The Loch Ness Monster: Pop Culture’s Favourite Sea Serpent

The enduring fascination with the Loch Ness Monster for researchers, filmmakers and novelists.

To the surprise of no one, the giant search for the Loch Ness Monster that took place this last weekend – the biggest in more than 50 years – has once again proved inconclusive, the most exciting discovery being sonar sounds that might have been a giant sea serpent but might have just as easily been a flock of ducks. As someone who was fascinated by – and a determined believer in – the Loch Ness Monster as a child, I find it oddly satisfying that once again, no one has found anything because honestly, who really wants a giant beastie to be found, unearthed and revealed? Isn’t the mystery more interesting?

And for all the claims and counterclaims from cryptozoologists and sceptics, I’m actually quite happy to accept it as a mystery. yes, some of the photos, videos and sightings are frauds and others cases of mistaken identity – but Loch Ness is a massive body of water and it’s entirely possible that something unknown might live in it (or at least have lived in it at some point in recent history. We have no idea just what lives in the depths of the ocean, at temperatures and pressures that no human could survive – so it’s not entirely beyond the realms of possibility that strange serpent-like creatures – or simply much bigger versions of something that we already know – might live in Loch Ness and other big lakes. Or it could just be a tourist trap by canny locals.

Whatever the truth, the Loch Ness Monster has captured the imagination of people around the world in a way that its rivals around the globe never have. There’s Nessie and then there are all the others. The nickname – short, sharp and cute – probably helps and it is for this reason that much of the Loch Ness Monster mythology has featured a cuddly creature who is the friend of small children and stereotyped Scottish eccentrics. Much, but not all, as there is a respectable amount of Loch Ness horror in which a ferocious and bloodthirsty creature emerges from the depths to wreak destruction. The most famous of these is a film that was never made – Hammer’s wildly ambitious Nessie from 1976 (and years onward) that was going to be a big-budget monster movie made in conjunction with Toho, David Frost and Euan Lloyd. Like many of Hammer’s ambitious movie projects of the mid-1970s onwards, it sank without trace  – how apt for a Loch Ness monster movie! – after years of pre-production, helping drain the company’s perilous finances that might have been better focused on the low-budget horror films that had made the Hammer name.

Much as Hammer faded away after the 1970s, so public interest – or at least media interest – in the Loch Ness Monster fizzled out somewhat around the same time, Nessie competing for attention with equally elusive creatures like Bigfoot, the Yeti and UFOs for attention from documentary makers with little new footage or photography emerging to capture the imagination. But the monster has never quite faded away and here are some of the movie, literary and documentary appearances that Nessie has made over the years – some more serious than others.

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  1. ‘What a monster!’ – so read the speech bubble on a rude postcard a schoolchum brought in one day. The accompanying image featured a fearsomely rearing Nessie, and a bekilted Scotsman disporting himself on a way I will leave to your imagination. But seriously, the same caption could apply to the bountiful treasures illustrated above. The great near-Carry On ‘What A Whopper’ is happily in rotation on TPTV lately (Terence Longden is an excellent deadpan in the Graham Chapman mode) and is recommended to all. The many paperbacks are a treat – latterday Royal Correspondent Nicholas Witchell churn one out I see. As a fellow Nessie-obsesso, and scholar of the paperback apocrypha, it’s ‘thumbs up all the way’. Mustn’t forget the Crowley and Ken Anger links. And as to the enduring mystery, I agree. I forever pontificate that the fastest way to dissipate all interest in aliens would be to come clean about their existence. The world is teeming with the most fascinating life forms that very few people express any interest in, in fact most would probably stomp on them without a thought. So it would be with poor Nessie, no doubt. She’d be gutted and boiled to make cosmetics or queer potions should she go public. And the Loch would see a boom in tourist slobs (… which means people ARE interested after all – FUCK shouldve thought this threw before hittin keys …)

    Well, bollocks to it all anyway. ‘Groovey’ would suffice. Great to read in passing about another cryptid of a kind – the elusive unmade Hammer films project, following on nicely from Vampirella last week. A Toho co-pro to boot! What a gas … ‘Well jel’, as they say, of your having perused the related Hammer archives – hope it’s in anticipation of a book or documentary project, always a pleasure to see those enticing Chantrell posters … thanks!

  2. P.S. wouldn’t it be kooky to propose that Amazon Women On the Moon was truth hidden in jest. What with the rum and magickal aspects of the Loch Ness milieu, the London sex murders, Bram Stoker’s prescient phallic white worm and the blood-draining, sexually predatory Count, the near contemporaneous ‘first’ sighting of Nessie, the screen debut of King Kong and the turn to fascism in Europe … plotted on a chart, all the above ‘almost’ appear related. Add to this the oft cited idea that Nessie accesses the Loch via a network of underground canals, tying the notion into the descent into the earth image common to Hollow Earth ideas (not to mention the tomb-like domicile of the Damned children (dig for victory)), and you should begin to experience derangement. Intoxication from within, sui generis intoxica, be your own drug!

  3. This is a good Loch Ness Monster site :

    Loch Morar with it’s own monster “Morag” also needs consideration. When I visited I spoke to the old guy who ran the boat hire there and he told me he’d seen “The Beastie” a couple of times over many years. He’s on this documentary on YouTube :

    It’s also free on Amazon Prime – Episode 22 of “Boogeymen : Monsters Among Us”. This series has a lot of episodes on lake monsters

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