Do You Know the Legend of Bessie – The Lake Erie Monster that Stalks the Michigan Shoreline?
Of could you know about Nessie, the Loch Ness monster, and perhaps you've heard of Chappy, the mysterious sea creature said to lurk in New York's Lake Champlain. But how about Bessie the Great Lakes own sea monster?
The legend is better established in northern Ohio, but does have a connection to Michigan. The legend dates back to the 1700. Here's a well known 1950s era-sighting as Belt Magazine relates:
Two fishermen, who liked to spend summer Saturdays out on the lake with a pole in one hand and a can of Schlitz in the other, saw Bessie one terrifying afternoon in the 1980s. Frank and Joe left the East 55th Street marina in Cleveland just after dawn, in Frank’s twenty-foot fishing boat, the Cool Breeze. They had a cooler full of beer and sandwiches and a carton of worms they’d purchased from Vic, the old Croat who ran the bait shop. Lake Erie was waveless, windless, and as smooth as a blue tarpaulin stretched from Detroit to Buffalo.
The two anglers were hauling in their lines when the water beneath them began to heave and swell. Frank grabbed the side of the boat. His foot reached forward in awkward half step, as he struggled to keep his balance. Frank and Joe looked each other bewildered. Storms whip up quickly on Lake Erie, the smallest and shallowest of the Great Lakes, but it had been as gentle as a pond all day, and still no waves disturbed its glossy sheen, no storm clouds darkened the Canadian shore. Frank was pitched against the railing. He looked down into the lake and saw a black shape, longer than his boat, gliding beneath the surface. The wavering water blurred the creature’s shape, but Frank thought it looked like the biggest alligator he had ever seen.
But, according to legend, it was no alligator churning the waters of Lake Erie, rather a sea monster like the one said to lurk in Loch Ness. The monster was first sighted in 1793 near Sandusky. A well known spotting on Bessie also took place near the Michigan state line in Toledo when in 1817,
French settlers—two brothers named Dusseau—encountered a huge monster on the beach, writhing in what they took to be its death throes. The brothers described it as between 20 and 30 feet (6.1 and 9.1 m) in length and shaped like a large sturgeon, except that it had arms. The panicked brothers fled the scene, and when they returned later, the creature had disappeared, presumably carried off by waves after its death. All that was left of its presence were marks on the beach and a number of silver scales about the size of silver dollars.