Monsters and Supernatural Beings of the Old West

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Monsters and Supernatural Beings of the Old West

Monsters and Supernatural Beings combs the pages of Old West Daily Reader, and more, to find all of the unexplained happenings, sightings of the strange and wonderful, superstition and fear of the unknown that at times manifests in the human mind. We hear about such things from everyone, the Native Americans, the Mexicans and the Anglos. Travelers, explorers, liars and priests are also on the list of eyewitness reporters in some instances. Sometimes/occasionally we get some explanation. Other times, we too, are left to ponder the tale with the eyewitnesses, reporters and storytellers, wondering what it really might have been…

Most of these items also appear elsewhere in Old West Daily Reader

“Pa’dners, I seed a pewtrified forest of pwetrified trees
with their pwetrified limbs chock full of pwetrified birds
a-singing of pewtrified songs.”

Early trapper’s description of the petrified forest
near Florissant, CO. c. 1830’s – 40’s

 

Bear Lake Monster

Something splashing.. -Monsters and Supernatural Beings of the Old West

Bear Lake, on the Utah–Idaho border – An 1868 article in the Deseret News announced, “The Indians have a tradition concerning a strange, serpent-like creature inhabiting the waters of Bear Lake…. Now, it seems this water devil, as the Indians called it, has again made an appearance. A number of our white settlers declare they have seen it with their own eyes. This Bear Lake Monster, they now call it, is causing a great deal of excitement up here”
Joseph C. Rich
Reported to be at least fifty feet long, and certainly not less than forty. Some sightings alleged a second member of the species and smaller monsters as well.
As such things usually are, no two sightings actually agree on the monsters appearance. “It is reported to resemble a serpent, but with legs about eighteen inches long on which it marauds along the shoreline.”
“A large undulating body, with about 30 feet of exposed surface, of a light cream color, moving swiftly through the water, at a distance of three miles from the point of observation.”
With a head like: “a cow”, “a crocodile”, “an otter”, or maybe “a walrus” (minus the tusks).
One report describes a monster racing through the water “faster than a locomotive”.
Salt Lake City got caught up in the tale and within a month “a news staff member… quizzed many Bear Lake people and found hardly a person who doubted it.”
When they visited the area on preaching tours, LDS Church Officials took the opportunity to speak firsthand with residents of the region. They said they “had conversation with brother Charles C. Rich and other brethren from Bear Lake Valley, respecting the monster which have been seen in the lake” and found that the testimony that had been given “by so many individuals, who have seen these creatures in so many places and under a variety of circumstances”, indicates that the local people) considered the stories “indisputable.”
The Deseret News continued to publish articles about the Monster, occasionally the skeptic and yet, at other times, appearing to defend the stories. Other local newspapers simply attacked the tales of a water devil. The Salt Lake Tribune suggested the Monster was “twin brother to the devil and cousin to Brigham”.
Articles about the Bear Lake Monster continued to appear over the next several years, reporting additional sightings of the Bear Lake Monster or new stories of similar creatures in other rivers and lakes in the Utah Territory. A number of other articles simply called the whole tale into question.*
Even so, the number of alleged appearances of lake monsters all across northern Utah caused some folks to speculate as to whether there could be an underground channel connecting the Great Salt Lake and other waterways to Bear Lake.
LDS Church president Brigham Young, intending to investigate the truth of the claims; “an honest tale of a serpent, or only a fish story” sent a large rope to Paris, Idaho to help capture the monster.
A local resident proposed using a large baited hook attached to a twenty-foot cable and three hundred yards of one-inch rope, at the end of which was a to be a large buoy with a flagstaff inserted and an anchor to keep it in a perpendicular position. From the buoy one hundred yards of three-quarter-inch rope was to be extended to a tree on shore. After he captured it, he hoped that the beast could exploited in show business, in the style of P. T. Barnum.
Eventually Interest faded in the subject and it vanished from the public’s awareness. Bear Lake area local resident Joseph C. Rich was a Mormon colonizer in the area and the author of the original reports. Twenty-six years after his articles and allegations, he recanted the stories, admitting that it had all been a “wonderful first class lie. But it was far too late and the beast lives on with the most recent sighting reported in this century. Photo: U.S. PD Bear Lake Monster (probably).  {001}

*”MONSTERS IN BEAR LAKE  – All lakes, caves and dens have their legendary histories. Tradition loves to throw her magic wand over beautiful dells and lakes and people them with fairies, giants and monsters of various kinds. Bear Lake has also its monster tale to tell, and when I have told it, I will leave you to judge whether or not its merits are merely traditionary.”
Joseph Rich, son of Charles C. Rich, from a letter in the correspondence column of the Deseret News (08/03/1868).

Related Utah Lake Monsters of the 1800’s
North Shore Monster – Great Salt Lake
In 1877 some men working on the lake reported that they had seen a monster with the head of a horse and the body of an alligator swimming in the lake. When the creature saw them, it made a loud noise and charged. Fortunately all escaped harm and lived to tell the tale.
Utah Lake Monster
It had the head of a dog and, “wicked, black eyes.”
In 1864 it chased a man to shore, who felt he was fleeing for his life, as it returned to the lake he observed a second beast.
Sevier Lake – Monster sightings
Thing is, apparently it’s a big deal when one finds water over three feet deep anywhere in this lake.
Panguitch Lake– Monster sightings
Very few.

An Indian petroglyph depicting a monster - Monsters and Supernatural Beings of the Old West

An Indian petroglyph
depicting a monster
Photo U.S. PD? internet

 

The Bodie Curse – Bodie, CA

Bodie, CA c. 1890 - Monsters and Supernatural Beings of the Old West

Bodie, CA in the Boom days
Photo: U.S. PD 1890 by William Thompson

W. S. Bodey and a small group of prospectors discovered gold in the area in 1859. Bodey himself, died in a blizzard the following November while attempting a trip to Monoville for supplies. Judge J. G. McClinton a local pioneer, reports that the district’s name, which had appeared in  various versions (Bodey, Body, etc.) became “Bodie, after a painter lettered a sign in the nearby boomtown of Aurora, “Bodie Stables”. By 1868, two companies had built stamp mills at Bodie, but both failed.
Bodie actually boomed from late 1877 through mid– to late 1880. Gold bullion from the nine stamp mills, often accompanied by armed guards, was shipped  by way of Aurora, Wellington and Gardnerville to the mint at Carson City, NV or onward by by rail to the mint in San Francisco. During this time, a telegraph line was constructed to connect Bodie with Bridgeport and Genoa, NV. As with many other such communities, Bodie had a Chinatown, with several hundred Chinese residents, a Taoist temple and a number of Opium dens. The Standard Pioneer Journal of Mono County, published its first edition on October 10, 1877. Starting as a weekly, it soon expanded publication to three times a week. California and Nevada newspapers predicted Bodie would become the next Comstock Lode, luring men from both states to Bodie by the prospect of another bonanza. The population reached a high of 2, 712 in 1880. In 1881 Bodie’s ore production was recorded at a high of $3.1 million.
Over the years, Bodie’s mines produced gold valued at nearly $34 million, but as with so many of the old west mining towns, the ore, and the people slowly faded away. In 1910, the population was recorded at 698 people, in 1940, only 90. Somewhere in the 1940s, Bodie became a ghost town. The state of California took it over and turned it into a park in 1962.
The tourists who visit are the same as those anywhere, they visit the community, it’s museums and historic sites. They take pictures and steal various items for souvenirs. But Bodie is somehow different from other parks and tourist attractions plagued by pilfering. Artifacts taken from the town are often returned. Tourists who have taken historical items report that their luck went sharply downhill after the thefts. They have attributed car accidents, unemployment, chronic illness, and more to the Bodie Curse. Rangers at the park regularly receive letters* from people who claim to have stolen an item, only to have their luck turn sour. Rangers report people driving from as far as San Francisco (six-hours, one way) to return items to the exact place from which they were taken (1996). One woman stopped to return a nail that punctured her tire as she drove through the town. Visitors to the town have  reported hearing spectral music and seeing strange lights. A ranger said he had never seen, heard, or smelled any of the odd things noted by others, but he does get strange feelings when working on the buildings…
The Curse is unexplained, no cause or “story” can be connected to the town, but it’s probably not a good idea to collect a “souvenir” from Bodie.

P.S. It turns out that The Petrified Forest in Arizona, out in the desert near Holbrook,  also exhibits the same phenomena. Another place where “What belongs in that location, had best stay in that location.* – Doc
see also:
*References – Books – Novels and History (non-ref) – Ryan Thompson – Bad Luck, Hot Rocks

Cannibals with Red Hair?

According to the Northern Paiute people, red-haired cannibals once menaced Nevada. “Among the traditions of our people is one of a small tribe of barbarians who used to live along the Humboldt River. It was many hundred years ago. They used to waylay my people and kill and eat them.” The Paiute, she went on to explain, spent three years fighting the “barbarians” before cornering them in a cave, filling the cave with branches, and setting it on fire. They pleaded with the red-haired people to give up eating flesh, but got no answer, and burned the barbarians to death.

Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims (1883)
Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins

Flathead Lake Monster – No further reference at this time.

Jackalope

 Jackalope - Monsters and Supernatural Beings of the Old West A legendary cross between a Jackrabbit (Lepus alleni) and the Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) [mistakenly thought to be an antelope], last seen by Pleistocene Indians. This animal is believed to be extinct. A new cross then arose, apparently between the Jackrabbit, mentioned above, and/or both Western Deer species: Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) and White Tail deer (Odocoileus virginianus). It appears to have originated in Wyoming. Taking the name of the original species, it has spread far and wide.
Today, they can be a serious night time danger to the unwary motorist on lonely western highways. Tire damage rendered by the antlers of these creatures can be catastrophic. DO NOT leave the safety of a vehicle and corner or confront a wounded one, unless heavily intoxiarmed. In modern times, they are less seen on highways and far more likely to be encountered in curio shops and roadside attractions where they can savage wallets. Photo: U.S. PD, SedesGobhani, 08/2008  {000}
Native location: The Originals Index – Resources and Hazards
MammalsJackalope

Lake Chelan Dragon aka: Lake Chelan Monster
 (indeterminate and yet debated as of this posting…)

Area natives have a long history of encounters with the Lake Chelan Dragon. Legend has been passed down over the years and there is even a historical print of the Lake Dragon.* The beast, is thought to be related to the Loch Ness Monster, who is believed to be a female. This one, is believed to be the male, as it has the ability to fly. “It had legs and body like an alligator and the head and eyes of a serpent. Between its fore and hind legs were large ribbed wings.” Said to have been brought to the lake aboard Captain Chelan’s ship, in August of 1812. The Dragon’s egg, having been acquired by the good Captain Chelan himself, as a young man in his childhood home of Fort August, Scotland.
Largest natural lake in the state of Washington, located in today’s Okangan National Forest. Lake Chelan is 55 miles long, but never as much as ten miles wide. It is said to be 1,486 feet deep with a current maximum elevation of 1,100 ft.  {001}
Who knew one of these things could fly?
They would have never got it past today’s import control!
– Doc
see:
* currently unavailable due to National Security concerns…
Wk. 48, 12/02/1892 – Lake Chelan Monster
Native location: The Originals Index- Resources and Hazards
Reptiles and Amphibians – Lake Chelan Monster

Little People
aka: “spirit dwarves“or stick people
Native American

Numerous Native peoples of North America told variations of legends concerning a race of “little people” who lived in the woods near sandy hills and sometimes near rocks located along large bodies of water, such as the Great Lakes. One North American Native tribe believed that they lived in nearby caves, which were never entered for fear of disturbing the little people. Often described as “hairy-faced dwarfs” in stories. Petroglyph and Pictograph illustrations show them with horns on their head, sometimes traveling in a groups of 5 to 7 per canoe. Said to be able to confer blessings or spiritual insight (maxpe) to certain individuals. From tribe to tribe there are variations of what the little people were like, and whether they were good or evil. One of the common beliefs is that the little people create distractions to cause mischief. Tribal legends often speak of the little people playing pranks on people, such as singing and then hiding when an inquisitive person searches for the music. Other legends say the little people, if seen by an adult human, would beg them not to say anything of their existence and would reward those who kept their word by helping them and their family out in times of need. It is often said that the little people love children and would take them away from bad or abusive parents or if the child was without parents and left in the woods to fend for themselves. They were believed to be gods by some.  {001}
Native American Little People
Anishinaabe – Memegwesi/Memegawensi/Memengweshii/Pa’iins
Catawba – Yehasuri
Cherokee – Yunwi Tsundi
Comanche – Nunnupi
Cree – Mannegishi
Crow – Nirumbee or Awwakkulé
The Crow say little people reside in the Pryor Mountains of Montana and Wyoming. The Pryors are famous for their “fairy rings” and strange happenings. Some members of the Crow tribe consider the little people to be sacred ancestors and require leaving an offering for them upon entry to the area.
Iroquois – Jogahoh
Nez Perce  – Itśte-ya-ha
Shoshone – Nimerigar
Wampanoag – Pukwudgie
and others…
see also:
Wk. 34, 08/25/1804 – Lewis and Clark
The Originals Index – Landmarks and RegistersSpirit Mound
Tommy Knockers
– below

Pawapicts
  Ute –  Water Babies
Burraston Ponds aka: Punjun Spring , Provo River,
Utah Lake and other Great Basin waters…

Pawapicts came into existence as the result of a wrestling match between a very stout man named Pahahpooch and Wildcat. Before challenging Wildcat to a wrestling bout, Pahahpooch had thrown all of his other contestants and had never lost a contest. When the prearranged match began, the two grappled beside a large expanse of water. The feline creature eventually threw Pahahpooch into the middle of the lake and said, “You will stay in the water all the time now and people will call you Water Indian.”
Pahahpooch’s life in the water may have been lonely, because he eventually began to tempt or force others to join him. It then became the task of these new Water Indians to lure more people into the water or swallow them and carry them into the depths of the lakes and streams which then became their new home.
The Ute seemed to believe that Pawapicts came in various sizes and shapes. Most accounts agree that they had long black hair and cried like infants. However, Ute sources quoted in Anne M. Smith’s book, “Ute Tales,” variously described them either as being the size of a man’s hand or as large as a three or four-year-old child. Occasionally, they appeared in the shape and size of an alluring full-grown woman. Some claim they also cry out “Walla-la-loo-loo” into the the night. Whatever their appearance or the sounds they may make, they are clearly not the same as the strange animals/supernatural beings which inhabited other waters of the Great Basin. Definitely not the fearsome monsters described above.*  {001}
This tale from: “Stories of Our Ancestors” published by the Uintah-Ouray Ute Tribe.*

“…as bottomless, and in the evening they report the slight wailing of an infant is often heard to proceed from it.”
Punjun Spring, (today, Burraston Ponds) noted in an article in the Millennial Star (09/15/1851, describing Brigham Young’s spring journey, of that year, to visit some of the southern colonies in the Utah Territory. (The Mormons mistakenly believed the Indians thought they heard heard the cries of a baby who had drowned in the spring; likely a translation error or a Europe-facation of the legend.)
see:
*The Bear Lake Monster (etc.) – above
*References – Novels and History (non-ref)Uintah-Ouray Ute Tribe
– Stories of Our Ancestors” (1974)

Sasquatch
Bigfoot; hairy man; wildman
Homo, ??

Sasquatch - Monsters and Supernatural Beings of the Old WestThe legendary hairy, seven foot plus, 500 pound, man-beast of North America [FYI: The archetype, appears everywhere in the world, think, Yeti, for example). He appears in the stories and lore of numerous Indian tribes [ex. sásq’ets; Ts’emekwes] and the white settlers claim they saw them and their kids played with them in the forest. Various frauds over the years have confused the issue but the  fact remains; plaster track casts and all, not one, dead or alive, has yet been delivered to science. Apparently, the returns are not yet in on this issue; you will have to decide for yourself the truth of any of it. (Photo: frame 352 from the Patterson-Gimlin film taken on October 20th, 1967/this is probably copyrighted but I claim “Fair Use” for education and discussion)  {001}

There is also a current find of bones in a California cave alleged to be Homo, but not Homo sapiens. Tentatively dated at 100,000+ years old. Heavily discussed and disputed! (2017) – Doc

Native location: The Originals Index – Resources and Hazards
MammalsSasquatch

Sidehill Gouger
Membrilnequales declivitous

Cutter Cus; Gyascutus; Prock; Sidehill Go Dawg; Wampus and other colorful sobriquets. Two varieties occur, it is unknown if they are one species or two, very closely related. Badger sized, burrowing, herbivorous, possibly oviparous and clearly adapted to living on steep hillsides. Unusual, in that the legs on one side of the creature are longer and stouter than those on the other and therefore the animal can walk but one direction around a hill and therefore “gouges” a well worn path around the hill(s).  There are, of course, counterclockwise and clockwise gougers, thus the confusion about species. As one would expect, opposites can only rarely mate [usually with disastrous results for the offspring] and if opposites meet on the same path (“gouge”), a battle to the death ensues for right of passage. Not common anywhere, but historic reports from Europe (c. 1640’s) and the Eastern U.S. (c. 1700- 1800’s) describe similar beasts. No known danger to humans. No Photo available.  {001 & 002}

Native location: The Originals Index – Resources and Hazards
MammalsSidehill Gouger

Sirens

In the gold rush days in California (c. 1848 or thereabouts…), shiploads of passing hopeful miners and a few fishermen were pretty sure that they heard the wailing song of the legendary sirens of the Greeks coming from Santa Barbara Island (Just off San Francisco, CA) as they sailed past. Later, after the locale was a bit more settled, it was discovered that the sounds were actually that of the island’s sole occupants…, cats and their progeny, marooned by some unknown shipwreck, fighting and caterwauling over the tidbits of fish and the occasionally unlucky bird they survived upon. No other reports.  {001}

Skin-Walker

Navajo/Diné: The Navaho term, yee naaldlooshii,  translates as “by means of it, [he or she] goes on all fours”. It describes a particular variety of harmful witch who have the ability to turn into or disguise themselves as an animal. By locking eyes with them, they might also possess living animals or people, and walk around in their bodies. They may be male or female but are usually male. The Animals associated with Navajo witchcraft include tricksters such as coyote, but occasionally include others, usually those associated with bad omens or death.
Skin-walker stories may be complete life and death struggles that end with either the skin-walker or the Navajo killing the other, or tales that end in a stalemate. Encounters may be Navajo victory stories, with the skin-walker approaching a hogan and being frightened away in some fashion. History Riders may be content to know that the legend is alive and well today. Today, some view it as a werewolf legend. Photo: U.S. PD?, internet – A skin-walker ready to dance.  {001}
see also:
Witches – below

Snow Snake
Viperidae ??

OWDR-Snow-Snake-WebLegendary winter phase of an unknown species of serpent, infesting the mountain West. Proverbially held at bay and protected against, by the ingestion of pure water dissolved in ethyl alcohol. There have been unverified reports of sightings, post application of the prophylaxis. Photo: U.S. PD, Copper, Mating Snow Snakes.  {001}
see also:
References – DictionarySnow Snake, an Indian winter game
Native location: The Originals Index – Resources and Hazards
Reptiles and Amphibians – Snow Snake

Tommy Knockers

Tommyknockers in a Mine - Joseph Blight 1873 - DictionaryWhen they came to the old west, in addition to their beautiful rock work, the Welsh and Cornish brought with their mining traditions, a mischievous spirit associated with mining. Little people who live underground. About two feet tall and grizzled, but not misshapen, they wear tiny versions of standard miner’s garb. Sometimes playing tricks, sometimes leading the virtuous to a strike, other times, warning miners of impending cave-ins , thus saving their lives. Old time miners cast the last bite of their lunch pasties into the mines to stay on the good side of the Knockers.  {001}
(I lived a good piece of time in Gilpin County, CO. Including a couple of years as a window silversmith in a store called The Tommyknocker at the head of Spring Street in Central City, CO. c. 1966 – Doc) Photo U.S. PD 1873 Joseph Blight; Tommyknockers in a mine.
see also:
Little People – above
Native location: References – DictionaryTommy Knockers

Wendigo

The Wendigo - - Monsters and Supernatural Beings of the Old West

The Wendigo

A Cree Indian word meaning, “evil that devours”. Aka: Windigo or Witiko. It is a demonic, half-beast creature, said to be the recipient of a cannibalistic curse. The creature/spirit can possess, or be a monster that has physically transformed from a person. Perhaps the first American zombie and certainly a sort of abominable snowman on steroids. It is always associated with cannibalism, and often, with murder, insatiable greed, and the cultural taboos against such behaviors. Once infected, the victim was consumed by violent, ravenous cannibalism that emaciated the body and destroyed the soul. The Wendigo would grow with each person it ate, yet  it could never feel full, a Sisyphean punishment of the stomach. Perhaps why, some other tribes described them as standing a story tall and hairy like a primate. Occasionally described as having an overly long tongue, “burning feet of fire” or leaving bloody tracks in the snow. The red eyes are almost universal across the distribution of the legend.
It appears in the legends of the Algonquian people along the Atlantic Coast & Great Lakes Region of both the US & Canada. They believed those who indulged in eating humans were at risk, and, as noted, the legend appears to reinforce taboos against the practice of cannibalism. It is described in Algonquian mythology as a balance of nature. The Cree people say, those who commit sins, especially selfishness, gluttony, or cannibalism are turned into a Witiko as punishment. Only rarely mentioned in the Old West. But just for thought, the Lenape, who were well aware of the beast from their own legends, served as scouts, among other things, out in the West. Further North, along both sides of the “new” Canadian/U.S. border, some, in the snow country, they knew… Painting*: U.S. PD? internet.  {001}
*As I note above, the red eyes are always part of the legend, but I think the antlers in this painting are an addition by the modern artist. – Doc
see also:
Wk. 43,  10/24/1862 – The Tonkawa Massacre

The Wendigo” a novella by English horror master Algernon Blackwood.
It will get your historical perspective, and your heart, up to speed.

Witches
Navajo
/Diné

Navajo witches represent the antithesis of Navajo cultural values. Unlike the community healers and cultural workers, known as medicine men and women, shamans, etc., witches are seen as evil, a perversion of the good works medicine people traditionally perform. The witches carry out twisted ceremonies and manipulate the magic to evil purposes.
As a part of their training to practice good works, traditional healers need to learn about both good and evil magic. Most can handle the responsibility, but some become corrupt and choose to become witches. Author Clyde Kluckhohn’s Navajo Witchcraft (1944) tells us of four forms of Navajo witchery: Witchery,” “Sorcery,” “Wizardry,” and “Frenzy Witchcraft“. It will take reading the tome to begin to understand…  {001}
see also:
skin-walkers -above
References – Books, Novels and History (non ref)Navajo Witchcraft

I could also have mentioned the Missouri Lake Monster in Gilpin County, Colorado
but I didn’t.
If you know of something that should be noted here,
please send all the details you can!
Contact Old West Daily Reader – Doc

 

Additional useful information:

Hodag
Hoodwinkum notus

Hodag - Reptiles and AmphibiansNative to Wisconsin, “discovered” in 1893, near the lumber community of Rinelander, by one Eugene Shepard. Described by the press, “the head of a frog, the grinning face of a giant elephant, thick short legs set off by huge claws, the back of a dinosaur, and a long tail with spears at the end”.  It was a sensation, but then…  a team of scientists from the Smithsonian offered to come and examine the find for science… A careful examination using up-to-date modern techniques has revealed that this photo was, in fact, staged and the captured “creature” appears to be a fake. Mr. Shepard was soon forced to admit that it was all for fun. Mentioned here only because it was such a clever example of the frauds and fakes which occasionally occurred in the East. However, it made for bad press and feelings, when genuine, rare and unusual animals, actually were discovered in the West.  Even so, generations have been bamboozled and a festival to the mythical beast is celebrated in the village yet today. Photo: U.S. PD 1893.  {001}
see also:
Jackalope; Sasquatch; Sidehill Gouger – above.
Native location: The Originals Index – Resources and Hazards
Reptiles and AmphibiansHodag

Hodag 02 - Reptiles and Amphibians

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The Originals Index – Resources and Hazards – Plants
The Originals  Index – Lost Treasures in the Old West
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{001} C 10/18; E 10/18; F 01/18; P 01/18

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