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For a minute Davis sat in his boat, spellbound, waiting for the head to rise up. But the creature dove down instead, and Davis fled to shore.
As early as 1867, white settlers believed that there was indeed something unusual in the lake. That year there were a number of sightings. A man named Harbeck saw a "saurian" in the water several times and claimed to have once encountered it on shore, where the creature "hissed at him." Another time it grabbed his trolling hook and pulled his boat along; he believed his escape was miraculous. A Mr. R. Hassam saw the creature in the rushes at lake's edge. At first he thought it was a tree limb. "On closer examination he saw it was a thing of life and stuck it with a spear, but could no more hold it than an ox," reported the local paper. Fred Seaver saw it twice, once after the creature seized his trolling hook and pulled his boat "at a rushing speed" more than half a mile, until Seaver cut the line. Swimmers avoided the lake that year.
The best sighting occurred in 1882. Ed McKenzie and D.W. Seybert were rowing boats on the lake, racing each other to a sandbar. A little ahead they saw what appeared to be a floating log. It proved to be some sort of animal, 3 feet of it above the surface. It opened its mouth about a foot and dove out of sight, only to reappear almost immediately next to McKenzie's craft. McKenzie later stated that it was as long as his boat and that it was the color of a pickerel.
"Strike him with the oar," Seybert yelled, according to the Aug. 31, 1882, issue of the Lake Mills Spike newspaper. McKenzie screamed, stood up in his boat and called to shore for help.
"Bring a gun! Bring a gun! There's a big thing out here. Come quick!" he shouted to witnesses on a nearby boat landing. One of them, John Lund, said he clearly saw the creature, though at first he took it to be a man struggling in the water. Lund soon recognized the creature, however, as the one he had encountered while fishing just the week before. It had snapped his trolling line, but not before pulling on it so hard that it cut Lund's hand.
Not all the witnesses agreed that the creature was threatening. Ol Hurd, on the boat landing with Lund, thought it resembled a huge dog. Whatever it was, it looked dangerous to another witness named Wilson. He grabbed a shotgun and took a swift boat to McKenzie and Seybert. But when he arrived the creature had fled.
"The air all around was heavy with a most sickening odor," reported the Lake Mills Spike. McKenzie was pale. His teeth were chattering.
Then, as today, witnesses to the incredible sight were taunted; in McKenzie's case, however, it was not the story that was doubted so much as his courage. He hotly replied, "Let them talk about striking it with an oar, or anything. There isn't one of 'em would do it if they'd see it come up sudden like, with its mouth wide open!"
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