Terrifying monster sightings were reported in the early history of the Top of Utah and southeast Idaho. The Bear Lake Monster is perhaps the most famous and long-lived of these, first reported in 1868.
Reports of separate “sea monsters” in both the Great Salt Lake and Utah Lake soon followed.
However, there were other intriguing, but relatively unknown monster sightings in northern Utah and southeast Idaho.
For example, “A veritable Eden. The serpent is at his old tricks again” was a July 23, 1894 report in the Ogden Standard-Examiner.
This was from the Eden of Weber County, in Ogden Valley. On the previous Friday evening about sundown, “a number of Eden’s reliable men” claimed they spotted a “monster serpent,” 100 feet long and 18 inches in diameter, flying through the air and swooping down near Wilbur’s Store, at the corner of Independence Park.
They estimated it was moving at 35-40 mph and soon disappeared over the mountains in the direction of Middle Fork Canyon – apparently never to be spotted again.
A serpent in Biblically named Eden, just this side of Paradise (Cache County). Who knew?
The disastrous floods of Willard in 1923 also spawned another monster of sorts.
In the debris from that great summer flash flood that moved boulders the size of houses around, the head of a “vaunted prehistoric monster” was initially believed to have been found.
Yet, in a Standard-Examiner report from Oct. 12, 1923, the headline read: “Weird monster of Willard flood debris is stuffed shark.”
Willard resident Don Harding had returned from an LDS Church mission to the South Seas with a stuffed shark head. When the floods ravaged his home, the shark head was washed away, where it was found on the other side of town. Eventually Harding cleared up that local mystery and reclaimed his souvenir.
“Frightening by a long-haired creature” was a Jan. 28, 1902 headline in the Standard-Examiner.
In a report sent from Pocatello, a group of young people from Chesterfield, Caribou County (about 20 miles northwest of Soda Springs) were ice skating on the Portneuf River in the field of John Gooch.
(Chesterfield today is a ghost town and historic site, while the Portneuf River is also the stream that runs through Lava Hot Springs.)
The skaters claimed they were “visited by an eight-foot-all-hair covered human monster” which “showed fight and flourishing a large stick.”
The skaters fled the scene in their wagons. A party of the young men returned, armed with rifles this time and “got a good view of the monster warming himself by the fire they had left.”
“The beast was at least eight feet high, covered with long reddish brown hair, the face was hidden by immense bushy whiskers, and no part of the naked skin was to be seen except a small spot above the eyes,” the newspaper account stated.
For reasons not stated, the armed young men decided not to approach or shoot the creature.
The next morning they returned and found large, naked tracks in the snow the creature had left with just the imprint of four toes. The tracks measured 7 ¼ inches across.
Later, stockmen reported having spotted similar tracks in the area in recent years.
“The people, feeling unsafe while the beast is at large, have sent some twenty men on its trail to effect its capture,” the reported concluded.
The creature was never found.
Today, this hairy creature sighting would best fit the parameters of a Bigfoot or Sasquatch report. However, even those names were more than a half-century away from coming into being, from this, perhaps the region’s earliest possible Bigfoot encounters ever recorded.
And, you've got wonder how many sightings of monsters, or strange phenomenon over the decades went unreported for fear of ridicule.
Lynn Arave is a veteran journalist who started writing for newspapers in 1970 at Roy High and for daily papers starting in 1976 with high school game reports for the Standard-Examiner. He has been an avid history researcher for three decades. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.