An Alchemist, a Famous Monster, and the Sometimes Creepy World of the Trickster

Today will be my final article on the matter of the Trickster phenomenon – unless, of course, something really weird happens! So, with that said, let’s start the story. This one is focused on none other than the creatures of Loch Ness, Scotland: the Nessies. There’s no doubt that there’s high-strangeness afoot at the loch – and that points in the direction of the Trickster. A perfect example of how we can make a case that Loch Ness is a home to Tricksters, revolves around the life and Nessie-based research of a man named Frederick “Ted” Holiday. He spent a lot of time at the loch from the early 1960s onward – and came to believe that Loch Ness really did have mysterious creatures in those deep and dark waters. As time progressed, however, Holiday changed his mind and came to believe the monsters were supernatural in nature. And what caused that radical change? Let’s have a look. Even though Ted Holiday sincerely believed in what he called a giant Tullimonstrum gregarium theory for what the Nessies were, he wasn’t able to shake off that deep, foreboding feeling that there was something more to the Loch Ness Monsters, something that – rather paradoxically – implied they were flesh and blood animals, but ones possessed of supernatural qualities. It was a feeling that would, ultimately, become a full-blown, unhealthy obsession, and one that pretty much dictated the rest of Holiday’s short life and and research.

Drawing of George Spicer’s Loch Ness Monster by Robert Gould

By the time his 1969 book The Great Orm of Loch Ness was published, Holiday had not only been to the lair of the Nessies on numerous occasions; he also had the opportunity to speak to many witnesses to the beast. In doing so, he noticed a most curious, and even unsettling, pattern. There were far more than a random number of reports on record where eyewitnesses to the creatures had tried to photograph them, only to fail miserably. As time progressed, it became abundantly obvious to Holiday that this was not down to nothing stranger than chance. When an excited soul on the shore went to grab their camera, the beast would sink beneath the waves. When someone even just thought about taking a picture, the monster would vanish below. On other occasions, cameras would malfunction. Pictures would come out blank or fogged. It was as if the Nessies were dictating, and manipulating, the situations in which the witnesses found themselves. That is exactly what Holiday came to believe was going on. I should stress this is typical Trickster-style activity.

Now, it’s important to know something that few have any awareness of: Holiday was privately fascinated by the work of John Dee and Edward Kelly. If your aren’t aware of them, read on: Dee was  an “…English alchemist, mathematician and astrologer, with his assistant Edward Kelly, medium, alchemist and sorcerer. Dee gained Queen Elizabeth I’s favor by successfully selecting an astrologically favorable day for her coronation. Kelly persuaded Dee to accept him as an assistant and helped Dee to get visions from angels using a crystal ball. They followed an adventurous career as sorcerers in Europe trying to discover the ‘philosopher’s stone’ that would convert common metals into gold. Their friendship was damaged when Kelly decided that they must share their wives.”

Edward Kelly

By 1969, Holiday’s life was dominated by weird synchronicities – meaningful coincidences, in simple terms – something that led Holiday to question both his sanity and even the very nature of reality itself. And something that was typical Trickster phenomena. What had begun as an exciting hunt for an unknown animal was now rapidly mutating into something very different. Something dangerous and supernatural. In 1970 Holiday dined with an underwater engineer named Robert E. Love. He was a man deeply interested in the Nessie enigma. Also along for the dinner was an American friend of Love’s, a Dr. M. Dee. Holiday, of course, was deeply aware of the Dr. John Dee/Edward Kelly connection to the teachings of one-time Loch Ness resident Aleister Crowley. As a result, he viewed this game of the name as some strange form of surreal, supernatural trickery. And, if trickery it was, it was far from being over.

John Dee

The American doctor came across as entirely normal and down to earth. That is, until the night came to a close. As the atmosphere took on a menacing nature, Dee leaned forward and whispered to Holiday that he had an ancestor of that same name, one who lived during the period when Queen Elizabeth I reigned. This was clearly a reference to John Dee, colleague of the occultist, Edward Kelly. The doctor knew this, he added, as he had spent much of his time in England researching his family-tree. Whether or not the words of the doctor were meant as a warning for Holiday to keep his nose out of things that didn’t concern him was never made clear, but Holiday most certainly took it that way. This strange and sinister situation made Holiday think even more that there was a paranormal aspect to the Nessie phenomenon. And, something was clearly playing tricks on Holiday – even though they were hardly friendly tricks. The whole thing was filled with menace.

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