Sunday, 17 March 2019

Hugh Gray, his Brother and Jaws

To start with, I recently limbered up for a chat with fellow cryptozoologist, Andy McGrath, by watching the classic but not so cryptozoological monster film "Jaws". It was then that a bit of synchronicity turned up while I considered the content of this latest article. First up was a scene with a labrador dog swimming with a stick in its mouth, which I immediately snapped with my mobile phone and show above. To tell you the truth, it looks nothing like the supposed dog in the Hugh Gray photo.

But then again, someone else has decided it is no longer a dog, but a swan whilst another has recently gone for a rowing boat. The clarity and consensus is less than impressive. On the very same subject of this picture, I recently reviewed an old article from the Aberdeen Press and Journal dated the 7th December 1933, which I show in the large below. Hugh Gray's photo was the centre of attention and controversy as experts of all shades chipped in with their opinions. The lesser rorqual whale came in for some discussion as the general morphology of this strange creature was compared and contrasted against the whale.

But it was a particular excerpt that caught my attention and which I zoom into below. The text talks about what appears to be a strange, whale-like mouth which is clearly visible.There is no doubt in my mind that they are talking about the fish like head that is visible to the right and which I reproduce further below.

Now when you mention this image to critics of this picture, their confirmation bias just refuses to acknowledge it. They can quite happily tell you how they can see a dog, swan, otter, boat or other in the picture, but this one is forbidden territory because it challenges them. It is much better to ignore it and hope it goes away. But it won't and those who had access to better photographic prints back in 1933 bear witness against their obstinacy.

A final word on this photograph concerns the Wikipedia entry for it which I quote below.

Hugh Gray's photograph taken near Foyers on 12 November 1933 was the first photograph alleged to depict the monster. It was slightly blurred, and it has been noted that if one looks closely the head of a dog can be seen. Gray had taken his Labrador for a walk that day, and it is suspected that the photograph depicts his dog fetching a stick from the loch. Others have suggested the photograph depicts an otter or a swan. The original negative was lost. However, in 1963 Maurice Burton came into "possession of two lantern slides, contact positives from th[e] original negative" and when projected on screen it revealed an "otter rolling at the surface in characteristic fashion."

As you can see, there is a bit of emphasis on the dog explanation, but whoever composed this text has decided to add an untruth. Namely, that Hugh Gray took his labrador for a walk that day. There is no record anywhere of Hugh Gray owning a labrador dog, let alone walking it that day. I stand to be corrected if anyone cares to provide the original source for this, but until then, it is a fabrication. 

Sadly, Wikipedia is a hotbed for this wrong type of scepticism. In fact, the page seems to have undergone a re-edit and a certain sceptic's number of mentions comes out on top ahead of all others. At the same time, somebody had removed a mention of the fish like head in the picture. Shameful but unsurprising.


It was some years back that I was in conversation with a local Foyers man as I made enquiries about Hugh Gray. I was told that he had a brother called Sandy who had drowned in the loch. I noted that in the back of my mind and moved onto other things. But that little fact came back to me when I reread an old piece from the Inverness Courier dated 30th May 1933 shown below.

Here we read of an A. Gray of Foyers who attempted to lure the monster with a floating hook and bait setup. It was not successful, though it had merit and the bait technique was repeated in various forms in the years to come. Since Sandy is a nickname for Alexander, we can be pretty sure this A. Gray was Alexander Gray, brother of Hugh. Quite unaware of this fraternal connection, sceptic Ronald Binns in his book, "The Loch Ness Mystery Solved", tries to make out that this A. Gray was in fact H. Gray.

Binns then makes out that this bait and hook experiment was not a serious endeavour but a staged joke. The "logic" is clear enough. You try to implicate Hugh Gray in a joke and therefore anything else he does as regards monsters is also a joke. Nice try, but no cigar. It was also interesting that the aforementioned "Jaws" used the very same scene when two men try to capture the shark with a hook and meat joint attached to a floating tyre (below). It seems to be a tried and true method for capturing big fish. In their case, half the pier went from under them as the fish took the bait.

But it seems that like his brother Hugh, Sandy also had multiple sightings of the monster. The first reference is in the early weeks and months of the Nessie phenomenon in 1933. It comes from the Australian Sunday Times dated 3rd December 1933, though I suspect it occurred closer to June 1933.

When I find the primary Scottish newspaper source for this story, I will add it, but I suspect this is the same bus driver mentioned by a William McCulloch in Nicholas Witchell's "The Loch Ness Story":

The Spicers continued on their way and met a cyclist. This man's name was William McCulloch, a native of Foyers who when he heard their story was, according to Mr. Spicer, "astounded - not frightened, just incredulous. He added that he was glad we had seen it because people were laughing at a bus driver friend of his in the village who had reported seeing it."

However, his best sighting appears to have been in 1935 as this report from The Scotsman dated 21st June 1935 details.


Angler has a Close-up View


It was learned in Inverness yesterday that Mr A. J. Gray, chauffeur, Foyers, while out fishing on Loch Ness at Foyers on Wednesday night, had an excellent view of the monster. Mr Gray, in an interview, said he saw the monster moving about the loch for more than 25 minutes. Other three people whom he summoned also had a view for a good part of that time. These were Mrs Cameron, Post Office, Foyers; Mr J. Batchen, gardener, Boleskine, and a friend. "I was about 20 yards out in the loch." said Mr Gray, "when I suddenly saw a big black object rise in the water, about 100 yards farther out, In the deeper part of the loch.

It was the back of the monster. Shortly after the head and neck appeared, rising from eighteen inches to two feet out of the water. Behind I saw quite plainly a series of what appeared to be small ridges, seven in number, apparently belonging to the tail of the creature, which now and again caused much commotion in the water. The head was like a horse's, but not as large as that of a horse. It was rather small in relation to the huge body, which was of a slatey black colour. From the way the creature moved in the water I have not the slightest doubt that it was extremely heavy. In moving it gave a sort of lurch forward, which seemed to carry it about four yards at a time.


"As I watched it the monster started to go across the loch. I got out of the water with all the haste I could in heavy waders, and then walked along to the Post Office, about 900 yards distant and informed Mrs Cameron. who, along with the gardener and a friend hurried to the lochside. We all saw the monster further out in the loch, but its head and tail were no longer visible. The monster, which had gone out to near the middle of the loch, then turned and came towards the shore again. It came within two hundred yards of where we were standing before it set off in the direction of Invermoriston, where it passed out of sight." Mr Gray added that he had seen the monster on four previous occasions. He had never obtained such a clear view of the monster as on this occasion. 

This has the hallmarks of a triple A Nessie sighting. It involves a close up sighting at 100 yards, it lasted 25 minutes in the view of an experienced witness along with other multiple witnesses. What's not to like (apart from no one having a camera)? If you're a dyed in the wool pseudo-sceptic, you'll be looking around trying to conjure up the mythical seal which infallibly turns up on these occasions. That sounds like a great explanation apart from the minor problem that this looks nothing like a seal.

Or just press the emergency "imperfect witness" button and all is well again as we are told these people couldn't possibly have described what they saw properly. After all, there is no Loch Ness Monster, right? What blows that already dying theory out of the water is the fact that Alexander Gray is a top class witness. As I looked around for references to Mr. Gray, I found out that he was quite an avid Loch Ness angler as you will note from the various stories posted here. Like other angling witnesses such as John McLean, Roland O'Brien, Tim Richardson, Ala MacGruer, J. Harper Smith and, of course, monster author, Ted Holiday, these people should not be so easily dismissed by critics, they are the best class of witnesses around and it is arrogance to discard them without serious enquiry.

As this regular Scotsman angling column from the 15th February 1938 shows, Alexander Gray was an angler who would sometimes make it into their column with a notable catch of fish from the loch. The clipping below tells us of his catching of a 19lb salmon from what appears to be his favourite angling spot off Foyers.  As an aside, eagled eyed readers may note the mention of a Mr. J. MacLean who landed a 12 pounder. There is little doubt in my mind that this is the aforementioned John McLean who would four months later go onto have one of the clearest views of the monster - another experienced angler whose experience of loch conditions and wildlife should not be so easily dismissed.

A further newspaper item from the Scotsman 29th December 1933 reveals some information about two curious events at Loch Ness prior to the 1933 "reveal" of Nessie. 

The 1914 account refers to a classic single hump which forms the most common type of sighting. Does the Loch Ness Monster weigh 15 tons as he estimated from six feet of back showing on the surface? I myself would think this is an over estimate going for something below 4 tonnes, though it does depend on what overall length one assumes from six feet of back. The final account from 1893 involves no sight of any creature but is indicative of something powerful. If we speculate that a seal was in the loch (unlikely from a statistical point of view), could it have forced a salmon net from the grasp of at least three men? Probably not, but without a visual confirmation of the object, we can only speculate on this one.

But time catches up with all of us and Alex Gray passed away on the 23rd February 1949 as related below by the Dundee Courier the following day. His untimely death appears to have been caused by his boat capsizing in a storm and I am surprised he was caught out by these conditions after decades of fishing experience. Since I would expect a body to sink into the deep upon death, I would surmise his boat capsized in shallower waters as he tried to row back to shore.

For those of a sleuth like nature, a reporter from one of these clippings has made an error that does not harmonise with another clipping. But I will leave it as an exercise for others to find his mistake. It doesn't change the fact that Sandy Gray claimed several sightings of the Loch Ness Monster and as an angler with experience of the loch, its waves, its wildlife, its weather and its occasionally deceptive features, you have two choices. He is either lying or he is telling the truth. You decide.

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Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Midnight in the Desert talk now available

As stated yesterday, I did my Internet Radio chat with Midnight In The Desert, though my host for the night turned out to be cryptid lover, Shannon LeGro. It was a good chat covering a wide range of questions. Now the talk took place at 6am my time - before sun up. This would normally be a time of day I would say "no" to interviews, but I roused myself and was quite okay.

 You can listen to the talk at this link.

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Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Nessie Talk on Midnight in the Desert

I will be joining Dave Schrader for some Nessie talk late tonight on his show. The details are below but anyone in the UK will have to be up at 6am on Wednesday!

Join me tonight LIVE on Midnight in the Desert with Dave Schrader
9pm – 12am Pacific Time (12am – 3am EST)
I would love to hear from you…
Lines will be Open: 480-571-3540
To listen click here:

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Wednesday, 6 March 2019

First Nessie Picture of 2019?

The Nessie season appears to have kicked off with a new photo (above) purportedly of the Loch Ness Monster taken eleven days ago. The story from the Scottish Sun runs thusly:

THE Loch Ness monster appears to have become active once again with two apparent sightings in just five days after the beast had not been for a whole month. A woman from Manchester claims to have spotted and photographed the creature on February 23.

Lisa Brennan, 30, and her partner, Danny, 37, were driving near to Urquhart Castle when they made the first February sighting. Lisa's snap shows a L-shaped black object on the water which could be taken as the head and neck of Nessie.

She said the object disappeared shortly after she took the image. Lisa said today: “We were driving around the loch and as we got to Urquhart Bay, just before the castle, I spotted a dark object around 3ft tall above the water surface. “I shouted, ‘Oh my god I've just seen something.’ He slowed down the car, didn't believe me but each to their own. "By the time I had got the camera ready on my phone the object had lowered into the water so I only managed to get as much as I did on the photo as it then disappeared into the water.

“I made him turn around at the castle and go back to see if we saw anything else but unfortunately we didn't. Danny didn't see anything as he was driving, but said my reaction to what I saw was very convincing.”

On examination of the picture, it was my assumption that the two white dots further up may be seagulls or swans which implies the object of interest is not that big, even allowing for its closer proximity. The sandbank near the two swans/seagulls forms part of the Coiltie-Enrick estuary. Having said that, Lisa's estimate of three feet would back up that "small" feeling. The object submerged, which is normally a useful feature, but they then briefly departed from the scene to turn around which allows time for any bird or other water animal to fly off or swim out of view.

So, nothing to see here, move on. The first of the blobby nessies has arrived to continue the line of, at best, inconclusive pictures over recent years such as those taken by Natalie Hodgson, Isla Ross, Charlotte Robinson, the Locke family and so on. Poor mobile phone cameras, too far away objects and so on. The trouble is when something interesting surfaces close by (such as that by Ricky Phillips), a dose of toogoodtobetrueitis sets in plus close up shots lose the context of where they are, thus obscuring the overall picture. The happy medium between close proximity and background is something surprised witnesses are unlikely to control.

As an update, I could be more cynical and invoke the tree debris that was photographed in that area in 2017 when the Hayley Johnson picture was being discussed. It does have a curious resemblance to the object above, but is it still there? Of course, if it was a log, then our witnesses are not being  truthful about it disappearing. Hmmm.


Meantime, the Mirror newspaper consulted two resident Loch Ness experts, Adrian Shine and Steve Feltham, in the light of this latest report. It starts somewhat ambiguously in saying:

But both men say they have reached the disappointing conclusion that Nessie there never was a prehistoric monster living in the loch. And they claimed that the recent sighting, like the more than a thousand other Nessie sightings down the years, have a much less fantastic explanation.

Had Steve Feltham stopped believing in a monster in Loch Ness? The statement was actually a bit more nuanced as it referred only to a "prehistoric monster" which I presume is meant to encompass such long extinct creatures as plesiosaurs, basilosaurs and so on.  Yes, well I must admit I don't hold to those either. Steve was quoted on his giant catfish theory again and Adrian mentioned his old theory of sturgeons. 

As for this week's picture, let's hope things improve from hereon in and something akin to the picture below will turn up. Just make sure y'all get your vaccine shots for toogoodtobetrueitis first.

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Thursday, 28 February 2019

Pseudo-scepticism and the Loch Ness Monster

In my new book on photographs of the Loch Ness Monster, I take a different tack to the traditional works by pro-Nessie authors. In the past, photos were published, eyewitness tales were recounted and evidence for the monster was sought within the images. Today is the age of scepticism and various arguments brought against not some but all photographs arise and must be examined and challenged. You may say that is a good thing which encourages debate.

However, I would like to make a point that has led me to change my wording when it comes to addressing the arguments of sceptics against the existence of the Loch Ness Monster. To wit, I have now decided to label such people and their arguments as pseudo-sceptics and pseudo-scepticism. I do this in deference to real scepticism which one should seek to employ where possible at all times.

What is the difference you may well ask? In the context of the subject of this blog, pseudo-scepticism takes the position that there cannot be such a thing as the Loch Ness Monster (i.e. an exotic, large unidentified creature seen in the loch) and therefore any eyewitness report, photograph, film or sonar image must of necessity be deconstructed into an explanation based on known explicable events and objects, there is no room for monsters.

Note this is not the same as a person who disbelieves in the monster but still goes about their investigations in a true sceptical manner. This, I put to you, is not true scepticism which would attempt to maintain an open mind and assess such reports in a critical but unbiased and unprejudiced manner. Now pseudo-sceptics may claim to have an open mind on the subject, but their actions betray such words. This is demonstrated in several ways.

Firstly, it is a sign of pseudo-scepticism to maintain that none of the 2000+ known witnesses over 100+ years have accurately described what they claim as a large creature (unless it looks like a sturgeon). Apart from being a statistical improbability, it betrays a prejudice which proposes such a thing when other disciplines (e.g. history and jurisprudence) do accept eyewitness testimonies at face value but apply due and proper sceptical enquiry on an individual case by case basis.

Secondly, it is a sign of pseudo-scepticism when counter-intuitive explanations are offered for what eyewitness have seen or recorded. One classic example of this was the 1938 John McLean sighting of a 20 foot creature seen at 20 yards. One leading critic suggested he had seen a group of cormorants, despite the witness being an angler at Loch Ness whom we assume was familiar with such things. A second example was from another "expert" in these matters who used ad hominem tactics to suggest one group of eyewitnesses (the monks at Fort Augustus Abbey) were well known for imbibing too much and therefore should not be trusted.

Thirdly, it is a sign of pseudo-scepticism when illogical techniques (as opposed to explanations) are applied in the deconstructing of eyewitness reports. Refer to my article on "tricks of the sceptics" to see how it is more of the politician and the lawyer that prevails in an analysis than the logician and scientist.

Fourthly, it is a sign of pseudo-scepticism when they stick to the same repetitive arguments even when sufficient doubt has been cast upon them. This is because the primary purpose of a pseudo-sceptical argument is not scientific enquiry but to cast doubt and dismiss. So long as it achieves this, then it is useful and therefore is to be retained. Some examples are the long discredited vegetable mats and the "dog" explanation for the Hugh Gray photograph.

Fifthly, it is a sign of pseudo-scepticism when no recognition at all is made of studies made by cryptozoologists. The tactic is obvious in its deployment as no credence must be made to such people lest it is seen as a concession to cryptozoology. In fact, efforts will be made to portray cryptozoology as a danger to scientific enquiry.

Finally, it is a sign of pseudo-scepticism when an explanation is infallibly fashioned for every event and no room is made for the inconclusive. Indeed, it is a vanishingly rare thing for a pseudo-sceptic to say "I can't explain that". By making such an admission, they are not admitting to the existence of a large creature, but the confirmation bias that is deeply ingrained blocks even statements of such neutrality from coming out.

You may ask whether there is any sign of true scepticism in the field of Loch Ness Monster research? The answer is, of course, yes. People can follow the correct lines of enquiry and come to the best natural conclusions. Possessing a pseudo-sceptical attitude does not preclude viable explanations being made at points over time. However, it does not follow that instances of successful investigations is an exoneration of pseudo-sceptical attitudes and does not condone their tactics.

One final point is whether a person is a pseudo-sceptic or merely displaying the traits of pseudo-scepticism? It is a subtle point which may largely be in the eye of the beholder. But I would say that those who persist in indulging in pseudo-sceptical tactics may be justly called pseudo-sceptics.

Not surprisingly, when I put forward such a view elsewhere, the usual attempts at deflection ensued as the term "pseudo-cryptozoologist" cropped up. It's an odd term since cryptozoology is labelled as a pseudo-science, so does that make pseudo-cryptozoology a pseudo-pseudo-science?

Anyway, I was already aware of this antithesis of the pseudo-sceptic which is a cryptozoologist or "believer" who accepts everything as evidence and fits his arguments to make them so.  However, such a charge is lacking the force which is applied to the pseudo-sceptic.  I say this, because although the pseudo-sceptic rejects all reports as false, the cryptozoologist patently does not accept all reports as true.

I certainly do not accept all testimonies, films, photographs and sonar readings as proof of the Loch Ness Monster and I suspect every cryptozoologist to a man and woman does not accept them all either; be it Nessie, Champ, Ogopogo or Caddy. The other point is that, unlike pseudo-sceptics who rate all reports as 100% false, not all sightings, photos, films or sonar are created equal in the eyes of the cryptozoologist.

Cryptozoologists (such as myself) will rate recordings or reports in different manners. One may believe a photo to be genuine, but only just at 51% whereas another may go up to 80%. Cryptozoologists will disagree over whether something if genuine, fake or misidentified. That is called healthy debate, whereas the one size fits all rejection of the pseudo-sceptics has a stale unanimity - you know well in advance what their "conclusions" are going to be.

But one may retort that a pseudo-sceptic could not accept even one report as genuine as that would put them in danger of becoming a "believer". That point is conceded, but they can still mark the better attested reports as "inconclusive" or "I can't explain that" rather than being compelled to offer strange explanations about cormorants at 20 yards.

But to be truthful, charges of prejudice in assessing reports is a problem across this divide. I admit I will have a degree of bias in my investigations. It is my job to minimise this universal human failing in me to the best of my ability. What I cannot stomach is these vocal critics of the phenomenon not stepping up to admit they have it too. They are not Vulcans after all, but that is a problem they have to face and deal with. As an example, it was a joke to see one state his bias as being logical analysis. Can you see the contradiction in that phrase?

Are there any real Loch Ness Monster sceptics out there? Given human nature's foibles, I doubt the ideal sceptic exists, so I personally will remain neutral on the question of who comes closest. But the next time one of these people turns up on an Internet forum, in a magazine or book, just ask yourself what the underlying motive might be behind those criticisms they launch against reports of the Loch Ness Monster.

The author can be contacted at

Monday, 18 February 2019

Preview of the book "Photographs of the Loch Ness Monster"

My third book on the Loch Ness Monster is now published and can be purchased at these links for Amazon USA and UK. From the first photograph taken by Hugh Gray in November 1933 to the most recent by Ricky Phillips in December 2018, dozens of pictures are recounted and analyzed and pseudo-scepticism is confronted on the written page. Having said that, not all photographs have made it into the book and those may yet await a future and final publication. Indeed, there are pictures that may as yet be unknown or lost to sight, especially those from the 80s and 90s.

The subtitle, "The good, the bad and the ugly" denotes three types of photographs of the Loch Ness Monster. The good ones which genuinely portray the large creature of Loch Ness. There are the bad ones which are natural objects misinterpreted and then there are the ugly ones which are the products of hoaxers and fakers. I may not necessarily state what I believe to be good, bad or ugly and note that the dismantling of so called sceptical arguments is an analysis of them on their own merits or demerits.

Now by way of preview, I include an excerpt from the book concerning the Roy Johnston sequence of pictures taken in August 2002. Let me just say that these photos were, in my opinion, subjected to a masterclass in pseudo-sceptical debunking and as a consequence rejected by many in the cryptozoological community. It is now time to take a fresh look at them and those who sought to destroy their credibility. Let me quote from pages 299 and 306 of the book.

EXPERTS say an amateur could never have taken the remarkable pictures. Independent snapper John McLellan claims the pictures were almost certainly taken using a tripod. He added: "The background is the same in each of the eight frames."

The third objection I will now address concerns the statement that the sequence of images suggests the use of a tripod rather than the situation Mr. Johnston describes.  This is not a cogent argument which becomes apparent if you watched the animation sequence I produced from the thumbnails. If you watch how the hillside changes throughout the sequence, it is obvious that this is not the product of a tripod solidly taking the same background throughout as the opposite hillside judders by 13% horizontally and 3% vertically. 

Roy Johnston said he took the pictures from the camera hanging around his neck. Now take a look at the animation below produced from the eight images Roy Johnston took in total. Since the animation cannot be printed in a book, it is appropriate to reproduce it here. If this is the product of a stable tripod, then I marvel at the strange logic of these critics. More to the point, did they lie or were they just lazy in their assessment? You can make your own minds up on that one. Either way, these so called experts do not come out smelling of roses.

You will also notice the splash at the end of the sequence which many took as the creature re-entering the waters. That is actually not the case and does not seem to have been picked up by the various critics at the time. The splash is in fact some metres ahead of the last visible position of the creature. Compare the various positions of the creature and splashes against the hill in the background. This would suggest the animal merely slipped into the water and the splash is in fact tossed up from some subsequent and invisible underwater motion.

You may also note that the progression of the creature as it submerges in comparison to the hill takes it on a course to where the splash eventually appears. That would appear to be a strange thing to do if it was an alleged CGI overlay sequence.

I will say more about this sequence in my book, but this was an argument confidently put forward by Dick Raynor when he allegedly assessed these pictures. He dogmatically stated other arguments against these pictures which made me wonder how equally fragile those arguments were? You will find out more about these and the hatchet job employed by the gutter press in my book.

So, if you feel you have benefited from this blog over the years, then show your appreciation by buying this book. Have an enjoyable read!

The author can be contacted at

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Podcast Talk on the Loch Ness Monster

I had a two hour chat with Scott Mardis for his Monster X Channel a few days ago and we covered a wide range of subjects on the Loch Ness Monster. Scott is a knowledgeable person when it comes to Nessie and particularly on the creature he witnessed himself, Champ of Lake Champlain. He is also the creator of the popular Facebook group, The Zombie Plesiosaur Society.

Follow this link to hear us discourse on things aquatic, Scottish and cryptozoological.

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