Bear Lake Monster

A still from Matthew Havertz's "In Search of the Bear Lake Monster" shows an illustration of an aquatic cryptid.

A local filmmaker is pleased with the public’s response so far to his documentary short film about the Bear Lake Monster.

A promotional cut of “In Search of the Bear Lake Monster” by Cache Valley filmmaker Matthew Havertz has collected nearly 3,500 YouTube views since its release last week.

“Based on other videos I’ve done and how fast this video is gaining traction, I easily expect we should have tens of thousands of views by next Summer Season and it will keep growing over the years,” Havertz wrote in an email to supporters and interested parties.

The full version of the film is about 34 minutes and features interviews with wildlife officials, folklorists, eyewitnesses, merchandisers and others.

One of the eyewitness accounts is from Mike Havertz, Matthew’s uncle. Matthew didn’t know a family member had a strange encounter on a moonlight canoe trip with a couple friends in 1977. In the documentary, Mike recounts the water being calm until waves started moving in a segment of the lake about 20 feet long and 2 feet wide, eventually reaching as high as the canoe itself, nearly swamping it. The phenomenon lasted for about 3 minutes, Mike estimates.

Mike probably told a few people about the incident, but “he’s still perplexed by it,” Matthew said. “So I think that’s part of the reason that he didn’t tell many people.”

In the film, several other contemporary and historical monster sightings and strange encounters are rounded out by multiple accounts of people who have spotted strange objects that, after a closer look, turned out to be less than cryptozoological.

Scott Tolentino, Bear Lake Fisheries biologist, recounts seeing several elk swimming in the lake, schools of fish, moose, cow carcasses and coyotes on pieces of ice and other phenomena that he believes people at a distance might mistake for the legendary monster.

Ross Walker was out photographing a thunderstorm when a dark shape came moving along the waves toward him — though it turned out to be a large inflatable turtle.

Havertz said he tried to include eyewitness accounts as well as skeptical and expert perspectives in the documentary. He hoped to strike a balance that allows the viewer to decide what they, themselves, think about the Bear Lake Monster.

“It’s interesting — I’ve had people email me and say, ‘You’ve convinced me, I’m convinced there’s a monster.’ And then I’ve had other people email me that are skeptics that have said, ‘Oh, this is great,’” Havertz said. “I don’t want to convince people that there is a monster or that there isn’t a monster. I want to leave it open.”

Monster claims aside, a raft of other remarkable Bear Lake facts supports the film, from its well-known moniker “the Caribbean of the Rockies” to the fact that three species of fish are found there and nowhere else. It’s also a deep, abnormally old lake — researchers have drilled cores showing at least 250,000 years of continuous history in the mud, although it’s likely much older, according to the Utah Geological Survey.

Havertz raised nearly $1,000 in a crowdfunding campaign in September, and rounded up $2-3,000 more in funding via promotional considerations from a half-dozen Bear Lake businesses. Among the film’s expenses were paying the narrator, working with an artist to create an animation of the monster and hiring a drone pilot for aerial shots.

Havertz hopes to someday follow “In Search of the Bear Lake Monster” with more films about local history and folklore.

“I know it sounds a little bit cheesy, but sometimes when we look at history, we only focus on the quote-unquote ‘big’ stories that shaped our culture,” Havertz said. “But sometimes it’s the local stories that are really impactful on people’s lives and that get undertold.”

Havertz said he’s working through the review process to get the film onto Amazon Prime Video. The promotional cut, which will contain a link to the full version until it hits Prime, can be viewed here (URL is case-sensitive): http://bit.ly/BearLakeFilm.

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