Crater Lake – From Monsters to Bigfoot: The Mysterious Waters

Marcus Lowth
Published Date
December 26, 2018
Last Updated
September 28, 2021
Estimated Reading Time
9 min read
Posted in
Conspiracy Theory Analysis, Unsolved & Unexplained

Although tribes native to the Oregon area were long aware of the mystique and, at times, the dangers of Crater Lake, it wasn’t until 1853 when John Wesley Hillman would bring news of this enigmatic stretch of water to the wider the world. According to researcher and author, Brent Swancer, Hillman was “the first white man to ever lay eyes upon the lake” and was instantly mesmerized by it, referring to it initially as the “Deep Blue Lake”, a proud and enchanted body of water near Mount Mazama, part of the mysterious mountain ranges of the west coast of the United States. The intense blue waters are remarkably calm. So much so, they almost act as a mirror when gazed upon.

Carter Lake and a depiction of an underwater base

Carter Lake and a depiction of an underwater base (right)

As further settlers and pioneers pushed westward forcing the meshing of the Native American world and the futuristic nation of metropolises that would become the United States together, they would learn of the long-standing legends of the folklore of southwest Oregon, itself on the west and almost farthest coast of the New World. They would also collectively experience numerous strange incidents and goings-on in the area for themselves. Including strange deaths, disappearances, UFO and paranormal activity, and numerous sightings of strange creatures whose descriptions are nothing short of “monsters”.

Interestingly, the average depth of Crater Lake makes it the third deepest in the world. However, because of its depth, local legends would suggest it was “bottomless”. If we look at the UFO, paranormal and monster connections, perhaps the waters were not literally bottomless. But maybe containing an entrance to the “inner Earth”?

The Early Legend Of The Hillman Search

Perhaps fittingly, the aforementioned Hillman was part of one of the first legendary accounts of the settlers to the area. [1] In 1853, Hillman, along with two other settlers to the area, Henry Klippel and Isaac Skeeters, would lead a search mission for a missing miner, known locally as “Set-‘em-up”. According to the story, this mysterious miner had a habit of wandering off into the wilderness of the surrounding woodlands. However, he would then return with an abundance of gold. He would never divulge where he obtained the valuable metal from, leading many to suspect that he had discovered his very own goldmine, or that he had a “secret cabin” somewhere in the woodland.

They made no secret about it among each other, that as well as looking to locate the missing miner, they were also going to actively locate, and claim for themselves, at least some of this apparent wealth. At this stage, very little of the surrounding areas were mapped or even explored. With that in mind, the three men set out with literally no clue as to where the mysterious hideout might be. Perhaps against the wisest course of action, the three men would separate in order to cover more ground quicker, each taking a part of the search part with them.

Skeeters’ group, after wondering for some time with no success, suddenly came upon the excited Hillman. He claimed to have found the mystery cabin and the riches. As the group set off on their horses to follow Hillman, who also claimed a map existed to the mines themselves, his horse suddenly became unsteady and plunged both itself and Hillman to their deaths over the edge of one of the many cliffs. The mystery cabin remains exactly that.

A view of Crater Lake Oregon

Crater Lake

The Extremely Strange Death Of Mr. Cornelius

In more (relatively) contemporary times there have been many strange deaths and disappearances (some of which we will look at shortly). Perhaps one of the most bizarre deaths on record, though, was that of a Mr. Cornelius in July 1947, a victim of an apparent sudden suicide.

That summer afternoon, Cornelius was happily out walking through the area with his wife. All of a sudden, the man’s demeanor changed somewhat. He would hand his wife his billfold and as if in some kind of trance, sat down at the top of a steep snow bank and let himself slide down towards the lake. As he quickly built up speed and maintained less and less control of his descent, he would break his leg. By the time he reached the bottom, though, instead of lying there for help he dragged himself to his feet and flung himself into the lake where he would allow himself to drown.

What is more, there are accounts of several similar suicides in the area. As if a sudden entity overtook the person in question, forcing them to fling themselves to their deaths. Furthermore, there are reports of people specifically driving to the area and shooting themselves. Almost as if there was an ominous calling for them to do so. What is perhaps interesting is that other mountain ranges have legends that speak of an “overtaking of a person’s emotions”. Perhaps most notably the Scottish Cairngorms mountain range, and specifically Ben Macdui and the legends of the “Big Grey Man”.

It is certainly an interesting notion that the land itself is haunted, perhaps even alive and ready to feed off the emotions of those who tread within its boundaries.

Intriguing Connections To California’s Mount Shasta

Whether coincidence or not, Mount Mazama which overlooks Crater Lake, shares connections to two of the other main, and most mysterious, mountain ranges on the American west coast, Mount Shasta in California, and Mount Adams in Washington, both of which, like Mount Mazama, are part of the Cascade Range. Also like Mount Mazama, both have a plethora of UFO sightings and activity to their respective names. And both have rumors of some kind of inner base, possibly of an extraterrestrial nature, deep within their bowels.

In the case of Mount Shasta, however, the connections to Mount Mazama are a little deeper. At least through the legends of a battle from long ago between Llao of the “Below-World” and Skell of the “Above World”. Llao, who was of great evil, resided upon Mount Mazama while his opposite deity, Skell lived on Mount Shasta. According to the legend, a final battle between the two spirit-gods would result in the earth shaking as the pair sent “fire and rocks” towards each other in attack. The aftermath of the battle, from which Skell would emerge victorious, saw the land scorched and the sky filled with thick, black smoke and ash.

Skell would destroy and “collapse” Mount Mazama so as to trap him for eternity in the “Below-World”, which would appear to be an equivalent of Hell. From this legendary battle, comes the belief among those native to area for generations, that Crater Lake is a doorway of sorts from our world to another realm of existence. Perhaps in reality, while the descriptions of “fire and rocks” would appear to describe a volcano eruption in antiquity, what should we make of the deities involved. Might they represent opposing factions using the mountains as bases? Or as entrances to a world beneath?

A view of Crater Lake at sunset

Crater Lake, sunset

Truly Bizarre Disappearances

One of the first people to photograph the lake was B.B. Bakowski, who would do so in early-1911. He was an experienced photographer as well as experienced in the harsh kind of terrain he was about to embark out on. He had prepared for the harsh weather, establishing a makeshift camp in one of the caves of the area to shelter from the cold or any sudden changes in the weather. However, following a very sudden blizzard, Bakowski appeared to have vanished from the face of the Earth. An extensive search would proceed of the area once the weather eased. Although they would find his sled and snow shovel, there was no sign of Bakowski himself.

Well over half a century later in January 1975, another photographer went missing in the region in remarkably similar circumstances. Charles McCullar had set out on a “hitchhiking tour” of the United States the previous year with the aim being to capture as many unique photographs of his equally unique experience. By the opening days of 1975, McCullar was the guest of a friend in Oregon and made the decision to venture out to Crater Lake and capture its apparent beauty for himself. It was a decision that would ultimately cost him his life.

After he was gone a week with no return or even contact a search party set out to locate him. Shortly after, the FBI would take charge of the search. Although initially the terrain was buried under multiple feet of snow, the entire region was searched multiple times. Even when the snow submitted to the sunshine of spring, no sign of the photographer’s body surfaced. Then, in October 1976, over eighteen months after his disappearance, a grim discovery surfaced.

As If He “Simply Melted Away!”

In a canyon, over twelve miles from the area McCullan had made his base camp, came the recovery of a battered, torn, and shredded backpack. In the side pocket were car keys for the same model of vehicle owned by the missing man. The rangers in charge of the sudden find, Larry Smith and Marion Jack would organize a search patrol in the area. Shortly after, human remains were unearthed near ByBee Creek.

Nearby, on a log, was a pair of jeans similar to those worn by McCullan when he set out on his photographing mission in January 1975. Given that this was over eighteen months later, the jeans were in remarkably good condition. In fact, they were almost new. There was no other clothing anywhere nearby aside from a sock protruding from each leg of the denim trousers. Inside the socks were “broken off toe bones”. Even stranger, in the legs of the jeans were partial human shin bones.

The jeans were in a position as if the one-time wearer was in the process of undoing them so as to remove them, possibly to retire for the night. No further remains surfaced. One investigator would state that it appeared as though the wearer of the jeans had “simply melted away”. As a further dark and sickly twist, just over ten feet away, the crown of a skull along with further skull fragments was discovered. Nothing else was ever discovered of McCullar, including any form of identification. He is legally declared dead, but his whereabouts and indeed his fate remain unknown.

“Lose Not Thine Airspeed, Lest The Ground Rise Up And Smite Thee!”

There are also several aviation mysteries with connections to Crater Lake. All of which are as bizarre as they are intriguing. In early-1944, for example, came the strange disappearance, in broad daylight, no less, of a Grumman Torpedo plane. While flying in formation, one of the pilots looked around to view the other plane. However, much to his disbelief his flying partner was gone, as if he had simply vanished. The official story was that the plane had crashed into the waters and sunk.

Perhaps one of the most bizarre incidents was that of Dave Nunn, who in August 1978 after flying his daughter and grandchild from Klamath Falls to Salem, would set out on the return journey in his small Cessna aircraft. With him, he had two student pilots.

Later that evening, Nunn’s wife, Jean Nunn, awoke suddenly at 9:30 pm. She had felt a hand upon her leg. Not grabbing or violent, but it had startled her, nonetheless. It was a moment she would think about over and over again over the coming years and months. At exactly the time she had awoke, her husband’s plane had disappeared from radar. Despite an intensive search of the area of his last location, no wreckage or bodies ever came to light. At least not for the next seven years. Then, on the afternoon of 5th July 1985, the wreckage of a Cessna plane containing the skeletal remains of three adult humans was found by a hiker.

The bodies were Dave Nunn and the two missing student pilots. However, a strange note on a piece of paper discovered in the cabin of the plane turned the incident on its head once again. It read, “Lose not thine airspeed, lest the ground rise up and smite thee”.

A view of a snowy mountain top

Snow Mountain

Strange Lights, Bigfoot Creatures, And Secret Government Agents!

The area around Crater Lake also has regular reports and a long history of strange lights in the sky. And strange aerial vehicles. Strange lights are a regular occurrence over Wizard Island at the center of the lake, for example.

One particularly enthralling account comes from February 1997. The pilot of a private plane would claim several military jets chasing a UFO over the waters of the lake. Incidentally, later in the evening of the sightings, a huge boom would shake the entire state of Oregon. Nobody had any idea what this sudden and colossal noise was. However, several local and state news stations would cover the incident.

Even more bizarre, and in similar ways to Mount Shasta and Mount Adams, are reports of strange aerial and futuristic vehicles. Physically entering the mountain itself, no less. It is from these sightings that claims of an alien base in the mountains around Crater Lake stem from. It is perhaps interesting that all of the Cascade Range of the American west coast shares these same sightings. Connections that maybe should face thorough and open investigation as opposed to glossing over as coincidence.

There are numerous reports of monsters and shadowy creatures. Who many believe reside in the woodlands and caves around Crater Lake. These sightings vary from a Bigfoot-type creature, to winged reptilian humanoids, and shadowy figures. Furthermore, there are reports of secret government agents carrying out some kind of “cover-up” of the presence of these creatures. One account tells of a Bigfoot creature knocked down and killed by a car. This would result in the appearance of these mystery gentlemen. Who would remove the body and deny any involvement.

The Cryptozoology Of The Inner World?

Even staring into the water for too long is against the advice of locals. According to the legends of the Klamath for example, the water would “mesmerize” those who did so. As well as send thoughts and feelings of “great sorrow” to them. The Modoc tribe, on the other hand, would avoid the area entirely. They would believe that evil spirits inhabited the water, as well as the woodland around it. Perhaps it is also worth mentioning the persistent legends of apparent inhabitants of the inner Earth. And their advanced technology weapons sending negative emotions and feelings up to the population on the Earth’s surface. Some claim that many of the criminal activity, as well as the negative thoughts and actions of many, are the result of these malicious weapons.

As we have eluded to throughout, a lot of the descriptions available could very well suggest accounts of activity from a race inside the Earth. Many such legends exist in different cultures around the world. And the vast majority of them revolve around entrances around mysterious mountains and cave systems. Surely too many for simple dismissal without investigation.

The video below, from the late-1980s, looks at Crater Lake and the surrounding area a little further. Most definitely one of the most bizarre, active, and darkly intriguing areas on the planet.


1 Myth, Mysteries, and Monsters at Oregon’s Cursed Crater Lake, Brent Swancer, Mysterious Universe, December 22nd, 2015

Marcus Lowth

Marcus Lowth is a writer with a love for UFOs, aliens, and the Ancient Astronaut Theory, to the paranormal, general conspiracies, and unsolved mysteries. He has been writing and researching with over 20 years of experience.

Marcus has been Editor-in-Chief for several years due to his excellent knowledge in these fields. Marcus also regularly appears as an expert on radio talk shows including Troubled Minds and Unexplained Radio discussing these topics.

Read Marcus' full bio.

You can contact Marcus via email.

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