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Would you swim with this “Sea Monster”?

You may be wondering (or just wanting more information) about this “Sharlie” character. So here goes!

“Along the beaches and on the streets of McCall there is a topic that has taken the number one spot away from the invasion of Europe.” That article was written by an Idaho journalist, Dick d’Easum (1) in 1944 near the end of WWII!

That ‘topic’ was what he labeled the “Twilight Dragon of Payette Lake” and “the monster of mystery”, and it is full of Sharlie tidbits for the curious. In fact, it seems to have made it to Time Magazine only 3 ½ weeks later on August 12,1944, (page 22) under the headline, we believe, Idaho Out-of-Doors. (2)

But why would this author/illustrator be so taken with this little bit of Idaho history?

  • Why? Well, she was born in that area and raised 2 miles from the Payette Lake’s shores, swimming in it every summer. In fact, she took swim lessons with the local youths for many years in that lake. The resident sea monster has been a topic of interest for locals and visitors since 1917. (2) At first the nicknames provided for the “sightings” of this lake creature were: Slimy Slim, (definitely not fun!) and “Slim” for short, and it was simply considered a “sea monster”. This author was three when it got a much better name.

  • Naming It: In 1953 the editor of the Payette Lakes Star newspaper decided to engage the state in a contest to name the “sea serpent”. That contest resulted in January of 1954 with the unique name of Sharlie, most likely based upon a popular catchphrase used on radio in that era: “Vas you der, Sharlie?” The winner was a woman from Twin Falls, Idaho and she won $40, which of course was a good amount of money back then! (3) For those who like to figure: back then a loaf of bread was 15 cents and a pack of gum was 5 cents.

  • Dangerous? Never, ever, has any adult who has “seen” Sharlie reported to have been worried that it might be dangerous or ominous. Just very, very interesting!

  • Descriptions: Over the 10 decades with reported sightings of Sharlie, there have been many quite interesting artistic drawings or paintings. Each one was influenced by one or several of the characteristics reported by persons who claimed to have seen this intriguing critter. Commonalities include 2-4 humps, dark, greenish or yellowish in color with some iridescence,and an undulating movement mostly beneath the water. 10-50 feet long. The head, rarely seen, was once described to be a bit like a crocodile with squarish nose, and scales seemed to have been seen on a few occasions. Only one person in 1996 saw what seemed like pointed peak-like things on its humps. (4) This last little detail must have been implanted in the artist’s brain since she drew her more modern and cartoon-ized version without first revisiting anyone else’s renderings. She just always had, like many long-time residents of Valley County, a fondness for Sharlie and her own imagination from childhood to guide her.

  • Various sightings over ten decades have been recorded about Sharlie’s historical appearances. So one would think someone might have had the camera ready. But no one has ever successfully photographed her. However, many worthy witnesses–some people with great reputations for honesty– have claimed to have seen our Sharlie once or more. And “she” (as a later Star News editor dubbed this creature) has many points in her favor for possible existence. (4)

  • In the 1930’s young gentlemen from back east working with the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) went fishing. They returned inquiring about” what kind of big fish” was in that lake? They reportedly described it like so many others have from so many generations before and since. (1)

  • In the summer of 1944 there were about thirty people who reported having seen and/or watched the creature in the Payette Lake. Since that time, there have been at least 28 issues from the local paper, now called Star News, that reported fun facts regarding Sharlie! (4)

  • We hope the readers will agree that the very possibility of things like Sharlie are interesting to ponder! (Think about the Sasquatch or “Big Foot” and the “Abominable Snowman, or Yeti, among others. But surely Sharlie is a cousin to Nessie, the Lock Ness sea monster.) And because no one and no scientific study has ever been able to convincingly change the minds of decades of McCall locals (5), Sharlie lives on and is the little town of McCall, Idaho’s most endearing, most famous, and most legendary character.

  • If you have questions, by all means play along and send us an email. Future blogs will try to address them and other interesting and related ideas.

  1. d’Easom, D., “Idaho Out-of-Doors”, Idaho Statesman, 8/6/1944

  2. Mangiacopra, G. S. 1980

  3. Idaho Statesman, 8/6/1954

  4. Star News, Grote, T. 7/3/1985 & 8/13/2009 and many others

  5. Collias, N. 10/27/2004

  6. Wikipedia article, “Sharlie.” Rights: ( “history”

  7. Artwork here is sole property of Jinovations LLC, Artist: J. M. Helmich

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