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Sigler’s Cryptozoology 101 – Intro to the Loch Ness Monster

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“Monster” is such a judgmental term, isn’t it? How would you like being reduced to a pejorative and a location? “Oh, look, there’s the Chicago Abnormality.” Or, “Watch out, it’s the Customer-Support Cube-Farm Mutant!”

This series focuses on the cryptid, a creature whose existence has been suggested by many but remains unconfirmed. We started out with a look at El Chupacabra (“Goat Sucker”), whose brief turn in the spotlight spawned a handful of monster flicks. Now it’s on to one of the most famous of cryptids: the Loch Ness monster.

First off, let’s call her by a friendlier name: Nessie.

Nessie is a large aquatic creature said to live in the waters of Scotland’s Loch Ness. Ninety-nine out of a hundred scientists believe she’s related to an animal from the Cretaceous period (about 65 million years ago). Nessie’s first dance on the silver screen came in 1934, with The Secret of the Loch, which opened just as the legend of the lizard was spreading worldwide. Nessie’s next outing was in the documentary The Loch Ness Monster: Proof at Last! Historians say it was one of Dr. Martin Luther King’s favorite childhood movies.

Nessie lay low for awhile, showing up beside Sasquatch and other legendary cryptids in the dubious Sunn Classic Pictures “documentary” Mysterious Monsters. She took center stage in the equally dubious Legend of Loch Ness and appeared in a segment of the ’70s series In Search of…, hosted by Leonard Nimoy. Then, in 1982, Loch Ness Horror got things rolling again. It’s an eminently forgettable movie, worth watching only if you like bad accents, bad special effects, bad acting, and more factual distortions than a presidential-campaign spot. In 2001, Nessie was back, for Beneath Loch Ness. This one features scientists hunting the Loch, until the leader is lost in a “mysterious diving accident.” Hello? You’re in a movie, on Loch Ness: doesn’t seem that mysterious to me.

German art-house favorite Werner Herzog grabbed a piece of the action with his 2004 mockumentary, Incident at Loch Ness. If there’s another movie that more accurately captures the wishful-thinking mind-set of budding cryptozoologists, I haven’t seen it. Ironically, clips uploaded to YouTube have been taken as real footage, garnering millions of views. People: they’re so funny. And also very stupid. Check out the YouTube comments section for yourself.

Of course, where there’s a monster with a high-profile name, there’s a Sci Fi (sorry, SyFy) movie close behind. Witness 2008’s Beyond Loch Ness. The story line follows a familiar pattern: outsider sounds the warning of danger, is ignored by the powers that be, and carnage and disaster follow. You’ve seen it a million times. What Beyond Loch Ness brings to the table is information about Nessie’s breeding cycle, which ends with a whole lot of li’l Nessies roaming the beaches and woods for feed. (Yes, that sounds familiar, too, because you saw it in the 1998 version of Godzilla.)

There have been a few other Loch Ness flicks that don’t quite count as horror (excepting the blood-curdling gore-fest known as The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep), but we won’t get into the likes of Scooby Doo and the Loch Ness Monster or Loch Ness, the Harry and the Hendersons of Nessie movies.

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New York Times best-selling author Scott Sigler writes tales of hard-science horror, then gives them away as free audiobooks, at www.scottsigler.com. His novel INFECTED was named Borders’s #1 mystery, thriller, and horror novel for 2008. His next major hardcover horror-thriller, ANCESTOR, will be out on June 22, 2010.

And speaking of cryptids, Scott is looking for that $20 he loaned you at the bar last Tuesday. Don’t deny it, you know you took it, and I hope you finally realize that Jäger isn’t for everyone.

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