The Loch Ness Monster: Real or Fake?MYTH
In Scottish folklore, the Loch Ness Monster or Nessie is a creature said to inhabit Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands. It is often described as large in size with a long neck and one or more humps protruding from the water. Popular interest and belief in the creature has varied since it was brought to worldwide attention in 1933. Evidence of its existence is anecdotal, with a few disputed photographs and sonar readings.
The scientific community regards the Loch Ness Monster as a phenomenon without biological basis, explaining sightings as hoaxes, wishful thinking, and the misidentification of mundane objects. The word “monster” was reportedly applied for the first time to the creature on 2 May 1933 by Alex Campbell, water bailiff for Loch Ness and a part-time journalist, in an Inverness Courier report. On 4 August 1933 the Courier published a report by Londoner George Spicer that several weeks earlier, while they were driving around the loch, he and his wife saw “the nearest approach to a dragon or pre-historic animal that I have ever seen in my life” trundling across the road toward the loch with “an animal” in its mouth. Letters began appearing in the Courier, often anonymously, claiming land or water sightings by the writer, their family or acquaintances or remembered stories. The accounts reached the media, which described a “monster fish”, “sea serpent”, or “dragon” and eventually settled on “Loch Ness monster”.
On 6 December 1933 the first purported photograph of the monster, taken by Hugh Gray, was published in the Daily Express; the Secretary of State for Scotland soon ordered police to prevent any attacks on it. In 1934, interest was further piqued by the “surgeon’s photograph”. That year, R. T. Gould published an account of the author’s investigation and a record of reports predating 1933. Other authors have claimed sightings of the monster dating to the sixth century AD.
Does the Loch Ness Monster exist, or was it just a hoax? Some say it was a myth and was made up in order to generate tourism for the area. Perhaps we will never know.
The History of Nessie
The earliest report of a monster in the vicinity of Loch Ness appears in the Life of St. Columba by Adomnán, written in the sixth century AD. According to Adomnán, writing about a century after the events described, Irish monk Saint Columba was staying in the land of the Picts with his companions when he encountered local residents burying a man by the River Ness. They explained that the man was swimming in the river when he was attacked by a “water beast” which mauled him and dragged him underwater. Although they tried to rescue him in a boat, he was dead. Columba sent a follower, Luigne moccu Min, to swim across the river. The beast approached him, but Columba made the sign of the cross and said: “Go no further. Do not touch the man. Go back at once.”The creature stopped as if it had been “pulled back with ropes” and fled, and Columba’s men and the Picts gave thanks for what they perceived as a miracle.
Believers in the monster point to this story, set in the River Ness rather than the loch itself, as evidence for the creature’s existence as early as the sixth century. Sceptics question the narrative’s reliability, noting that water-beast stories were extremely common in medieval hagiographies and Adomnán’s tale probably recycles a common motif attached to a local landmark. According to sceptics, Adomnán’s story may be independent of the modern Loch Ness Monster legend and became attached to it by believers seeking to bolster their claims. Ronald Binns considers that this is the most serious of various alleged early sightings of the monster, but all other claimed sightings before 1933 are dubious and do not prove a monster tradition before that date. Christopher Cairney uses a specific historical and cultural analysis of Adomnán to separate Adomnán’s story about St. Columba from the modern myth of the Loch Ness Monster, but finds an earlier and culturally significant use of Celtic “water beast” folklore along the way. In doing so he also discredits any strong connection between kelpies or water-horses and the modern “media-augmented” creation of the Loch Ness Monster.
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