Flashback: Coleman vs Nickell

Posted by: Loren Coleman on September 16th, 2012

The smackdown happened in June 2007, and in its wake, comes the new Champ interactions.

It will be recalled in the otter competitive battle between the forces of good and evil, the following war near the water (versus a rumble in the jungle) occurred on CNN’s “Paula Zahn Now,” for June 1, 2007. The topic was a new video allegedly showing Nessie, which was run in the final moments of her program. It was originally scheduled to be five minutes long, but Joe Nickell and I were cut short by an earlier story, as is often the case.

At the time, my old coauthor buddy Jerry Clark noted that what was operating here, in counterpoint to my view, was: The Nickell principle: “We will take up an existence by its otters.”

Coincidentially, another good friend, Anomalist Books publisher Patrick Huyghe emailed me: “Joe was otterly ridiculous.”

Hey, what are friends for, if not to support one another with an otter side of humor, humm?

Now, fast forward to 2009. The splashy sumo wrestling continues regarding the new Lake Champlain footage.

“Joe Nickell, a cryptozoologist in Amherst, N.Y., says his best guess is that the object was a moose calf.” ~ NECN

What is amusing is that, regarding the new Eric Olsen “Champ video,” Nickell has now been quoted, not as a skeptic, but as a “cryptozoologist” by the Associated Press. He allegedly told NECN/AP that the new Lake Champlain footage looks like a “young moose.”

Meanwhile, I have been correctly characterized as a “cryptozoologist” by the media, but sometimes my careful and skeptical cryptozoological approach to this new video ~ even considering it might be an otter or a super-otter ~ have been ignored by reporters.

Needless to say, the media enjoy quoting my cryptozoologist point-of-view to counterbalance the skeptic’s broadly debunking approach. I’d even wage that Joe Nickell (a “moose calf”) and Ben Radford (he’s now appeared claiming the animal in the 2009 video is “an elk* or deer in the water”) occupy a position closer to the middle than reported in the media. Maybe not, but I think they might. Likewise people are missing that I have also stated and do consider,

1) this is, first and foremost, an interesting piece of footage that deserves further investigation;

2) I know moose, deer, and dogs, in the water and out, and the absence of ears does seem to indicate this animate object is not one of them;

3) this could be a misidentified otter, beaver, muskrat, turtle**, or out-of-place harbor seal (as I have written before, there are records for Lake Champlain of a few seals appearing there); or

4) it could just be and might have to remain a “lake cryptid” (Darren Naish’s Long-Necked Seal? Heuvelman’s Super-Otter? Coleman-Huyghe’s Waterhorse?) because we will never be able to definitively identify this animal from the cellphone camera footage.

5) Therefore, I remain open-minded, and, yes, enthusiastic in my typical cryptozoological fashion (hey, I know myself) about continuing an ongoing look at this footage to see if more can be “seen” and learned from it.

Bernard Heuvelmans’ Super-Otter compared to an image from Eric Olsen’s new footage:

Full disclosure, stay with me here…this may be a humorous surprise for some of you. Make certain you take all the right books and field guides with you this year when you go looking for “monsters”!

stack of fgs

I coauthored Cryptozoology A to Z (NY: Simon and Schuster) with Jerome Clark in 1999.

I coauthored The Field Guide to Lake Monsters, Sea Serpents, and Other Mystery Denizens of the Deep (NY: Tarcher/Penguin) with Patrick Huyghe in 2003.


I wrote the Foreword to Lake Monster Mysteries: Investigating the World’s Most Elusive Creatures by Benjamin Radford and Joe Nickell, published in 2006 by the University Press of Kentucky.

*If there are any free-ranging populations of elk or wapiti (Cervus canadensis) in Vermont, they would be introduced and may be limited to the Northeast Kingdom (the small, upper northern corner of the state near Canada). There may be elk farms near Burlington, but then this gets into the old chestnut about an escaped captive animal.

**A large turtle might demonstrate some of the same characteristic submerging and have a similar profile for this animal. I was reminded of my early consideration of this option by Endroren. Determining the size of the phonecam object is key to assisting in looking at this possibility, although the rather long neck shown on the Olsen object sometimes seems unturtlelike.

Photo source.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. 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. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

8 Responses to “Flashback: Coleman vs Nickell”

  1. cryptidsrus responds:

    Still look forward to whatever interaction you and Nickell might have on TV in the future.

    If you do get to do this again (like you did in 2007)—it might be good to clear up the fact that Nickell is a Skeptic, not a Cryptozoologist. And that Nickell seems to be obsessed with otters—might as well be called “Otterman.”

    Also the fact that the creature seems to have no ears. So we can rule out moose or deer. Please.
    Could be a seal. Or Sea Serpent-like creature. Who knows?

  2. Rogutaan responds:

    That does not look like a turtle. Its head is wrong. Maybe a tortoise, but not a turtle. And I don’t know if tortoises can swim. But by the way the head melds into the body, I doubt its a turtle/tortoise/terrapin.

  3. BFilmFan responds:

    That isn’t a tortoise. Tortoises generally can not swim.

    Tortoises are terrestrial. Unlike aquatic turtles, tortoises lack webbed feet. Should a tortoise by accident fall into a pond or swimming pool it could sink to the bottom like a rock and drown.

  4. Goodfoot responds:

    Whatever Joe Nickell said, I heard, “I’m underwhelming”? 😉

  5. DWA responds:

    Nickell a “cryptozoologist”?

    Imagine if the work of zoologists was to convince us there were no animals.

  6. Goodfoot responds:

    Great point, DWA. Joe’s as much a “cryptozoologist” as I am an NFL quarterback.

  7. PowerPC responds:

    Joe Nickell has the easiest job on the planet. All he must do is deny anything and everything paranormal or cryptozoological has ever existed. It takes absolutely no intelligence to do his job. No real investigation is required to do his job. Every time I see him on television I cringe. He often makes a very large fool out of himself yet he is afforded all the respect of an expert on the subject when he could not be any further from being an expert in any field. A 10 year old could say that an unknown creature or unexplained phenomenon does not exist or occur and all the witnesses are having mass hallucinations. In my opinion he is a disgrace.

  8. Goodfoot responds:

    Joe Nickell’s deepest fear: he gets up one morning, looks in the mirror, AND SEES BIGFOOT! Now he’s FORCED TO DENY HIS OWN EXISTENCE!!!

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