In American folklore, Champ or Champy is the name of a lake monster said to live in Lake Champlain, a 125-mile (201 km)-long body of fresh water shared by New York and Vermont, with a portion extending into Quebec, Canada. The legend of the monster is considered a draw for tourism in the Burlington, Vermont and Plattsburgh, New York areas.
Over the years, there have been over 300 reported sightings of Champ.
French cartographer Samuel de Champlain, the founder of Québec and the lake's namesake, is often claimed to be the first European to have sighted Champ, in 1609. However, this legend dates back to a fake quote published in the Summer 1970 issue of Vermont Life. In the Vermont Life article, Champlain is alleged to have documented a "20-foot serpent thick as a barrel, and a head like a horse." This quote has often been repeated, but is in fact apocryphal. Champlain did document large fish:
There is also a great abundance of fish, of many varieties: among others, one called by the savages of the country Chaoufarou, "which varies in length, the largest being, as the people told me, eight or ten feet long. I saw some five feet long, which were as large as my thigh; the head being as big as my two fists, with a snout two feet and half long, and a double row of very sharp and dangerous teeth. Its body is, in shape, very much like that of a pike; but it is armed with scales so strong and a poniard could not pierce them. Its color is silver-gray.
The 1878 translation of his journals clarifies that Chaoufaou refers to gar (or gar pike), specifically Lepisosteus osseus (the longnose gar).
An 1819 report in the Plattsburgh Republican, entitled "Cape Ann Serpent on Lake Champlain", reports a "Capt. Crum" sighting an enormous serpentine monster. Crum estimated the monster to have been about 187-feet long and approximately two hundred yards away from him. Despite the great distance, he claimed to have witnessed it being followed by "two large Sturgeon and a Bill-fish" and was able to see that it had three teeth and eyes the color of peeled onions. He also described the monster as having "a belt of red" around its neck and a white star on its forehead.
In 1883, Sheriff Nathan H. Mooney claimed that he had seen a water serpent about "20 rods" (the equivalent of 110 yards in length) from where he was on the shore. He claimed that he was so close that he could see "round white spots inside its mouth" and that "the creature appeared to be about 25 to 30 feet in length". Mooney's sighting led to many more alleged eyewitnesses coming forward with their own accounts of Champ.
The legend of Champ captured the interest of P. T. Barnum, and in 1873 and 1887, the famous showman offered rewards for anyone who could bring him the monster.