Official Spooks Cryptid Designation: Ness Waterhorse
Folkloric Names: Loch Ness Monster, Nessie
Distribution and Habitat: Inverness River
Average Height: 8 feet at hump, 14 feet with head held high
Average Length: 36 feet
Member of Waterhorse (Essie) and Loch Ness Cryptid Subgroups
Reason for Cryptid Status: Bioengineered lungs, protected by Reptodite civilization
Observation History: Apocryphal accounts of creatures living in the River Ness can be traced all the way back to the sixth century, including a notable tale of St. Columba’s dramatic encounter with a man-eating beast within the river. A far later sighting in 1871 drew the attention of the newly formed Spooks Organization, and a full investigation was made of the river. It turns out that Ness is home to several different breeds of supernatural creatures, though one species is more commonly sighted than others. The Ness Waterhorse, despite being shy and reclusive, is nonetheless the first creature discovered by the Spooks Organization that was given Cryptid Status, though many more would soon follow. Despite the best efforts of this organization, Ness Waterhorses have been sighted on several occasions since 1871, though thankfully few sightings were documented with clear evidence. A staged hoax known as the Surgeon Photograph proved essential in casting doubt on all subsequent sightings, and it is now Spook protocol to routinely fake sightings of Cryptids that are too noticeable for their own good.
Ecology and Behavior: The Ness Waterhorse is a member of a clade of prehistoric crocodile relatives known as Retrosaurs, specifically belonging to the Long Neck Sea Tyrant sub-clade. As “long neck sea tyrant” is a bit of a mouthful, the Spooks Organization opted to use a folkloric name for these creatures instead, i.e. the waterhorse. There are many waterhorses among the cryptids documented by the Spooks Organization, and it has been noted that they fall into two main phenotypes: Essies, which have short snouts and round torsos, and Pogos, which have long snouts and serpentine torsos. The Ness Waterhorse is considered the archetypical Essie, and despite its official designation, many Spooks agents routinely refer to them as “Nessies,” even though several other cryptids have equal claim to that title.
Ness Waterhorses are shy and skittish creatures whose fight or flight responses heavily favor the latter. Despite their physical size and durable bodies, these graceful creatures are easily frightened, even by significantly smaller species like human beings. While they can be violent when cornered, a Ness Waterhorse only fights when left no other options, and will bolt as soon as it is given the opportunity. Being swift swimmers, it is difficult to keep track of a Ness Waterhorse once they have fled, and tracking the creatures requires great skill, advanced technology, and a good deal of luck.
Through a mixture of selective breeding and genetic tampering, the respiratory system of a Ness Waterhorse allows them to hold their breath for an astonishing amount of time, with the current record being sixteen days. This adaptation is crucial for the species, as it allows them to navigate the labyrinthine subterranean caverns at the bottom of Loch Ness. Some of these caverns aren’t fully submerged in water, allowing the amphibious creatures a respite from their near constant swimming. Like most (and possibly all) waterhorses, Ness Waterhorses and their habitats are a result of tampering by the subterranean civilization of the Reptodites, which is the primary reason their existence is being obscured from the public.
While timid, Ness Waterhorses are highly social, living in large family groups much like whales or porpoises. They have a great degree of emotional intelligence and communicate with a variety of vocalizations, though most are inaudible to the human ear. Notably, they have been known to grieve over their dead, and this may be the reason they are so wary of human contact. They can distinguish between different human beings, and can, over time, grow to trust and communicate with specific individuals. The research specimen at the Scottish Spooks HQ, nicknamed “Mildred” by the staff, is noted as being particularly friendly, going out of its way to greet familiar people and sometimes begging for treats.