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How the Loch Ness monster legend became one of the most popular in the world

The Loch Ness monster legend has been in popular culture for years, but how it originated and more importantly, is it real? Here’s what you should know about this Scottish tale.

Loch Ness has been positioned for centuries as one of the most mysterious places in the world, mainly because of the supposed monster that inhabits it, whose legend has caused more mysteries to join him. From the ‘wickedest man in the world, to tourists in search of the very beginning of cryptozoology, are some of the stories that haunt Loch Ness.

Located in the Scottish Highlands 37 kilometers southwest of Inverness, Loch Ness is part of a large network of interconnected bodies of water that also includes the River Oich, the Caledonian Canal, and the Loch of Dochfour. The main characteristic of these water bodies is that their waters are particularly dark due to the large amount of peat that resides in the nearby sediments.

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It is for this reason that Loch Ness has left much to the imagination about the creatures that inhabit it. For centuries there has been a legend that it is inhabited by a colossal-sized sea monster that has been called Nessi and this is the reason why the loch has gained great popularity among locals and tourists from all over the world.

What does the legend of Loch Ness say?

The first hints about the legend of Loch Ness appear in ancient writing from the 7th century called ‘Life of St. Columba’ (Vita Columbae). There, it is said that in 565 St. Columba, who was a leading figure among the Gaelic missionary monks, saved a person who was supposedly being attacked by an unknown animal in the loch.

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This is the first historical record of a strange animal inhabiting the waters of the Scottish loch. However, no further details of St. Columba’s victorious encounter are given and on the contrary, many scholars question the credibility of the story because there are other narratives about him that border on the fantastic. In them, St. Columba is described as having superhuman powers, and there is even a story in which the monk is said to have killed a wild man with the simple power of his voice.

Other stories have also been associated with the lake since ancient times, like the existence of creatures known as kelpies. Early inhabitants of the region believed that a shape-shifting water spirit existed in the loch and other ponds in Scotland. But the description of the kelpies is not entirely consistent with Nessie, as they are often detailed as horses and even humans.

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The most famous photograph of Nessie

The legend of the lake was suspended in history, coexisting with the belief in other fantastic creatures in the region, but there was no other formal record. That changed in 1868 when the legend resurfaced thanks to rumors that a large fish or other large creature inhabited the lake.

It wasn’t until 1933 that the modern legend was born. In that year, an article in the local newspaper, the Inverness Courier, mentioned a whale-like creature of enormous size that caused the waters of Loch Ness to churn. Supposedly the editor at the time, Evan Barron, suggested that the narrative include the term ‘monster’ to refer to the sighting, and thus the modern legend of Loch Ness was born.

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Later, in April 1934, a photograph purportedly taken by surgeon R. K. Wilson appeared showing the enormous creature with an elongated neck protruding from the waters of the loch. The photograph went around the world, reaffirming the legend of the monster who was named Nessie. However, decades later in 1994, the son-in-law of Marmaduke Wetherell, a silent film actor, and director, claimed that it was the latter who took the photograph, faking the scene for the Daily Mail and that Wilson’s name was used solely to lend credibility to the affair.

Cryptozoology and occultism

Although it has been clarified that the most famous photo of the lake showing the monster is a fake, many have shown their obsession with the mystery surrounding Ness. In fact, the loch has been crowned as the quintessential site to search for the cornerstone of cryptozoology. This is a pseudoscience that seeks to prove the existence of mythological and fantastic creatures such as Nessie or the Jeti, as well as to prove that some animals proclaimed extinct still inhabit the planet, as would be the case of megalodons.

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But despite the efforts, so far no evidence has been found that opens up even the mere possibility that any of these creatures exist, including the Loch Ness monster. In addition to this, cryptozoology is not the only one that has set its eyes on this region of Scotland, occultism and everything related to mystery, has done the same.

The famous occultist Aleister Crowley, known as the ‘wickedest man in the world’ was also fascinated by the legend of Ness and built himself a large mansion (Boleskine House) next to the loch where he practiced his Thelemic magic.

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What has been found so far in Loch Ness?

As expected, there are many rumors about sightings in the great murky freshwater loch, however, so far there is no hard evidence to prove the presence of any kind of creature out of the ordinary.

There have been investigations where the presence of different DNA has been analyzed and so far only genes from dogs, sheep, cows, deer, rabbits, birds and, of course, humans have been found. But the DNA that has most caught the attention of scientists is from a species that could well be mistaken for a monster, that of eels.

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Eels inhabit the Scottish rivers where they arrive from the Sargasso Sea region of the Bahamas where they nest. They then travel about 5,000 kilometers to the United Kingdom and enter the rivers and lochs of Scotland. Therefore, if a conclusion is to be drawn based on real facts, it could be assumed that the sightings were in fact eels.

Story originally published in Ecoosfera

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