Look, there’s a monster! Perhaps it’s just the time of year. This is, after all, what’s known in the UK as the “Silly Season”, when summer starves newspapers of stories from the worlds of politics and business because the country’s MPs and CEOs are off getting slaughtered on chianti in Italy – which means the poor editors have to resort instead to running, well, silly stories. But whatever the cause, there have been a large number of monster sightings in the media over the past few weeks.
From Canada there came tales of Bigfoot rampaging through the forests of Mission, British Columbia. Hell, there were even videos of the ape-like creature – although they were shot from what looked like outer space, making it very hard to spot the zip down the back or Velcro under the arms.
Then from the UK we had The Daily Telegraph interviewing Baronet Sir Benjamin Slade, who said that he had spotted a mystery big cat on his estate that was possibly bigger than a puma. And possibly not. Anyway, he couldn’t be making it up or deluded: the man’s got a title for heaven’s sake. Did I mention that his home, Maunsel House, is available for wedding bookings? Or house parties? I do hope that the acres of press coverage almost as vast as the estate itself will not dent interest or hamper bookings. May I take your credit card number, please?
Meanwhile another British paper asked, “Has the legendary South American chupacabra turned up in Belarus?” The beast of Belarus (they had a grisly picture of it dead) had apparently terrified locals but quite how it nipped on to an Aerolineas Argentinas flight to Minsk before fleeing into the long grass was not quite explained.
While the paucity of good stories may be behind newspapers’ desire to write about rent-a-suit apes and cats mistaken as lions, the public’s willingness to eat them up, to want to believe that there is something out there lurking in the woods, feels more primeval.
Last year, author Matt Kaplan published Medusa’s Gaze and Vampire’s Bite, a book that explored our fascination with monsters – and our need to believe in them. It’s a quest that goes from dark forest to deep oceans and attempts to give logical explanations for the beasts that have tried to step from the dark recesses of people’s imaginations into the real world.
But the fact is that many people don’t want an explanation that breaks the spell. They like their Loch Ness monster just as he is, thanks. In the end perhaps we all just need to occasionally believe in mysteries and trust in the unexplained – to, at some very raw level, believe that there is something out there. And if it turns out to be a chubby kitten, so be it.
Andrew Tuck is the editor of Monocle.