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Monster mysteries continue to baffle Europe

The alleged monster and its possible eye  

(CNN) -- From creatures of the deep to massive mountain monsters, legends of shy prehistoric forms of wildlife persist throughout European culture and history.

The legend of Scotland's Loch Ness monster is easily the most popular and enduring.

But now Norway has a rival to the famed creature -- "Selma," a fabled serpent which has caught the attention of an international team of monster hunters.

A giant trap for catching the creature, reputed to be a cousin of the Loch Ness monster, has been set up in a lake in south Norway.

The 18-foot (6m) long tube-shaped trap, comprising a metal frame with nylon netting, is set to be lowered into Seljord lake in south Norway and will contain live fish for bait to catch "Selma."

Over the next two weeks, the team, which comprises seven Swedes, three Norwegians, a Canadian and a Belgian, will dangle the cage in the lake, about 110 miles (170 km) southwest of Oslo, at depths of up to 300-feet (91m) near where sightings of the monster have been reported.

Reports of a beast in the lake first surfaced around 1750, and most accounts agree it looks like a serpent with the head of an elk or a horse.

But despite perpetual reports of sightings, claimed photographs of the monsters and a number of attempts to scientifically prove their existence, the mysteries of Loch Ness and Selma remain just that.

In the case of the Loch Ness monster, the legend grows ever larger and more popular among the local community -- particularly because of the tourism it generates.

Whether it is that factor or similar enduring folklore, lake creatures are also becoming more regularly spotted throughout Europe.

The latest attempt to catch Nessie's Norwegian cousin follows other sightings in Scandinavian countries. Swedish monster spotters have been kept busy in recent years with a rush of stories about a similar strain of serpent.

Five years ago, a new legend was born in Lake Van, Turkey. Authorities recorded witness accounts of a monster-like dinosaur in the country's largest lake.

In 1997, pictures claimed to be of the reclusive lake snake were sent to England's Cambridge University and to renowned marine biologist Jacques Cousteau for analysis amid accusations of a bid by the nearby community to attract more tourists to the region.

Across the Atlantic, Canada has its own version of the mystery, the Ogopogo.

But it is not only slippery serpents that capture the imagination of monster spotters.

The Yeti, a hairy, oversized, man-like beast, is said to live in mountain ranges in Europe -- particularly the Caucasus range.

Russia has recorded more than 1,000 sightings of the Yeti and, according to London's Daily Telegraph newspaper, several dozen scientists gathered in Moscow in 1997 to talk through reported evidence of the monster, also known as the Abominable Snowman.

Claims of sightings of the Yeti are also common in Asia. In North America, a similar creature, the Sasquatch or "Big Foot" is part of common folklore.

Sightings and claims of proof of inexplicable beings are most frequent in the United States. There, expanding archives of films, photographs and now Web sites attempt to prove the existence of an array of fantastic wildlife.

But perhaps a lesson to nonbelievers comes from the South Pacific, where a giant race of squid, mythologized for centuries, turned out to be real.

After remaining elusive for many years, more and more of the creatures, some measuring more than 60 feet long, are being caught by fishermen off Australia and New Zeland.

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The Shadowlands mysteries
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The Loch Ness Internet Exhibition

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