Wednesday 27 April 2011

What is the Loch Ness Monster? (part 2)

In a previous post I began to explore the various possible explanations to account for sightings of Nessie. That first post rather mundanely looked at misidentification of tree debris which though inadequate as a sole theory does explain some claimed sightings.

One might gently move onto deer, birds and otters in the loch, but for this post we go as far as one could possibly go in another explanation of Nessie. This is a theory which came into vogue in the early 1970s and it is the paranormal interpretation of the Loch Ness Monster.

The first proponent of this theory was Ted Holiday in his book "The Dragon and the Disc" which attempted to incorporate Nessie into the increasingly popular idea that most unexplained phenomena were paranormal in nature. This "Theory of Everything" approach had begun when some UFO researchers speculated that flying saucers were not the nuts and bolts spacecraft that many had presumed but may have more surreal origins.

Though Holiday still held to the invertebate theory of his first book ("The Great Orm of Loch Ness") he made a clean break prior to his death in 1979 with a radical theory which was expounded in his third and posthumous book "The Goblin Universe". This theory essentially borrowed from the obscure work of a Professor Harold Burr in positing that Nessie was a three dimensional form which could be formed and held by something Burr called Life Fields which were electrical in nature and had some organic organising properties.

Burr proposed this as a biological principle but Holiday took it further in suggesting that a mind could control the process and cause unexpected forms to materialise. Indeed, he proposed a universal mind akin to God as the controller of these phenomemon though the discussion also included the human mind and the collective subconciousness of the entire human race. How these three "minds" interacted if at all was not clear to me and there is no evidence to support such a theory. In some sense it is a hypothesis looking for data.

Why would Holiday abandon more reasonable flesh and blood theories for something that is speculative in the extreme? The answer is that Holiday believed the old superstitions surrounding dragons and water horses had a large grain of truth to them - these creatures were indeed magical in some way.

He also thought that a lot of the strange coincidences he witnessed during his time at the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau and as a private Nessie hunter went beyond coincidence. Things such as cameras malfunctioning, the monster appearing out of LNI camera shot, plus what he thought was a general malevolent atmosphere about the place. Add some unusual paranormal encounters around Loch Ness including a meeting with what we would call a MIB (Man In Black) in Foyers and you can understand where he is coming from even if you do not accept his views.

Do any other Loch Ness Monster hunters advocate this hypothesis to some degree? One was Anthony Shiels who took the (in)famous photos of Nessie near Urquhart Castle in 1977. He believed in a psychic aspect to these sightings but his discussion on this in his book "Monstrum!" is unclear as he also adhered to an invertebrate interpretation of the creature.

There is also a suggestion that Tim Dinsdale believed in a paranormal aspect to the Loch Ness phenomemon but this is less clear cut. I will mention that in a later blog posting.

So, all in all, this is the most exotic theory concerning the monster. Yes, it explains a lot of things about the beast but at the same time a major shift in one's perception of reality is required. Of course, if someone is already inclined to believe in supernatural events then perhaps the leap is not too great. In fact, I dabbled myself with this theory in the 1980s, but took a step back to let outwardly simpler theories have priority.

Indeed, the fact that such a theory should gain some prominence does point to the realization that no one theory seems to explain everything about witness sightings (and that includes the the log/deer/wave/birds/hoax theory of sceptics). One may suggest some identity for the creature but it falls short in explaining some aspect of behaviour or morphology.

For this paranormal theory, there is a solution is available but at the expense of some big assumptions.