Being in the newspaper business, I like to explore older papers, both local and far-flung, to see not only what was considered news at the time but how it was presented.
Some of the biggest local headlines I’ve ever seen came in the mid-1940s, the era of Roosevelt and the end of World War II. Big news all around.
But sometimes, the big stories don’t come with a 2-inch headline; sometimes, they may not seem to be big stories at all.
Take an edition of The Inverness Courier in Scotland from May 2, 1933. The newspaper had a single column story with a modest heading, but it turned out to be the start of something that people are still talking about today.
“Strange Spectacle On Loch Ness,” it reads, with the mysterious subhead “What was it?”
The report, credited to “a correspondent,” is credited as the birth of the modern interest in Nessie, or whatever (if anything) is swimming around in the Scottish lake.
“Loch Ness has for generations been credited with being the home of a fearsome-looking monster, but somehow or other, the ‘waterkelpie,’ as this legendary creature is called, has always been regarded as a myth, if not a joke. Now, however, comes the news that the beast has been seen once more.”
The article details an experience by an unnamed “well-known business man” and his wife. Driving along the north shore, they noticed a “tremendous upheaval” in what had been calm waters.
They saw a creature whose body resembled a whale, according to the article, and created waves “big enough to have been caused by a passing steamer.”
The article noted that a party of anglers had seen a similar large creature a few years earlier, but that story “received scant attention and less credence.
“In fact,” the paper notes, “most of those people who aired their views on the matter did so in a matter that bespoke feelings of the utmost scepticism.”
That report sparked a resurgence of interest in the creature that persists to modern times, despite repeated studies and surveys in the decades since that yielded results which were inconclusive at best.
Nessie. Bigfoot. We all want to believe there’s something out there that hasn’t been discovered, something the scientists and researchers can’t lay claim to. Something for the rest of us.
It’s hard to say why we cling to these foolish notions, in spite of a lack of evidence. But we do. We still believe in magic, and maybe believing is enough to make it real.
Jared Nelson writes for the Times Leader in the Caldwell County, Kentucky town of Princeton.