Lake Memphremagog is home to one of the best documented, legendary lake creatures in the world, Memphre© — a plesiosaur-like creature who by all accounts is friendly, elusive, and protective of swimmers in distress.
During the course of the past three decades, Barbara Malloy, of Newport, Vermont, Vermont’s 1st Lady Dracontologist and the International Dracontology Society of Lake Memphremagog© have collected the documentation of over 150 sightings or encounters. She maintains a website www.memphreusa.org with pages of documentation (on the home page go to the lower right hand corner and click on the arrow). She is currently working on improvements to the site and is preparing to publish a book of her work.
The first and oldest documented sightings occurred in 1816. That year, there were four sightings by eight individuals. They were discussed in an 1854 journal written by Ralph Merry, IV of Magog, QC. Also involved in the sightings were Uriah Jewett ((1795-1868) of Georgeville, QC and Stewart Channel and his wife. They reported seeing a serpent about 30 feet long, with a “horse shaped head” and a neck above the water line. The journal containing these accounts was hidden in the floor boards in the old Merry House in Magog and discovered during renovations. It was given to the Stanstead Historical Society on August 2, 1969.
Barbara Malloy reports having seen Memphre on several occasions. Her first sighting occurred from a hill overlooking Horseneck Island around 5:00 p.m. on August 12, 1983. She and three other witnesses were in a car looking out on the lake. The water was calm. They saw a creature swimming extremely fast. In its wake, it left waves “like a speed boat would make.” According to Malloy, the creature was dark brown and had a head like a horse, with a long neck. She estimated the size to be “longer than a house.” She and the others watched for one or two minutes until the animal swam to the middle of the lake and disappeared.
Perhaps one of the most compelling encounters was reported by Billy Connor, the very first person to swim the length of the lake in 1955, when he was 19 years old. On November 12, 1990 Billy Connor gave a written statement to Jacques Boisvert of Magog, QC, Barbara Malloy’s Canadian colleague and co-founder of the International Dracontology Society of Lake Memphremagog.
You will recall our recent conversation in your office. I have decided, after over 35 years of keeping it to myself, to relate the bare facts of my swim down Lake Memphremagog.
As you know, some of the most beautiful, and helpful things that occur to us on this Planet, and some of the noblest conceptions we have, concern things that we cannot prove, or things that require from us a certain degree of faith. One of the most powerful, useful, and beautiful of these is the one which concerns the existence of angels.
That was my impression, now for the facts, otherwise un-interpreted by me. They took place during the night of August 22, 1955, when I swam the length of Lake Memphremagog.
At McPherson Bay a lightning storm was raging. It was raining so hard that the drops of water hurt my head and I was becoming chilled from tensing up. All of a sudden, “toute a coup” I was conscious of a presence in the water just ahead of me and, as I felt, about 30 feet below me. It gave off a sense of warmth and, without reflecting, I instinctively headed slightly off course to get close to this comforting “source.”
For 5 minutes I followed this divergence, then I felt that I must bring myself to my senses … heh, I am a modern man, scientific, you know.
But it was too late, my boats have lost me, by now. My friend Pit Lavoie, Garth Jackson and Alfred Whittier will confirm this.
As they were calling me, however, and I called to them, the water ahead of me burst open and an ugly (ugly to me, and frightening) head emerged from the water. The lips were pursed and gave me the impression that they were painted with lipstick. And definitely trying to give me the impression that this was a friendly entity and perhaps even helpful. Being unable to speak, it was giving me a sign language, that of the kiss, that I must not be upset. And, so strong was the communication, that I was not upset, though I questioned my sanity.
The heading of the creature, dare I call it an angel, changed radically so that I was heading toward the escorting fleet, and once again on course for Magog.
Until we reached the shallowing waters around Bryants Landing, and with the coming of the overcast dawn, the “guide” kept herself about 40 yards in front of me and about the same distance below the escorting boat. Actually, for most of the time my rowboat was between me and this exceedingly powerful source of comfort.
I hereby certify that this is the story I wish to tell you on this 12th day of November, 1990.
/s/ William Connor, Best of luck in your search.
In the summer of 2011, Elaine Kornbau Howley, a marathon open water swimmer from Waltham, Massachusetts, agreed to help organize an international, 25-mile swim the length of Lake Memphremagog, between Newport, VT and Magog, QC. We decided that this should not be a race, but rather an expedition with three goals: To promote a more open border with our Canadian friends; to search for the elusive lake creature, Memphre; and to raise money for our struggling community center, Indoor Recreation Orleans County (IROC). Nine solo swimmers and one relay team quickly and eagerly signed on. Barbara Malloy added her enthusiastic support of our swim. And so, In Search of Memphre, was born, the border was re-opened to an international swim and the “search” was begun. On September 10th, 2011 at midnight, the swimmers started out of Newport and faced stiff headwinds during much the night. Only four completed the 25-mile swim because of the conditions. However, one of the four, Charlotte Brynn, Director of the Swimming Hole in Stowe, VT had an encounter during the night which she has described in detail. It occurred while she was swimming in the dark and in the deep section of the lake. Her kayaker had been blown back by the sometimes howling winds. Although our patrol boat was keeping an eye on her from a distance, she was relatively alone for a period of time.
This is a report of her experience:
In the dark of the night between Newport and the Canadian border the head wind was blowing and the water was rough, yet there was an eerie calmness, I was swimming in the deep of the lake when I felt something brush over my thigh, I looked around and there were no other swimmers or kayakers near me, whatever it was was in the lake, when it touched my leg I could feel a vibration, then it diminished to a tingling sensation must be an electric eel, wonder if they have those in the lake, I thought, there was a tingling in my leg for a while, it felt weird, nothing like anything I’ve experienced before, fish, seals, seas lions, dolphins….from all the things I’ve swum around before this was very different. Then a short time later it hit me again, kind of slithered over my leg, not like a quick hit, it was like it was checking out what I was, it felt warm and kind of slithery, it was like listening to a buzzing or vibration only instead of audio it was a sensation in my leg, then it was gone, my leg tingled for a while and then whatever was playing with me went off into the night and so did I”
There it is, it was a strange encounter and one I cannot explain…..
Charlotte J. Brynn, Stowe, VT
We circulated Charlotte’s account to swimmers and friends. Ray Pronto, one of those who read it, sent us an e-mail saying that his mother, Velma Coburn, had been out on the lake one evening back in the 1970’s with her husband, Duane Coburn (now deceased), and two friends, Helena Hicks and Earl Hicks (also deceased) when they saw something. We asked Ray and his brother Charlie to see if Velma would be willing to talk with us. She agreed, and on Saturday, March 10th, we met.
Velma is 84 years old and is as clear-headed, bright-eyed, and pleasant as anyone we’ve ever met. She has not discussed her experience outside her family but, at our request, decided to talk about the encounter which took place on July 4th, 1974. She said the four of them were out on the lake by Owls Head late in the evening in their Chris Craft boat. She doesn’t drink and the four were not drinking that night. Velma provided us with a detailed, handwritten account by Duane, which he wrote up that night or the next day. She said that she has kept this account all these years and it has only been disclosed to one other person outside the family prior to our meeting. She described seeing what appeared to be the tail, up out of the water, and at another time she saw the creature’s head and eyes high out of the water. The following is a transcription of Duane’s handwritten account:
Time of sighting approx. 10:50 pm July 4th, 1974
First sighting of anything unusual was a 30 ft streak of light underwater seen by Helena Hicks. Two to three minutes later an unmoving object passed by starboard side of boat. At this time, object resembled roughly the same and size of a blue heron being about five feet above water. At this time, boat was cruising at about 1500 RPM or an estimated 15 MPH. At this sighting, boat increased speed to an estimated 22 MPH while making a 180 degree turn and gave chase with object in spot light. While giving chase, object looked more like a tail with either white or florescent stripe (^^^). Object was chased in NW direction for two to three minutes. Chase ended at this time as operator of boat realized he had become completely disoriented as to his exact location on lake and became concerned about rocks or other hazards. At this time the boat came to a full stop and so did the object of the chase.
At this time, neck, outline of back of head became visible in spot light. The head was 6 to 8 feet above water, shaped similar to a bird or turtle as far as curve of back of head. The head showed (it turned about 120 degrees to face us) two eyes 24” to 36” apart. The eyes did not glow red as many animals in artificial light, they were a pale yellow or light green. The head appeared to be about three feet wide (this was determined by the width of the eyes) and could not distinguish size or location of mouth, depth or length of head. Neck was 12” to 18” thick and long like snake. Probably black or dark brown in color. Eyes were about the size of a baseball.
At this time chase was completely abandoned. The boat was turned SE and heading home. Boat was doing about 17 or 18 MPH and object was following boat south and stayed about 200 yards to back of boat. This lasted for 10 min. Eyes were visible without spot light. Only light in that direction was stern light. Sighting concluded after 10 minutes of being followed.
/s/ Duane Coburn
Velma gave us the original document so that we could copy it. She agreed that it was time to disclose this information to the public, although she really didn’t want to talk to anyone else about her experience.
One evening, recently, we were describing Velma’s experience to Steve Poulin, a local resident who was born and grew up in the area. He hesitated for a bit, and then said to us. “You know, I’ve seen some s___ out on that lake.” He said he’d never told anyone about this other than his wife. He then said that he had been diving and swimming off of Horseneck Island when he was 17 years old. He came up out of the water and saw three bumps breaking the surface. It quickly disappeared. He and his buddy got out of the water “very quickly,” got into their boat, and went over to the spot, looking for a log or some other object that would explain what they saw. It was gone. Little did we think, when our fun loving, merry band of “Swimmer Scouts” started the swim, In Search of Memphre, that it would actually lead to a present day “encounter” and reports of sightings in years past. But it has. And we want to thank Velma Coburn for sharing her experience and providing the wonderful and detailed handwritten account by her late husband, Duane Coburn. We also want to thank Charlotte Brynn and Steve Poulin for describing their experiences. Finally, we want to thank Barbara Malloy, Vermont’s 1st Lady Dracontologist and the International Dracontology Society of Lake Memphremagog for their diligent pursuit and collection of eyewitness reports of sightings and encounters with our elusive but friendly sea serpent Memphre.© The Search continues and the legend grows. Phil White, Founding Member Northeast Kingdom Open Water Swimming Association
This report is made possible thanks to the diligent work and documents maintained by Barbara Malloy and the International Dracontology Society of Lake Memphremagog and is published pursuant to the licensing agreement executed between NEKOWSA and Barbara Malloy and the International Dracontology Society who maintain the copyright of Memphre©