Cousteau and Tessie

Posted by: Loren Coleman on August 23rd, 2007

The subject of Jacques Cousteau and Lake Tahoe has been talked about here on Cryptomundo in the past, for example, when it was brought up by mystery_man in the post Cryptomundo’s Ultimate CZ FAQs and in another post entitled Another Bowness Monster Sighting?.

What can be added on this topic?

Tom Stienstra of the San Francisco Chronicle, who has written his share of Bigfoot articles for the newspaper, said the following in his article Mysteries of the deep at Lake Tahoe.

Even famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau is said to have had a brush with something horrific in a deepwater dive in the mid-1970s. “The world isn’t ready for what was down there,” is the quote most commonly credited. Cousteau never released any photographs or data from the dive, adding to the mystery and legend.

Some believe Cousteau was talking about a Loch Ness monster-like creature that locals call “Tahoe Tessie.” Unlikely. But if I could get a loaner sub, maybe I could find out.

Many have told me that, if you were to take a submarine down 900 feet just off South Shore, you would see hundreds of bodies suspended in the water, preserved perfectly like an underwater wax museum, most wearing clothes from the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s.

The legend is that this is where the Mafia killers dumped bodies after executions. Some fishermen even call the spot The Grave. At Tahoe, many locals talk as if everybody knows about this, that there are lots of gangsters down there, wearing pinstriped suits, with sneers on their faces and bullet holes in their foreheads.

This makes sense. It has long been verified that Tahoe is a lake that does not give up its dead. That is because the lake is so deep, with an average depth of 989 feet, and so cold, with the temperature hovering just above freezing. So that prevents the creation of gases that would otherwise bloat and float corpses to the surface as in other waters.Tom Stienstra
San Francisco Chronicle

Gregory Crofton of the Tahoe Daily Tribune quoted Charles Goldman, a University of California, Davis professor who founded the Tahoe Research Group thusly in his article Scientist to plunge to floor of Lake Tahoe.

Goldman said it is just a rumor that Jacques Cousteau, the famous underwater explorer, has been beneath the surface of Lake Tahoe. But a relative of Cousteau’s did visit the lake at one point, Goldman said.Gregory Crofton
Tahoe Daily Tribune

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

12 Responses to “Cousteau and Tessie”

  1. shumway10973 responds:

    I went to the official web site for Lake Tahoe and their link for Jacques Cousteau’s official web site, and both used that phrase. Now, here’s something else to think about. How do we know he was talking about an animal? If he found anything he felt would upset our known time line, he may have tried to leave it alone. Then again, what if we are thinking all wrong. Not some dinosaur that would have had to find a way to be right there as Lake Tahoe formed around it. Author above is right, that scenario is impossible. Tahoe formed as a volcano, first, and then filled in as a lake, second. What if he actually found California’s version of the little people or Atlantis?

  2. AtomicMrEMonster responds:


    Could you please provide some links to the parts of those websites where that quote is mentioned? Or you could just tell me what specific sections to look under; it’s your call. I’m not having any luck finding it on and it definitely contradicts the assertion that Jacques Cousteau never visited the lake on the Nevada State Archives website. It’s in an article called “Getting to the Bottom of Lake Tahoe” by Guy Rocha (”Myth #151? on the website). And considering that Tahoe Daily Tribune article about an expedition to the bottom of the lake was from 2003 and we haven’t heard anything about bodies being discovered, I’d say that the whole “preserved corpses” thing turned out to be false.

    The story has since taken on a life of its own and it’s now being claimed that Cousteau said that regarding footage he took off the coast of Africa in the 80’s. But since the whole “Cousteau in Tahoe” thing had its origins in the 70’s, I’d say that the African variation of the story is just a myth.

  3. mystery_man responds:

    I suppose I am partly to blame for starting this, and I am happy that other posters and Loren have been kind enough to take the time to address this mystery. I cannot be sure where I first heard this story, but for some reason it has always stuck in my mind and although I have never embraced the story as completely true, it held a certain mystique for me. Another poster here, I think it may have been MrAtomicEmonster (whose opinion I always value) offered the same explanation for the story, which is to say it is somehow linked to the bodies said to be there at the bottom. At first, I felt a tad foolish for letting this story get me caught up in its mystery and therefore mentioning it on this site, but now I am glad that I brought it up because it has shed a great deal of light on an anecdote I have held on to for years and years. Thank you to Loren and others here for helping to bring this enduring myth to light.

  4. mystery_man responds:

    MrAtomicEmonster- If I have misrepresented what you said or made a mistake, then I am sorry.

  5. AtomicMrEMonster responds:


    There’s no need to apologize and you certainly haven’t misrepresented me. You just heard an interesting story and wanted some more information, which is perfectly understandable. Getting upset about you not knowing about the debunking would be very hypocritical of me, seeing as how I had a similar misunderstanding about recent tsuchinoko reports. No harm, no foul.

  6. proriter responds:

    Speaking as someone who spent a good part of his young adult years in funeral service, I’ say that the chances that there are any 70-year-old corpses that are “preserved perfectly” are just about zero. Any lake that harbors aquatic life would make short work of them, just as sea organisms did of the Titanic victims. A very rare putrefaction phenomenon called adipocere could perhaps explain some of this claim, if indeed there are any bodies down there at all, but not “hundreds of bodies.”

  7. dogu4 responds:

    Very interesting…Perhaps one of Tahoe’s local richistanians will buy one of the new generation of personal submarines and take a look. It does puzzle me as to what could be down there, naturally. The fact that it too is a post glacial lake is noteworth, considering that so many other lake sightings originate from other deep post-glacial surface waters.
    One area that’s not post-glacial per se, and yet is known to hold a vast storehouse of organic material is the Black Sea with it’s well documented anaerobic environment. Instead of a 1950’s era gangland vicitm, perhaps the Black Sea will provide us with some geniuinely cryptic evidence about the world around the Black Sea over the last 5 thousand years.

  8. nicki_san responds:

    Considering what i have heard from all of you guys i have to say that it really is a stretch to say that there are “hundreds of bodies” at the bottom of the lake. If Jacques Cousteau really did dive down there, what could freak him out so much that he acts like it never happened? There has to be somthing that wasn’t mentioned in the article that could have caused this. Before we assume what he could’ve found we should find out answers to questions
    like, did he spend an unusual amount of time, or did he have somthing that he didnt have before when he went down.

    Also i agree with what “dogu4” said. “Perhaps one of Tahoe’s local richistanians will buy one of the new generation of personal submarines and take a look.” The only way we will find out what is down there is if we go there ourselves.

  9. rbhess responds:

    Okay… puh-leeze. To begin with, intact bodies (with pinstripe suits, spats and fedoras, no less) are an impossibility for the reason Proriter gives. So let’s just put that to bed, shall we?

    As for Jacques Cousteau (one of my personal heroes, by the way)… the man was a consummate showman, filmmaker, promoter and popularizer of science. The very idea that, if he discovered anything unusual in Lake Tahoe, he’d then let it remain secret, and un-studied… well that’s just absurd.

  10. skywatcher responds:

    As a long time resident of South Lake Tahoe and member of the local UFO club, I can assure you that there are plenty of mysterious things going on around this lake. As far as Tessie is concerned, I have personally spoken with many long time fisherman that claim to have caught a huge makinaw, only to reel in a fish that was eaten from the head down. Also many fisherman have seen a large reptilian creature swimming under their boats. As far as the Jacques Couseau quote. I believe what he saw was either underwater UFO’s or possibly aliens themselves leftover from the secret military complex that was inside the mountains east of the lake which was sealed up in the early 60’s. Regardless, I have personally seen many UFO’s over the lake and possibly Jacques saw one under water.

  11. The Deputy responds:

    Ok let me first say that my mind is at awe with this Topic the Great Jacques Cousteau Footage. A Friend and I were Talking today about this Footage. That he said he saw. It was Jacques Cousteau in a sub looking at a Large Creature under the water, it had Feet and It was walking on the sea or lake bed. It turned and looked at the sub and than Ran away on the bottom of what ever sea or lake Bed. And then the camera looks at Jacques Cousteau he is at some what of a loss for words kind of stuttering. Now My Friend said it was on a Channel like, Discovery Channel, National Geographic or Travel he was not sure. Now with this info could someone inform me was this some type of, if it was it could have been type of show or was this “The Real Deal” I don’t know the channel to search but maybe some of you do? I have looked over the net and only thing I find is blogs about it. Please Help.

  12. buscadora responds:

    George Knapp, an investigative journalist in Las Vegas mentioned Mr. Cousteau’s comment on this evenings broadcast of Coast to Coast.

    He brought the comment up in context of an observation about the naval undersea warfare (submarine) base operating in Nevada. There seems to be a group of thought the United States government has access to Lake Tahoe as well, and his statement was put into context of what our government is up to, not an undersea monster.

    If you have yet to listen to the broadcast of this show, available nation wide, they address many of the subject matter on this site.

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