Click to enlarge.
A Holy Terror.
The Fiery Dragon of Elizabeth Lake.
A Modest Story From Ventura.
The Hideous "Thing" with Dinner-Plate Scales, Headlight Eyes and a Harpoon Tail Now Paralyzing the Natives.
Los Angeles Times | Sunday, August 1, 1886.
The Ventura Free Press, a fortnight ago, had an able sensation. A terrific monster — beside which all the chimeras, gorgons, minotaurs and other bugaboos of antiquity were harmless insects — had been found to inhabit the depths of Elizabeth Lake. It was a good story, but of course the Free Press couldn't swallow it; but now comes evidence which knocks out the skeptics in the first round. Let the Free Press tell it:
Last Saturday evening the Free Press published a strange story told by a prospector from the vicinity of Elizabeth lake, and, of course, this paper gave no credence to the tale. We rather made a game of it, in fact, thinking the narrator had been a little the worse for bug-juice, perhaps, and so had let his too freely stimulated imagination run riot. Now there comes to us in confirmation of the prospector's yarn, a tale so weird and strange, and, withal, so well vouched, that we must accord it a degree of credence seemingly impossible.
The old stage road from Los Angeles to Bakersfield runs through the San Francisquito cañon and up by Elizabeth Lake, and to this day emigrants, coming from Nevada and San Joaquin country to the coast in wagons, follow this beaten track to the Mojave desert.
A newly arrived emigrant [sic], a very respectable looking man indeed, given the name of Peter B. Simpson, is authority for a story rivaling the fables of the Niebelungen Lied. He says that these strange things are facts. We give the statement for what it is worth:
He had removed his family — a wife and three interesting children — from the Esmeralda mining country in Nevada and, having an excellent wagon and a good team among his personal effects, besides some dozen head of cattle, concluded, time being no object, to come overland to Santa Barbara county. Of course he came by Bakersfield and Elizabeth lake. On the evening of the 15th day of July — the moon being then near its full — the little party encamped at the upper end of the lake, about a half a mile west of the village. Mr. Simpson says that he noticed the peculiarly penetrating odor arising from the water. It seemed to float above the lake, and to fill the little valley with vague, undefinable forms of mist. His cattle were allowed to graze at large upon the grass-covered plain. About midnight, when all were soundly sleeping beneath the covered wagon, Mr. Simpson says he was awakened by a terrible commotion which seemed to come from out in the lake. There was an awful roaring, he said, like the muttering of distant thunder, accompanied by a peculiarly loud, indescribable hissing noise. Of course Mr. Simpson arose at once and seized his Winchester, but he could see nothing. Far out in the lake was what seemed to be a black cloud, and below it the water was seething and boiling.
Seeing nothing to alarm him, Mr. Simpson again sought his blankets, but no sooner had he settled to sleep than there was a great rushing through the air as of mighty wings, and the wagon was lifted bodily from the ground, carried about twenty yards out into the plain and dropped, making the wheels a total wreck. There was an immediate stampede of stock, and the terrified family arose at once from their recumbent positions, but they only saw their stock scattering over the plain and a dark form whizzing through the air in the distance. The noise of rushing wings continued, growing fainter. Then all was still.
For a moment Mr. Simpson thought that he had encamped in the path of a cyclone. Thoroughly bewildered, with a rifle in his hand, he stood listening intently to the great silence which hung upon the desert, when from out that stillness there arose afar off the sound of a great conflict. Peter R. Simpson is a brave man, for across the desert he followed that sound. It seemed as though fifty battering rams were rattling together against the mailed sides of some moated fortress.
Arriving at the summit of a low knoll, Mr. Simpson passed and gazed down into the little valley below him — and all over the scene there fell a flood of warm southern moonlight.
The monster had come upon a drove of antelope sleeping in the gulch, and had at once attacked them. About ten feet from where Mr. Simpson stood a fine buck lay bleeding, bitten clean through at one stroke of the "thing's" horrid jaws. Around another buck the monster's wings seemed folded, while its long tail, barbed at the end, played around the pair incessantly, evidently seeking to transfix the antelope. Two other antelope were vigorously trying the effect of their short horns upon the scaly sides of the monster. Mr. Simpon's description of this "thing" is very succinct: "It was about thirty feet long over all, I should judge," he said, "and of a warm reddish color, with a long snout and jagged yellow teeth. It had enormous wings, rigged like those of a bat evidently, long hind legs and a long tail, with a seemingly hard, barbed point. From its head and neck fell a shaggy mane, and its huge eyes gleamed like two horrid fires."
For ten minutes Mr. Simpson stood as one fascinated by this strange conflict, and then, being a keen sportsman, he lifted his gun and took a shot at the monster. He heard the bullet strike, and rebound. Then, disturbed by the shot, the two antelopes took to flight, the beast in the grasp of the monster was transfixed a moment later, and the "thing" arose into the air, carrying its prey in its mouth, and made for the lake where it sank with a splash that must have been audible for miles.
There was no further disturbance that night. In the morning Mr. Simpson returned to the scene of the strange conflict and secured the carcass of the dead antelope. He also picked up some scales which his bullet or the horns of the antelope might have knocked from the sides of the monster. These scales are round, semi-transparent, about the size of dinner plates, and of a reddish glazed appearance, somewhat similar to ground glass. Mr. Simpson still has them in his possession.
Returning to camp, he collected his stock, dispatched one of his boys to the lake village, procured another wagon, and continued on his journey to Carpenteria [sic], where he intends to reside permanently.
At the village he heard for the first time of the appearance to others beside himself of the Elizabeth lake monster.
"News" story courtesy of Tricia Lemon Putnam.