Lake Monster Mysteries: Investigating the World's Most Elusive Creatures Hardcover – May 5 2006
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"For those who are interested in these mysteries, it makes good reading." -- "WTBF Radio"
About the Author
Benjamin Radford, managing editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine, is the author of hundreds of articles and two books. Joe Nickell is Senior Research Fellow at the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal and author of more than twenty books.
Inside This Book(Learn More)
Of all the sea serpent-like creatures that are reputed to inhabit some of the world's large lakes, none is more famous than "Nessie," the purported Loch Ness monster (figure 1.1). Read the first page
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
And, well, that's exactly what Lake Monster Mysteries is all about. Throughout the book Joe Nickell and colleague Benjamin Radford presents a number of lakes in the U.S. and Canada (as well as Loch Ness in Scotland) that all claim to be the home of one or more lake monsters. The reader is presented with a short but informative background to each lake and its alleged monsters, offered details about some of the most important research to date, and is taken along with Nickell and Radford as they carry out their fieldwork and analyses of some of the most famous photographs and sightings.
Which is all both interesting and worthwhile, but to the reader who has an earlier interest in these lakes and their mysterious inhabitants the book fails to offer very much new material. However, this doesn't mean it's not a very good contribution to cryptozoological research. Nickell and Radford - who not very surprisingly come out as extremely skeptical to everyone and everything - are very efficient in their work when they point out many of the errors that precious researchers have done and later used in their own books, and it's difficult not to agree with them when they show the reader how something as mundane as a floating log or otters swimming in a straight line very easily can fool even the most experienced of observer and create the illusion that it's really a slime sea serpent cruising along the surface of the water.
It's not a very thick book though, and you'll finish it in a heartbeat. The lakes under investigation are all situated in the U.S. or Canada: Lake Champlain, Lake Memphremagog, Silver Lake, Lake Crescent, Lake George, and Lake Okanagan. True, Loch Ness also has a chapter of its own, but neither Nickell nor Radford visit the lake in person, and those mysterious lakes from the rest of the world that are mentioned at the end of the book aren't given very much attention.
Therefore "Investigating the World's Most Elusive Creatures" is somewhat misleading, and should have been changed to "Investigating North America's Most Elusive Creatures". Furthermore, it's sometimes easy to get the feeling that Nickell and Radford have been somewhat in too much of a hurry when dismissing the existence of the lake monsters, after having spent a day or two at the lake without seeing anything unusual and thus concluding that there's nothing unusual to be seen.
But the good outweighs the bad, and all in all Lake Monster Mysteries is a sweet read indeed. The most fascinating chapter is without a doubt the one about Lake Okanagan and its monster Ogopogo. Here the authors make a detour from the perspective of the hardcore skeptic and spend time discussing the folklore surrounding the lake, and if this had been done in the other chapters as well the final score would have been close to the highest possible.
The book focuses primarily on alleged monsters of the lakes of New England and eastern Canada, but it also addresses the Loch Ness Monster of Scotland, a famous lake monster in British Columbia, and a variety of creatures from around the world.
The book is written clearly and concisely, and is a fast read, and by the end of it I think most readers will not only have a good idea of how to think about lake monsters, but also a good idea of how one ought to think about all sorts of strange phenomena.
I found its explorations of "expectant attention"--or how witnesses expecting to see something report far different experiences and interpretations of events than those who aren't expecting anything--to be especially helpful.
The best part of this book, though, is how it's such a great showcase of hands-on skepticism--not the armchair variety that so many true believers love to deride; it shows what real skeptical investigation can and should be. Radford and Nickell track down witnesses and original sources, go to the lakes, perform tests, scrutinize photos and videos, check every fact, and keep their minds open until the evidence leads them to solid conclusions.
I really enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to anyone interested in cryptozoology, skepticism, or just an entertaining but scholarly read. I'd love to read a sequel to it--perhaps about sea monsters, or perhaps merely about other notable lake monsters.
If you're an amateur cryptozoologist and you're going to be looking for lake monsters, be sure and pack some good cameras, some measuring equipment, some sun-block, and a copy of "Lake Monster Mysteries." It will give you something very good to read for what might be quite a long wait.
When it comes to lake monsters the most important question we can ask is, "What is the evidence for lake monsters?" We learn things from Radford and Nickell such as, where are the bodies of these supposed creatures? Where are the bones? We also learn that if one of these creatures exists there has to be about 15-20 creatures to sustain a breeding population. Before we consider something to be a monster, lets rule-out other known entities. For instance, lets rule-out whether or not what people are seeing in these lakes are floating logs, otters, beavers, or even swimming deer.
We start the book by looking at the case of Loch Ness. Joe Nickell points out how wide and varied the eyewitness accounts are. Photographic and video evidence is thoroughly examined. In addition to examining specific cases of supposed lake monsters we also have four appendixes at the end of the book. One of the appendixes is titled "Eyewitness (Un)Reliability" which discusses how flawed and unreliable anecdotal evidence is.
If you want to know what the best evidence is for lake monsters, read this book! If you want to know whether or not that evidence stands up to scrutiny, read this book!
Although a short chapter about the Loch Ness monster leads off (mainly because a book about lake monsters has to say something on that subject) the meat of the book concerns North American lakes the authors personally visited and investigated. They bring a considerable amount of expertise to the subject by performing actual experiments where others might just collect anecdotes. Outstanding among the experiments performed are the attempts to reproduce monster photographs or videos. Invariably, it is almost always concluded that the object captured on film or tape was smaller or not as distant as the photographers thought.
I read the Kindle version of the book. While perfectly readable, it does have a number of problems. It appears to be an OCR scan of the print edition. The references at the end of each chapter are in microscopic font size and I had to change font size to read these. The index is virtually useless with all page numbers stripped out, although the linked figures remain. Also, there are occasions when the scanning goes awry. It is "Larry Thai" in the book proper but "Larry Thal" in the appendices. The latter is probably correct but there is really no way to tell.
I also thought the price of the Kindle edition to be rather steep considering the brevity of the book. I suppose for an academic press this is par for the course.
The book can be highly recommended for those who haven't seen the material as it originally appeared. It is difficult to fault the author's conclusions. As they say, there is evidence for lake monsters but it should be very much better after so much time and effort expended if they truly do exist.