When does a credible witness become incredible? When does a “monster” become science? These, among other questions, are considered in EsoterX’s history of Scoliophis Atlanticus, a supposed sea serpent apparently sighted in the Massachusetts Bay by Native Americans, European settlers, and their descendents for over two hundred years. The piece is well written and researched; a perfect choice for readers looking for a little diversion on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
The process of unmaking monsters is often as illuminating as the process of making them. Not debunking them, rather historically revising them, for certainly a “hoax is a hoax, of course, of course” and humans are indeed predisposed to regard the unfamiliar with horror (evolutionarily important, since before we figured out that rocks were good for hitting things over the head with, it was a good bet that the unfamiliar was distinctly interested in eating you), rather I’m speaking of the steady and inexorable reinterpretation of phenomena into noumena (that which is known without the use of senses) over time. The mechanism by which conventional wisdom asserts itself to explain away the anomalistic across the years and establish the ever-elusive, scientific “truth”, a truth that is only ever at best admittedly partial (and thus discontinuous with some sort of universal verity), is in the sagacious words of Charles Hoy Fort, “like looking for a needle that no one ever lost in a haystack that never was”. When common folk report an encounter with a monster, the skeptical point out that they are after all, common, and thus easily mistaken, the presumption being that were a man of science, or some such luminary of our esoteric guilds of intelligentsia to experience the same stimuli which the representative of the unwashed masses misidentified as monstrous, the learned would correctly interpret its absolute normality, or if desperately necessary, its abnormality encapsulated within the boundaries of that which is designated as “knowable”.
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