PORT CLINTON — Thousands of people flock to Lake Erie every year for its quiet beaches and quaint coastal towns, but there’s a dark side to the lake filled with murder mystery, national hoaxes and modern-day pirates. Ohio-based author Wendy Koile discusses some of the most compelling of these true stories in her latest book, “Lake Erie Murder and Mayhem.”
Koile was a guest speaker at the Ida Rupp Public Library on Sept. 28, when she talked about her four Lake Erie-related books. When she’s not “doing that super fun job” of researching, writing, and talking about Lake Erie, Koile works as an English teacher and director of teaching and learning at Central Ohio Technical College.
Koile fell in love with Lake Erie as a little girl during her family’s annual trips to Geneva-on-the-Lake, which she described as “better than Christmas.” Her passions for writing, history, and Lake Erie skillfully converge in her books, where she captures some of Lake Erie’s lesser-known and more intriguing stories.
“There is so much history around the shore of the lake,” she said. “Research is like a treasure hunt for me. I’m looking for stories that haven’t been told over and over again. I want to add my own piece and preserve those stories.
A story links a mysterious death in Geneva-sur-le-Lac
One of those stories, “The Seeandbee: When the Lights of Cleveland Disappeared,” has a direct connection to Koile’s beloved Geneva-on-the-Lake. The lifeless body of Narene Mozee washed up on the city shore on July 31, 1940, just two days after she boarded the luxury liner, the Seeandbee.
In the story, Koile guides the reader through the details of Mozee’s mysterious death. Mozee was a trained nurse, the wife of a U.S. Marshal, and a seasoned traveler. She died in questionable circumstances that led the FBI to investigate her husband, one of the ship’s passengers, a night watchman, and even Mozee herself.
Koile’s research included FBI files.
“I received a 200-page file from the FBI. It was a very exciting day,” she said.
After reading the story, Koile fans sometimes share their opinions on who made it.
“They were never able to find a perfect suspect, and J. Edgar Hoover ruled it an accidental death,” Koile said. “To me, it will always be a mystery.”
The writer also shares stories of chaos along the lake
In his book, Koile goes beyond mere murder into the other chaos inspired by the lake, including the many hoaxes that have arisen from its waters. In the chapter, “Lake Erie Hoaxes: Serpents, Sinkings and Signals”, she talks about Clifford Wilson and Francis Bagenstose, who gained national attention and attracted a visit from an expert from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History when they discovered the Sandusky sea serpent in Sandusky Bay in 1931.
“Lake Erie has its share of really good monsters,” Koile said.
Koile’s other books reflect different aspects of Lake Erie. In “Legends and Lost Treasures of Northern Ohio,” she shares true stories of sunken ships and buried treasure, including the lingering mystery of buried gold near the Fairport Harbor Lighthouse. The location of the gold was revealed during a 19e confession on the deathbed of the century.
“The treasure has a modern value of $800,000,” Koile said. “He was never found.”
Koile’s other books are “Disasters of Ohio’s Lake Erie Islands” and “Geneva on the Lake, a History of Ohio’s First Summer Resort”. More information about Koile’s books can be found at arcadiapublishing.com/imprints/the-history-press.
Contact correspondent Sheri Trusty at [email protected]