Sunday, 26 June 2016

Video Lecture: A Paranormal History of The Loch Ness Monster

For your delectation, here is the video of my lecture given 25th June on a paranormal history of Nessie. This was part of the 2016 Scottish UFO and Paranormal Conference. It was a good time as I revisited my old Alma Mater, Glasgow University, where I studied Astronomy, Mathematics and Natural Philosophy under such people as Professor Archie Roy (who was unbeknown to me at the time a leading psychic investigator). This time I came to learn about demons, poltergeists, sasquatch, UFOs and mushrooms.

I decided to give the paranormal view on the Loch Ness Monster by way of a history of such thinking. Given that many attendees may not have been fully familiar with the subject, I also began with a general history of the subject. The Sunday Herald newspaper ran an article on the conference, which you can read here.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

The Corrie Creature

It was a while back that a reader posted a comment on this forum suggesting I look up a sea serpent story he had once read in a book. I eventually did and bought the book he recommended by Michael Prichard entitled "Sporting Angler" published in 1987. The story begins off the Isle of Arran on the west coast of Scotland just off the Bay of Brodick, to which I add an approximate circle on the map below. The story I reproduce verbatim below and the creature sketch above is taken from the same chapter.

I have always been a stickler for trying to make a correct identification of fish that I have caught or seen. This means giving the catch more than just a that I have caught or seen. This means giving the catch more than just a cursory glance. I once asked a well-known sea angler, who was happily  engaged in feathering for mackerel, what colour the species was. I stopped him turning round for a quick peep into the fishbox, and he found the simple task of colour description almost impossible. When I pointed out that he must have caught thousands of that particular fish over the years, he readily agreed that he and probably many other anglers rarely take more than a quick look at their fish.

Sometimes, however, we come across a situation and a rarity that defies adequate explanation; and often the occurrence so varies from the norm that we dismiss it or keep quiet for fear that our sanity will be questioned.  I had an experience, years back, that I have only talked of recently, encouraged by reading of similar experiences by highly regarded writers. I leave it to you, the reader, to make your own decision as to its validity.

I was fishing for haddock, with Mike Shepley, off the Isle of Arran. Our dinghy was drifting on an oily-smooth sea, over 9 fathoms of water, off the Corrie shore, just outside the Bay of Brodick. The evening was beautiful, little cloud cover and a half-light that allowed us to see for miles. Mike and I had caught a few small haddies while we chatted away and enjoyed a simple fishing that was lazy yet productive.  We were suddenly alerted to a noisy splashing ahead of the boat's bow. A glance showed that there was considerable disturbance to the surface about 50 yards farther out in deeper water.

Our immediate thought was of a shoal of mackerel, a breaching basking shark or a bunch of seals, all of them distinct possibilities in the Firth of Clyde, and all subsequently discounted, in the light of our experience, as unlikely. The ruffled water settled back to smoothness and we were both able to see, clearly, what appeared to be a head and a long body break the water's skin. The head was rounded, and then came a gap of a couple of feet, suggesting a neck, before the larger, thicker bulk of the body.

The creature seemed to me to move in a series of undulating motions: not the side to side (horizontal plane) swimming movements of a fish but more the up and down (vertical plane) progress of a mammal, such as a porpoise. I recall that the head was only slightly raised above the apparent level of the body mass. I cannot say that I saw any evidence of fins, either dorsally or otherwise. Overall size is difficult to judge when something is moving away from you, yet I would suggest that it was longer than our boat, making it over 17 feet long.

The observation wasn't a fleeting glimpse; we watched for several minutes. All this time the thing was on the surface and swimming in a straight line toward the Scottish mainland. I have since had many thoughts about this sighting, none of them given any added dimension until reading Gavin Maxwell's account of similar happenings in his book about the shark fishing industry, Harpoon at a Venture, wherein he recounts the experiences of a  number of Hebridean folk and quotes other sightings of creatures not, as yet, explained by science.

Neither Mike Shepley nor I have diluted our opinions as to what we saw. After many years the sighting remains as clear as on that alcohol-free evening in Arran. I have since seen a great many other marine mammals, such as whales and porpoises, but never has there been any similarity in their behaviour to that of the 'Corrie creature'! 
So ends Michael's story. He also speaks generally of sea serpent sightings, referring to McEwan's "Sea Serpents, Sailors and Sceptics", which I own but have not read in depth. I include that excerpt at the end of this article. Given the amount of claimed sightings on the west coast of Scotland, it is a study in and of itself and one wonders what the connection is between loch monsters and sea monsters in Scotland. That will form the basis for a future article!

As it happened, I managed to make contact with the other witness that day, Mike Shepley, and asked a few questions about how he saw things. He agrees that they saw something strange and classed it as a "memorable and unique experience". His words to me were:

We differed in the description of what we saw on and sub-surface. We were off Brodick to the north of the bay in a 16 foot clinker built boat/outboard - flat calm at dusk. The fish or mammal was longer than the boat and appeared to have a head of sorts. Undoubtedly one presence - not a colony of sea otters, seals in tandem etc.

I think Mike alluded to a 'humped' entity. My recollection was more of an eel-shaped movement which could have however concealed a substantial sub-surface body. It was not an eel. Nearest I could place it if not some kind of mammal (serpent) was a possible Oar Fish. One used to be displayed in Edinburgh's Chamber Street museum, caught in the Firth of Forth - like a giant blenny some 25-30 feet long.

We did do some research and found reference to sightings of marine serpents in Victorian times and earlier including a reference to Brodick Bay! I took photos and remember Mike (also as a professional photographer) stating I was wasting my time in the low light and virtually mirrored surface. I ran the best part of a film (36 shots) and failed to get a sharp image of anything resembling what we saw.

It disappeared as quietly as it arrived and was moving without apparent concern for our presence other than it may have surfaced to see what we were...

So, a difference in opinion as to what exactly was seen, and if Mike sends me a drawing of what he saw, I will update the article with it. Note also the problem of photography. Do not assume that just because you have a good sight of something, that means it will come out on film.

Further words on Scottish sea serpents:

I would recommend Sea Serpents, Sailors and Sceptics by Graham J. McEwan: Routledge & Kegan Paul as further reading on this fascinating subject. Mr McEwan offers us 41 sightings in British  waters in the last century, along with a fascinating sequence of sightings and descriptions of  world-wide events! Oddly enough, quite a number are in the vicinity of Scotland's islands.

The  following extract from this book gives intriguing information about the long-necked seal, of which he mentions 94 probable sightings. Distinguishing features Long neck Small seal-like head Bulky body, lacking distinct tail Four large flippers Vertical undulations This creature seems to be covered in thick rolls of fat, the appearance varying somewhat to the displacement of this fat, showing one, two or three big humps.

The head is small, resembling that of a dog or seal, and apparently lengthening as the animal grows older. The eyes are small and there are often two small horns mentioned by observers. These horns are possibly horny protuberances and may be an aid to breathing or to prevent bubbles from obscuring the animal's vision as it exhales underwater. The neck is long and flexible. There are two pairs of flippers, sometimes seen through clear water from above, and occasionally when the animal has been seen ashore.

There seems to be no distinct tail, but the hind flippers may resemble a bilobate tail, or, when held together as sometimes seals do, a fish tail. The skin looks smooth when wet and seen from a distance, but closer observation reveals it to be wrinkled and rough, sometimes showing what looks like coarse fur. It is dark on top, sometimes mottled, and lighter underneath. It seems to be between 30 and 70 feet long.

The animal can swim very quickly, attaining speeds of 35 knots, suggesting that it is a predator  which chases fish. It is found all over the world except polar seas, and the correlation between  sightings and climate indicates that it likes warm but not hot regions. This creature seems very likely to be a pinniped. The webbed feet or flippers, the absence of a tail, and in a few sightings its  movement on land-bounding like a sea-lion - point to this conclusion. In addition there is a 

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Friday, 17 June 2016

Upcoming Lecture on the Loch Ness Monster


Just a reminder that I will be speaking at the Scottish UFO and Paranormal Conference in Glasgow next weekend on Saturday 25th June. You may ask what the Loch Ness Monster has to do with UFOs or the Paranormal. If you polled a variety of people interested in mysteries, most may say nothing at all, but a significant minority would link them to these other two paradigms.

In fact, one old time Nessie hunter, Ted Holiday, was sufficiently convinced to attempt a synthesis of UFOs and Nessie in his book, "The Dragon and the Disc" back in the 1970s. I was also of that persuasion back in the 1980s, so its a bit of nostalgia for me as I address the subject of "A Paranormal History of the Loch Ness Monster".

Ted Holiday will obviously feature as will some others to which I will add my own thoughts as well as cases which could be interpreted in a paranormal light. I also reveal some research done many years ago in this field, but which until now has not been published. For some background on this interpretation of the Loch Ness Monster, visit previous blog articles here and here.

Visit the facebook page here or e-mail Alyson Dunlop at for furher details.

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Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Frank Searle Items for Sale

I was contacted by Kris from the USA who was looking to sell some Frank Searle items she had accumulated during her time as a pen pal with Frank. The list of items is mentioned in the first photograph on the top left and includes twenty handwritten letters from Frank to her. Also included are various photographs and newsletters. If you wish to make her an offer, contact me at and I will give you her email address.

The photo at the top is the "Frank Searle Loch Ness Information Centre" which I visited shortly before its demise. I had not seen a photograph of it before, so thanks for that, Kris.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

New Book on Nessie

We are expecting quite a few books on Nessie this year. With titles from Malcolm Robinson, Karl Shuker, Nick Redfern and Paul Harrison, it could be a bumper year. Having said that, I was expecting most of these titles to come out in 2015, but better luck this year! However, from left of field this April comes another book from Patrick J. Gallagher by the title of "Loch Ness: Back Into The Depths".

This title is a follow up to his previous "From Out of the Depths" which republished newspaper stories on the Loch Ness Monster between 1933 and 1934. I reviewed that back in 2015 and found it a useful resource. I own that particular title in paperback but also kindle mainly because I like to have a paper copy to hand (the Internet isn't everything) plus the Kindle edition can be taken anywhere in the palm of your hand and is more searchable than paper.

This time the period covered is from 1935 to 1955 and it is no surprise that the years covered are longer than the first book, mainly because media coverage of the beast dropped through the war years and took time to lift off again (though it never hit the heights of the manic years of 1933-34).

However, I would point out that if you are expecting to see mention made of the famous 1950s photographs of Lachlan Stuart, Peter MacNab and Hugh Cockrell, you will be disappointed. The reason for that is because the papers that ran the exclusives on these stories are not readily available on the Internet. The Sunday Express which ran the Stuart picture is behind a paywall, but I don't think it even goes back to 1951. Indeed, for my own articles on this photo, I had to purchase photocopies from the British Library.

Likewise, the MacNab and Cockrell stories were published by the now defunct Weekly Scotsman and I had to go to the National Library of Scotland to get photocopies. As you can see, not all research can be Internet based.

Again, I note that the stories in the book are available through the Internet (sometimes through a paywall), but I like to see them collated and concentrated into one book for research purposes. You can find out more on the book here (UK) and here (USA).

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Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Aleister Crowley Lecture

Anyone with an interest in the mystery of Loch Ness will have no doubt heard of Aleister Crowley. There will be a talk next week in Edinburgh on this infamous person (yes, he is even more infamous than Frank Searle). The talk will be at 7:30pm next Tuesday (14th June) at the Beehive Inn, Grassmarket. Further details can be found here.

Doubtless, some of his time spent near Nessie will be covered, though his complete separation from the inscrutable Highlanders more or less guaranteed he would be none the wiser about the Loch Ness Monster until he read it in the London newspapers years later.

Readers may recall that his house at Loch Ness, Boleskine House, suffered serious damage in a fire back in December 2015. Six months on, the fate of the house is unclear since it will require a substantial amount of money to restore it. Will someone step forward to foot the bill (insurance company or Crowley fan) or will most of the house be demolished? The images below were taken more recently and you can see more at this link.

By coincidence, I watched an old film recently, "The Devil Rides Out", which starred Christopher Lee in his favourite role as the Duc de Richleau. Apparently, the author of the book, Dennis Wheatley, based the evil character, Mocata, on Crowley. You learn something every day.

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Monday, 6 June 2016

The Latest "Nessie" Video

Let me just get this one out of the way before moving onto the next thing. It was filmed on the 1st of June by tourist, Tony Bligh, and can be viewed on YouTube (as embedded here). The story can be read here. I agree with Adrian Shine that this is no more than a boat wake.

When a report mentions four or five humps in a row, that normally makes me suspicious. Unless there are reasons to think otherwise, it is probably a boat wake. In fact, this is a phenomenon that has been around since the early days of Nessie. I posted an article from 1934 recently which showed the very same thing from the 1934 Mountain Expedition and I reproduce that picture below.

That theme continued into the heady 1960s with the Jessica Tait photograph which even merited a cover on a Nessie publication of the time (below). The Loch Ness Investigation Bureau advised against this being presented as a photo of the Loch Ness Monster, knowing what it was.

Now, circumstances alter cases. When an eight hump sighting is reported, I would be intially sceptical. For example, Mr. U. W. Goodbody on the 30th December 1933, about two miles east of Fort Augustus. Rupert T. Gould interviewed him for his 1934 book and the sketches below are from that book.

We have our excessively long line of humps, but then something unusual happens, they go off on a turn. Most unlike a boat wake. Well, there is something to think about.

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