DERRY — “Champ,” the sea monster of lore that lives in Lake Champlain, and other water-dwelling cryptids of New Hampshire and across New England fascinate documentarian Aleksandar Petakov.
The Nashua filmmaker and cryptozoology researcher shared his love for the elusive creatures Thursday at Derry Public Library.
Petakov said he learned about the Loch Ness Monster of Scotland as a youth. Later, while researching the various lake and coastal sea serpents in New England for a documentary mini-series titled, “On the Trail of… Champ” (available on Amazon Prime and Youtube), he discovered our Champ actually pre-dates Nessie.
“Champ was the original lake monster,” Petakov said.
Champ, he said, was first sighted by Samuel de Champlain in 1609, with more sightings documented in news articles in the 1870s, during which a sea serpent scare swept the nation. Tales of a monster in Loch Ness had begun to circulate about that same time.
Now, Petakov said, he’s skeptical of the Scottish counterpart to Champ but believes there is “something going on” at Lake Champlain.
Theories explaining what appears to witnesses as a long-necked creature with a elongated, humped back range from the mundane — objects like driftwood and common eels — to the fantastic, prehistoric sea creatures that have survived countless millennia yet remain undetected by biologists to this day.
Petakov’s favorite theory is that Champ is actually a long-necked tortoise that has grown very large and very old.
He enjoys trips to the Lake Champlain to scour the waters for clues, and to enjoy the area’s natural beauty.
“I’m hopelessly obsessed with the mystery, but the natural setting brings me back,” Petakov said.
During his presentation, Petakov listed other rumored serpents inhabiting local waters. There is the Dublin Lake Monster spotted in Dublin in 1980; the Gloucester Sea Serpent off Cape Ann in Massachusetts reported from 1817-1819; the Lake Pocomoonshine Monster in Washington County, Maine; the Block Ness Monster skeleton found at Block Island, R.I., in 1996; the Connecticut River Serpent first reported in the New York Times in 1886; the Lake Memphremagog Monster “Mempre” and Lake Willoughby Monster “Willy,” both of Vermont, and many more.
Petakov said he and fellow cryptid enthusiasts are trying to get a 2005 video of an alleged spotting of Champ released from a New Jersey entertainment lawyer so they can analyze the footage.
The lawyer is holding onto the video in the hopes of selling it for an exorbitant price, he said.
Petakov said his documentary series will continue with “On the Trail of… UFOs” out next year, and he plans to produce another film about Mountain Lion sightings in New England called “Lions of the East.”