In his new book, “The Loch Ness Monster and Other Unexplained Mysteries,” ecologist and writer JF Derry takes the 80th anniversary of the first Loch Ness Monster sighting as an opportunity to explore mysterious events involving mythic creatures that have captivated imaginations all over the world for generations. Drawing on the archives of The Daily Mirror, Derry sheds light on sightings and proposed evidence for legendary cyptids such as the Yeti of the Himalayas, the Pacific Northwest’s Bigfoot and Britain’s Beasts of Bodmin. Here, we look at some of these mythical creatures, from Bigfoot to the New Jersey Devil, along with locales visitors flock to in hopes of catching a glimpse, and tip you off to the best books that’ll fill you on the legends.
The Loch Ness Monster: Inverness, Scotland
In April of 1933, hoteliers John and Aldie Mackay were driving along the north shore of Loch Ness near Inverness, Scotland (“loch” is the Scottish term for “lake”) when Aldie witnessed “an enormous creature with the body of a whale rolling around in the water.” The sighting received attention from newspapers and law enforcement and was corroborated by accounts from other locals. Ever since, reported glimpses of the serpentine creature have continued. In “The Loch Ness Monster: The Evidence,” investigative science writer Steuart Campbell traces the long history of the mystery beast, from early sightings and proposed ancient origins to the quack scientific studies that hoaxsters have devised in order to convince the public of its existence. Campbell’s conclusion, which he stated in an op-ed in April of 2013 (to mark the 80th anniversary of the first sighting), is that Nessie is pure myth. But will that do anything to deter the robust tourism industry that has sprung up around the monster? That’s a question business owners in the Highlands are currently debating.
Bigfoot/Sasquatch: Pacific Northwest
Bigfoot, sometimes referred to as Sasquatch, is a large, hairy bipedal creature that (according to legend) resides in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Though sightings of Bigfoot have been reported since the early 19th century, most scientists discount it as myth. (A notable exception is the primatologist Jane Goodall, who’s said, “I’m not going to flat-out deny its existence. I’m fascinated and would actually love them to exist.”) That hasn’t stopped Montana-based writer and adventurer Robert W. Morgan from seeking out Sasquatch since his first sighting of the creature in 1957. “Bigfoot Observer’s Field Manual” details his own journeys (which, according to the book’s description, have led him to both Native Americans and a Tibetan lama) and lays out a guide for anyone looking to catch their own glimpse of the mythic man-like creature.
The Jersey Devil: Pine Barrens, N.J.
The Jersey Devil is a kangaroo-like creature with bat-like wings and an altogether hellish appearance that is said to have haunted the Pinelands of Southern New Jersey for some 250 years. It sports an amusing origin story—legend holds that a New Jersey woman brought the beast into being when, upon discovering she was pregnant for the 13th time, cried, “Let it be the devil!”—and has made its way into pop culture in severa ways. Newark-based professional hockey team The New Jersey Devils take their name from the legend, and a number of books, video games and TV shows, including “The X-Files,” have featured or referred to it. In his book “Monsters of New Jersey,” cryptozoologist Loren Coleman and co-author Bruce G. Hallenback detail the history and sightings of the Jersey Devil and other legendary creatures of New Jersey.
The Yeti: The Himalayas
During a solo climb in Tibet, Reinhold Messner—who “Into the Wild” author Jon Krakauer calls the Michael Jordan of climbing—witnessed a “large unidentifiable creature” which he believed to be the monster said to have stalked the Himlayas for generations: the Yeti or, as it’s sometimes referred to in the West, the Abominable Snowman. In “My Quest for the Yeti,” Messner boils down the lore surrounding the creature and details his bold, adventurous quest for a second sighting.