The Unexplained Mysteries of Lake Tahoe

Is there a prehistoric creature living in a cave in the lake? Are the hundreds of dead bodies preserved at the bottom? We investigate.

It’s said that French Explorer Jacques Cousteau did a deepwater dive into Lake Tahoe in the 1970’s, only to emerge with no documentation or photography. It is said that Cousteau emerged from the dive and claimed “the world isn’t ready for what was down there.”

What the heck did he see? There are numerous rumors around Lake Tahoe that might answer that very question. While these are only rumors, they paint a picture of the mystery that lies 1,644 feet down to the bottom of the deep lake.

While Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful places on the planet, it also holds an interesting history. With history comes mysteries. Here are two of the most famous mysteries surrounding the famous Lake Tahoe:

Tahoe Tessie

We’ve all heard of the Loch Ness Monster, but did you know there is a similar creature that’s been spotted in Lake Tahoe?

The stories were first told by the Washoe and Paiute tribes in the mid-1800’s, saying the creature resided in an underwater tunnel beneath Cave Rock. There have been many sightings since:

  • In the 1950’s, two off-duty officers claimed to see a large, black hump emerge from the water and keep speed with their boat going over 60 mph.
  • In the 1950’s, two divers reported finding an underwater cave, and a creature shot out, leaving the silt stirred. Where the creature had been, there were two large fin-prints.
  • Sometime in the late 1990s, a kayaking instructor reported seeing a glimpse of what looked like a green two-person kayak flip over and immediately sink. When he approached the area in a speedboat, there were no traces of the kayak, and his students did not report flipping over at any time.
  • In 2004, an off-duty bartender on the Tahoe Queen took a picture of a black hump in the water, which he claims is the top of the creature’s head.
  • In 2006 a family vacationing near Tahoe sighted a large, black, scaly looking creature similar in appearance to a sturgeon with an upturned white nose. However, the creature moved up-and-down like a mammal, instead of side-to-side like a reptile.

The Tahoe Tessie has since become a popular icon for local businesses to use as marketing. It’s a fun theory to tell to friends at your local watering hole. Photos of the friendly creature are sparse and probably fabricated. Like this one:

Dead Bodies in the Lake

As the story goes, a fisherman snagged something in the deep water offshore and it released quickly. Once the fisherman’s hook got the the surface, it had a human ear attached to it. The dead bodies at the bottom of Lake Tahoe are theorized to be the product of the mafia, who would “get rid of” their enemies and dump the bodies in the lake.

Locals have said that there is a section of the lake near the South Lake casinos called “The Grave” and if you were to take a submarine down to the bottom you would find hundreds of bodies wearing clothes from the the early to mid-1900’s. Due to the near-freezing temperatures at the bottom of the lake, the bodies would be highly preserved.

We do know the mob was influential on the Tahoe area in the 60’s and 70’s. Frank Sinatra owned the Cal-Neva and was rumored to have secret tunnels underneath, most famously known to accompany meetings for JFK and Marilyn Monroe. The owner of Bills Casino, Richard Chartrand, was killed in a car bomb in 1968 (classic mob hit). The stories of mob activity in the region are endless.

Let’s not forget, The Godfather 2 had a scene where Fredo was killed and dumped in the lake:

Who knows what’s true and what isn’t. Is Tahoe Tessie a creature that’s been living in the lake since the Ice Age? Did the mafia really dump hundreds of bodies in the lake? They may never be proven, but it’s certainly fun to contemplate…

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California


  1. I wonder if millions of years ago a dinosaur drowned in the lake and feel to the bottom, froze solid and on occasion bloats up from a slow discomposure, rises to the surface, thaws a little releases the gases in a turmoil on the water’s surface as is reported, and then sinks back down again once the floatation of the gases is gone?

  2. I think a lot of people are very sincere about believing there never was any Cousteau expedition to Lake Tahoe. After all, if you check his Wikipedia page, for example, there’s no Lake Tahoe film listed. The thing is, I lived in Northern California during the 1970s, and I distinctly recall commercials for Cousteau’s Lake Tahoe dive special, which was aired as part of some local news broadcast. It DEFINITELY happened. Whether he actually said “The world isn’t ready for what was down there,” I don’t know. But I do recall hearing my father repeat that in like 1979. So this isn’t some internet story. It’s been around a lot longer than that, and it definitely has at least some basis in fact.

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