Also known as the Sister Lakes Sasquatch
Patron Jim from Michigan wrote in and said, “I’d love to hear more about the monster of Sister Lakes sometime.”
In Episode 34 “Along the Appalachian Trail”, I mentioned something briefly in regards to the ‘Sister Lakes’ Monster. The monster sighting happened about a week before a similar sighting in West Virginia. The West Virginian news reporters and columnists blamed their town’s excitement on the Sister Lakes story out of Michigan. It had run nationally in newspapers just the week before.
I promised to look into it for him and since I am a man of my word, here is what I have found out.
What are the Sister Lakes?
I’ll start by saying that I had never heard of Sister Lakes before… and as you know, I’m from Michigan. To my defense, I don’t travel to the southwest corner of the state very often, if ever. It turns out that the Sister Lakes are a clump of small lakes within a relatively tiny area in Keeler Township. There aren’t many people who live there year round but due to the lakefront property, it’s a hotbed for resorts, summer cottages and boaters.
Sister Lakes, as far as I can tell, consists of ten different lakes. Magician Lake, Dewey Lake, Cable Lake, Little Crooked Lake, Big Crooked Lake, Pipestone Lake, Round Lake, Priest Lake, Keeler Lake, and Indian Lake. Some information says that there are only seven official sisters, some say twelve. I found both Grabemeyer Lake and Brown Lake in the area, but perhaps they are just little brother lakes… or adopted.
Keeler Township is roughly sixteen miles from Benton Harbor and Lake Michigan. The closest city to Keeler and the Sister Lakes is Dowagiac. Dowagiac sits twelve miles to the south of Keeler and is the city that has sort of claimed the Sister Lakes Monster as their own. Between the two is nothing but farmland, woods and swampy land. Supposedly, that’s where we can find this monster roaming and lurking… as monsters tend to do.
The Original Article
It all started with three young girls who spotted something in the woods while out for a walk. On June 11th, 1964 The Benton Harbor Herald-Palladium ran the following story.
“Three girls were reported terrorized this morning by an animal they said fit the description of a “monster” seen by residents in the Dewey Lake area.
The teen-agers said they saw the creature near Swisher street and Town Hall road.
The three, Joyce Smith, 13, Patsy Clayton, 12 and Gail Clayton, 13, rushed to a nearby house to call for help. Joyce fainted when she saw the creature but was quickly revived.
None of the girls were hurt.
Dowagiac Police Chief Richard Wild said the girls called his office and he notified Cass County Sheriff’s Deputies. Two sheriff’s cars and a conservation car were sent to the scene. A state police plane was also to be called into the search.”
“Sounded like a tamed goose!”
I should say that it didn’t all start ‘there’ exactly. That’s just when the story hit the news. A few days before these young ladies witnessed the large creature of undetermined origin, a nearby woman and her dogs had a close encounter.
On June 9th, a woman by the name of Evelyn Utrup, of Dewey Lake, reported that a creature roughly nine feet tall and weighing around 500 pounds had chased her into her farm home. Her dogs were able to scare whatever it was, away. The beast had black hair up to its neck and two glowing eyes. Two days later, the three aforementioned teenagers had their encounter.
Even before these two stories, Cass County sheriff’s deputies said the presence of the monster had been reported off and on for nearly two years. The reports were always similar, featuring a hairy beast with reflective, glowing eyes, massive in size and making noises “like a tamed goose” or ”a baby crying.”
Over the course of the next week, the Summer of 64’ was going to be an interesting time for the locals.
Here come the outsiders
By the weekend, just two days after the girls’ story made the national news, the small towns within the Sister Lakes region were overrun with curious individuals and semi-professional monster hunters.
While the locals, including the area sheriffs and officers, weren’t thrilled, the businesses welcomed it, embraced it and in some cases, egged it on. Local drugstores and coffee shops quickly assembled ‘Monster Hunting Kits’. For just $7.95 you too could have your own wooden mallet, net, baseball bat, stake, flashlight and squirt gun. The Dowagiac movie theater switched over to a monster movie for the weekend. The local drive in offered “Monsterburgers,” and one gas station even discounted what they called “getaway gas”, suggesting it was a high octane fuel especially designed for getting away from the monster once you found it.
“They’d rather deal with the monster.”
The Cass County Sheriff and his deputies never stopped, for days, rounding up would be hunters. That Friday night was a rainy evening but it didn’t slow anyone down. Police found three Detroit area boys trouncing through the woods with a fully loaded magnum revolver. Other deputies questioned a group of seven boys who were all armed with baseball bats.
One deputy pulled over a caravan of eight carloads of teenagers all armed with tire irons and clubs. He politely asked them to “get the hell out of the county”. Then added he’d feel safer if it was just him and the monster.
Someone fired a gun at a man’s black Shetland pony thinking it was the monster. Luckily that person missed, twice. Most folks locked any and all animals in their respective barns and pens.
A local beer distributor put up a $1000 reward for the first person to capture the monster, alive or dead. The Sheriff, concerned it would lure in even more people, shut that down quickly. Judging by the license plates, there were already folks from nearby Indiana, Illinois and Ohio who’d joined in on the hunt.
The monster moves on
By the time Sunday evening came around, most of the crowd had dispersed back to their homes near and far. The Cass County Sheriff and his men had taken away shotguns, long guns and a whole host of overpowered hunting weapons. They’d done their best to keep folks from trampling farm property. They might finally, after a few very long days, get some rest.
A few nights later, in Ionia, Michigan which is well over one hundred miles north, in between Lansing and Grand Rapids, the Michigan monster craze still had some people acting goofy.
A state policeman was out on patrol with his tracking dog, keeping an eye out for a monster that had been reported a few nights before in the area.
While driving along I-96, a young man dressed in a fur coat leapt out onto the expressway, right in front of the officer who nearly hit the person. The officer jumped out of his car, with his dog, Jocko, and tried to follow the person who left behind bits of fur and a rubber glove. Unfortunately it began to rain and Jocko lost the scent.
That same week, Ionia officers arrested eight teens who were dressed in ponchos and sitting on each other’s shoulders to give off the appearance of something bigger. That occurred on a nearby highway just a few miles away.
So now what?
Every so often someone claims to spot the Dewey Lake monster. It’s always just a passing glimpse, out of the corner of their eye. Some said he was covered in hair. Some said he also had webbed hands and feet and was aquatic. It’s interesting to note that a big percentage of those who have spotted the creature never did so for fame. They did so from fear.
Scientists believe that if something was seen, it was more than likely a very large bear or perhaps an escaped gorilla. Escaped from where? Who knows.
Stop in to the Sister Lakes Brewing Company and chat with some locals if you want to learn more. While you’re there, enjoy a tall Dewey Lake Monster Double IPA. 9.8% ABV “Watch out for this hoppy monster of a beer. Local legend has it, imbibing in a few of these may result in a big foot sighting. Bronze medal winner in the 2017 Denver International Beer Competition.”
There is also a Dewey Lake Monster page on Facebook.
What do you think? Are you a believer?