The Loch Ness Monster, sometimes called "Nessie" or "Ness" (Scottish Gaelic: Niseag) is a creature or group of creatures said to live in Loch Ness, a deep freshwater loch (lake) near the city ofInverness in northern Scotland. Nessie is generally categorized as a lake monster. Carvings of this unidentified animal, made by the ancient inhabitants of the Scottish Highlands some 1,500 years ago, are the earliest evidence that Loch Ness harbors a strange aquatic creature.
Rumors of a monster, or animal, living in the loch are claimed by believers to have been known for several centuries, though others have questioned the accuracy and reliability of such tales, which were generally unknown before the 1960s. The earliest claimed reference is taken from the Life of St. Columba by Adamnan. It describes how in 565 Columba saved the life of a Pict, who was being supposedly attacked by the monster.
Critics have questioned the reliability of the source, noting a different story in which Columba slays a wild boar by the power of his voice alone. They also point out that the event is said to have occurred on the River Ness, not in the Loch, and that Adamnan reports Columba encountering and conquering assorted "monsters", at various places in Scotland, throughout his "life". Additionally, they point out that the Loch Ness monster has no other reported instance of attacking anyone, and in fact is generally portrayed as shy and people-avoidant.
The first modern sighting occurred on May 2, 1933. The newspaper Inverness Courier carried a story of Mr. and Mrs. John Mackay, who reportedly saw "an enormous animal rolling and plunging on the surface." The report of the "monster" (a title chosen by the editor of the Courier) became a media sensation with London papers sending reporters to Scotland and a circus, even offering a reward of 20,000 pounds for capture of the monster. Later that year, A.H. Palmer, who allegedly witnessed Nessie on August 11, 1933, at 7 a.m., described the creature as having its head, which they saw from the front, set low in the water. Its mouth, which had a width of between twelve and eighteen inches (30-45 cm), was opening and closing; its maximum mouth aperture was estimated to be about six inches (15 cm).
The modern preoccupation with the Loch Ness Monster was aroused by a photograph allegedly taken by surgeon R.K. Wilson on April 19, 1934, which seemed to show a large creature with a long neck gliding through the water. Decades later, on March 12, 1994, Marmaduke Wetherell claimed to have faked the photo after being hired by the Daily Mail to track down Nessie (the photo had by that time been printed worldwide as "absolute evidence"). Wetherell also stated that Wilson did not take the photo, and his name was only used to give added credibility to the photo.
Regardless of whether anything is actually in the loch, the Loch Ness Monster has some significance for the local economy. Dozens of hotels, boating tour operators, and merchants of stuffed animals and related trinkets owe part of their livelihood to this monster, although people visit the loch for many reasons other than to see the monster. Hence, the legend is likely to endure for quite some time.