Posted by: Loren Coleman on May 15th, 2010
September 3, 1903
Half Bird and Half Reptile Carries
Away Live Horses.
A terrible, nameless, unclassified creature of the animal world is exciting
the curiosity, wonder and fear of occasional visitors to Stansbury Island,
in the southern portion of Great Salt Lake.
This monster, for it can be called nothing else, has lately, it is said,
been seen by several persons, but the best account of its characteristics
and movements is given by Martin Gilbert and John Barry, two hunters who
this week returned from an expedition over the island, in the course of
which they studied the habits of this hitherto unheard-of creature for three
The monster, which appears to be almost equally at home in the air[,] on the
beach, or submerged in the briny waters of Salt Lake, is probably the sole
survivor of a prehistoric species. It is doubtless the last representative
of a family whose other members, dead ages since, have left the testimony of
their existence in the primeval rocks of the mountains.
Arranging in concise form the description of this incredible relic of the
animal world, from the accounts given by those who have observed it at close
range, it seems in plain, unscientific language a combination of fish,
alligator and bat.
In size it is simply tremendous. Gilbert places its length at 50 feet,
while Barry, who is an amateur scientist, says that an examination of its
tracks demonstrates that the monster must be at least 65 feet from head to
The head is like that of an alligator[,] the eyes fiercely glowing, the
jaws, capable of opening to a distance of 10 feet from the top of the upper
to the lower, are provided with a fearful array of sharp saw-edged teeth,
the body, so far as observation goes, is increased with heavy, horny scales.
As to this Gilbert and Barry are not positive, as the constant diving of the
beast, if such it may be called, into the strong brine of the lake has
incrusted it with a thick coating of salt, which save near the wings
completely hides the body.
It is due to this unusual phenomenon that the hunters obtained their first
sight of the monster. According to their account they first sighted it at a
distance of between one and a half and two miles. The day was clear, the
sun intensely bright. Gilbert’s own words of the discovery are:
“We were walking westward from the east shore of the island about 9 o’clock
in the morning when suddenly to the northwest there appeared a thing. I
don’t know what to call it. It looked to me like a brilliant rainbow folded
into compact mass, moving rapidly through the air.
“In three or four minutes the monster’s position was such that it no longer
reflected the sunlight directly toward us, and we would then discern the
outline of the form. Its wings were bat-like, stretching out over a great
expanse. I should say at least 100 feet from tip to tip. The tail was
proportionately short, and resembled that of a huge fish. We were not close
enough at this time to tell much about the head, only we saw that the jaws
were very long. In shape the head was like that of a crocodile.
“We watched it disappear in the gathering gloom of night, but were for a
long time paralyzed with fear, not knowing when it might return. It was
probably an hour later when it did come back.
“We heard the swish of the mighty wings before it could be seen, but as it
drew nearer, by the light of the young moon in the West, we saw that it
carried in its great jaws a large horse, which I supposed it had swooped
down upon while feeding. The horse was badly crushed and mangled.
“The monster carried its burden into the cave, and we could hear the
crunching of its jaws and the cracking of the horse’s bones as the beast
devoured its victim. After an hour or so all was so still, and then [we]
slipped quietly away in the darkness and returned to our cmap on the eastern
shore of the island.” – Salt Lake City Co., Denver [Colorado] News.
In addition to the other thoroughly unbelievable elements, we are asked to believe, apparently, that this sighting consumed an entire day. — Jerome Clark