Loch Ness was an isolated lake, not easily accessed by travelers until recently. The lake lies along a geographic line between the old Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland. Loch Ness is a fairly large body of water, about 24 miles long and over 600 feet deep. Before it was probed using modern technology, the locals believed the lake to be without a bottom at all. The unimaginable depths coupled with its remote location made it easy for those living in the area to fabricate complicated tales and beliefs surrounding the landmark. To add the mystique of this site, the weather in the region is often cold and gray, masking the waters in fog and rain. The legends began long before recorded history and stories are still being thought up about the lake today.
A gruesome addition to the history of Loch Ness is the story of the Glencoe massacre, which occurred near the lake in February of 1692. This tragedy resulted in the ruthless murder of 30 people: members and companions of Clan MacDonald of Glencoe. The people were slaughtered by military personnel because they openly refused to vow fealty to the monarchs, William III and Mary II. This was the most brutal mass murder in the history of Scotland, and it has tarnished the area with an air of foreboding and darkness.
The first recorded account of strange happenings within Loch Ness was described sometime between the years 550 and 590 AD, a saint by the name of Cholm Cille, also called Saint Columbo, was traveling through Scotland. When he came to a river, he witnessed the burial of a man. It was said that this man had been bitten by some sort of a “water beast” while swimming in the river. The saint refused to believe these statements, and in response demanded one of his group, a man named Lupne, swim across the river and prove that there was nothing to fear. According to the saint’s account, before Lupne reached the center of the river, a horrible creature swam to the surface of the water and rushed toward the swimming man. The creature was said to have had a massive, gaping mouth which roared as is plunged through the current. The story goes on to say that when the holy man saw the water beast, he raised his hand to make the symbol of the cross and commanded that the beast leave the swimming man alone, and return from where it came. At this point, the monster turned fin and fled back into the depths of the river. This is recognized as the first sighting of the great cryptid now called the Loch Ness Monster. It is said that the saint performed an exorcism on the entirety of the water in an attempt to remove the evil from within it.
Since the experience at the river which spurs off of the lake, the local people held beliefs and traditions centered around the monster of Loch Ness. They would sacrifice livestock to the creature that they believed lived within the depths of the lake. The bodies of these sacrificed animals never resurfaced, providing even more evidence that the monster was real. They hoped that by providing it with livestock to eat, it would leave them be and would not come seeking out people to curb its appetite.
Accounts of the monster go silent from this point on, leading locals to believe that the exorcism had worked and that they were free of the terror in the deep. That is, until the 1960’s, when a couple of fishermen blamed the Loch Ness Monster for scaring away the salmon so that they never caught a single fish that day. Despite there being no credible sightings for such a long time, searches for the beast and tales of it continued relentlessly among locals and visitors.
Some say that the bottom of the lake is blanketed with a writhing swarm of giant, freshwater eels. It is believed that bodies are rarely recovered because these eels consume the bodies of those who drown in the water. While it’s not likely that the eel population is so extensive as the rumors make it seem, the presence of eels has led to the theory that the Loch Ness Monster is actually a giant eel rather than an ancient or unholy beast.
A legend concerning the treacherous water and the fearsome eels at the bottom of the lake details the tragedy of a small family. The story states that a small family was boating on the water when the boat began to sink. The family was forced to swim to the shore, but the children were unable to keep up with the mother and father. Upon reaching land, the mother swam back out in an attempt to save their children. Sadly, before she could reach them, she succumbed to the cold and fatigue, drowning and sinking below the surface. The family had been extremely wealthy, so the husband was able to hire two men to search the lake for the bodies of his departed family, but they were never recovered. It is said that both divers survived the swim and returned to shore, but they were not well. One told the man that he had found his wife, but he refused to bring her corpse back and that he would never again enter the cursed lake. The second diver returned to land in a state of psychosis and was admitted to an asylum. The story never states exactly what it was that the divers found, but it must have been horrific.
If one is to believe the stories, the Loch Ness Monster seems to be primarily a corpse eater. Less often hunting its prey and mostly consuming the bodies of those who die of more natural causes in its domain.
In August of 1969, a Scottish newspaper released an article describing frightful events which had recently taken place between a fisherman and the monster. The paper said that the man and his friend had been fishing in the lake when a 60ft long monster attacked their boat. They fought back against it with oars and a shotgun and were able to scare it away and back into the darkness of the water. The men claimed that the creature was brown, had a humped back, and used a huge, toothed mouth to bite chunks from their boat and oars before they were able to repel it.
There have been countless alleged sightings of the Loch Ness Monster in the last century, coming from locals, travelers, doctors, fishermen, and people of every background or disposition. Few cryptids have enjoyed the notoriety that Nessy has seen since the mid 1600’s, and the existence of the lake-dwelling devourer of the dead is still hotly debated.