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Lake Champlain Thunderbird

Posted by: Loren Coleman on March 26th, 2007

The Lake Champlain Sea Serpent in “Feathery Form” Visits Elizabethtown

Clinton County papers report that the Lake Champlain Sea Serpent was seen off Cumberland Head early last week. Reputable men who were returning from Plattsburgh to their home on Cumberland Head discovered the huge monster performing in the water and but a short distance from the shore.

We quote the following lines from the Plattsburgh Sentinel of Sept. 21, 1894:

“That it was a living monster of some kind, there is no room to doubt. Indeed, we have never seriously questioned the substantial accuracy of the numerous accounts of this creature in former years, and the fact that for some two or three years no one professes to have seen it, serves to strengthen our belief. That it is a species of serpent does not follow. It may be more of the nature of a seal or a sea-lion.”

We are sorry for one thing and that is that the Sentinel does not tell which way the “what-is-it” was going when last seen off Cumberland Head. However, in view of what was seen by one of our townsmen on the Wednesday and Thursday [September 19 and 20] following the sight afforded at Cumberland Head we conclude that the Lake Champlain Sea Serpent must have taken a southerly course and that somewhere between Plattsburgh and “Pleasant Valley” a wonderful transformation must have occurred. It was on Wednesday afternoon of last week — two days after the appearance at Cumberland Head — that a resident of this village, Joseph Denton, and several companions were hunting squirrels on the bank of the Bouquet River just beyond the base ball field. Suddenly, as if by magic, “a huge monster in feathery form” appeared over the river and only a few rods distant from Joseph and his companions. Joseph was first to sight the wonderful creature and gave his companions immediate knowledge of what he had discovered, saying: “Get your guns ready, the Devil is coming.”

The “bird,” for such it was according to Joseph’s account, “was as big as a cow and had wings like barn-doors,” was evidently startled at the sight of man as it “tried to hurry but couldn’t `twas so big.” Joseph says the bird made as much noise going through the air as a train of cars would in coming up to Westport Station and that its wings when spread reached from shore to shore of the beautiful Bouquet River. He estimates that the eating capacity of the bird must be immense and says that it would be positively impossible to estimate its strength, resting firm in the belief that a man would be in its talons as a chicken in the grasp of a hawk. Some one suggested to Joseph that the bird might be a crane. He replied in the most sarcastic manner it is possible to conceive of that “a crane would be a mere chickadee beside that bird.”

The strange bird and its still stranger performance were witnessed by Joseph on Wednesday and Thursday of last week. On both of these days he saw the bird only a few rods distant from him, had a loaded gun in his hand but didn’t dare to shoot for fear that the bird might resent the petty attack of a frail man like himself enough to swoop down, fasten on to him and carry him away to unknown parts and there pick his bones according to the custom of ancestors which must have been constructed on a truly heroic plan!Elizabethtown [New York] Post, September 27, 1894

Thanks to Jerome Clark.

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.


9 Responses to “Lake Champlain Thunderbird”

  1. shumway10973 responds:

    interesting, Though I was hoping for a more modern date at the end.

  2. MattBille responds:

    Wingspan as wide as a river…. makes you suspect the guy’s gun wasn’t the only thing that was loaded.

  3. Ceroill responds:

    Hmmmm. Strange. Interesting. I find the description of the noise curious.

  4. ladd responds:

    Reminds me of the 1890 Arizona “Thunderbird” account.

  5. Rillo777 responds:

    The reports from this era are saturated with tall tales mostly formed on the “liar’s bench” in front of the local court house. This one sounds like so many I’ve heard before; unbelievably elaborate and full of breathtaking detail all used for the full effect of astonishing the listener. The winner of the tallest tale usually won a free beer at the nearest tavern.

  6. springheeledjack responds:

    It does fit with general patterns of encounters of Thunderbirds as far as the location, though the growing description leaves a lot to be desired…I would be willing to go out on a tree branch and say there is the possibility that the men saw a bird of abnormally large size…something that was outside of their experience…other than that…well you know…

  7. CryptoGoji responds:

    What next, will we see Babe the blue Ox show up on these pages next? Giant bird stories have been around for thousands of years, Thunderbird, the Roc they all have similar descriptions and details, but even this one is a bit out there.

  8. Mnynames responds:

    I’m rather surprised by the description of the sea serpent as a likely relative of the seal or sea lion. I thought that interpretation was a much more modern one, and leads me to conclude that someone at least was taking the reports seriously back then.

    As for the Thunderbird account, nothing seems terribly out of the ordinary, except perhaps for the wingspan, which may either be chalked up to exaggeration, or instead refer to a rather narrow section of the river. If Thunderbirds are Teratorns, their wingspan could match your average hang-glider, and that’s pretty impressive right there. As for the sound, well, there’s a reason they were called thunderbirds, you know. Many accounts report loud wingbeats, although I’ll admit you’d have to infer that from the article, as it makes it sound as if it were constant.

  9. MattBille responds:

    A note on the difficulty of estimating the size of a flyign object from Charles Bergman’s superb, indeed haunting, book Wild Echoes. In his chapter on the California condor, he comments that the birds have on occasion been mistaken for small airplanes.



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