Happy Birthday to the Modern Legend
of the Loch Ness Monster! – 1933
This isn't the Loch Ness Monster's birthday, because the monster almost certainly doesn't exist! And it's not the anniversary of the first story about the mysterious creature, because those stories have been around a loooooooong time—there is a story about a water beast in the River Ness about 1,500 years ago! (This story involved a miracle: a saint commanded the beast to halt as it began to attack a man...and the beast obeyed. Notice that this story was about a river creature, not a lake creature, and that it is an awful lot like other miracle stories common at the time.)
It is the modern-day “Nessie” story that started on this date in 1933, when a Scottish journalist reported that a local couple claimed to have seen a huge animal rolling and plunging on the surface of the Scottish lake. (Loch means lake, by the way.)
The local newspaper ran the story, not of the sighting of a huge animal, but of a huge monster. A few months later, a London couple reported a similar sighting. They described the creature as being like a dragon or a pre-historic animal. Once again, the local newspaper printed their report, and soon more and more sightings flooded in. People were seeing “sea serpents” and “monster fish” and long-lost dinosaur relatives (plesiosaurs).
Eventually, the story got picked up by newspapers in London and elsewhere, and a full-on media “feeding frenzy” began. London newspapers sent reporters to Scotland, a circus offered 20 thousand pounds for the capture of the beast, and ordinary folk drove to the lake to see the monster for themselves.
Nessie is Good for Business!
Nowadays, there is an entire tourist industry based on the legend of the Loch Ness Monster. When I went, I realized right away that there was a lot of cool atmosphere around the lake—especially where the ruins of a castle crouched on a jut of land. The glooming clouds and steady breeze made the lake ripple in such a way that it was really very easy to see a dark gray serpent-like shape traveling over the water.
(But when I stared at any one spot, I saw what looked like the hump of the creature's back over and over and over again, as if the creature was swimming in a little loop in that one place forever, at the same rhythm as the wind.)
The small town nearby (Drumnadrochit) had a different atmosphere. It was, in a word, kitsch.
Giant statues of Nessie provided photo ops with the kids, souvenirs of all sorts were imprinted with a friendly, cartoon version of the monster or with a more realistic plesiosaur, and there were “exhibits” of breathless wonder about all the so-called sightings.
Kitsch can be lots of fun, and we looked at all the color-changing Loch Ness Monster mugs and plastic Nessie rulers and “I survived the Loch Ness Monster” key bobs and so on and so forth, on and on... I finally selected a Nessie T-shirt that I have since worn out (I am now the proud owner of a Loch Ness Monster dusting rag).
A Question of Classification...
The Loch Ness Monster is not classified as a reptile (as you might think because of the plesiosaur connection) or as a fish or mammal. Instead, it is a cryptid. This is the name for the group on animals that are rumored to exist but whose existence is very much doubted by scientists because of a complete lack of reputable evidence. Some other examples of cryptids are Yeti and Bigfoot.
No Evidence? Wait a minute—what about all those eye-witness reports? And there are supposed to be photos and film, too!
Many sincere people claim to have spotted the monster, but they are apparently reporting non-monster things such as my water ripples, large eels (which do live in the lake), bird wakes, or even seals. (Loch Ness is quite close to the ocean.) Also we can assume that some of the reports are hoaxes, too. (Whenever an opening for a hoax arises, somebody always gladly rushes forward to take advantage of the situation!)
As to the blurry photo and film that have been offered as proof of Nessie's existence, again some have been shown to be depictions of ordinary inanimate objects floating on the lake, while at least one is a confessed hoax.
Loch Ness has been searched for any signs of a “monster”—by fishermen and hunters, sonar and underwater cameras, and even by submersibles. Of course it's impossible to PROVE that the creature does not exist, but in the almost 80 years since the first (modern) reports, there has never been an actual creature captured, nor a skeleton or body found. Because of this lack of reliable / verifiable evidence, the vast majority of scientists consider it very unlikely that plesiosaurs still live on in Loch Ness.
Nessie, here in Legos, decorates Florida's Disney World.
Toyota Signed Nessie for Commercials!
Actually, since Nessie doesn't exist, Toyota apparently hired someone who knows how to do cool special effects or CGI. Take a look.
Make Your Very Own Nessie!
Use clay or origami to create a sea serpent!
Listen to a Story!
This is for little kids, and it's very fun. I like the fact that the story is told with a Scottish accent. The only problem is, the story says (and pictures) that there is a real Nessie—and there almost surely isn't. Still, little kids love make-believe!
Another Bit of Fun...
...Read this poem, called “The Loch Ness Monster Song.”