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New film bringing legend of Bear Lake monster to the screen

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Oil painting of the Loch Ness Monster by Hugo Heikenwaelder. Some people believe the Bear Lake monster is actually the Loch Ness monster. See a trailer of the film in the video above. | Photo courtesy Creative Commons via Deseret News

IDAHO FALLS – A local urban legend dating back more than 150 years will soon be the premise of a new feature film.

A Utah filmmaker is working to bring the legend of the Bear Lake monster to the big screen.

News of the Bear Lake Monster was widely reported in 1868 when the Deseret News published a story about it. Locals, including prominent leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, reported seeing serpent-like monsters in Bear Lake, which sits on the Idaho-Utah border.

Latter-day Saint Apostle Charles C. Rich was quoted in the initial story with the headline “Monsters of Bear Lake” on Aug. 5, 1868, in which he references reports of people “seeing a huge animal of some kind that they could not describe.”

“Such persons have generally been alone when they saw it, and but little credence has been attached to the monster, and until this summer the ‘monster question’ had about died out,” Rich said at the time, according to the Deseret News.

He went on to note “a peculiar motion or wave in the water” a group of people observed in July of that year.

“Thomas Slight (one of the men in the group) says he distinctly saw the sides of a very large animal that he would suppose to not be less than ninety feet in length,” Rich reported. “It was going south and all agreed that it swam with a speed almost incredible to their senses. Mr. Davis says he never saw a locomotive travel faster, and thinks it made a mile a minute, easy.”

Reports of similar sightings were included and some claimed to have seen the creature.

One man said he saw what he intially thought was a drowned person in the lake, but on closer observance, appeared to be “some kind of animal … raised out of the water.”

“He did not see the body, only the head and what he supposed to be part of the neck. It had ears or bunches on the side of its head nearly as large as a pint cup. The waves at times would dash over its head, when it would throw water from its mouth or nose. It did not drift landward but appeared stationary, with the exception of turning its head,” the man said, according to Rich.

Then Church President Brigham Young caught wind of these reports and took an interest in them. The Deseret News published an article titled “President Young’s Trip North” that described church leaders speaking with locals who firmly believed the tale.

Church leaders were apparently open-minded to the possibility that locals had seen something “remarkable,” but they did not necessarily accept it as truth.

Interest in these reports spread far and wide and over the years, it took on a life of its own. The annual Raspberry Days festival in Garden City, Utah typically has a Bear Lake monster float in the parade every summer. There are also shops and boutiques in the area that capitalize on the legend in some way.

Interest in these sightings started to taper off in recent years until another sighting was reported in 2002.

“The tale still remains a beloved part of Utah folklore. In fact, even though there are other Bear Lakes, only the Utah-Idaho one seems to have this legendary monster,” the Deseret News reports.

bear lake monster poster
Bear Lake Monster movie poster picture | BearLakeMonsterMovie.com

Whether or not you believe the legend, filmmaker Brandon Smith is shooting a movie about the Bear Lake Monster. Production on “The Legendary Bear Lake Monster” is scheduled to wrap next year.

RELATED | Filmmaker looking to bring ‘The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster’ to the big screen

In an interview with EastIdahoNews.com in 2020, Smith said he grew up loving legends, and many visits to Bear Lake over the years motivated him to tell this story for the screen.

“Every year, as my family goes up there, I’m re-energized to do something about this,” said Smith. “It’s a recipe for some good content.”

Smith describes the film as “an action-adventure film with a mystery scare element.”

“The best way I can describe it is if you were to mix ‘The Goonies’ and ‘Jaws’ together,” he says.

The film is slated for a theatrical release in 2024 and he hopes others are as interested in the project as he is.

“This film will be a love letter to Bear Lake and to the Bear Lake monster. There are those out there who have a special place in their heart for Bear Lake and the monster. I’m looking to add my voice to that legend and continue that tradition for future generations,” Smith says.

Visit the film’s website for more information.

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