3.12.16

MONSTER ROUND-UP



Malcolm Robinson. The Monsters of Loch Ness (The History and the Mystery) lulu.com, 2016.

Karl N. P. Shuker. Here’s Nessie: A Monstrous Compendium from Loch Ness. CFZ Press, 2016.

Nick Redfern. Nessie: Exploring the Supernatural Origins of the Loch Ness Monster. Llewellyn, 2016.

Denver Michaels. Water Monsters South of the Border. CreateSpace, 2016.

Ken Gerhard. A Menagerie of Mysterious Beasts: Encounters With Cryptid Creatures. Llewellyn, 2016.
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It seems that after a long lull there is now a growing literature on the Loch Ness Monster and related topics. Malcolm Robinson is someone who has had, it is fair to say, a somewhat controversial reputation in the field of anomalistics, but I must say that on the whole I found this self-published book a reasonably fair examination of the evidence and possible suspects. I think it would be accurate to position Malcolm as something as an ex-believer in Nessie, now willing to entertain the possibility that the reports are really just a lot of other, more conventional, things.
The main bulk of the book is a chronology of the sightings and press reports. While some of, particularly the earlier part, will be familiar to long term enthusiasts, newcomers to the field should find this section a useful summary. However the more up to date we come, problems creep in which demonstrated that authors often need good editors, for increasingly the chronology becomes a succession of newspaper clippings. Many of these are pointless pieces from Britain’s tabloid press which in large parts is aimed at people with a mental age of twelve. A good editor would have pruned these down. They would have also removed some of the author’s holiday snaps along with long quotes. That being said the summary of explanations at the end is well balanced.

Karl Shuker’s book is a slighter effort, being mainly a reproduction of previously published essays, not without interest as an exploration of the various suggested candidates for Nessie, all of which seem to predicated on the belief that there is something truly exotic in the Loch, an idea which becomes less plausible by every passing year. There is a useful summary of other Scottish lochs with monster stories and legends attached and an amusing hunt for the origin of the fantastic tale of the monster trap of Loch Watten, a tale told by the less than reliable Peter Haining, plagiarised essentially from the even less reliable Tony James aka John Macklin.

There is an annotated list of Nessie DVDs and a very useful and extensive bibliography of LNM books, quite a few of which I had never heard of before. There is also a 31 page collection of Nessie art, much of it fairly kitsch, which the uncharitable might suggest was put as padding. We still await Karl Shuker’s full length book on Nessie.


Nick Redfern’s book is well, eh, a Nick Redfern book, exploring in a breathless fashion all sorts of supernatural lore surrounding the Loch, featuring of course Aleister Crowley and his time at Boleskine House; the sinister reputation of which owed much to the Crowley publicity machine. The cast also includes Ormand the exorcist, “Doc” Shields, “Ted” Holiday along with tales of Dragon worshipping cults which seem to have been straight out of the pages of H. P. Lovecraft. As time goes on and the chances of being a flesh and blood monster or monsters in the Loch fade away, tales of the supernatural seem to be a way of keeping the mystery alive.

It isn’t, though, just Loch Ness which is associated with tales of monsters. Denver Michael's self-published book lists a good number of examples from Mexico, Central and South America of a variety of creature, not excluding giant seals and the odd mermaid or two.

Ken Gerhard’s book reminds us that water monsters are not the only strange beasties out there. It is a collection of accounts of all sorts of very strange creatures, real or alleged, ranging from lesser known American humanoids, through water monsters, giant birds, equally massive amphibians and reptiles, insects you definitely would not want to crawl into your tent, all the way though to mermaids and black eyed children. I thought it a pity that the Minnesota iceman was dragged up again with the argument that two such qualified naturalists such as Heuvelmans and Sanderson could be fooled by a fake. Well loads of people who had a much more intense inspection over a number of years were fooled by the Piltdown hoax, and of course Sanderson’s eyesight was not of the best.

It is hardly plausible that many of these creatures are real flesh and blood animals and appeals to the supernatural seem strained to say the least. Perhaps all of these beasties are creatures of the human imagination and ways of relating to the otherness of wild nature. – Peter Rogerson.

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