Vermont. August 1, 2011. Loch Ness has her Nessie, Lake Champlain has her Champ, Lake Mephremegog has her Memphre and the Connecticut River, well the sting of it is that she has her monster it just has not been named yet. The Connecticut River does have a monster or monsters, that is, if you can believe press stories from numerous historical sources including the New York Times.
One of the earliest reports comes from the History of Lordship (in Stratford, CT) in 1878 when an assistant engineer on the steamer State of New York said that he witnessed the head of a monster raised several feet above the waves. The head disappeared and a portion of the body formed an arc “under which it would have been easy to drive a team of oxen.”
In 1881 soon after the Lordship incident, according to the New York Times, the yacht A.M. Bliss was returning from a fishing cruise when the passengers saw a veritable sea serpent moving slowly along the surface of the calm water.
An 1886 New York Times article from Middletown, CT reported that, “all along the banks of the Connecticut River people eagerly watched for a glimpse of the great sea serpent.” According to the story: “Out of the froth rose a big black head as large as a flour barrel and with eyes as big as small plates. The head kept rising higher and higher until 10 feet of the neck appeared. The men didn’t stop to make a long or thorough examination, but they feel sure that the sea serpent must have been a clear hundred feet long.”
The Hartford, CT Haunted Places Examiner recounted a story from 1894 when Austin Rice of East Deerfield, CT, … “a plain unimaginative farmer, who for nearly fifty of the seventy years of his life has resided in his quiet home on the banks of the Connecticut River, says that nothing on earth can convince him that he did not see a snake in the river a few days ago. The report noted that, “Mr. Rice’s reputation for veracity among his neighbors and acquaintances is good, and he never drinks.”
Then in 1895 the History of Lordship reported that crew members on the steamer Richard Peck noticed, “a coiling motion and the sea monster, as such it must have been if what they say is true, dove out of sight, first raising its head as if it had not been aware of the approaching steamer and had been disturbed from peaceful slumber.”
There is something unusual about Lordship because again the History of Lordship reports that in 1896 a sea serpent with pea green whiskers passed down Long Island Sound. “He was plowing through the water at a 25 knot clip — and left a wake of foam behind him a mile in length. He was easily 200 feet in length and his head was reared 20 feet above the brine.”
It seems our Connecticut River monster then became bashful for some 100 years. Maybe part of its reclusive time was spent in the nearly mile long Hog River tunnel under Hartford, CT. The Hog River flows 30 feet beneath the city in a 30-foot-high by 45-foot-wide tunnel made of reinforced concrete that is just over a mile long and runs between the Capitol and Armory buildings to the Connecticut River. Those few brave souls who have canoed the river tunnel say, ”The darkness and the dripping and the echoes — it’s like a chance to go to a kind of alien world.” We may never know for sure but it’s possible.
Then in 1995 according to a press release from the Main Street Museum that, “in the waters just off of Lyman Point in White River Junction, where the White meets the Connecticut River that an extraordinary monster was seen frolicking. First reports gave indication that some cousin, or closer relative of “Champ,” Lake Champlain’s Aquatic Apparition, had somehow found its way onto the eastern half of our beautiful state.” They offered the captured monster for display in 1995.
Not to be outdone, in 2008 NBC TV in Hartford, CT reported that a West Hartford resident had taken pictures of a mysterious creature living in West Hartford Reservoir Number 1. The photos taken depict something just below the surface of the water that appears to have “ancient looking” spikes along its long tail. The witness showed the photos to officials with the Metropolitan District Commission who said that the reservoir does not hold drinking water so there is no cause for concern.
All of the sightings over the past 130 years recorded something that looked like an eel, serpent or reptile of some kind with a long neck and body or a longer spiked tail. That’s a lot of coincidence since the first sighting in 1878. Maybe there is more than one Connecticut River monster depending on its taste for salt water. All of the people making the reports certainly seemed convinced the monster was real.
Believe what you will about The Big Conn monster but that’s my story and I am sticking to it.
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David Deen is River Steward for the Connecticut River Watershed Council and does not claim that ” he never drinks.” CRWC has been a protector of the Connecticut River (monsters and all) for more than half a century.