Wednesday, May 2, 2012

This Day in History: May 2, 1933: Loch Ness Monster sighted & May 2, 1924: A grisly crime leads to rubber gloves

Although accounts of an aquatic beast living in Scotland's Loch Ness date back 1,500 years, the modern legend of the Loch Ness Monster is born when a sighting makes local news on May 2, 1933. The newspaper Inverness Courier related an account of a local couple who claimed to have seen "an enormous animal rolling and plunging on the surface." The story of the "monster" (a moniker chosen by the Courier editor) became a media phenomenon, with London newspapers sending correspondents to Scotland and a circus offering a 20,000 pound sterling reward for capture of the beast.

Loch Ness, located in the Scottish Highlands, has the largest volume of fresh water in Great Britain; the body of water reaches a depth of nearly 800 feet and a length of about 23 miles. Scholars of the Loch Ness Monster find a dozen references to "Nessie" in Scottish history, dating back to around A.D. 500, when local Picts carved a strange aquatic creature into standing stones near Loch Ness. The earliest written reference to a monster in Loch Ness is a 7th-century biography of Saint Columba, the Irish missionary who introduced Christianity to Scotland. In 565, according to the biographer, Columba was on his way to visit the king of the northern Picts near Inverness when he stopped at Loch Ness to confront a beast that had been killing people in the lake. Seeing a large beast about to attack another man, Columba intervened, invoking the name of God and commanding the creature to "go back with all speed." The monster retreated and never killed another man.

In 1933, a new road was completed along Loch Ness' shore, affording drivers a clear view of the loch. After an April 1933 sighting was reported in the local paper on May 2, interest steadily grew, especially after another couple claimed to have seen the beast on land, crossing the shore road. Several British newspapers sent reporters to Scotland, including London's Daily Mail, which hired big-game hunter Marmaduke Wetherell to capture the beast. After a few days searching the loch, Wetherell reported finding footprints of a large four-legged animal. In response, the Daily Mail carried the dramatic headline: "MONSTER OF LOCH NESS IS NOT LEGEND BUT A FACT."

Scores of tourists descended on Loch Ness and sat in boats or decks chairs waiting for an appearance by the beast. Plaster casts of the footprints were sent to the British Natural History Museum, which reported that the tracks were that of a hippopotamus, specifically one hippopotamus foot, probably stuffed. The hoax temporarily deflated Loch Ness Monster mania, but stories of sightings continued.
A famous 1934 photograph seemed to show a dinosaur-like creature with a long neck emerging out of the murky waters, leading some to speculate that "Nessie" was a solitary survivor of the long-extinct plesiosaurs. The aquatic plesiosaurs were thought to have died off with the rest of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Loch Ness was frozen solid during the recent ice ages, however, so this creature would have had to have made its way up the River Ness from the sea in the past 10,000 years. And the plesiosaurs, believed to be cold-blooded, would not long survive in the frigid waters of Loch Ness. More likely, others suggested, it was an archeocyte, a primitive whale with a serpentine neck that is thought to have been extinct for 18 million years. Skeptics argued that what people were seeing in Loch Ness were "seiches"--oscillations in the water surface caused by the inflow of cold river water into the slightly warmer loch.

Amateur investigators kept an almost constant vigil, and in the 1960s several British universities launched expeditions to Loch Ness, using sonar to search the deep. Nothing conclusive was found, but in each expedition the sonar operators detected large, moving underwater objects they could not explain. In 1975, Boston's Academy of Applied Science combined sonar and underwater photography in an expedition to Loch Ness. A photo resulted that, after enhancement, appeared to show the giant flipper of a plesiosaur-like creature. Further sonar expeditions in the 1980s and 1990s resulted in more tantalizing, if inconclusive, readings. Revelations in 1994 that the famous 1934 photo was a hoax hardly dampened the enthusiasm of tourists and professional and amateur investigators to the legend of the Loch Ness Monster.

Also on this Day: May 2, 1924:A grisly crime leads to rubber gloves


Patrick Mahon is arrested on suspicion of murder after showing up at the Waterloo train station in London to claim his bag. He quickly confessed that the bloody knife and case inside were connected to the death of his mistress, Emily Kaye. Mahon then directed the Scotland Yard detectives to a particularly grisly scene in a Sussex bungalow, where they found Kaye's remains, dismembered and hidden among hatboxes, trunks, and biscuit tins.

Mahon's suspicious wife set off the investigation by asking a friend and former police officer to check out the baggage claim ticket that she had found in Mahon's suit earlier. Following his arrest at the train station, Mahon claimed that Kaye, who was pregnant with his child, had slipped and struck her head, thus causing her death. He argued that he was only trying to protect his marriage by disposing of the body in the manner in which he did.

The medical examiner in charge, Sir Bernard Spilsbury, had no choice but to attempt to reassemble Kaye's body in order to find the cause of death. Over the course of several days, he painstakingly pieced her body back together from the remaining assorted parts. Missing only her head, Spilsbury was able to discount Mahon's claim that a single fall was responsible for her death. He also deduced that Kaye had been carved up with a knife that Mahon had purchased prior to the murder.

An important investigation innovation came about from the crime scene at the Sussex bungalow: The officers, who were not outfitted with gloves, were forced to pick up Kaye's remains with their bare hands. After the Mahon investigation, rubber gloves became standard equipment at murder scenes.
Much of Mahon's case is bound up in myth and legend. Purportedly, Mahon told a fellow inmate that he was burning Kaye's head on the stove when her eyes suddenly popped open.

Mahon was executed for murder in September 1924.

Taken from: [02.05.12]

No comments:

Post a Comment