F A C T O R F A N T A S Y ?
One might be tempted to dismiss the Loch Ness Monster as the purest of the fantasies were it not for the fact that similar tales are told of numerous other inland bodies of water around the world. Some of the legends may be imitative - we skip with reasonable confidence away from Morag, the monster reputed to dwell in Scotland's Loch Morar - or, conversely, the Loch Ness legend may itself be imitative of others. Irish lake monsters are mentioned from as early as the 10th century, and sightings have been recorded up to the present day, sometimes in startlingly small bodies of water, such as Lough Fadda, in County Galway, which is barely 2.5km (11/2mi) long. In 1954, a librarian called Georgina Carberry was on a fishing expedition with three friends when they saw across the water what looked from distance like someone out for a swim. It was only as the creature came closer to the shore where they were standing that they realized that this initial guess was wrong. The creature had a long neck, raised high above the water, at the end of which was a toothed and aping mouth; the body of the monster seems to have been eel-like although, as it lost interest in them and turned away, they saw it had a bifurcate tail.
In 1965 an investigator, Captain lionel Leslie, detonated an explosive charge near to where Carberry and her friends had seen the monster. The explosion seems to have startled something large and living, for there was a great deal of threshing offshore as a result, but it was impossible to make out any net across the lough met with no success. Similar netting exercises performed on a few of the other Irish loughs - monsters have been reported from many more than just a handful - have likewise yielded nothing.
The most famous of all the photographs seeming to show the Loch Ness Monster, taken in 1934by the London surgeon R.K.Wilson. Orthodox naturalists are divided as to what the picture might show.
A couple of persistent features of these Irish monsters are interesting for a quite unrelated reason. First, the creatures' heads are frequently said to resemble those of horse-eels, and the creatures themselves are not restricted to the water, but can comfortably disport themselves on shore. The erect ears of a horse could well remind us of the two horns observed on the "head" photographed by Rines in Loch Ness; but, much more significantly, the two characteristics of the Irish creatures are strongly reminiscent of the tales told in western Scotland about kelpies. It seems very possible either that the Scots, migrating from Ireland to Scotland during the 5th and 6th centuries, brought their monster-stories with them or, since the two regions are separated by only a narrow passage of sea, that the monsters did indeed have a range that extended over both but the Scottish branch has since largely died out.