Loren Coleman shown attending the Lake Champlain Monster Conference, Shelburne, Vermont, 29 August 1981. Photo courtesy Gary Mangiacopra and Chad Arment.
It was the Woodstock of Champ. The August 1981 conference in Vermont was the first and, as it turned out, only scientific seminar devoted to the study of the cryptids that have been reported lurking in the waters of Lake Champlain for the past 300 years.
Questions about Champ follow me everywhere, especially in New England.
Returning from a weekend of giving talks for the Friends of Fort Knox (a Civil War fort) in Downeast Maine, I was thinking of the questions I was asked there. And of the assumptions underlying such inquiries.
The questions often reveal the thoughts of the questioner. For example, when I’m asked “Have you ever seen Bigfoot in your over 50 years of fieldwork in America?” – the person asking feels I must have seen “something” tall and hairy in the woods.
I have not. As an investigator, fieldworker, animal mysteries detective, scientist, journalist, and cryptozoologist, most of the time I’m examining other people’s encounters, looking at old and new locations, and not thinking I’m going to see anything myself – other than tracks, perhaps.
One series of questions this weekend was about Champ, or more specifically the unknown cryptids reported from Lake Champlain in Vermont, New York State, and Quebec and collectively called “Champ” or the “Lake Champlain Monsters.”
A woman fan of Champ opened by stating and asking, “There hasn’t been any sightings of Champ for years. Have you heard of any sightings this summer of Champ? Of the Lake Champlain Monster?”
Well, of course, I had to mildly examine the declarative statement, and note that Champ is probably actively seen all the time and certainly every summer. Just because the media and the Internet doesn’t make a sensational splash (every pun intended) with each new observation doesn’t mean they aren’t happening. Also, I noted that since I see lots of online discussions and am on a group email list of Champ trackers, it is apparent that sightings continue, year to year. There are backchannel ways fellow researchers talk to one another without the media ever knowing about it, of course.
A few days ago, in June, for instance, one such sighting did surface. See, “Five People See Monster at Lake Champlain,” posted by Michael Bachman on June 25, 2013.
One problem is that there is not one lightning rod Champ hunter who people are telling their sightings about. The landscape of monster hunting has changed around Lake Champlain. Researchers have come and gone within the realm of Champ investigations.
Yankee Magazine seemed to realize this a couple years ago when they republished, as a Yankee Classic, an article about Joseph Zarsynski (“The Champ Believer“).
U-Haul also acknowledged Joe or Zarr, as his friends call him, and his old organization, the Lake Champlain Phenomena Investigation Group.
Mentioned, as well, was Champ Quest’s Dennis Jay Hall. Both Zarr and Dennis are no longer active in the field of Champ hunting, although both will talk about their past adventures when asked.
Robert Bartholomew’s debunking of the Sandra Mansi photograph in his new Skeptical Inquirer-associated book and Chad Arment’s publishing of the new book on the 1981 Champ Conference both tell us that intellectual pursuits of the old cases are continuing too.
In the field, itself, there are still quiet efforts occurring. The 2013 Champ Camp, a small private research expedition, lead by Believe It Tour’s Mike Esordi and Diana Smith, with members including the International Cryptozoology Museum’s Assistant Director Jeff Meuse, Virginia researcher Bill Dranginis, Florida-Vermont chronicler Scott Mardis and newcomer Tea Krulos, will undertake an entirely new generation of Lake Monster investigations.
The Year 2013 is not over yet, and while there have already been some sightings, perhaps there will be more? Or maybe you know of others?