Lange: Here there be monsters

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(HOST) Commentator Willem Lange reflects that monsters, whatever they are, are really Rorschach tests.

(LANGE) Everyone who travels to Loch Ness knows the odds of seeing the monster are almost nil.  Still, the temptation to scan the surface of the loch is irresistible.  It’s the second largest lake in the British Isles and was part of the sea.  Sea trout, arctic char, and salmon come and go.  It takes little imagination to suppose that the Loch Ness Monster could exist.  So I kept looking for a bulge in the water, a head, or a hump.  But Nessie didn’t pop up for us.

Recently there’s been another sighting of the creature supposedly living in Lake Champlain.  Eric Olsen of Burlington, out for a sunrise stroll along the shore, was filming the lake with his cell phone, when he spotted a movement.  Something was swimming just offshore.  His two-minute video shows what appears to be a large head lifting above the surface, with a long body behind it surfacing now and then.  The creature moves toward the shore; but then the video, frustratingly, ends.

The clip has attracted thousands of viewers to YouTube, and almost as many reactions.  True believers consider it evidence that Champ exists; skeptics call it a hoax or a swimming moose; others are intrigued by the possibilities, remain noncommittal, and are ready to be convinced.  Champ, clearly, is a Rorschach test.

Lake Champlain was fairly recently an arm of a post-glacial sea that, as the surrounding land rose, became landlocked.  The skeleton of a beluga whale was once found in Charlotte by workers building the rail line between Rutland and Burlington.  None of this is meant to argue for Champ’s alleged presence in the lake, but simply to suggest the possibility exists.

Mysterious creatures whose existence has not been proven are universal.  People who study these phenomena – though it’s difficult to understand how you can study a biological entity whose existence cannot be verified – are called cryptozoologists, and there’s some disagreement among mainstream scientists about their credibility.  Among the credulous, it hardly matters.

The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas is popular among many folks, as are Sasquatch and Bigfoot, supposed to roam the wilds of western North America.  Photos of these creatures are invariably grainy and indistinct, as are the oral descriptions of the witnesses who claim to have seen the creatures themselves.

There’s a monster in the Amazon Basin; another in British Columbia’s Lake Okanagan; and the Frogman, a homicidal creature who haunts the swamps of northern New York.

Many of us, apparently, desperately wish to know, or at least believe in, what cannot be, or at least is not yet, known  It seems pathetic in a way; yet imagination is what separates us from our relatives on the family tree.  As for me, I don’t expect ever to see incontrovertible evidence of Champ’s existence, but I can’t help looking over Mother’s shoulder whenever we cross the lake.

This is Willem Lange in East Montpelier, and I gotta get back to work.

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