Robert Bartholomew, M.A. '84

Champ's Biographer

By Carol Olechowski

ver since he was “old enough to pick up a pair of binoculars and scan the lake,” Whitehall, N.Y., native Robert Bartholomew has been interested in “Champ,” the Lake Champlain monster. Early next year, with the publication of The Untold Story of Champ: An Unauthorized Biography of America’s Loch Ness Monster (SUNY Press), which he describes as “both a history and an exposé,” Bartholomew will “present the Champlain Monster like people have never seen him before.”

Robert Bartholomew

Bartholomew himself has never seen Champ, “or ‘Champy,’ depending on where you live.” However, “I learned that there is a great deal of misinformation about Champ. The book separates fact from speculation. Also, virtually none of the 19th-century history of Champ has ever been published before. I believe that local residents deserve to know the full story.”

Bartholomew promises “many surprises. It is a ‘warts-and-all’ biography that takes journalists to task for sloppy reporting over the years and examines the antics of modern-day Champ hunters: their egos, obsessions and behind-the-scenes squabbles. Also examined is whether the famous Mansi photo is a hoax.”

For The Untold Story of Champ, Bartholomew interviewed several people, including a retired SUNY Plattsburgh communications professor, Philip Reines, who began researching the monster in the mid-1960s. The book includes a preface by UAlbany journalism adjunct professor Ronald Kermani, “a brilliant writer and a legend in Albany for his penetrating investigative reporting for the Times Union. He also had a sighting of Champ,” notes Bartholomew, who earned a master’s in sociology
from UAlbany and recalls the University as “an important part of my life.”

So, what is Champ? “Local icon, environmental symbol, tourist draw, and perhaps a new or long-extinct species,” muses Bartholomew, now a history teacher at Botany Downs Secondary College in South Auckland, New Zealand. “Ultimately, the history of Champ reveals more about us than it does about him.”

Another book by Bartholomew, The Martians Have Landed! A History of Media-Driven Panics and Hoaxes (co-authored with Benjamin Radford), will be released by McFarland Publishing in October.