Encounters with the Unknown—Alternate Perceptions Magazine, February 2015
JENNIE THE LAKE MONSTER: Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
by: Mary Sutherland
Lake Geneva, located in Walworth County has a long history of monster stories. The early indigenous people documented these strange water creatures by creating earthen mounds to depict their size and shape. Known today as “Panther” Mounds, these effigies once adorned the shore of Flat Iron Park in the city of Lake Geneva. Another one of these effigy type mounds is located between Burlington and New Munster off Hwy 83.
From their oral history, The Potawatomi Indians tell of the great battles that took place between the “Water Panthers” and the “Thunderbirds” off the shores of a peninsula called Conference Point. The waters off this point are the deepest part of the lake and reported to be the site of mystical events. According to “Wisconsin Indian Place Legends”, re-told by Linda Godfrey in her book “Monsters of Wisconsin”, Native American Indian Legend tells about how the Thunderbirds dropped their huge eggs at the water monsters that defended themselves by rolling the waters back at them. The greatest force of the battles, allegedly carved the bluffs around Devil's Lake near Baraboo. The Thunderbirds won and flew away into the sky to places unknown. Sightings of The Water Panthers that survived these great battles bear evidence today of a time long forgotten by modern man.
July 1892, three fishermen officially reported seeing Lake Geneva’s Jennie. According to the report, Ed Fay and two boys had just called it quits for the day when a massive, reptilian head splashed upward from the lake showing an approximate ten foot long neck. They described the water beast to have been covered with brown scales that changed to pale green on the underside.
Ten years later, in 1902, Mrs. D. Reid and five other people camping in the lake’s Reid Park reported seeing a creature ‘coiling and rolling about in the water not far from shore.’ According to a September article in the ‘Milwaukee Sentinel’ the serpent was about 25- 85 feet in length. It went on to say:
“A sea serpent actually appeared in Geneva Lake Wednesday afternoon. There is no disputing the fact, for ‘His ‘Snakeship’ came to the surface of the water in broad daylight….It was no ordinary water snake, either, but a serpent somewhere from twenty five to eighty feet long.” “The first of the party to see it was a Mrs. Buckingham of Sharon, WI whose son John was the captain of the Geneva Lake Steamship. Mrs. Buckingham alerted Mrs. Reid and the rest of the party. Mrs. Reid’s son, Willie and a young man named Carl Henders fearlessly rowed out on the lake to see what the creature might be, but ‘His Snakeship’ immediately submerged. The group compared its length to that of the SS Aurora, which measured sixty five feet in length.”
Later that year, another sighting was reported, stating the creature rose again to scare the devil out of the respected Delevan preacher, Rev. M. N. Clark.
Little has been reported since then, but I have found that Lake Geneva and Burlington is in an area known for “karsts”, which have produced underground cave and river systems from the northern portion of Wisconsin, following the Great Lakes down to and through Southeastern Wisconsin. The areas of bottomless lakes in Burlington and Lake Geneva have undergone earthquakes in 1906, 1907 and 1909, 1914, 1916, 1931, 1938 and 1947. One of these quakes could have shifted the entrance keeping these lake monsters from surfacing from the underground river and cave systems. It is of my opinion that where ever you find an area with bottomless lakes, you will hear stories of lake monsters. At the bottom of the lakes, large shafts created by sink holes lead to underground rivers and caves where these creatures thrive. They may use the shafts to enter our world for possible feeding, breeding or raising their young up to a certain age. These particular shafts have been found and documented by Frank Joseph, Mary Sutherland and team while researching the underwater pyramids of Rock Lake, located near Lake Mills, Wisconsin.
Mary Sutherland is a lecturer, researcher and author from Burlington, Wisconsin. Her books include:
The Red Haired Giants, Atlantis in North America
Lost in Time, In Search of Ancient Man
Revelations: Truths Revealed
Living in the Light: Believe in the Magic
Mysteries: Exploring the Mysteries of Burlington and Southeastern Wisconsin
Haunted Burlington, Wisconsin