The Stearns Bayou Water Monster
Enjoy this old newspaper article about a “water monster” spotted in the murky waters of Stearns Bayou located in Grand Haven Township, Michigan. Decide for yourself if it was just blurry vision of some early 20th century party people, or if there really was a water monster lurking in the depths of the bayou. Below are all the reports from the Grand Haven Tribune when this creature was first sighted. Sounds like they had a drunken good time if you ask me.
It was also discovered that Stearns Bayou was home to some monster size lake sturgeon and muskellunge (musky’s) back in the day. In the 1960’s a very large musky was pulled from the bayou and its head is mounted and on display at Felix’s Gun Shop right on the Stearns Bayou bridge. People have reported seeing dark shapes under the water that were thought to be logs…until they moved! Musky can get quite large but sturgeon’s are especially large and very “beast-like” in appearance. They are actually living dinosaurs! They can weight over 200 pounds and grow to over six feet. Now that’s a monster! If people were seeing something like this, it’s no wonder they thought they were dealing with a genuine “water monster.”
Article from the Grand Haven Tribune August 13, 1909
Now comes the report from up the river of another sea-serpent seen in the waters of Stearns Bayou. The Tribune would give no credence to the report except for the fact that it is authenticated by several of our own well-known citizens whose reputation and veracity is unimpeachable. Dr Chase W. Cotton and H. Z. Nyland with their families of this city are spending a week’s outing at the Gun Club quarters which has been temporarily christened “Nylcott Camp.” The cottage is located on a beautiful promitory or high point extending out into the waters of the bayou; about 150 ft. to the left or northeast of it the highway bridge crosses the bayou; on the other side, or to the northwest of the cottage, the waters form a sort of bay which runs about 300 yards back and is quite weedy and marshy along the south shore, with heavy woods and underbrush, surrounding the whole bay on three sides. Up at the head of this bay is what is always been known as Clark’s bottomless pond and which many believe is the outlet of an underground lake.
Last Monday night, the members of the Nylcott party were enjoying the evening on the cottage veranda. At about 9:30 o’clock the men went on a trip to the Sid Clark school to get some ice cream at the social given there. During the men’s absence the ladies heard some of the strangest noises in the vicinity of the bridge. The noise increased and resembled the united drumming of about two hundred large sheephead. Interspersed with this drumming were tremendous groanings and barking like the noise of some ferocious animal in anger and distress. The sound approached nearer to the cottage and the party made a hasty retreat from the porch to the interior. The noise passed by the front of the cottage, and the water and into the bay where it finally ended with a tremendous gulping sound. One of the ladies in peeping through a drawn shade on a front window saw a long streak o flight flash along the surface of the waters of the bay but was too frightened to make further inspection of the strange moving thing. When the men returned, all was quiet on the water but they found the rest of the party in a sadly frightened and nervous condition. The men accredited the noises more to the imaginations of the ladies caused by fright and nervousness, so that but little more was thought about the incident until Wednesday evening when the strange sounds ere repeated.
Mr. and Mrs. Chas B. Shupe had driven up from this city and were visiting with the Nylcotts at the time. The men, more brave than the ladies, ran out to the point to investigate and the sight they saw is described as that of a hideous looking beast moving through the waters with a head like that of a hippopotamus, the body resembled a soft shell turtle about six feet in diameter and it had a tail about ten feet long. The under shell or belly of the beast gave out a phosphorescent light that lit up the course of the brute like a searchlight under the water. The three men watched the thing as it moved rapidly up the dark bay to the right of the cottage and as it reached Clark’s pond it sank below the surface, and out of sight with the tremendous gulping sound again. The men agreed with the ladies now that it was not an imaginative thing. Two repeating rifles were added to the camp equipment yesterday and a systematic investigation party has been organized. Other campers on Sterns Bayou report having seen the same mysterious creature and with the united forces of these and several farmers in that locality, this new specimen of a genuine sea serpent or whatever it may prove to be, will no doubt be bagged within a few days.
Eight men, armed with rifles were on watch last night but reports from there today say that all was quiet and nothing was seen of the strange thing. Its re-appearance is looked for, however, and the watch party will be on duty every night. A weed resembling water cress grows in great abundance near the highway bridge and the appearance of the strange beast at this point is accounted for by some who think this spot is a sort of feeding ground for it. The resorters and farmers on Stearns Bayou are getting worked up over the mysterious thing.
“Strange Aquatic Monster Again Makes Appearance in Stearns Bayou”
Grand Haven Tribune August 20, 1909
Last evening Geo. E. McCabe and family, with a launch partly of friends and relatives went up to spend the night at the Gun Club cottage on Stearns Bayou. Arriving at the cottage about 6:30, they ate supper and shortly before 10 o’clock prepared to retire. After trying in vain to coax sleep by counting mental sheep jumping over an imaginary fence and various other sleep producing expedients, Mr. McCabe finally arose and softly made his way out on to the porch. He was careful not to disturb the rest of the party, who tired out, were sleeping soundly.
The night was beautiful with and a soft breeze wafted across the starlit waters and the tiny wavelets, gently lapping the shore, soon lulled “Mac” to a state half way between wakefulness and repose. Thus dozing he suddenly became conscious of the fact that a dark form was plowing its way across the surface of the lake, moving in the direction of the bridge. In a moment he was fully awake. The dark object had assumed a dim phosphorous glow which distinctly made visible the outline of a monster turtle-like animal possessing all the characteristics of the pre-historic ages. Its huge elephantine head projected out on a long slim serpentine neck and behind trailed a long crocodile-like tail. The creature propelled itself with huge flippers on each side of its round tub shaped body, at a speed which would equal that of a fast motor boat. At this speed it passed beneath the bridge and for a moment was lost from view.
“Mac” pinched himself to make sure he was not dreaming, and was on the point of calling out to the rest of the party, when the creature reappeared, and with a rush of water, landed on the beach directly in front of the cottage. To say that “Mac” was scared is speaking mildly. He was numbed with awesome fear, unable to move or dry out.
The monster advanced a few feet up the hill, and with its front flippers dug a hole in the sand some three or four feet deep. Backing into this hole it became perfectly quiet, with the exception of its hideous head, which constantly moved from side to side, some six or eight feet above the surface of the ground. Occasionally it would emit a soft cat-like purr which would end with a snort similar to that of a suddenly disturbed hog.
At the end of what seemed to “Mac” an hour, the creature extricated itself from the hole and after carefully covering it over, slowly moved down towards the water. At this point “Mac” screwed up courage to call the rest of the party. The tone of his voice brought them to the door in haste, just in time to witness the creature plunge beneath the waves. As it disappeared it gave vent to cry or roar which fairly shook the earth. This cry could be compared to the screeching roar of the siren at the waterworks station. The rest of the night was spent in watching for a re-appearance of the monster, but day finally broke without another visit.
Upon digging where the creature had rested in the sand, a monster egg was found. It was almost perfectly round, yellow in color, embellished with bright red spots, and was about the size of a large pumpkin. The shell of the egg was a tough composition, something like thick leather.
At an early hour the party returned to town. Mr. McCabe and several women in the party were badly upset over the incident and are suffering from a bad case of the “newes” today.
Unfortunately, while coming home, the egg fell overboard from the hands of one of the party. A careful search was made for it, but seemingly it sank at once. The spot where it disappeared, however, has been marked, and a diver is to be engaged to attempt to recover it- this in the interest of natural science.
Considerable speculation is advancing as to the origin of the monster but from the description given, both by Mr. McCabe and the Nyland-Cotton party, it most probably is a relic of the mammals which inhabited these waters in the pre-historic ages. Perhaps an egg deposited ages back, by some revolution of nature, hatched, and this enclosed creature is the result.
“Post Cards of the Monster”
Grand Haven Tribune August 23, 1909
Appreciating the popularity of our well known friend the famous prehistoric sea monster, last Saturday evening the Reichardt Book Shop, organized an emergency expedition consisting of Messrs. Cotton, Nyland, McCabe and N. E. Brown, and in the steel plated whale-back, a launch went forth determined to die or get a picture of the monster. They arrived just at the proper moment and with Brown’s aerial kite secured an excellent picture of the sea-monster just as he was disappearing after another of his strange maneuvers in the neighborhood of the gun club. On the return trip, they spent considerable time dredging for that egg but their efforts were of no avail. The photograph of the monster, however, has been rushed to Chicago and a large edition of cards will soon be in circulation.
“Another Sad Accident”
Grand Haven Tribune August 28, 1909
The very valuable plate obtained with Brown’s kite camera of the Gun Club’s prehistoric monster which was being rushed to Chicago for a postal card by the Book Shop met complete destruction as it was being thrown from the express wagon at the Chicago office. The accident was most unfortunate and the express company shall have to suffer the damages. Due to the lateness of the season, it is not probable that another expedition will be organized for obtaining a duplicate picture. However, if he appears in the spring, the interested friends shall surely have a postal.
This article was first researched by the wonderful Bob Beaton and his work indexing older issues of the Grand Haven Tribune. Visit his website at www.sandhillcity.com