Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Monster mash

Well, the biggest mass search for the Loch Ness Monster in history has come and gone, and like Monty Python's camel spotters, the searchers spotted nearly one monster.

This past weekend hundreds of amateur cryptid enthusiasts, in partnership with the Loch Ness Centre and Loch Ness Expeditions, studied the lake both in person (many using sophisticated cameras and microphones to record any anomalies) and virtually via video links, but the end result was... not much.

It's a shame, really.  I was honestly rooting for them, especially after I found out that one of the leaders of the effort is named (I swear I'm not making this up) Craig Gallifrey.  I was hoping that his assistants would be Joe Skaro, Annie Appalappachia, and Rex Raxacoricofallapatorius, but no such luck.

Gallifrey, for his part, is undaunted.  "I believe there is something in the loch," he said.  "There's got to be something that's fueling the speculation."

Stories about a creature in the lake (and the River Ness) go back a long way.  The first certain mention of it is in the seventh-century C.E. Life of St. Columba by Adomn├ín of Iona, in which Columba came upon some people burying a guy by the bank of the river, and after inquiry, was told that he'd been mauled to death by a water beast.  The saint then commanded one of them to swim the river, and instead of doing what I'd have done, which is to look at Columba like he'd lost his mind and say, "Were you even fucking listening to us just now?  Especially the 'mauled to death by a water beast' part?", the dude went, "Okay, sure," and jumped right in.  On cue the monster came swimming up, but Columba made the Sign of the Cross and said, "Go no farther.  Do not touch the man.  Go back at once," and the monster went, "Dude, whatever, simmer down," and backed off, and the locals were all super impressed.

But after that, you pretty much have to wait until the nineteenth century to get any more serious accounts.  In the 1930s there were several sightings, leading to a craze -- especially when The Daily Mail Fail, which apparently was as dedicated to accuracy back then as it is today, published the famous "surgeon's photograph" in 1934, now known to have been a hoax:


But even so, interest has continued, lo unto this very day.

The evidence generated by this weekend's search was pretty slim, however.  "We did hear something," search leaders report.  "We heard four distinctive ‘gloops’.  We all got a bit excited, ran to go make sure the recorder was on, and it wasn’t plugged in."

The fault, of course, lies with the Sound Engineer In Charge Of Plugging Stuff In, Roderick Ranskoor av Kolos.  You can't get good help nowadays.

In any case, they later admitted rather ruefully that the "gloops" might not have been Nessie.  "It may well be gas escaping from the bottom of the loch."

Lake flatulence notwithstanding, my guess is the negative results aren't going to dissuade enthusiasts.  Negative results never do.  Witness shows like Ghost Hunters, wherein a bunch of intrepid haunted house aficionados get together and visit spooky locations week after week, always at night, stalk around for an hour with flashlights and recording equipment, and never find anything.  This doesn't mean there aren't dramatic moments, e.g. this actual scene from an episode I watched when I was in a hotel one evening and turned on the television because I was bored:
Ghost hunter 1: Here we are in the attic of this abandoned courthouse.  As you can see, it's extremely atmospheric, with cobwebs and dust and all.  We're expecting to see a ghost any moment now.

Ghost hunter 2:  Yes, as I turn this corner and pan my flashlight beam across the wall, I can see... *screams*  *several bleeped out obscenities*

*cut to commercials*

Ghost hunter 1:  Let's replay that dramatic sequence, shall we?

*sequence replays*

Ghost hunter 2: *several more bleeped out obscenities*  Wow, that is one bigass yellowjacket!
That's it?  I sat through about eight stupid commercials, thinking I was finally going to get to see a ghost, and instead, I get a "bigass yellowjacket"?  I got stung by one of those in my own back yard a couple of days ago, and I was not impressed with that one, either.

In any case, I'm expecting that no one will be discouraged by the fact that Craig Gallifrey et al. didn't see anything this past weekend, and we'll still have periodic excursions to find Nessie and other cryptids.  My general response is: knock yourself out.  Like I've said many times before, I'm not a disbeliever, per se, I'm just waiting for the evidence.  So we'll just have to see what comes up with the next expedition, to be led by crack cryptid hunters Cathy Castrovalva and Mike Metabellis Three.

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