DoNorth

Legendary Beast Beneath Lake Champlain

Champy has been the lake’s resident leviathan for longer than the lake has had its name. She has been called a zeuglodon, a plesiosaur, an over-grown sturgeon and even an optical illusion brought on by one-too-many drinks. No matter, her rumored presence has inspired — and eluded — cryptologist investigations, monster hunts, TV specials and countless urban legends. Champy is somewhat of a recluse. Dee Carroll, whose family owns the Westport Marina, remembers in the early 1990s a Japanese film crew, complete with a famous Japanese actor who played captain, traveled all the way to the lake and assembled a…

champ, lake champain,

Champy memorabilia available in a number shops in the Lake Champlain area.

Champy has been the lake’s resident leviathan for longer than the lake has had its name. She has been called a zeuglodon, a plesiosaur, an over-grown sturgeon and even an optical illusion brought on by one-too-many drinks. No matter, her rumored presence has inspired — and eluded — cryptologist investigations, monster hunts, TV specials and countless urban legends.

Champy is somewhat of a recluse. Dee Carroll, whose family owns the Westport Marina, remembers in the early 1990s a Japanese film crew, complete with a famous Japanese actor who played captain, traveled all the way to the lake and assembled a 14-ship search party in hopes of making a movie starring the monster. But Champy didn’t bother to show up to set.

Champy has been such a hermit that some people believe she has died. There have even been rumors she never existed. Stephanie Larkin, a resource room specialist for the Basin Project of Echo Lake Aquarium and Research Center, says a hydrologic phenomenon called Seiche Waves may be responsible for some of the monster sightings. “It’s an underwater wave that moves very slowly,” she says. “If a tree were to get stuck in it, it would look like it was moving.” The undulating zeuglodon may just be a rogue zombie maple with a funky propulsion system.

However, there are those who have been lucky enough to have seen our elusive star.

Bud and Eileen Ward have seen her twice. The first time was in September 1994 when the couple saw two humps heading north in the lake, creating a wake in the water. The second time was in May 2005 when a neighbor excitedly alerted them she had spotted the monster.

The Wards ran across the road to see three black humps swimming about 30 yards from the shore. “As we were all watching dumbfounded and trying to stay quiet so as not to scare it away, two more of the same type of creature approached from the north, and then three of them swam around each other back and forth,” Eileen says, “like they were putting on a show for us,” She says they watched them for about 20 minutes until it was too dark to see them anymore.

Few are as fortunate as the Wards and can claim to have sighted alive inland sea beast. Yet Champy sightseeing abounds in the Adirondack Coast region.

The bright red “Champy Sighting Board,” a likeness of the monster hovering above a list of people who’ve reported seeing him, stands in Port Henry on Route 9 and 22. The very first name is that of Samuel De Champlain, the explorer the lake was named after.

Champlain described Champy as “a swimmer about 20 feet long, thick as a barrel that resembles a serpent with tough skin, in which a man’s knife cannot penetrate, with a head like a horse, having a snout like that of a boar.”

Across the lake at Burlington’s Lake Champlain ferry landing, King Street greets visitors with a grinning Champy statue large enough to hug, sit on and pose by for photos. A short walk away is the Vermont Lake Monster minor-league baseball team’s souvenir store, stocked with Champy memorabilia; less than a mile from that is Perkins’ Pier, which is home to a monument erected in Champy’s honor.

Back in New York’s Clinton County, stop at Champy’s Gas and Go on Boynton Avenue to fill up before heading to the Champy Fun Zone in Plattsburgh’s Comfort Inn, which provides a perfect space for a monster party.

Champy paintings lead you to a video arcade, which boasts over 35 games and a mini bowling alley. While at the mini-golf area, the beast from the deep taunts players, her eyes glowing from the blacklights. Top the nautical-themed day off with a dip in the indoor splash park. The park has yet to report a Champy sighting, but keep your eyes peeled — she’s out there somewhere.

Issue 2: Winter/Spring 2014

0 comments Show discussion Hide discussion

Add a comment

More in Northern Archives