Everyone has heard about Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster, but have you heard about Bessie, The Lake Erie Monster? For years people have been reporting sightings on Lake Erie of an unknown creature. Along the way, the creature got nicknamed South Bay Bessie or just plain Bessie. People have described the creature as a long, gray and snakelike, about 30-40 feet long. The creature is mostly been seen in historical accounts, but there has been a couple of recent sightings in the past years.
In July of 1898, the Daily Register of Sandusky, Ohio reported that the “fierce monster” can now be proved that it is alive in Lake Erie. Supposedly it is able to live on both land and water. They called it a “fierce, ugly, coiling thing.” But by 1912, the monster had become the butt of practical jokes. People were pulling practical pranks, saying that they caught the creature, and it would turn out to be a hoax. Other people would claim that they saw the creature on the water, but were only lying. Even with all the practical jokes and hoaxes, their were still people who claimed that they did spot the real Bessie on Lake Erie. Intermittent sightings have been reported from the 1960’s up into the late 1990’s.
By 1993, the monster mania was back in full swing. The national media grabbed wind of the story and ran with it. The Wall Street Journal ran an article on July 29, 1993 characterized the current sightings as ploys to attract more tourists to the Cedar Point area in Sandusky. Two Huron firefighters were the latest people to claim that they saw Bessie. Because of them and all the excitement the town of Huron got, the city declared itself the National Live Capture and Control Center for the Lake Erie Monster. Tom Solberg of the Huron Lagoons Marina offered a $100,000 reward for the safe capture of the monster. The reward to this day has not been claimed.
So what exactly is Bessie. There are a few biologists today that claim that Bessie is a large specimen of a lake sturgeon. The lake sturgeon can live for up to 150 years and can grow up to 7 feet in length and weigh over a hundred pounds. Back in the 1800’s, Lake Erie was overpopulated with lake sturgeon. Since then, most of the lake sturgeon has been fished out of Lake Erie, as caviar is the eggs of the lake sturgeon. Lake Erie was so popular for the caviar that most of the lake sturgeon were captured or the eggs were taken for caviar. The reason that biologist may think Bessie is a lake sturgeon is that the fish looks like it is from prehistoric times. The lake sturgeon does not scales but has bony plates which give it a look of a reptile. As of now, the lake sturgeon is on the endangered species list in Ohio. The wildlife division has implement a program to tag and record the sturgeons that are remaining in the lake. As of today, Bessie has not been tagged.
Source: Travel Guide to Ohio’s Legends by Loren Coleman