Monday, June 1, 2015

The Serpent in Lake Erie?

Buffalo Courier


Page 9, Column 5


Is there a serpent in Lake Erie ? That is

the question which a number of residents of

the lake shore between Van Buren Point and

Moorehead's have been asking each other during

the last fortnight It is no silly question,

either. The men and women who ask it wear

long faces, and refuse to go out on the lake in

small boats, and won't be hired to go in bathing.

A farmer named Jarvis, who lives just this

side of Northeast, is one of those who saw

the creature, but he has kept close mouthed

about it He seemed rather impatient when

asked about it.

" I don't believe 'twas no serpent 'tall,"

said he, " If I sh'd say 'twas, everybody'd be

twittin me.   But I saw something an

I've lived here "40 years “n” I’ve never

seen nothin' like it. What's more I don't

want to, neither. I don't b'lieve it's a serpent,

but I don't know what it is, an'" you won't

ketch me on that lake agin till it's froze over.

I ain't the only one that seen it You can

go down to Small's place. His gal Sarah seen

it, she an' a Miss Church that's stayin' there a

spell. They was campin' down ou ths p'int

below their farm, an seen it webbs 10 minutes

or a quarter of an hour before I did, an

whatever t'was t'was swimmin' this way.

You go ask them about it They'll tell ye all

ye want to know."

The first the COURIER reporter ever heard

about a serpent in Lake Erie was a month

and, when some very respectable and trustworthy

residents of Fredonia declared that

they had seen the monster one summer two or

three years since, while camping at Van

Buren Point Moreover, at that same time it

was seen by a small party of Dunkirk people

from the promontory just above that city.

The same indefiniteness marked the tales of

these witnesses that characterizes all sea

serpent stories. They were afraid, perhaps,

that if they told the whole truth they would

not be believed. But they said that the serpent

was too far away to permit a clear view

of him. They saw his coils, and they saw him

lift his bead out of the water exactly like the

ordinary water snakes that we find in our

creeks and rivers They saw him just after

sundown, while it was still very light, and

there was no mistaking him. So far as they

knew, the serpent had never been seen before,

nor since.

That was the first story heard by the COURIER

reporter. A fortnight ago on the Lake

Shore morning accommodation train—the train

with the famous trainman  who intones when

he calls off the names of the stations like a

clerk reading the service from the prayer

book—on that train, behind the COURIER reporter,

Bat two men whose conversation soon

aroused his attention.

" I heard it from the station master," said

the man at the window. "He says his wife

saw it plain as could be. She was down on

the beach just before sunset, and all

of a sudden something big and black

rose out of the water, oh, maybe

500 yards away. It was all dripping

and glistening in the sunlight She thought

first off it was a sturgeon, hut it didn't go

down again. It first waved this way and that,

and then she saw it was the head of something

like an immense snake. He says she didn't

wait to see any more but just hollered and ran

for home, without once looking back. He was

just going over to the station when she

came flying in white as a sheet. For a minute

he thought one of the children must be

drowned, but she shook her head no, and as

soon as she could get breath she told him what

she’d seen. He ran down to the beach but

couldn’t see a thing.”

" Well, sir, that's mighty strange. Wednesday

night, you say it was ?"

" Y e s "

" Well, it was Wednesday night my hired

man says he saw it I thought he'd been

drinking and paid no attention to it, but now

they tell me old man Jarvis saw it, and Captain

Small's girl, too. These must be something

in it, sure."

The reporter got into conversation with these

gentlemen, and found them to hi intelligent,

and evidently not given to believing

everything they heard.

" Of course, I don't want to say there is or

there isn't a serpent," said the man near the

window. Only I say here are half a dozen

people living along the shore there for a

stretch of 10 miles, and don't know each other

except to say ' Howd'y  on the road, and all

of 'em tell this story about seeing a sea serpent

in the lake last Wednesday night, that's all.

You'd better see the people yourself and get

the story at first hand. Sea serpent stories,

you know, are like this 'Three Black Crows '—

the farther they go the bigger and more incredible

they get"

So, last week, the COURIER reporter visited

that part of the lake shore to corroborate the

the stories he had heard. Now, there is no good

reason for doubting the existence of a

serpent in Lake Erie.  Naturalists are inclined

to believe that there actually are sea

serpents, and the rarity of their supposed

appearance is no proof of non-existence.  There

are certain species of whales of which but two

or three individuals have be on caught in as

many centuries It is worthy of remark that

the serpents of the sea as well as the one recently

seen in Lake Erie appear either early

in the morning or towards evening. The conclusion

seems to be that the serpent avoids

showing itself by day and disports itself on

the surface of the water by night. This is a

good reason why we so seldom see the serpent.

It was by mare chance that the wife of

the station agent at Northeast and other people

along the shore saw the reptile a week

ago last Wednesday evening. They may

never see it again, but they will tell their

children of it

Full of belief in the serpent of Lake Erie,

the COURIER reporter visited Mr. Jarvis, who,

as narrated above, was reticent The reporter

went on to the Smalls, who, Mr. Jarvis said,

had seen more of the serpent than anyone else.

The Smalls live on a pretty farm near Freeport

Miss Small was found at home, and she

and a cousin, Miss Church, told the reporter

enough to fill three columns.

 " We've been camping for a week down on

the point," said Miss Small. "There was my

cousin here, Miss Church, and two young men

from Erie, and Mrs Parmenter of Syracuse

and her husband, We used to watch the sunset

almost every evening from the bluff. We

were sitting there last Wednesday evening.

Mr. Jordan and Mr. Clark, the young gentlemen

from Erie, had gone up to the house for

something and the rest of us were watching

the sun. Suddenly Mrs. Parmenter pointed

out on the water and said , Why, isn't that

odd! Is it a fish, or what is it ?'

," We all looked, and Nellie—that's Miss

Church, you know—said, that in fun, laughing

! _ • Why, I do believe it's the sea serpent'

And Mr. Parmenter, he said, ' By jove, I

believe you're right '"

Well, what was it you saw?" asked this


"Why, I didn't see it at first but when I

looked, there was a great big head sticking

out of the water. It was as big as a horse's

head, and thin, set on a slender neck. I

couldn't see distinctly whether it had eyes or

mot Down the back of its neck a little way was

what looked like a mane, but it may have been

 sort of fin like the back bone fin of a bass,

you know. It was swimming straight ahead,

d very fast, for the water piled up in front

where it breasted the lake and almost broke

into foam. Its body was submerged for

quite a distance back of its head, and

then you could see the coils just rising out of

the water. I should say it must have been 60

or 70 feet long, but it is bard to tell the

measurement of anything out in the water that

way. It may have been longer or shorter. Its

head was all shining wet, and smooth, and

glistened red in the sunlight It left a wake

behind it an it swam out into the lake, and in

less than five minutes it was out of sight."

Miss Church had seen the same thing, and so

had Mr. and Mrs Parmenter. Mr. and Mrs.

Parmenter had gone home. Miss Small

teaches in the Presbyterian Sunday-school in

Northeast and both the girls look incapable of

imposing what you might call a cock and bull

sea serpent story on the public. Indeed, they

have told no one but their immediate relatives

and friends what they saw, fearing lest they

should be laughed at.

But if these people at Freeport, the wife of

the station master at Northess , Mr. Jarvis

the farmer, and the servant of the gentleman

in the railway car did not see a serpent what

did they see ? Indeed, the credibility of their

story is greater than that of any person who

says he has seen the sea serpent. It is well

known that a string of porpoises leaping

through the sea bears no small likeness to a

serpent if they be seen at early dawn or dusk,

and a mistake might easily be made. But

here in Lake Erie we have no porpoises, nor

any other fish which, like them and the dolphin

and grampus, leap or roll like great

wheels through the waves. The evidence,

therefore, is greatly in favor of the presumption

that there is a serpent in Lake Erie. It

would be well for the summer campers along

the lake shore to watch out for this ophidian,

for if he could be captured he would be treasure

trove There is no price that would not

be given for him by the richest museums of

natural history in the world, and, besides, the

proprietors of summer resorts along the shore

would no doubt give handsome rewards to

anybody that would remove this peril to

bathers W.E.K.

Article used with the permission of:

Buffalo State College Archives
 and Special Collections
E. H. Butler Library #135
Buffalo State College
          1300 Elmwood Ave.     
   Buffalo,  NY 14222-1095

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