While none of them are nearly as well known as Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster, North America has its fair share of sea serpents and lake monsters. So far on our podcast we have Covered Champ, Lake Champlain’s very own lake monster, Old Greeny, the Finger Lakes Lake Monster, and now Chessie, the Chesapeake Bay Sea Serpent.
Background on Chessie
The Chesapeake Bay Monster, or as Maryland locals have nicknamed it, Chessie, is a giant sea serpent estimated to be around 30 feet long, about as thick as a telephone pole, and dark in color. Almost all sightings of Chessie occur between July and October. Despite Chessie’s preference for shallow water and swimming near small fishing boats and swimmers, there is no evidence Chessie is a vicious creature or has any intention to harm a human. Though I personally wouldn’t want to f**k around and find out. I feel like a broken record here, but as I recently said in my blog about Sea Monsters attacking German U-boats, I’m skeptical about the existence of land cryptids, but sea monsters are fair game. I mean the Kraken may not be real but giant squid sure as hell are.
Since 1846, there have been a bunch of Chessie sightings. This is not an exhaustive list of sightings, but here are some of the highlights. There are definitely more out there if you’re looking for more Chessie content.
1846: The First Reported Sighting
The first potential sighting of Chessie dates all the way back to 1846 when Captain Lawson reported seeing a strange creature in the water between the Delmarva Peninsula and modern day Virginia Beach. According to Captain Lawson he saw a small headed creature near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. I’m not sure who this guy is or how credible he is, but his report is potentially the earliest recorded sighting of Chessie.
In 1934, two perch fishermen claimed they saw a strange creature emerge from the bay for air. The creature reportedly had the body of a horse and a head the size of a football.
In 1943, two fishermen saw a 12 foot log floating in the water about 75 feet away from their rowboat. The men thought nothing of it until the log got closer and raised its head out of the water, lethargically taking in its surroundings. They claimed that the creature’s head was the size of a football and resembled a horse's head. The men panicked, but before they could row to safety, Chessie dove back into the water and swam off exposing the rest of its body. All told the men estimated the creature was double the size they originally projected, around 24 feet long.
In 1963, a Helicopter pilot claimed to have seen Chessie while flying over the Lower Bush River area. He wrote in a letter “I assure you that Chessie exists, or my eyes were deceiving me”
1982: The First Footage of Chessie
Prior to 1982, there were no photos or videos of Chessie, just hearsay and various credible peoples accounts.
On a clear night in 1982, Robert Frew and his wife Karen were entertaining guests along the Chesapeake Bay. Around 7:30pm,Robert remembers saying “Look at that thing floating over there... Was it a log?” The seven foot long object was swimming against the tide and appeared to have been propelling itself toward a group of swimmers. The creature disappeared and reappeared moments later and appeared to be almost 40 feet long. Robert, a trained wildlife management expert, was unable to identify the creature he saw “what we saw is not a run of the mill animal.” They watched in awe before realizing they should probably document this creature and scrambled to get a camera to record it.
In Classic Cryptozoology fashion, we have easily the least convincing grainest video I have ever seen to go off of. You can decide for yourself but I don’t see anything I could mistake for a sea serpent. I was unable to embed the video so you can watch it here.
Surprisingly, scientists at the Smithsonian didn’t just write this off as the nonsense it probably is. In fact, they scrutinized this garbage grainy video and decided that the creature was “animated but unidentifiable” and that they were “basically non committal but not skeptical.” If you watched the video I think you would agree with me that there definitely is nothing there but I digress. Further, Johns Hopkins Applied Physic Lab enhanced the footage and concluded that the movement was a snakelike or eel like aquatic animal that was as round as a telephone pole with humps along its back and a football sized head. I have no idea how they could have gotten all of this from a video that shows literally nothing but they are scientists and I’m a lowly blogger / podcaster.
Another theory suggests that Chessie might be a Basilosaurus that somehow survived an ice age extinction 34 million years ago. This theory is largely based on the fact that a lot of the descriptions of Chessie are very similar in appearance to the Basilosaurus. I do have a hard time believing this because modern whales are the descendants of Basilosaurus and are significantly better adapted for the environment. Also it seems impossible that a creature found so close to the shore in a heavily utilized waterway has gone pretty much undetected for so long.
The final theory I’m going to discuss today is that Chessie is actually an escaped Anaconda. I absolutely love this theory, but I think it’s probably wrong. The theory goes that back in the day sailors used to keep snakes in the hulls of their ships to deal with the rat problem. Once these old ships were abandoned and decayed in Baltimore Harbor, the snakes escaped into the city's sewer system and survived the winter in the warm pipes and have been reproducing ever since. I love this idea, it reminds me of NYC sewer gators, but for the same reason we don’t actually have massive albino alligators in the NYC sewers, I doubt Anacondas could survive the winter. Also although Anacondas are in fact aquatic snakes to the best of my knowledge they live in the Amazon River, which is freshwater, not in salt water.
Well I hope you enjoyed reading this blog as much as I enjoyed writing it. Let us know your thoughts on Chessie. You should check out our latest episode with special guest paleontologist Nizer Ibriham if you would like to learn more about Chessie and dinosaurs in general! As always, Stay Spooky Misfits!