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Saturday, December 29, 2012

CRYPTOLINK: Champ: Hook, line and sinker

Photo courtesy SUNY Press
Cover of book recently published by SUNY Press. / ALWHITEHALL — Robert Bartholomew admits it. He really, really wanted to believe that there is a sea monster lurking in Lake Champlain named Champ.

Bartholomew grew up in Whitehall on the lake's southern shore, worked as a radio reporter in Glens Falls and Albany and spent most of his life gathering boxes of material on the possibly prehistoric creature of the North Country that scores of people claim to have glimpsed over the past century.

Now, Bartholomew's long investigation and endless fascination has resulted in a book, "The Untold Story of Champ: A Social History of America's Loch Ness Monster," published in December by SUNY Press.
It's a full-fledged biography of perhaps the second-most famous sea monster in the world after Nessie, the Loch Ness monster.

Bartholomew approaches his subject with the skepticism of an investigative reporter. He debunks and exposes hoaxes as much as he chronicles evidence of the elusive serpentine creature described as having a long, humped back and a horse-like head.

His lively and readable account starts out by puncturing the myth that Samuel de Champlain spotted Champ in 1609. He describes the egos and obsessions of numerous serpent hunters across the decades. He also lays out an almost willful complicity in pumping up reports of Champ sightings among boosterish local journalists, over-eager chambers of commerce leaders and well-meaning lake residents.

Read on...


Unknown said...

This article contains two factual errors:

1. When I tried to interview Sandra Mansi, her attorney said she was unavailable due to illness; I have no reason to doubt this.

2. It should read “burned or buried” and not “burned and buried” the negative.

The article title is unfortunate as it can be interpreted as debunking the notion of Champ and the Mansi photo. Champ may exist and the Mansi photo may be authentic, but in order to assess them we need an accurate accounting of the facts presented in a chronological, hysteria-free manner that does not take sides. The majority of the book carefully documents the history of the Champlain Monster from Indian lore to the present day, with an emphasis on detailing early sightings from the 1870s to the 1930s. There is some compelling, credible evidence for Champ, especially from the 1800s, but without a body, an ultimate determination cannot be made.

The main contribution to Cryptozoology is the meticulous documentation of early reports that have never appeared in any book before, especially from prominent citizens; a clearing up of several myths about Champ that have been perpetrated by sloppy journalists; unfortunate attempts to cash in on Champ by some locals (which is fine so long as they do not bend the truth in doing so); and an assessment of the claims by researchers such as Elizabeth von Muggenthaler (that she can hear a Champ-like creature in the water) and Dennis Hall (video and visual sightings), research which is not credible. It also documents in great detail the behind-the-scenes feud between rival Champ researchers Dr Philip Reines and Joe Zarzynski, over what to do with the Mansi photo and other issues. This is not done to air ‘dirty laundry’ in public or to sensationalise, but any understanding of the Mansi photo must be grounded in its historical and social context. The photo may be genuine, but until now several aspects of it and the circumstances surrounding it, were kept hidden. This information should have been disclosed in the interests of accuracy. There are perhaps a dozen red flags that surround the photo, which are presented for the reader to form their own opinion. Is it faulty memory – which happens to all of us – or something more sinister. Ultimately, I wrote this book in order to separate fact from fiction and speculation.

I would ask that if others wish to pass judgement on my research, they go to their local library and assess it for themselves instead of making a snap judgment based on a single newspaper article from a busy reporter who has the impossible task of boiling down 60,000 words and decades of research, into a thousand or so words.

You can get a sense of the style of the book by reading the first 20 pages at:

Dr Robert E. Bartholomew

Unknown said...

Here is a more recent article on the book which gives an accurate overview.

What this article makes clear is that in no way is 'The Untold Story of Champ' a debunking book/. The article appeared in The North Adams Transcript (Massachusetts) of 5 January 2013.