Has the so-called Loch Ness Monster of North America reared his head, again?
For hundreds of years, residents of New York and Vermont have swapped stories of a mysterious underwater creature living in the expansive Lake Champlain. Although locals say it has been spotted more than 300 times, it has only been caught on camera once, decades ago. So skeptics abound, wondering how so many people can believe in something that has never provided proof of its existence.
But a cell phone video taken earlier this week of a creature apparently swimming in the lake has revived talk of the legendary "Champ."
Captured by Burlington, Vt., resident Eric Olsen, 37, and posted to YouTube May 31, the nearly two-minute video of the lake at sunrise shows an unknown object moving across, and ducking below, the surface of the water.
"I was just filming the water when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something move, and I turned toward it and tried to zoom in on it," Olsen told the Burlington Free Press, which first reported the story Wednesday.
Along with the video, the Web site developer and musician posted the following comment to YouTube: "I shot this video (with cellphone) of SOMETHING in the lake at Oakledge Park on Sunday (05/31/09) early am (0530 or so). Was anyone else out and about around Oakledge on Sunday just after sunrise who saw this as well?"
In the past few days, the video, titled "Strange Sighting on Lake Champlain in Burlington, VT," has attracted more than 59,000 views.
Olsen did not immediately respond to requests from ABCNews.com for comment, but told the Burlington paper, "You can see that it is moving both horizontally, across the water, and vertically, going under the surface and coming back up. ... It struck me as something that was long, that it didn't have much girth."
The new video is already causing a stir among local residents and leading cryptozoologists, who study animals whose existence has not been proven, or "hidden" animals.
"If this pans out, this will be the most convincing moving picture of this creature," said Loren Coleman, a leading cryptozoologist and author of "The Field Guide to Lake Monsters. "And that's the kind of evidence we need to get closer to what these things really are."
Although no one can pinpoint the first sighting, according to local lore, the native Abenaki people told Samuel de Champlain (the Lake's namesake) of its presence in the early 19th century.
In the 1880s, P.T. Barnum helped ignite interest when he offered a $50,000 reward for the capture of "Champ" or "Champy," dead or alive.
Although some think the Lake Champlain monster is a dinosaur-type creature or primitive whale, Coleman thinks Champ is likely a kind of unknown seal, and one of several have been spotted in different lakes across the region.
"The theory that it's a dinosaur is just ridiculous," he said. "This video reinforces the direction that a lot of people have been going in. That it's more like a mammal than a reptile."
Forensic analyses are needed to determine more about the creature, Coleman said. Later this week, a few of his colleagues intend to measure the buoys in the background of the film to get a better sense of the creature's size, he said.