It has been one of the country’s most intriguing mysteries since the sixth century, when Irish monk Saint Columba is believed to have saved a man swimming across a Scottish river from a terrifying beast.
Now the phenomenon of the Loch Ness monster has been named Britain’s top supernatural phenomena in a nationwide poll.
Nessie attracted 42 per cent of votes, setting it well ahead of the prehistoric Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, voted top British supernatural mystery by almost a third of people.
The mystery of the Beast of Bodmin Moor in Cornwall – the belief there is a wildcat that has killed livestock in the area since the mid-1990s – was ranked third. The haunting of a suburban council house in north London between 1977 and 1979 when 11-year-old Janet Hodgson was repeatedly possessed by the spirit of an old man was named fourth.
Another Scottish mystery – the conundrum of suicidal dogs at Overtoun Bridge in West Dunbartonshire, where 50 dogs have leapt to their death in the past 70 years and hundreds more have survived the fall – also made the top ten, coming in at number five in the poll by TV channel Really.
The unexplained tale of the monster living in the Highland loch dates back to 565 AD, when St Columba’s encounter with a monster took place in the nearby River Ness. However, it was 19 centuries later, in the 1930s, when a string of reports were published in a local newspaper of sightings of a so-called monster in Loch Ness, sparking the modern day interest in the monster.
Richard Williams, general manager for UKTV Play, which is hosting a Halloween season on Really, said: “Britain has stories of unexplained phenomena dating back centuries, but we have seen new mysteries unfold in more recent decades. We continue to be fascinated by the things we can’t quite unravel. That’s why we are celebrating the things we are at a loss to explain with our Halloween season.”
Other mysteries ranked in the top ten include the whereabouts of crime writer Agatha Christie after she disappeared in 1926 to be found 11 days later in a hotel with no knowledge of what had happened to her.
The conundrum of people seeing unexplained lights shining into Rendlesham Forest in Suffolk in December 1980 and finding burn marks, but no debris also made the cut.
The Devil’s Footprints, a supernatural mystery that saw hoof-like marks branded in deep snow across towns in southern Devon in 1855, garnered 10 per cent of the vote. The Highgate Vampire, which is said to stalk a cemetery in the London district, and the Hampton Court Ghosts – the palace supposedly haunted by Henry VIII and two of his wives – won 8 and 7 per cent respectively.
Mysteries that just missed out on a top-ten placing included The Spinning Relic of Manchester Museum – a 4,000-year-old statuette of an Egyptian called Neb-Senu that made global headlines when it was caught on a time-lapse camera in 2013 rotating 180 degrees while locked in a sturdy glass museum case.
There was also no mention of one of Scotland’s most mysterious occurrences – the disappearance of the Eilean Mor lighthouse keepers, who were never to be seen again after January 1900 when a relief boat turned up to their lighthouse only to find ashes in the grate and stopped clocks.