SALT LAKE CITY — John Warms is on a monstrous quest for "strange creatures seldom seen."
The 65-year-old researcher from Manitoba, Canada, visited Utah recently, hoping to hear firsthand tales of legendary beasts.
A retired public school teacher, Warms is working to publish a new book on "Strange Creatures."
"I'm certain they exist," based on many expeditions and interviews, Warms told the Deseret News.
Warms is one of many proponents of such creatures but one of few to take a special interest in purported creatures that may reside in the Beehive State.
Last week, Warms drove to Utah in search of its alleged water creatures, like the Bear Lake Monster and other strange beasts allegedly spotted in the Great Salt Lake in the 19th century.
Depending on what he finds, he hopes to write a book and enhance his Web site, which he hopes will break new ground with previously untold stories about sightings of strange creatures.
Warms isn't well known in the monster quest field just yet, but depending on what he finds in Utah and other places, that could change.
Living with Canada's Fairford River in his backyard, he's heard many tales of strange creatures — from the traditional serpents to giant prehistoric beavers.
These gigantic beavers are his favorite focus.
Though believed to be extinct for over 10,000 years, these are scientifically named "castorides Ohioensis" and can grow to up to 9 feet tall and weigh 440 pounds. He stresses that the fact that these giant beavers actually existed makes some of his claims much more plausible.
"I have encountered people in northern Manitoba and along the Alaska Highway who claim to have seen the bear-sized creature," he said. "I saw one in southern Manitoba, swimming, and the head was about basketball size. They seldom come ashore; that is why we don't know about them."
In Utah, Warms is especially interested in Bear Lake. Because it is a deep — 200-plus feet — body of water, its probabilities of harboring a Loch Ness caliber monster seems quite probable to Warms.
He also talked of a recent creature sighting in Lake Powell, where a woman described what Warms believes is another giant beaver.
"Lake Powell was an isolated sighting," he said. "I am sure many more people must have seen them around but perhaps didn't want to be laughed at."
In southern Manitoba, he has discovered large tunnels — up to 3 feet in diameter — along shorelines that he believes are made by such creatures to live in. Many are reinforced by clay linings and as soon as they are disturbed by man, the creature fills them in.
There are even tales of what he calls "underwater moose" and giant frogs, among other water creatures.
He's also amazed at how many tales of large snakes — 25-35 feet long — considered an impossibility by experts, because of the cold Canadian climate — that he hears about in his home area, too.
There are even reports of large flying creatures in Canada, with 3-foot wingspans and that only come out at night.
So far, he said, no scientific experts will take any interest in these purported creatures.
He recently built a large aluminum sled that a snowmobile can pull so he and friends can better penetrate the Canadian wilderness this winter to look for more creature evidence.
Drilling holes in the ground next to lakes and searching with underwater or infrared cameras will be his next steps to find evidence of strange water creatures.
"It could rewrite books," he said of what he could find.
He also said he once met a Manitoba Interlake hunter (now deceased) who thought he shot a wounded moose in some willows in 1941.
"It took me thirty-five years to figure out what I had shot," the old man told Warms. He had supposedly shot and killed a bigfoot (but that term was unknown until 1958).
Warms' interest in such creatures began 15 years ago. He has found that Native Americans who live near lakes and rivers are the best sources for encounters with such creatures. Once they know he believes in such creatures, too, he finds they are very talkative about them.
Native Americans at Idaho's Fort Hall had told him about some Sasquatch sightings there, on his way to Utah.
He planned to stop at every reservation he could, as he proceeded south to Flagstaff, on what he described as a working vacation. A part-time job in Canada helps fund his travel expenses.
In Flagstaff, he was planning to meet his wife, who will fly there, since she doesn't favor his long drives. (He drove from Manitoba to Salt Lake in less than three days.)
What does his wife think of his creature quests?
"She wishes I were an ordinary person," Warms said.