WHITEHALL — 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.