IF THEY build it, we will come — again and again, for at least eight decades, because such is the churning power to want to believe.
Today, Google offers what would be one of the more baffling Doodles in its history if you didn’t know the story behind the famously grainy ’30s photo that persists like a bigfooting cultural icon. And if you didn’t know that still, the hoax is on us.
Tall tales of tall tails breaking the surface of this Scottish highlands lake have clung to oral history for centuries. Be the creature a sea serpent or a dinosaur, the myth has persisted not by any scaly evidence or balanced scales of reason, of course, but because it’s beguiling to believe in a little monstrous magic in the moonlight.
Yes, there is warmth in the waters of Loch Ness, because since at least the 19th century, the lake has been heated by the folklore of our fevered imaginations. And so public gullibility and the eagerness to believe were already stoked when on this day in 1934, Col. Robert Wilson released his photo of a would-be Loch Ness monster that reared the head of a world’s seeming wish for it to be so.
The disproof was in the put-on, however, as the truth proved to be that pranksters literally pulled a “put on” — by putting a plastic head on a toy submarine.
But the tales from the cryptozoology continue, naturally, because why not let our sense of wonder be stoked by the concept of a creature affectionately known as Nessie? This cryptid is our nautical version of a Yeti or a Sasquatch that seems to lurk not only in blurry photos, but also in the darkest recesses of our dream-states.
If we can conjure scaly or furry or alien-eyed faces to fascinate us, then yes, experts say: We so delightfully share a way to literally face our fears that loom in the deep of our souls — and so the toy submersible can toy so playfully with the subconscious.
Do we really need the cold, hard facts about a once ice-cold frozen lake — to know that the humble-sized Loch Ness lake holds no dinosaur-sized bones — to convince ourselves that the myth persists for no other reason than we so badly want it to be so?
It might explain why a new “Jurassic World” film trailer can debut a day ago, and we still flock to watch by the thousands. Long-ago legends of a Loch Ness creature stir the soul like a popcorn thriller for our ancestors.
And still, the Loch Ness tourists come, through visits physical and virtual (and to mark the anniversary today of the “surgeon’s photograph,” Google Maps gives you a 360-degree Loch “Lake View” here — a feature aided by the expertise of Nessie researcher Adrian Shine). Because whether building a plastic submarine head, or a Doodle of a plastic submarine head, we and our engaged imaginations are quite happy to visit.