Strange Places: Loch Ness

Does the Loch Ness Monster, the World’s Most Famous Cryptid, Truly Exist?

Michael East
The Mystery Box
Published in
11 min readDec 4, 2020

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Loch Ness is a 23-mile freshwater loch in the Scottish Highlands. The stretch of water is the second-largest such loch in Scotland after Loch Lomond and also the second deepest after Loch Morar. Such is the vastness of the place that it contains more water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined, and the area is home to a variety of fish such as trout, salmon, pike and sturgeon. Named for the River Ness which flows into the loch, the name “Ness” is believed to derive from the Celtic for “roaring one”, though this is likely to refer to water rather than the most infamous creature allegedly in the loch — The Loch Ness monster, or Nessie for short.

There have been rumours and sightings of a beast in the loch for years, and 2021 marks the 150th anniversary of the first “confirmed” sighting. In 1923, a D. Mackenzie of Balnain reported that back in 1871 he had witnessed an object “wriggling and churning up the water” of Loch Ness, the thing increasing in speed before disappearing. Some, however, have contended that the earliest sighting of a monster may have been Saint Columba in the year 565. Writing a century later, the abbot of Iona Abbey Adomnán said that Columba had witnessed a party burying a man near the loch and, when asked, they told him that the deceased had been attacked by a “water beast” in the River Ness. Indeed, these legends of water beasts have a long history in Scotland, with the kelpie being an essential aspect of Scottish folklore. The Swedish naturalist and author Bengt Sjögren has pointed out that the earlier accounts of Nessie describe a horse-like creature in-keeping with these ancient legends, developing over time into the familiar description akin to a plesiosaur.

Loch Ness with Urquhart Castle in the foreground | Sam Fentress, Wikimedia Commons, (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Another early sighting of the cryptid was in 1888 when mason Alexander Macdonald sighted what he said resembled a “a large stubby-legged animal” exiting the loch and moving across the shore. Such was the confidence of his sighting that he reported it to the water bailiff Alex Campbell. The description, which Macdonald described as being like a…

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Michael East
The Mystery Box

Freelance writer. Writing on true crime, mysteries, politics, history, popular culture, and more. | https://linktr.ee/MichaelEast