Posted by: Craig Woolheater on February 11th, 2007
The Monster of Conser Lake
by Greg Long
October 1, 1996
Courtesy of OregonBigfoot.com and Autumn Williams. The following are excerpts from the entire article, which can be read at OregonBigfoot.com.
Today, the banks of Conser Lake are overgrown with blackberry brambles, wild thistles, skunk cabbage, tall grass, and poison oak. The rampant vegetation shelters the lake, located in Millersburg, Oregon, from outside viewers. If you happen to be knowledgeable of Millersburg, or just plain inquisitive, you might, after some walking, find the secretive lake hiding west of the Southern Pacific railroad tracks across from Willamette Industries. Farmland and tall trees surround the green, calm waters of the lake on all sides.
In 1960 the lake was easily accessible, a favorite haunting ground of the community’s youth and young lovers. Of course, back then, Millersburg was far smaller than the 708 citizens it claims today. And the town of Albany south of the lake was probably half its size or smaller just little communities where neighbors talked to neighbors, where the Old Salem Road existed, not the constant drone of Interstate 5 which lies to the east, just on the other side of the malodorous Albany Paper Mill. It was a time when news spread quickly.
It was said that a “flying saucer” had crashed into the lake.
It all started the year before when the driver of a mint truck traveling in Millersburg (possibly near the lake, where mint is still grown) was terrified by a tall, white creature that resembled a gorilla. The white, hairy creature ran at 35 mph alongside the driver’s truck, peering into his cab. Sometime during that year, too, it was said that a “flying saucer” had crashed into the lake. That part of the story has yet to be verified.
On July 31, 1960, a Sunday night, the white “monster” returned. The story of the Conser Lake monster was told by Betty Westby in a series of articles in the now defunct newspaper Greater Oregon published in Albany. Seven teenagers from Albany were at the lake for a moonlight stroll:
Jim Westby, 16;
Marilyn Simard, 15;
Danny Everetts, 17;
Ted Swarm, 16;
Bob Swarm, 19;
George Hess,16; and
Dick Marrs, 18.
Two of the boys were hiding in one of the lanes around the lake preparing to frighten their friends when the pranksters heard a loud noise that (later they said) was too loud to be from a human being. A seven-foot-tall, white creature illuminated in the moonlight came “squishing down the lane making a noise,” said one boy, “as though he had water in his overshoes.” The two boys ran screaming to alert their friends, the monster right behind them. The boys hid themselves in brush, and the creature ran past them, uttering a weird cry that the boys described as “Fleep! Fleep-weep!” The boys managed to turn their flashlights on the creature. Their description was similar to those of others from the previous year: something like “a big, white polar bear,” or “something like a gorilla.”
At home, in shock, the boys notified Linn County Sheriff George Miller. They returned with older brothers and fathers to the lake to find the creature. Apparently some of them saw the monster that night as it stood by a tree.
The story broke over radio KGAL in Albany on Tuesday, August 2. Posses of teenagers were soon walking around the lake firing guns into the bushes.
At one point 200 people of all ages were at the lake at night. Supposedly three teenagers, using a flash camera, managed to take a picture of a tall, white creature standing on the opposite bank of the lake. The creature reportedly straightened up to a height of seven feet and fled into the undergrowth. The reporter of these events, Betty Westby, went to the lake at 3:30 a.m. that July 31 with five friends. They had a camera and a flashlight. They heard frogs croaking. Witnesses had told Westby that the frogs would stop their croaking when the creature was about.
Westby’s size-eight shoe was small inside the three-foot-wide impression left by the monster.
After an hour of investigating the white snags and pale bushes and walking through the lanes, the visitors felt as if they were being watched. Jeanne Wattenberger confirmed Westby’s feeling that something was crouching on the hillside. Several of the party ran to the car and jumped inside slamming the doors. This may have startled the creature because Westby and her friend heard a tremendous crashing in the brush as something hurtled through the vegetation toward the upper end of the lake. An 18-year-old boy, Laverne Wolfe, appeared in the dim light of dawn carrying a gun. Wolfe escorted Westby to some footprints, where Westby saw huge wedge- or duck-shaped feet spaced six and seven feet apart. Westby’s size-eight shoe was small inside the three-foot-wide impression left by the monster. Wolfe showed Westby where the creature had apparently rested, smashing down heavy evergreen briars with its massive weight before it leaped over seven-foot-tall bushes to land seven feet away.
Mike Potter, 17, reported that he saw a large, white form crouching in heavy bush at the lower end of the lake where a small creek flows from a slough. When the creature rose up to more than seven feet, Potter twice fired at the creature. Potter said that the creature spun around as though he had been hit in the shoulder. Potter and friends with him ran from the scene. They returned later with state police and found the area heavily trampled where the monster had first stood. They also found brush that was mashed down as if by a steam roller.
Accounts of the Monster of Conser Lake spread like wild fire, and Sheriff Miller and his officers found themselves constantly responding to excited calls from frightened citizens. Whether true or not, Westby reported that “two lads fishing in the broad afternoon sunlight at Conser Lake were startled by the appearance of the white creature and had to be hospitalized for shock.” A few weeks later Westby reported that people were coming from as far away as Portland and Eugene, Oregon, to hunt for the creature.
In her articles, Westby began to describe the creature as a “humanoid.” She portrayed him as essentially peaceful, not wanting to harm anyone. According to Westby, officers pursuing the creature had two of their hound dogs “literally torn to ribbons.” Westby said that the killing of the dogs “was the natural reaction of the creature at bay. If we found ourselves on a strange planet, or in a foreign country, with every hand turned against us, we would flee when pursued, and fight when cornered.” Westby wondered, “If this is an extraterrestrial creature from some star beyond our ken, another form of life corresponding to homo sapiens, then we do little to turn a hostile face toward it.”
“The brush crashed ominously as a dark form hurtled by above us in the thick brush.”
On August 19, 1960, Westby reported that teenagers were continuing to try to kill the monster at Conser Lake. James Hannon was almost killed when two bullets whizzed by his head from someone who mistook him for the monster. Westby urged readers to stay away from Conser Lake and not to use guns. By this time, Westby had concluded that the creature was from outer space and hoped that it had returned to its extra-planetary home.On September 2, 1960, the Greater Oregon printed a letter from Hazel Beals of Corvallis, Oregon, who hypothesized that the “horrible monster” was probably nothing more than an escaped baboon from a circus that had been in Corvallis in early 1960. Beals even studied pictures of baboons in an encyclopedia and claimed they were similar to the details of the Conser Lake Monster. She said: “As for him being a creature from outer space…how ridiculous can we get? The Bible indicates that the Creator of all has millions of ‘living creatures’ throughout the universe who do His bidding and serve Him day and night. If one of them had any reason to appear among us, he certainly would not skulk about among the bushes.”
The monster of Conser Lake was still in the news in October of 1960. Westby reported that Mrs. John Penning of Dever-Conner (north of Millersburg) had heard a dripping noise like the sound of a leaking rain spout although it was dry in August. Penning looked through her window and saw a “large, light form” hurrying away. At the same time, she hard “a low-pitched cry that seems to start from its toes tapering off to a squeal like a pig’s.” Penning found what she thought were fingerprints on her bedroom window. Mrs. Penning and her sister found thumbprints on the window pane and the print of a very wide palm and four fingers on the right side of the pane. Penning said that the fingers were exactly parallel to one another, which Westby thought indicated that the creature had webbed hands. The hand was wider than a normal person’s.
He turned his head and saw the grass crush down under some unknown pressure
Westby recounted other sightings. One described the creature’s walk. Westby wrote that the “creature seemed to move over the ground with an effortless motion.” Descriptions now included seeming paranormal powers. For example, Alvin Hammock said that while standing on a log near the lake he thought in his mind that the creature did not need to fear him. Suddenly words came into Hammock’s mind from nowhere: “How do I know I can?” Westby wrote: “Alvin then realized that he was clasping his hand around a large jack-knife in his pocket. He then felt that he should put the knife in the car. After leaving the car, Alvin walked parallel to the road along the river bank toward the junction. He came to the lower clearing where the lake flows into the [Willamette] river. The ground here was slippery and in order to avoid the wet places, Alvin reached out to grasp a limb to pull himself across the area. Doing so, he felt a shove, but there was no one in sight. Now frightened, Alvin ran toward the car. Halfway to the car he turned his head and saw the grass crush down under some unknown pressure and form into a perfect circle about 20 inches in diameter. After overcoming his fear, the young man kicked at the grass to see if any animal was there, but his foot only went into air.”
On October 28, 1960, Westby reported that the monster was apparently now in the Stayton area, 30 miles from Albany. Children in Sublimity, near Stayton, telephoned police. The mayor and several men responded, trying to find what had been described as an eight-foot-tall, hairy monster. Stayton teenagers went to Albany in their cars to “kill the monster.” Police stopped the gang who had in their possession a gun and beer. Eventually, the monster “scare” died away, and the encounters faded into the past.
What was the monster at Conser Lake? I have no proof, of course, that the Monster of Conser Lake ever existed. Westby said she had heard something unusual and seen footprints, and she gathered many first-hand accounts. If we trust her at least, it seems something real was living at or visiting the lake. The reference to a “flying saucer” is intriguing; and the creature’s apparent powers of invisibility and mental telepathy are clues. The Indians have long-believed that strange forces and powers often appear near or in lakes. There are many tales of monsters in lakes, and there are as many stories of flying objects entering or exiting bodies of water. And the similarity of the Conser Lake Monster to Bigfoot is obvious. The size of the creature and its cry and its ability to elude pursuers is a common theme in Bigfoot sightings.