Tuesday 12 November 2013

Searching for the Goth Ness Monster

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the first known photograph of the Loch Ness Monster, or 'Nessie' as she is known to her friends. The picture, taken by Hugh Gray on a post-church saunter in 1933, was the first evidence of the existence of a giant cryptid (and probably prehistoric) beast living at the bottom of a Scottish loch – and with it a whole school of creature-fandom was born.

Only recently tourist David Elder captured a 'mysterious wave' on the water of Loch Ness, which was probably Nessie going for a morning constitutional. The resultant wave has to be mysterious, because that's how Nessie rolls (or swims).

Between the two events there we have seen a wealth of scientific evidence, backed up with dossier upon dossier of hard statistical fact, that there is a gigantic sea-monster lurking in the depths of Loch Ness... or instead a random assortment of swimming dogs and gusts of winter breeze, depending on which side of reality you sit.

The Loch Ness Monster is a rare British example of a crypto-zoological beast. Not having a Yeti, or Sasquatch, or a vampire or werewolf, or a cat-fox or devil-bird or kraken or any such alleged beast to speak of, the UK has had to content itself with Nessie and various non-specific big black cats. Therefore she doesn't have to actually exist to be an extremely precious cultural resource. Bearing that in mind surely it is a national disgrace that Nessie doesn't get more attention. Where is the national prime-time TV talk show? Or the syndicated TV series? Or the rock opera?

The monster-myths and tales native to these isles may not have captured the imagination of film-makers across the world like their European counterparts (and on the occasion when they did, such as the execrable 'Loch Ness' (1996), we would just as well wish they hadn't), but that still doesn't mean we should fall into the same trap. There is a treasure trove of homegrown myths and creeps to tuck into, from your everyday banshee to your run-of-the-mill lake troll. Yes, they may not be as glamorous as the Carpathian variety of ghoul, and they are unlikely to be characterized in a frilly shirt by Brad Pitt, but they remain a key part of our indigenous industry of British chills.

So next time you're in the mood for a creature feature, or in search of a monster theme, then consider taking a trip to your nearest embedded myth; visit your nearest haunted mansion, read up on your local folk tales, take a pair of binoculars and a packed lunch onto Bodwin Moor. Take in a local cryptid and give it a home. And bring Nessie back into the dark, British heart of goth.

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