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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Loch Ness, King Kong and Harbor Seals: How a monster legend was born

This September a whiskey house worker on the shore of Loch Ness snapped what may be the most convincing photograph yet of the elusive Loch Ness Monster.
The most convincing photo yet that the alleged prehistoric creature is in reality the very thing I have become convinced that it was in my studies of the reports.....  A common harbor seal.

Seals are only in salt water.. That's a laugh you say..... But is it really?
Let's take a look and see....
Common or Harbour Seals Phoca vitulina L. have a well-known habit of exploring up rivers and in northern Canada permanent populations of Common Seals live in freshwater lakes 300 km inland from the sea (Mansfield, 1967; Hewer, 1974; King, 1983). About 100 seals, both Common Seals and Grey Seals Halichoerus grypusFabricius, live in the sea near Inverness. Individual seals of both species can regularly be seen 1 km up the River Ness in the middle of Inverness town, especially at high tides. There have been several reports of a seal in Loch Ness (Anon, 1933; 1934; 1934) and beyond Loch Ness in the River Oich (Harvie-Brown and Buckley, 1895, p183), but these reports were not supported by photographs and were not believed.

Between November 16, 1984 and June 11, 1985, a seal was seen in Loch Ness by Gordon Williamson and other people. Photographs were taken (Figs 1 and 2). The seal was identified as a Common or Harbour Seal Phoca vitulina by its head profile, with turned-up nose by its grey colour with black spots and by its estimated length of 1.8m. The other species of seal found around Scotland, the Grey Seal, has a long straight nose, like an Alsatian dog.

The seal spent most of its seven months living on the south side of Loch Ness opposite Urquhart Castle (Fig. 3). However, the seal was seen in many parts of Loch Ness, including Fort Augustus 48 km from the sea. The seal was seen in the river exit of Loch Ness at Lochend on four separate occasions (Dec. 1, Dec. 21, Jan. 13, Feb. 8) yet it did not descend the river to the sea.

This suggests that the seal "knew" where it was, was not "lost" and that it deliberately remained in Loch Ness. The seal appeared to be in vigorous good health throughout its stay in Loch Ness. The seal was shot on June 11, 1985. About 30 people reported about 60 separate sightings of the seal to me. Of these 30 observers, twenty-eight were local people who had close contact with the surface of Loch Ness - either fishermen in salmon-trolling boats or people who lived beside Loch Ness. Of the hundreds of thousands of people, locals and visitors, who drove along the roads beside Loch Ness during the 7-month period, only two (that I know of) - a pair of Australian tourists at Urquhart Castle - noticed the seal.

Common Seals spend only about 20% of the time at the surface, and make dives of 3-8 minutes duration (P. Thompson, pers. comm). Conclusion: in Loch Ness it is very hard to notice such a small animal as a seal unless you spend many hours close to the water. While at the surface, the seal breathed in and out about 24 times per minute (measured by observing the rise and fall of its back when the seal was floating horizontally). The seal often followed the boats of salmon fishermen who troll along the sides of the Loch, often following a boat for half an hour, to the annoyance of the fishermen. One day fisherman Mr Gerry Breau accelerated his boat to try to get away from the seal, and the seal chased after the boat at top speed, leaping out of and into the water ten successive jumps like a porpoise.

King Kong and Hollywood help create the Loch Ness Legend
Among this horde of folkloric creatures are the widespread traditions of kelpies (associated with running water), water-bulls, and water-horses (each uisge, which haunted lochs and the sea). Today, these related but distinct mythological creatures are harnessed in service of the legend of the Loch Ness monster, but there are strong reasons to think that this linkage is in-appropriate. First, none of these creatures is anything like the modern Loch Ness cryptid [a term for a creature that may or may not exist]. Second, none of them is indigenous to Loch Ness.
In Scottish folklore, water-bulls are small black bulls that are encountered when they venture onto land; they sometimes breed with terrestrial cattle be-fore returning to the water. Water-horses (whether each uisge or the distinct but similar kelpies) are lethal, shape-shifting demons. They are likewise encountered on land in the form of ordinary-looking horses, often with weeds in their manes and wet-looking, adhesive skin. If anyone is foolish enough to climb onto the back of a water-horse, he or she will become stuck in place — and the water-horse will carry the rider screaming into the water.
Water-horses can be identified with modern cryptids only by badly distorting Scottish folklore. They do not act like or resemble Nessie in any meaningful respect. Moreover, they are part of global folklore and have no unique association with Loch Ness. Water-horses are said to lurk in most of the bodies of water in Scotland. Nor are they restricted to the United Kingdom. According to folklorist Michel Meurger, water-horses "are very widespread: the British Isles, Scandinavia, Siberian Russia, France, Italy, Czechoslovakia, and Southern Slavic countries."

Alex Campbell heard that his friends Aldie and John Mackay had spotted something in the water while driving along the shore of Loch Ness. Campbell wrote the story for the Inverness Courier: "Loch Ness has for generations been credited with being the home of a fearsome-looking monster, but, somehow or other, the 'water kelpie,' as this legendary creature is called, has always been regarded as a myth, if not a joke. Now, how-ever, comes the news that the beast has been seen once more, for, on Friday of last week, a well-known businessman, who lives in Inverness, and his wife...were startled to see a tremendous upheaval on the loch, which previously had been as calm as the proverbial millpond... There, the creature disported itself, rolling and plunging for fully a minute, its body resembling that of a whale, and the water cascading and churning like a simmering cauldron. Soon, however, it disappeared in a boiling mass of foam."
Presto: Loch Ness was home to a "fearsome-looking monster" and suddenly had been "for generations"!
Between the Great Depression and the rise of Nazi Germany, media audiences were ready for a diverting popular mystery. The centuries-old folklore traditions of water-horses and sea serpents had the potential to supply such a mystery, but something more was needed — a catalyst.
Hollywood supplied the perfect catalyst at the perfect time: the gigantic, long-necked water monster depicted in King Kong (and again in Son of Kong, later in 1933). I am not the first researcher to draw a connection between Nessie andKing Kong. But I think that a stronger relationship between the film and the myth can be asserted than has usually been argued in the past: in essence, that King Kong directly inspired the Loch Ness monster.
King Kong opened in London on April 10, 1933, just four days before Aldie Mackay's sighting of the "disturbance" in Loch Ness. The film was an instant box-office smash: "Thousands are being turned away from Kong," reported the Daily Express. Those who did make it into the packed theaters came out "white and breathing heavily." It was a sensation — a monster thriller so real and so terrifying that moviegoers cried out in their seats.
A very few vague sightings followed the Mackays' story over the summer of 1933, but those first small embers of popular belief were fading. And then, in August, the legend suddenly burst into incandescence — and the influence ofKing Kong became unmistakable.

ON AUG. 4,the Inverness Courier published an astonishing letter from a Londoner named George Spicer. He had, he said, recently spotted a strange creature while driving along the shore of Loch Ness with his wife. His description of their spectacular sighting in broad daylight changed the legend forever: "I saw the nearest approach to a dragon or prehistoric animal that I have ever seen in my life. It crossed my road about 50 yards ahead and appeared to be carrying a small lamb or animal of some kind. It seemed to have a long neck which moved up and down, in the manner of a scenic railway, and the body was fairly big, with a high back."

Whereas the few previous witnesses had reported mere splashes or humps in the water, Spicer claimed a close-up view of a long-necked creature that could have been lifted right off of King Kong's Skull Island. And that, I believe, is exactly what happened.

Among the most memorable scenes in King Kong is a night attack by a long-necked water monster. As crewmen from the Venture raft tensely cross a fog-shrouded lake in pursuit of the abducted heroine, something sinister stirs in the water. A dark, swan-like neck arcs out of the water and then slides back out of sight. The men peer through the dense fog, when suddenly the looming neck attacks out of the darkness. The raft is overturned, spilling the men into the lake. In a series of dramatic shots, the huge, plesiosaur-like animal plucks men out of the water and kills them. This creature — with its rounded back, arched neck, and small head — is essentially identical to the plesiosaur-like popular Nessie that would grow out of Spicer's story. As the remaining Venture crewmen scramble to the seeming safety of the shore, they learn a terrible truth: The creature is not an aquatic plesiosaur, but a Diplodocus-like sauropod! The monster pursues the men onto land — and, at this point, Spicer's sighting snaps sharply into focus.

Spicer almost exactly re-created this scene. Spicer's creature crossed the road from left to right, just as theDiplodocus on land crosses the movie screen. As Spicer's beast "crossed the road, we could see a very long neck which moved rapidly up and down in curves...the body then came into view"; for its part, the somewhat implausibly writhing neck of the film's dinosaur enters first, followed by its huge body. The movie's creature gives the impression of having gray, elephant-like skin; Spicer's creature had gray skin, "like a dirty elephant or a rhinoceros." The Loch Ness beast is of roughly similar size to the movie monster: "It was big enough to have upset our car... I estimated the creature's length to be about 25-30 feet."

Finally, there is the troublesome description in Spicer's letter to the Inverness Courier that the monster "appeared to be carrying a small lamb or animal of some kind." This appears to be a direct description of the last shot in King Kong's sauropod scene. Reaching into a tree, the dinosaur grabs a surviving crew member in its mouth and shakes him. In a shot that exactly matches Spicer's sketch, the doomed man looks exactly like a "small lamb or animal of some kind" in the monster's mouth!

What we are left with is familiar to critical researchers of other paranormal topics, such as UFOs: a feedback loop among popular entertainment, news media, and paranormal belief. The Loch Ness monster grew out of an existing genre of fictional encounters between modern humans and prehistoric creatures (plesiosaurs and sauropods, in particular). Audiences for the hit silent filmThe Lost World (1925) watched a Diplodocus rampage through the streets of London and those for King Kong saw another stop-motion sauropod dinosaur attack a raft full of men. These fictional stories prepared the public imagination to accept similar "true" stories that the press happily publicized. The press hype ensured further public interest, which inevitably generated more reports.

Triggered by the Spicer case, a wave of new sighting reports poured in. The sheer number of accounts not only seemed to show that the monster was real, but also exposed a critical flaw in the newly minted legend. "There is one vital question regarding it which must always cause warrantable doubt," one writer nailed it in 1938. "Why have we heard of it only within the last five years or so, when there is no authenticated record of its existence in the centuries which have gone?"

In addition to this I want to point out that I have spoken with Dick Raynor a long time resident,  boat captain and investigator of Loch Ness and he has agreed that seals do frequent the loch.
It is my belief that King Kong did in fact fuel the tales and misidentified animals (namely harbor seals)  along with embellished accounts forged the legend.
Mr Dark

Mr Dark is a DJ, Writer, Casting Director, PR Publicity Manager and Promoter in the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex. Famous Monsters of Filmland and Domain of Horror

Sources:  Abominable Science by Donald Prothero and Daniel Loxton. ©2013 Donald Prothero and Daniel Loxton. Used by arrangement with Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

Seals in Loch Ness

Mr Dark, Jason Russell, Dallas, Texas horror, Texas fright, Dallas horror convention, Jason Brazeal

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