Memphre: the lake monster update

John Mahoney
On the Vermont/Quebec frontier

t's been a very good monster-sighting season on Lake Memphremagog. At least 27 boaters and cottagers -- in nine separate reported visions -- claim to have seen Memphre, our resident sea monster, since ice-out this spring.

Well, not that they said they actually saw her. Or at least not all of her. No, they reported seeing wakes and waves, dark "bumps" in the water, a "fin."

Of course, these sightings of sea serpents on Beautiful Waters have been reported since the days when the Abenaqui owned this place. In the late 1700s they told the newly arrived white settlers they neither swam nor bathed in the 30-mile-long lake -- they were afraid of the sea serpent.

A report in Quebec's weekly Stanstead Journal in late January, 1847, put it this way: "I am not aware whether it is generally known that a strange something of a sea serpent...exists in Lake Memphremagog..."

Jacques Boisvert of Magog, Quebec -- local historial, veteran scuba diver, chief monster hunter and founder of the International Dracontology Society of Lake Memphremagog -- is known the world over as the popularizer of Memphre.

Through his efforts and those of his serious associate in monster hunting (1st Lady Dracontologist Barbara Malloy, who lives at the head of the lake, in Newport, Vermont) nearly 190 reported serpent sightings have been recorded. Here are some excerpts from this year's crop:

May 4, 3 p.m.: North of Lord's Island
Marie C. Beauchamp (pseudonym) states: "I observed the movement of waves for four to five minutes in which I could see what appeared to be the tail of a huge fish."

May 4, 4 p.m.: 1 km south of Lord's Island
Mrs. Bourgault, her husband, and her son Guillaume say: "We were fishing, the boat was not moving. All of a sudden we heard a sound behind us that lasted four or five seconds. All three of us turned around and saw an immense wave coming toward us. We are used to being on Lake Memphremagog and this is the first time we have ever seen anything out of the ordinary."

May 19: West of Jewett Point
Gilles Ethier, Rock Forest, Quebec, said: "We were coming back from Newport toward Magog when something went wrong with our boat's sonar. The radar was going crazy at around 350 feet. So we stopped the boat to see whether there was an obstacle beneath us which would have caused the sonar to malfunction.

"My sister-in-law and I saw the "vee" of a wave which was 8 or 10 inches high coming toward us. At that point, the object was 50 feet from our boat and the lake was very calm. We were able to observe this phenomenon for as long as two minutes when 'whatever it was' dove underwater near us. We were in the middle of the lake, west of Jewett Point.

"During this time, my brother, who had been checking the sonar, restarted the motor. He went about 100 feet to ascertain that the sonar was no longer working. He stopped and we again saw the wave coming at us from another direction.

"At that moment, Mrs. Ethier, Mr. Pelchat, and I clearly saw an object immediately behind the wave. I would say it was black and at least 20 feet long. I have done some whale watching in the St. Lawrence, and it reminded me a little of the back of a whale. The back could have had bumps on it, or perhaps that was caused by the movement of the water as it moved along at normal speed, similar to that of a beaver moving through water."

July 3, 7-8 p.m.: At the foot of Owl's Head mountain
Peter Auclair, Brome, Quebec, his daughter, Danielle, her son Jesse, and Tod Gunson reported seeing a creature heading to the east end of the bay. They estimated it was more than 20 feet long, made large waves, and was headed between the boat and the shore.

They said they saw a dark back, bumps, and a fin. The apparition lasted one to one and a half minutes. Around 15 feet from shore the creature went into the water like a whale, they said. Each witness individually told Bosivert that they believe they saw something that looked like a sea-serpent with multiple bumps.

Bosivert says that later on the same day Michael Dion and Paul Perry reported seeing Memphre near Prouty Beach at Newport, around 4 pm. The distance between these two sightings is about 10 miles.

Stay tuned for more monster reports -- we have months to go before Lake Memphremagog is ice bound and Memphre retreats to the comfort of her lair beneath Owl's Head.

For additional lake monster information, we recommend the following:

Some thoughts on monster lust
Incident at Tomkin's Creek
I thought I saw Memphre in my rearview mirror
International Dracontology Society

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1996 /Log Cabin Chronicles/9.96