Originally known as Laguna Grande by early Spanish explorers, Lake Elsinore has a rich history in the region, used as a rest stop to camp and water animals for trappers, prospectors of the Gold Rush, and for the great explorer of the Wild West, John Charles Frémont.
Lake Elsinore also has a history of strangeness, and over the years has accrued a reputation for being the home of some strange beast lurking within its depths. The Native Americans of the region long spoke of monstrous serpent-like beasts. They first circulated stories of strange creatures in the lake.
One early account from 1884 describes an enormous scaled creature with a long neck, which was called a sea serpent.
Another sighting came in 1934 by a rancher named C.B. Greenstreet, who claimed that he had been out on the lake with his wife and daughter when they saw a huge water monster measuring 100 feet long and with a 30-foot tail, which was swimming lazily near the surface. The encounter was apparently so upsetting that Greenstreet’s wife and daughter refused to go back to the lake from that day on.
In 1967, a family boating on the lake reported sighting the beast, which they described as being a huge dark, slender shape that rolled as it swam, and had humps that poked above the surface.
And again in 1970, one witness by the name of Bonne Play allegedly saw the creature not once, but twice. Play described the lake monster as being around 12 feet in length, with humps and a saurian appearance.
Sightings continued into the 1990s, with a string of reports made in 1992.
It wasn’t long before the lake monster was being called “Elsie,” a reference to the better known Nessie, as well as “Hamlet,” due to the fact that the name Elsinore is taken from the name of a city that appears in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
Interestingly, far from some isolated lake in the middle of untamed wilderness, Lake Elsinore is well visited, and situated in a highly populated area.
The lake has dried up 3 times and there was never a sighting of a lake monster on the bottom. Most locals that believe in the legend say the monster left the dried lake and crawled into a nearby cave until the lake filled again. Whatever the case may be, it is certainly odd, considering that the lake is heavily frequented by people and is a popular recreation area, that a monster as big as Elsie is not sighted more regularly.