Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Loch Ness Monster and Other Mysteries of Motherhood

The Loch Ness MonsterI hate to say it but I'm a skeptic. I refuse to read The Enquirer, I laugh at urban myths, I question most everything that comes to me second hand and--much to the frustrations of my children--believe The Great Mysteries of the World to be nothing more than ghost stories invented to make life more interesting.

However, each of my children have gone through a phase of interest in the supernatural where they rabidly check out books on ghosts, Atlantis and other eye-popping monsters that impress a child's mind. A year or two ago Grace came home with a book about documented (and I use that word "documented" rather optimistically) cases of fish falling from the sky. You heard it right, there is an adult out there--somewhere, probably in Las Vegas--who actually sat down and researched a book about fish falling spontaneously and mysteriously from a clear sky.

I've enjoyed a good X-Files episode as much as the next guy but I found fish falling from the sky hard enough to swallow that I was intrigued. Were there actually enough "facts" on this incredible story to make it by an editor's desk? I had to find out the details. I skimmed and determined that it was just as bizarre as it sounded.

Big FootDespite Grace's opinion to the contrary, I couldn't believe the story without any thought to laws of probability, science or common sense. I don't care what Ethel McMoron says she saw on her front lawn, fish do not mysteriously fall from the sky, there isn't a nine-foot hairy biped living in the Rocky Mountains and that Area 51 is no more real than the Little Green Men themselves.

This attitude disturbs my children. They don't see how I could flout the "evidence." David is currently reading all he can about the Loch Ness monster, checking out every book in the library, every video he can find and he'll periodically come to me with a passage that he's sure will convince me of the error of my ways.

Last week he made me stop cooking while he read with every ounce of authority an eight year-old could muster, "Mom see it says here someone saw that it had, 'long legs and looked like a camel with a long neck and was yellow.' They say it 'moved into the loch and vanished.' See? See? That proves it! Do you believe in the Loch Ness monster now?"

I smiled and gently explained that the passage didn't prove Nessie exists, it just proved people in Scotland can't tell the difference between a sea monster and a camel. He got a firm set to his jaw and retreated, his determination to bring me to the truth stronger than ever.

So we've gone rounds on this one until it's become a bit of a joke. We did, however, actually gather around the laptop a couple days ago to look at the webcam at Urquhart Castle overlooking Loch Ness just to show David what Nessie might be doing that day. But it was 3 am there and rather difficult to see anything.

So the mystery remains unsettled.

But as a conclusion to my little story I'll mention one last thing. When Andrew and I were traveling back from the cabin a couple of weeks ago it was late at night and the children had all fallen asleep. The two of us were talking, had just come over the Knik Bridge and were traveling around the mountain toward the outskirts of Eagle River when suddenly from the direction of the mountainside to our left, there was a flash. A bright flash. The kind that you get when there is a lightning storm and the sky lights up with a bolt of electricity. Only there was no bolt, just the bright flash that lit up the sky from left to right.

You might think it was lightning but you need to know that Anchorage rarely gets electrical storms. Maybe once or twice a year in the heat of summer the conditions might be right but as it never gets dark in the summer, it's much to bright to see a distinct bolt, just flashes here and there that are indistinct from the daylight. Winter--the middle of January--is much too cold to generate lightning.

The flash surprised us enough that our conversation stopped and we paused.

"Did you see that?" we both said.

"What was it?"

Just as we were considering what it could have been and trying not to run off the road there was another flash. Twenty seconds later another. Four in all, as if some mysterious winter lightning storm--minus the forks of lightning and the rumbles of thunder--was passing through. It was hard keeping the car on the road while I stared at the mountains wondering what it could have been.

Four flashes and that was it, no repeats, no explanation, no idea what that could have been. I'm afraid to mention it to David for fear of never hearing the end of our Eminent Alien Invasion.

Aliens? UFOs? The Loch Ness monster? You be the judge. Just watch out for falling fish.

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Nicole said...

OOOHH. Creepy!! My kids have never gone through this stage. Maybe their IQ is low. Ha.

The "lightning storm" is crazy. I don't deal well with the unexplained. X-Files - HATE that show. Just creepy.

I don't need to be thinking about this before going to bed. Now I'm going to have nightmares. This was very interesting though. Good one!

Jane said...

I have been to Scottland and I have tempted Nessie by sticking my toes in her loche. No luck, she did not show her face to me. I think a trip is in order for your family. If your cute little son goes in the water and she is not tempted to come out to eat er I mean meet him, well she must not exhist.

Jason Offutt said...

Nice work and well written. I have the opposite problem; I'm a humor writer (mainly about parenting), but also write about the weird things in our world. I'm a big fan of the creepy and spooky but my kids have no interest in talking about ghosts or UFOs -- they like baseball. (You can see some of my stories at www.jasonoffutt.com).

MaGreen said...

According to my mom, my county in Utah has more UFO sigthings than any other county in the country. She believes in aliens, more or less, but doesn't mull over them.

My dad says most sightings are just secret airforce experiments, but he's the only person I know, who thinks he's interacted with aliens, somehow...he saw a ufo, driving on a country road, and woke up two hours further on down the road. That's it.

My mom believes a lot of new agey things, my dad reads lots of sci fi paperbacks and back then was known to get very drunk right before a long drive. (lovely, i know...)

I think there probably aren't ufos.

scribbit said...

When I laugh at David's earnest insistence on the reality of these kinds of things he thinks I'm crazy NOT to believe. I'm just wondering how long this phase of his will last--though it's quite entertaining.

Still, I would be curious to know what the explanation is behind the lights we saw (it's not aliens :)

Laurie said...

I have to just say this - you should check out the movie Magnolia with a host of celebrities. This is a very strongly worded movie and not made for kids at all. If you can stomach the first 15 minutes of Tom Cruise's "lecture", it doesn't get worse. But it really does tie into this post - if you watch it to the end. Very neat point to the movie, again, if you can stomach the language.

Kristina said...

Hmmmm, those lights are kinda creeping me out. Now I'm gonna be rubbernecking to look for freaky lights any time I'm in Eagle River. Which is fairly often, as my parents live there. The drive home (to Anchorage) will never be the same again...

*twilight zone music...*

Prahagirl said...

See, your persistant opposition to his efforts of convincing you that Nessie is real; means that he will keep reading books for a long, long time. This just maybe the one event in his life that triggers an obsession to launch his career of being the "one who finds Nessie and shows her to the world."

Haha, or not. :) Funny though--Gotta love his determination!

J said...

My explination for all such things? Chernobyl. Mysterious to cover all things, creepy enough to cover all things, dangerous enough to cover all things. ;) You know, unless they happened BEFORE Chernobyl. Then, it's Cheynobyl AND time travel.

local girl said...

Yikes! Are you now a believer in the unexplained? LOL!

scribbit said...

Chernobyl? I'd not thought of that, it's brilliant. Especially with the time-travel element. Could exlain the death of JFK and all sorts of mysterious occurences :)

Jessie said...

I was obsessed with the Loch Ness Monster and Big Foot when I was a kid...

Heather in Beautiful British Columbia said...

Thanks for the link to Loch Ness - I'm going to watch for Nessie!

I think it's all just really, really good marketing strategy on the part of the hosts, but then when it happens to you.... gosh, it must be hard to remain pessimistic...

Neighbours :)

JAM said...

This is a great post, but I have no ideas as to what the light could have been.

I grew up in Louisiana, and my Father worked on off-shore drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. He told me once about a sleepless night that had him up on the 'deck' of the rig, staring at the water. Some of the night shift came over to talk to him on a break, and at that time they saw something in the sky that had every single one of these hard-working salt of the earth types stunned.

Some sort of traveling light that changed colors, would hover, then move at incredible speeds.

I've thought about blogging it, but didn't want folks to think my Dad was a nut. He was about as rock-steady as a human could get.

If he said it, then he certainly saw SOMETHING he couldn't explain. And he felt comforted that there were other good steady men there who saw it too.

Rory said...

Hey, I went to school on the banks of Loch Ness!

I was six years at boarding school in Fort Augustus, right at the western end where the Caledonian Canal begins.

Never saw nor heard from the monster once.

scribbit said...

I know what you mean about not wanting people to think you're a nut--when I posted this it was with humorous intent. I just don't believe in those kinds of paranormal stuff. I do think that interesting things happen but that they have normal, understandable explanations. I just wondered what the explanation was for this--same thing with your father I'm sure, there must have been a reasonable explanation.

And Rory, how cool is that to have been so close to Loch Ness! David will be impressed. If you didn't see Nessie, did you instead see any camels? :)

Rory said...

We ate haggis. Will that do?

What about "wore a kilt", can I trade on that?

scribbit said...

Okay, normally I'm not this talktative in comments but you DID bring up the haggis thing . . . :)

When I was 15 and rather gullible I took a trip to Europe and on the way over the poles to London I sat next to this charming Scottish man--older--who was in the liquor business, made Scotch if I'm remembering right. ANYWAY . . . he told this whole long tale about a little animal called a haggis that lived on the hills of Scotland with two legs shorter on one side of its body so it could walk comfortably on the hills. I totally believed him. It wasn't until later in the trip when I learned what haggis really was. Ugh. I suppose it can't be worse than muk tuk here--raw whale blubber. Or sometimes they bury the blubber in the ground to let it ferment before eating it. Yum.

chelle said...

Wow! Ok firstly I adore your kids. I remember distinctly taking in all I could about the mysteries of the world, wanting so much to believe. I still am a fan of the X-Files and Stephen King, although not quite the believer that I used to be.

I would have been totally creeped by the flash of light too! What a neat experience!

JohnH985 said...

When I was around their age I went throught the same phase. I read every book I could on the Loch Ness Monster, Chariots of the Gods, and all that type of stuff. For a kid that is really fun stuff, but eventually you outgrow it, now I'm the most skeptical person around, I don't beieve in anything I can't see or prove.

terra shield said...

I used to be a fan of the weird happenings. Maybe I still am :)

There's this show on on Discovery called the X-testers where they try to simulate these occurences using camera tricks and stuff and usually they get similar results.
It's quite cool, actually, the only problem being your beliefs about the supernatural get ruined one by one :D

Rory said...

Excuse me, and what is wrong with haggis. A little sheep "pluck" never hurt anybody.

Was the haggis tartan with a little tooty horn nose?

Judy Callarman said...

A very interesting post! My kids went through that stage. They were especially taken by the Loch Ness monster. They soooo wanted it to be true!

Blondie said...

I believe in the fish!



Loralee Choate said...

I'm going to Scotland this fall. I'll check on Nessie for you.

Idoubtit said...

Great story. I was also one of those kids who loved that section of the library. Still am - 25 years later. I have a website that is a little more skeptical but should be easy for kids to understand. Please have them check it out. One blurb is about those fish falls.
also, I write for the Inquiring Minds website. http://www.inquiringminds.org/ Please let me know if you find these helpful.

I think I read that kids book about falling fish (one of my fave topics). Most kids books like this are written rather poorly (and decidedly non-scientific). I hope someday to do my own - working on it but with two young ones, etc. it is hard.

Anonymous said...

FWIW, I once saw a fish on a telephone pole. I was baffled for about 10 minutes, until I saw a bird fly up to another telephone pole with a fish in its claws. We were near the ocean, so it wasn't a very far distance to fly with a fish. The bird sat on the telephone pole eating it. We left before it was done, but I imagine when it was done, it simply dropped it. Had I been below it, I might have been hit by a fish that appeared to be dropping from the sky. (Not that I would have started believing in supernatural explanations for why it happened, though!)

ScotlandGuy said...

Nothing wrong with some occasional paranomal investigation. There will ALWAYS be things that fall outside of the understanding of science.