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Chasing Chessie

After 22 years, the Chesapeake Bay Monster is spotted anew

The following is an account of my strange sighting. For what it’s worth, I swear on my life it is without exaggeration.
    My friend Dave and I frequently park my car on the side of Arundel Beach Road and admire the view of the Magothy River while chatting and eating McDonalds. We are down at the location a few nights a week and have been for the past two years, Dave even longer. The early morning hours of August 5, 2014, showed us a sight I could not explain.
    In the passenger seat of a car parked just one foot from the water, I was at the window facing the water. Just before 1:40am, I noticed the tide was really high and beginning to touch the underside of the docks of the surrounding properties.
    The next moment, less then five feet away, I saw a long, snake-like creature slithering through the water with a serpentine motion. This creature was as least 20 feet long; I’d say 25 feet if it had been straight rather than curving in its motion. It did not rise completely out of the water; however, its head and tail (or close to the tail) breached the surface with the rest of the body in between just submerged. In the low light, it was hard to tell if it had scales or leathery skin, but the color looked glossy dark black.
    “Look out my window!” I whispered to Dave. What it was we saw he had no more idea than I.
    First I wondered if it was two separate animals traveling in a line. But the water flow it created as it slithered along at a slow-walking pace told me it was one continuous creature. The water disturbance was an unbroken and continuous form.
    I have seen water moccasins swimming through rivers, but this creature was much, much longer. Its head flared out ever so slightly in an almost slender football shape. Picture an abnormally long king cobra with its hood flared and head and tail floating on the surface of the water. To the best of my knowledge, there are no snakes in the Chesapeake Bay that are close to being that long — let alone hooded like the king cobra.
    We observed this creature for about a minute and a half before it moved slowly upriver in a northwesterly direction along the edge of the nearby docks. Then it disappeared into the darkness.
    Can I prove it? I was so busy trying to figure out what the hell I was looking at that I didn’t think to take a picture with my phone, which was in my pocket.
    When I searched Chessie online, what I found on Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ website matched my description to the letter.
    If Chessie is not an unknown species, I think not too far-fetched is the ­theory that it’s a South American anaconda descended from others escaping from 18th and 19th century sailing ships. I came across this explanation whilst on Wikipedia; admittedly, Wikipedia is not the most reliable source. Still, what I saw was extremely long and one continuous creature.  
    When I called DNR to report I saw Chessie, to my surprise, the first person I spoke with didn’t laugh. Then I talked to Joe Evans, who was very intrigued with my story but disheartened by my lack of a photo. He told me to snap a picture and call him back if I see Chessie again.
    Thus, Dave and I relax down at The Curve (as we call it) every few nights.
    I have seen Chessie and become a believer. At the same time, I have gained new understanding for those who claim to see something spectacular but have no photographic evidence.


A Timeline of Chessie Sightings

1936
    Aberdeen Proving Ground military helicopter pilot reports seeing something big and reptilian writhing around in a restricted sector of the Bush River.

*   *   *

The ’80s were the decade of Chessie, with 78 sightings reported between 1982 and 1988, many in response to the first videotape of Chessie and a subsequent Smithsonian conference on sightings.

July 30, 1980
    “Three smooth slightly triangular dark, thick humps evenly spaced across the water’s surface,” observed by Laura and Norris Perry and guests 25 feet from the Ulmstead Estate Dock on the Magothy River. After a few seconds, it submerged. Length estimated at 20 to 30 feet. Head snakelike.

August 13, 1980
    An unusual creature briefly seen in the Prospect Bay sector of Eastern Bay by Rosamond Hayes of Alexandria.

September 7, 1980
    “A large, strange and awesome thing that was certainly no manatee,” sighted near the Bay Bridge Tunnel by Bob White Sr. of Virginia Beach. The head, four feet out of the water, was followed by a body that extended 15 to 20 feet from the starboard side of his boat to 10 to 12 feet on the port side as he passed over it.

September 13, 1980
    An “unusual and unidentifiable creature” seen by Kent Islanders Trudy and Coleman Guthrie, sailing in the Eastern Bay.

September 17, 1980
    Burton reports the Guthrie sighting in a front-page story for the Baltimore Evening Sun.
    Five-second glimpse of about 12 feet of a bluish-gray serpent-like creature a couple of feet in diameter reported by Linda Worthington from a second-story window above the Gunpowder River. Definitely “something alive,” it had a hump and made a big wake.
    
Memorial Day, 1982
    Chessie is videotaped near the Bay Bridge by Bob and Karen Frew. The grainy black and white tape broadcast on WJZ-TV.

July, 1982
    A sea creature spotted a few miles from the Frew sighting by Clyde and Carol Taylor of Cloverland Beach.    
    “Animate but unidentifiable” conclude Smithsonian Institution scientists after a conference of Chessie sighters.
    Reports bring out accounts of new and earlier sightings. “Many who previously declined to confess sights for fear of ridicule decided to help piece together the puzzle,” Burton reports. “Many Chessie watchers were experienced observers. Among them were Navy and Coast Guard officers, commercial fishermen, captains, people of all walks of life who either lived on the water or cruised the Bay and its tributaries — including both an FBI and CIA agent.”

October 1, 1982
    Something with three humps seen by Dr. Tom Wilson of Bethesda while bluefishing one and a half miles south of the Bay Bridge.

October 3, 1982
    A seven-humped creature 12 to 18 inches in diameter briefly spotted by Bob Hannigan of Ellicott City, then leaving Rock Hall.

A Couple More in ’82
    What appeared to be the head of an animal held up by a stick moving toward Elk River at the head of the Bay seen by Frederick Littleton, a boat shop owner from Wayne, Pa. Binoculars revealed a brownish, wart-covered head as large as a football, two bulges where eyes should be and a tapered snout that it dipped in the water as it swam.
    A swift object with humps moving in unison topped by an animal-like head seen by Ernest Bilhuber at the South River above Riva.

August 8, 1983
    Bilhuber’s description matched by Anne Arundel Countians Jeff Windsor and Bill Welder southeast of Bloody Point Light.

October, 1983
    On a clear windless morning, Baltimorean John Hoffman and friend Ruben Ribaya had a shock while fishing. From Hoffman — the only person Burton knew beforehand — came “the most believable and vivid account” of a Chessie sighting.
    “Water was like a mirror, rippled only by numerous patches of small schools of bluefish chasing baitfish and gulls diving to snatch baitfish,” Burton reported from their account.
    Until they reached Holland Point, above Chesapeake Beach.
    “It was eerie,” Hoffman told Burton. “We looked down from the flying bridge and saw a wake going across the bow. At first, we thought it was a telephone pole. Then we realized it was moving. There were 20 to 25 feet of it visible, and it wasn’t propelling itself sideways like a snake. Instead there was vertical movement like a serpent. As it got 50 feet off the bow, it was moving fast enough that its wake was six to eight inches high — and right where some of the blues had been.
    “I didn’t see a head, just the tail part, but that was big enough. Its wake was like that turned over by water skis. I didn’t want to speed up for fear of spooking it or hitting it, but we got a perfectly good look from the fly bridge, and I’m sure we saw Chessie.”

March and May, 1985
    Six hundred feet from his home on the East River in Mathews, Va., Bill Resse saw Chessie’s snake-like head. She swam with vertical humps, was a foot in diameter, 20 feet long and greenish-brown.
    On hearing Bill’s story, his wife confessed a similar sighting she ­hadn’t mentioned for fear of being suspected of losing her mind.
    Rising again at sunup a couple of months later, Reese saw a smaller Chessie about 10 feet closer. He got within 30 feet of it, but each time he approached, the creature would dive and resurface 50 feet away. Unlike the other Chessie, this one swam horizontally like a snake, not with humps rising above the water.
    No more sightings after the disappearance of seven resident mallards.

Summer, 1992
    A serpent’s head and humps reported by sailors near Smith Point.

1993-’97
    No credible sightings. Has she moved on? Sought new hunting grounds as bluefish runs deteriorated? Or was she so intimidated by encounters with humans that she chose seclusion on the floor of the deepest holes of the Chesapeake, sharing the dwelling of toadfish?
    Chessie is dead, according to Baltimore City Paper front-page speculation on June 23, 1993.


Bill Burton’s Own Sighting

    Long like a telephone pole, gray like a battleship, holes where eyes should be, head held high, body wiggling eerily yet excitingly from side to side serpent-like, and with a giant bluefish in her mouth, two snake-like toddlers in tow, each munching on smaller blues — and it all happened after leaving a ­Scottish pub on St. Patrick’s Day.

September, 1985, 2nd week of the month, on a Sunny, clear Tuesday afternoon. Myself and high school friend had met a few days earlier in a local mall, and decided to go fishing on his boat. We met at the Willoughby public boat ramp, near the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel. After launching, and motoring out to Fort Wool, near the south island of HRBT, we began drift fishing for flounder. A short while later, we noticed a large hump rise out of the water near the Fort Wool Island rocks, in a swirling eddy, where trash was floating on the water. We were puzzled as to what it could be? No fins, maybe 6' to 8'ft. hump visible. About 5-10 minutes later, it resurfaced about 75 ft. out in the channel. We could see an 8'ft. high neck, and lizard-like head, looking away, toward the NE! It submerged! About 5-10 minutes later, my friend shouted! I looked up, and his rod was bent over double, moving from my right to left. Suddenly, this huge beast rose up out of the water,long slender neck, serpent-like head, two large diamond-shaped flippers (front),and thrust both flippers (simultaneously), with several great thrusts. In shock, panic took over! The boat rocked violently from the water displacement when the creature rose 10-15 ft. behind our boat! I lurched forward to get the anchor, which wasn't even down! My friend hastily pulled the starter cord to start the motor, it kicked over, and we raced away! The creature quickly submerged after three quick thrusts of those diamond-shaped flippers! We raced toward the Ocean View Beach shoreline, stopping about 50'ft. off-shore. My friend looked at me and said, "we should report this!" I said, "No way! Can't you see what would be said the next time you go to court with a defendant? His lawyer would say, Your honor, I would just ask one question of the officer, is it true you have seen a living Dinosaur? Our careers would be over!" Two large helocopter's were pulling anti-submarine mine detection sleds, one about 1 mile east of us, and one in Willoughby Bay, during this incident.

Wow. Some story! I am impressed. Will run your addition to Chessie lore in an upcoming paper. Keep reading.

Many thanks!
Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor