While I’m still on a bit of a Nessie kick, I figured I would share with you a number of early reports of sightings of – and references to – strange creatures in Loch Ness, Scotland. Certainly, the most well-known of all the early encounters is that of St. Columba. But, it’s so well known I will refrain from mentioning it any further. You can, however, find the story here. The general belief is that sightings of the Nessies largely began in 1933. That’s not the case, however.
In early October 1868, what was described as a large fish was washed up on the shores of Loch Ness, approximately two miles west of Lochend Inn. The discovery of the remains of the animal led huge crowds of people to descend on the loch, all eager and excited to see what had fallen into their hands, so to speak. The discovery proved to be overwhelmingly anti-climactic, however. The giant fish was actually nothing but a six-foot-long bottle-nosed whale. How it got there was a mystery. At least, it was a mystery until it was discovered that a crew of fishermen had caught the animal in the ocean. They had relieved it of its blubber, and then dumped it on the shore of Loch Ness for all to see, and with the intent to cause amazement, surprise, and maybe even a not-insignificant amount of fear.
But, it’s important to note that the case of the dead bottle-nosed whale reveals a good deal of intriguing data. The Inverness Courier newspaper was quick to report on the discovery. The unnamed reporter who covered the story said that the finding of the animal reminded local folk of a large fish that had been encountered, on many occasions, and for many years, in Loch Ness.
So, despite the events of 1868 being the result of nothing stranger than a hoax, they prompted talk of sightings of other large, unknown animals in the loch from years earlier; specifically a time-frame when talk of the much-feared supernatural “Kelpie” of the loch was all-dominating. Also, that the fishermen specifically chose Loch Ness for the site of their prank suggests they, too, may have known of the old stories of monsters inhabiting the loch. After all, they could have chosen just about any of the many and varied Scottish lochs for their joke. That they specifically chose Loch Ness is eye-opening and speaks volumes in relation to what they might have known of the preexisting supernatural lore of the loch. It was surely not down to mere chance.
One more thing on this particular matter: when the body of the whale was found, and before it was identified, the media reported that the whole affair boded nothing but negativity, famine and disaster for the people of Loch Ness. Again, this implies a longstanding acceptance of the dangerous nature of Kelpies, and even their abilities to curse the people of the area and to blight the landscape.
From 1880 there is the encounter of E.H. Bright. On the day in question, along with a friend, and when he was just eight years old, Bright was strolling along the shore of Loch Ness in the vicinity of Drumnadrochit. It wasn’t long before something astounding happened. Bright had an encounter with a Nessie not in the water, but on the land. The beast, apparently, loomed out of the camouflage of an area of dense woodland, which was located at a distance of around 300 feet from Bright and his astonished pal.
To say that the animal was a weird one is an understatement of epic proportions. It was described as being elephant-like in both size and color, had a long neck, and possessed a very small head that was somewhat akin to a snake’s head, in terms of its shape. And it moved in a very strange fashion: an awkward waddle that suggested it was not at all accustomed to, or built for, moving across the wild, hilly, wooded landscape of rugged Scotland. As it reached the water, the beast plunged into its depths with an almighty splash and was gone from view in seconds.
In the latter part of the 19th century, while diving in Loch Ness at Johnnies Point and as he sought out a sunken ship, a man named Duncan MacDonald encountered a frog-like animal about the size of a goat. It locked its beady eyes on MacDonald who, hardly surprisingly, headed for the surface.
Then, in 1883, James Mackinlay revealed something very noteworthy in his book, Folklore of Scottish Lochs and Springs. He said: “A noted demon-steed once inhabited Loch Ness, and was a cause of terror to the inhabitants of the neighborhood. Like other kelpies, he was in the habit of browsing along the roadside, all bridled and saddled, as if waiting for someone to mount him. When any unwary traveler did so, the kelpy [sic] took to his heels, and presently plunged into deep water with his victim on his back.”
Yet again, we see reports of strange things in Loch Ness that predate 1933 by not just years, but by decades.