Saturday January 5, 2013

Despite earning the nickname "America's Loch Ness Monster," sightings of the aquatic creature known as Champ predates knowledge of Nessie in the United States by nearly 60 years.

Champ is allegedly a dinosaur-like creature which skulks in the waters of Lake Champlain is what is known as a cryptid. Cryptids are living beings whose existence has neither been verified nor disproven. They are the main targets of investigation by cryptozoologists. The same researchers often found scouring the world for evidence of sasquatches and chupacabras.

Former Vermont schoolteacher turned investigator Robert E. Bartholomew is the author of a new book, "The Untold Story of Champ: A Social History of America's Loch Ness Monster."

"Somebody's got to tell the story, because most residents don't know the history of what's going on here," Bartholomew said. "This is one of the great untold stories of Vermont history."

The book is the result of thousands of hours of research and interviews that Bartholomew conducted over the past several decades. He said that 90 percent of the content in his book has not been published elsewhere before.

"I'm really happy this came out from the State University of New York press," he added.

Bartholomew believes that while Champ was a household name from the late 1870s through the beginning of the 1920s, it was the rapid rise in popularity of the Loch Ness monster that forced Champ into obscurity, becoming nearly forgotten save for the most well-read cryptozoologists.

Bartholomew, who now resides in New Zealand, traces the earliest references to Champ to the Abenaki people who had legends of a "horned serpent" that lurked in the 125 mile long Lake Champlain.

But possibly the most famous sighting of Champ comes from the 400-foot-deep lake's namesake, Samuel de Champlain. Champlain is reported as spotting "a serpent-like creature about twenty-feet long, as thick through as a barrel and with a head shaped like a horse." That report came from an article written in the 1970s, and was accepted in to the Champ canon shortly thereafter. But Bartholomew is skeptical of the veracity of the article.

He claims that while reading the original report there is no mention of a horse-headed creature.

"I have checked the original log, which is in French, and the translation in English," he said. "(Champlain) describes seeing a big fish. It's the spitting image of a gar pike."

He explained that prior to the article's publication there was no mention of Champ having a horse head and since there have been many sightings with that characteristic.

"It's a form of mass psychology," Bartholomew who holds two Master's degrees in Sociology and a Ph. D in medical sociology. "For me, it's an attempt to create Champ Inc. the selling of a monster to draw in tourists I'm for getting information out there, but not at the cost of truth."

In the book he goes on to question other evidence presented by researches throughout the years.

"This (book) is going to raise eyebrows; it's going to upset some people. And it's likely gotten me crossed off some Christmas cards lists," he said. "I wrote this book because, there are so many claims out there and people don't know what to believe anymore."

When asked if he believes the mysterious creature of Lake Champlain, Bartholomew leaves it up to the reader to decide.

"I'm not a debunker. I think there's some really compelling evidence . (But) as a journalist, my job is to report the facts and people can decide for themselves whether they think Champ is real or not."