Tag Archives: Tahoe Tessie

Tahoe Tessie

Text: “I was born in Tennessee, and my parents decided that they wanted to move to Northern Nevada when I was only one-year-old. When me and my family made the move, we initially settled in Virginia City, but my parents soon decided to build a house in Reno. 35 minutes away from Reno is Lake Tahoe, where a third of the lake falls in Nevada and the other parts reside in California. Lake Tahoe is extremely deep, one of the deepest in the country, and growing up, there was always a legend that if you went too deep in the lake, you would get eaten by Tahoe Tessie. Tahoe is so deep that no one necessarily knows what is down there, so when people talk about what is at the bottom of the lake, Tessie is there. It is said that if you ever go to Tahoe or you go on a boat in the lake, stay in the boat and in shallow waters so you don’t get eaten.”

Context: My informant – a 24-year-old woman from Reno, Nevada – told me this story, drawing on the local legend she heard from parents and teachers while growing up. She explained to me that her family would always spend their summers up the mountain at Lake Tahoe, and while extremely beautiful, it was always emphasized to her to stay in the shallow parts of the lake and to not swim out too deep, or else the lake monster Tahoe Tessie would drag her to the bottom of the lake. Lake Tahoe is extremely deep, so it is impossible to swim or dive to the bottom; if one were to get dragged down by Tahoe Tessie, there wouldn’t be any chance of rescue. She remembers this legend being told to her by adults all around the lake, serving as a warning to swim in areas where your feet can still touch the sand beneath.

Analysis: Upon hearing this legend, I was able to quickly draw a correlation between Tahoe Tessie and the infamous Nessie, AKA the Loch Ness Monster. Alongside the names of the creatures being virtually the same, they both dwell in the depths of freshwater lakes and incite fear among lake goers. Dating back to ancient times, the Loch Ness Monster has been believed to inhabit Loch Ness, Scotland since the Picts (northern British peoples in the Middle Ages) first created stone carvings of a large water creature with flippers. As time has gone on, the Loch Ness Monster has maintained its popularity, with people traveling to Loch Ness to see the creature or to encounter it while swimming.

There were claims that date back hundreds of years of the Loch Ness Monster surfacing to bite or attack swimmers, paralleling the legend that is Tahoe Tessie. My informant said that Tessie would surface to drag children to the bottom of the lake, and it was always told to her by adults as a cautionary tale to stay in shallow waters. Both legends act as warnings about any potential dangers lurking in the deep, but I also believe that these legends are both used by parents to convince their children to stay close to the shore and in their eyesight; Tahoe Tessie and the Loch Ness Monster are used to fearmonger children to ultimately keep them safe from drowning. On top of this, both creatures demonstrate the human fascination with creatures in the depths of waters, and it highlights the shared anxieties about what can occur in the natural world.


Tikkanen, Amy. “Loch Ness monster.” Britannica, 2024, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Loch-Ness-monster-legendary-creature. 

Tahoe Tessie

Background: The informant frequently visited Lake Tahoe growing up. She knows a lot about the Lake itself and told me she’d heard this legend.

SD: So this is the story of Tahoe Tessie, uh, named after Nessie which is, uh, the more colloquial name for the Loch Ness Monster, they like to call–I don’t know who they is in this scenario–the people of the Loch, I guess, like to call her, I believe it’s a woman, I believe that the Loch Ness Monster is a female according to the lore. But yeah, so it’s Tahoe Tessie, it’s Lake Tahoe, the supposed monster that lives in Lake Tahoe, I would assume it’s akin to the Loch Ness Monster–kind of a vague, dinosaur-esque crypted. No one has confirmed a sighting, I don’t believe that anyone actually believes in it, uh, but the lake is one of the like deepest lakes in California, uh, or the US I think, uh, there’s an underwater forest, all that good stuff.

Me: And how did you hear about Tahoe Tessie?

SD: I don’t know, actually. I think it’s just, you go somewhere a fair amount, you pick up the lore. Who knows which time I picked it up?

Me: Do you think many people believe in Tahoe Tessie?

SD: Uh, I really don’t. I think it’s just more people making fun of the Loch Ness Monster, uh, and making their own thing out of Lake Tahoe. But I think it’s a legend, so maybe I do think some people think it’s true.

Context: This piece was collected during an in person conversation.

Thoughts: It’s interesting that a very tourist attraction like Lake Tahoe has developed their own legend, and the informant–being a tourist–picked it up on one of her trips there so it’s not just a legend perpetuated by the people that live or are from there. This legend is passed on as perhaps a way to entice people to visit and make it even more of a tourist destination. It builds on the idea that it could be true and would exist in our own world. Since the informant said there have not been any confirmed sightings, I wonder if people have memorates that they perhaps told others and it caught on that way. It makes me think about what would be considered an official sighting if this idea is believed by some people. Or maybe it was a creation simply for the tourism industry, in which case Tahoe Tessie would be fakelore. This is an example of cryptozoology.

For another version of this legend, see History.com’s page on the Loch Ness Monster: https://www.history.com/topics/folklore/loch-ness-monster

Tahoe Tessie

Main Piece

LL: “Over the break, I went to Lake Tahoe for the first time. It was really interesting because a lot of the shops there sell all these items about a lake monster that is supposed to have lived in the water for years and years.”

Informant: “How long is that?”

LL: “I think she – oh yeah it’s supposed to be a female…Tessie…is supposed to be a dinosaur from one of the later periods, who survived until modern day.”

Informant: “So does it basically have the same theories as the Loch Ness monster?”

LL: “Basically. [laughter] I think Tahoe wanted its own Loch Ness, and since it is one of the deepest bodies of water in the US, they can get away with making up the crazy things that live in there.”


Tahoe Tessie represents community that created an item of “fakelore” that has been accepted by many younger people, who did not know any better. Most of the imagery of the lake monster is lifted directly from the Nessie legend, but as I learned, Tessie is mostly depicted in a more feminine nature. She is often shown as smaller in size and in the presence of children. The creature was crafted as a gentle one, which could easily be marketed to families visiting the area.