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Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

RICHARD FREEMAN: THE LOST SKELETON OF LAKE CHAMPLAIN

In a previous post I discussed a scale and bones found in a lake associated with monster sightings in Wisconcin. But there are other monster-haunted lakes where strange bones have been found.

In 1881 a vast, elongate skeleton was unearthed by Mr H. H. Burge near Lake Champlain on the US/Canadian borders of Vermont, New York State and Quebec.

The actual monster, later known as ‘Champ’, was first reported by a white settler two years later in 1883. Sheriff Nathan H. Mooney claimed that he had seen a “…gigantic water serpent about 50 yards away". Local Indian tribes were familiar with something odd in the lake. The Abenaki had always known of it and called the creature 'Tatoskok.' The Iroquois called the beast 'Petoubouque.' There have been 300 recorded sightings of the creature to date, not counting ancient Indian accounts.

The Middlebury Register of May 27th 1881 wrote…

'The proprietors of the Champlain Granite Works, located near Barn Rock on Lake Champlain claim to have uncovered a petrified sea serpent of mammoth proportions, being about 8 inches in diameter and nearly fifty feet long. The surface of the stone bears evidence of the outer skin of a large serpent while the inner surface shows the entrails. The proprietors are intending soon to begin excavations along the place where it lies embedded in the dirt and granite, to ascertain its size.'

More details were printed the following year in the June 8th edition of Elizabeth Town Post & Gazette.

'The report of finding a monster in the limestone deposit of the “North Shore” I heard many times and considered it a story originating with someone anxious to be the author of a sensation.
Last summer, a party, part of whom were scientific gentlemen by education and profession called at the cottage and almost demanded admission to the apartments of the monster. The Superintendent was busy at the time superintending his many labourers engaged in the quarry, and told the gentlemen he could not leave his business and go down to the house, and furthermore, he was not prepared to exhibit what he had found, as there was so little of it, but at sometime in the future he would be glad to show to all his serpent. I had heard the above from one of the party, and made my mind up to say nothing of the serpent when I went there. Just about to bid the good folks good-day, the Superintendent said: "I am not in show buisness, as many have thought, neither am I showing snakes, but I have something to show you.”

'On the carpet in an upper room lay six or seven feet in length, pieces of an enormous petrified snake. Some portions were six inches long and some fifteen or more. The pieces were placed together and fitted so nicely that was no room for doubt of their having been broken apart. The largest end was eight or nine inches in diameter, and only three or four feet from the terminal of the entrails, and two or three feet beyond. The entrails were petrified, but much darker and quite open or pourous and containing many bright and glistening crystals. The vertebra was visible at each broken end, and the flesh part showed traces of what had at one time been veins.

'The skin was readily distinguished from the flesh as would have been had the monster been cut in two whilst living. After an examination of each piece, and comparing the gradual enlargement of the cavity, thickness of flesh and skin on the belly, and the gradual thickening towards the back, left no room in my mind to entertain the thought that it was an accident or freak of nature with molten rock. During this hour of examination at the south side of the window with bright sunlight, the Superintendent had sat quietly and had said nothing but answer a very few questions. I said I did not want to be inquisitive, but would like to know in what kind of rock he was found and his general position. He said he was not in the rock but was merely attached to the limestone, and his position was as if he had placed himself for rest or sleep, and he had traced his body by actual measurement over sixty feet, and his weight to several tons when all removed. The portions the Superintendent has removed he has secured alone, but will be obliged to have help in getting the remainder or leave the monster to rest in his slumber of death. When the proper time comes the scientific men of different localities will be called upon to make an examination and publish to the world their verdict.”'

The remains are next mentioned in The Burlington Free Press of November 4th 1886 and apparently were on show at a bank-sponsored exhibition held in Vergennes, Vermont. It is recorded on page 39 of the exhibition’s catalogue. It was subsequently purchased by the famous showman P. T. Barnum (1810-1891) for his museum. From then on the specimen seems to have vanished. Searches of Barnum’s records have so far been fruitless. Barnum's collections were twice ravaged by fire but both of these incidents were before he bought the remains.

What was the skeleton; some kind of fossil? The strata around Lake Champlain is too young for dinosaurs or their contemporary marine reptiles. Archaeocetes are also much too old for the strata. The only fossil whales that have been uncovered in the area are modern species such as the beluga (Delphinapterus leucas).

The presence of skin and soft organs is unusual. These are only preserved under exceptional circumstances. This raises the possibility that it was a sub-fossil or in other words fairly recent in origin.

Now, if only we could find it!

1 comment:

Dale Drinnon said...

I sincerely doubt the description, this is another long noodle. Its length is 75 times its diameter. Even if it was an actual snake it would never be so thin.

Furthermotre, petrified entrails are virtually impossible. When decomposition sets in, the guts go first. Whenever natural mummies do occur, the entrails are most often missing entirely and what you find is dried hide on the bones, unless you have something like a whole frozen mammoth.

The first report I have listed on Lake Champlain is 1819, but it is a clear hoax and probably because of the Sea Serpent sightings in Massachusetts Bay. It is also far, far too detailed but it has some very peculiar features that makes me think it was based on even older rumors.