Jan 06, 2023 I Nick Redfern

Creatures of the Really (Really!) Big Size: We Should Term Them Monsters

When it comes to the matter of the Loch Ness Monster(s) a very cool, thought-provoking theory has been suggested by Steve Plambeck. He suspects the Nessies may be giant salamanders and he has diligently studied the Gray photo. The salamander theory actually dates back to the earliest years of Nessie lore, but, certainly, no-one has dug quite so deeply and dedicatedly as Plambeck. Salamanders are amphibians that are noted for their long tails, blunt heads, and short limbs and which – in the case of the Chinese giant salamander – can reach lengths of six feet. But, is it possible that some salamanders could grow much larger, even to the extent of fifteen to twenty-five feet? Incredible? Yes. Implausible? Maybe not. Steve Plambeck says that the Nessies are likely to be creatures that derive their oxygen from the water. Add to that the distinct lack of large numbers of reports and what we have, believes Plambeck, is some form of creature that spends the bulk of its time on the bed of the loch. Or, at least, very near to it.

Only on occasion, Plambeck suggests, do the animals venture to the higher levels, something which would account for the occasional sightings and images caught on sonar. He also suggests that when the monsters do take to the higher levels of Loch Ness, they do so along its sides – which are the main areas where Loch Ness’s fish populations dwell. In other words, the monsters surface chiefly when they are feeding. Plambeck notes: “Such behavior is only consistent with a fish, or aquatic amphibian, which can extract all of its needed oxygen directly from the water.” Check out Steve's blog

(Nick Redfern) Loch Ness Salamanders? Although I go with the paranormal theory for Nessie, the salamander angle works very well.

In that sense, Plambeck makes a persuasive argument when it comes to the matter of the creatures of Loch Ness possibly being huge salamanders, or, at the very least, another kind of large, unknown amphibian. It’s a theory also noted by researcher “Erika.” She says of such a scenario that China’s giant salamander is a creature hardly noted for its speed or its time spent out of the water. Indeed, as she correctly states, the creature spends much of its life at the bottom of large bodies of water, where it lies in wait of passing fish that are destined to become tasty meals. She makes the point that taking into consideration the fact that the Chinese giant salamander is a bottom-dweller, and one that is rarely seen, it’s not impossible that a similar creature in Loch Ness could remain largely unnoticed. Loch Ness Monster authority, Roland Watson, has also waded into this controversy and admits that, “I am a bit partial to a fish-like amphibian or amphibian-like fish theory myself.”

Now, onto the matter of mega-sized snakes: The Hagenbecks were a family of collectors of all manner of animals that supplied the world’s zoos with a wide variety of exotic animals for more than a century. It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that they came across a number of extraordinary tales – and extraordinary animals, too. Indeed, one of the Hagenbecks’ explorers was the very first person to encounter a pigmy hippopotamus, on February 28, 1913. In addition, explorer Lorenz Hagenback had a particular interest in snakes. But not snakes of the average variety. It was super-sized snakes that fascinated him, to the point where he made it his business to collect just about as many credible reports as possible. A fascinating story came to Hagenback from a pair of Roman Catholic priests, Father Victor Heinz and Father Protesius Frickel. Father Heinz’ story was particularly notable, since it revolved around the sighting of a truly colossal monster. Heinz prepared a statement that told the entire, shocking story:

“During the great floods of 1922 on May 22 – at about three o’clock to be exact – I was being taken home by canoe on the Amazon from Obidos; suddenly I noticed something surprising in midstream. I distinctly recognized a giant water snake at a distance of some thirty yards. To distinguish it from the sucurijiu, the natives who accompanied me named the reptile, because of its enormous size, sucurijiu gigante (giant boa). Coiled up in two rings the monster drifted quietly and gently downstream. My quaking crew had stopped paddling. Thunderstruck, we all stared at the frightful beast. I reckoned that its body was as thick as an oil drum and that its visible length was some eighty feet. When we were far enough away and my boatmen dared to speak again they said the monster would have crushed us like a box of matches if it had not previously consumed several large capybaras.” Such was the extraordinary nature of the encounter, Father Heinz was far from hooked on finding all he could on the immense beast and its ilk. He learned that yet another huge boa had been shot and killed, one day previously, as it tried to devour a capybara – the world’s largest rodent and which can reach the size of a dog. It wasn’t long before Father Heinz had a second sighting of a massive snake:

(Nick Redfern) Something large and dangerous in the water.

“My second encounter with a giant water snake took place on 29 October 1929. To escape the great heat I had decided to go down river at about 7:00 p.m. in the direction of Alemquer. At about midnight, we found ourselves above the mouth of the Piaba when my crew, seized with a sudden fear, began to row hard towards the shore. ‘What is it?’ I cried, sitting up. ‘There is a big animal,’ they muttered very excited. At the same moment I heard the water move, as if a steamboat had passed. I immediately noticed several meters above the surface of the water two bluish-green lights like the navigation lights on the bridge of a riverboat, and shouted: ‘No, look, it’s the steamer! Row to the side so that it doesn’t upset us.’” It was no steamer: “Petrified, we all watched the monster approach; it avoided us and re-crossed the river in less than a minute a crossing that would have taken us ten to fifteen minutes as long. On the safety of dry land we took courage and shouted to attract the attention of the snake. At this very moment a human figure began to wave an oil-lamp on the other shore, thinking, no doubt, that someone was in danger. Almost at once the snake rose on the surface and we were able to appreciate clearly the difference between the light of the lamp and the phosphorescent light of the monster’s eyes. Later, in my return, the inhabitants of this place assured me that above the mouth of the Piaba there dwelt a sucuriju gigante.” And, finally, there is the following account of Reymondo Zima, a Portuguese merchant, who Father Heinz had the good fortune to interview. Zima told the priest:

“On 6th July 1930 I was going up the Jamunda in company with my wife and the boy who looks after my motor-boat. Night was falling when we saw a light on the river bank. In the belief it was the house I was looking for I steered towards the light and switched on my searchlight. But then we noticed that the light was charging towards us at an incredible speed. A huge wave lifted the bow of the boat and almost made it capsize. My wife screamed in terror. At the same moment we made out the shape of a giant snake rising out of the water and performing a St. Vitus’s dance around the boat. After which the monster crossed this tributary of the Amazon about half a kilometer wide at fabulous speed, leaving a huge wake, larger than any of the steamboats make at full speed. The waves hit our 13-meter boat with such force that at every moment we were in danger of capsizing. I opened my motor flat out and made for dry land. Owing to the understandable excitement at the time it was not possible for me to reckon the monster’s length. I presume that as a result of a wound the animal lost one eye, since I saw only one light. I think the giant snake must have mistaken our searchlight for the eye of one of his fellow snakes.” It was, to be sure, a lucky escape. Onto another gigantic creature:

As is the case with practically every investigator of the unknown, I am sure, occasionally I am on the receiving end of stories, tales and accounts that sound great, but where the person relating the data insists on either complete or partial anonymity. Of course, such tales can be very interesting indeed; but, equally, they can be extremely frustrating, too. Primarily, this is because at the end of the day, without hard evidence that the person really is who they claim to be, very little can be done with the story in terms of investigating it and/or validating it, aside from keeping it on file, and hoping that by making it public – as I’m doing now – it may encourage others to come forward. And the strange story that follows is a classic example. It comes from a man who claims to be a retired British police constable, who has personal knowledge of a story of truly monstrous proportions, and which focuses on dark goings-on after sunset in the British city of Birmingham in the late 1970s and early 1980s. For what it’s worth, here’s the tale. According to the man, who identified himself only by the surname of Sykes, while serving in the British Police Force (service that, he said, began in 1977 and ended in 1988), he heard two tales from colleagues of giant eels seen in the winding canals that run through the city of Birmingham – both of which occurred, he thought, around 1979 or 1980. In both cases, the witnesses had reported seeing very large creatures – the first, amazingly, around twenty feet in length, and both “very dark” in color. Needless to say, if the physical details described in the first encounter were not exaggerations on the part of the witness, then it was without shadow of a doubt, a definitive monster.

(Nick Redfern) The area of water where the huge eels of Birmingham have been seen.

Notably, Sykes said that although he was not the investigating officer in either case, he recalled that around the same time that the eels were seen, there had been a spate of mysterious disappearances of pet-rabbits in the area. And while some of Sykes’ colleagues had attributed this to the work of sadists and nutcases, there had been brief talk at the station that “it was the eels’ doing.” And there was one other, and very ominous, story that Sykes recalled and related to me as I listened intently. At the height of the rabbit-disappearances and the two eel encounters, someone had contacted the Police Station Sykes was working at, with a remarkable tale. “It was a local lad, in his twenties; I remember that much,” said Sykes. “He hadn’t been long married and had just bought a house around here.” According to the story-teller, the man had quickly phoned the police after hearing a huge commotion in his small back-yard in the early hours of one particular morning. The wooden fence at the foot of the yard had been partially smashed down; a large area of grass had been flattened; and something had broken into his rabbit-hutch, utterly destroying it in the process. Needless to say, by the time the man got downstairs and into the yard, there was no sign of the unknown intruder – and, unfortunately, there was no sign of the rabbits, either.

Continuing his tale, Sykes wondered out loud if the eels, hungry for food, had elected to stealthily leave the confines of the canal and had, under the protective cover of overwhelming darkness, slithered around the yards of the nearby homes in search of a tasty rabbit or several. Well, it was as good a theory as any, I thought. And, it was pretty disturbing too, to think that such beasts might secretly be on the loose in a sprawling, industrialized city like Birmingham, and mercilessly prowling the area by night. As far as Sykes knew, this particularly weird and unsettling incident was never resolved. No more sightings surfaced, and a rigorous search of the canal failed to find anything conclusive at all. And that, in essence, was the tale. Without doubt, it’s one that is fascinating, outrageous, and bizarre in equal measures. And taking into consideration the amount of time that has gone by since the events allegedly occurred, it’s unfortunately difficult to prove anything with any high degree of certainty. That is, unless anyone reading this knows more.

Dr. Karl Shuker says of giant spiders: "During an interview with cryptozoologist Rob Morphy of AmericanMonsters.com on the U.S. radio show ‘Coast To Coast AM’ a couple of years ago, a telephone caller named Craig recounted how his grandfather, while serving in New Guinea during WW2, encountered a monstrous spider in a web that scared him so much he hacked it to death with his machete. According to Craig's grandfather, the spider measured an immense 3 ft. from tip to tip, and, unexpectedly, was not hairy like many big spiders are. Instead, it was shiny, and was emerald green in color. This nightmarish arachnid was encountered near Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea.”

(Jonathan Downes) Many thanks for my good friend, Jonathan Downes, of the U.K. Center For Fortean Zoology, for letting me use the cover image of his great book, The Owlman and Others.

And, finally, in 1976 the dense trees surrounding Mawnan Old Church, Cornwall, England became a veritable magnet for a diabolical beast that was christened the Owlman. But, basically, it was a human-sized owl. Yes, really! The majority of those that crossed paths with the creature asserted that it was human-like in both size and design, and possessed a pair of large wings, fiery red eyes, claws, and exuded an atmosphere of menace. No wonder people make parallels with the Mothman of Point Pleasant, West Virginia. It all began during the weekend of Easter 1976, when two young girls, June and Vicky Melling, had an encounter of a truly nightmarish kind in Mawnan Woods.Yes, there really are giants!

Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

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