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.