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Herald and Review | Decatur, Illinois | July 10, 1999

Loch Ness Monster lures ex-Decaturite

Coleman will be keynote speaker at Scotland conference on 'beast'

By Tony Reid

H&R Staff Writer

DECATUR -- A monster hunter raised in Central Illinois is off in pursuit of the most famous creature of all -- the Loch Ness Monster.

Loren Coleman first became fascinated with the Scottish legend while he was a boy growing up 4,000 miles away in Decatur, eagerly devouring stories of the mysterious beast lurking in the 1,000-foot-deep loch.

"The Loch Ness Monster is one of the big three for cryptozoologists," said Coleman, 51. "The other two are Yeti and our own Big Foot."

Cryptozoology is the study of "hidden animals" rumored to exist but for which there is no hard evidence. Coleman will cruise the loch's murky waters to "experience the unique atmosphere of the place," but doesn't expect he will actually bump into "Nessie," the Scottish pet name for the monster.

What he is looking forward to most is the chance to swap notes and compare stories with other monster hunters from all over the world. Today, Coleman will be the keynote speaker at a conference in the Drumnadrochit Hotel on the loch shore.

"This is the first conference of Loch Ness Monster researchers since 1987," said Coleman, a MacArthur High School graduate. "In the last 12 years the monster has been seen and photographed by several credible witnesses."

Coleman, who now teaches documentary film at the University of Southern Maine and sociology at St. Joseph's College in Portland, believes it is only a matter of time before solid evidence of the monster's existence emerges.

"The PBS program 'Nova' were there last year and they got a sonar reading of a large animal underneath the water moving very rapidly," said Coleman. "No scientist could explain it."

Professor Terry Matthews, 57, chairman of the biology department at Millikin University, says every scientist must keep an open mind. "But the likelihood of a Loch Ness Monster is very, very small," he said.

The professor torpedoes Nessie by pointing out that, as Scottish monster sightings date back 1,000 years, there would have to be a breeding population living in the loch. He said predictions might call for 50 or 100 creatures to keep the species alive. "Even 10 would be a lot of monsters," he adds. "So why don't we see them all the time?"

The professor also says studies indicate there isn't enough food in the loch to sustain monster appetites and wonders why, if they do exist, we haven't found a body or bones?

His arguments, however, can't sink the enthusiasm of cryptozoologists, who will be snapping up copies of Coleman's new book, "Cryptozoology A-Z", which debuts at the Scottish conference.

The book chronicles all the world's fabled beasts and Decatur gets several mentions -- our countryside is said to be prowled by panther-sized big cats and "Napes," a chimpanzee-like ape. Eye on the Internet

Want to spot the Loch Ness Monster without leaving your armchair? Go to www.lochness.scotland.net for a 24-hour video camera view of the loch.
 

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