Champ (folklore)

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Artistic representation of Sandra Mansi's 1977 photograph of "Champ" lake monster.jpg
Sub groupingLake Monster / Sea Serpent
Other name(s)Lake Champlain Monster
CountryUnited States, Canada
RegionLake Champlain

In American folklore, Champ or Champy[1] is the name of a lake monster said to live 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.[2] The legend of the monster is considered a draw for tourism in the Burlington, Vermont and Plattsburgh, New York areas.

Map of Lake Champlain watershed

History of the legend[edit]

Over the years, there have been over 300 reported sightings of Champ.

The original story is related to Iroquois legends of giant snakes, whom the Mohawk named Onyare’kowa.

French cartographer 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 large fish:

There is also a great abundance of fish, of many varieties: among others, one called by the savages of the country Chaoufarou, "which varies in length, the largest being, as the people told me, eight or ten feet long. I saw some five feet long, which were as large as my thigh; the head being as big as my two fists, with a snout two feet and half long, and a double row of very sharp and dangerous teeth. Its body is, in shape, very much like that of a pike; but it is armed with scales so strong and a poniard could not pierce them. Its color is silver-gray.

The 1878 translation of his journals clarifies that Chaoufaou refers to gar (or gar pike), specifically Lepisosteus osseus (the longnose gar).[3]

An 1819 report in the Plattsburgh Republican, entitled "Cape Ann Serpent on Lake Champlain", reports a "Capt. Crum" sighting an enormous serpentine monster.[4][5] 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.[6]

In 1883, Sheriff Nathan H. Mooney claimed that he had seen a water serpent about "20 rods" (the equivalent of 110 yards in length) 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.[7]

The legend of Champ captured the interest of P. T. Barnum, and in 1873[8] and 1887,[9] the famous showman offered rewards for anyone who could bring him the monster.[6]

Sandra Mansi with investigators Joe Nickell and Benjamin Radford

Mansi photograph[edit]

In 1977, Sandra Mansi took a photograph while on vacation with her family that appears to show something sticking out of the lake.[10] 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.[11] It has been suggested that the object in the photograph could possibly be a rising tree trunk or log.[12]

Champ floating tree stump model

Recent reports[edit]

Champ reportedly can be seen in a video taken by fishermen Dick Affolter and his stepson Pete Bodette in the summer of 2005.[13] 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".[14]

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.[15] An article describing the recordings has been published to scientific literature.[16] Based upon appearance and "mysterious alligatorlike tracks" found near Lake Champlain, cryptozoologists Katy Elizabeth and Dennis Hall suggested in 2016 that "Champ" could be a member of the family Crocodylidae (crocodiles). Researcher Scott Mardis explains that the tracks were likely the tracks of a large snapping turtle and also mentions the Longnose Gar or the Lake Sturgeon as more probable candidates for "Champ."[17]

Cultural importance to New York and Vermont[edit]

Vermont Lake Monsters mascot

The Champ legend has become a revenue-generating attraction.[11] 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 baseball team, the Vermont Lake Monsters, Champ became more prominent after the team was renamed from the Vermont Expos to the Vermont Lake Monsters following the 2005 season. Champ has been the primary attraction of the former Minor League Baseball team since their inception, and continues to serve as the Futures Collegiate Baseball League team's mascot. This mascot version of Champ appears as a special guest at various charitable and other functions throughout Vermont. Several nearby establishments, including a car wash, use images of Champ as a logo.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Caudell, Robin (Nov 5, 2011). "Gordie Little writes children's book". Press-Republican. Retrieved Dec 9, 2014.
  2. ^ "Canada's Lake Creature: Champ". Welcome to Ogopogo Country. Centre culturel Marie-Anne-Gaboury. 2001. Archived from the original on 2005-03-02. Retrieved 25 October 2009.
  3. ^ de Champlain, Samuel (1878). Voyages of Samuel de Champlain. 2: 1604-1610. Translated by Otis, Charles Pomeroy. Boston, Massachusetts: Prince Society. pp. 215–217.
  4. ^ Mackerel, Horse (24 July 1819). "Cape Ann Serpent on Lake Champlain". Plattsburgh Republican. 9 (17). Plattsburgh, New York. p. 2 – via NYS Historic Newspapers.
  5. ^ "The Search for Champ" (PDF). Lake Placid/Essex County Visitor's Bureau. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-13. Retrieved 2010-04-03.
  6. ^ a b Joe, Nickell (July 2003). "Legend of the Lake Champlain Monster". Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Archived from the original on 7 February 2010. Retrieved 17 January 2016.
  7. ^ Hall, Dennis Jay (June 1999). Champ Quest 1999: The Ultimate Search. Essence of Vermont. p. 55. ISBN 978-1-928837-00-8.
  8. ^ Wheelock, J. W., ed. (27 August 1873). "Vermont News". The Green Mountain Freeman. 30 (35). Monpelier, Vermont. p. 3 – via I hereby offer $50,000 for the hide of the great Champlain Serpent to add to my Mammoth World's Fair Show.
  9. ^ Staff writer (5 August 1887). "After a Sea Serpent". The Daily Post. 45. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. p. 4 – via P.T. Barnum believes that a huge sea serpent exists, and has renewed his offer of $20,000 for the reptile.
  10. ^ Radford, Benjamin (April 2004). "Lake Champlain Monster". Fortean Times. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  11. ^ a b Joe, Nickell (July–August 2003). "Legend of the Lake Champlain Monster". Skeptical Inquirer. CSI. Archived from the original on 2010-02-07. Retrieved 2010-04-03.
  12. ^ Nickell, Joe (July 2003). "Legend of the Lake Champlain Monster". The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Archived from the original on 7 February 2010. Retrieved 31 October 2010.
  13. ^ Phillips, Adam (21 March 2006). "Is Lake Champlain Home to a Sea Serpent?". Voice of America. Archived from the original on 31 March 2012. Retrieved 25 October 2009.
  14. ^ "Is There a Monster in Lake Champlain?". GMA. ABC News. 22 February 2008. Retrieved 25 October 2009.
  15. ^ "Lake's First 'Champ-Hearing' Recorded". Burlington Free Press. July 2003. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  16. ^ Vonmuggenthaler, Elizabeth; Gregory, Joseph; Mardis, Scott H. (2010). "Echolocation in a fresh water lake". The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 127 (3): 1862. Bibcode:2010ASAJ..127.1862V. doi:10.1121/1.3384449.
  17. ^ Mardis, Scott (Fall 2016). Radford, Benjamin (ed.). "A Champlain 'Croc' of Mythic Proportions". Skeptical Briefs. Center for Inquiry. 26 (3): 4.
  18. ^ "Champ Touchless Car Wash". Champ Touchless Car Wash. Retrieved 17 January 2016.

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