Millerton Lake is near the town of Friant. Friant was originally called Mugginsville, and after that it became Converse Ferry, and then Jonesville (not the one where all those people killed themselves, that’s in South America) and then Hamptonville, and then Pollasky before settling on Friant. It’s been Friant for more than a hundred years now.
No one knows the exact date, but a fellow called Steve McQueen (no relation) started a ferry across the San Joaquin River sometime before 1850. People wanting to cross the San Joaquin River to get at that sweet-sweet California gold were pleased as punch that there was a ferry. The creature that lived in the river was not.
In his journals, McQueen describes the creature as “half dog, half fish perhaps 10–15 feet long with black pelt, white ear tips, and a marking on the spine resembling an inverted cross”. According to McQueen, it killed his wife and three daughters before he managed to cleave its heart with an axe, but the very next day it was alive again. Thus began the multi-generational feud between the McQueen family and the San Joaquin River Beast. The creature can’t move on because it’s magically tied to this exact spot in the river. Why did McQueen found a town here instead of moving a couple miles down the river to avoid the beast? Impossible to say.
In 1852 the town was renamed Converse Ferry because a group of spiritualists from out East, imported at great expense by McQueen’s son, required the name to be changed as part of a ceremony that would rob the Beast of its power. The Beast was quiet for a while after that but when it devoured an entire baptism party in 1863, a new ritual and a new name was required.
So it went until 1907. Martha McQueen didn’t want her children to be trapped in this little town as the unwilling custodians of a murderous beast like she was. Martha arranged for a circle of necromancers from Vera Cruz to lull the Beast into torpor. And then she had the other hirelings roll out the heavy artillery. The Beast was blasted into a long slumber by four civil war era cannons firing grapeshot composed of cold iron ingots blessed by Marianite sisters from New Orleans. It cost Martha a pretty penny, that operation did.
The Beast was not killed of course, for it can never die while the McQueen bloodline remains true, but it has not stirred since that day either. Sadly for old Martha, the McQueen family maintains their vigil, and deals with the other occasional visitors of unworldly nature drawn by the same power that chains the Beast to this local.
Hence the four wheelers and the shotguns, and the freaky knife made of human remains, and the fake sheriff. This was all explained to Grace and Sanaa by Betsy McQueen, a painfully skinny young woman (to Grace’s eyes) with horn-rimmed glasses and a massive head of chestnut hair that reminded Grace of a horse’s mane, as they sat in her comfy cabin by a crackling fire drinking hard cider and eating Pringles. Well, she and Grace were partaking anyway, Sanaa turned up her nose at these processed consumer goods full of artificial chemicals.
This was after Betsy and her cousin Adelai and the not-sheriff (who was never named) escorted Grace and Sanaa to the lake. Grace asked her along the way “So you believe me, just like that?” to which Betsy responded “No, but better safe than sorry, we’ll have shotguns pointed at you if you’re up to any kind of mischief.”
As is often the case with such things, Grace found the undoing of the evil spell rather anti-climactic. While Betsy and cousin and the not-sheriff watched curiously, she and Sanaa went into the water (which was freezing by the way) held hands, got their faces way too close together for Grace’s comfort, summoned their energy, and that was pretty much it. Evil spirit pathway closed. Sanaa said there were others they’d need to take care of, but that was enough to prevent The Big Evil Summoning from happening that night – enough time for them to take a hard cider and Pringles break.