Does Champ Exist?
Craig Olson

    Lake Champlain is located between Vermont and New York.  It is the sixth largest lake in the United States at 110 miles in length and 12 miles in width.  Lurking somewhere in the depths of this lake is a creature known as "Champ."  The monster has reportedly been spotted about 300 times.  Since tourists began flooding Vermont in the late 1800s, the sale of Champ shirts, Champ coffee cups, and other touristy Champ knickknacks has skyrocketed.  Champ is also the official mascot of the Vermont Lake Monsters, the state's only professional baseball team.  The town of Port Henry, NY has a wooden sculpture of Champ, a Champ sightings board, and the town even holds an annual Champ Day on the first Saturday of every August.  The states of New York and Vermont have even passed laws that would protect the animal if it were ever closely encountered by a person.  Despite all of the hype surrounding the monster, Champ has successfully kept from providing any physical evidence of his existence.


Vermont Lake Monsters Logo

                    champ sightings board

Champ Sightings Board

    Without any physical evidence of Champ, how do we know he exists?  The truth is, we do not have any proof that he does.  In fact, there are many skeptics regarding the monster including Joe Nickell Ph. D., a Senior Research Fellow of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.  Based on a combination of Champ reports, Nickell cynically describes Champ as being "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." 

    Although the view that Champ does not exist is the plausible explanation, seeing as there is not yet true physical evidence of the monster, there are still many believers.  And why shouldn't there be?  There are plenty of believable reports mixed in with the crazy ones.  For example, Sandra Mansi in 1977 photographed Champ in what is said to be the best photographic evidence of any monster.  Mansi said that she, her husband, and their children were visiting the lake when her husband saw the monster in the water.  He ran to get the camera while she got the kids out of the water.  Mansi's husband handed her the camera and she took one photo.  After a few years of keeping the photo hidden, Mansi finally had it examined by photography experts to prove that it was a real picture.  The only problem with the photo is that she only remembers that it was taken somewhere near St. Albans, but not the exact location.

                    mansi's photo
Sandra Mansi's Photograph


Image from Affolter and Bodette's Video


     More recent evidence of Champ's existence is from a video taken by two fishermen, Dick Affolter and Pete Bodette, in the summer of 2005.  Though it is no longer available, the video was aired on "Good Morning America" and featured a video of something coming up from the depths of the lake next to the men's boat.  Neither Affolter nor Bodette could explain what they saw, but both of the experienced fishermen admitted that it was like nothing they had ever seen.

    Perhaps the most impressive evidence of Champ's existence, however, is not a photo or video.  It is a recorded sound.  In June, 2003, a team from the Fauna Communications Research Institute visited Lake Champlain.  On three separate occasions, using high tech equipment, the team visited areas of the lake where Champ sightings have occurred.  The team picked up an echolocation signal on all three occasions that measured about 140 kHz.  Echolocation is basically an alternative to sight in which the animal uses extremely high pitched noises to create vibration.  This vibration then bounces off the animal's prey and can be detected by the predator.  In underwater environments, the only known animals that use echolocation are dolphins and whales.  This signal, however, could not have been made by a whale or dolphin because is very different from their signals.  Also, freshwater dolphins live in much warmer climates, like the Amazon and Southeast Asia.


                 champ's humps
Champ Humps?

longnose gar
Longnose Gar

    Contrary to popular belief, French explorer Samuel de Champlain was not the first European to see the monster.  The rumor is that in 1609, Samuel de Champlain saw something in the water that he described as a "20-foot serpent thick as a barrel, and a head like a horse.  According to Champlain's journal, however, this is not the case.  The quote from Volume 2 Chapter IX is as follows:  ". . . [T]here is also a great abundance of many species of fish. Amongst others there is one called by the natives Chaousarou, which is of various lengths; but the largest of them, as these tribes have told me, are from eight to ten feet long. I have seen some five feet long, which were as big as my thigh, and had a head as large as my two fists, with a snout two feet and a half long, and a double row of very sharp, dangerous teeth. Its body has a good deal the shape of the pike; but it is protected by scales of a silvery gray colour and so strong that a dagger could not pierce them."


    This description is nothing like any description of Champ.  In fact, it is a near perfect description of the longnose gar, another denizen of the lake.  If Champ is not a longnose gar, then what is he?  Two of the more popular beliefs are that Champ is either a Plesiosaur or a Tanystropheus.  Both of these reptiles are prehistoric creatures that are believed to be extinct.  Each one has a very long neck, while the Plesiosaur has flippers, and the Tanystropheus has small feet that allow it to walk on land.  In fact, the unofficial scientific name of Champ is Champtanystropheus, coined by expert Champ hunter Dennis Jay Hall.  The name is not accepted by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature, because there is no animal or pieces of animal available for study.  There have also been many beliefs that Champ is actually an existing creature in the lake.  Some theories are that Champ is actually a longnose gar, a large sturgeon, or a line of otters swimming.  Still another skeptical theory is that the sightings are of large fish, and the photographs are just hoaxes.





    Although there have been many Champ sightings, the debate on his existence will never be solved until scientists acquire a specimen of the animal, if it indeed exists.  Otherwise, no number of photographs can prove there is an animal, because there are always people there to say that it was just a sturgeon or a longnose gar.

"Champ (legend)." Wikipedia. 14 November 2006

Nickell, Joe. "Lake 'Monster' Resurfaces."  Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.

O'Donnell, Philip. "Champ."  Global Lake Monster Database.  2006.

"Lake Champlain Research."

Hall, Dennis Jay.  "ChampQuest."  2005.