A still from Dennis
Hall's September 8 video, his most recent and clear shot of
Champy. Copyright Dennis Hall and Champquest, September 8,
Monster Has His Day
When it comes to publicity, our shy Lake
Champlain celebrity really gets the short end of the stick.
"Champ," or "Champy,"
as he is fondly called by Lake Champlain locals, has always been
bashful, but after almost a dozen sightings in the past year, he
is finally getting the attention he deserves.
Earlier this month, the Discovery Channel
brought up a team of experts to thoroughly sift through fact and
fiction and solve the riddle of Champy.
the button! Hear the beast.
For those of you who are not
on a first name basis with our denizen of the deep, I will offer
a crash course in Champology. Champy is a supposed creature, much
like the Loch Ness monster, who resides right here in our own Lake
He has been spotted almost
300 times over the past three centuries and there are several, albeit
blurry, photographs of the most recent sightings.
There are many theories on
what Champy might be; the predominant theory being that he is a
plesiosaur, a dinosaur that has long been thought extinct. In other
words, we've got a monster in our backyard.
Champy gets a lot less attention
than other monsters. Do you see children dressed up as little green
Champies for Halloween? No, I didn't think so. There's definitely
a prejudice around this mysterious creature. This is why I decided
to conduct a Champy hunt to see if I could get some straight answers
from the monster himself.
Of course, no single person
can hunt down a legend alone, so I invited an associate to help
me out. It is important to point out that neither one of us are
very adept at catching anything, let alone a lake monster.
Think Lucy and Desi do Plattsburgh
and you'll have an idea of our low chance of success and affinity
Every monster hunt begins the
same way: with cool gadgets. After
pooling our limited resources, my partner and I realized that chances
were slim that we were going to catch Champy with a paper clip,
57 cents, lip-gloss, and an empty diet soda can.
We were Lucy and Desi, not
MacGyver. But being as optimistic as we were, we decided to plow
on ahead anyway.
Next crisis: how does one dress
for stalking a monster? Must one accessorize as one would with a
formal affair? Would a tiara and boa attract Champy's attention
better than satin pumps and a cocktail ring?
It was decided that dinosaur
hunters of any caliber would need to hunt down Champy in a quality
Avenger style cat suit complete with heat seeking lasers. Since
Avenger style cat suits are in short supply in Plattsburgh, it was
finally decided that windbreakers and sweatpants would have to do.
Armed with our trusty penlights
and some chewing gum (no one wants to meet a fabled creature with
garlic breath) we were ready to go.
We got as far as the parking
lot before common sense took hold. We didn't know where to find
Champy; our dinky little penlight wasn't going to light any area
bigger than a thimble, and most importantly, it was frigidly cold
out. It was time for Plan B.
After careful deliberation
we decided to look for a Champy expert (Lucy and Desi get smart).
Up until a few years ago, Joseph
Zarzynski was the leading authority in the search for Champy. Zarzynski
made many strides in the hunt for Champy, including founding the
Lake Champlain Phenomena Investigation.
Zarzynski has canvassed Lake
Champlain with electrical surveillance equipment and reported large
objects moving in the lake, although nothing conclusive could be
Zarzynski is, perhaps, most
notorious for his part in convincing local and state governments
to put protective measures on Champy so that he may become a protected
Recently, Zarzynski has given
up the Champy hunt in favor of exploring shipwrecks. The Champy
reins have been passed on to Mr. Dennis Hall, the founder of Champ
Hall is attributed as the only
person to successfully and repeatedly catch Champy on film and video.
videos can be seen on his website and he is glad to hear about
any new sightings. His gadgets are cooler than ours, but it's safe
to say he doesn't have a cool Avenger style cat suit either. So,
I guess we were somewhat even.
After seeking out Hall, it was
time to obtain some information. Hall's fascination with Champy
began in 1962. His aunt and uncle had been out on a boat for the
day, and had returned to tell an engaging story of a monster that
had swam beneath their boat. Hall became immediately hooked on the
idea that there really was a monster living in Lake Champlain.
As he grew older, he began looking
and hoping to see the monster for himself.
Hall recounts his first Champy
sighting. "It was in a marsh very close I could see
it, hear it, and smell it. I did not think of Champ at the time this
thing was a monster."
This brings up an interesting
point. What was the creature called before it was known as Champy?
The Monster Formerly Known as AHH!? It just doesn't have the same
ring as Champy.
Hall describes each Champy sighting
as being more and more nerve-wracking.
"The sun is in my eyes
more, the camera shakes more, and it catches me off guard easier
than it used to," he says.
Hall has calculated a complex
calendar on his website that tells a Champ Questor when the best
time to catch a glimpse of Champy is.
Hall has seen Champy so many
times that he believes he has figured out what the monster is. Or,
that is to say, monsters. That's right folks, Champy isn't a single
entity, he's a population.
Hall believes the creatures
being sighted are Champtanystropheus, a variation of the long believed
extinct Tanystropheus, a creature with a long neck, much like the
What would Hall do if he were
to catch the elusive Champy? The answer is obvious, at least for
me. I would do as any North Country girl would do; harpoon that
mother and take him to the nearest taxidermist.
Then I'd stick him on the wall right next to the Easter Bunny and
Tooth Fairy. He'd make a great conversation piece.
Hall has a less enthusiastic
approach for when he finally gets close to Champy. He'd rather take
photographs and videos of the monster to document its existence
I prefer the more physical
approach. It's quite difficult to deny Champy's existence when he's
mounted on your living room wall with his eyes agog, staring straight
at you. But to each his own I guess.
Hall is excited to see what
the Discovery Channel will turn up in its search for Champ. There
is no information yet on when the results from their endeavors will
air, but rest assured that every Champ enthusiast out there will
be glued to their television screens, breathless with anticipation.
Keep checking the Discovery Channel website for more details.
Article Will Self Destruct
And so ends our endeavors in
Operation Champy. While we didn't actually get to see Champy himself,
we did get to run around the North Country in Avenger style cat
suits with heat seeking lasers. Okay...so we didn't get to do that
either, but we did get to talk with someone well versed in the legend
surrounding Champy. We got to score some fun footage of him, too.
The results of the Discovery
Channel's quest for Champy may or may not turn up some interesting
details. But whether they find anything below the surface of Lake
Champlain, Champy will always remain a local legend around here
and enthusiasts will continue the hunt for him.
Next time you just happen to
be wandering around Lake Champlain with a video camera keep your
eye out for a dark blob skimming the surface. If you're quick you
might be able to catch the elusive Champy on film. And if you happen
to be running around with a harpoon well get in touch with
me, and we'll work out a price in large unmarked bills.
online "zoo" of mysterious creatures, this site features
the direct and indirect history of Champy and the people who
have sited him. Also on this page are creatures such as the
Loch Ness monster, Champy's famous Scottish counterpart.
Hall's homepage, this site features all of his pictures of Champy
and accounts of his sightings. There is a calendar that depicts
the best time to search for Champy and the email address to
contact him if you would like to report a sighting. An added
bonus is a collaboration of search tips from Hall himself to
help the amateur Champy Hunter.
Discovery Channel homepage. Stay tuned to this site to find
out when the special investigation on Champy will air. While
you're there, check out the links to other sea creatures, such
as the legendary Giant Squid.
site dedicated to explaining Champy to the world. This site
features the best photo ever taken of Champy, as well as a link
to a Champy book written by author John Kirk.
largest mass sighting of Champ was in 1984 when fifty-eight
people claimed to have seen him.
Vermont Expos, a minor league baseball team affiliated with
the Montreal Expos, has Champy
as their mascot. He's also available for holiday parties and
scientists have discovered that both Lake Champlain and Loch
Ness have seiches, underwater waves that throw debris to the
surface. This could account for Champy sightings.
first supposed sighting of Champ was in 1609 by Samuel de Champlain.
There is still some controversy about this, for some scientists
believe that Champlain was in the St. Lawerence River and the
creature he saw was in fact a large garfish.
1873 P.T. Barnum offered $50,000 to anyone who could bring him
the Lake Champlain Monster.