Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know I’m a big fan of the Loch Ness Monster. So much so that my third novel, jokingly assigned the working title Love is Nessie-sary, is set at Loch Ness.
Once upon a time on Twitter I saw a link to a blog post from a fellow author, Allison Thurman, about her love of “the weird stuff”–ghosts, UFOs, cryptozoology, and other Forteana / paranormalia. In it, she mentions making papier-mâché Loch Ness monsters.
I’d found a woman after my own heart.
Allison: What can I say that hasn’t been said about the Loch Ness monster?
Ah, Nessie, my great cryptozoological love. My interest probably came out of the usual childhood obsession with dinosaurs, given that the famous surgeon’s photo seems to show the head and neck of a plesiosaur. Though the photo’s long since been debunked the popular image remains, and the idea of a remnant dinosaur surviving in a remote northern lake appealed to my eleven-year-old mind.
The first “sighting” of the alleged creature dates back to St. Columba in the 6th century, but I think of the “Loch Ness monster” as modern folklore because sightings really picked up after the 1930s. The availability of portable cameras combined with increased visibility of the loch after a new road was built in the 1930s created ample opportunities to see something in the strange water.
And make no mistake, the water is strange. I visited Loch Ness as a teenager and still remember how the water reflected like a black mirror. Sudden waves become sinister, and reflections of ordinary flora and fauna distort. Short version: it’s easy to understand how people see weird stuff at the lake.
Interest – scientific and not – ramped up in the 1960s and researchers produced more provocative footage: the Dinsdale film (probably a motorboat) and the 1972 underwater photos (only persuasive when heavily enhanced). The Loch Ness and Morar Project continues research, and while they’ve not found a monster they’ve supported a number of dissertations about the geology and ecology about the loch.
After years of looking at this I’m pretty satisfied that sightings are a combination of mistakes and more conventional critters (sturgeon and eels can get pretty big in that much water), but that doesn’t stop me reading news stories or the occasional book. What’s the persistent appeal, I wonder? Is it just the thrill of not knowing something in this hard-headed, scientific world? Is it the weird ambiance of the loch itself that makes one want such marvels to be true? Is it just that finding a living dinosaur would be the coolest thing ever?
What I do know is that such mysteries are ripe fiction fodder, and I look forward to seeing what Anna does with the notorious LNM.