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Here's the 'monster' mystery behind the 'creature' in Samish Bay

A tribute to a cryptozoology legend can be seen from Chuckanut Drive

A sculpture resembling the Loch Ness Monster can be seen from Chuckanut Drive on Tuesday, May 22, in Samish Bay.
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A sculpture resembling the Loch Ness Monster can be seen from Chuckanut Drive on Tuesday, May 22, in Samish Bay.

You're driving along Chuckanut Drive. The sun is out. The sky is blue. The water below sparkles. Wait. Did you see what you thought you saw?

There, closer to shore, in Samish Bay. Is that? No, it can't be. The long neck. The familiar curve.

Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands has Nessie, the mythical creature who reportedly lives in the large freshwater lake that is nearly 800 feet deep, if accounts going back some 1,500 years are to be believed.

Could Samish Bay in the Skagit County lowlands have its own "monster"? Could that be what we saw from up high on Chuckanut Drive?

Hoping to solve the mystery, we asked around.

Talk to the Edison Tavern, someone said. (It's the Old Edison, these days.)

We did.

"Well, that's news to me! Sounds like a good tourism story! I have not ever heard that story ... that bay is very shallow!" the folks there told us.

Onward.

The tourism and chamber of commerce folks in Skagit and Whatcom counties also didn't know about what may be lurking in Samish Bay.

One of them suggested we ask Jeff Jewell, the research guru at the Whatcom Museum who seems to know all things related to local lore. So we turned to him to find out if he knew anything about the Samish Bay "monster" and who might be responsible.

"What fun! But, no, I haven’t heard any whispers as to who," Jewell told us.

Drat. Onward with our quest.

Could the folks at the Washington State Department of Natural Resources help us solve the deepening mystery in the shallow bay?

"That's just AWESOME! I have faith that Sammy is real, but I'll ask Joe to connect you to one of our marine scientists who will probably tell you that officially they have seen no evidence of Sammy (sadly)," DNR's Carrie McCausland said playfully in an email.

So, we waited, hopefully, for DNR's Joe Smillie.

"The Washington State Department of Natural Resources can neither confirm nor deny the existence of a sea monster in Samish Bay," Smillie replied, tongue firmly in cheek.

"We can, however, say with certainty this mystery 'creature' is not located on state-owned aquatic lands, so we don’t have much information about it," Smillie added.

Hmmm.

So, we returned to where we first saw the Samish Bay critter — on Chuckanut Drive right about where Chuckanut Manor is located.

We already had poked around on social media and found an October 2014 Facebook post from Chuckanut Manor about the creature they had named Sammy, because its home is Samish Bay.

Maybe the folks there knew something?

Eventually, we were able to talk to Eric Bemis, the restaurant's general manager, who apparently has fielded questions about Sammy.

"It definitely brings a lot of amazed people in the door," Bemis said.

He said they ask: "What's the Loch Ness monster doing down there?"

Other diners think it's driftwood shaped like a sea monster, Bemis added.

So, what's the story behind Sammy? And who's responsible for the critter?

That turns out to be a Skagit County artist, who's a regular at the restaurant, Bemis said.

The idea for Sammy came from one of the artist's big themed birthday parties, this one might have been "Land of the Lost." That's the 1970s TV series, and later a movie staring Will Ferrell, about an alternate university where dinosaurs still roam.

The artist created a big papier-mâché brontosaurus that he rigged up to make it look like it was feeding on plants behind his house when the wind blew, Bemis said.

At some point, five or six years ago, the artist put the critter into the bay as the Loch Ness monster.

Sammy is about 4 feet to 6 feet tall. The "monster" is attached to a 4-foot-by-8-foot piece of plywood. There are chains run out from Sammy into the distance so he goes up and down with the tides and when the wind is blowing, making it look like he's swimming, Bemis explained.

High winds took Sammy out last year, and his creator had to make a new replacement — taking his canoe out to plant Sammy back in Samish Bay.

"He took the time to perfect the design and now he's got it down," Bemis said of Sammy, who is perfectly visible from Chuckanut Manor

As for the artist, he wants to remain anonymous, according to Bemis.

And, no, Bemis said, it's not him.

Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea
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