Mysteries of the Deep: Lake Monsters

Sightings of lake monsters, strange creatures that inhabit the depths of freshwater areas, have been reported by huge numbers of unrelated eyewitnesses over centuries. Sceptics,citing a lack of scientific evidence, deny their existence. But is it plausible that all of these eyewitnesses are mistaken? Or could there be another, more mysterious, explanation? In this article we give you the facts, and let you decide.
Let us take probably the most famous of all lake monstersas our case study, the Loch Ness Monster, or “Nessie”. We now know that the best known photograph of Nessie, taken in 1934 by the London doctor Robert Kenneth Wilson, was a hoax. But this should not blind us to the fact that sightings of the Loch Ness Monster date back to the seventh Century, and have occurred with regularity ever since. The descriptions and images of the creature are also surprisingly consistent, and tell of a bulky four-legged being with a long neck and a humped back, resembling a Plesiosaur.
Whilst the credibility of some eyewitnesses has been questioned, many were respectable people, and include high ranking policemen and army officers amongst them. Indeed, even many sceptics open-minded enough to look into the facts have been persuaded of Nessie’s existence. Consider, for example, Tim Dinsdale’s 1960 film of a strange hump moving through the loch. This film was analysed by computer experts in 1993 using techniques not available at the time it was made, and the results revealed what appears to be Nessie’s body hidden under the water. This film could not have been a fake, and the computer expert who made the discovery was himself turned from an ardent sceptic to a believer by the discovery.
Another important fact to bear in mind is that most sceptics rely upon the assumption that Nessie must be subject to scientific explanation. They assume, in other words, that no supernatural explanation is possible. But this is antithetical to an unprejudiced point of view, and much of the evidence against Nessie’s existence simply dissolves once it is dropped. It has been argued, for example, that AnthonyShiels’s 1977 photo of the monster must be a fake due to the lack of ripples that the creature creates in the water. But those open to other explanations should not assumethe monster to have the same causal effects as other animals.
If we broaden our horizons a little we also discover that sightings of similar sea monsters have occurred across all regions of the world. In North America there is Ogopogo, a creature described as a “sea-serpent” andwho was first spotted in 1926 inOkanagan Lake, British Columbia. In this case there were thirty different unrelated observers who all described the same events. Pepie, a monster thought to live in Lake Pepin on the Mississippi River, dates back even earlier, with recorded sightings as early as 1871. Then there is Champ from Lake Champlain, a short distance across the border into Quebec, for which there have been over three-hundred sightings since 1819. In other areas of the world there is the Lake Tianchi Monster, said to live inHeaven Lake in China, reported numerous times over the years since 1903. In Turkey, there is thought to be a lake monster by the name of Van GölüCanavari, in Sweden there is Storsjöodjuret, and in Argentina there isNahuelito.
For many of the above lake monsters, the story is the same as with Nessie. Sightings have been numerous, and sceptics who have taken the time to look into the evidence have been convinced. And one other feature stands out. Many of the lakes have been strongly connected with ancient lake rituals that suggest the areas have long been thought have a significance beyond the ordinary. Should those who doubt the existence of lake monsters have more of an open mind?