Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Frank Searle

Does anyone raise the hackles of the typical Nessie believer more than Frank Searle? Exposed as a hoaxer and general charlatan, he has earned a place in the annals of Nessie Lore for all the wrong reasons.

Since revisionism of Nessie icons is "Plat Du Jour" then why not Frank Searle? Perhaps his reputation is 100% unreformable, but let us see how far I get.

To begin on a personal note, I have had three involvements in the Frank Searle story. The first was when I met him personally in 1982. I was a student who cycled up to Loch Ness to the Altsigh Youth Hostel for a week of "Nessie Hunting". I made my way to his base at Foyers and came upon a rather tatty looking caravan and had a look for him inside. The walls were covered with various clippings, monster-like photos and notes by Frank. Nothing that excited the imagination so I went outside to see him making his way towards me smoking a cigarette. I introduced myself and we chatted about the monster scene. I can't remember now all what we said but there was a bit of the "them and me" about his situation with other "hunters".

Unbeknown to me, his time there was numbered and he was to be gone within a year or so. Around that time, I was in Glasgow coming out of a city centre library and got talking with a lady who knew Frank Searle and defended him against his adversaries. She gave me a booklet by him which turned out to be a book which had been pulled from publication. It was quite a diatribe against Loch Ness personalities known and still active today but I will come back to that later.

Finally and years later I was in contact with Andrew Tullis who was making a documentary about Frank Searle and asked me if I had any idea where he was. I did not, but I volunteered to look around Edinburgh in case he was still in Scotland. I drew a blank but Andrew did not as a speculative ad in a treasure hunting magzine led to his home in Lancashire but ironically he had only died a few weeks before. You can find out all in his documentary "The Man who Captured Nessie".

Fate had conspired to deny Frank Searle a final word on TV but we have his final book.

I was not minded to put my copy out on the Internet but someone else did and it can be found here courtesy of Mike Dash who writes on Frank here. It seems that Frank Searle, being dead, yet speaketh. A second link for Frank's booklet is also here.

So now is the time to review possibly the most controversial book on Nessie and her believers and skeptics called Loch Ness Investigation: What Really Happened.

The backdrop to the short book is warfare. War between Frank Searle and those stationed on the other side of the Loch at Drumnadrochit. Those under fire include Adrian Shine, Tim Dinsdale and others still around today. One is even insinuated as a sexual pervert, others as money grabbers and all as generally unsavoury. He counter-accuses those who accuse him of an attempted Molotov Cocktail attack on their boat. Clearly this is a book where one has to tread carefully else libel may be the dish of the day.

Now his accusation of profiteering on Nessie is hardly a revelation. Loch Ness is a major tourist attraction (even more so then) and this will inevitably attract entrepreneurs. That is nature of capitalism and free enterprise. Just because he quotes some metaphorically salivating at that prospect is really neither here nor there.

Nessie equals money, full stop. I don't take a purist view on this, I just ignore it. Unlike some, I have not given up my job to look for Nessie and so do not feel the pressure to supplement any pension or savings I may be relying upon with freelance Nessie work.

Frank tries and sets himself apart and aloof from this but this smacks of the hypocritical if he was already faking pictures for media money. The matter of Tim Dinsdale is interesting in this respect as he accuses him of asking for a fee equivalent to at least £2000 in today's money to act as a professional guide for a Japanese TV team over to make a documentary.

Now this I tend to believe. As I said, no one is a 100% liar or a 100% truth teller all the time. Some of what he said is by implication true - but what?

Dinsdale proferring his services for money? Why not I say? We need to dismiss this image of monster hunters as people detached from human nature and puritanically focussed on the big prize of the irrefutable picture or film to the exclusion of all else.

Frank Searle is of course the perfect example with his live in lovers and his story about decking Nicholas Witchell when he discovered him snooping around his base. Big deal, I say.

Drug taking and booze sessions amongst the student volunteers of the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau? Is that all? What about orgies I ask? Well, perhaps that is going too far but that was the Hippy 60s after all.

Human nature red in tooth and claw. Frank Searle helps dispel any notion we may have that Nessie hunting is akin to a bit of congenial bird spotting in a leafy booth. I won't accept his more extreme suggestions but in general there is a grain of truth in some of his observations. Nessie people, like Frank Searle, are imperfect. We just have to take a look at ourselves to begin to appreciate that.

So, if anyone says Frank Searle was a 100% liar, take it with a pinch of salt.

UPDATE: As it turns out, Monster Researcher, Paul Harrison, did locate Frank before his death and conducted interviews with him that he intends to publish this year. Watch this space.

You can also find an archive of Frank Searle's newsletters here.


  1. thanks for posting the book, I didn't think there was still a copy in existence. Do you know if the Andrew Tullis documentary is available to see anywhere.

  2. I am afraid Channel 4 have not seen fit to issue this as a DVD and I cannot see it on their online player "4oD". Search for the title and see what comes up.

  3. I enjoyed reading this article, this and the book do give a great insite into the people behind the stories and the "human nature" often not seen through all the books which are about the phenomenon rather than the people. Wouldn't the people stories make a great soap opera!

  4. I recored the documentary on DVD and was posting free copies to anyone that wanted on one of the Nessie lists im on, but i was a victum of my own success and had to post out quite a few. Now I'd in the interest if making some money out of Nessie as discussed above( :-) ) i reckon it would be fair to charge for the postage DVD and time to copy it etc of £10

  5. I think there is a possibility that such a "soap opera" film may be forthcoming in the future. Watch this space!

  6. I'm looking for a copy of this documentary for research purposes. If anyone can help someone Stateside who wasn't able to see this when it originally transmitted, it would be greatly appreciated.


    1. Try link above in article


  7. I think its the documentary TV programme ekm is looking for

  8. Yeah, it's the TV doc -- any assistance would be fantastic!

  9. So what does one make of the allegations that Dinsdale had a conspirator at the Loch in 1960 -- a conspirator with whom he had a row that ultimately led to the fellow being carted away to the hospital...?

    1. Mysterious indeed, but can you trust Frank? Perhaps Paul Harrison's forthcoming book on Frank may shed some light.

  10. It's a strange allegation -- one so strange that I can't help but wonder why he'd make it unless he'd genuinely heard something, unfounded or otherwise. Searle spewed a lot of venom about a great number of people over the years, but typically there was a point to his arguments (real or imagined).

    But the Dinsdale thing is so striking because he never draws a conclusion; he merely says, "Here's what I was told -- make of it what you will." The mere fact that it's a story without an ending is what sets it apart from his other tall tales. This doesn't necessarily make it true, but it definitely makes it a most curious annecdote.

  11. I think anywhere were there is passion, there may be the odd chipped tooth, regarding Me Dinsdale. I don't condone that, but it is life. Mr Searle was clearly suffering some kind of mental health issue, or two. Which is fair enough, who isn't these days? He does seem like a genuine eccentric and outsider, and I feel for him. But I think he needed to speak to a professional rather than petrol bomb his 'opponents'. But then, he probably never realised that he had this particular problem, and not everybody else. Such is the big mixing pot of life.

    1. Dear Martin
      It's disappointing that you see fit to besmirch Frank Searle's mental health without ever even knowing the man. I knew him over a period of 5 years and he was as sharp as a knife. Also tempting as it is to use Frank's sparky personality against him, he was never chanrged with the firebombing and has witnesses to corroborate his innocence.

  12. I would really love to watch this documentary on Frank, is there no way of watching it online by now?? If anyone can help me on where to watch this film please let me know. BTW this site is always a tremendous read.

  13. I met Frank in 73,74,75.
    He was interesting, listening to his anecdotes on the loch and time in the services.
    He was believable and so much so that my father a cautious man where money was concerned enterd into a deal with him for the use of Frank's photos.
    In a 76 they had words over the issues of Frank manufacturing the image's
    My father could harbour a grudge and would have made the British Olympic team if it was a sport
    So Frank's name was mud.
    For me I sufferd no financial set back nor was my pride damaged
    so I just remember an entertaining man who obviously enjoyed an audience.
    We can't change what he did but let's be honest quite a few people made a living from his work and so in a roundabout way some good came out of it.

    1. Thanks for that, Struan. How did your Dad use those photos?