• Death of Nessie?

    Ben Radford recently reported that there have been no sightings of the Loch Ness Monster in over a year.

    I’m not surprised. I’d bet the number of UFO sightings is also going down, as well as encounters with other lake monsters, Sasquatch/Bigfoot, the yeti, sea monsters, and every other sort of cryptid, alien, ghost, and dubious phenomenon. I tried to confirm my suspicion via Google, but as you might expect, the signal to noise ratio for such searches is rather low. Most of these phenomena don’t have a quasi-official chronicler of their appearances like the enthusiast Radford cites for his Nessie numbers.

    But it seems uncontroversial to assert that these appearances must be becoming less frequent, and the reason why can be summed up in this well-shared graphic:

    The days of blurred or low-resolution pictures, camera artifiacts, lens flares, and other photographers’ shortcomings are simply drawing to a close. Everyone has a camera on their phone now. Everyone. If five people are on a beach and one of them yells, “What is that?!”, all five will whip out their phones and start taking still images or video. If one of them has a bad angle or their finger over the lens, the rest will get the shots.

    They’ll be good shots, too, with megapixels in the double digits and white balance and shaky hands accounted for by the phone’s software. Think you saw a lake monster, Biff? Believe what you want, sporto, but everyone else got a cast-off leather couch.

    Those few accounts that survive unrefuted to be uploaded to the Web, with their photographs and “There I was…” narratives, will still have to face the scrutiny of millions. On the Internet, everyone knows which rivers were covered in flotsam after a logjam broke; which satellites were passing over each latitude at any given moment of the day; the exact color of fake fur worn by every manufacturer’s gorilla costume, and perhaps most importantly, the reliability of all paranormal “investigators” as documented in social media from the dawn of time (or at least Usenet). It’s still easy to fool a handful of people, but it’s never been harder to fool all the people. Debunkings are crowdsourced now. On the Internet, someone will always know you’re a dog.

    So are we facing a future without monsters? Is the Internet slaying all the dragons? Maybe not. After all, the evidence has always been pretty bad, hasn’t it? People who  want to believe always will, and they’ll believe extraterrestrial spacecraft have “Edwards Pie” stamped on their undersides if they need to. Better evidence might only be distilling the fan base of Nessie and her cohort down to the hard-core, the ones whose faith can’t be swayed by any evidence.

    Or maybe they’re just old-fashioned. Lake monsters, sea monsters, Bigfoot, and even UFOs came to us out of myths and legends handed down across generations. In one way or another their origins lie far in the past, way beyond the opening of the Gutenberg Parenthesis…the time when all knowledge was created and shared orally.

    Now the Parenthesis has closed, and we’re back to sharing knowledge orally—not literally, always, but sometimes, and anyway we communicate using the Web more than anything else. And the digerati want their own monsters.

    Enter Slender Man. He’s tall, skinny, faceless, and has four wriggly tentacles. He wears a black suit, can teleport, and can cause insomnia and paranoia. You do not want him to hug you.

    He’s definitely fictional; we know where he was created, and by whom. He’s not even in the public domain; his creator, Eric Knudsen, has obtained a copyright.

    But he’s a creature of the Internet. It’s where he lives. It’s the only place where he’s consistently spotted, where lore of him is generated and warehoused. Already, we’re beginning to see some uncertainty over whether he really exists, despite the lack of verifiable evidence. All the images and narratives about Slender Man are made up, but that’s slowly ceasing to matter at all.

    Category: cryptozoology

    Article by: Vandy Beth Glenn

    I'm a writer, editor, runner, and bon vivant in the Atlanta, Georgia, area.

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