Do you believe in Champ?

Big news from Lake Champlain this week… Our local media has picked up the story of a Vermont man who videotaped a mysterious-looking something apparently swimming in the lake near Burlington over the weekend.  He shared the video to YouTube.  Is it a really big dog?  A deer? Could it be Champ, Lake Champlain’s resident monster?

Still from

People are naturally skeptical, and at least one scientist has suggested that it actually looks like a moose in distress.  I can’t say for sure what’s swimming through the water in this shot.  But I can say that it’s very different from my own experience with the legendary Champlain monster. 

That’s right…I’ve seen the lake monster. I don’t talk about it much (because I’m afraid of getting those looks that I always used to give people who talked about seeing lake monsters).  But the creature I saw was longer –  probably 15-20 feet, with bumps along its back, and its head didn’t stick out of the water so much.  I’ve seen it twice.

The first time was late spring of 2003.  I was making dinner, and my son called to me from the living room. 

"Mom…. What’s that?"  He stared out the window, and when I saw what he was pointing at, I stared too.

"Well…"  About 60 yards offshore, I could see a series of small bumps in the water that stretched out for at least fifteen feet.  And the whole thing was moving.  Swimming.  There was a small wake behind it.

"Well," I said again.  "I think…uh…."  The thing turned in the water, and the bumps snaked around.  It straightened out and swam a little closer to shore. "Well…I think that’s what people see when they say they see Champ."

We rushed outside and stood on the seawall, watching it swim back and forth for at least five minutes. Then it sank below the surface and disappeared.   About an hour later, my husband came home for dinner.

"What’s new?"  he asked.

"We saw Champ," my son told him.

"Right…"  No matter how many times we insisted it was true, he shook his head and laughed.  Until the following week.

"Hey, Kate?"  he called from the living room window.  "Is that what you saw the other night?"

There it was again.  This time, we all ran outside, along with a dozen people from the birthday party that was going on next door.  The creature was just the same…bumps protruding from the water just a little…and easily 20 feet long. 

And then… a second creature appeared, looking just the same, but swimming in the opposite direction.  They crossed paths, back and forth several times, and didn’t even seem to acknowledge one another.  Were they feeding on a school of fish?  What were they?  No one left to get a video camera; we were sure they were about to disappear.  But they stayed for another ten minutes, swimming back and forth. And then swam off.

Were they lake creatures left over from centuries past?  Was each long creature really just a few giant sturgeon, swimming in perfect single file?

I don’t know.  And part of me… likes not knowing.  I love living here, for the mountains and cool still water, for the historical shipwrecks and musical waves.  And for the mystery.   I love that Lake Champlain still has some secrets she’s not giving up just yet.

25 Replies on “Do you believe in Champ?

  1. I believe! So when’s your Champy (I’ve always known him as champy) story coming?? How cool that you’ve seen him twice!

  2. I love the mystery of Champ. I also like believing humans don’t know *everything* there is to know about what lies beneath the water 🙂 Thanks for sharing your story!

  3. Thank you so much–I wanted to see that video. And it’s totally cool that you’ve seen champ(s) more than once!

    My husband has had his boat pulled up river by a sturgeon. People don’t belive him about that, but it happened. I also know several people including the son of a fish and game officer, a neighbor and my mother-in-law who have seen a nonexistant catamount.

    I so hope you get to see champ again (and photograph it), but not while you’re swimming:)

  4. I love this post! That is really cool… and I have to say, this is why I don’t like swimming in water if I can’t *see* the bottom. It’s not the depth that worries me – it’s the not knowing what else might be swimming with me! 0.o

  5. This is so neat. Despite growing up within a mile or so of the lake, I never saw Champ.. but I’m delighted to hear from those like you who have!

  6. Interestingly enough, I love lake swimming and have never worried about swimming with Champ. I imagine him as a friendly sort who would look at me curiously and then swim off…

  7. It really looks like Champ! 🙂
    I heard my step-dad say that he tried to find the video earlier at work but he couldn’t find it at all and thought it was deleted. I will have to show this too him! haha.
    I saw it on the news but I didn’t get to see it cause I fell asleep infront of the T.V, silly me. Well, it was the 11 o’clock news and I was tired that day!