There’s just no convincing some people, is there? Nessie drives by in front of you and your buddy is convinced it’s just a guy in a badly made suit. Sasquatch could ask you for directions and he’d think it was just a weird shadow on the lens of the camera he wasn’t looking through.

Some people!

The Loch Ness Monster has been around for quite some time (the current iteration since about 1930, but there were some strange reports as early as the 6th century) and people still believe it exists. After all this time one would think that the bastard would be dead or that his descendants would have made a mark, an impression, or left some kind of evidence in all that time. Unfortunately, all we’ve got are some grainy photos, some sketchy eye witness reports, and a bunch of confirmed hoaxes. Seems to me as if the case should be closed already; dinosaurs don’t live in Loch Ness. But, I guess, a great many other people (the travel agents and curio shops around Loch Ness are probably the most vocal) beg to differ.

The idea that a single species of aquatic dinosaur could survive an apocalypse the likes of the KT extinction event doing what other aquatic dinosaurs were doing (namely, swimming) is sort of ridiculous when you think about it. Never mind that the species would have to remain largely unchanged for millions of years in a lake that froze for twenty thousand years if the reports are to be believed. That all seems a bit fishy, if you’ll pardon the pun. But hey, I guess humanity has believed worse (I’m looking at you Scientology)! At least believing in the existence of a lake bound dinosaur isn’t really harming anyone.

The monster of Loch Ness is just one of many aquatic beasts that populate the various large lakes around the world. There’s one said to live in Lake Morar, also in Scotland as well as in various other lochs around the area. There’s Ogopogo in Canada, large creatures said to inhabit lakes in Sweden, Finland, and Norway, and there have been sightings of plesiosaur-like creatures out of Africa as well. Mankind’s fascination with water monsters extends into all kinds of weird, unexpected areas. There are several stories of Saints in the Christian religion that feature water monsters that either require taming or destroying, though I’m not sure how many of those are considered canonical.

What this all, likely, points to is a rather healthy fear of deep water in the human subconscious. Humans are land creatures, we have been for quite some time, and before that, we were rather partial to trees, a far cry from the dark depths of the ocean. We’re not very well suited to deep water and it’s natural that we, as a species and as societies, would develop tales of monsters and unseen dangers lurking in the water to keep the unwary traveler safe. Personally, I believe there’s danger enough out there on the open ocean or in deep lakes without Nessie or her prehistoric cousins waiting to devour us or smash our boats.

I’ve mentioned this before, but part of the reason stories like these seem to cling to tenuous (or in many cases, zero) evidence is that it’s fun. We’re no longer in the same kind of danger when we’re out at sea in motor boats, so these stories aren’t great for keeping us safe. What they provide now is a form of entertainment and stimulation for the mind. The possibility that some relic from before humanity exists out in a lake right under our noses is tantalizing. The imagination soars at the thought of wild half-man creatures, fanged monsters, and gigantic reptiles and sometimes it’s hard to appreciate these things as stories that had their place in a time gone by.

The fact is that there’s quite a lot left undiscovered, especially in the oceans, and you never know what we’ll turn up next. Trying to maintain a balance between outright belief in things we have no evidence for and open mindedness at what might be out there can be difficult. It’s best to keep a dose of skepticism ready for stories of monsters, but it’s not a bad idea to leave the door open just a little for surprises.

After all, you never know when you might see some creature in the parking lot of your local pharmacy.