Artistic representation of Sandra Mansi's 1977 photograph of the Lake Champlain Monster. Illustration by Benjamin Radford.
|Sub grouping||Lake Monster / Sea Serpent|
|Other name(s)||Lake Champlain Monster|
|Country||United States, Canada|
In American folklore, Champ or Champy is the name given to a lake monster living in Lake Champlain, a 125-mile (201 km)-long body of fresh water shared by New York and Vermont, with a portion extending into Quebec, Canada. The legend of the monster is considered a draw for tourism in the Burlington, Vermont and Plattsburgh, New York areas.
History of the legend
Over the years, there have been over 300 reported sightings of Champ. Legends of a creature living in Lake Champlain date back to Native American tribes in the region. Both the Iroquois and the Abenaki spoke of such a creature. The Abenaki referred to it as "Tatoskok".
Samuel de Champlain, the founder of Québec and the lake's namesake, is often claimed to be the first European to have sighted Champ, in 1609. However, this legend dates back to a fake quote published in the Summer 1970 issue of Vermont Life. In the Vermont Life article, Champlain is alleged to have documented a "20-foot serpent thick as a barrel, and a head like a horse." This quote has often been repeated, but is in fact apocryphal. Champlain did document monstrous, "five feet long" fish in his journal. He described the fish as having snouts and a "double row of very sharp, dangerous teeth." However, paranormal researcher Joe Nickell writes that this description most likely refers to a gar (or garfish).
An 1819 report in the Plattsburgh Republican, entitled "Cape Ann Serpent on Lake Champlain", reports a "Capt. Crum" sighting an enormous serpentine monster. Crum estimated the monster to have been about 187-feet long and approximately two hundred yards away from him. Despite the great distance, he claimed to have witnessed it being followed by "two large Sturgeon and a Bill-fish" and was able to see that it had three teeth and eyes the color of peeled onions. He also described the monster as having "a belt of red" around its neck and a white star on its forehead.
In 1883, Sheriff Nathan H. Mooney claimed that he had seen a water serpent about "20 rods" from where he was on the shore. He claimed that he was so close that he could see "round white spots inside its mouth" and that "the creature appeared to be about 25 to 30 feet in length". Mooney's sighting led to many more alleged eyewitnesses coming forward with their own accounts of Champ.
The legend of Champ captured the interest of P. T. Barnum. In 1873 and 1887, the famous showman offered rewards for anyone who could bring him the monster.
In 1977, Sandra Mansi took a photograph while on vacation with her family that appears to show something sticking out of the lake. The entire bay of the lake where the photograph reportedly was taken is no deeper than 14 feet (4.3 m). According to Joe Nickell, it is unlikely that a giant creature could swim, let alone hide, in such shallow water. It has been suggested that the object in the photograph could possibly be a rising tree trunk or log.
Champ reportedly can be seen in a video taken by fishermen Dick Affolter and his stepson Pete Bodette in the summer of 2005. Close examination of the images may be interpreted either as a head and neck of a plesiosaur-like animal and even an open mouth in one frame and a closed mouth in another; or as a fish or eel. Although two retired FBI forensic image analysts, who reviewed the tape, said it appears authentic and unmanipulated, one of them added that "there's no place in there that I can actually see an animal or any other object on the surface".
One piece of evidence, though not a "sighting" per se, is the recording of sounds from within the lake by the Fauna Communications Research Institute in 2003, working as part of a Discovery Channel program. The group described the sounds as being similar to those produced by Beluga whales or dolphins—neither of which are known to live in Lake Champlain. An article describing the recordings has been published to scientific literature.
Cultural importance to New York and Vermont
The Champ legend has become a revenue-generating attraction. For example, the village of Port Henry, New York, has erected a giant model of Champ and holds "Champ Day" on the first Saturday of every August. As the mascot of Vermont's lone Minor League Baseball affiliate, the Vermont Lake Monsters, Champ became more prominent after the team was renamed from the Vermont Expos to the Vermont Lake Monsters. Champ has been the primary attraction of the New York–Penn League affiliate since their inception. Several nearby establishments, including a car wash, use images of Champ as a logo.
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- Lake Champlain Region page about Champ, the Lake Champlain Monster