The day was perfect. There was not a snuff of wind. The skies were void of clouds.
But then something happened that was not explainable. From the glassy water of Lake Tahoe rose a large serpent-type body, as long as a telephone pole and as wide as a car.
What could it be?
The third legend of our Tales of Tahoe series belongs to the most famous of stories in the Lake Tahoe basin, Tahoe Tessie. A long-lost cousin to the world famous Loch Ness Monster, Tahoe Tessie is Lake Tahoe folklore that has long been shared.
Tales of the creature date back to the days of the Washoe and Paiute Indians. For these people of the land, it was a being of reverence and considered immensely powerful by the shamans. It was believed to be a living descendant of the turquoise water of Lake Tahoe, rumored to live in the sacred area beneath East Shore’s Cave Rock. The indigenous people held the large creature at such high regard that even speaking of the animal was considered unthinkable as it was rumored to be the cause of blinding or death.
Fast forward to current times and the sightings are still numerous. From the 1970s onward there are countless stories of eye-witness accounts of a snake-like being that surfaces and then disappears again into the deep recesses of Lake Tahoe’s depths. The visions have all had great likenesses. The visual appearance tends to be one of a creature that is immense in length, sometimes as long as 20 feet. The head is said to be extremely small, but there are few accounts of anyone actually seeing the cranium of this massive creature. And it's said to move in an up and down fashion, unlike a snake that moves from side to side.
Those who have seen Tahoe Tessie with their own eyes say the vision is one never to be forgotten. One of the most famous people to have reportedly seen the monster was Jacques Cousteau, who is reported to have said that what he witnessed was not something that the public was ready to see. Other accounts have surfaced through the years. From a fisherman witnessing a 15-foot long serpent swimming beneath his boat to scuba divers happening upon the monster’s cave, there are enough sightings to back up the potential truth of the story. Take for example Mickey Daniels, the owner of the charter fishing boat Big Mack II, who, along with others aboard his boat, witnessed a creature creating a wake the size of a boat. Or another Tahoe local and business owner, Mike Conway, witnessing Tahoe Tessie swimming in the mid-80s while doing a shoot for a TV commercial.
The accounts are so numerous, in fact, that in 2004 there was a global conference held in Lake Tahoe that discussed Unidentified Swimming Objects, otherwise known as USOs. The discussion was held in January at the Squaw Valley Institute, under the guidance of Dr. Charles Goldman of UC Davis Tahoe Research Group. The seminar discussed past eyewitness accounts by scientists, and an additional conference highlighted the subject of USOs.
Not everyone is convinced that it is, indeed, an underwater monster. Some believe that Tahoe Tessie is nothing more than a Jurassic creature of our past, like the Plesiosaur, Pliosaur, Ichthyosaur or Mosasaur. If this isn’t the case, then Tahoe Tessie is believed to be a massive sturgeon or, possibly, the coming about of a new species of freshwater eel.
Whatever the case may be, one thing is for certain. There is a large creature that swims in our vast lake. It lies beneath the surface, deep in the cavernous depths of one of America’s deepest lakes, waiting.