Posted by: Loren Coleman on October 18th, 2009
OLD TIMER’S COLUMN
JUNE 5, 1934
Do you remember more than a half-century ago, when a “sea serpent” was seen in Lake Champlain?
Back in the Seventies of the last century [i.e. 1870s] there was a great deal of excitement created when fishermen and boating parties reported seeing a monster sea serpent in Lake Champlain.
Timid people were afraid to go out on fishing trips. The more hardly ones began a systematic scouring of the lake in hopes of sighting or capturing the “monster.”
By those who claimed to have seen it, reports were brought in that it was 25 and even as high as 50 feet in length, with a huge head loaded with long horn-like tendrils.
Some people claimed that the main portions of the body were as large around as a moderate sized child. It was stated that the skin was shiny and dark, almost black, and appeared to be like that of an ell or a bullhead.
After creating a “nine-days wonder” the excitement abated and the incident was forgotten by all save the old timers.
Twenty-five years later the same scenes were again enacted when the “sea monster” was again reported in another part of the famous lake.
Many fishermen went out fully armed, with an avowed intent to capture the things whatever it might be.
Another quarter century passed and occasional reports would come in to the effect that the “serpent” had again been seen.
Three years ago the same old stories were repeated, but skeptics disbelieved them, and fishermen and members of boating parties became wary in reporting their sighting of the “monster” for fear of being laughed at or called a prevaricator.
More than 50 years ago the writer was in the habit of going on frequent fishing trips to Lake Champlain with two uncles from the old John Russell Whitney farm on the Bouquet River, a few miles above Westport near Wadhams.
On one of those trips we had run into an unusually large school of perch. We couldn’t get our hooks and lines into the water fast enough and soon had more perch than we could carry home.
* * *
Suddenly one of my uncles sighted the “sea serpent” several rods distant, moving about among the small fish and evidently feeding on them.
At times the huge undulating body would appear above the surface and the great head would dart down into the water, evidently catching fish for food.
The school of perch became frightened and dispersed and the monster disappeared.
As a youth, I well remember that my uncles were laughed at when they attempted to tell of having seen the “serpent.”
They were told by some people that it was probably only a long floating
piece of floodwood partly waterlogged.
Just the same as in previous reports, the narrators soon quit trying to
impress listeners with the truth, and the incident was again forgotten.
* * *
A few weeks ago an old time Essex county friend of the writer was visiting in Tupper Lake and informed the writer that he was positively sure he had seen the same thing in Lake Champlain that had been periodically reported several times in a half century or more.
And now comes what may be considered as sufficient proof that such a monster[,] or perhaps more than one, does really exist in the waters of Lake Champlain and may yet be captured to convince the skeptics that “no man is a liar until he is so proven.”
* * *
The writer was conversing with a U.S. Marine who had been in service many years and had been all over the world on navigable waters.
He told of an incident a few years ago which will be recalled by hundreds of readers, when a tropical storm struck the islands in the southern Caribbean Sea, creating great damage and devastation.
In one place a huge steel armored U.S. cruiser was torn from its anchorage and carried [illegible] of [illegible]-foot waves and [illegible] on the beach.
The marine stated that in the course of observations along the sandy or rocky beaches, they found three great sea eels which had been washed up by the waves and killed by the impact against rocks or were unable to get back into the water.
He stated that the eels measured 22, 28 and 40 feet respectively in length and that the largest one had a head and mouth over 18 inches wide.
His description tallied closely with that of the “sea serpent” reported from time to time in Lake Champlain.
* * *
The marine’s theory was that many decades ago one or perhaps several sea eels came up the St. Lawrence [River] from the ocean, thence up the Sorel River into Lake Champlain and were never able to get back into their former haunts.
Scientists have frequently claimed the same solution to the “sea serpent” problem, but skeptics have just as often flouted the idea and have tried to claim that it is all a myth.
Only a few months ago western papers were reporting from hundreds of reliable sources the sighting of a huge “sea serpent” off the coast of California.
We firmly believe the reports to be true and that it all simply accentuates the truth of the Marine’s story and also that of the old timers who actually saw a sea monster in Lake Champlain more than a half century ago.
Tupper Lake [New York] Press
July 5, 1934
The July 5 and June 5 dates are copied correctly. — Jerome Clark