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Champ - Lake Monster of Lake Champlain | Vermont Cryptids

By: Brittany "Pagan" Adkins


Lake Champlain Monster

Continuing our investigation of Vermont, we're moving on to local cryptids. This week we're focusing one of the most notable to the region, a lake monster named Champ. Let's dive deeper into this local legend and discuss its possible connections to other creatures in the area.  


Click here to listen to the episode while you read!


Basics on Champ

  • Date: First sighting in 1609! Our earliest documented story

  • Location: Lake Champlain is a 125-mile (201 km)-long body of freshwater shared by New York and Vermont

  • Hundreds of sightings

  • Size: 10-30ft in length

  • Color: Black, brown scaly



Basics on Lake

  • Depth: 427ft

  • Lake Champlain used to be a sea. It got water from the Atlantic ocean, and fossils show saltwater creatures like whales lived in this sea... 

  • In fact... The Charlotte Whale - The Vermont State Fossil is from 1849, an 11,000-year-old Beluga Whale was found north of this site what had been the Champlain Sea. Resident J.G. Thorp collected the bones and naturalist Zadock Thompson assembled the skeleton now displayed in the Perkins Museum of Geology at UVM."


So what is Champ?


Scott Mardis has been investigating it for the last 26 years. His hypothesis is that plesiosaurs survived the extinction and made their way into the Champlain Sea. He believes a colony has been surviving and breeding there for years. Many of the food sources the plesiosaur fed on exist in that lake. 



What's a Plesiosauria?


Plesiosaurs first appeared in the latest Triassic Period, possibly in the Rhaetian stage, about 203 million years ago. They became especially common during the Jurassic Period, thriving until their disappearance due to the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous Period, about 66 million years ago. They had a worldwide oceanic distribution.

They ate fish, squids, mollusks, and other small sea creatures

Folklore




Native Americans had folklore about a serpent in the lake. A petroglyph exists not far from the lake. 

"The indigenous people that have long-lived and hunted near Lake Champlain, the Abenaki and the Iroquois, have their own legends about a large creature inhabiting the lake, which looked like a large, horned serpent or giant snake. The Abenaki term for this creature is Gitaskog." - https://www.lakechamplainregion.com/heritage/champ



Noteworthy Sightings



  • "The next famous account appears in the Plattsburgh Republican newspaper on Saturday, July 24, 1819. Captain Crum was aboard a scow on Bulwagga Bay the previous Thursday morning when he reported a black monster, about 187 feet long and with a head resembling a sea horse, that reared more than 15 feet out of the water. He claimed the monster he saw had three teeth, eyes the color of an "a pealed [sic] onion," a white star on its forehead, and "a belt of red around the neck." This is a remarkable level of detail concerning an object that was, according to the witness, some 200 yards away. 

  • 1873 was a busy year for Champ. A New York Times story reported that a railroad crew had seen the head of an "enormous serpent" in Lake Champlain, with bright silvery scales that glistened in the sun. Both the men and the monster parted ways at that point. (Lake Champlain sea serpent got it's first big spotlight in 1873. Near Whitehall New York, railroad workers saw a serpent-like creature swimming. it was about 20ft long with sharp teeth.)

  • In July that same year, Clinton County Sheriff Nathan H. Mooney reported an "enormous snake or water serpent" he thought was 25 to 35 feet long. Then in August, the steamship W.B. Eddy encountered Champ by running into it. The ship nearly turned over, according to the tourists on board. 



  • Never one to miss a trick, showman P. T. Barnum offered a reward of $50,000 in 1873 for "hide of the great Champlain serpent to add to my mammoth World's Fair Show.(PT Barnum offed $50,000 for the hide of the serpent aka kill it. Thankfully, no one turned a hide in, but people tried. 

This brings up a whole other question - if we find out about these things, how do we (the paranormal community disclose them?)

  • Later that month, a steamboat claims to have hit the creature and almost sank.

  • 1915 -NYT piece about creature stuck in the shallows of Bulwaga Bay

  • 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. 



Some say that it couldn't possibly champ cause the water was too shallow but what if it was young one? We see large sharks swim in shallow waters why wouldn't this creature? 

Some, however, believe it was a log, not Champ in the photo. 




Champ is now protected by law on both sides of Lake Champlain, just in case.

  • 1981 — Port Henry, New York, declares their waters a safe haven for Champ

  • 1982 — The state of Vermont passes a House Resolution protecting Champ

  • 1983 — In New York, both the state Assembly and the state Senate pass resolutions protecting Champ

Final thoughts on Champ


"Historians think Champ is probably a garfish, a class that includes lake sturgeon, which still live in Lake Champlain today. Champlain's description of the creature sounds very much like a garfish, albeit much larger than usual." - https://www.lakechamplainregion.com/heritage/champ



We think a Plesiosaurs could be the case. It's logical enough for me to want to believe, and the story doesn't seem to be hurting anyone. Champ away!

Other creatures similar to Champ:


In Lake Memphremagog there is another sea serpent-like creature known as the Memphre. While this lake is smaller than Champlain at 39 square miles, it still is large enough to house this creature. It is said it is likely a plesiosaur.




Other Vermont Cryptids


There is one cryptid we didn't get to talk about in the episode. For me, this one was a bit too outlandish to actually buy into. It is called the Coonigator. Yes, it sounds as wild as it is. It is a mixture of an alligator and a raccoon. I will leave you all to research it more if you want to but her is a fun image to close out this episode. 




See you all next week!

Links: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Champ_(folklore)

https://roadtrippers.com/magazine/lake-champlain-champ/

https://vtdigger.org/2019/03/24/uncovering-vermonts-stone-carvings/

https://www.lakechamplainregion.com/heritage/champ

https://www.vpr.org/post/no-answers-yet-american-eel-die-lake-champlain#stream/0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNCHcG3zUB8&list=PLXeLjfrE1fz72wcTgLPaOSBmCLHKH0qUA

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/quebecs-lake-memphremagog_n_1966470

https://www.cryptopia.us/site/2011/01/coonigator-vermont-usa/

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