Saturday, 20 December 2014

Loch Ness Websites

Many websites carry a section which gives links to other websites covering their primary subject. I thought I would take this opportunity to survey the Loch Ness Monster web scene. As it turns out, there is not a lot out there in terms of dedicated websites. You will find a lot more websites discussing the Loch Ness Monster as part of wider remit on mysteries, cryptozoology, the paranormal or rational scepticism.

Despite that, Loch Ness websites are a diverse array. Some are dedicated to the monster, some are sceptical and others try to maintain a neutral position. Others are regularly updated whilst others haven't changed in years. But, in general, there is not much in the way of ongoing debate and analysis, unless you include discussion forums.

There is a multiplicity of discussion forums which carry lake cryptid sections or threads in amongst their formats. However, there has been a trend in recent years to see some of these conversational genres move over to Facebook. The quality of these varies and tends to be dominated by sceptics.

There is also a subclass of website which I call "recycling websites". They do not add much in the way of new or interesting content and just copy other websites' images or items. I don't include these and neither do I include sites which are generally cryptozoological in nature and have a section on Nessie; unless it is noteworthy.

I am sure there are others out there, let me know if you find a worthy candidate.

Wikipedia: Loch Ness Monster

Okay, it is just one page, but it belongs to Wikipedia. I suspect it is the most visited webpage on the Loch Ness Monster as all manner of people go to it for the basic lowdown on the creature.

Legend of Nessie

The goto website for Nessie information since the late 1990s. Here you will find the basic facts on Nessie as well as extended information on sightings, films, photos, people, the loch and its various deceptive moods. One of my favourite sections used to be the forum, "Nessie's Chatterboard". Unfortunately, the forum was shut down years ago due to it being abused by certain people. Some things never change.

As far as I can tell, the website has not been updated for over three years, but that doesn't change the historical usefulness of its information.

Nessie on the Net

A satirical, spoof website on the monster which doesn't take itself too seriously. Run by Mikko Takkala, it is largely lightweight, but its popularity is maintained by the webcam it runs for remote monster hunters.

Loch Ness and Morar Project

An information packed website on Loch Ness and its history run by Adrian Shine and the Loch Ness Project. The archive room has many useful papers on non-monster work done at the loch such as ecology, geology and biology. Adrian is sceptical (but open minded) of monsters, so various themes run through the website based on that position.

Loch Ness Investigation

Another sceptical website run by ex-LNIB man, Dick Raynor. In some regards, it is similar to the previous website, but there is more emphasis on photographic work and the various phenomena that deceive observers at the loch. I don't agree with some of the conclusions made on the site, but this and Adrian's website provide a useful counterbalance against getting too monster biased.

Nessie Hunter

This is the website of long term monster hunter, Steve Feltham. It is not a comprehensive website on Nessie, but rather a personal perspective on the loch, the monster and the hunt from Steve's twenty year perspective.

Nessie's Grotto

This is one of the older websites, run over that time by Lois Wickstrom and Jean Lorrah. It is a compendium of various items of interest, such as people sending in their webcam snapshots, occasional newsletters, interviews and Loch Ness facts.

The Loch Ness Giant Salamander

A specialised website by Steve Plambeck dedicated to his theory that Nessie is a giant salamander. Steve occasionally updates his website with updates on that theory as well as general observations on the loch and its monster.

Tony Harmsworth

Probably the most vociferous of sceptical websites. Tony is the ex-curator of the Official Loch Ness Exhibition and has lived near the loch for over thirty years. The website covers various aspects of the monster in a dismissive manner, and you're left in no doubt as to what Tony no longer believes in! You can read his book, "Loch Ness Understood", at the site.

Paul Cropper

Paul and I regularly correspond, and he sends me various e-clippings of Nessie stories. He is more a Yowie man, but his research has allowed him to compile an interesting "storyboard" of Australian newspaper items from 1933-1934 which chart the progress of the Loch Ness Monster from the point of view of the Australian media.

Gary Campbell's Sightings Register

Gary Campbell has put together this website to collate as many reports of the Loch Ness Monster from St. Columba right up to the present day. Most are taken from Henry Bauer's book, but Gary has added to that list since 1985 and the last report is from 20th May 2014. Gary has the running total at 1,067, but I am pretty sure the final number is north of 1,500.

As an aside, when I attempted to access Gary's site, my ISP blocked it as a site that contains content that falls into the category Violence & Weapons! No idea why that is happening.


But websites come and websites go. People die, people get ill and people just lose interest. So, there is a subsection of websites which are now defunct but which are preserved via Internet archiving agencies. I am glad to say my own blog is now being archived by WayBack Machine, so when I am long gone, hopefully there will still be people reading these articles.

You can learn more about these extinct websites here.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Loch Leven Monster

In the course of my cryptozoological studies, I came across the newspaper clipping below. It is from the Scottish Sunday Mail dated September 9th, 1934 and tells of the strange tale of a beast seen in Loch Leven.

Is there a Loch Leven "monster"? Has the Argyllshire loch become tired of the overwhelming popularity of Loch Ness and decided to claim a little of the limelight for itself? 

On several occasions during the past few days a strange creature has been seen at various points in the loch, appearing for a few minutes on the surface and then diving with a peculiar motion. And one night it appeared for close on half an hour at the head of the loch.

Two men and a group of boys, all of Kinlochleven, watched the "monster's" activities. It appeared about half-past eight; seeming to come up the loch and chasing, they alleged, a couple of seals which were swimming furiously ahead of it.

The strange creature had a great oval head, joined by a long neck to a glossy black body, with a speckled grey breast. There were three humps showing over a foot out of the water.

The tail was long and pointed, and the total length of the creature was estimated at about 20 feet. When it dived, the humps appeared in succession and the tail was thrown up high into the air.

You've heard of "flash mobs" and this story has the feel of a "flash monster". We have never heard of a monster in Loch Leven before and it seems we never hear of it again afterwards. When I was researching my book on loch monster folklore, this loch did not appear on the mythological radar and (as far as I know) no reports of such a creature have appeared since then.

It's a bit like the "flash sturgeons" and "flash seals" beloved of sceptics back at Loch Ness. They appear from nowhere to explain troublesome eyewitness reports and they disappear just as fast in a puff of logic with no indication whether these sea going creatures were ever actually in the loch at that time!

Part of the explanation for this lies in the fact that Loch Leven is an open loch which opens into the sea loch of Loch Linnhe which feeds into the Atlantic Ocean. Loch Linnhe has more of a reputation for monsters with claimed sightings in the 1940s, 1954, 1964 and 1967. 

The point being that a loch which has easy access to open sea is not so easily regarded as a monster bearing loch. However, the complex of lochs which run over the Great Glen Fault have always posed to me the question as to whether their connectedness has cryptozoological implications.

To wit, each one from Linnhe to Lochy to Oich and to Ness each has its share of monster stories. Sceptics may conclude Loch Ness stories merely propagate like seismic shocks down the fault line. Cryptid researchers speculate as to whether the creature seen in Loch Linnhe is related to the one in Loch Ness.

Loch Leven seems a bit player in this drama, but it had its brief moment of fame back in 1934 as Loch Ness Fever reached a crescendo. The report itself has a "Nessie" feel to it with that long neck and multiple humps. It is one of several reports over that period and suggests something was in the loch for a short period before heading back out to sea forever.

Where it differs is the creature going after a couple of seals. That kind of story is less likely in land locked Loch Ness and makes us wonder what it was. Killer whales have been seen off the west coast of Scotland and would certainly go into a loch after seals. This blog covered such a story from the 1950s a while back.

That would mean mistaking the long neck and oval head for the orca's dorsal fin, a mistake not easily made and what do those three humps signify? Perhaps a line of seals chasing other seals? But what about that long neck and oval head? At this point, some eyewitness sketches would be useful, but we are left to guess what exactly was seen over that period in late 1934.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Paranatural Documentary on Lake Monsters

The National Geographic channel televised their next episode of "Paranatural" on the 28th November and lake cryptids were the subject. Going by the internal evidence of the programme, it must have been made about 2010-2011. I review that documentary here.

Three of the most famous lake cryptids were covered in the hour long programme, the Cadborosaurus of the western Canadian coast, the monster of Lake Champlain, Vermont, USA and the Loch Ness Monster of Scotland. Or to use their nicknames, Caddy, Champ and Nessie.


The programme interchanged between the three waters as experts were consulted, eyewitnesses interviewed and searches undertaken. In the case of Loch Ness, pro-Nessie researcher, Mikko Takala was pitted against sceptic, Adrian Shine. I say "pitted", but I doubt these two men would be likely to confront each other in a debate, given that there seems to be some friction between them.

Mikko Takala has appeared on one or two Loch Ness documentaries before and came across as a seasoned researcher, but he is a bit hard to evaluate. Mikko maintains the website "Nessie on the Net" and describes himself as:

Probably the world’s leading Nessie the Loch Ness Monster researcher and cryptozoology expert ...

But the context of the page and the Carlsberg "probably" makes it clear he is not taking himself seriously. In fact, the whole website is a satire on the art of monster hunting, be it pro- or anti-Monster. I don't see much in the way of serious research which makes me wonder what direction he is coming from.

As you can see from the picture above, his is not averse to promoting his website and, indeed, when he was filmed for the documentary, he had another promotional shirt on. However, the editors confounded him by blurring out the text! Not that this was a particular wrist slap for Mikko, I have seen editors blur out multitudes of clothing brand names in other documentaries.

His assessment of other Loch Ness researchers suggests he has an issue with Adrian Shine. Indeed, as a computer programmer, he was involved in the setup of the Loch Ness 2000 exhibition at Adrian's Loch Ness Centre. That relationship did not seem to end well and he now actively promotes the other exhibition down the road and regularly takes sideswipes at Adrian. I can see how it was best to keep them apart for this documentary.

Having just seen Adrian on the previously reviewed "Missing Evidence", I suspected I could predict everything he was going to say. But, it has to be said, the target audience are those who are not well acquainted with the mystery. Adrian must be near his mid-60s by now and I wonder who is going to replace him in future documentaries once he retires from the Loch Ness scene?

But back to monsters and the photograph taken by Richard Preston in 2010 was presented as evidence for the Loch Ness Monster. I covered this photograph at the time and was not convinced this was a Nessie, mainly because Nessies are not white and the reflection theory had merit.

Naturally, Adrian went for the window reflection theory, but Mikko thought it was a genuine picture of the Loch Ness Monster. I would like to know what makes Mikko think that.

Adrian told the viewers that the classic pictures had nothing to do with the Loch Ness Monster. This blog respectfully disagrees with that opinion. The Surgeon's Photo was naturally brought up as an example of that and once the psychological theories of expectation and desire were wheeled in, that was meant to seal the deal as far as Nessie was concerned.

Mind you, Adrian allowed some wiggle room for large creatures in Loch Ness and said he would be delighted to be proven wrong. I would be delighted to prove him wrong, but that day has not arrived yet!


But this was a global program and it was off to Lake Champlain where we heard the testimony of Bill Billado and his brother-in-law who claimed to have seen a torso the width of a pony with a dark ridge and eel-like skin just swimming past their boat under the surface.

At Lake Champlain, we were told of 300 eyewitnesses reports, which compares to the 1500 or so we know of for Loch Ness. Dr. Ellen Marsden told us that population was an issue as a minimum of 50 was required for sustainability, though she preferred 500 to 5,000 for a more stable population.

Five thousand plesiosaur-like animals packed into Lake Champlain? Did she think through that one properly? Anyway, the point she was making was that a large number of creatures is not easily hidden. Now, Lake Champlain is nearly 20 times the surface area of Loch Ness, but I suppose hiding five thousand plesiosaurs under that is non-trivial. That's about 10 creatures per square mile after all.

As an aside, Lake Champlain expert, Scott Mardis, recently posted that sturgeons have been land locked in the lake for 10,000 years with no adverse effects of inbreeding. As a comparison, there is about 2,000 sturgeons in Lake Champlain. So, what does that suggest the population of alpha predators would be? A tenth, quarter, twentieth? Answers on a postcard, please.

Now the thing that was slightly annoying was that sophisticated sonar and ROV equipment was deployed in the hunt off Vancouver Island and Lake Champlain. What was used at Loch Ness? Mikko Takala setting up his webcam. It seems the budget ran out before they arrived in Scotland.

This hi-tech search for Champ was conducted by Chris Bocast, a sceptical expert in acoustics. Barney Bristow operated the side sonar and ROV while microphones were employed in the search for signs of infrasonic echolocation. The frequency of 96khz was mentioned but that doesn't sound infrasonic to me? Some interesting clicks and rapping sounds were recorded, but were concluded to be man-made. The ROV went down to 23 feet, which did not seem to be a very great depth to me.


Then we spanned the continent to go to Vancouver Island as Robert Iverson recounted his story from the late 1990s about the huge series of three humps which were bigger than the seals and whales he was accustomed to seeing in those waters.

Then there was the Kelly Nash video from 2009 watched by Paul Le Blond and Jason Walton. Three years on, we still await the opportunity to view the whole of this video, a video described as one of the best ever. Paul Le Blond is convinced of that, having seen the whole film, but we can only take his word for it!

Chris Barnes,  an oceanographer of the Western Canadian shores, told us these waters shelf off to a depth of 2500m. Plenty of room for Caddy to hide, but the actual ROV search was conducted in the Saanich Inlet at a depth of 16 metres (marked below). Again, not very deep, I thought, but it was better than nothing. I assumed some health and safety issues were involved.


Finishing at Loch Ness, we looked back to Pictish symbol stones with their enigmatic "elephant" and a photo allegedly taken by Mikko Takala in 2005 which he claimed "could be a plesiosaur". A look at the picture is difficult to assess as there is no background information and Mikko does not even mention it in the list of 2005 sightings his site maintains!

All in all, it was an interesting enough program which offered a chance to contrast and compare the three creatures that roam very different parts of the world. The Loch Ness evidence presented would not have been my first choice, but then again, I doubt it would have made much difference to the target audience.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Loch Ness Monster E-Books

The Loch Ness Monster Bibliography continues to grow with books old and new. As far as the new is concerned, I would anticipate at least three books coming out in the next twelve months, but for now we look back to ones previously published but in digital format.

Up until recent years, all books I have added to the bibliography were in paper form. However, some of them have since become available in downloadable formats. Indeed, some have been updated and revised, but only in e-book format. As it stands, the majority remain as hardback/paperback and out of print. In fact, it would be a good idea to digitise these old books and give them a new lease of life since they are much more searchable in this format.

But some do not appear in paper at all (or in very limited print runs) and so one has no choice but to download them. Of course, there is nothing to stop you printing them out and binding them yourselves, but the trend is towards paper and pixels with some self-published titles never appearing in paper. Let us look at some of these now.

The first is titled "Four-Teans Go To Ness" by Colin Stott which, as the Blytonesque title suggests,  documents an adventure trip to Loch Ness by four intrepid monster hunters. I have to apologise to Colin for sitting on this for two years. I did read it and found it very entertaining, but it will now take its place in the Nessie bibliography. Readers of a nervous disposition are warned that some of the language used is stronger than some evidence for the Loch Ness Monster.

In fact, cryptozoologist Nick Redfern, had already reviewed this book back in 2009, so I will defer to him and link to that article for your edification. Colin sent me a paper copy, but these are no longer available. However, fear not, as you can now purchase the e-book version at Amazon.

The second e-book is entitled "A Tale From Loch Ness" by Graeme Caisteal. He describes his book thusly:

A fifty page satirical view of all thats wrong with Nessie Hunting in Scotland. Written by Graeme Caisteal a Scot with thirty years experience in reading "between the lines".

Graeme was a friend of famous monster hunter, Frank Searle, and mounts a defense against some of the allegations thrown in Frank's direction. I first noticed his Internet presence when Fortean researcher, Mike Dash, uploaded Frank's unpublished book. In fact, you could regard Frank's "Loch Ness Investigation: What Really Happened" as an e-book in its own right. You can find it here, courtesy of Mike Dash.

Graeme replied to Mike's article and defended Frank against charges of attempted petrol bombing. The two parties agreed to disagree but I followed up to chat with Graeme and get a copy of his e-book. Graeme also adds this excerpt from his now defunct website:

The sun rose slowly as I lay there in my small canvas tent, soft filtering light caressing my face as the morning erupted around me in a blaze of colour. I sat there gathering my thoughts, engulfed in this beauty. I could hear the rush of the water lapping against the rugged shore, the birds were singing and the forest seemed to heave a huge sigh of relief as another day broke. It was a beautiful June morning and I was only a stone throw away from Scotland's biggest mystery.

As I emerged into the light of day, eyes half closed, I could just pick out the ruin of Urqhuart Castle on the far shore, standing like a monument to some ancient memories of bygone days. The heat of the day started to thaw out my bones and once again I was ready to scan the dark foreboding waters of Loch Ness. Almost one thousand feet deep would it ever give up its secret. This is the home of my water dragon. To the world, it is known as the LOCH NESS MONSTER. For some sixty years Loch Ness has been subjected to multitudes of prying eyes and the fixed gaze of the telephoto lens, videos constantly at the ready.

Armed like snipers they sit watching with baited breath, waiting for the battle to commence. All they need is it between their sights, for the camera to snap into focus on that repugnant head. They can see the beast turn as it whips the calm waters into a cascading torrent large enough to capsize any local boat and in seconds it has gone. The video camera lies abandoned at their feet. They stand stunned and in silence, did it really happen?

If only I had pressed the button. Have I missed my chance forever? I hope in writing this book others can visit Loch Ness and investigate for themselves. Build up your own knowledge, do your own research and most of all read between the lines, open your eyes. When I first headed to Loch Ness armed with only what I read. I thought I knew it all. Like most people I trusted expert opinion until one day I realised, how can you have an expert in a subject that at present no one seems able to identify?

In fact the experts cannot even agree to whether it is an animal or a fish. They even argue amongst themselves to whether it exists at all. A new approach had to be taken. The Loch Ness bug had bitten deep and it was not going to let go. Out went all the old books and ideas and in came the Graeme Caisteal dossier of Loch Ness. A huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders just to be free from the tangle of other peoples opinion. It opened up far more than I expected.........

Originally, you could have obtained this e-book from his website, but that is now gone and Graeme has so far not responded to my email. I would happily put the copy I have on Google Drive, but need Graeme's permission. I will update this article when I know what is happening.

A third e-book that has been available for some time on the Internet is "Nessie Sighting" by Norman Lee from Clacton on Sea in Essex. This is a short e-booklet which documents one man's sighting of the Loch Ness Monster back in 1970. Before his death, Mr. Lee gave his evidence into the care of Lois Wickstrom who ran the "Nessie's Grotto" website. If you send an email to, she will send you a free copy.

Norman takes us through his story of seeing a head and neck and the photograph he took. To my disappointment, the e-book does not publish this picture and Lois tells me that they were never given it. One can only guess where it is now, but from reading the text, his photo would appear to show the object in the act of submerging with the neck already underwater. Norman speaks of his "excitement" taking him longer to prepare the camera. It looks like a bit of "shock and awe" deprived us of a better picture.

Since he mentions the photo being seen by the LNIB and being sent back without the world hearing any more about it, I will assume it was not a game changer. The e-book also gives an insight into his personal dealings with the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau and Tim Dinsdale (misspelt "Dimsdale"). I note that Tim interviewed Norman with his tape recorder and an LNIB report form was filled out. So, there is extra information out there to check this ebook testimony against.

It is not clear whether Tim's cassette tape recording was for his own private research or done in an LNIB capacity. For now, I will assume the former and the tape now lies in his family's archives.

So, there you have it. Three e-books for your interest. I assume there are more of these non-paper items out there. If you know of any,  leave a comment below.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Gould's Annotations

I have said it here before and I'll say it here again. Underneath the topsoil of the various books and articles that have been written on the Loch Ness Monster lies a deeper strata of newspaper clippings, scrawled notes, audio recordings, photographs and correspondence.

To the modern researcher, this rich vein of information lies largely untapped as older researchers went to their graves and their collections followed in a manner reminiscent of the treasures of the Pharaohs of old. Unlike the Pharaohs of old, many of these cryptozoological treasures looked doomed to remain buried and never make the display cabinet.

The research of Lt. Cmdr. Rupert T. Gould is a case in point. I was researching some aspects of his work recently and established contact with Jonathan Betts, author of "Time Restored", the definitive biography of Gould's life and work.

Jonathan had added a chapter on Gould's cryptozoological activities and so I asked him about the status of Gould's personal archives. Jonathan told me that when Gould died in 1948, his son, Cecil, chucked all his research notes away. Cabinets full of files on Horology, Sea Serpents and the Loch Ness Monster were simply consigned to the dump never to be retrieved again.

I'll say that again, his son dumped the lot. Decades of careful and dedicated research destroyed in the merest fraction of that time. As they say, it is easier to destroy than create. Apparently, Cecil never really liked his father, this seemed to have been part of the motive behind this large act of vandalism. I would assume from this that Cecil was also a Nessie sceptic.

You might think that if Glasgow Boy was there when this crime was happening, he would have given Cecil Gould a Glasgow Kiss. Be rest assured, I would be more likely negotiating a way to take possession of these valuable archives. But, yes, it would be the Glasgow Kiss if he refused.

Only kidding.

Doubtless, there were far worse things going on in the world when Cecil Gould committed this deed, so I won't attempt to elevate the blackness of the deed above the events of that day. However, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth and is the worst I have heard of in cryptozoological stories.

However, Jonathan offered a small crumb of comfort by sending me the scans of Gould's personal annotations to his "The Loch Ness Monster and Others" (1934) and "The Case for the Sea Serpent" (1930). These copies of Gould's work are held in the library of the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, London. Most are of a typographical nature, but some add extra information. For example, Gould comments on his map of Loch Ness on page 4 of "The Loch Ness Monster".

He says:

"This is a very poor sketch map : one of the worst, I think, that I've ever drawn. Something on the lines of the end-paper map would have been far better. RTG 18-XI-41"

Gould added that comment on the 18th November 1941, and most were around that time. More telling (for sceptics) is his volte face on the Spicers' famous land sighting.

"Were I re-writing the book, I should have omitted this case. I think the Spicers saw a huddle of deer crossing the road. RTG"

I covered this recantation in a previous article. This is an example that older Loch Ness researchers were not always a bunch of "Yes" people when it came to reports. However, you can be certain that sceptics are "No" people all ends up.

Further on, Gould makes a comment regarding manta ray fish and monster reports. A Mr. Fleming had written to the Daily Record suggesting Loch Ness now had one of these huge fish in it. Gould adds this comment.

"Agreeing with Palmer's statement (no.12) very well. I haven't noticed this till now. RTG 1-XI-45"

Gould is referring to the curious case of Mr. A. H. Palmer who saw what appeared to be a mouth opening and closing on the surface of the loch. Gould reproduced the sketch below for his book.

I suppose I can see some resemblance to the manta ray, but I will let others make a defence of this as a serious Loch Ness Monster contender!

Another interesting addition was a press clipping from The Listener from the 16th June 1938, which reviewed a radio talk given by Rupert Gould eight days previously. I reproduce it here for your interest and note that Gould is still sticking to the monster being a sea serpent (though whether mammal, reptile or fish he cannot tell). Click on the image to enlarge and read.

Finally, Gould includes some sea serpents annotations, for which I include only one which involves a Mr. Kemp, who claimed to have seen the creature below.

Gould adds the following comment: "He saw it again in 1936 or 1937. See "Cadborosaurus" file. RTG 7.III.38".

Now, wouldn't it be great to get a hold of Gould's "Cadborosaurus" file and flick through it? I know some people that would love to do that. However, as we read at the top, a sceptic got his hands on the files and destroyed them. I will restrain my words again at this point and count to ten.

Today, evidence continues to be destroyed as eyewitnesses report something to sceptics, but they are not believed and ignored. Is this as bad as filing cabinets ending up in a landfill? You decide.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Review Of "The Missing Evidence: The Loch Ness Monster"

British broadcaster Channel 5 televised the next in their series "Missing Evidence" on Monday, and Nessie was the subject of choice for their investigation. I have seen many a documentary over the years and the trend has, not surprisingly, been towards the sceptical. This programme very much continued that trend.

The program followed several threads of enquiry which were designed to lead the viewer to the conclusion that there's no such thing as the Loch Ness Monster.


Well, not quite. Arrayed against a line up of sceptically minded guests was Gordon Holmes, the one person who held out that a large creature of some description inhabited Loch Ness. Gordon's 2007 video naturally featured, but he was also filmed pursuing his latest hunting ideas. That meant a foray along the shores of the loch at night time. I like that idea, I have promoted it on this blog many a time.

Gordon trained a high powered lamp onto the loch in the hope of catching a sight of the creature. Quite how he planned to deploy the device and capture evidence was not made clear, but more power to his elbow, I say. His well known video was discussed, with the theory that it (and a nearby, similar disturbance) was the now ubiquitous seal. Gordon himself is not of this opinion. He thinks he filmed two members of a species of giant eel.

However, the main narration thread involved well known sceptic, Adrian Shine, as we were taken through a brief history of the phenomenon and Adrian's theories on it. Cue a whistle stop tour starting at St. Columba and spending an inordinate amount of time at the "Plesiosaur" and "Surgeon's Photo" stations.

Perhaps it is just my well worn familiarity with the subject, but it was a bit tedious watching the plesiosaur being trotted out again and being shot down to the exclusion of all other potential candidates. Again, no mention of the other alternatives, giving the unseasoned viewer the impression that if you disprove plesiosaurs, you disproved everything animal.

I hesitate to mention the Atlantic Sturgeon which inevitably gets mentioned when Adrian is around. But, you bet, it got the mandatory mention, but there is no evidence that such a creature has ever been in Loch Ness, and even if it had, Adrian himself admits it only forms a tiny part of the sightings database.

So, of all the various pieces of film and photo evidence that have passed our eyes, which ones were analysed? Only those which suited the sceptical theme and that meant the Surgeon's Photo and the 1972 Flipper Photo. I don't doubt this story is of interest to those unfamiliar with the subject, so I guess they are always going to turn up. My only wish is that the main man who actually exposed the photograph, Alastair Boyd, got the credit or, better still, did the talking himself.

One thing I did find interesting about the flipper analysis (by Mike Hartshorne), was his attempts to enhance the original photo using modern image processing software. Even this could not match the retouched flipper photo, which is not surprising.


Speaking of databases, Charles Paxton's ongoing work on a comprehensive sightings analysis was featured, and this was new to Nessie documentaries. The program promised some breakthrough evidence, which I shall come to later. I had attended Charles' recent talk on the same database work, so some of what was said was interesting, but Charles had already told me he planned to publish his findings in an appropriate science journal.

In other words, this documentary was probably not the prime place for full disclosure. Either way, Charles said his work neither proves or disproves the existence of the Loch Ness Monster. However, the multi-hump genre was mentioned as one statistical cluster than predominates in calm weather.

One may assume that was the case because multiple humps are harder to spot in rough, choppy waters, but this was taken to be a sign that all such cases were boat wakes. A seeming contradiction then ensued. The documentary switched to the FloWave machine run by Edinburgh University which can reproduce various wave effects. This mechanical tank allowed waves of various forms to be driven against each other to produce standing waves.

We were told that the topology of Loch Ness allowed for boat wakes to reflect off the loch sides to produce these effects. But I don't think that is the case, more likely the waves just dissipate as they reach the shores. Any standing wave effects are more likely to come from interacting boat wakes.

Those seals got a mention again when Charles told us the average reported length of a sighted object was 16 feet. This seemed good enough for Adrian to raise the matter of seals as a source of single hump reports and even the odd land sighting. He mentioned the creature moving in front of pony carts, which I take to be a reference to the 1919 Jock Forbes story. He had estimated the creature slithering past them to be at least 12 feet long. But seals are only a few feet long, so we are assured he was way out in his estimate - despite having the width of the road as a ruler!


Adrian then declared there was one or more seals in Loch Ness during the manic year of 1934 to keep the story going. Again, there is no evidence that seals were in Loch Ness during that period. These inquisitive, frequent surfacers would have most surely been seen and photographed while Loch Ness was under intense scrutiny. Adrian states there were reports of seals but does not mention who and where.

But I suspect one of them was the claimed sighting by notorious hoaxer, Marmaduke Wetherell, creator of the dubious hippo tracks and the Surgeon's photograph. I would not trust his account any further than I could throw him and the seal theory was a tactic of  his employer, the Daily Mail, to gracefully opt out of the hunt after the debacle of the hippopotamus tracks.

I'll tell you what though, Loch Ness seemed to be host to all manner of creatures between 1933 and 1934. We have Adrian's sturgeon and seals on patrol but we also had Albert Jack's swimming elephants.

Why this theory was included in the program was beyond me, it is so daft that even the narrator felt compelled to argue against it. The theory was that Bertram Mills would take his circus elephants for dips in Loch Ness and fool a lot of people into thinking the back and trunk were the classic head-neck.

It's a pity they didn't try and argue against the other sceptical theories to add some balance to the program. In fact, it would have been better to edit out Albert Jack's ramblings and get Gordon Holmes (or someone else) to have a go!


That brings us to a fellow called Chris French. He is Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths College, University of London and he is a vocal, ardent and prestigious sceptic. I have seen him before on other programs debunking other mysteries, so I presume the Loch Ness Monster is not his specialist subject. His assignment was to go beyond the seals, waves and elephants to add the "icing" of misperception.

First of all, he went through the expectations of our brains, false memories, the suggestibility of memory and the influence of cultural imagery. The implication of this was that the brain is not a perfect recording device and will fill in any gaps with preconceived notions about the Loch Ness Monster.

In an attempt to demonstrate how memories can be manipulated, French set up an experiment where pairs of volunteers watched a staged robbery, discussed the contents of the video and were then tested on their recall.

As it turned out, one of the pair was a "stooge" who would suggest false information to the other person. As a result, the majority of volunteers got some things wrong. They thought a gun was there when it was not, likewise somebody stacking shelves and a certain type of jacket were not there.

What was then attempted looked like a sceptic's version of "bait and switch". The robbery video was replaced by an object on Loch Ness. The stooge feeding false information was replaced by the plesiosaur imagery witnesses allegedly carry in their minds. We were then invited to accept that this is how birds, logs and waves become dinosaurs.

But in a narrative twist, Charles Paxton revealed that comparisons of retold eyewitness testimonies, often decades apart, were unexpectedly consistent and did not grow with the telling. Charles regarded this as a "mystery" and we did not get the pleasure of seeing Mr. French trying to explain this away.

My own view of this is simple. Dramatic events, such as seeing a real, large creature will burn into the memory more readily and have a greater permanence. You will know this yourselves, memorable events, be they good or bad, are retained better in our memories. Why Mr. French did not address this as a real aspect of eyewitness perception is also a "mystery" to me.

As for the attempt to reframe the experiment in a Loch Ness setting, I am far from convinced. A dark object against the back drop of uncomplicated, homogeneous water is not going to tax the memory as much as a complex robbery scene in a shop. A supposed idea of a dinosaur is a far cry from someone beside you feeding misinformation. Moreover, this theory does not explain close up sightings where opportunities for memory gaps are at a minimum. And, lastly, the theory is unfalsifiable, which is not where objective, critical thinking should end up.


But Chris French left his most dubious theory to the end and this was our supposed revelation from Charles Paxton's database. Using an annual chart of sightings since 1933, he claimed that the number of sightings rose and fell with various monster films. The obvious one is King Kong from 1933, but I have covered that canard in a previous article.

The other mentioned film was one I had never heard of called "The Giant Behemoth" which was released in 1959. Now sightings subsequently increased into the 1960s, but we don't need a little watched B-movie to explain that coincidence. The Dinsdale film of 1960 and the arrival of the LNIB in 1962 to improve the collecting of sightings is all you need to know.

It was also mentioned that the much watched "X-Files" was responsible for an uptick in Nessie sightings. However, this run of 202 episodes ran from 1993 to 2002, which is a pretty broad spread for making any comparisons. Moreover, not many of these episodes dealt with lake cryptids. Ultimately, I would like to see his graph of supposed correlations and particularly how well it stacks against monster films which see no increase in sightings.

So, after an hour of trying to convince me that Nessie did not exist, I still believe Nessie exists. Then again, I am a diehard who will fight his corner. The man on the Clapham Omnibus may come to a different conclusion, especially if the argument was as imbalanced as it was on Channel 5.

As the program drew to a close, Adrian Shine reminded us of those three sonar contacts obtained during Operation Deepscan. He said he still did not know what they were, but that this did not mean they were monsters. This was probably the nearest admission from "Missing Evidence" that there is yet a mystery to be solved in Loch Ness.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

New Dinsdale Newsletter for Archive

Paul Cropper, a Fortean researcher from Australia, regularly sends me pieces of Loch Ness information he comes across during his investigations. So, I was happy to receive another Tim Dinsdale newsletter from him which I have now added to the archive.

It is titled "Commentary No.5" and appears to date from about 1980. You can access it at this link while the general link for the Tim Dinsdale newsletters is here and for the Rip Hepple newsletters is here.

One snippet that caught that my attention concerns an alleged land sighting.

Now, this is a third hand account from an ex-resident of Fort Augustus Abbey. Tim attempted to contact the witness' daughter, Sandra Smith, in Vienna, but with no success. It's some story, but there is little that one can do with it except state that no one else to my knowledge has ever reported a Loch Ness Monster in such an aggressive mood. Apart, of course, from Adamnan and his account of St. Columba's life!

Tim goes through some first hand accounts of monster sightings as well as everyday life at the loch - down to how he gets on with some bumblebees!

He ends his letter seemingly taking the decisive step of selling his "Water Horse" boat and determining to go back to land based watches. He expresses frustration with not getting the evidence he wished from years on the water. He had a couple of long neck sightings, but that was not good enough. He wanted the close up film which would finally vindicate him and the other monster hunters he knew.

Off the top of my head, it is not clear how he spent the final years of his life at Loch Ness. Did he stay on land or go back to his boat? Perhaps if somebody has some later newsletters, we can all find out.