Now listen, I was searching the web to put some links on here and I found another legend.
Somewhere in Vermont, there's a lake called Lake Champlain, and people have been seeing what appears to be a sea monster. This might as well be our Loch Ness Monster, but there's been so much proof. Ever since the 1800's people have been spotting it. Now I believe in the Loch Ness Monster but is this real?
Like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster, most of the evidence for Champ's existence rests on eyewitness testimony. As I have noted elsewhere (Radford 2002), such accounts are notoriously unreliable and a poor substitute for hard evidence. One writer (Rabbit 2000) listed over a dozen factors that can reduce the accuracy of such accounts, including observer's fear and stress; poor observation conditions; slippage of memory; seeing what the observer wants or expects to see; changing details to conform to other witnesses' accounts; reluctance to admit ignorance; filling in nonexistent details, and so on.
Lake creature sightings are complicated by the fact that it is very difficult to judge distances and sizes on bodies of water. As Paul LeBlond of the University of British Columbia's Department of Oceanography points out, "A problem which commonly arises in the interpretation of unfamiliar objects on water is that of determining their size. In the absence of nearby reference features, the eye cannot estimate absolute dimensions reliably" (LeBlond 1982). On land, the human eye and brain can judge spatial dimensions fairly well, comparing an object to a nearby tree, home, or other structure. An unfamiliar object against a visual field such as sky or water, however, can produce wildly inaccurate estimates of size and distance.
People often see what they want--or expect--to see. In the case of Champ, the monster's likeness and legend are well-known in the area, and the knowledge that a monster is said to reside in the lake could easily transform an unusual sighting of "something in the water" into a Champ sighting.
Eyewitness sightings of Champ are relatively rare, and sightings accompanied by good photographs are even rarer. The Mansi family had the remarkable fortune to not only get a good long look at the creature but also photograph it (see figure 1).
According to Sandra Mansi, her family's encounter with Champ took place on Tuesday, July 5, 1977. Sandra and her fiancé Anthony Mansi, along with Sandra's two children from her previous marriage, were taking a leisurely drive along Lake Champlain. They drove by some farmland and, around noon, made their way to a small bluff overlooking the lake. The two children went down to the water while Anthony returned to their car to get a camera. As Sandra watched her children and the lake, she noticed a disturbance in the water about 150 feet away. She thought at first it was a school of fish, then possibly a scuba diver. "Then the head and neck broke the surface of the water. Then I saw the head come up, then the neck, then the back" (Mansi 2002).
Mansi did not panic: "I wasn't even scared, I'm just trying to figure out what I'm seeing. Then when Tony came over the field he saw it and started screaming, `Get the kids out of the water!'" The kids scrambled up the bank and headed toward the car. As Anthony helped Sandra up the bank, he handed her the camera. She knelt down, snapped one photo, and then put the camera down to watch the creature. The head and neck turned slightly, then slowly sank into the water and disappeared.
The Mansis estimated that the creature's neck stuck about six feet out of the water and the whole object was about twelve to fifteen feet long. The sighting lasted a remarkably long time--between four and seven minutes--during which time the creature never turned to face the shore. Sandra Mansi described the neck and head as dark in color and said that what we see in the photograph is as much of the creature as she saw.
Despite the substantial weight and credibility given to it by Champ researchers, the Mansi photograph by itself is intriguing but holds almost no value as evidence. There is little usable information revealed in the photograph; whether by accident or design, virtually all of the information needed to determine the photograph's authenticity (and subject matter) is missing, lost, or unavailable. For example, Mansi cannot provide the negative, which might show evidence of tampering (she said she habitually threw away her negatives). She also can't provide other photographs taken on the roll (which might show other angles of the same object, or perhaps "test" photos of a known object from an odd position). Mansi claims to be unable to locate the site of the photo, which would help to determine a number of things, including the size of the object. Furthermore, the photo has virtually no objects of known scale (boat, human, etc.) by which to judge the creature's size or the distance. The fact that the Mansis, allegedly afraid of ridicule, waited four years to release the photo was also seen as suspicious. All we are left with is a fantastic story whose only supporting proof is a compelling but ambiguous photograph of something in the water.
Because of the litany of missing information (and the relatively high quality of the image), suspicions of a hoax surfaced almost as quickly as Champ. Such accusations were summarily dismissed by Mansi family lawyer Alan Neigher, who said that they "could no more have constructed such a hoax than put a satellite in orbit."
Richard D. Smith, a filmmaker who was producing a documentary on Champ, offered his expert commentary on the matter of a hoax: "As a photographer and filmmaker, I can speak with some authority as to what it would take to fake a picture of this sort. Assuming the remote possibility that the Mansi photo is a fraud, it would require fabrication of an excellent, full-sized model (highly expensive in terms of expertise and materials) which would have to be smuggled out to Champlain or another lake, there assembled or inflated, and successfully maneuvered around out in the water (most difficult, especially with a slight wind blowing), the whole thing accomplished without being seen or the slightest leak in security (unlikely)" (Smith 1984).
This account is nearly comical in its strained assumptions. Smith envisions an "excellent, full-sized model" of the Champ monster, which certainly is unlikely. But the Mansi photograph doesn't show an "excellent, full-sized model" of Champ; it simply shows a dark, featureless, ambiguous curved form of unknown size in water. Surely such an object would not be as difficult to fake as Smith presumes.
However far-fetched some of the hoax dismissals are, I believe they are fundamentally correct. After an exhaustive and detailed review of both her account and photograph, I am willing to grant that she is probably a sincere eyewitness reporting essentially what she saw. Assuming that both the account and photo are truthful (though error-prone) records of something in the water, what can we conclude about it? Several examinations have been done.