Tuesday 18 September 2012

Tim Dinsdale, Nessie and the Paranormal

I mentioned in a post from last year that some Nessie hunters thought there was more to the Loch Ness Monster that natural flesh and blood. Indeed, a supernatural or paranormal explanation was courted by some. Ted Holiday and Tony Shiels were two prominent examples but Tim Dinsdale may have been a believer or at worst sympathetic to the argument.

Did Tim Dinsdale hold to the view that the Loch Ness Monster was an animal that would naturally and eventually takes its place in the appropriate taxonomic order of phylum, genus and species, etc or was there more to the classification of this entity?

There is no outright quote by Tim that he held such a "heretical" view but some think it may be inferred. The first source is the late Jon-Erik Beckjord who died in June 2008. Beckjord believed that many of the cryptozoological creatures such as Bigfoot and Nessie were not mere animals but multi-dimensional ghost-like entities. In that light, he claimed that he was close enough to Dinsdale to know that he did hold similar beliefs (though how close to Beckjord's is another matter). In a book review on amazon.com, he made this comment:

He praised Tim Dinsdale, also deceased, not knowing Tim had told me in person, with a witness, that he was a secret paranormalist and kept it quiet just to save his book sales.

Who this other witness was we shall find out, but this went further with another reference to Beckjord concerning Dinsdale and strange events on Loch Ness (quoted from the article "Is The Loch Ness Monster a Shapeshifter" from the July 2010 issue of Paranormal Underground):

Another Nessie hunter that eventually had to amend his view was a researcher named Tim Dinsdale. ... The event that convinced him there was an undeniable supernatural element attached to the monster transpired one night while he was anchored just off of Boleskine House, where Crowley performed the Abramelin rituals 70 years prior. According to Dinsdale "he endured a series of ghosts, ghoulies and demons crawling into his boat and coming at him. They never harmed him physically, but they finally killed off the plesiosaur idea for him."

Unfortunately, Beckjord's reputation amongst some crypto-researchers was not great due to firstly his obviously fringe views but also his somewhat abrasive nature with other researchers. So it is no surprise that plenty would scoff at these two quotes. Of course, being disdained by others does not mean you are a liar. The identity of the other witness was given by Beckjord himself in his now defunct website www.beckjord.com. However, thanks to the Internet archiving program at archive.org we can access various defunct Nessie websites, including Beckjord's. What he said concerning Dinsdale and the paranormal can be found here during a claimed visit to Tim's house in 1983.

Suffice to say, he claimed Dinsdale did not believe in a normal biological Nessie but hid it since publicly holding such a view could prove to be detrimental to his research and reputation. Beckjord  reiterated the ghostly episode near Foyers mentioned above. However, he names the other witness who was his then girlfriend, Kathy Quint, a hospital assistant administrator.

Now I suspect Ms Quint resided in Seattle at that time but tracking down such a person now is a major task in the given time I have. I presume, if alive, she would be aged around 70 years of age. If anyone can discover a lead to find whether this person can confirm this story, let me know. In the meantime, Beckjord's story remains in the "unproven" category.

But did Tim Dinsdale have anything directly to say on the matter which would give Beckjord's claims some credence? This answer is partly "yes". In the 1982 edition of his "Loch Ness Monster" book, he makes this uninhibited comment while discussing the Shiels photograph:

In the field of the paranormal in recent years science has reluctantly been obliged to admit to the reality of phenomena, which occur, and which are physical in the occurring, and which cannot be explained away in terms of the physics we understand ... It is all very embarrassing, and raises the question ‘what is reality?’.

It goes without saying that if one suspects the Loch Ness Monster of being a paranormal phenomenon then one must first accept the premise that such phenomena in general exist. Tim made a further admission to his credence of such things in his "Operations Newsletter" dated 1976:

"I hope to maintain a good humoured working relationship and contact between the key figures in the Ness and Morar search and research projects - and other fields of exploration, such as the Bigfoot, UFOs and Paranormal Phenomemon each of which deserves a focus of attention."

Furthermore, it is recorded that Tim was a member of The Ghost Club which is the oldest organisation associated with psychical research. He was active in recruiting psychic researcher, Bill Bellars, to its membership:

"Tim was a member of our club, and we met up in Scotland. We became firm friends, and it was he who invited me to join the Ghost Club."

However, perhaps the most thorough article Tim wrote on himself, Loch Ness and the paranormal was published in the late 1970s. Here he revealed something about the strange goings on at Loch Ness for the March 1979 issue of the now defunct Alpha magazine. To begin with, Tim makes a curious statement about a dichotomy of phenomena at Loch Ness:

"Firstly, that the Loch Ness monster, whichever way one chooses to regard it, really is a phenomenon. Everything connected with it - be it measured in terms of mythology and legend, zoological possibility, scientific improbability, or human involvement - is phenomenal."

"Secondly - that beyond the phenomenon, in real terms, there exist the phenomena witnessed by researchers at Loch Ness and Loch Morar, and visitors, and local people, which can be both inexplicable, and "etheric" in lack of substance, but real enough in effect."

Are these two phenomena in any way connected in Dinsdale's eyes? On the one hand, he sounds perfectly "zoological" but on the other hand he refuses to draw a strict line of demarcation between the two:

"The difference between the two is simply the difference between the 'normal' and the 'paranormal'  because if the Loch Ness monster exists, for all its extraordinary features, it is as 'normal' a being as is, for example, the mountain gorilla, which for many years before its official discovery was thought to be an imaginary creature. Paranormal happenings, on the other hand, need to be recognised as such, and classified separately - and they may have nothing to do with the monster."

Note he does not say "they have nothing to do with the monster". Tim then delves further into these paranormal happenings at Loch Ness and his own experiences.

"Over the years I have been careful to collect information on these paranormal happenings, and to record my own experiences which have on occasion been peculiar, and sometimes disturbing. As a serious student of this type of phenomena, both as a member of the College of Psychic Studies and the long-established Ghost Club, and having read widely on the subject, I have become convinced of the need to keep one's feet squarely on the ground - as an engineer should - and thus in recording a few of these happenings, the reader may be assured of a balanced approach to the subject, and a degree of objectivity."

When I read those words, I wondered if Tim had collected enough material for another book on Loch Ness, but one of a more nebulous and other worldly nature? And just what were these events described as "disturbing"? Were we approaching Beckjord territory? Without a full disclosure of information we cannot say for sure.

As stated in the quote, we are given a hint of Dinsdale's further involvement with paranormal matters by his membership of another psychical organisation, the College of Psychical Studies which advertises itself thusly:

"Founded in 1884, the College is a beacon of light and learning for those seeking to explore a consciousness beyond matter."
Clearly, Tim Dinsdale was a man who had more than a passing interest in the paranormal. Going back to the article, Tim does record one unusual encounter at Loch Ness around 1975.

"Climbing down the steep hillside west of Urquhart Bay at Loch Ness one night about four years ago, I was making my way back to the small research boat, Water Horse, on which I lived. It was swinging at anchor about 30 yards off-shore. There was just enough light to make out the white of the fibreglass hull. Glancing at the hands of my watch I could see they were both exactly at midnight, giving a 'one hand only' impression, which was odd. 

At that precise moment a strange bluish light seemed to emanate from the ground, about 40 yards ahead of me - for a fraction of a second it lit up the field, and the trees below me at the water's edge. Startled, I halted in my tracks - before continuing down the slope into the eerie gloom, determined not to be put off by ghostly fireworks. A second flash then occurred, from beyond the line of trees, just over the water. There was no one there of course; and when climbing into my inflatable dinghy.

I rowed out quickly to Water Horse and scrambled aboard. I could think of no rational explanation for the lights, which unlike summer lightning were blue in colour. Furthermore, they were immediately local - they did not light up the sky, only the field and trees ahead of me. It was a strange experience, and the coincidence of the watch hands directly in line at midnight, equally so."

Interestingly, this reminded me of another bluish object that was seen falling near Loch Ness a year or so ago (story here). Tim further adds an experience from Loch Morar when he heard a blood curdling scream echo across the loch one night as he sought a safe haven during a storm at 3 o'clock in the morning. He further mentions the dowsing abilities of an unnamed lady in 1970 (whom we can identify as Winifred Cary) who apparently dowsed over a map of Loch Ness to pinpoint two monster locations for them. 

Tim goes onto say that they went out to the locations with sonar equipment and registered anomalous hits within 200 yards of her first location and exactly at the second location.

So what are we to make of this matter? Did Tim Dinsdale come round to a paranormal view of Nessie or did he always keep stories of Loch Ness Monsters and Loch Ness Paranormalities apart in a state of continual tension?

I was once told by a fellow cryptozoologist that Tim Dinsdale's mother was a christian seer and one can presume that some of that supernatural influence must have left an impression on her son. Given all this paranormality in Tim's life, it would indeed seem strange that the Loch Ness Monster was a lone zoological island in a paranormal sea. In fact, based on what I have researched, it would be no surprise to me if it was proven conclusively that he did hold to a paranormal Nessie (whatever that may entail).

What seems certain is that Tim Dinsdale did not shut the door on a paranormal Loch Ness Monster and he had tales to tell of Loch Ness which I suspect are now lying in a box or folder somewhere crying out to be told to the world! Sadly, it is probably safe to assume that if such material does exist, it will go the way of other Loch Ness research and never see the light of day again.


Tony Healy, who is a paranormal cryptozoologist, met Tim Dinsdale in 1979 and adds this comment:

"While at Ness in 1979 I asked Tim if he thought there was any possibility that the creatures were, as Ted Holiday suggested, paranormal. He said no, but went on to say that he did believe in some paranormal phenomena. One night while moored near Ft Augustus Abbey he'd heard what sounded like a man being flogged, and was sure it was a psychic experience - and that it may have been the sound of someone being tortured there after the '45 rebellion."


  1. Thanks for a very interesting article. Seems to me that Dinsdale was keeping an open mind, but was cautious about that. Reasonable enough for him, imo. His comment about mountain gorillas was spot on. A shame about his unpublished notes, if they exist.

  2. Well, it doesn't rely on him but he is part of the tale. The idea was also to name his other witness who (if they ever came forward) may not be so "looney".

  3. Thanks for teasing out a bit more of Tim Dinsdale's experiences and thoughts at Loch Ness. I've always admired his principled devotion to investigating the odd phenomenon beneath it's surface. I would also love to know more about his unpublished reflections and observations.

  4. Great scholarship as always. If anything, Dinsdale was a rarity - a truly open mind that did not get stuck on one idea or theory. Reading his books, especially "Project Water Horse" or the more personal thoughts and comments at the beginning of "The Leviathans" ("Monster Hunt"), one can see, above all, his love of the quest and the mystery. In one of Henry Bauer's articles, he talks about Dinsdale's interest in all sorts of topics and mysteries. Your article and sources add to a clear sense of his open-mindedness and willingness to see what the mystery itself told him about its true nature. I think, too, that if one spends enough time at a place like Loch Ness, one is bound to start hearing or feeling the voice of nature. "Project Water Horse," I think, reflects his openness to the mystery of life itself, and that his quest, as he says was above all about TRUTH, as he says in "The Leviathans."
    He was a deep and open-minded thinker, not dogmatic as so many people are.

    1. Hey, Willy. Long time no hear! How's the research?

  5. Hello there,
    I have been reading your blog for months and am very impressed and also glad to see a much-needed "new generation" of researchers with new views on a fascinating subject. I myself have been a keen investigator of the subject, though not, alas, to such fruitful ends as you have achieved.

    Re: Dinsdale and his open-mindedness on matters supernatural; in the fourth edition of "Loch Ness Monster", he details the events during his research at the loch almost exactly 47 years ago.
    Quoting directly:
    "In late September 1965, I made another abortive attempt to gain close-up zoom photography, from the inaccessible place on the south shore east of Foyers bay. It was my ninth private expedition, it nearly proved my last.
    To avoid humping equipment through the trees and dense undergrowth of the precipitous shoreline, a trek I had made on nearly 124 occasions, I had brought a tiny fibreglass car-top boat. It proved most valuable, until i met a Loch Ness squall which almost capsised it.
    Next, ashore, I went down with some strange virus infection. My equipment kept going wrong, and I damaged my hand, almost losing the top joint of one finger.
    Returning home, I felt so ill that i knew the tme had come to abandon this wretched place, which had bought nothing but misfortune. In spite of the Loch's seclusion, I was concious of something there, which did not seem rational: a subjective feeling of unease. It was as though some awful influence pervaded the atmosphere. Something evil."

    Forgive me for quoting at length, but I believe that the entire passage has relevance to your post.


    1. Most appropriate, thanks. I read elsewhere that Tim oft spoke of the "Loch Ness Hoodoo" where things went sufficiently wrong for video/photos to end up not as they were expected ....

  6. Yes, I have read that too. Holiday seemed to come to similar conclusions from his personal experience. His "near miss" when about to film a hump which "deflated" as he pressed the trigger on his cine camera being the one which stands out in my memory.

    I will say that I find much of the southeastern shore (say from just past Dores to Foyers) to harbour powerful atmosphere, a extremely subjective view no doubt, but real enough to me! More than once I have found myself feling very drowsy when tarrying at points along this shoreline near the water. Similar sojurns on the northern shore at various locations never seem to have this effect....

  7. Tim "was a secret paranormalist and kept it quiet just to save his book sales."

    Yet we're told by the debukers (to espouse the recent Michael Prescottism) larding on the supernatural's how such authors make their 'millions' *snicker* by spewing woo-woo to the gullible.

    GB when I was doing Environmental Science at university in the 90s I pointed out it was highly likely much of geology physics chemistry and biology was misunderstood and in time even plants'd be found to utilize quantum physics.

    I was told by some lecturers since we pretty much already had all the answers in these fields trying to tie in the quantum world was merely creating unnecessary complications.

    But that point of view was and remains due to the forces of history which've trained us to think in terms of the Newtonian viewpoint because we 'discovered' it 'first' whereas what actually happened was Newtonian physics 'emerged' out of Quantum physics which in turn emerged when things started cooling down after the Big Bang.

    My point being once you realise as Newton himself stated Newtonian physics was only ever a description of what it was possible for him to observe at the time and never an explanation then you realise the weirdness of the quantum world's the norm.

    And when you further grasp the Quantum world emerged out of the even weirder and completely unknown physics which prevailed immediately after the Big Bang you suddenly realise Tim Dinsdale didn't necessarily have to abandon the viewpoint Nessie wasn't flesh and blood but merely accomodate the possibility life which's taken billions of years to evolve on this planet if not indeed even longer before reaching this planet may actually have tricks up the sleeves of even the most banal forms of life we've yet to even conceive.

    1. Alan, you're probably expanding and confirming there what Tim opined as "what is reality?".

  8. An interesting read. What I take from it is there is no evidence to suggest Dinsdale thought there was a paranormal side to Nessie even though he had an interest in the paranormal. Anything else is just speculation. Indeed it’s just as valid (if not as exciting) to speculate that he had no paranormal beliefs. People do join places like The Ghost Club as a way of looking into these matters; it’s not to say they end up being convinced they are "true"

    I'd really like to have seen that covered in your article. It would have been worth exploring the possibility that he had an interest, but no particular belief in the paranormal.

    1. I don't doubt Tim believed in paranormal events "which cannot be explained away in terms of the physics we understand" and experienced them himself.

      But what he thought produced them is not stated. He could have believed they were the product of the human mind, another mind or he was non-commital (which does not stop one accepting such phenomema exist).

  9. I am a rational person, trained in science with a degree. I worked as a researcher for some time. None of that implies that I am free of mental illness, but given the sheer numbers of feelings of dread and equipment malfunctions (at least one of which, I seem to remember, was a one off malfunction of a trusty camera that never happened before or after said event) suggest to me that something currently unexplainable is at work here. I always thought of Nessie as a flesh and blood creature, just an undiscovered one. Now I'm not so sure.
    I'm a follower of certain other (serious) aspects of unexplained events, and the feeling of dread seems to pop up where people find themselves in the wrong place, so to speak. Where something is wrong but they can't put their finger on it. An interdimensional event maybe? A burst of energy, knocking out equipment? Who knows? But too many things say that something big lives there, or maybe visits in an, as yet, unknown manner.

  10. "Dinsdale...endured a series of ghosts, ghoulies and demons crawling into his boat and coming at him. They never harmed him physically, but they finally killed off the plesiosaur idea for him."

    Yes, he really had a spiritual experience.