Jonathan Downes is a good friend of mine, and the director of the Center for Fortean Zoology, one of the very few, full-time organizations in the world that investigates unknown animals – such as the Loch Ness Monster, the Abominable Snowman, and Mothman – on a full-time basis. Back in 1992, however, Jon was spending his time working as a psychiatric nurse, and as a trader in rare vinyl records. It was while Jon was busy selling albums and singles at a record-collecting fair in the English town of Brentwood that he crossed paths with a man – Spike – who told Jon something remarkable. Spike – clad all in black, elegantly wasted, and pale as a vampire – was what is known as a chaos magician.
Jon related what happened when he invited the Goth-like Spike to take a seat at the record-fair: “[Spike] told me how – together with his friends – he had carried out experiments to raise demonic entities. He had been involved in a series of rituals designed to invoke the ancient snake goddess, Tiamat, on the shores of Loch Ness (something that had also occurred back in 1969, long before Spike was on the scene). He claimed that as a result of his magical incantations, he had seen a head and neck of the Loch Ness Monster looming at him out of the misty lake.” Not long after speaking with Spike, Jon had the opportunity to visit Loch Ness and chose to go where Spike had gone some years earlier: in search of a monster. Jon said that as he and his ex-wife and two friends – Kim and Paul – drove alongside Boleskine House, he got a distinct chill, realizing that he was deep in the black heart of Aleister Crowley territory. After checking out the exterior of the old house and taking a few photos, the four headed off to find a suitable place to camp for the night – which they did, on Loch Ness’ north side.
After a night out, fine wine and equally fine dining, and much talk in a local pub of the Loch Ness Monster variety, Jon decided to take the plunge, as it were. Dawn had barely arrived on the scene when Jon quietly and stealthily crawled out of his sleeping-bag – so as not to disturb the others or alert them to what he was about to do. He dug into his rucksack, pulled out a tape-recorder, and took it and his briefcase on a brief walk down to the loch’s edge. As he crept past the tent in which Kim and Paul were sleeping, Jon could hear the distinct sounds of snoring. That was a very good sign: no-one knew what he was up to.
There was an issue involved in using chaos magic to invoke a Nessie that Jon found, admittedly, a little controversial. He said: “All the celebrants in an invocation to Tiamat had to be naked. Furthermore, an offering of ‘the male essence’ had to be made in supplication.” This was, to say the least, a highly alternative way of catching sight of a Nessie. Cameras and sonar-equipment had worked on occasion. Jon, however, was about to enter what was, for him at least, uncharted territory. To say that his nerves were jerky would be an understatement. Indeed, he notes that, “I had brought a bottle of wine with me to steady my nerves and although it was only just after six in the morning, I took a hearty swig.”
Fortunately, or unfortunately, the sounds of voices from other campers interrupted Jon’s plans. The moment – and the task in-hand – had come and gone. Or, rather, it hadn’t come – for Jon, anyway. The invocation-that-never-was may not have reached its – ahem – climax, but the affair is notable, for one specific reason. Jon is one of the United Kingdom’s leading monster-hunters and even he was compelled to go after Nessie according to the teachings of magic – in this case, chaos magic. More and more, and as time advances, the futile attempts to find and identify Nessie via sonar and photography are giving way to far more esoteric means. And this was not the only occasion in the 1990s upon which Jon sought to cross paths with supernatural serpents of the deep.
In the summer of 1998, Jon – along with the zoological director of the Center for Fortean Zoology, Richard Freeman (a former, head-keeper at England’s Twycross Zoo), and various other members of the CFZ – sought to raise from the seas off the coast of Devon, England, the supernatural form of Morgawr, a paranormal, long-necked sea-serpent that had been seen back in 1976, one year before he himself photographed a Nessie. The CFZ had received a request, just a week earlier, from a local television company making a documentary on sea serpents. And, of course, Jon and his crew were pleased to oblige. On the morning in question, Richard took to the shore. He stood with his legs spread wide, impressive in a long black robe and brandishing a fierce-looking sword toward the sea. He chanted an ancient invocation in a mixture of Gaelic and old English in an attempt to summon the ancient sea beast from its lair.
This was no casual, last-minute action on the part of Richard, who as well as being a zoologist is a fully-fledged ritual-magician. He had prepared well in advance. Four large candles were positioned on the sand – which amazingly stayed alight, despite the rain and a powerful wind. The candles were not merely there for effect, however. A red-colored candle represented fire. A green one, the Earth. The air was portrayed in the form of a yellow candle. And the sea by a blue one. Then, with the time, the setting, and the atmosphere all in alignment, Freeman tossed a bunch of elderberries into the water, essentially as a gift to Morgawr, and screamed at the top of his lungs: “Come ye out Morgawr; come ye out ancient sea dragon; come ye out great old one!”
The entire CFZ team, as well as the TV crew, turned slowly and apprehensively away from Richard – whose face briefly became like that of someone deep in the throes of demonic possession – towards the harsh, pounding waves. Unfortunately, Morgawr failed to put in appearance that day. Just like Jon’ experience at Loch Ness in 1992, however, this particular episode demonstrates something interesting: that for seekers of monsters of the deep waters, technology has – on occasion – given way to the occult traditions of the days of old. Sometimes, it’s far less about photographing and recording the Loch Ness Monsters and far more about supernaturally invoking them.