Champ, the Lake Champlain Monster


For over 200 years, people have been reporting sightings of mysterious creatures in Lake Champlain. These reports often describe a large animal – Champ, but the details of its appearance are often vague and inconsistent. Some have suggested that it could be a giant snake or eel, while others have proposed that it could be a dinosaur or even a whale.

In an attempt to identify this creature, some researchers have looked to the prehistoric past, suggesting that it could be a plesiosaur, a marine reptile that went extinct millions of years ago. Despite the lack of concrete evidence, the legend of the Lake Champlain Monster, also known as Champ, has persisted for generations.

The Geography of Lake Champlain

The Lake Champlain region has a long history of reports of mysterious creatures in the lake. However, the lake’s modern geography, with its constricted rivers and waterways that connect it to the sea at both ends, makes it unlikely that large animals could easily enter or exit the lake.

Around 10,000 years ago, the area was much different. What is now Lake Champlain was just a small fjord in an inland sea that covered much of what is now Quebec and Ontario in Canada, as well as parts of Vermont and New York.

This sea, known as the Champlain Sea, was created by the melting of glaciers during the Wisconsin glaciation, as well as global sea level rise and the depression of the North American continent due to the weight of the glaciers.

It is not clear how far inland marine animals made it into this system of waterways. There are reports of anomalous whale and walrus bones in Michigan, but the young radiocarbon dates (younger than 700 years) suggest that they may have been transported there by indigenous people rather than being evidence of ancient marine animals in the area.

However, the Champlain Sea deposits contain abundant fossilized remains of large marine mammals, demonstrating that such animals once lived in the region. Some animals that are now found in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, such as the grey seal, are missing from Champlain Sea fossil deposits, suggesting that there may be other large animals that have not yet been discovered.

In addition to marine mammals, sturgeon remains have been found in Champlain Sea deposits, indicating the presence of large cold-blooded vertebrates in the region. In 1849, bones of a Champlain Sea beluga whale were discovered on the shores of Lake Champlain, leading to speculation that they were the remains of a “marine saurian” (plesiosaur or ichthyosaur). This discovery may have influenced later reports of mysterious creatures in the lake.

It is possible that indigenous people in the area witnessed the transition of the Champlain Sea into modern-day freshwater Lake Champlain. The marine phase of the Champlain Sea ended around 9.8 thousand years ago, when uplift in the Quebec City area blocked marine waters from entering the St. Lawrence lowlands and the Champlain Basin. Today, Lake Champlain is home to freshwater-adapted marine fish such as the rainbow smelt and landlocked Atlantic salmon, which are remnants of the Champlain Sea period.

Native Beliefs on the Origin of Champ

An excerpt from the book The Original Vermonters by Haviland and Power (1981, University Press of New England).

At the time of European contact, the Iroquois Confederacy inhabited the western shores of Lake Champlain and the Western Abenaki band of the Wabanaki confederacy occupied the eastern shores. Both groups held the belief that the lake was home to a great horned serpent water monster. This belief was common among many indigenous cultures in North America.

The Iroquois had a legend of a dragon-like horned water serpent called Oniare, which lurked in the Great Lakes and was said to capsize canoes and eat people. Its breath was believed to be poisonous. In some Iroquois traditions, travelers who made offerings to Oniare were spared, while in others, people could protect themselves by invoking the thundergod Hinon, who was the mortal enemy of Oniare. The name “oniare” simply means “snake” in Mohawk, while “onyarekowa” means “great snake.”

The Western Abenaki had a creature or spirit called Pita-skog, Gita-skog, or Tatoskok, which was described as an underwater horned serpent. There is evidence that the Western Abenaki believed in the existence of two distinct reptilian underwater creatures in Lake Champlain.

The original photograph of Champ, by Sandra Mansi.

History of the Cryptid

The legend of Champ, a mysterious creature also known as the Lake Champlain Monster, has been a part of the history of the Lake Champlain region for centuries. It is rumored that the famous explorer Samuel de Champlain saw Champ in the early 1600s, although this claim was first made falsely in Vermont Life magazine in 1970. In 1819, Captain Crum claimed to have seen a monster that was approximately 187 feet long, with a seahorse-like head, three teeth, onion-colored eyes, a white star on its forehead, and a red belt around its neck.

Champ became well-known enough that in 1873, P.T. Barnum offered a large sum for the “hide of the great Champlain serpent” to add to his World’s Fair Show. Today, there are signs along the coast of Lake Champlain that read “Champy, legendary lake monster lives here. Over 300 sightings have been reported since 1819. Up to 200 feet long. NYS Law protects this regional icon.” Another sign in the area tells the legend of Champ’s origin, stating that he was a “scorned suitor [who] transformed into a lake monster when he plunged into [Bulwagga] Bay after drowning his love.” This legend also gives the bay its name, Bulwagga Bay.

Some people, known as Champ-truthers, believe in the existence of Champ and speculate that he may be related to a type of dinosaur or the Loch Ness Monster due to the similarities between the two bodies of water. The most famous photograph of Champ was taken in 1977 and, according to the Adirondack Coast website, has not been altered.

Champ in Modern Times

In the late 1900s, Champ sightings increased significantly, with around 600 people claiming to have seen the Lake Champlain Monster. Many of these sightings were accompanied by photos, which were much debated and analyzed by Champ enthusiasts. 

In the 21st century, there was a new wave of Champ sightings, with double digits reported each summer. This renewed interest in Champ led to coverage on various media outlets, such as the Today Show, Unsolved Mysteries, and Sightings. In 2003, the Discovery Channel even did a special on “America’s Loch Ness Monster” in response to three new sightings that year. Champ has also been written about in Discover magazine and scholarly journals.

The local hero is a monster in terms of bringing in tourism dollars, in fact the entire area is mad for Champ. The Lake Monsters, a Vermont baseball team, have a Champ mascot, and there is a Champ statue in Port Henry, New York. Images of the monster can be found throughout the area, on t-shirts, in children’s books, and more. There is even a historic marker on the shore in Clinton County in honor of the lake monster.

Hunting Champ, the Lake Champlain Monster

In 2015, a group called the Brooklyn Paranormal Society was formed to investigate the sightings, and try to find scientific evidence of Champ’s existence. The group, which was made up of local residents, scientists, and journalists, conducted several expeditions in an attempt to locate the monster.

One member of BKPS, Tina, went on several trips to try to see Champ. Despite her efforts, she never caught a glimpse of the creature. “I was really excited to be a part of the search for Champ. I went on several expeditions and spent countless hours on the lake, hoping to catch a glimpse of the monster. Unfortunately, we never had any luck. We did come across some strange and unexplained phenomena, but we were never able to conclusively prove the existence of Champ.”

Hunting for a monster like Champ, the legendary creature of Lake Champlain, requires a combination of careful planning, the right equipment, and a bit of luck.

First and foremost, it is important to do your research and be well-informed about the monster you are hunting. This includes understanding the habitat and behavior of the creature, as well as any reported sightings or other relevant information. This knowledge can help you determine the best times and locations to search for the monster.

Next, you will need to gather the necessary equipment. This can include a reliable boat and any necessary safety gear, such as life jackets and a first aid kit. You will also need to bring along any specialized equipment, such as digital voice recorders, underwater cameras or sonar equipment, that may be helpful in tracking the monster.

It is also essential to have a solid plan in place for how you will approach the hunt. This may include setting up a system for tracking and documenting any potential sightings, as well as establishing a protocol for safely and humanely capturing the monster if you are successful.

Of course, a bit of luck is always helpful when hunting for a monster. However, by being well-prepared and having a clear strategy in place, you can increase your chances of finding Champ or any other mysterious creature you may be searching for.

In addition to the practical considerations, it is important to remember that hunting for a monster is a serious undertaking and should not be taken lightly. It is essential to respect the creature and the environment in which it lives, and to adhere to any laws and regulations that may be in place to protect it.

In Conclusion

Despite the lack of concrete evidence, the legend of Champ continues to captivate the imaginations of people all over the world. Some believe that Champ is a type of prehistoric reptile, similar to the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland. Others believe that it is a hoax, created to attract tourists to the area.

The legend of Champ, the Lake Champlain Monster, has captivated the imaginations of people all over the world for centuries. Despite numerous sightings and reports of the creature, there is still no concrete evidence of its existence. While some may believe that Champ is a type of prehistoric reptile or even a relative of the Loch Ness Monster, it is more likely that it is a hoax created to attract tourists to the area.

However, for the locals of the Lake Champlain region, Champ is very real, as the legend brings in big dollars in revenue from tourists and merchandise. The Brooklyn Paranormal Society has even conducted investigations into the lake monster, and we are always interested in hearing from anyone with information about Champ.

So while it is unlikely that Champ truly exists, the legend remains an enduring and beloved part of the history and culture of the Lake Champlain region. Whether it is a hoax or a real creature, Champ will always be a fascinating and mysterious part of the world. If you have any information about Champ or any other paranormal phenomena, please don’t hesitate to contact the Brooklyn Paranormal Society.

hamiltoncs, A History of the Lake Champlain “Monster” by Scott Mardis

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