National Cryptid Society guest article written by Andrew McGrath, author of the book ‘Beasts of Britain.’
Elbie: The Elbe River Monster
In the early part of January, 2018 a photo emerged in Germany’s Tag24 newspaper, of an alleged Nessie-like creature, in a section of the Elbe River, that passes through Dresden, Germany. The photo which itself is quite picturesque, shows what looks to be 3 sections of a long serpentine ‘object’ on the surface of the river, which is incidentally, beautifully framed by the historic glass dome on the Kunstverein building and illuminated by the bright winter sun, breaking through a cloudy sky. The witness, Torsten Koj, described seeing ‘A large, snake-like creature, several metres long, that immediately reminded him of Nessie, emerge from the water and swim along the river for a short time, before disappearing beneath the surface.’
I believe there are two possible reasons for this strange encounter, the first of which is to do with the current high water level and flooding that has been experienced across much of Germany; and that has seen various sections of the river break its banks. This increased water margin could have enabled a large creature, like the one witnessed, to move further up river from its possible haunts in the North Sea near Cuxhaven. As is often seen in countries like Australia when widespread flooding is experienced, large predators like crocodiles and alligators often move into new ‘perceived’ territories created in search of food and this could provide a simple explanation for this unusual encounter.
The second reason, which is closely connected to the first, could be related to a widely dispersed and somewhat diminished food supply, due to the adverse conditions and enlarged environment caused by flooding, as was seen to occur in the aftermath of Germany’s floods in 2013, which resulted in the loss of many natural fish stocks in the adjoining lakes that became contaminated by the flood water. Thus possibly causing, in this case, our alleged ‘animal’ to travel further upriver to seek its prey.
Ordinarily, The Elbe River is home to eel, grayling, trout, perch, barbel, European chub, flounder, northern pike, carp, salmon, sea trout, burbot, asp, tench, catfish and blue bream and fishing is a popular past time along the vast length of its banks. In its finite state, the Elbe River, which has its beginning in the Krkonoše Mountains, Czech Republic, winds its way 680 miles through the aforementioned territory and then onwards through Germany; finally emptying into the North Sea at Cuxhaven. It also features the Elbe Cycle Route (Elberadweg) which Starts in Prague , Czech Republic, and includes a scenic downhill stretch between Dresden and Cuxhaven!
So what manner of creature could Torsten Koj have seen? Some commentators have been very swift to say that Torsten, could certainly not have seen a ‘dinosaur’ (ignoring his plesiosaur-like description) but fail to give any credible scientific reason as to why he could not have seen one of these elusive aquatic reptiles, that have been reported living in waters, not only in Europe, but throughout much of the world? Again, the default position of science is to say to witnesses of the unknown that, ‘they could not have seen what they saw, and that somehow poor perception and frail brains have overruled the senses of the astonished observer of the unknown causing him to imagine the unimaginable!’
There is of course the possibility that Torsten photographed a log, after all, such a large limb, matching this serpentiform sighting could easily have been dislodged by the recent adverse conditions and dragged along by the current, occasionally emerging from the river before being pulled back beneath the waves, giving the impression of some prehistoric plesiosaurid predator pushing its way upstream?
However, there are some notable examples of other ‘creatures’ of the Nessie variety being temporarily sighted, in some of our rivers. One recent example of this would be, ‘Tamsin the River Thames Monster’, which was filmed 3 times between March and April of 2016, and again in the Solent (between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight.) In each sighting, much of the footage matches the serpentine and humped characteristics of our recent sighting of ‘Elbie’ and adds another credulous tick of credibility to an already bursting wealth of aquatic cryptid reports throughout Europe.
One other thing to consider is that ‘Elbie’, would have entered the Elbe River via the North Sea, which is connected to the English Channel and a stone’s throw away from where our very own beastie, ‘Tamsin’ , entered the River Thames just under 2 years ago. For me personally the similarity between both sightings in both description and behaviour is uncanny, not to mention their neighbourly proximity to one another which at least warrants some comparison.
The Monster of Lake Prespa & The Physics of Faking it!
Lake Prespa is the larger of two freshwater lakes that share the same name (The Great Prespa Lake and The Small Prespa Lake.) The former having a shared border with Albania, Greece, and the Republic of Macedonia. In December 2017, this lake was the scene of an alleged lake monster sighting, which was fortunately captured on film, posted to YouTube, and not unexpectedly found itself featured on the front pages of many of the world’s tabloid newspapers.
The footage which was filmed in the Albanian section of the Lake, upon first glance certainly seems to be a good match for a classic Nessie sighting, and shows what appears to be a head and swan-like neck of a large creature moving through the water, not far off shore, before slowly submerging beneath the surface of the lake.
The film, which begins with a couple walking along a boardwalk, near the shore of the lake, shows a woman, who is in shot, suddenly let out a gasp and points towards what appears to be a long dark object raised several feet above the water of the lake. The cameraman immediately leaps from the boardwalk and runs along the beach towards the ‘object’, presumably to get a closer shot of it, which he inevitably does. As he runs he sounds breathless and panicked and the creature itself (coincidentally) seems to suddenly submerge as he approaches. Throughout the footage there are several genuine sounding verbal exclamations from the cameraman and his partner, but as I am not a native speaker of Albanian, I am unable to judge their sincerity.
There of course a few issues with this piece of film that are hard to overcome, The first being the somewhat jerky movement of the ‘creature’ as it submerges, and the second being the static position of the head and neck, which do not seem to show any animate characteristics at all throughout the clip. The third and final issue, and the one I find most difficult to overcome, is that the cameraman stops filming the creature before it is fully submerged; and we are left with an image of the tip of the monster’s head, resting on the surface of the water.
Now in the world of cryptozoology research, one of the red flags for fake footage that we look for is the odd cut! Which in this case would be that the cameraman ceased to film this ‘cryptid’ while it was still in view. This inexplicable behaviour would seem unnatural to anyone who had a genuine experience of such a strange and unusual creature and in fact one might even continue filming for another minute or two after the animal disappeared, on the off chance that it may reappear, right?
Unfortunately, this is not the case with the Prespa Lake Monster footage and although we could perhaps give the benefit of the doubt to this clip; and put its untimely cut, down to shock on the part of the witness, inevitably in this particular case, the static nature of the ‘object’, combined with its jerky movement and of course the unexplained cessation of footage, means that my doubt about its authenticity still lingers. The only positive for me in regards to the veracity of this footage, is that i cannot for the life of me figure out how they faked it. Divers pulling a prosthetic along and then quickly dragging it several feet beneath the surface doesn’t quite seem feasible and there doesn’t appear to be any other viable method of achieving this within the framework of this sighting.
In a final defence of the witness/cameraman, the video was originally posted to YouTube only and was not apparently offered for sale to the tabloid press. (When trying to contact the witness via their YouTube channel, I happened upon a message, in the comments section, from a well known British tabloid paper asking for permission to exploit the footage, indicating, initially at least, that media attention was not actively sought.) So, what could this now infamous footage depict? the cryptid enthusiast within me desperately would like to say ‘monster’, but the realist is drawn to the probable tourist trade-off that a well engineered monster film could bring to the country itself, with Albania, not being a land synonymous with the term ‘Lake Monster’ and one would imagine, likely to be unopposed to the benefits of having their own personal – Nessie on their Doorstep.
Nessie – Making a Mockery of the Mental Library
Loch Ness is possibly the most famous body of water in the world, surpassed in fame only by its alleged monsters, that have been making regular appearances in the loch for almost 1500 years, starting with St Columba‘s encounter in the river ness, in 565 AD. The loch, which was largely inaccessible, without travelling over the mountains, was opened to the eyes of the public, one might say, when a road was built into the side of the mountain in 1933; followed shortly after by a rash of sightings of this now infamous beast of the Scottish Highlands. The sightings which have continued right up to this very day, tend to stay in the low numbers, making the 9 sightings recorded in 2017 quite out of the ordinary.
Loch Ness has allegedly been the scene of 11,000 plus sightings of the famous monster in the last 84 years, including several land sightings, with those who witness the animal being of diverse genders, ages, nationalities and professions. In fact, one could easily state as a point of fact, that there is most definitely ‘something’ unusual in Loch Ness, regardless of what type of animal it might be. What most witnesses, at least those who have had a clear sighting of the animal will tell you is, is that this creature is unlike anything else they have ever seen and that the typical ‘monster imposters’ (catfish, seal, otter, sturgeon) invoked by the sceptics to pull focus from the veracity of their encounters, rarely fit the mould of the monster they have borne witness to.
Of the 9 sightings recorded in 2017, I would personally say that some could be placed into the ‘maybe not’ pile of debris or flotsam & jetsam. Due primarily to the distance at which the sightings were made and the indistinguishable character of the objects seen, the others could certainly be something, but again in these sightings there are few, if any, distinguishable characteristics that lend any detail to the identity of these animals.
When it comes to Loch Ness sightings, it must remembered that there are upwards of 250,000 visitors to the area every year, all with their eyes trained on the water, a fact which in itself raises an interesting question. If most Loch Ness sightings are just mistaken identity and the loch is laden with tree limbs and logs and strange waves and currents, then why aren’t there more of these mistaken identity sightings than we are currently seeing reported? It should be clear to the objective observer, that either the large number of people who visit the loch are not looking hard enough for Nessie or that Nessie, is not a permanent resident of the Loch.
Whichever way we look at it, the mystery of lake and sea monsters endures and provides us with a plethora of theories and fictions to while away our days. We live in mysterious world, wherein our modern cities and towns can still play host from time to time, to a discovery of the most unusual kind!
Written by Andrew McGrath
‘Continental Cousins – The Return of the European Nessie’ is an abridged chapter in my new book ‘Nessie & Friends’, (currently still in progress.) You can find my debut book ‘Beasts of Britain’ on Amazon
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