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Yankee Classic: The Champ Believer

“I was facing north in a chair by the window when I saw what I thought were three big fish doing a ballet. Then I realized it was only one. We watched for a while (she was with a friend, Jane Temple, who also works at Basin Harbor) when it was under water, then it surfaced again. The front end came out of the water about five feet, I guess. There were definitely two humps, and we could see space between the water and the bottom of the humps — it was snakelike.”

“Was the head sticking up at an angle, or was it arched?” Zarr asked her.

“It was like a caterpillar going along a table,” McGeoch said, demonstrating the motion with a finger. “And under the water, it was wiggling. Its disturbance was not a wake like a boat makes,” she added, forming a V with two fingers. “It was more like sideways ripples.

“He wasn’t looking around to see what he could see,” she said thoughtfully. “It was more purposeful, like, ‘I’m going down to Ticonderoga for something.’ Heading south.”

The two women watched the creature for seven to ten minutes. “A lot of that time was just watching the disturbance in the water,” she explained. “It was pretty exciting, I’ll tell you! It made a believer out of me.”

“What if you’d been alone when you saw it?” I asked.

“I wouldn’t have talked to you!” she said forcefully.

Later that evening we sought out another eyewitness, Ann Koch of Wilmington, Delaware. Her sighting came on July 2 about noon, while she was opening her lakeside camp, several miles south of Basin Harbor, along with a friend from Wilmington, Rita Shaffer. “We had been cleaning and just sat down for a rest,” she said. “If we’d gone on cleaning for another ten minutes …. ”

Ann had been to Loch Ness and was a believer in lake monsters in general, Champ in particular. Her friend Rita was a skeptic. But it was Rita who first spotted the undulating black hump and screamed for Ann to get a camera. Ann came outside just in time to see the creature submerging, leaving a broad, muddy wake in the shallow water just offshore.

“If I hadn’t seen it myself, I’d have believed Rita was making fun of me,” Ann mused. “And if I’d seen it, but Rita hadn’t, she certainly wouldn’t have believed me.”

We left and started looking for the house of still another recent witness. “We’ve had sightings by a women’s bowling team going into a restaurant, by a lady making a cake — one of my favorites was a young couple on their way to a football game who pulled over to neck,” said Zarro “We had a mass sighting off the Spirit of Ethan Allen last summer — more than 60 people saw it.”

Zarr tries to interview every witness and check to be sure what they saw was not one of the more prosaic inhabitants of the lake. “The first thing I look for is a head sighting,” he explained. “If there’s something sticking four or five feet out of the water, it’s not likely to be a loon. Size is important, too. If it’s 10 to 15 feet long, it’s probably not a sturgeon.” “Do you think there’s more than one Champ?” I asked.

He nodded. “And they have their own territories. You’d have to say that this area, from here up to Basin Harbor, has been a very active area, this year anyway.”

We were driving down a long straight dirt road without streetlights, looking for a yellow house belonging to a man who claimed to have taken videotape of the creature. In the bright moonlight every house looked yellow. We paused at every mailbox, straining to read the names. We couldn’t find it. Zarr was frustrated.

“A monster-hunter must be patient,” I reminded him.

Tim Clark


Tim Clark


Tim Clark has been writing for Yankee Magazine and The Old Farmer's Almanac since 1975. Subjects of his many Yankee profiles have included filmmaker Ken Burns, historian Barbara Tuchman, pediatrician and political activist Dr. Benjamin Spock, and World War II General James Gavin. Tim left his job as Managing Editor in 1999 to teach English at ConVal High School in Peterborough, N.H. for 13 years, but since retiring from that demanding and rewarding profession in 2012, he has continued to contribute articles and book reviews. Tim lives in Dublin, N.H., two miles from the offices of Yankee Publishing, and serves as Town Moderator, a post previously occupied by Rob Sagendorph, the founder of Yankee Magazine.
Updated Monday, February 14th, 2011

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