“I think they like to get it off their chest, that they have something they can’t explain,” said retired fisheries biologist Laney Hanzel.
Hanzel is not surprised when the phone rings and someone has something a little odd to tell him.
“There are 97 sightings on Flathead Lake.”
He’s talking about sightings of the Flathead Lake Monster. Hanzel has mapped out reported sightings and collected articles.
“They have been doctors, they have been lawyers, very sincere people,” said Hanzel.
Many report seeing a dark eel-like creature with black eyes. Some say it looks like a giant sturgeon and others say it looks like the Lochness Monster.
“With the evidence that I’ve seen, I would say they have been telling me the truth,” said Hanzel.
NBC Montana reporter Scott Zoltan went on his own trip to track down the monster. He enlisted the help of local charter boat captain Norman Brewer, who runs Captain Norm’s Fish-N-Fun.
The two made their way to Shelter Island, West Shore State Park, alongside painted native pictographs, but saw no sign of the monster. Norm says he mostly plays along for the kids.
“After 12 years I think I probably would have seen it either on my sonar or seen it out on the lake some place, but we’re still looking for it,” said Brewer. “We haven’t given up yet. We’re still looking for it.”
One couple in Polson says they’ve had their own sighting.
“I heard splashing, like rhythmic splashing, just chh and chh…” said Julia Manley.
Julia and her husband Jim were stranded in their boat on Big Arm bay in 2005, when they say they saw the monster’s humps moving against the current.
“We weren’t drinking or anything…” said Julia.
Both say they knew right away it was the Flathead Lake Monster.
“So many people afterwards came up to us and said, ‘You know, we saw something just like that but we never told anybody because we didn’t want everybody laughing at us,” said Jim.
The Manleys don’t care who doubts them.
“Flathead [Lake] is no different,” said Hanzel. “It has its legends, and its maybe myths.”
Hanzel doesn’t know if the Monster is really out in the lake, but regardless, the 97 sightings since the late 1800’s are still part of the Flathead’s rich history.
Folks that want to report their own sightings can find Laney’s contact info at flatheadlakers.org.