Lake Erie, 1793-Present—Perhaps the most famous Ohio monster is also the one with the longest track record of sightings, going back to at least 1793, when a ship startled a “giant serpent” near the Lake Erie Islands.
The Lake Erie Monster has been described in a variety of ways, among the wildest of which was in an 1887 report from a pair of brothers who said they found a glowing, 20-30-foot long, fish-like creature with long arms on a beach near Port Clinton and a 1912 report in which the ex-mayor of Milan saw a horned creature with tentacles eat a dog and a groundhog near the banks of the Huron river.
The more standard picture that emerges of the Lake Erie Monster is something just below the surface and out of sight, something long and snake-like in shape and dark in color, with a head, fins or tail only appearing in the most colorful sightings. This is one reason that skeptics have for believing the monster is really just a series of misidentifications of strange waves or debris floating on or just below the surface of the lake.
The monster has had its champions over the years, however. One of them was the Put-In-Bay Gazette, which ran a joke story about a serpent based on an unusual piece of driftwood and, to their surprise, received dozens of reports from people claiming to have actually seen the monster.
Another big monster booster was the city of Huron, which in September of 1990 took various steps to promote the city by using the monster sightings. This climaxed in a pair of big stories in two quite different publications in the late summer of 1993: A Wall Street Journal cover story about Huron’s efforts to become a monster city, and a Weekly World News cover story, complete with doctored image of a sauropod-like dinosaur attacking a sailboat said to have been taken by a passing airplane pilot, headlined “Lake Erie Monster Sinks Sailboat.”
The monster is sometimes known as Bessie or South Bay Bessie, names that rhyme with “Nessie” being popular for lake monsters, or Lemmy, and extrapolation of the initials for Lake Erie Monster. It’s even been given the scientific name of Obscura eriensis huronii (Roughly, “unknown creature in Lake Erie near Huron”), by Charles
The monster is sometimes known as Bessie or South Bay Bessie, names that rhyme with “Nessie” being popular for lake monsters, or Lemmy, and extrapolation of the initials for Lake Erie Monster. It’s even been given the scientific name of Obscura eriensis huronii (Roughly, “unknown creature in Lake Erie near Huron”), by Charles Herdendorf, a retired Ohio State University biologist enlisted by the city of Huron to give a presentation on the possibility of the creature’s existence.
It should be noted that when Herdendorf assigned the monster its name, he did so with tongue planted firmly in cheek, which is why it’s probably best to keep calling the monster “The Lake Erie Monster”—at least until someone finally catches one, anyway.
Illustration by Janie Walland