Beasts from the Deep
Vermont is way ahead of a lot of states in at least one respect. It is home to not one, but two lake monsters. They probably don’t know each other, living as they do from 85 to 165 miles apart—depending on what part of the respective lake each happens to be swimming in.
But who’s to say? Monsters differ from the rest of us in significant ways. The very label “monster,” for example, indicates an otherworldly dimension and at the same time betrays our deep-seated ambivalence about whether such creatures even exist.
Take Memphré, for example, who resides—or is said to reside—in Lake Memphremagog, which straddles the United States-Canada border between Vermont and Quebec. The International Dracontology Society, originated by SCUBA diver Jacques Boisvert in 1986, has recorded 229 sightings of Memphré since then. One young woman responded this way to a story by Boisvert in the Newport Express:
“After reading your article I just had to write relating our own phenomenal experience. From out of
nowhere appeared a brown object with a long wake. Should we believe there is a mystery serpent in Lake Memphremagog?” The animal was shiny, the woman said. She estimated it to be about 30 feet long.
Some years later: February 22, 2006, on Lake Champlain in Burlington, another story was unfolding. ABC News showed exclusive video of a reptile called Champ that fishermen had spotted just below the surface.
“It made my hair stand on end,” said fisherman Dick Affolter.
“I’m 100 percent sure [that we saw something],” said fisherman Peter Bodette. “I’m just not 100 percent sure what it was.”
Over the years, there have been hundreds of sightings of Champ—sometimes more than a dozen a
year—going back to the early 1800s. From the various descriptions it has been speculated that the lake monster may be a reptile known as a plesiosaur, which lived in the Triassic period about 250 million years ago. If so, this would not be the first time a sea dweller thought to be extinct “came back to life.” In 1938, a coelacanth (SEEL-uh-kanth), thought to be extinct along with the dinosaur some 65 million years ago, reappeared off the waters of South Africa. With a barracuda-like mouth and outward-thrusting, leg-like fins that move alternately (like a trotting horse), the bottom-feeding coelacanth is about six feet long and has a life-span of 60 years or more.
It’s hard to believe that, no matter how many generations comprise 65 million years, only one each of these obviously mild-mannered monsters reaches maturity in its respective lake every 30 years or so—where might Mrs. Champ or Memphré and the kids be, for example; know what I mean? Still, because there are so many more questions than answers, this particular mystery remains alive.
(Links to relevant YouTube footage appear below, as well as following selected entries in every chapter.)