Friday, 21 October 2016

A Review of "History's Greatest Hoaxes" Documentary

This Thursday saw the latest instalment of the series "History's Greatest Hoaxes" broadcast on the UK "Yesterday" channel. This time the focus was on the mystery of the Loch Ness Monster, so it's time for another review and discussion about this program's particular take on the centuries old mystery.

Given the title of the series, it was perhaps no surprise that the cast was heavily weighted on the sceptical side as people such as Darren Naish, Dick Raynor, Adrian Shine and Joe Nickell were brought in to give their opinions on the mystery of the Loch Ness Monster. To add grist to the sceptical mill, we had a journalist, psychologist and comedian telling us why the Loch Ness Monster is not to be taken seriously.

On the opposite side was Steve Feltham and myself, making it seven to two against.

Firstly, however, the problem is defining the problem, which in turn drives the perception of those who believe Loch Ness hosts a large creature, yet to be discovered. Whenever the "monster" was conceptualised for viewers, it invariably presented some form of plesiosaur throwback. On this single shot scenario, those who believe in a large creature in Loch Ness were largely portrayed. 

No mention of giant eels, amphibians, exotic fish or other variants. Many theories about how sceptics explain the phenomenon were put forward. However, it seems there is only one "theory" on the other side. I did explain this to the film crew, but it did not survive the proverbial cutting floor.


On a personal aside, it was an interesting day at the loch with Bruce Burgess and his film crew.  Bruce was easy to get along with and had plenty of questions about the whole monster thing, and indeed has a general love for mysteries himself. I had brought one of my more sophisticated trap cameras along to demonstrate how monster hunting technology has progressed and automated.

He filmed me talking about the device and setting it up at a location near Inchnacardoch Bay. Actually, it was more a demo than real installation since the area was too exposed to tourists. In fact, finding a real location would have proved too risky for people carrying expensive filming equipment! Some sequences were refilmed and a conversation on the Loch Ness Monster was conducted in the car using an attached GoPro camera. Again, none of that conversation made it into the final edition.

The drive eventually made it to Temple Pier where I met up with Dick Raynor to go out on a cruise boat to discuss the loch and the creature. The conversation was certainly less heated than the ones we have on Internet forums. In fact, it could have done with being a bit more confrontational for TV!


Fortunately, the documentary did not dwell too much on the Surgeon's Photograph. It has had a good run in the panoply of TV documentaries and needs a rest. Most people in the Loch Ness arena accept it is a fake, including myself. 

Paleontologist Darren Naish led the way in attempting to explain away the various Loch Ness Monster photographs and eyewitness reports. He pretty much covered what he said in his recent book, "Hunting Monsters" which I reviewed here. Not wishing to repeat what I said in that article, his explanation of what various famous Nessie photos may or may not represent are opinions which cannot be proven and rather rely on the perceived advantage of being seen to be less incredible than the alternative of a "monster".

Aided by Dick Raynor, one example of this thinking was the 1951 Lachlan Stuart photograph of three humps. Dick commented that though the picture was claimed to have been taken about six in the morning, he said the sun was seen to the west over Urquhart Bay. If it was a morning shot, the sun would be behind Lachlan Stuart. The Stuart photo is the first one below, my test photo is the next one below.

The bright patch to the right of my photo may be the sun, but it is in fact just clouds reflecting the sun, which is out of sight to the left of my position. In other words, the "sun in the west" interpretation is at best, ambiguous. I speak more on that canard here. Whatever you think of this photograph, it should not hang on this. This is a typical example of how sceptics objectify subjective interpretations.

I can add here that I was also filmed going through various photographs and giving my own counter-opinions on them. Sadly, again, that portion did not make the final cut. If it had, viewers would have seen this strange looking head in the Hugh Gray photograph of 1933:

Steve Feltham attempted to cut through the scepticism with his view that one or more giant catfish were in the loch. Catfish are monsters of a sort, though they do not explain everything. I am not even sure they explain Steve's own sighting, since he says it was travelling at over twenty miles per hour!

Curiously, the program made no attempt to record anyone recounting their tale of seeing the creature. I think practically every documentary I have seen has spoken to some eyewitness; indeed, not even Steve's account was broadcast. Instead, we were told how such accounts were just waves, logs or birds seen through the "lens" of expectation.

Oddly, this theory is applied even to witnesses who claim to have seen the creature from a distance of twenty yards! Surely witnesses cannot be that stupid or blind? I covered this strained theory in this article in regard to the view that angler John McLean mistook his claimed 20 foot creature for a 3 foot cormorant at sixty feet! Really?

Perhaps most irritating was the psychologist who pontificated about how the monster believers were desperate for some form of monster wish fulfilment and attention seeking. It's a pity that she seemed to predicate her opinion on a form of monster that many Nessie advocates do not believe in themselves! It doesn't seem to occur to these shrinks that people may actually think there is something to these eyewitness accounts and images that sceptical explanations are found wanting in.

The journalist who went on about commercial interests and priming up for the tourist season was naive and cynical while the comedian offered ... comic relief.

Was I disappointed in the documentary? Not really as it was a program designed to form part of a series dedicated to hoaxes and so would take on a sceptical approach. However, anyone wishing to get a balanced view of the debate would be sadly disappointed.

Perhaps one day, someone will be bold enough to produce a documentary which is neutral or even dares to flip the bias in favour of the other side. Perhaps I should do that myself with the help of others as producers are too much in the thrall of the sceptics!

I believe you may be able to watch the episode online here. Registration required and may no be available worldwide.

The author can be contacted at

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Loch Ness Monster Documentary on UK TV Tonight

Just a heads up that a new documentary on Nessie is being broadcast tonight at 7PM GMT by the UK "Yesterday" channel as part of their "History's Greatest Hoaxes" series. More details can be had here.

It looks like the Surgeon's Photograph will again feature in this latest line of Loch Ness Monster documentaries!

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

So many Books, So little Time ...

Three books on the Loch Ness Monster published in the space of two months. I don't know if that is a record, but that is close on one thousand pages to get through. No need to rush through them, I like to savour a good Nessie book.

You will have noticed the odd one out at the right. It is an oldie but a goodie entitled "Loch Ness and its Monster" by J. A. Carruth. It went through various reprints, of which I have most of them. The edition I had just purchased was the third one of 1950. The first edition came out in 1938, making it the sixth book to be published on the monster. By 1971, it had gone through nine editions.

Carruth was a priest and monk at Fort Augustus Abbey and, like various brothers at the abbey, took a keen interest in the monster that had turned up on their shoreline. His photograph is shown below. The output of his particular interest was this booklet that sold at the Abbey bookshop and no doubt elsewhere.

The booklet itself is not remarkable by the standards of the literature as its aim was to be an introductory text aimed at the tourist market. In fact, the Abbey monks had previously attempted this with the publication of a similar booklet, "The Mysterious Monster of Loch Ness" in 1934. Being a booklet of about 23 pages, it covers the facts about the loch and argues that the creature is a native of the loch, quoting the well known story of St. Columba and goes through some eye witness accounts.

We learn a bit more about Fr. Carruth when David Cooke interviewed him for his 1969 book, "The Great Monster Hunt". At the time, Carruth was the Abbey tour guide, but took time out to speak to Cooke. He spoke of his thirty plus years by the loch studying the phenomenon and talking to many people who claimed to have seen it.

Actually, when you read Cooke's conversation with Carruth, it is almost verbatim lifted from Carruth's booklet; which makes me think Cooke just quoted it or Carruth knew his booklet very well indeed! 

However, Carruth expanded on his own sighting in 1962. It was an early morning sighting from the Abbey and was the classic upturned boat shape moving away from him. It was black and bigger than any boat he had seen in the loch. He said his sighting "really wasn't very much" but I am sure plenty of us would settle for such an experience! (note that Carruth's brother, Edmund, was also a monk at the Abbey and had a couple of sightings to his name)

Carruth was also a good friend of Tim Dinsdale, who met him at the Abbey on his very first visit to Loch Ness in 1960. In fact, arch-sceptic, Ronald Binns, plunges deep into Loch Speculation, by suggesting that Dinsdale meeting such "hierophants" as Carruth only heightened his expectation of seeing "monsters".

Carruth was one of the enduring characters of the Loch Ness Monster who is present from its beginnings in 1933 right through to its peak decades in the 1960s and 70s. The Abbey is closed now and its monks dispersed. Monster hunters and sceptics come and go, but the Monster itself will outlast them all.

The author can be contacted at

Friday, 14 October 2016

Is the Loch Ness Monster a USO?

A few weeks ago, I was watching the latest episode of "In Search of Aliens" broadcast on the History Channel. Given the title of the series, I was somewhat surprised to see the Loch Ness Monster as the latest subject. As a result, I concentrated a bit more closely and took notes for this article.

The series is presented by Giorgio Tsoukalos, who may be familiar to some readers, though his connection with lake cryptids seemed somewhat tenuous as he looked more at home with extraterrestrials and flying saucers (indeed, his speciality is the Ancient Astronaut theory).

The episode started off on some well worn territory with the Surgeon's Photograph. Well respected doctor, famous picture, 1990s investigation, toy submarine, model neck, "deathbed" confession; you get the idea. This story is a staple of Loch Ness Monster documentaries (do they just copy each other or is someone always recommending it?).

After that, it was off to see Steve Feltham, who by then had been at the loch for 21 years. He told Giorgio about his only sighting of the creature early on his hunting years. For those who are not familiar with Steve's encounter, he saw something just below the surface ripping through the water as water sprayed up. 

Steve added one detail I was not aware of. He said the object covered the length of a soccer pitch in about ten seconds. Since a football pitch is about 100 metres long, a quick calculation gives a speed of about 22 miles per hour. I suppose my question to Steve would be, can a catfish move at this speed?

After this, we moved on to meet Marcus Atkinson, who recorded an unusual sonar contact back in 2012. I discussed that event in this article. Marcus took us through that day again and showed the photograph of the sonar hit. An epic fail then occurred as the producer added a comparison shot of a long plesiosaur, not knowing that the long sonar streak is a time aggregate of multiple echoes.

But getting onto that USO theory. We were asked if the Loch Ness Monster is an Unidentified Submersible Object (USO)? Did he mean an underwater version of a UFO? I think he did. That implies the creature is actually an artificial construct. I did cover Nessie as an extraterrestrial beast in this article, but this is a different matter.

After that, the matter of quartz deposits and the generation of piezoelectricity was raised. What is the connection between this and USOs? I was not sure, to be honest. I was aware of Paul Devereux's work which is not really related to nuts and bolts spacecraft. Was Giorgio saying that this potential electrical charge generated by seismic movements along the Great Glen fault was linked to the idea that Nessie is in fact a spaceship!?

Steve Feltham, not surprisingly, would not be seen given credence to this theory, though he did intimate that a guy "at the other end of the loch" believed the loch contained a portal to a hollow Earth and that there was a spaceship at the bottom of the loch. I would have liked to have heard that chap!

Things moved to the almost obligatory visit to Adrian Shine, presumably as the sceptical representative. Adrian talked about the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau and the 1000 people who were involved over its ten years. To that end, Adrian showed us he was a bit of a tease by pulling out a box containing over 300 sighting reports from that period.

I say a "tease" because Henry Bauer claims that Adrian refused to let him see these reports. However, I know he did allow another researcher to examine them, so I am sure if I asked nicely, I may get to see them too. However, why travel to Loch Ness when we have digital scanners and the Internet? I assume the documents (for backup reasons) have already been scanned onto computer. 

It's a simple matter to add them to the Loch Ness Project website. If there are concerns about witness names and addresses being divulged, well, those can be easily be redacted. But then again, if you believe the witnesses are only describing birds, logs and boats, where is the motivation to do such a thing?

Adrian finished off by telling us that anecdotes can be treated as scientific data and described his experiment with a wooden pole in the vicinity of witnesses and their subsequent descriptions. Adrian told Giorgio how some witnesses described something rather more monster like and used this as proof that this can explain most sightings.

The trouble with critiquing that theory is that Adrian's words are also anecdotal. I have yet to see a scientific paper or article detailing this experiment, the controls used, the interview techniques, the dataset, assessment and logic behind any conclusion. Without that, it is like assessing a monster report.

After some words on St Columba, the Water Horse, and the odd beast of Pictish Symbol Stone fame, it was goodbye to Loch Ness and off to Lake Champlain where Giorgio met up with the charming Katy Elizabeth. She is a researcher of Champ, the monster of that lake, but she having none of this USO stuff as she recounted her sighting of that particular beast. However, any talk of a link between Loch Ness and Lake Champlain must be discounted as plate tectonics would not allow such a thing to be preserved.

Towards the end, there was an attempt to link this with Ancient Astronauts as Don Stevens, of the Abenaki tribe, talked about the mystery of cosmic, flying turtles. It was all beginning to sound like Ted Holiday's "The Dragon and the Disc", which was probably no surprise.

Finally, Giorgio chatted with a Steve Kluid and Will Amidon on the matter of granite, quartz and energy again. That led to a Dr. John Brandenburg and his talk about the Casimir Effect and traversible wormholes created by EM fields around quartz crystals seemingly accentuated by the trench topology of such cryptid lakes.

Is your head spinning yet? Well, I would have thought you needed dilithium crystals and not quartz crystals to warp spacetime, but I will leave that to any Trekkies reading. I will stick to the biological Nessie!

The author can be contacted at

Saturday, 8 October 2016

A Cool Book Cover

Now here is a Nessie book cover I haven't seen before. It's the paperback version of the more familiar hardback book cover from Ted Holiday's "The Dragon and the Disc". It's a nice bit of artwork, though the creature on the cover could not be described as a "Nessie" but more like the titled "Dragon" (Holiday referred to the Loch Ness Monster as a Dragon or Orm).

It has to be said that the 1970s were the zenith of cool Loch Ness Monster book covers. Some serious effort went into producing imaginative covers of prehistoric or mythical monsters to capture the eye of the public as they browsed the well stocked "Mysteries" section of their local book shop.

This particular paperback was published by Futura in 1974. Now, I don't know about other readers' collections, but a scan of my shelves showed a few titles from Futura, Sphere and Target books. These publishers were not averse to putting out various titles on the likes of UFOs, monsters and so on. That was on top of the titles from more well known publishers such as Penguin and Corgi.

Looking at these covers reminds me of how my own collecting of Nessie books has progressed. First you buy the titles, for example, Dinsdale's "Loch Ness Monster". That will give you just about everything you need. But that is only the first edition.

Subsequent to that, authors will republish their titles as revisions in which they alter some of the book's contents according to their changing experience or thinking plus they may add new photographs, sighting reports and so on. So, Dinsdale's book underwent three revisions in 1972 and 1976 and 1982, but Holiday's book was never revised.

Then we have the reprints in which none of the content is revised but the general format of the book changes. We see that in our two Holiday books as it went from hardback to paperback and the cover art was also changed. Dinsdale's book also underwent one reprint in 1966 (I do not own a copy). One could argue every revision is a reprint, but not every reprint is a revision.

For me personally, I have practically all the titles. I think I have most of the revisions, but I probably do not have most of the reprints as that requires a bit more motivation since you are not getting much more for your money. You can browse the various artistic covers on my booklist. You can also have a look at my current bookcase below (with some titles not in the picture)!

The author can be contacted at

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Henry Bauer Reviews A Monstrous Commotion

Long time Loch Ness researcher, Henry Bauer, got in touch with me recently to pass on his review of Gareth William's book to me. Henry has been involved in Loch Ness Monster research for over fifty years since he first picked up Tim Dinsdale's "Loch Ness Monster" in 1961. Quite possibly, apart from perhaps Rip Hepple, he is the longest involved researcher of Nessie alive today.

Henry is the author of the well known book, "The Enigma of Loch Ness" and believes the creatures are a large, formerly (before last Ice Age) marine species, related either to plesiosaurs or to leatherback turtles. In his review, Henry is not so favourably disposed to Gareth's book as others have been and detects the overt influence of sceptical advisers. So, feel free to download his PDF review at this link and offer your comments below.

The author can be contacted at

Saturday, 1 October 2016

An Update on the Jon-Erik Beckjord Film

I received an email from researcher Kim Schlotmann, who has been looking into the mysterious film taken by paracryptozoologist Jon-Erik Beckjord (1939-2008). I say the film is mysterious in the sense that few have seen it let alone know much about it (though we have a couple of stills shown below). Kim provides some answers as I reproduce his words to me below. One other aspect of Beckjord that fascinates me as much as his film was his claim that Tim Dinsdale confessed to him in private that he also believed Nessie was a paranormal phenomenon and recounted the tale of how received a visit from ghouls and demons in his boat, Water Horse when moored off Foyers. Perhaps the resolution to that is for another day.

But enough of my words ....


I promised to tell you about my results in researching Jon-Erik Beckjord’s famous Nessie wormhole film. It took me a long and hard time investigating this. Cryptozoology nowadays has to struggle with some serious problems: Possible pieces of evidence (photos, film footages etc.) get lost forever (as, for example, the McRae film), bloggers and researchers often don’t even give detailed sources for their claims (that’s a huge problem: I have to investigate the origin of many cryptozoological claims by myself because the bloggers don’t tell their readers in which newspaper and in which issue of this newspaper they found a special sighting report – this madness has to stop!

If I had done that when I was studying at my university [I have a bachelor’s degree in Germanistics and Philosophy and a master’s degree in Philosophy], my professors would have kicked my ass out of the institution for not following the scientific rules. And one of the biggest problems: Unfortunately, many researchers refuse to cooperate and don’t even answer replies when they are politely asked for something. All of these negative aspects are very damaging for cryptozoology’s reputation and finally lead to the sad result that mainstream scientists insult this discipline as “pseudoscience”.

I can only appeal to all persons who are involved in this field – may they be laymen or professionals – that they cite sighting reports and other claims in a detailed and correct way.

Anyway, let’s talk about Beckjord’s film.

In their Book The Mammoth Encyclopedia of Unsolved Mysteries, authors Colin Wilson and Damon Wilson tell us the following (have bought this book at Amazon, but it’s not delivered yet, so I can’t cite the precise page):

„ […] many people agreed that it showed a white, shape-shifting thing that was not a reptile“.

Both authors describe the audience’s reaction when seeing a 16 mm film made by Jon-Erik Beckjord at the shores of Loch Ness in 1983. He allegedly presented this film at the end of the International Society of Cryptozoology conference in Edinburgh in 1987. I asked Dr. Karl Shuker and Professor Henry Bauer, both were not able to remember this film’s screening. However, the Wilsons’ book is not the only source mentioning such a film.

In his book Hidden Animals.  Field Guide to Satsquatch, Chupacabra, and Other Elusive Creatures, author Michael Newton cites Beckjord as follows: 

‘[Nessie] ‚is not a biological full time zoological animal but rather that it is a paranormal/supernatural/ wormhole-traversing being that will never be caught nor killed. And we have a film that shows it coming from a space-time wormhole, and going later back into it’ “ 

(Newton 2000, 91).

It is unclear if both these films – the film mentioned by the Wilsons’ on the one hand and the film mentioned by Michael Newton on the other hand – are one and the same, but I think so.

The idea that such a film would actually exist fascinated me, so I decided to investigate this film’s fate. I started with cryptozoologists who attended the 1987 International Society of Cryptozoology conference, but as I said above, they couldn’t remind if Beckjord really screened his film. I also tried to contact a woman named Christine “Chris” Pitts, who seemed to have been Beckjord’s fiancee. Again, this was a dead end (I contacted eight different women with the name Christine Pitts – I only got one more or less rude answer from one woman, the rest was not answering my letters. So the real Chris Pitts, it seems, was not among the women I wrote to). So what to do?

I wrote a letter to Beckjord’s sister Pamela Beckjord-Forbes. Direct hit! She responded and was so friendly to give me the e-mail contact details of a long-time research fellow of Beckjord, a woman with the name Dr. Molly Squire. So I asked Dr. Squire what happened to this famous Nessie wormhole footage. On July 31, 2016, she e-mailed me: 

The film is still being catalogued with the rest of Erik's cryptozoological materials.  I'll tell you he also made some still photos from the film. Forget the words shapeshift and wormhole. It's fuzzy looking when blown up like any normal photography is that is taken from shore to a distance in the water. But it still shows something long in the water moving with an apparent head. The object is nowhere near any boat nor does it show any connection to any boats wake even though that is  one skeptical argument given against the  likelihood of Erik having filmed a type of anomaly.

All materials are at the China Flats, Willow Creek, California historical museum. All is being catalogued and plans are to scan all and have the archival materials available over the Internet for researchers to view online. It'll be at least a couple more years from what I guess. I'm  working on Erik's biography and may have a still image I can scan to send  you.  I'm writing this on a new phone. Came home from vacation and can't find my computer.

P.S. I am willing to swear that I've seen the loch Ness footage and it does appear Erik has something alive long and fast moving.

I then asked her what the exact technical details of this films were, i.e. when this film was shot, with which type of camera etc. Her following answer was quite confusing. Although the Loch Ness literature in its majority mentions that Beckjord was at Loch Ness in 1983, Mrs. Squire denied that date (e-mail from August 12, 2016): 

1. Not as early as 1983. 86 to fall 88. I say fall 88 instead of early spring 99 because of time Erik liked to go, August to September. And was probably 87 to 88 fall. I remember equipment shows in a couple of photos. Seem to remember he said can get finer details in black and white. I remember Nessie like object being in grainy black and white in enlargement. Will try to find photo.He kept journals by trip and date. They were turned over to the repository. Film is there also.

If the whole Nessie literature says that Beckjord was at the Loch in 1983, why does Dr. Squire says that this date is not true? However, the actual date is a minor problem. It might be that the many years since Beckjord’s Nessie adventure blurred her memories (No offence here, of course! Memories fading away is something that happens to all of us sooner or later). But the most important fact is that we now know what happened to one of the most legendary films in the history of LNM research.

I live here in Germany. I have no opportunity to travel to California and to verify if the information Dr. Squire gave me are true. So I cannot check the validity of her claims. But I would be glad if some of your U.S. based readers could go to the Willow Creek – China Flat Museum, 38949 CA-299, Willow Creek, CA 95573 and look if Beckjord’s whole cryptozoological legacy is there. I wrote to the museum’s staff, but unfortunately, they didn’t reply. Maybe some other researcher has more luck than I had in contacting the museum’s staff.

I’m working on a scientific article that deals with my investigation of this film’s fate and hope to get it published soon. When I’ve finished that, I’ll send you the article (but sadly, it will be in German, so you’ve been warned ;-) ).

Anyway, I hope I could make my contribution to solving this long-standing mystery.

The author can be contacted at