Forget Nessie–today, we’re talking about Champ. Perhaps the best-known lake-dwelling cryptid in America, Champ (or Champy) is said to live in Lake Champlain in northwestern Vermont.
Like the famous monster of Loch Ness, Champ is usually described as a plesiosaur-like creature with a long neck. However, some experts believe he might be an entirely different kind of cryptid.
Lake Champlain is the largest body of water in the region. It stretches 120 miles along the border between Vermont and New York, extending all the way to Canada. At its deepest point, it plunges down 400 feet.
French explorer Samuel de Champlain, the namesake of the lake, may have been the first European to see the monster in 1609. However, later reports clarified that, although Champlain wrote about monstrous fish living in the lake, he was actually referring to gar pike, not a lake monster.
Even if Champlain himself did not see the monster, more than 300 people have claimed to encounter Champ over the centuries. In the late 18th century, circus promoter P.T. Barnum offered a $20,000 reward (about half a million dollars in today’s money) for capturing the monster, but thankfully no one was able to do so. You’d hate to see Champ end up like the Feejee Mermaid!
First-hand accounts from 200 years ago are one thing, but what about modern photo, video, and audio evidence? The clearest known photo of Champ was taken by Sandra Manse in 1977. She snapped the photo below, showing a long-necked creature rising from the lake.
In 2003, researchers recorded strange sounds in the waters of the lake. They described them as sounding remarkably similar to the noises produced by Beluga whales. Just one problem: There aren’t supposed to be whales in the lake. Could Champ be some strange, isolated cousin of those ocean mammals?
However, a pair of cryptozoologists named Katy Elizabeth and Dennis Hall have another theory. In 2016, after studying strange tracks on the shores of the lake, Elizabeth and Hall declared that Champ could be a type of crocodile!
Last year, Katy Elizabeth returned to the lake and used sonar to continue her search for Champ. She claims to have recorded sonar evidence of two creatures below the surface. One is about 25 feet long and the other is 30 feet. Could they be a parent and child or a mated pair of creatures?
Like other lake monsters in America, Champ’s roots stretch back to the Native American tribes who lived in the area. The Abenaki called the creature Tatoskok or Gitaskog, a horned serpent that lived in the lake and ate people. Like Ogopogo, a Canadian lake monster, it’s possible that Champ is merely a Western misinterpretation of an ancient legend.
Regardless, Champ is a central figure in the folklore–and economy–of the region. Champ brings in tourist dollars to the area on both sides of the Vermont/New York border. The creature is the mascot of a local sports team, and locals even host a parade and festival on “Champ Day” that is very popular for out-of-town visitors.