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Finding Bessie

Mar 5, 2021 | Jessica Rolph
Read the Finding Bessie story.

Join us for a story about Bessie, a lake monster that's a lot closer than Scotland, and the real estate agent who doesn't know how he'll sell the house that she's claimed as her own!


Chris Evans, our fictional storyteller, is a real estate agent with a highly desirable location to market—a home on Morse Lake, with a boat dock for easy access to the water. Sounds like an easy pitch, right? But what if there’s an unexpected neighbor in the mix, one that makes homebuyers a little uncomfortable? What if Morse Lake is also home to its very own lake monster?


I first saw Bessie on a bright, spring day in April. I was inspecting the house about to go on the market, a real gem. Panoramic views of the lake, tall ceilings, and its own boat dock—I thought I had it made. This house should sell quickly and over asking price. It was a great start to spring.


I was out on the dock, looking over the water and daydreaming about the summer days ahead, full of boating, skiing, and long evenings on the lake, fishing and talking with friends. It seemed like the very air went still. The whole world was enveloped in this sudden hush, and I saw a ripple in the water. There was a sudden splash as a large...something broke the surface.  I had no idea what I had just witnessed, but immediately starting coming up with rational explanations. The most likely one? Exhaustion. It had been a long week. I must have been seeing things.


After that day, I tried not to think about what I’d seen. And it was easy—mostly. I had more houses to sell, after all, and plenty of planning to keep my mind occupied. But the house on the lake was getting lots of attention online, and I had open houses booked right away. After just a few of these, I knew what I’d seen that first day wasn’t a hallucination, and I wasn’t going to be able to ignore whatever was in the lake.


I decided to ask my uncle about what I’d seen. He’d been visiting Morse Lake for over 20 years and seemed to know just about everyone in Cicero.


“I saw something the other day,” I started out, trying for casual. Uncle Greg raised his eyebrows at me expectantly. “In the water. I’m selling the Morgan house, you know the one I mean?” Greg nodded. “I was on the dock and something came out of the water. I don’t know what. It was big, though, not a fish.”


Uncle Greg just stared at me. Finally, he shook his head and said, “I knew Tom and Betty Morgan. They built that house, you know. They’d tell me some strange stories about something in the lake.” Uncle Greg grinned at me. “They thought we had our very own Loch Ness monster. Called her Bessie. But come on, Chris. It’s Morse Reservoir. You think they threw a lake monster in there when they were digging this out in the 50s?”


Of course, I didn’t think I’d seen a monster. I was 42 years old, with a family, a mortgage, and a solid career. But what had I seen?


“I don’t think we need to return anything to Scotland, if that's what you mean,” I told him, smiling. “But I saw something, and it’s making it hard to sell the house.”


Uncle Greg sighed and filled up his coffee cup. “Chris, I’ll tell you something I’ve never told anyone else—cause they’d think I was crazy. Maybe I am, but if so, it must be catching." I leaned forward, relieved that somebody else had seen something. “I saw her,” Greg said, looking me in the eye. “I saw Bessie, and she saw me. This has to stay between us, and it has a lot to do with Tom and Betty too.”


When Uncle Greg told me his story about Bessie, I almost didn’t believe him. Me! I’d seen her myself, but it seemed so outlandish. A lake monster? In Cicero? Crazy.


“I was over at Tom and Betty’s place. This was about 20 or 25 years ago, but I’ll remember that day no matter how many years go by. We were loading up their little fishing boat. Tom and I planned to head out for some fishing while Betty probably enjoyed some quiet time. Their three boys were grown and out of the house by then, but still young enough to stop by for dinner a couple of nights every week. I told Tom that’s why she was helping us load up the boat—so she could see the backside of us going the other direction.”


Uncle Greg laughed a little but for the most part, his face and tone was serious. He was a bit of a jokester, so I still thought he might be putting me on. “Tom and I headed towards one of our favorite spots, they were always biting there, but nothing. We sat there for maybe two hours without even a nibble.” He shook his head, remembering. “You know, Morse Lake isn’t very deep. Maybe 10 feet? I don’t know where she came from, but she can’t be that big. Bessie, I mean.”


“You saw her?” I asked. “I couldn’t tell what I saw, but now that I think about it, it was maybe the size of deer. A big buck, for sure, but not a dinosaur. Of course, I didn’t see the whole thing.”


“She came out of the water right in front of us. I was shocked—you can imagine, right? She looked just like those drawing of the Loch Ness one, but smaller, with huge eyes. I sat there with my mouth hanging open, just staring, but Tom started laughing. He yelled out something about knowing she was the one keeping the fish away. And here’s the really crazy part, if you can believe it. She looked right back at him, and she laughed.”


Uncle Greg laughed himself, a short, disbelieving guffaw, and looked at me. I didn’t know what to make of his story. Sure, I saw something. But maybe it was just an exceptionally large fish, making huge waves, and the light hit is just right. Or maybe someone had a pet alligator that had escaped into the lake. I was ready to believe almost anything as long as it wasn’t a mythological creature.


“Don’t believe me?” Uncle Greg asked, smiling. I shrugged, but he continued. “I know it’s hard to believe, but since you saw something over there at the Morgan place, I figured I’d tell you. The thing is, Tom and Betty? I think they were feeding her, treating her like a pet. Tom would laugh about it with me, but Betty wouldn’t say a word. She was probably the smarter one there, keeping quiet.”


“How do you know it’s a female?” I asked. “Did you see it again after that day?”


Uncle Greg chuckled. “Once Bessie gets a look at you, she likes to play pranks. So yeah, I saw her. And her babies. She’s a mama sea monster, and you either saw her or one of her little ones. I think you’re going to have an interesting time, selling that house.”


Uncle Greg liked a good story, but I soon found out, this one wasn’t just a tall tale. He was right about selling the house. The very next day I had an open house scheduled with a middle-aged couple, and I found out just how on the mark Greg was about Bessie liking pranks. 


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The morning of May 2nd is one that I’ll always remember. I hadn’t seen Bessie for over a week. Though Uncle Greg’s warning kept sounding in my mind, I had to sell the Morgan house. I was straightening up around the dock, going over the list of features to myself and preparing to meet some potential buyers, Helen and Tony Dowell. In the rush to show the home, I’d almost forgotten about Greg’s story and my own experiences. I was primed to sell.


As I turned towards the back of the house to see if any last-minute adjustments were needed, I heard the strangest sound. It was almost like the noise water makes as the last of it goes down the drain, a gurgling. I turned and saw her. No denying it this time. Bessie, or one of her children, was halfway out of the water, watching me.


I was stunned, motionless, terrified, and awestruck at the same time. I fumbled in my pocket for my phone, prepared to snap a photo or grab video. Nobody would believe this! Just as I had the phone in hand, Bessie opened her mouth and made the sound again. A low chuckle, or so it seemed to me. Her eyes were huge, just like Greg said, and she was about the size of a small horse or pony. The phone fell out of my hands and she turned and disappeared back into the water.


The Dowells were due to arrive any minute, and here I was, faced with a moral dilemma. Could I really sell this house to somebody without telling them about Bessie? And how in the world was I supposed to tell anyone besides Uncle Greg and still show my face in town and run a business? I told myself that the Dowells would not be offering cash, today, for the house, so I’d just move forward with the showing as planned and figure out the rest later. Then I picked my phone up off the ground, froze for a moment as I remembered what I’d just seen, and headed inside.


Helen and Tony pulled into the drive not five minutes later, and I started the tour. They loved the custom kitchen, the tall ceilings, and huge, waterfront windows. But what they really wanted to see, they told me, was the boat dock, the backyard, and the lake.


As we stepped out onto the deck, I invited them to relax for a few moments, have a seat on the patio furniture that, incidentally, came with the home, and I scanned the water’s edge. Seeing nothing to cause alarm, we made our way to the boat dock and stood together, looking out over Morse Lake.


“I love it,” Helen said softly. “What’s the asking price?”


I started to answer, mentally preparing myself to discuss negotiations with the seller, one of the Morgan boys, now living in Colorado, but before I could get the number out, the dock heaved under our feet. Helen stumbled, grabbing on to Tony’s arm to stop from falling into the water.


“What in the world was that?” Tony demanded, looking down into the water. Helen started to walk off the dock but not quickly enough. A wave, or a splash, really, swelled up over the side and soaked our shoes. Small pebbles and sticks started to shoot up out of the water, most, I noticed, coming from underneath the dock.


“This is crazy!” Helen declared, and together with Tony, started back towards the house. They quickly veered around it, heading, I knew, for their car, and sanity. Stunned, I watched their retreat, hoped they’d stay quiet about the whole thing and suspected they would. Like Helen said, this was crazy.


As the sound of their engine faded away, I walked back out on the dock, squelching in my wet shoes. “What was that?” I asked out loud. And maybe she heard me, because Bessie stuck her head back out of the water, not 3’ away from where I stood, and laughed. I didn’t bother to go for my phone this time. We stayed there, watching each other, as I wondered what I was going to do about the Morgan house.


I stayed on the dock for an hour, looking out at Morse Lake. I came up with plans but discarded them quickly. Bessie, after watching for a few minutes, must have had something better to do than look at me and disappeared back into the water.


I was finally drawn out of my musing by a ringing in my pocket. Dylan Morgan was calling.


“Hey, Chris,” he said from somewhere in Colorado. “Kind of a weird request here. I was talking to my mom, and she wanted to know if you’d drive over for a chat.”


What Dylan thought of as a weird request was really a stroke of luck. If anyone knew what I should do about Bessie, it was probably Betty Morgan. I headed into Indianapolis. Betty, widowed now for eight years, lived in a retirement community on the north side. I’d spoken with her a few times when we’d first talked about selling the home. She was a bright, vivacious lady, and I looked forward to seeing her.


“Chris!” she said, opening the door of her apartment. “Come on in! Thanks for driving all the way here. I have some things to tell you that really shouldn’t be told over the phone.”


I followed Betty into her small kitchen. It smelled like chocolate chip cookies and coffee—heaven, in other words.


“I know about Bessie,” I said, sparing her the small talk. I knew it was hard subject to bring up, and we had a lot of ground to cover. “She made herself known, really.”


Betty simply sipped her coffee and watched me over the rim of her mug.


“I love that old girl,” she finally said. “I treated her like a pet at first, but Chris, she’s not a pet.”


“Oh, I know that!” I assured her, thinking about the stones that had sailed out of the water towards my potential buyers.


Betty laughed. “She’s been having some of her pranks, I take it! But that’s not what I mean either. Bessie is special. She’s smart. Sometimes I’d expect her to talk to me, she had such a look in her eyes. Of course, she never did, but she’s not something you can put in a cage, or in a pool. I tried to explain to her what was happening when I had to leave. I warned her to stay hidden from everyone. I don’t know where she goes in that lake! But to her, my home was home. Do you understand?”


“I don’t know what you want me to do, Betty. I’m not going to tell anyone about this. They’d think I was crazy, for one thing! But I don’t think I can sell the house. It’s like she doesn’t want it sold.”


Betty smiled, watching me. “I have a granddaughter,” she said. “Sweet, adorable, and loves Morse Lake. She’s seen Bessie. She’s 12. I’m going to give the house to her. My boys don’t want it, and of course, she won’t need it for years. I just need a caretaker.”


I looked at Betty, saw what she was getting at, and started to shake my head. “I already have a home, Betty. And a family.”


“Well, I was just on the phone with your Uncle Greg. I guess I’m kind of firing you as the listing agent, Chris. I’m sorry,” Betty said, and she looked it.


I grinned at Betty and picked up my coffee. “That is the best news I’ve heard all day,” I told her.


We sat and talked for about an hour. Betty had plenty of stories to tell, as you can imagine. I stayed in touch with her and checked in on Uncle Greg too. I never saw Bessie again, but every once in a while, I’ll hear that sound, like the lake is laughing at me, and I have to smile.


Thanks for reading along to Finding Bessie. We know that there’s no lake monster in Morse Reservoir, but we also know there are plenty of adventures to be had on the lake and in Cicero, along with our other communities! If you're looking for your dream home, the time to get approved for a mortgage is before you find it! Give us a call or stop by a branch to talk about our mortgage options.