An Extraordinary Belief, An Extraordinary Monster: Nessie

The Loch Ness Monster, Nessie, is a mythical aquatic creature believed to live in the freshwater lake, Loch Ness, near inverness Scotland (1). The belief is commonly held in Scotland as part of Scottish Folklore. Information on the Loch Ness Monster can be found through, the BBC, National Geographic, PBS, etc.…There is even an “Official Loch Ness Monster Site” with up to date information and sightings of Nessie. The belief reached its peak popularity in 1933 and is still popular to this day (1). People have traveled from all of the world to Loch Ness in hopes of sighting Nessie. No conclusive evidence has been able to prove Nessie’s existence and yet all the way up until 2017, sightings of Nessie have still taken place (3). The belief is extraordinary because the idea of a pre-historic water creature living in Loch Ness would contradict everything we know about the world. No animal can live over 1500 years.
The strongest evidence to suggest that Nessie exists came from a photo by a well-respected London Physician R. Kenneth Wilson. The picture looked like animal with a long neck rising from the surface (2). Very few people believed the doctor would try to deceive them which affirmed the belief that Nessie is real. Later, however, it came out that the photo had been falsified. The remaining evidence of Nessie comes from primarily anecdotal reports or eye-witness accounts. In an attempt to discover the Loch Ness Monster, there were expeditions launched by the BBC, Oxford, Cambridge, and University of Birmingham to explore the underwater domain, using sonar, in an attempt to find evidence of Nessie. No conclusive evidence was found (1). This was in 1953 and since then there is no empirical evidence to prove the Loch Ness monster was real.
The belief of the Loch Ness Monster is widely held popular belief rooted in the Scottish culture. Due to the convictions about the Loch Ness Monster being real, any disconfirming/disrupting evidence will likely cause cognitive dissonance and internal discomfort (2). People would become more likely to rationalize with ideas such as: “Nessie doesn’t want to be found” or “just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s real.” On the other hand, any so-called sightings or ambiguous evidence of Nessie will be seen as confirmation that their belief in the Loch Ness Monster is correct.
Since the Loch Ness monster is so rooted in Scottish folklore, it is a legend passed down from generation to generation. A four-year-old girl I babysat for told me the story about the Loch Ness monster the other day. She said her grandma, who was born and raised in Scotland, tells her the story at bed time. I asked her if she believed it and she said yes. I then talked to her grandma and asked if she thought it was real. She said she grew up all her life being told the story of Nessie and that is was real. She even agreed that there is no evidence proving the Loch Ness Monster is real, but she still held the belief the monster was real and said she, herself, would never go for a dive in Lake Loch Ness. The popularity of the belief along with the tradition of telling the story of the Loch Ness Monster, could be the reason the belief has been sustained for so long. It is a story significant to the culture of the Scottish Highlands.
Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster, is an extraordinary belief held even in the face of disconfirming evidence. Scientists, expeditions, historians, have all failed to prove the existence of Nessie. With no scientific evidence to prove Nessie’s existence, it is a belief still carried around the world. It is engrained into the Scottish Highland culture and a legend that’s continued to pass itself down for over fifteen hundred years.


The Legend of Loch Ness –
Loch Ness Monster –
2017 has been a ‘record year’ for sightings of the Loch Ness monster –

11 thoughts on “An Extraordinary Belief, An Extraordinary Monster: Nessie

  1. I wrote mine on Nessie as well, the legends persistence is without a doubt attributed largely to anecdotal witness and evidence. However, what I hadn’t considered is what you said about internal discomfort from those facing scrutiny, but it certainly makes sense- trying to face something that would counter a large part of your culture would understandably make someone in the realm uneasy. Because as your example would suggest, I don’t think anyone is going to tell Grandma she’s wrong.

  2. You mentioned that a lot of people visit Loch Ness in an attempt to catch of glimpse of Nessie. Clearly, this kind of tourism is good for the Scottish economy. Do you think that it’s possible that the Scottish government uses the myth so that they can keep bringing in the tourism money?

    (Note: I don’t mean this in a conspiracy way, but more like a “well, if people already believe it, we might as well use it to raise money” kind of way)

  3. I really like the idea of Nessie being used as a marketing tactic to draw in tourists to the area, as it not only continues to breed money into the commercial businesses and areas surrounding lake Loch Ness, but there are t-shirts, documentaries, and knick-knacks dedicated to this myth. To me, there isn’t any harm to be done with the community playing along with this myth, as it succeeds in initiating cultural exchange between Scottish inhabitants and tourists, and it also brings money into the area.

  4. I wrote about that in my paper as well, I think it’d be interesting to discuss where the line is drawn of harmless legends vs pseudoscience. Because I agree, I don’t think there is anything wrong currently with the legends persistence and what it has done for Scottish culture. But that being said, it could certainly make for an interesting argument as to when it has gone on too long.

  5. I don’t understand who these extraordinary beliefs get so much poublicity. Media always represents news in an exaggerated manner. It’s so hard to believe that such reputable sources like BBC and National Geography are giving into this theory. When information comes from such reputable sites, people are bound to get influenced by them, thinking that they are credible sources.

  6. I super agree with the profitability of these extremely popular cryptids. Nessie must be hugely popular to bolster income, but isn’t the only one to cash in on its name. Take the lake Erie monster Bessie! We even have a sports team up north named from it, and it’s been reported about since all the way back in the 1700s. (The Cleveland monsters!)

  7. The Loch Ness monster seems to have originated as an old tale that someone took too literally as a child and went searching for it. It is kind of like Santa Claus or the Easter bunny: we believe in them when we are young and then stop believing as we get older because the logistics of an immortal man breaking into millions of homes via chimney or a giant rabbit hiding eggs are pretty invalid. I think people just really want to believe in something greater than what is known and that magic is real, so they use confirmation bias to substantiate any possible evidence they can fine.

  8. Hello!
    I think Nessie should be the most famous monster, and its story attracts a large number of people to the Loch Ness. The first time the Nessie was witnessed is almost a hundred year ago, and now still nobody actually finds it. Thus, I think the Nessie doesn’t exist and it’s only created by the local tourism to attract more people to here. In fact, they made it. They use the blurry photo to let more people know there is a monster in the Loch Ness and even for now there are still more and more people go to Loch Ness to find this monster.

  9. This just brought back some of my childhood memories. That has been a conspiracies I think all of us had heard of. I actually have never heard the full story behind this belief, but I think its crazy that even though the evidence for it was falsified, due to so much media and news press this extraordinary belief got established and is to this point still a popular fantasy story to tell our children .

  10. It interesting to see how some beliefs become so big after some researcher or scientists found something, reported it to the public, and either they realized they were wrong or someone else did. However, the general public will not let go of the belief. I think this kind of goes with appeal of authority that we learned in class, on how because they seem to have an authority (of knowledge) they must be right. I think this also plays into the story of the little girl, she believes because she’s being told by people in her life that she trusts. So why would they lie to her?

  11. I like the point you made in your post about how an animal that has lived for over 1500 years is impossible! When we talked about this extraordinary belief in class I was amazed at some of the so called “real life sightings” of Nessie (photographs). I think it’s also important to point out that all of the pictures taken also happened to be very blurred and taken from such a far distance. If there were a picture taken up close and personal to the Loch Ness Monster, then maybe I would find some validity in that evidence. At this point I think this belief is just so firmly implanted into Scottish culture that its hard to go against it now. This is the reasoning that I could come up with that could explain the belief’s persistence in the modern day.

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