned that it looked like it had ‘humps’.

Three years ago this week a couple from Polson claims to have seen the mysterious creature near the Big Arm shoreline. This is one of the most recent sightings of the unexplained creature.

Jim and Julia Manley told news reporters:

“The water was pretty calm just a light breeze and no boats in the bay. We heard this splashing and it was really loud and then, as we watched it, the splashing kind of died down and whatever it was these humps, two, three, four humps showing at one time, and the thing just subsides in the water and disappears.”

The couple were in a boat which had been disabled by a dead battery and were waiting for rescue by one of their friends. When the friends arrived and they told the story, the couple say that they were just laughed at.

Over 100 sightings of the monster have been reported since 1889, with most observations occurring during the months of April through September.

According to the reports, the ‘monster’ is described as eel-shaped and reaching lengths between 20 to 40 feet. The skin has been described as being brown or black-blue and it has pitch black eyes. Others identify it as a large-sized fish from 6 to 10 feet in length.

Many locals claim to have seen something strange in the lake and fishermen often report unexplained large holes in their fishing nets.

But could this monster really exist?

“There are many thoughts that maybe some folks that saw a really big fish in the lake. Perhaps it was a sturgeon that was introduced into the lake from somewhere, and he’s down there lurking, some big sturgeon monster,” Bonnie Ellis of the Flathead Lake Biological Station was reported to have said.

What might have cleared up the mystery only tended to deepen it. On May 28, 1955, C. Leslie Griffith claimed to have hooked onto a big sturgeon near Dayton and finally managed to gaff it five hours later, several miles down lake. Co-incidentally, this is near to where the Manley’s claim to have seen their monster.

The 7-1/2 ft., 181-lb white sturgeon can be seen in the Polson-Flathead Historical Museum. Skeptics claimed the fish may have been pulled from the lake, but they theorized it might have been trucked in from elsewhere. Though the controversy was never publicly resolved, it is said that a biologist from University of Montana cut open the fish’s stomach and determined it came from a separate river system.

Whether monster or fish, or something else, what is certain is that almost wherever you have a lake, you are almost certain to find a ‘monster’ lurking in the local folklore.

Montana’s News Station: Flathead Lake monster – myth or marvel?

Flathead Lakers: What Are Your Chances of Sighting the Monster?

Flathead Lake Monster: The Legend

Flathead Beacon: The History of a Monster

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