Christina here. Do you believe in cryptids? According to the dictionary they are “an animal whose existence or survival is disputed or unsubstantiated, such as the yeti”. There seem to be rather a lot of them, and although the degree of likelihood of them really existing varies hugely, they all have one thing in common – many people want to believe in them and enormous efforts go into finding them every year. I have to admit I follow these expeditions with great interest.
By definition, being an author means having a rather vivid imagination, and for me part of that is believing in unexplained phenomena and things like mythical beasts. My daughter makes fun of me for being convinced that the Nessie monster is real. She scoffs when I avidly watch every single programme on TV about people trying to find this creature by any means possible – divers, sonar scans, underwater cameras and endlessly chugging up and down Loch Ness hoping for a sighting. So many people claim to have seen it. Surely the law of averages means that at least a fraction of them must be true? I really, really want that to be the case.
I have been to Loch Ness and stood at the ramparts of Urquhart Castle looking out over the choppy, dark waters. It’s a magical place and if ever a beast lived somewhere, it should be there. I really don’t know why I’m so anxious for this creature to be real – or even why I want it to be found. If it was, it would no doubt be studied endlessly by scientists, prodded and poked, analysed to the Nth degree, and its natural habitat disturbed, thus ruining everything. But on the other hand, just a tiny bit of solid proof would be great. If it could be proved that Nessie is real, then that would mean other such legends could be too.
Because I don’t just watch programmes about Nessie, but also the Yeti, the Sasquatch/Bigfoot, the Kraken, and any other such legendary being. And to my delight, I found a TV channel broadcasting endless stuff about ancient alien visitations to earth – fascinating! Again, my daughter scoffs. She doesn’t believe aliens had a hand in building the pyramids or any of the amazing structures in South America. Nor can I convince her that aliens could have visited earth and taught humans a whole bunch of scientific stuff thousands of years ago, even though there is a lot of evidence they might have done. (Or at least it’s possible to make a convincing case for that).
How many of you read Erich von Däniken’s book Chariots of the Gods back in the 1970s and thought that maybe, just maybe he was onto something? I did and even if his theories were not true, it caught my imagination. (See photo of the so-called Nazca Lines "Owlman" aka "Astronaut"). That’s the key really – as humans we want to believe that there are mysteries we can solve eventually. That if we find enough clues, we can puzzle things together. That’s the fun of it – it makes us speculate and dream.
Ok, so I may have read one too many conspiracy theory books about such things, but the authors do make alien visitations sound plausible and why not? In fact, it would be more unbelievable to think that we are the only creatures in the entire universe. Obviously I won’t totally believe it until the day those aliens actually come back and say ‘hey, haven’t you evolved more than this yet? We thought we taught you better.’ And if they did, I’d probably be scared witless, along with everyone else.
The point is, there are a lot of things we can’t explain, and there’s no harm in hypothesizing. In fact, for an author it’s essential to imagine various scenarios, “what ifs” and possible outcomes. It’s how our stories coming into being, whatever the subject matter. And sometimes that can happen in real life too.
As for cryptids, my favourite theory about mythical beasts is that they are memories from long-ago ancestors who actually saw a couple of leftover dinosaurs or similar. Supposedly all the dinosaurs died out more or less at the same time, but who is to say a few of them didn’t survive a bit longer? Whenever humans experience some devastating catastrophe, there are always some survivors and not everyone perishes. Why should all the dinosaurs have done so?
The memory theory has been partly proven with regard to the Kraken – supposedly an enormous sea monster with tentacles like an octopus, this creature was mentioned in Norse sagas. When giant squid were discovered deep in the ocean, as large as 12-13 metres, those stories suddenly made sense. Any Viking encountering a creature like that was bound to tell tales about it! But because the squid live so far below the surface, they are rarely seen. It all fits, don’t you think?
Now if you were a caveman and you saw a massive plesiosaurus swimming in Loch Ness (or some other lake), of course you’d tell everyone and they would pass on the message, probably embellishing the story and passing it on round the campfires like Chinese Whispers. Plus they’d keep a lookout for it so others saw it too over time. Nessie is mentioned by a saint no less – St Columba – who claimed to have encountered the creature in 565 AD. Why would a holy man talk about something like that unless there was some grain of truth in it?
Anyway, imagine the headlines if someone actually did find it – everyone would forget about Covid and pandemics in an instant and wouldn’t that be wonderful? No more dismal news reports. Instead, photos of a smiling swimming dinosaur-type creature on every front page and every news channel. (OK, so I’m making up the smiling bit). Or what if all those people running around the woods in America looking for Bigfoot actually came across one and brought him home, or the mountaineers in Nepal ran into an actual Yeti? It would be a sensation, and we kind of need that right now.
My plea to all the creatures hiding out there – please, one of you come forward and save us from the daily Covid news because we need a bit of ‘mythical’ in our lives. Mind you, any aliens, please stay away – I don’t think we need quite that much excitement! And we have enough pyramids to last us for a while …
In the meantime, we can enjoy programmes speculating about these things and even comedy series made about them. Anyone else been watching Resident Alien, about an alien come to destroy earth, but who (inconveniently for him) develops human emotions while he’s here? So ridiculous but such fun!
I leave you with the YouTube video for the 2006 song Monster by The Automatic – love the Nessie monster grooving in the background after the chorus!
Any ancient mysteries you would love to have cleared up? Any mythical beasts or beings you'd like to meet?