Send A Cryptozoologist, Not A Travel Writer

Posted by: Loren Coleman on December 23rd, 2007

Lake Monster Sketch

Why don’t travel companies send cryptozoology authors and bloggers in pursuit of cryptids and accomodations at Loch Ness, among the Himalayas, in the Cameroons, along the Amazon, or near the veldt of South Africa, instead of travel writers? It totally amazes me that travel promotion organizations get it so wrong, so often.

Case in point, there was a remarkably good initial idea from some thoughtful people at Visit Britain and Visit Scotland with the new movie The Water Horse coming out: Send some travel writers to Scotland.

Loch Ness Monster Surgeons Photo

An example from yesterday is what they got from the computer of Sarah Murdoch, a travel writer at Canada’s Weekend Post:

Och, Nessie, what hae ye wrought? Come instead for the unparalleled vistas and history

There are many excellent reasons for visiting the Scottish Highlands, but the Loch Ness monster isn’t one of them. The likelihood of its existence is somewhere between slim and nil, it doesn’t have a particularly interesting folkloric tradition and the planet offers confirmed sightings of many more remarkable creatures.

But the main disincentive is the hokey tourism that has materialized in Nessie’s wake: cheap souvenirs depicting the monster on T-shirts, tea towels, stuffed animals, ceramic figurines and the like. The lake, deep and old, draws a million visitors a year, who spend roughly $12-million on Nessie-related memorabilia, though numbers are dwindling and sightings of the monster have plummeted in recent years, a worrisome trend given the ubiquity of cellphone cameras.

If you are a tourist board, Scotland’s most famous, if reclusive, inhabitant is an irresistible talking point, especially with the opening of The Water Horse on Christmas Day, a family film that melds ancient myths about the Each Uisge, the mystical water horses said to inhabit the lochs of the Highlands, with stories of the plesiosaur-like creature that lives in the murky depths of Loch Ness. Which is why Visit Britain and Visit Scotland played host to three Canadian and three American journalists on an eight-day tour of the Highlands this year.

I’ll stop there. You can read the rest here. It becomes a regular travel critique of Scotland, in which the writer has totally missed the magic of the waters of Loch Ness.

Okay, Ms. Murdoch got me to write about Scotland, but as is obvious lately, I was going to write about this movie anyway. I really see articles such as hers harmful to the lochside travel folks, and people may miss out on how alive the Loch Ness quest remains.

The reason I have to write about Ms. Murdoch’s words, of course, is because she is so very incorrect, from the start of her piece.

To say that the Loch Ness Monsters or cryptids do not “have a particularly interesting folkloric tradition” may be one of the stupidest things I’ve read this month. The Highland Gaelic traditions of Water-Kelpies and, indeed, the long and intriguing lore of Waterhorses form a strong and continuous line down to those of Nessies. Where was Ms. Murdoch when she should have been reading a bit about Water-Bulls, Tarbh’usige, and St. Columba at the River Ness in the 5th century?

“Dwindling” sightings and interest? Surely, Ms. Murdoch was not talking about the summer of 2007, when Gordon Holmes’ Loch Ness “what-is-it” video stole the spotlight of the international stage for days, if not weeks. From YouTube to CNN News, the discussion was of the Loch Ness Monsters, when one might have predicted Bigfoot would be the northern hemisphere’s summer topic. Did Ms. Murdoch miss that?

As to “hokey tourism,” I must ask, who does she think footed the bill for her expense-paid tourist junket? Souvenirs come in all varieties, of course, from the cheap to the novel to the museum quality. I have seen all kinds from Loch Ness, and Ms. Murdoch’s critique is hostile, unkind, and mostly unfounded.

As I once wrote, Loch Ness is the epicenter of cryptozoology, and it is too bad that this Canadian writer does not understand this. With cryptotourism being a major industry, crypto-friendly travelers need to be taken seriously.

Ms. Murdoch’s article was not the travel industry’s finest hour.

So, travel companies, how about next time you want to promote a lake monster or Yeti movie, why not send me or some other informed cryptozoological writer? We can write about nice vistas, good hotels, and also put it into context the wonder of the cryptids.

Meet the challenge, and do cryptotourism a favor.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

7 Responses to “Send A Cryptozoologist, Not A Travel Writer”

  1. eireman responds:

    Could it be that Sarah Murdoch didn’t appreciate the assignment and her disdain seeped into her review? Perhaps she had envisioned covering the $800 dollar per night Bora Bora Lagoon Resort during her miserable winter instead of the damp Lochs of Scotland.

  2. squatch-toba responds:

    I tend to agree. This seems to be a case of a person who would much rather be sitting in a snooty restaurant or baking on a tropical beach. By the way, has anybody EVER heard of this person before? Exactly who is she and what makes her, even a wee bit, qualified to even start talking about the mysteries at the Loch? HHHHMMMMM, I think it’s a good example of “talking head” syndrome!

  3. DavidFullam responds:

    “it doesn’t have a particularly interesting folkloric tradition”

    Huh? Where exactly has this writer been?

  4. DWA responds:

    “Could it be that Sarah Murdoch didn’t appreciate the assignment and her disdain seeped into her review?”

    “By the way, has anybody EVER heard of this person before? Exactly who is she and what makes her, even a wee bit, qualified to even start talking about the mysteries at the Loch? HHHHMMMMM, I think it’s a good example of “talking head” syndrome!”

    Gee. Ya THINK?

    And here we see another example of the stultifying denial of the sense of wonder which makes most people, in my opinion, almost impossible to converse with about anything of true interest and depth.

    What would one expect a travel writer to write about this? What does one think that writer was asked to do? “Hey, here’s a chance to write about [snicker] Nessie. [Chuckle] [Implied statement: you know what to do. You’re a TRAVEL writer. Don’t mess with that.]

    Does one really think that a travel writer would be asked, by a travel company, to engage this topic? Despite what should be obvious to anyone with a brain: that engaging this topic would be THE MOST FUN [and oh by the way interesting] WAY TO COVER IT?

    The “million visitors a year, who spend roughly $12-million on Nessie-related memorabilia” are THE SOLE REASON this idiot is in that vicinity, THE SOLE REASON there is any tourism at that dreary locale at all. THEY ALL COME FOR NESSIE! Trust me, I’ve been, and there isn’t much that could make one stay long other than Nessie. There are many, many, many more scenic, and quiet, and evocative, and lonely, and gorgeous, locales in the Highlands; I took off from Ness to find those, with extreme rapidity. (I regret not being more engaged in the Nessie question at the time but there you are.)

    So: this lady, who needs to be Taken Seriously to keep her fun, boring, stultifying little touron-writer gig, goes there with an inherent need to Be Serious. To debunk this silly story. And to write about the real reason to go: all the accommodations that are founded to their very last gold-leaf whatever on the Nessie question.

    Dumb lady. Boring assignment. Missing the point, the fun, the whole essence of travel while we’re on that. But, given the vast majority of people I have met in my life: is it reasonable to expect anything else?

    People. Whatcha gonna do?

    [I know this is Loren’s exact point. But some people need to be slapped twice for giving in to being, um, normal.]

  5. Benjamin Radford responds:

    Loren, you’re right, though I think this has more to do with typically shoddy journalism practices. Typically these publications do not want to take the cryptids seriously, it’s just filler.

    A few years ago I got a call from a producer for a Travel Channel show, asking about the Lake Champlain monster. I told her I was willing to talk with them, but that I approached the topic as a mystery to be investigated and actually researched. It quickly became clear that they just wanted a superficial fluff travel piece, not taking it seriously, so I declined to participate.

  6. Tengu responds:

    DWA, your right, I did not go to that miserable loch for the history or the weather or even the geology, I went for…….

    (No, nor did I go because it was on the road to Inverness…)

    If you want a decent loch try Lomond for scenery, Tay for history and Marree for nature.

    Oh, and Morar for monsters…..

    If these people who follow travel writers want to hie off to that dump, they can leave the better lochs to me, thank you kindly.

    As for ‘Folkloric tradition’ Loren, where does the Water Horse (cant spell gaelic, I’m sorry) come into it? The Kelpie is a creature that lives in the water, it disguises itself as a real horse to catch people to eat. (if you can think of a beast more unlike nessie you get a prize)

    Loch ness has NO water horse tradition, I think the creatures stuck to the smaller lochs (hench the popular name ‘loch of the beast’) they are also found in Man, wales and Ireland.

  7. thatericn responds:

    Another probable problem with travel industry tie-ins, etc…

    If the workaday hotel, chamber of commerce, and travel booking people are personally uninterested, and/or strongly disbelieving about potential of the local cryptid, they might well NOT be interested in having serious research done. Disproving the local legend could hurt business.

    Better to have a nice, murky legend to draw the casual souvenir-buying tourist in.

    That rather sad TV documentary about the search for a Norwegian lake monster comes to mind.

    Here’s to real research, and real searchers!

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