New video of Champ lake monster: A skeptical analysis

June 5, 2009

New footage of Champ, the monster said to inhabit Vermont’s Lake Champlain, was recently released. Allegedly taken about a week ago in the early morning hours, the two-minute cell phone video shows the silhouette of some object—probably an animal—moving toward the eastern shore.  (Video is here: As often happens with such videos, the quality is too poor to conclusively identify what was in the water.

The video has created a buzz among monster enthusiasts, some proclaiming it’s the best evidence for the creature since the famous 1977 Mansi photograph that Joe and I investigated for our book   Lake Monster Mysteries . Internet posters have exchanged a flurry of theories ranging from Champ to a hoax to a swimming animal. I was asked by ABC News to examine the video.

The video holds several clues about the creature’s identity. The form resembles the back and head of a swimming deer, and moves toward the near shore past what appears to be a buoy, which might suggest shallow water. When analyzing videos such as this, what we don’t see is often just as important as what we do see. In this case the video abruptly ends as the animal nears shore. It seems very odd that the last part of the sequence is missing. Surely if the cameraman was intrigued enough by the sight to spend two minutes recording it he didn’t suddenly lose interest, stop recording, and turn away. The eyewitness was supposedly worried about running out of memory on his cell phone. That may be true, or perhaps he chose to edit out the last seconds of the sequence, when we could all see if it was indeed a deer climbing ashore. Though I doubt a hoax, there are many unanswered questions about the sighting.

It’s also interesting to note that this footage is unlike other alleged Champ videos and photographs. Many show a round, dark form in the water, but none so closely resemble a large swimming mammal. It also seems odd that an aquatic creature would make such an obvious effort to keep its head above water. If Champ monsters exist, and must regularly surface to breathe (like dolphins or whales) it’s amazing that they are not routinely sighted on the populated lake. It seems far more likely that this and other Champ sightings are the result of people mistaking natural phenomenon (including waves, logs, and animals) for monsters than that the lake is actually home to dozens of huge, unknown creatures who somehow leave no physical evidence of their existence.