A few days ago I was asked: where are the best places to stand a chance of seeing one of the Loch Ness Monsters? Or, of seeing more than one? Well, there’s no doubt that the waters below Urquhart Castle are known for having had a few, amazing encounters or more. There are, however, even better locations. But, they’re not where you might think they are. Forget those expansive waters. Don’t bother with the deep, murky depths. Instead, get yourself some night-vision equipment, be prepared to hang out at the loch for a couple of weeks, and spend your time on…wait for it…the land. That’s right: the fact is that, as strange as it might sound, there have been a large number of excellent, clear sightings of strange creatures out of the water, rather than in it. If you haven’t been to Loch Ness, you may not be aware of how much dense woods and trees there are around Loch Ness. I don’t exaggerate at all when I say that a few monsters – of about fifteen-feet to twenty-feet- long – could easily hide out there. in the marshy shallows. Particularly so at night. The expert in this aspect of the Loch Ness mystery is Roland Watson, one of the leading figures in Nessie-seeking. Check out his book, When Monsters Come Ashore. You won’t be disappointed.
If you know your Nessie history, you’ll also know there were a number of sightings of monsters on the land in the early-to-mid 1930s. They include the story of a Mr. and Mrs. Spicer who (from their perspective) had the significant misfortune to have a close encounter of the monstrous kind in 1933. Then, there was the astonishing claim of a man named Arthur Grant – a veterinary student and motorcyclist who claimed to have almost collided with a Nessie, in the early hours of one particular morning in 1934. There are a few other such cases that have caught the attention of Nessie-seekers over the years, as well as having captured the imagination of eager readers of books on monsters. But, for the most part, it’s the Spicer story, and that of Grant, which really spring to mind. At least, that’s how it used to be. Thanks to Roland, there’s a very different perspective on this part of the overall enigma.
It’s important to note that Roland knows Loch Ness like the Nessies know the backs of their flippers. In other words, Roland isn’t just an expert on the history of the monsters: he has a deep knowledge of Loch Ness itself, the landscape, the woods, the hills, and the roads, too. It’s this wide knowledge – of both the monsters and the loch – that has allowed Roland to go where most of us haven’t. As he reveals in his book, the number of land reports in his possession of the Nessies is now close to forty. The figures may even be more now. Although skeptics maintain that the Nessies were not seen until 1933 (and, therefore, the whole thing must be due to mistaken identity and hoaxing), Roland has demonstrated that centuries earlier the loch was plagued by menacing and deadly creatures: water-horses. Or kelpies. While many of the tales of the kelpies of Loch Ness were very much supernatural in nature, Roland makes it clear that sightings of the kelpies occurred not just in the water, but on the land, too. In other words, even centuries ago there was a land-based component to the tales and traditions of the water-horses/Loch Ness Monsters. A careful study of Roland’s near-to-forty cases shows that most of the land-based incidents occur very close to the water’s edge, rather than on the surrounding hills.
Roland theorizes on the possibility that – taking into consideration the local populations of deer and sheep – when food supplies in the loch are scarce, perhaps the monsters briefly venture out of their usual environment. That’s to say, they leave the water and take to the land. We’re not quite talking about rampaging monsters charging around the landscape. Such a thing would admittedly be incredibly cool to see, though! Roland’s work paints an undeniably creepy picture of the monsters quietly and cunningly lurking – and laying low – in the woods, on the shores, and in the shallows, ready to pounce on an unwary deer, in much the same way that a crocodile might when it launches a surprise attack in very shallow waters. Still on this aspect of the story, Roland also addresses the possibility that the Nessies might have extendable necks. Interestingly, it’s a fact that some witnesses to the creatures of Loch Ness describe seeing long-necked animals, while other say they saw little or no neck at all. Roland draws parallels with the way in which turtles can extend their necks, and at an incredible speed, too. Keeping that changing neck in mind, we may be seeing a clumsy, slow-moving animal that has an ace up its sleeve: a swift and deadly ability to take down its prey when it is just about on the land. After all, it’s a fact that the local deer population – and many other wild animals, such as rabbits and foxes – get their water from the loch itself. They come down to the water’s edge. Who would miss the occasional deer? Not many people. If anyone, at all? So, in conclusion, if you want to try and see a Nessie, the land – rather than the water – might actually be the best place to find one. Whoever would have thought?