Champ is the name given to a reputed lake monster living in Lake Champlain, which borders Vermont, New York and Quebec [1] The creature's existence has been authoritatively documented. While some authorities regard Champ as legend, most believe it is possible such a giant creature does live deep in the lake. The state government of Vermont has put Champ on its Endangered Species List, so that if such an animal does exist, it would be protected by law.

Lake monsterEdit

When people hear phrases like “sea monster” or “lake monster”, they often think of mythical giant squid-like creatures or some kind of merfolk out in the middle of the ocean. Many may think of the affectionately-named “Nessie” from Loch Ness in Scotland. However, the lore of lake monsters also exists in North America. According to legend and eye witness accounts, such a monster dwells in Lake Champlain, a 125-mile-long body of fresh water that is shared by New York and Vermont and just a few miles into Quebec, Canada.

Champ is highly revered by many in the area and has become a revenue-generating attraction.[2] 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.


According to some sources, the first European account of Champ was made in 1609 by French explorer Samuel de Champlain—the founder of Québec and the lake's namesake—who spotted the creature as he was fighting the Iroquois on the bank of the lake.

Long before that, however, two Native American tribes, the Iroquois and the Abenaki, talked of such a creature and celebrated its existence. The Abenaki gave it the name "Tatoskok."

Sightings varied over the years, but the next most important sighting came in 1883 when Sheriff Nathan H. Mooney claimed that he had seen a “…gigantic water serpent about 50 yards away” [3] 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 eyewitnesses coming forward with their own accounts of Champ sightings. Mooney’s story predated the public Loch Ness controversy by 50 years. Since that report, there have been more than 240 recorded sightings.

The reason some scientists believe that Champ may be a plesiosaur like “Old Nessie” is because the two lakes have much in common. For example, like Loch Ness, Lake Champlain is over 300 feet deep. Also both lakes were formed following the Ice Age about 10,000 years ago and both lakes support fish populations large enough to feed a supposed sea or lake monster (Krystek 1).

Champ became so popular that the late P. T. Barnum, in the early 19th century, put a reward of $50,000 up for a carcass of Champ. Barnum wanted the carcass of Champ so that he could include it in his epic World’s Fair Show (Krystek 3). Sightings continued through the 19th and 20th centuries, but no remains or any other physical evidence has ever been recovered.

The most remarkable photo of a Champ appearance was taken in 1977, by amateur photographer Sandra Mansi. [4] The photo appears to show what is said to be a plesiosaur-like neck and body sticking out of the lake.

According to Mansi, she heard her children screaming and turned toward the shallow water by the shore where they were playing. Seeing the creature, she took the photo as her fiancée, Anthony, grabbed her children. Mansi had several photo experts examine the picture and they concluded that the picture has not been tampered with in any way. Those experts also stated that they believe it to be a living creature (Champ 2). Mansi later showed the photo, which is similar to the famous "Surgeon's photo" of the Loch Ness Monster, to Joseph W. Zarzynski.

Zarzynski—founder of the Lake Champlain Phenomena Investigation and a Wilton, New York Social Studies teacher—took the photo to Gorge Zug of the Smithsonian Institute’s Department of Vertebrate Zoology. Zug states that the creature in the photo does not resemble any creature or animal living in Lake Champlain, that he knows of (Hall 1).

The creature has become so famous and so much a part of life in Vermont and New York, that both states passed laws to protect the monster. The creature was put on the endangered species list only as a precaution. The law will protect the creature if anyone eventually does come upon a Champ. Quebec has not placed Champ on its list of endangered animals. [5]

A skeptical perspective Edit

While many Champ believers claim there's a remarkable consistency in reports, skeptics see otherwise. According to Nickell, the Affolter-Bodette account is just the latest in a long list of Champ sightings that describe a "chameleonesque creature that is black, gray, brown, moss green, reddish bronze or other color, and is between 10 and 187 feet long, with multiple humps or coils as well as horns or a mane or glowing eyes or 'jaws like an alligator'—or none of those features."[6]

Even the interpretation of Champlain's original account as describing Champ has come under fire, with skeptics saying that it merely describes a large native fish that most likely was a gar, rather than the "20-foot serpent thick as a barrel, and a head like a horse," as described in recently embellished retellings.[7]

Skeptical authorities like Nickell attribute such varied sightings to imaginiative interpretations of real sightings of large fish like garfish or other sturgeon, schools of fish, and other aquatic animals. "For example, otters, swimming in a line, can mimic a single long, serpentine creature moving in an undulating fashion," he writes. "Other Champ suspects include wind slicks, boat wakes, driftwood, long-necked birds, and many other possibilities. A contributing factor is 'expectant attention,' the tendency of people who, expecting to see something, are misled by anything resembling [what they are looking for]."

Not everyone finds the photograph taken by Sandra Mansi or her account credible. Skeptic Joe Nickell reports that the entire bay of the lake where the photograph reportedly was taken is no deeper than 14 feet. It's hard to explain how a giant creature could swim, let alone hide, in such shallow water.[8]

2006 videoEdit

Champ reportedly can be seen in a video taken by fishermen Dick Affolter and his stepson Pete Bodette in the summer of 2005. [2] Unfortunately, the video has been removed. However, frames can be viewed here. [3] In the video, something appears under the water near the fisherman's boat and some Champ defenders are calling it the best proof the monster truly exists. Depending on one's disposition, close examination can show either (a.) a head and neck of a plesiosaur-like animal and even an open mouth in one frame and a closed mouth in another or (b.) a fish or eel (see top link for frames). 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."[4]

See alsoEdit

References Edit

  1. Govt. of Canada, "Canada's Lake Creature"
  2. Nickell, J. "Investigative Files: Legend of the Lake Champlain Monster," Skeptical Inquirer, July 2003.
  3. Chorvinsky, M. "Nessie and Other Lake Monsters"
  4. [1]
  5. Champ Quest, "Vermont and New York Champ Protection Laws"
  6. Nickell, J "Lake Monster Resurfaces,' Special Articles, CSICOP"
  7. Nickell, J., "Investigative Files: Legend of the Lake Champlain Monster, Skeptical Inquirer, July 2003."
  8. Nickell, J., "Investigative File: Legend of the Lake Champlain Monster, Skeptical Inquirer, July 2003."

External linksEdit