There are skeptics, and then there are believers like 10-year-old Nathan Brown. "I've never really seen him, but I still believe in him," Brown said.
The photo on display at the Echo Lake Aquarium and Science Center in Burlington shows what appears to be the Lake Champlain lake creature known as Champ. "I've lived in Vermont all my life and I really want to believe that there is a Champ out there," said Erin Fahey, a parent.
"I'm a believer because I've seen the picture and I think it looks pretty real," said 13-year old Samantha Brown.
It all started nearly 37 years ago when Sandra Mansi was with her family by the lake and she snapped the photo that some say is proof enough. "She's the woman that in 1977 happened to be on vacation in Vermont and took this photo with a little Instamatic," said ECHO Executive Director Phelan Fretz.
The grainy image appears to show a long-necked beast sticking out of St. Albans Bay. It's considered by Champ investigators to be the best piece of evidence that the monster exists. Since then there have been more than 300 reported sightings of the lake monster.
"I think he probably looks like a green monster. I think he has four legs," Samantha Brown said.
Monday kids shared their sightings at ECHO's ChampFEST. "I saw him at a basketball game. I saw him in the photo downstairs. I saw him at a basketball game. I saw him in the water," said one young ECHO visitor.
The event is designed to educate ECHO visitors about Champ and Lake Champlain."Taking care of Lake Champlain is all of our responsibilities and if Champ can help us get there, all the better," Fretz said.
This is the first time the Mansi photo has ever been on display. And while it has turned many people into believers, for some it will take more than just a photo. "I think from the science standpoint, we're often looking -- where's the data that will tell us about this creature. From the believers side, we're going, I saw it! I really saw it! But what did you see?" Fretz said.
Most visitors here believe that Champ does exists, and not even science can change their minds. "Sometimes I kayak and pretty much just keep a good eye out," Nathan Brown said.
"Maybe one day we could see it, yes. And the kids do like the water so we would definitely go out and we will look for him," Fahey said.
But unless Champ surfaces again, this photo might be as close as we get to the legendary lake monster.
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