Jennifer Marshall remembers being captivated as a child by learning about the Loch Ness monster on the TV show “Unsolved Mysteries.”
She brought some of that enthusiasm to her investigation of Champ, the purported Lake Champlain monster, for an episode of the show she hosts for The CW Network, “Mysteries Decoded.” She didn’t, though, let that enthusiasm cloud her view.
“I would say I am certainly a skeptic,” Marshall told the Burlington Free Press in a phone conversation this month.
Her desire for scientific evidence counterbalances the spirit of Nick Valenzuela, a student of cryptozoology who joins Marshall for much of the episode that airs on The CW at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10.
“Nick is a true believer,” said Marshall, a U.S. Navy veteran, private investigator and actor on shows including “Stranger Things” and “NCIS.”
She and Valenzuela banter on and off through the hour-long episode. “It’s a beautiful lake,” Marshall tells Valenzuela as she approaches him along the shore. “You see Champ yet?”
“You know, I think if I jumped out there, I’d see something,” Valenzuela replies. He notes that there have been more than 600 reported sightings of the monster over the centuries.
Later, Marshall and Valenzuela pore over a famous photo said to be of Champ — showing what appears to be the craning neck and curved back of a lake creature — on display at the ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain in Burlington.
“I see a lake monster,” Valenzuela says.
“I’m sure you do,” Marshall responds.
The two came to the Vermont and New York sides of Lake Champlain in August 2020 to film the episode of “Mysteries Decoded.” The show that searches for truth behind regional legends and lore will also this season explore a ghost town in California, werewolves in Kentucky and aliens in New Mexico, according to Marshall.
She and Valenzuela looked into new sonar images said to indicate the presence of something large on the lake floor. Valenzuela also took samples from Lake Champlain to be tested for environmental DNA, which could determine the presence of something inexplicable in the deep, narrow lake.
Coverage from 2014:Champ surfaces inside ECHO Center in Burlington
Marshall told the Free Press that she regularly employs her skepticism for investigations such as the one of Champ. The private investigator weeds out eyewitnesses who seem to be in search of fame and fortune more than truth.
“I get good at determining what people are seeking out as a result of this,” she said.
Sometimes people say they have strong evidence of lake monsters or UFOs, according to Marshall, but that “proof” turns out to be shaky video or undated photos. Even something based in science, such as sonar imagery, can be interpreted a variety of ways, according to Marshall.
That said, Marshall is not close-minded about the existence of a lake monster that’s such a part of Vermont culture it spawned the name of the Vermont Lake Monsters baseball team.
“Even though I’m a cynic and a skeptic, I think it’s important to realize new species are discovered every single day,” according to Marshall. “There’s still something in the back of my mind that says this possibly could be true, let’s not dismiss it.”
The greatest gift someone could give her, Marshall said, would be a clear photograph of a legend such as Champ that includes metadata offering irrefutable proof of its veracity.
“With all the traffic that Lake Champlain gets, I really hope that people go out with the expectation that, ‘Maybe we will see something, so let’s have our cameras handy,’” Marshall said. “That would be a great help.”
If you watch
WHAT: “Mysteries Decoded” featuring Champ, the “Lake Champlain Monster”
WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10
WHERE: The CW Network; www.cwtv.com
Contact Brent Hallenbeck at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Brent on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BrentHallenbeck.