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Tessie is the United State’s own Nessie legend, a common story or folklore that can be found across the globe. Whether this actually has to do with some mythical and prehistoric creature; who knows, right now the evidence doesn’t fully support this, but it is still fairly interesting to look into. The Lake Tahoe area has embraced Tessie, the Lake Tahoe Monster, regardless of the explanation towards the creature’s existence.

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Tessie the Lake Tahoe Monster

Have you ever been curious as to the borders or illustrated imagery on certain maps? Specifically who is detailing the seas or other bodies of water? There is a reason, or at least a theory, as to why these cartographers chose to scrawl these notes down. A warning, to those viewing the map, that if you move past this point, you’ll encounter monsters and frights. 

This same sort of logic could possibly explain why some have seen creatures like Bigfoot, Chupacabra, Yeti. Along with all the other beasts tracked by cryptozoologists, those who study hidden and unknown creatures. We like to believe we tame nature, that we have studied and learned about all that it has to offer. But all these stories show, we cannot deny that nature is wild and unknown, constantly surprising us along the way.

With today’s episode, we shall be diving, literally, into one such story and location. Being the shared California and Nevada lake, Lake Tahoe, and the friendly and allusive creature that calls it home, Tessie. This lake, the state’s largest freshwater lake; isn’t only the home of this unknown creature, but supposedly a mob mass graveyard. It’s certainly a bizarre location, worthy of some investigation.

Story’s Origins

The story goes, years back, a fisherman trolling off the South Shore, caught his hook on something. When he frees it, and reels his “catch” back to his boat, he found a human ear on the hook. Other versions of the tale have the fisherman snagging a three-fingered human hand, or other miscellaneous body part. 

According to legend, the 900-foot-deep waters off South Shore, serve as a dumping place for Mob victims; between the 1920s to 1950s. Hundreds of gangsters’ corpses are suspended in the depths. They say, the near-freezing deep waters, preserves the bodies from decaying. This specific tale is so widespread in the area, many local fishermen refer to the entire lake as “The Graveyard”. In fact, a Mafia boat execution on Lake Tahoe, features in the climax of The Godfather Part II. Spoilers I suppose.

Sightings & Media Coverage

Even stranger than some mob dump spot, are the tales of “Tessie.”  Locals are rather adamant that a large, unidentified, serpent-like creature lives in the deepest parts of the lake, and usually appears around June in even-numbered years. If you’re looking to spot Tessie, you’ve got a few more days to do so, that is until 2022. The creature was dubbed “Tessie” in imitation of Loch Ness’ “Nessie”. The beast allegedly appears in Washoe Indian legend; and may have its first sighting linked to Western civilization by 19th century settlers.

Tessie made headlines first in the San Francisco Chronicle on July 12, 1984. When two women claim to see the elusive Lake Tahoe Monster earlier that month. Tahoe City residents Patsy McKay and Diane Stavarakas were hiking above west shore, spot the creature swimming in the lake.

McKay said the beast was about 17 feet long. She watches closely and saw it surface three separate times, describing this action to be similar to a little submarine. Her companion, Stavarakas, states that the creature has a humped back; and surfaces in a whale-like, lethargic manner.  She was also sure that it wasn’t a human diver, a log, or simply large ripples in the water.

Two years earlier, a pair of off-duty Reno policemen also had an encounter with Tessie. Officers Kris Beebe and Jerry Jones were water-skiing on June 1982, when an “unusually large” creature swam by them.

Lake Tahoe is a Strange Place

More stories relating to the Lake, assert an underground river system links Tahoe with Pyramid Lake in Nevada. Apparently the bodies of people who have drowned in Tahoe have surfaced in Pyramid Lake, fifty miles to the north. This phenomenon, however, may also be due to the corpses floating over the north Tahoe spillway. Which enters into the Truckee River, which in turn then moves downstream towards Pyramid Lake.

The closest anyone ever came to figuring out Tahoe’s mysteries was in the mid-1970s. Famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau brought a mini-submarine to the lake, and did several dives in search of the 1,600-foot lake-bottom. He returns to the surface allegedly saying, “The world isn’t ready for what is down there”. Till his death he refused to release any pictures or data from the expedition. This has obviously left a lot of people questioning what he had discovered while down there. The theories are all over the place. Ranging from a collection of bodies, to a group of Tessie-like creatures that may call the lakebed their home.

Expert & Professional Opinions

When it comes to explaining the phenomenon of Tessie sightings, Charles R. Goldman, a leading expert when it comes to Lake Tahoe, has a hunch as to what Tessie may be. He believes the culprit is a fish that grows to 1,500 pounds, and crept in during trout and mackinaw plantings. Goldman believes that the creature responsible for the Tessie sightings, is none other than the rather common, Sturgeon. Which is actually an explanation that is often repeated throughout lakeside storefronts. Sturgeon can reach lengths of 12 feet and can be found across the globe and throughout the United States; and yes can be found within California rivers, so it is possible that some may have gotten into Lake Tahoe.

Professionals, professors, researchers and many from the scientific community, reason cryptids are a way to cope with uncertainties. Sometimes, however, mythologized monsters turn out not to be creatures of fiction. Giant squid were once imagined to be either merman or the mythical Kraken. The sea animal was proven real only after fishermen hooked a dead one. It is more likely that a misidentified or strange looking creature; is the reason why people still report sightings of lake or river monsters across the globe.


Episode 34 – Tessie the Lake Tahoe Monster. Produced by Shane Cummings; Audio Editing & Research by Shane Cummings.
Intro & Outro music “Creepy Regrets” by AnMo.

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