Probably the most fearsome being ever recorded in supposedly rational America was the awesome monster said to have lived for generations in Lake Elizabeth, California, until along about 1890 when it flew away forever.
This creature reportedly was at home on land, under water, and in the air — a triple-threat monster if there ever were one. Apparently it was there when the first Mexican settlers entered California. According to Major Horace Bell in "On the Old West Coast," no one would settle in the valley, in spite of the fertile soil and ample water, because of the monster.
In the 1830s a Don Pedro Carillo is reported to have taken up a grant of land in the area but three months later, after building a house, barn and corral, abandoned his new hacienda because of the supernatural being. Major Bell quotes him as saying, "Conditions there made me prematurely old."
Sometime after 1855 another settler took a chance. Chico Lopez moved in, bringing another Chico — last name Vasquez, said to be a brother of the notorious outlaw Tiburcio Vasquez — as foreman. [He was. —Ed.] Major Bell quoted from a manuscript supposedly written by a Don Guillermo Embustero y Mentiroso, who related an incident which happened while he was visiting the ranch.
Vasquez rode up to the ranch house greatly excited about something in the lake. Everyone immediately saddled up and dashed to the shore. When they arrived, they heard a thunderous whistling roar from a thick growth of cattails and could smell the foul breath of the beast.
Then they made out the silhouette of a tremendous monster, as large or larger than a great whale, with enormous batlike wings which it flapped periodically as though trying to arise from the mud. It churned the water to a froth with what appeared to be huge flippers or legs.
The men fled in terror — as who wouldn't? — and returned the next day with a squad of armed cowboys. But the beast could not be found.
Sometime later the Lopez livestock began to disappear. One night there was a loud commotion in the corral, and the men reached the spot just in time to see the great winged creature flying away, outlined with terrifying clarity against the moonlit sky. A count of the livestock revealed ten horses missing!
Major Bell says this happened in 1883 and that Chico Lopez immediately sold out and left the country.
The spread was bought by a Don Felipe Rivera, who viewed the monster with a refreshing commercial zeal. He planned to capture the thing and sell it to a circus and is said to have signed a contract with the Sells-Floto show, which promised to shell out $25,000 for such an unusual attraction.
One day while searching, Rivera actually found the beast. It was resting on the shore. At the sight of the man it took fright and began waddling back to the safety of the water. The brave Don Felipe ran alongside firing at it with his .44 Frontier Colt revolver. He said later that the bullets hitting the creature rang as though striking armor plate, and the next day he returned and picked up his slugs, which had been flattened by the impact.
Rivera described it as about forty-five feet long and as large as "four elephants," with a bulldog head, six legs, and enormous wings which it kept folded along its back. Sometime later the monster was seen flying away and the folks around Lake Elizabeth were never bothered again.
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. Magazine purchased 2018 by Leon Worden.