The British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club

Champ (Lake Champlain)

Copyright Sandra Mansi, 1977. Licensed by Gamma LiaisonAs one weaves one's way through the cryptozoological maze it would seem that the border area between the northeastern American states and the Canadian province of Quebec is fertile territory as far as lake monsters are concerned. The following two monsters have arrived at a place of infamy because of their frequent visits to the surfaces of both lakes which are normally brimming with boaters and visitors.

The legend of the lake Champlain Monster or Champ as he is known has been around for over a hundred years. Contrary to popular opinion Samuel de Champlain, the French explorer did not see the monster which was named after him. For years the story was told that Champlain had had an encounter with the beast, but diligent scholarship has uncovered evidence that suggests Champlain was rather amazed at the tough hide of the gar-pike and not the greyish black skin of the Monster.

Native tradition asserts the presence of some type of water monster in the lake and it was not until the 18th century that significant numbers of white settlers and ultimately holidaymakers were able to see the animal for themselves. Many of the initial witnesses were aboard vessels taking visitors for leisurely cruises around the lake and were rather startled by the sight of a long-necked, horse-headed creature with a number of humps trailing behind its fore sections.

The 20th century saw yet more reports that an aquatic curiosity was still causing a great deal of consternation to the lakeside inhabitants and yet more visitors. On the scene arrives the strapping Joseph Zarzynski, a schoolteacher from Wilton, New York who displays a seemingly insatiable appetite for gathering reports of sightings. Zarynski's diligent research is the foundation upon which all the work into solving the origins of the Lake Champlain has been constructed. Not content with report gathering and surface observation, Joseph Zarzynski then aided by a distinguished group of sonar experts began to conduct subsurface scans to look for the elusive beast.

Investing thousands of hours of his time and reducing his bank balance left Zarr with a few strong sonar contacts, but no observable phenomena and not one clear picture of Champ.

Sandri Mansi is a different story entirely and has the distinction of having captured the clearest evidence to date of any lake monster on the planet. A diminutive woman and native of the small town of Middlebury, Vermont, Sandra Mansi and her husband Tony were picnicking near North Hero, Vermont along with their two children. It was an idyllic sort of day with just the faintest breeze wafting across the surface of Lake Champlain. The kids were happily playing by the water's edge when the scene of pastoral perfection was blitzed by a commotion that resembles a submarine breaking the surface.

To the Mansis sheer shock a huge blackish grey animal had risen from the depths and was turning its head around as if it were in search of its bearings. Tony Mansi sprung to his feet and gathered his children from the lake shore and tossed a small instamatic camera into his wife's hands. Sandra stumbled and fell to her knees as she joined the general evacuation of the area, but managed to compose herself adequately to snap a quick photo of what was a long-necked beast with a single hump trailing behind.

The Mansis leapt into their car and speedily maneuvered away from the apparition in the lake. It is not recorded whether any of the Mansis took the trouble or should one say summoned up the courage to look back. For two years the photo languished in the family album, until a loose-tongued colleague of Sandra Mansi began to make known the existence of a photograph which some believe is the best ever taken of a lake cryptid.

In a pre-emptive strike against the possibility of the photo falling into the hands of the tabloids, Sandra Mansi traveled to Washington, D.C. to have the picture copyrighted. Subsequent analysis by scientists from establishments such as the Smithsonian Institution and The University of Arizona optical sciences has failed to discredit the photograph.

Recent investigations by BCSCC members Ben Radford and Joe Nickell, who are also members of the Committee for the Scientific Claims of the Paranormal, have cast doubts on the size of the object seen in the Mansi photograph. Much has been made of the size estimates made by BCSCC chairman, Dr. Paul Leblond, which appeared in the Cryptozoology, the Interdisciplinary Journal of the International Society of Cryptozoology. Dr. Leblond has clearly stated both in the original article and since then that the height estimate of the creature’s head and neck are not to be taken as definitive and all these estimates of size can be discarded if more accurate data is received.

Since the Mansis' 1977 Champ has made hundreds of appearances, much to the delight of the local and visiting populations. In 1983 Kelly Williams of Port Henry, New York was privileged to see and photograph Champ in the waters of Bulwagga Bay. Kelly's photos show a dark object plowing through the waters of the bay, although no head and neck are distinguishable.

In 2005, two recreational fishermen, Pete Bodette and Dick Affolter, videotaped what they believe to be the Lake Champlain cryptid on the surface of the lake. The video was shown on Good Morning America in February, 2006, and the BCSCC was not convinced by the activity of the surface of the lake that it was anything, but fish feeding or just waves. That being said, when we viewed a segment of the video footage taken of an object rising to the surface from under the boat, we were absolutely baffled by the long-necked, small-headed animal that appears in the footage. This creature appears to be very similar to the object in the Mansi photo and requires further and more detailed examination before any conclusions can be ultimately arrived at. Unfortunately, the footage is heavily protected by copyright and we are unable to display a still that we have acquired of this creature.

Joseph Zarzynski has ceased from actively investigating the Champ phenomenon and nowadays spends his spare time searching for shipwrecks. Today the work at Lake Champlain is largely in the hands of Dennis Jay Hall, the indefatigable director of Champ Quest. Hall has seen the creature as well as photographed and videotaped the beast on a number of occasions. As a teenager, Hall believes that he caught a juvenile of the Champ species which his father sent to the University of Vermont to be identified. However, no identification was made and the mystery creature was lost to posterity.

Each summer Hall adds to his catalogue of findings by spending many hours patiently observing the lake and refining his search methods and techniques. The cryptid of Lake Champlain awaits further efforts to unmask its true identity and it is possible that Dennis Hall may be in the right place at the right time to get that clear and distinct image that may yet reveal what Champ truly is.