Tuesday 3 August 2010

Classic Sightings - The Spicers

Date: July 22nd 1933
Time: 1530-1600
Location: Between Dores and Foyers heading south
Witnesses: Mr and Mrs G. Spicer
Type of sighting: Land

There is nothing better when talking about Nessie to look back on historical sightings and see what we can glean from these more famous incidents against the larger backdrop of the Loch Ness mystery.

They don't come much more mysterious than the sight beheld by the Spicers on that summer afternoon 77 years ago. The original account first appeared in the Inverness Courier of August 4th 1933 where George Spicer (a director of the tailors Todhouse, Reynard & Co.) described seeing something like a prehistoric beast cross the road in front of him at about 50 yards ahead.

Rupert Gould who wrote the first work on the creature in 1934 read the account but fancied it a pleasantry or hoax and went to London to interview the Spicers and went away convinced their story was bona fide.

Gould's interview we take to be the most accurate record of the sighting and hence reproduce it here.

"They had passed through Dores, and were on their way towards Foyers when, as the car was climbing a slight rise, an extraordinary-looking creature crossed the road ahead of them, from left to right, in a series of jerks. When on the road, it took up practically the whole width of it.

He saw no definite head, but this was across the road before he had time to take the whole thing in properly - it was in sight for a few seconds. The creature was of a loathsome-looking greyish colour, like a dirty elephant or a rhinoceros. It had a very long and thin neck, which undulated up and down, and was contorted into a series of half hoops. The body was much thicker, and moved across the road, as already stated, in a series of jerks. He saw no indications of any legs, or of a tail - but in front of the body, where this sloped down to the neck, he saw something flopping up and down which, on reflection, he thought might have been the end of a long tail swung round to the far side of the body. The latter stood some 4-5 feet above the road. The whole looked like a huge snail with a long neck."

On reaching the point where the creature had lurched across, they could not see whether the loch was disturbed and he had heard no splash but the sound of his car would have covered any other noise. I can concur with these sentiments adding that I was watching the loch between Dores and Foyers this July and can say that the waters were particularly choppy and noisy in this area compared to further south.

Gould made a drawing under the Spicer's direction and this image is taken direct from his book.

Constance Whyte in her 1957 book "More Than A Legend" corresponded with the Spicers and give her own record of the sighting but does not add anything substantive in my opinion. Her drawing (which presumably was supplied by the Spicers) is shown below.

Of course, some take things a bit too seriously and end up with this:

An intriguing tale you must admit and the classic of its genre - the land sighting. Now nothing annoys the debunker more than a land sighting because they are more difficult to explain. No unusual wave formation or distant bird can dismiss them but nevertheless they have to be explained away. Arch-debunkers such as Maurice Burton and Ronald Binns in their anti-Nessie books both agree that the Spicers obviously saw one or more otters crossing the road. Burton puts more flesh on it by suggesting the undulations were young otters and the main body the parent(s). I thought any young would follow the parents, but who knows?

Well, if you don't believe in Nessie, all sightings are misidentifications or lies. Binns also indulges in some libel by suggesting George Spicer was a publicity seeker who embellished his account. It's easy to speak against those who are now in the grave.

Would you mistake a line of otters for a lumbering leviathan? I wouldn't, but such an explanation will satiate those who apply Occam's Razor to everything.

More classic sightings as time progresses.


  1. There are a pair of otters living around Ness Islands at the moment. You can see them darting around the banks quite close to the main bridge in the town at dawn and dusk.

    Having watched them a few times, I find it very hard to believe anyone could see an otter on land and mistake it for some sort of large unknown beast. You don't need to be David Attenborough to see an otter and recognise it as such.

    1. I agree, and some sceptics probably do too, hence they introduce things such as mirages or just introduce something else like deer.

  2. Happening upon something in an unusual configuration can be confusing, and speaking for myself, my eye-brain-reason connection can stutter a bit. I imagine anything viewed for a very short period of time may not give one the time to decode what one has saw. However, I think this is more than that, providing Mr and Mrs Spicer were being truthful (I would tend to take people as truthful regarding these things as they usually have too much to lose). It doesn't really conform to anything that I know of.

  3. OK but people claim to have seen all kinds of things. Sometimes people see what they want to see. Sometimes they just make things up. Sometimes they are mistaken. Sometimes they are hoaxed. After all these years we only have "sightings". All the photo's have been discredited.Dream on!

  4. Mr and Mrs George Spicer account stunned me when I read William Halliday's book The Great Orme. I was not interested in the creature, but I was turned by Mrs Spicer's remark that the creature was nauseating and it had come from Hell. Both were sickened. Wild imagination does not do this to you. It has to be something substantial to make you sick and feel like vomitting. Once I had seen an unusual event: Water flowing from the tips of the finger of a man into my cupped hands as though coming out of a tap. I almost fainted and later I became sick and afraid. When there is a physical effect to the body then it is a little out of the ordinary. Please be serious. I hate miracles.