Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Elk, Water Horses and Nessie

What is the Loch Ness Monster? Why, it is a Water Horse, of course. That may not answer some of the more scientific questions, but before the Loch Ness Monster there was the Each Uisge as they called it in the native tongue centuries before.

Dale Drinnon offers an interesting theory that distribution of lake monsters has a good correlation with distribution of elk (or moose as they are also known by). His thoughts can be found here.

No doubt that elk have been mistaken for lake monsters but can one extrapolate the whole way to make them one and the same? The fact that some countries called elk "water horses" is an interesting point but then again hippopotami are literally called "river horses" but look nothing like long necked lake monsters. That did not stop some Scottish academics of old speculating superficially that the Each Uisge may have had its root in an extinct hippo. This theory is nonsense but the Elk theory demands more respect since these creatures are recent or contemporary inhabitants of such lake areas.

However, Dale goes on to liken some land sightings of Nessie to moose taking to the water. The implication is that moose did not really die out in Scotland thousands of years ago. Can one really explain one animal which is not supposed to be there with another animal that is not supposed to be there? I think this improbable and would have expected a moose carcass to have turned up on some Scottish hillside a long time ago. I would also expect the moose to keep swimming to shore and not submerge.

The idea that such a creature would seed the Each Uisge tradition is troublesome at best. The assumption behind most of these theories is the ignorance of the natives and their inability to distinguish a supernatural entity from a moose (or deer, dog, otter, duck) out for a swim. That is why some folklorists prefer to go for the theory that something more realistically monstrous existed in the racial memories of the locals.

Well, that's also plausible so long as they don't keep on seeing it right up to the present day!


Dale has replied to my comment on his page that elk did not exist in Scotland so what is the point in using them to explain Nessie sightings? Check the link above though the discussion pretty much follows my take on the Greta Finlay case which is erroneously ascribed to a deer. My reply:

Granted, but how many elk and how close to Loch Ness? I would speculate these very few Elk were kept on the landowner's estate and not allowed to escape.

Agreed that water horses were never seen as plesiosaurs. The locals matched them to known animals of their time and they were seen right up to 1933.

Your theory is not that much different to ideas that people mistake common deer for Nessie. How significantly different is the Elk, especially when one is far more likely to see a deer swimming across the loch?

One area the descriptions do not match is that the creature submerges and stays submerged. Elk do not submerged (or deer).

The Fordyce creature is unusual but frankly looks nothing like an elk (big head v small head). Other land sightings describe a creature nothing like an elk or deer. Pre-1933 land sightings also do not have the "expect a monster" mentality of witnesses but still they were startled by the unusual and frightening appearance of the creature. Elk or deer would not evoke such a response.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Men in Black at Loch Ness?

Nick Redfern in his Mania blog comments recently on the potential link between the infamous men in black of UFOlore and cryptozoological creatures. This link is here.

This reminded me of the only alleged MiB encountered at Loch Ness and it is no surprise that it came from Ted Holiday, the paranormalist pursuer of Nessie who died in 1979. I mentioned Ted Holiday in my series of occasional blogs examining what people think the Loch Ness Monster is and Holiday was the definite champion of the paranormal creature theory (see link).

It is a strange story not just for the weirdness factor but because of some inconsistencies. The encounter apparently happened only days after the Reverend Donald Omand had conducted his famous exorcism of Loch Ness in June 1973. Holiday had heard of a report that a flying saucer and occupants had been spotted on the ground near Foyers by a Jan Ove Sundberg previously in 1971. He wished to track down the site but first visited local psychic Winifred Cary who advised him against visiting the site because she felt it presented a danger. At this point Holiday writes:

"At that precise moment, there was a tremendous rushing sound like a tornado outside the window, and the garden seemed to be filled with indefinable frantic movement. A series of violent thuds sounded as if from a heavy object striking either the wall or the sun-lounge door. Through the window behind Mrs. Cary, I suddenly saw what looked like a pyramid-shaped column of blackish smoke about 8 feet high, revolving in a frenzy. Part of it was involved in a rosebush which looked as if it had been ripped from the ground. Mrs. Cary shrieked and turned her face towards the window. The episode lasted 10 or 15 seconds and then was instantly finished."

He did not visit the site but instead found himself in the local village of Foyers the next day and saw a peculiar figure entirely dressed in black looking at him from about 30 yards away:

"He was about 6 feet tall and appeared to be dressed in black leather or plastic. He wore a helmet and gloves, and was masked, even to the nose, mouth and chin."

He walked towards the figure but turned his head to look at the loch for a couple of seconds, heard a whispering or whistling sound and turned to see the person had gone. Nothing more came of it until a year later when he came back to Loch Ness but suffered a mild heart attack. As he was taken to the ambulance, the medics passed over the spot where he had first seen the man in black.

What do we make of such a story and what has it to do with creatures in Loch Ness? The problem lies with the Sundberg sighting. The impression is given that the incident revolves around avoiding this alleged UFO site. However, in 1981, a Stuart Campbell, writing for the March issue of Flying Saucer Review, found the site based on the photograph Sundberg had taken and discovered the forest was too dense to allow any clearing for the 30 foot craft and three occupants claimed. The sighting was then dismissed as a hoax or hallucination.

(I believe this is Steuart Campbell, who wrote the sceptical book on Nessie, "The Loch Ness Monster: The Evidence"). Now allowing even for 10 years of extra tree growth, that would seem to discredit the whole thing. Jan Sundberg now runs the monster hunting organisation GUST where the focus is on aquatic monsters and not flying saucers.

If the UFO sighting did not happen, then what would be the point in an alleged MiB giving a typically dark warning about it? Holiday would have known about men in black from John Keel whom he corresponded with. John Keel popularised this aspect of UFOlogy some time before in his book "Operation Trojan Horse". What we are to make of this incident and the Biblical like pillar of cloud is bewildering. Did Holiday merely encounter some kook? No doubt Loch Ness is a magnet for people who are one sandwich short of a picnic. Was it just a trendy motorcyclist kitted up from head to foot? A fuller description would have helped.

And what about the whirlwind? Was it nothing more than that - a cyclone stirred up by aerodynamics that allows the topology of Loch Ness to funnel air currents and whip up squalls and other gusts of wind?

The problem with Holiday was that he was not always consistent in what he reported. One case was the infamous MacRae film. In his Great Orm book, Holday claims that a Mr. Dallas filmed the Loch Ness Monster in 1936. When Nessie researcher, Mike Dash, investigated this claim years later, Mr. Dallas denied he had shot any film of the creature he claimed to have seen.

In other areas, his research lacks follow up as when he claimed in the Orm book that his aforementioned friend, John Keel, had read an 1896 article on the Loch Ness Monster when researching archives in America. The claim is true but the article has yet to be found.

We can only guess as to what Holiday thought he witnessed. He is gone as I suspect are the other witnesses of that day. However, we finish on the eerie note that all these things occured just down the road from the infamous house of Aleister Crowley. A place which Crowley thought was a mystical energy portal!