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Does Champ Exist?

Posted by: Loren Coleman on August 23rd, 2007

Does Champ Exist?

A new 256-page book has been published that is an incredibly important contribution to cryptozoological history. It is a welcome document capturing a pivotal time in Lake Champlain Monster research

Published by Coachwhip Publications, Does Champ Exist? Notes on the Historic Lake Monster Conference held in Shelburne, Vermont, 29 August 1981 by Gary S. Mangiacopra and Dwight G. Smith, has just been released.

Does Champ Exist? was written, according to Chad Arment, to preserve the transcript of the (so far) only cryptozoological conference held to discuss the possible existence of an unknown species of animal in the waters of Lake Champlain.

Speakers at the conference included Dr. William H. Eddy, Jr., J. Richard Greenwell, Dr. Roy P. Mackal, Dr. Philip Reines, Joseph Zarzynski, and Dr. George Zug. Several witnesses to Champ phenomena also spoke briefly, including Sandra Mansi, Mary Carty, Elsie Porter, Joan Petro, and Eugene Viens, Jr.

The transcript was created (with cooperation from the speakers) from a series of audio cassettes that Gary Mangiacopra (a conference attendee) used to tape the activities. Audio quality in some spots made clear transcription impossible, but this preserves the bulk of the proceedings.

As the Coachwhip summary concludes, the book also includes limnological notes on Lake Champlain, a chronological listing of Champ sightings, and reprints of several historical Champ-related newspaper accounts.

Some photos taken at the conference are also included.

I attended this conference. What a fantastic event. It was great to meet all the attendees and researchers there, to hear Sandra Mansi tell her story, and to compare notes with friends like Zarr. After it was over, I got in my Datsun pickup, turned on the radio (yes, “Puff the Magic Dragon” was playing), drove back to Boston, and was inspired to immediately pen an article on the conference for Boston Magazine. The essence of that article is in the 2007 edition of Mysterious America, as Chapter 11, “Champ.”

This conference will always be remembered as a stimulating event, and for me to relive my time there through reading this new book is great.

Many of us have waited 26 years for this complete conference book to be written. My deepest congratulations to Gary, Dwight, and Chad for getting this done!

About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.

15 Responses to “Does Champ Exist?”

  1. shumway10973 responds:

    sounds wonderful! Of course there’s something there. Even the original explorer that the St. Lawrence River is named for, said he saw something of Champ’s sort swim rather close to his canoe. I would call him an expert witness.

  2. Loren Coleman responds:

    It is generally agreed that Samuel de Champlain saw a fish, perhaps a sturgeon or a garfish, not a “monster.” Indeed, Joe Nickel says the sighting is “bogus.” He quotes bogus Jerome Clark as saying it is “traceable to an article by the late Marjorie L. Porter in the Summer 1970 issue of Vermont Life.”

    I wonder if Clark would use the descriptor “bogus”?

    Champlain’s description of what he saw is in volume 2, chapter IX, of his journal:

    …there is also a great abundance of many species of fish. Amongst others there is one called by the natives Chaousarou, which is of various lengths; but the largest of them, as these tribes have told me, are from eight to ten feet long. I have seen some five feet long, which were as big as my thigh, and had a head as large as my two fists, with a snout two feet and a half long, and a double row of very sharp, dangerous teeth. Its body has a good deal the shape of the pike; but it is protected by scales of a silvery gray colour and so strong that a dagger could not pierce them.

    Whatever the reality behind the Samuel de Champlain sighting, “cryptids” have been seen in the lake.

  3. Richard888 responds:

    The undershown Champ video taken by a son and father on a fishing boat was good quality and didn’t show anything easily identifiable. The quick forgetfullness of good videos (Patterson-Gimlin is an exception) makes me wonder whether the public actually fears discovering something big and unknown in our backstep. Within “public” are included people who have an interest in cryptozoology. The recent Chinese videos are another example. One would expect a cryptozoological gold rush in those places.

  4. AtomicMrEMonster responds:


    Funny that you should mention the recent Chinese video. While poking around at the forums, I found a post noting an 80′s expedition to the lake that revealed the creatures were found to be a species of Hucho Taimen. You can read it (and the articles it cites) here. It seems to me that the public is more likely to forget/ignore/etc. whenever a solution to a mystery is revealed (The Canvey Island Creatures, the Loveland Frog, and the countless Loch Ness expeditions are good examples of this). But I’d better get back on topic…

    I agree with you that the supposed Champ video doesn’t show anything easily identifiable, which is probably why it’s been forgotten. Personally, I lean towards the fish or eel explanation due to the fact that large fish are known to be in the lake. I have heard other explanations (weeds, log, discarded garbage), but I haven’t been able to find the video again so I can see if they are likely to be correct. Although I believed in Champ when I was younger, I’ve since decided that the evidence for Champ is lacking, especially after noting the similaities in conditions between Lake Champlain and Loch Ness. I found it especially interesting that Lake Champlain has the warm and cold layers of water, which were found to generate sonar contacts and wake-like formations at times during a study at Loch Ness.

  5. Benjamin Radford responds:

    Looks interesting, worth a look.

    As Loren suggested, it seems to me that the main value in the book is nostalgic and historical, not investigative. It’s doubtful that any new insights into the Champ phenomenon will be gained from simply reporting the proceedings of the 1981 conference, as historic as it was.

    There have been significant developments in the Champ story over the past 26 years, and at least some of the information presented at the conference has been since proven to be factually inaccurate.

    Mansi’s Champ sighting, which was the main impetus for the 1981 conference, has been carefully examined and explained in the book Lake Monster Mysteries. This of course does not mean the Champ conference was worthless, but there is some irony in the fact that the conference was largely based on what turned out to be a misidentified floating log!

  6. Loren Coleman responds:

    Let us not forget that Ben Radford’s statements are not fact but his opinion. His theory that the Mansi photograph was taken of a “floating log” is just that, a theory.

    Declarative statements are fine and good, but the bravo in these here from Radford are way over the top.

  7. Benjamin Radford responds:

    >>Let us not forget that Ben Radford’s statements are not fact but his opinion. His theory that the Mansi photograph was taken of a “floating log” is just that, a theory.

    Loren is quite correct that I have not proven for a fact that what Mansi saw was a log. At this remove, almost nothing about the sighting (pro or con) will be beyond question.

    However, labeling the results of the most thorough scientific investigation ever conducted (fact, not opinion!) into Mansi’s Champ sighting as “opinion” and “theory” is a bit disingenuous… Nearly all of the evidence about the Mansi sighting suggests it was a log, including her own photograph and testimony. I ask readers to read both sides and judge for themselves what is more likely.

    And as for theories, don’t forget that gravity is “just a theory”!

  8. AtomicMrEMonster responds:

    Loren Coleman:

    Although he didn’t prove that Mrs. Mansi definitely took a picture of a log (I doubt that’s even possible to prove now), we must be fair and note that he actually tested his theory at the lake and showed that it was very possible for the object in the photograph to been a log. Details on this can be found in the article “The Measure of a Monster” in the July 2003 issues of Skeptical Inquirer.

  9. richsd40 responds:

    Altough I believe it is important that we all get to voice our opinion, I agree with Loren, it IS Mr. Radford’s opinion, and I don’t believe anything has been proven conclusively one way or another to my satisfaction. And, as I DO lean heavily towards the existence of Champ, I will give Mr. Radford credit that I have not read anywhere that he said we all need psychiatric help like Mr. Binns and Mr. Campbell felt the need to do! How totally unprofessional of those two! I look forward eagerly to the book, Loren!
    Richard from Mass.

  10. Ayala responds:

    Thank you for letting us know about this book. People don’t realize how important their historical records of conferences like this will be in the future. I encourage anyone with minutes of meetings or audio recordings to make more permanent versions and/or transcriptions now.

    Think about how often we look at the reports (or even published works) from the early part of the 20th century and we wish that we knew more about the report, the conditions, the author of the report, etc. The steps we can take now to ensure these records’ survival may satisfy that same curiosity for future cryptozoologists. :)

    Thanks again for the post (and for everything you do), Loren. :)

  11. MattBille responds:

    Champlain’s creature was nothing but a now-known fish, so we don’t have “cryptid” reports going back that far.

    I’ve always thought, despite some interesting modern reports, that you can’t have a reptile, amphibian, or mammal in a lake that freezes over, so that only leaves you with fish, logs, etc. That’s why I’ve always paid more attention to Lake Iliamna, where you have reported creatures (although no photographs have been taken) that are huge but are clearly fish. The same is true of some lakes in China, though in the Chinese case, photos are alleged to have been taken, but have never been published (which frankly is no different as evidence than photographs that never existed.)

    OK, I’m rambling tonight.

  12. MattBille responds:

    To add one more thing as I ramble, Ayala makes a good point. Whether Champ is animal or myth, there is always some degree of value, for the long term, in recording what people present at contemporary events said and did.

    Those of us writing on cryptozoology have had the problem of finding contemporary materials, as opposed to accounts written down later from memory.

    A non-crypto parallel: I and my co-author spent five years of spare time on our book The First Space Race, about the first satellites of the late 1950s. We were determined to be thorough and accurate – while NASA asked that the text be kept around 200 pages for a popular audience, we had 499 endnotes. However, we have still found two errors since it came out in 2004 – one where I made an incorrect note in an interview and didn’t cross-check the fact involved, and one where a photograph turned up that we had somehow missed, showing details differently than we had surmised from other photos.

    Another lesson from that book: Very smart people, who remained mentally sharp 40+ years after the events, sometimes remembered amazing detail, but also sometimes were certain they had seen details which, from photographs, we knew were wrong. Repetition of an error in the media after an event can lodge in a person’s memory and fuse with or obscure the actual occurrence.

    So many thanks to Chad and to everyone who takes the time to preserve history.

  13. Tengu responds:

    This is great, I have Zarinskis book (a long treasured possestion)

    You like Datsuns too? I have a 1977 Datsun 120Y coupe, not a fancy car but very confy to drive.

    (I have also a 1970 Nissan Skyline C10 GTR)

  14. DavidFredSneakers responds:

    I found Ben Radfords argument about the photo very compelling, particularly the the fact that the “animal” never “dived” when submerging.

    Nonetheless, I am sure this book will offer many insights into the history of the phenomena and the way in which investigations were carried out. I’ll look for it.

    PS Matt, I recently bought Shadows of Existence and am very much in love with it. It’s great to see your posts here!

  15. MattBille responds:

    Thanks, DavidFredSneakers!


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