A Cache Valley producer is teaming with businesses in the Bear Lake area to create a video on the legend of the Bear Lake Monster, set to release in time for Halloween.
The project, titled “In Search of the Bear Lake Monster,” will explore the legend of the mysterious creature said to be living in the depths of Bear Lake, featuring interviews with local eyewitnesses, folklore experts, and reenactments of reported monster sightings.
“I want it to be a narrative documentary, I want it to be really entertaining,” said Matthew Havertz, the video’s producer. “But I want it to be educational as well.”
Havertz, who runs a local production company and teaches video production at Utah State University, said he was drawn to the story of the Bear Lake Monster because of a lifelong interest in folklore and questions surrounding the monster’s existence.
First depicted as “of the serpent kind” in 1868 by Joseph Rich, the Bear Lake Monster has taken many shapes and sizes over the last 150 years. Modern sightings commonly describe a large, serpentine creature, often moving in shadow underneath the water.
The monster has been fully embraced by the community as both a local mascot and tourism draw. For years, the “Bear Lake Monster Boat” offered rides around the lake on a sea monster-themed vessel. In 1996, judges at Raspberry Days voted on submissions and officially named the monster Isabella.
“The legend is still real popular. People know about it, and people share it,” said Randy Williams, Fife Folklore Archive curator. “I wonder if some of the reason is cautionary, or maybe it’s just super fun.”
It’s this draw that attracted some financial support for “In Search of the Bear Lake Monster” from local businesses.
“I thought his story and what he was putting together sounded like a lot of fun,” Moosebuns owner Audell Bates said.
Bates opened Moosebuns, a quick-service restaurant in Garden City, with her husband in May. One of the products they make is a Bear Lake Monster cookie.
“It’s a part of the history and folklore of the area. Why not jump in?” Bates said. “Everybody loves a good mystery.”
The project currently has the support of seven businesses in the Bear Lake area. Havertz is also running a fundraiser on Indiegogo, which ends on Monday, to help pay for the video.
“In Search of the Bear Lake Monster” is the first in what Havertz said he hopes could be a much larger project, spanning a number of different local legends. Much of that will be dependent on funding.
“We have enough to make a pretty decent video, but I want to make something really spectacular and show people how cool a series on folklore can be,” Havertz said.
Havertz is looking to hear from the public about their own personal experiences or narratives about the Bear Lake Monster.
“We’re also crowdfunding stories about the Bear Lake Monster,” he said. “If anybody has stories or knows somebody who’s seen the monster, I want to hear from them.”
Havertz, who will produce and edit the video, says he’s excited about the team he’s built, but there’s always room for more. The project is looking for actors, crew members and anyone who can volunteer equipment.
“In some ways that’s actually better than financial backing,” Havertz said.
“In Search of the Bear Lake Monster” will not be Isabella’s first brush with on-screen fame. She’s been featured on episodes of Animal Planet’s “Lost Tapes” and SyFy Channel’s “Haunted Highway,” where investigators attempted to find proof of her existence.
Like many legends, the story of the Bear Lake Monster seems divided between fact and fiction.
“We dispel disbelief because it’s not unplausible in the world that we live in that there would be a big fish — or a big something,” Williams said. “And so these legends arise because there are some unknowables.”
In a 2006 speech, historian and monsterologist Will Bagley argued she was real, citing accounts from early leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including Brigham Young, John Taylor and Lorenzo Snow.
In 2016, an article claiming the monster’s carcass had washed up on the Bear Lake shore circulated on the internet. The article eventually drew response from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, which debunked the story.
“Probably none of us believe a legend in that way,” Williams said. “We know they’re not real truthful, but they might have kernels of cultural truth to them.”
As for Havertz, he said he’ll leave the answers to the audience.
“I definitely think there could be a Bear Lake Monster,” he said. “But unless we discover definitively, yes or no, it exists, we’ll probably leave it open to let people decide what they think.”
Those interested in sharing stories or participating in the video can contact Havertz at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Indiegogo campaign for “In Search of the Bear Lake Monster” can be found at indiegogo.com/projects/in-search-of-the-bear-lake-monster.