Lake Tahoe was formed over 2 million years ago and was named after the local Washoe Indian tribes’ word for lake. Even when the local tribes inhabited the area hundreds of years ago, myths about the lake were already surfacing. These stories include a singing fish in Meeks Bay and a bird that lived at the bottom of the lake that snatched up tribal members. Washoe natives believed that it was taboo for them to go out on the lake, which probably kept children from going into the water and drowning. Even in the early 20th century, people believed that because of the high altitude of the lake, the water was less dense and you couldn’t float on the surface.
Other myths and legends that are part of Tahoe history include submerged mob victims, a bottom of solid ice, a Loch Ness-like beast and a few hauntings.
Bodies that were dumped by the mafia during the 1920s and ’30’s is a long standing legend at Tahoe. It is said that these executed mob members in cement shoes have sunk to the bottom of the lake, and because of the cold temperatures, have been preserved with their suits intact. Other legends state that the bottom of the 1,600 foot deep lake is solid ice or that there is a hole somewhere on the bottom that is linked to an underground river system that leads to Pyramid Lake in the Nevada desert.
Famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau is said to have had a brush with something frightening in a deepwater dive in the mid-1970s. “The world isn’t ready for what was down there,” is the quote most commonly credited. Cousteau never released any photographs or data from the dive, adding to the mystery and legend. Cousteau may have meet up with Tahoe’s most famous legend, Tahoe Tessie.
Legends of Tahoe Tessie, which is either a plesiosaur (supposedly female) or other large prehistoric fish, have been around since members of the Washoe and Paiute Indian tribes told white explorers and settlers about a monster that lived in the lake. The reported modern sightings of Tahoe Tessie date back to 1972 and the stories were used as a clever marketing ploy to attract would-be monster hunters to the shores of the lake. Stories abound of Tahoe Tessie sightings, but other myths exist in addition to the mystical water monster.
At the Tahoe Biltmore, legend has it that a showgirl committed suicide there and her ghost still haunts the casino. Across the street at the Cal-Neva, Marilyn Monroe is said to taunt visitors by turning a hall light on and off, and room 101 on the first floor is continuously cold, even in the summer. Additionally, over at the Ehrman Mansion at Sugar Pine Point State Park, park rangers believe they have come in contact with a ghostly visitor.
Photo by [mattwi1s0n]