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Was the Loch Ness Monster invented by a PR agency?
The legend of a prehistoric creature prowling the depths of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands is up there with Bigfoot as perhaps the world’s most famous mythic beast.
It adds nearly £41 million a year to the Scottish economy.
But there’s ample evidence that Nessie is more PR than plesiosaur.
In his recent book, “The Unidentified: Mythical Monsters, Alien Encounters, and Our Obsession with the Unexplained,” Colin Dickey retells a confession of sorts from communications pro David Garrity.
In the 1930s, Garrity worked at a publicity firm in London. One of his partners returned from holiday one year with a new client – a group of hotels near Loch Ness had agreed to pay the firm £50 to drum up a bit of publicity.
Garrity’s firm had recently worked with a realtor in Canada who claimed to have invented the Ogopogo – a lake monster said to live in Okanagan Lake in British Columbia.
Over a few beers, the partners hatched a plan to create their own mythic creature, and the Loch Ness Monster was born. The earliest newspaper article on Nessie dates back to April 1933, when an anonymous tipster reported seeing a “whale-like fish” in the waters of Loch Ness.
Later, it was revealed that first report came from Aldie Mackay, manager of the nearby Drumnadrochit Hotel.
The Loch Ness Marketer
True believers are quick to point out that stories of a monster in Loch Ness date back to the Middle Ages. But there’s no doubt the legend has taken on a life of its own since that first round of media coverage surfaced nearly a century ago.
Despite numerous confessions and admitted hoaxes, the story can’t be killed, and tourists still flock to the loch.
Why does the Loch Ness Monster live on?
There’s the PR answer – books, TV specials, Ted Danson movies and more keep people searching, and efforts to debunk the monster do little curtail coverage with each new sighting.
But the Loch Ness Monster is also a lesson in the power of story. People yearn for stories that invite intrigue and suggest a more magical world.
As Dickey writes, “Some things matter more than proof.”