Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Abominable Science! and the Loch Ness Monster

(This review also appears on the Amazon website)

A book has been recently written by Daniel Loxton and Donald Prothero that seems to have to caused a bit of a stir amongst the skeptics. That book is called "Abominable Science!" and one reviewer has gone so far as to describe it as a "groundbreaking new book on the subject of cryptozoology". Groundbreaking? Does that mean it breaks new ground on the subject of my favourite cryptid, Nessie? Only one way to find out and that was to buy it (at the cheapest possible price, of course).

Being numbered at 411 pages, it certainly carried weight gravitationally. Would it carry weight in the matter of cryptid critique? Now, I am only reviewing the specific chapter on the Loch Ness Monster as well as the general chapters on the science and culture of cryptozoology. The latter two would give an idea of the authors' generic approach to the Loch Ness Monster.

I will not presume to judge them on the Sasquatch, Yeti, Sea Serpents or Mokele-Mbembe sections. The simple reason being I would not be able to tell how weighty their specific arguments would be. I may find these chapters entertaining, prosaical and historically informative, but that is not the main point ... how accurate are the arguments against the cryptid in question?

But onto the Loch Ness Monster which occupies about 67 pages including notes. Now I have been interested in the Loch Ness Monster for nearly forty years and continue to believe there is a mystery to be solved in the loch. 

The question for me is where this mystery finds its true place between the overly simplistic view of excited tourists seeing boat wakes and the fantastical view of a resident colony of dinosaurs? Would this book prove to be ground breaking and offer new insights? The answer is a definite no.

Loxton and Prothero play it safe by taking refuge in the over hyped theory of misidentification and hoax. Is there anything that could be called original and new in this chapter? Somewhat, but I will come back to that. 

But let us get over with the formalities first. Yes, we know there have been hoaxes. Yes, we know people can mistake everyday objects for monsters. And, yes, we know, no one has yet produced a specimen, dead or alive. Does that kill the story? Of course not.

Indeed, it would have been better if they just stuck to their empirical mantra "show us the body", moved on and left the rest of us to get on with it. The problem here is that they won't and we end up with an inadequate explanation for what over a thousand people have claimed to have seen in the last 80 years and beyond.

So, we know about the fake Surgeon's Photograph, Marmaduke Wetherell's Hippo tracks, the 1975 underwater tree stump  and the other spurious inventions of men. These aside, the authors began to dig a hole for themselves in terms of accuracy.

They first attempt to prove that any timeline of evidence before Nessie appeared in 1933 is fabrication. The matter of the dreaded water horse is rejected as irrelevant to Loch Ness and "none of them is indigenous to Loch Ness" anyway. This is just plain wrong. The imagery and folklore attached to those creatures is as much a cultural expression compared to the present day when we see all manner of strange representations of Nessie in film and other media. Do we doubt people claim to see things in Loch Ness just because a horror film depicts a green, seventy foot, man eating Nessie? Neither should it be the case with the Kelpie cultural representations two hundred years before.

The authors' claim that no water horse was "indigenous to Loch Ness" is also wrong. There are multiple references to such a beast in the old literature. In fact, there is even a reference to such a story from 1852 a mere two pages on in their own chapter! An epic fail on the proof reading front?

Furthermore, a monster hoax is mentioned from 1868, but it doesn't seem to occur to the author that a monster hoax in 1868 may presuppose a monster tradition in the loch pre-dating 1868. A major omission is also made at this point as this old article says that a "huge fish" attested to by only the "most credulous natives" was occasionally seen in the loch. What was this "huge fish" and why do the authors omit this reference? Note if it was only a sturgeon, I doubt anyone would be dismissing these dumb natives! I find this omission strange to say the least.

The author makes a further error when he quotes Rupert T. Gould's 1934 book "The Loch Ness Monster and others". Gould refers to a letter from the Duke of Portland talking about stories of a "horrible great beast" back in 1895. The authors make mileage out of Gould when they quote him as saying these "stories are of no great value as evidence". Evidently, this is meant to demonstrate the irrelevance of these old reports. Yet, in an astonishing act of omission, Loxton and Prothero do not quote what Gould then says:

"But the same cannot be said of a statement which I recently received from Mr. F. Fraser"

Gould then goes on to describe Mr. Fraser's sighting from 1904 and others from before 1933 also gain Gould's attention. It was clear to me that Gould's disinterest was towards second hand accounts as opposed to those with which he could interview the witness face to face. Basically, Gould has been misquoted in this tactic of promoting the weak evidence and ignoring the strong.

And then we come to the story of St. Columba and his monster encounter. Keen to get rid of this most ancient of Loch Ness tales,  the author basically rubbishes it as religious propaganda. I don't doubt the story is embellished, but Loxton and Prothero completely fail to explain why the story happened in of all places, Loch Ness. Coincidence? Some people may jump here and say it didn't happen in Loch Ness but in the River Ness. That's okay. Adamnan calls Loch Ness "the Lake of the River Ness". It was all the same river complex as far as he was concerned.

Moving into the Nessie "era", it came as no surprise that old Alex Campbell comes in for a bit of a bashing. Campbell reported the first Nessie story involving the Mackays around March 1933. He is accused of hyping the story to further his monster agenda. Furthermore, the authors try to palm the whole thing off as two seals. I address these weak arguments in this article.

Campbell is further accused of embellishing a reported sighting from 1930 involving three fishermen. However, Campbell is again vindicated by Gould who interviewed the witnesses who spoke of two or three shallow humps which were not seals! But since the authors footnote Gould's book, surely they would have known this?

Is there anything novel in this chapter? There is one thing. It is the suggestion that the famous Spicers land sighting was a rehash of a scene from King Kong involving a Diplodocus chasing some men. Loxton and Prothero are somewhat ambiguous in deciding whether George Spicer lied about the whole thing or in some strange way "filtered" the scene through a view of an ordinary animal. How exactly does one do that (and how did he convince his wife to lie?).

Loxton begins this King Kong theory with a very unscientific "I believe .." which suggests the evidence for his stance is not going to be strong and this is the case. Firstly, he selects a still from the Diplodocus scene that most resembles the Spicer drawing and redraws it accordingly. This makes one wonder what is wrong with the other stills? The answer is they do not support his theory.

Loxton then attempts to tick off a comparison checklist:

Both had long neck? Check.
Both had no feet visible? Check.
Both had tail curved round side of body? Check.
Both had victim in mouth? Check.

On closer examination, only a sycophantic skeptic would swallow this argument whole. The Spicer neck writhes and undulates, the Diplodocus one is rather stiff. Yes, both feet are not visible, but why is this "a striking detail"? And where exactly does a Diplodocus' feet begin?

The tail is plainly seen not to curve elsewhere in the film and George Spicer cannot ultimately decide whether there was anything in a mouth or not. A bit of a mixed bag and not very convincing.

Both Spicer and Gould had seen the Kong film, and various Nessie sceptics have flagged this film as an important influence in the perception of the Loch Ness Monster. Though one can understand how the dinosaurs in "King Kong" would make people think of the Loch Ness Monster, it is not clear how that translates to people allegedly mistaking birds for plesiosaurs on Loch Ness.

Indeed, a look at the newspapers of the time does not exactly strongly link the two in the minds of the local, Scottish and British public. For starters, the only Kong you will see mentioned at the Highland newspapers archive is Hong Kong!

Widening out, the nationally read Scotsman newspaper only mentions the film nine times to the end of 1934 but a review of the film in October 1933 does say the monsters of Loch Ness would feel quite a home on Skull Island!

The more widely read London Times only mentions "King Kong" eight times in the same period and makes no linkage at all with the Loch Ness Monster. Not exactly compelling evidence.

Exception must also be taken to a loose piece of logic when this quote appears:

"Before Spicer's land sighting there were no long neck reports at all and it was the long neck that was so crucial."

The problem here is a statistical one. There were in fact only two other reported sightings in 1933 before Spicer which were correctly stated as involving no long neck. But only about 10%-20% of sightings are known to involve a long neck which means our two sightings are not statistically significant. You would perhaps need at least 10 sightings on the record before you could attach any meaning to the long neck of the Spicers (note to myself - Ulrich Magin list claims 3 more reports - but not on my photocopies - double check).

Going back to the photographic evidence, the authors seem to be selective in what they say about the first picture of the monster taken by a Hugh Gray in November 1933. The book says there is nothing to see in this picture but omit to mention the fish like head that can be seen to the right. They must surely have known about this as a google for "hugh gray loch ness" reveals an article at the top of page one which discusses this very thing. Or perhaps they only got their Nessie data from books published up to the 1970s? Again, it is what is not said rather than said that is significant here.

Like Alex Campbell, the indirect approach of character assassination is chosen. Gray claimed six sightings and in a piece of flimsy guilt-by-association, Hugh Gray is lumped in with arch-hoaxer Frank Searle. Why? Because Searle also claimed multiple sightings!

So, how often is someone allowed to see Nessie before they are branded a liar? Two, three, four? However, Loxton has not done his homework here. Consulting Dinsdale's book "Loch Ness Monster", it turns out these other sightings were only low grade wakes and bow waves. So, ermm,  why didn't our liar Hugh jazz up his sightings a bit with humps and lomg necks?

You can't win with skeptics. Gray is taken to task for holding onto the film for nearly three weeks. Yet if someone like Lachlan Stuart in 1951 has his picture processed the very same day, they also object with the accusation of fast profiteering.

Speaking of Lachlan Stuart, this three hump photo was always an easy target for skeptics because the creature was in shallow waters. An easy spot to dump some hay bales according to a Richard Frere. Frere alleged that Stuart had owned up everything to him. However, the written record of what Frere said is contradictory and would not make it into a court of law as evidence. As it turns out, critics of the Stuart picture are quite accommodating to this contradiction ... a lot more than they would be to any flaw in an eyewitness account of a creature in Loch Ness!

Regarding the Dinsdale film, the authors repeat the ongoing controversy about whether he only filmed a boat, but conclude the film's mysterious blob cannot tell us for sure whether it was a monster. Rather, Tim's observational skills are called into question because he had two false alarms before then but it is a fact that his own self-judgement rejected them! On this basis, a head-neck sighting by Tim 11 years later is also called into question. But surely after eleven years of subsequent loch observation, Dinsdale would have been one of the most experienced observers of the loch and conversant with almost every deceptive appearance the loch presents?

Furthermore, the ad hominem implication that Dinsdale was not a fit witness because he believed in the supernatural/paranormal does the authors no credit at all. Finally, the alleged issue of the Dinsdale family not publishing the film in order to allegedly hide the "truth" is also now a non-issue. They put the whole film on the web this year.

The authors also look at other ventures such as expeditions and sonar. The 1972 flipper is correctly shown to be "over-enhanced" but I must admit that having seen that picture, I can still see a similar flipper shape in the unenhanced picture! Pareidolia or something else?

Surface watch expeditions such as the LNI from 1962-1972 are discussed and the authors compute that quality evidence should have been obtained. Unfortunately, they again indulge in selective quoting when they quote Roy Mackal in his book "Monsters of Loch Ness" where he says there are about 3,000 recorded sightings in a 30 year period since 1933. However, they then completely ignore what Mackal says on the next page of his book when he reduces that number to 10 valid sightings per year (a number I agree with but for different reasons). Why did they not use this number instead? Because 100 sightings per year bolsters their argument better than 10!

The sonar evidence is dismissed on the basis that false positives from reflection and refraction can mislead. Which leads me to ask whether the authors consider sonar a viable instrument given these limitations? Sadly, the three mysterious sonar hits from Operation Deepscan in 1987 are dismissed as "wobbly scratches". On the other hand, Loch Ness researcher, Adrian Shine, says he cannot explain them (though that does not mean he admits they are monsters).

Misqouting is also evident when the authors state that work by Adrian Shine found only 22 tonnes of fish in the loch. This is not true either, his sonar work only refers to the open pelagic area of the loch which omits the littoral and abyssal regions. That would exclude the bulk of shore hugging fish such as migratory salmon and trout and the deeper fish such as eels.

So the authors plump for the misidentification of everyday objects and hoaxes as the reason we have the Loch Ness Monster. What can we say about this? The first thing that came to mind was the author's own plea for scientific testability in chapter one. When you bring anecdotal evidence to this theory, how is it testable? Or to be more accurate, how is this theory falsifiable? What theoretical eyewitness case would falsify this theory? None it would appear because the theory is a classic example of circular reasoning. To wit, "if it is not misidentification it is a hoax" and "if it is not a hoax it is misidentification". This theory would appear to be about as useful as a chocolate teapot in evaluating eyewitness testimony.

The diversity of descriptions of the creature is not a game changer either. It is readily admitted that a proportion of stories are hoaxes and misidentifications. This is inevitably going to corrupt any attempt to form a picture of what any creature may look like.

Faulty perception and memory are also said to play a big part in what people claim to see in Loch Ness. That is a pretty generalised statement. It would be more accurate to say the reliability of a sighting is proportional to the experience of the observer, the distance to the object, the time spent observing it, the clarity of the scene and the time elapsed since the event in relating it. But this book seems intent on whitewashing every witness with the same brush. We have witnesses who have claimed to have seen the creature close up and we have witnesses experienced with the loch's conditions. But you know why these are not a problem? Because we just shunt them in a non-falsifiable way into the "hoax" section!

The discussion on memory distortion is over-stated and like real-time misperception, is not very well cross-referenced in the book's footnotes (i.e. next to no research has been done to prove any of this in a cryptid context). In fact, shall we say that much of the evidence is ... anecdotal!

Many sightings are recorded within days by the newspapers or by on site investigators.  If you are talking about years and begin to ask detailed questions about time of day or weather conditions then you will get some degree of error. But put it this way, if you saw a ten foot hump rear itself out of the water only 200 metres from you, how burnt into the memory would that be? It is a well established fact that traumatic events are more easily imprinted on the memory. That fact does not seem to be factored into our authors' thinking.

So where does this all leave us? A lot of misquotes, faulty reasoning and weak assumptions.

Do the authors offer anything valid in their defence. They do.

The lack of a live or dead specimen is the strongest argument. I don't necessarily accept their argument about finding bones. If the Loch Ness Monster was a fish like animal, its cartilaginous bones would dissolve in the waters quicker. That is why advocates of the Sturgeon theory are less likely to find a dead specimen at the bottom of the loch. The bottom of the loch is also about 12 square miles in extent and barely explored. Furthermore, the bottom is in a continual state of silting up which perhaps progresses at about a rate of one millimetre per year.

The loch's chemical nature also ensures decomposition progresses at a slower rate allowing scavengers (and other Nessies?) to strip a body before it bloats and becomes buoyant. Nevertheless, it is the strongest argument against large creatures in Loch Ness.

The point about the infrequency of sightings is also explained if the creature is not the plesiosaur type that is so often set up as a straw man argument, but a primary water breather. What that might be is a matter of speculation.

Finally, the matter is raised about Nessie-type fossils or rather the lack of them in the surrounding region. I confess I could not point you to one, primarily because I do not know what species the creature belongs to. If I had an idea of that, I would begin to look at the fossil record. Until then, I do not have the information to make an informed opinion. But the question has started a train of thought.

So, going back to the beginning. Something that lies between boat wakes and a colony of dinosaurs. Like the dark abyss of Loch Ness that lies between surface and bottom, no one seems to want to explore that region much!


  1. I have not read an explanation of your opinion of the Surgeon's Photo, but was surprised to see you call that a fake yet stick up for the Stuart Photo because "what Frere said is contradictory and would not make it into a court of law as evidence". I feel the same about the "account" of the Surgeon's Photo. I'm sure you've written about this, and I will look for it.

    1. You can check the "Classic Pictures" section for my articles and give me your feedback.

    2. So I went and read all your posts on these photos and I am still surprised you accept the hoax explanation. I have long had many of the questions you bring up - how involved was the chemist who developed the plates, if at all; why didn't they announce the hoax. I also find much of the events described hard to believe, combine this with the sheer improbability of attaching a head to a toy sub and still have it not only float but "dive just below the surface..." and I cannot accept this story as an accurate description of what is in the photo. I loved reading your posts though...

    3. Yes, there are unanswered questions. My own judgement is based on the balance of probabilties rather than one game changing argument.

      The second photo is still a mystery in terms of who took it and under what circumstances.

      The non-announcement of the hoax is most likely due to the whole thing getting out of hand, but you could still argue this would make the Daily Mail fall harder but then there is the matter of what legal action the Mail would have taken against Wetherell and his accomplices.

      The loaded sub is a valid argument, the reproduction you see on documentaries is a much lighter foam object which tells you nothing about the stability of the original toy sub and the (presumably hollow) neck. As far as I am aware no one has attempted a proper reproduction.

    4. I actually have no problem with the second photo either. Lighting conditions outdoors can change in an instant, and in a nice clear version - I'm looking at More Than A Legend right now - I see the same top of the head, just in a slightly different position. Since Wilson claims that what he was photographing had disappeared after he took four exposures either it flew away or submerged. What I see, if indeed the head/neck is before the little head, is photographic evidence of the classic vertical or straight down submerging of a Nessie. The first photo shows the creature starting to sink, with a depression in the surface where the body is going down, pulling water with it. By the time he took the second shot the head was just about to go under.

      As far as the "story of the hoax" I have many issues, here is one - this notion of someone stepping on the model to sink it when they "heard the water bailiff coming". I have more than one issue just with this part, but for now anyway the stepping - the uncropped photo makes it pretty clear what ever it is, it is not within stepping distance of any shore.

    5. hopkarma - there was discussion on this topic in the Nessie Yahoo group a while back. I pointed out that the object in the "second" photo is on water with different wave conditions which would not permit a reflection as shown, so what ever it is, it is not a genuine photo of something similar to that in the "first" photo floating on the water surface. Regarding the "stepping on" issue, I cannot imagine that after all the effort in production the Wetherells did not have the device attached to a line. On the buoyancy issue, Spurling could have used thin balsa sheet to make a 2-D neck. If anyone wishes to supply me with an Unda-Wunda submarine I will carry out experiments with it.

    6. Dick Raynor - I am not a member of the Yahoo group, and probably wish I didn't know of such a thing, because now I probably will have to join and I've already got this and Steve's...anyway, to your as always thought provoking response:While I absolutely concede to your knowledge of wave conditions and reflections, I'm not so sure it applies here. Isn't the "classic" version of the "first" photo not only cropped but enlarged? So in the "second" photo I would suggest that yes the light conditions have changed a bit - sun behind a cloud? - but that we are also seeing much more water surface area. Crop that photo as tight as the first and enlarge to fill the frame and I'm not sure the reflection is a problem. Is there more info I need to read in the Yahoo group on this?

      As for your next point, if the they were concerned about all the effort they put into production why did they then just step on it and sink it, and not even bother to go back when the coast was clear again to retrieve it? Or is that why they never called their own hoax - no physical proof? I don't see any where there would be a line anyway - the line would have to have been heading toward the shore, that is directly at the camera. And I thought in the Boyd version they describe how it was made, and there was no mention of a thin balsa sheet, so why even suggest that?

      I am also mystified by this phrase that I know I've seen more than once in this story, and that is "hearing the water bailiff coming". What, was Alex Campbell like the Good Humor Man, playing little bells, or did he have a Water Bailiff song that he sang as he made his rounds? How could they possibly know it was the Water Bailiff that was coming, and if it was - well you don't think Alex Campbell would find it about odd to find several men standing on the shore of the Loch, one of whose fine trousers are soaked, with a camera set up pointed at the water? Especially if one of those men was Wetherell? And then to have a new photo show right afterward? This is more improbable than the idea of a Loch Ness Monster.

  2. Thanks for such a thorough review; and holding the sceptics accountable to their own rules.

  3. I find your argument that Dinsdale's years of experience on the Loch ought to make him a good judge of whether or not a sighting is "explainable" to be in direct odds with your ongoing arguments with Dick Raynor, whose similar (greater?) experience is often directly dismissed due to his differing opinion. Food for thought.

    And let's not forget the fact that Dinsdale was a cheerleader (good intentions duly noted) for numerous, and obvious, frauds. Bias colors one's opinion, particularly when said bias defines an individual's pursuits.

    1. Both are/were experienced on the loch and its varying conditions. The difference is Tim saw the monster, Dick hasn't (so far).

    2. Again, bias colors opinion. The former is in no way proven.

      And one could argue that the Raynor film is more compelling than the Dinsdale film...and Raynor has discredited his own "claim to fame." That speaks volumes of his knowledge, experience, and character.

    3. Bias cuts both ways. Eleven years on the loch counts for something ....

      I assume Dick was obliged to discredit his own film once he became a Nessie Atheist?

    4. "The difference is Tim saw the monster, Dick hasn't (so far)."
      Excuse me? I believe it is written in Tim's Loch Ness Monster, Fourth Edition, p 216 " (In May '81) I spent four days and nights on the New Atlantis,ably assisted by Dick Raynor, who, since his epic filming of the Loch Ness monster for the LNI in 1967, had become a resident at the Loch, now working and diving for the wave-energy research group based at Dores." Now, GB, do I need to point out the relevant words to you. Tim and I both filmed the Loch Ness monster, and the only difference is that I recognised mine for what it was just a month after the events described above, when I saw a similar disturbance to the June 13th 1967 event, but from a range of around 100 metres so I could see the birds. From then on I described my journey along the learning curve whenever I was asked. I can only assume that Tim never had a parallel experience of revelation, but if the man I knew was still alive today he would have recognised his boat decades ago with the advent of personal computers but he would now be out there with a Lowrance StructureScan like the one on the boat I skipper trying to discover more.

    5. You will note my sentence ended in a question mark!

      Will you also presume to "gently" take Tim aside and tell how he never saw any monster on the other two occassions?

    6. Anyone reading Dinsdale's memoirs can clearly see that he desperately, desperately wanted to see the LNM a second time. That ought to inform the details of his split-second, semi-corner-of the-eye sighting.

      As Dick knew Dinsdale personally, I tend to trust his judgement on where his head might be on the subject these days were he still with us; but you can't use science and logic on a Creationist, so who knows.

      Bottom line is this: even those of us who have been to Loch Ness with cameras one or two or several times are still armchair experts. Following Dick Raynor's convincing and (at the time) frustratingly reasonable analysis for more than a decade finally made me realize that he, Shine, and a handful of others are far more qualified to weigh in than the rest of us are...and their conclusions make perfect sense. I find it exhausting that Nessie enthusiasts (like the aforementioned Creationists) embrace science only when it "validates" their preconceived conclusions.

    7. If he was so "desperate", I don't think so many years would have passed by.

      Why don't you ask his son Angus about his Dad's judgement? Presumably he knew him even better than Dick.

      What has creationism got to do with the Loch Ness Monster debate?

      I think my critique of Loxton suggests so called scientists also only embrace where it validates. You have only picked up one point.

    8. Angus would be understandably biased. That's like me telling you to ask my devoted wife whether or not I'm a good person -- there's little mystery to what the response will be. This might not be true of ALL wives, but I'm comfortable in making this apt comparison.

      The Creationist comment stems from my earlier argument in a prior blog that belief in the existence of the seemingly Unprovable and the wild theories, allowances and refusal to see logic are inherent in cryptozoology as well as religion. Besides, weren't you the one using the term "Nessie Atheist" a few comments back...?

      I got the gist of your review. The problem is that science demands proof and repeatability. As of now, there is absolutely no evidence (see the definition of the word before putting a JARIC analysis up for response!) of the existence of LNMs -- quite the opposite, actually. The classic photos/films fail to stand up to scrutiny, and no legitimate documentation has come to light during an age where photos and video ought to be in greater quantities. Everything in a Nessie textbook can be rationally explained by those who live at Loch Ness, study at Loch Ness, or most importantly, understand Loch Ness. This last point cannot be overstated, though it tends to fall on deaf ears.

      And not to keep harping on this, but Dinsdale's enthusiasm obstructed his judgement when he devoted a baffling number of pages to Doc Shiels and the jaw-droppingly obvious hoax that is the Smith film. His objectivity clearly took a back seat to the needs of his quest.

    9. There is no unbiased assessor/researcher in this field as far as I am concerned. That means you'll get different assessments of Tim Dinsdale.

      Well, unprovable, wild theories, allowances and refusal to see logic I think is present in scepticism. I got a taste of that reviewing "Abominable Science".

      How does a sceptic prove our archetypal Greta Finlay saw a deer? They can't and the fact that anyone can even suggest such a weak theory and refuses to accept any critique of it sums it up for me! All they have to say is "I don't know what she saw". I'll understand that, I know they won't be admitting it's a monster but some kind of academic pride seems to compel them to always come up with often barely plausible explanations (which often require massaging of the data conveniently justified by the mantra of witness incompetence).

      Or just call Finlay a lair and be done with it! Unfortunately, just saying "liar, liar" does not give one a chance to show how clever they are at "explaining" things! :)

      Part of my goal is to show up the flaws in sceptical arguments .. and, boy, there were enough of those in this book!

      If evidence for you means "body", "tissue sample", so be it. It won't stop me from what I am doing.

      Steve Feltham lieves at Loch Ness, studies Loch Ness and understands Loch Ness and thinks there is a large creature in the loch. Are you being selective, Erik?

    10. I'm not following the aggressively defensive (and ongoing) argument that misidentifications are lies or incompetence. It strikes me as odd, to put it mildly.

      Steve Feltham has indeed spent many, many, many years at Loch Ness...and has seen no LNM to date (aside from a strange pop pop pop on a wave). He has also turned into a debunker of fraudulent photos here of late. Make of that what you will.

      No one is suggesting that you cease writing this blog -- indeed, it's one of my favorite reads, and each entry receives three studies on my part. It's important to objectively view both sides of the debate, regardless of bias. Sometimes it's enlightening. I didn't go from avowed believer to atheist arbitrarily!

    11. Regarding your defense of Dinsdale: I would be fascinated to hear you thoughts on the dubious photos and films he championed: o'Connor, Shiels and Smith. Sounds like a fascinating blog topic: "Dinsdale's Objectivity in Relationship to His Quest."

      No one doubts his integrity, sincerity, or passion for the hunt. However, his endorsement of what many consider to be obvious frauds colors his account of his own film, as well as his later sightings.

    12. Well, it is not so cut and dried about Dinsdale and various photos. The truth is that various Nessie die hards probably had different opinions on the "classic" photographs.

      I know Roy Mackal dismissed the Surgeon's Photo as a bird. Dinsdale seems to have dismissed the Gray photo. In fact, it is quite hard to find out what those guys thought about the existing evidence. We assume they just swallowed the lot whole but that is not proven.

      In fact, whenever a author such as Whyte, Dinsdale or Holiday fail to mention a picture one wonders sometimes if it is a silent rejection?

    13. As for myself, I would accept Shiels hoaxed it. I am not convinced about O'Connor or Smith.

    14. Dinsdale got cold feet about the Gray photo later in life; same with The Surgeon's Photo. One has to echo Mr. Raynor's theory that, had he lived, Dinsdale may have had second thoughts about many of the classic images, including his own.

      The three films/photos previously mentioned have more than enough reason to be rejected. As I said, I'd love to see you tackle them in detail, as I'm curious as to why you believe they stand up to scrutiny.

    15. About Smith. Where they hoaxers or was it something I read about some kids in a boat pulling a pole through the water?


    16. Jon:

      Though Dinsdale goes on for pages in the fourth edition of LOCH NESS MONSTER trying to suggest that the Smith film is genuine (and includes sworn and very naive statements from the photographers), it's painfully evident that the Smiths were victims of a schoolboy prank. Raynor and others have demonstrated how the "class project" involving weighted lines yielded an 8mm film of a head and neck. The Smiths were victims of a practical joke. Anyone refuting this need look no further than the fact that the school knew nothing of any such science project.

  4. "Like Alex Campbell, the indirect approach of character assassination is chosen. Gray claimed six sightings and in a piece of flimsy guilt-by-association, Hugh Gray is lumped in with arch-hoaxer Frank Searle. Why? Because Searle also claimed multiple sightings!

    ... So, ermm, why didn't our liar Hugh jazz up his sightings a bit with humps and lomg necks?

    You can't win with skeptics. Gray is taken to task for holding onto the film for nearly three weeks. Yet if someone like Lachlan Stuart in 1951 has his picture processed the very same day, they also object with the accusation of fast profiteering."

    GB are you getting a little confused regarding Hugh Gray? I was unaware that he had five other "sightings". Alex Campbell did claim something along those lines, I seem to recall.
    Regarding Lachlan Stuart, you reject the obvious evidence in the photo itself that it was taken in the evening, which by itself illustrates the impossibility in the original story. He could not have taken it in the evening, waited for the story to spread to Inverness some 10 miles away, stood around while the guy from the Daily Express talked him out of the camera, and then watched as he drove off to Nairn to get the film developed, and then get a print on the train to Glasgow in time to get in the next day's paper, which was a Sunday edition. Sunday papers back then were put to bed much earlier as they had to be printed and on the train themselves soon after midnight. There simply wasn't enough time for all the things to happen as claimed. It seems far more likely that Richard Frere's account is true and my photographs of myself standing knee deep in the water where the monster was cruising past show the plausibility of the hay-bales story. For those who haven't seen it, do visit http://www.lochnessinvestigation.com/whatsnew.htm

    Finally, the crippling argument against the surgeon's "other" photograph being connected with the first is that the reflection in the water simply would not exist in those wave conditions. There was no need to have a complicit chemist to develop the plates as duplicates could easily (and should!) have been exposed and developed to be sure that the pins holding the prints to the wall were out of frame.

    1. It is indeed true he claimed other sightings which are mentioned in "More than a Legend" and Dinsdale's "Loch Ness Monster". However, they don't seem to be that noteworthy.

      I think the Lachlan Stuart ground has been covered in my four articles on the subject. Can't be bothered repeating myself!

      Well, snce I accept the Wilson photo is faked, it's academic to me how one interprets the 2nd picture. But it would complete the story to know how it came about.

    2. Could you kindly tell me which pages of either book mention these other observations by Hugh Gray, as I cannot find them. Thanks, DR

    3. Dick,

      Dinsdale "Loch Ness Monster" 1st edition p.88

      Whyte "More than a Legend" 1st edition p.2

    4. Thank you. CW's account is not very informative beyond saying he has "seen the monster six times", while TD says he saw the "bow wave building up, 'without anything visible' making it". This does illustrate the problems encountered when interviewing people who use scientifically precise terms in a layman's way. There is a natural tendency among people who have seen something unusual, clearly, once, to use it as the identity of things seen less clearly later. You were right to attribute minimal evidential value to the observations.

  5. I think it's quite possible that King Kong might have had an influence and that, as regards dinosaurs / marine reptiles, we've been "all so misled", as Bobby Zimmermann might say. But what about the "Patagonian plesiosaur" of 1910, either as something free-standing or as an influence on popular interpretation? It annoys me when people who make a great play of their rationality quickly jump from noting something as being contemporaneous or a possible explanation to it being the "obvious" accepted explanation.


  6. They've COLOURED 'King Kong??' Grrrrr... Whoever's done that deserves to get fed to a hungry Diplodocus...

    1. I am afraid so, but it was the best clip I could find on a quick search. I love B&W films and enjoyed KK a lot (just ordered "The Maltese Falcon" film, another mysterious "creature").

    2. The only "monster" in THE MALTESE FALCON is a certain Mr. Greenstreet. ;)

    3. They try colouring THAT one they can expect a call from Mr Cairo... :)

    4. Apparently it was for VHS but has sunk without trace!

  7. I'll need to check my notes, but if I recall aright it was Gould who first brought up the dinosaur in 'King Kong' in his interview with Spicer, who agreed that what he saw 'much resembled' this, although Spicer was drawing comparisons with the prehistoric in his initial letter to the Courier; "...the nearest approach to a dragon or a pre-historic monster that I have ever seen in my life.”

  8. I believe (guess this will be a weak argument:) that had pop paleontology been influencing Spicer, he'd have picked some animal OTHER than a medieval dragon as the nearest thing he could compare to the animal he and his wife saw cross the road. I've said at my own blog that "King Kong", "The Lost World", and newspaper coverage of dinosaur fossil finds helped shape the interpretations of things seen at Loch Ness as time moved forward, but at this early stage in the game, 1933, dinosaurian stereotypes had less effect if any on the locals (who had until recently been still referring to it as a "Great Salamander"). From GB's meticulous newspaper research, we may infer very few folk in Scotland or northern Britain had even seen "King Kong" yet at the time of the Spicer's sighting. And as bit of an aside, Spicer never actually said the long wiggly part was the neck, he said there was a long wiggly part where he thought the neck ought to be.

  9. Spicer admitted to Gould that he had seen King Kong. It has even been claimed that he and his wife had just come from the cinema when they had their sighting.
    To me the similarities between their description and a scene from a film that they admitted they had recently seen are more than a coincidence.

    1. Source for claim?

      Not convinced, Scully. Mainly because the similarities are not there. And what made his wife agree to lie in such a ridiculous stunt?

  10. "Source for claim?"
    I read it here:


    I think there are numereous similarities, even down to the jerky movement.
    And I'm not suggesting it was a stunt, rather a combination of a known animal, weather conditions and crucially, imaginations running wild after seeing the film.
    It's important to note the impact that King Kong had on audiences, they were not used to seeing such special effects in 1933.

    1. Looks like Dale Drinnon, but he doesn't source it further so that's that.

      Actually, Gould does not state whether Spicer saw the film before or after his experience ....

  11. GB the Cosmic Joke of books like this's they do exactly what they accuse the authors of pro Loch Ness Monster UFOs ghosts Sasquatch etc books of doing profiting from the gullibility of audiences who pay good money to have reinforced everything they already unquestioningly believe.

    If Loxton an' Prothero'd argued the Patterson Bigfoot film'd been based on King Kong too only Patterson'd given his 'giant ape' a pair of fake breasts because 34 years after seeing King Kong he'd misremembered the pair of heaving bosoms associated with the film belonging to Kong instead of Fay Wray this would've been hailed by their cohorts as the fabulous definitive proof the whole Bigfoot corpus was indeed a hoax.

  12. Speaking of Lachlan Stuart, this three hump photo was always an easy target for skeptics because the creature was in shallow waters. An easy spot to dump some hay bales according to a Richard Frere.

    According to "a" Dick Raynor, who has carried out practical photographic and bathymetric tests at the same location, this photo is an easy target for criticism simply because the water is less than three feet deep there and the monster would have run aground -see http://www.lochnessinvestigation.com/lachlanstuartexamined.html

    The fact that my experimental results are entirely consistent with the report by "a" Richard Frere should be enough to bury this monster photo for all time, and I would invite disclosure of the motives of anyone who would argue otherwise.

    1. I've covered the LS photo in four articles elswwhere on this blog. No point in covering that ground again. Anyone is invited to read my arguments there.

  13. Though one can understand how the dinosaurs in "King Kong" would make people think of the Loch Ness Monster, it is not clear how that translates to people allegedly mistaking birds for plesiosaurs on Loch Ness.
    But that is exactly what ace-witness Alex Campbell did - see Gould 1934

    1. My own take on that is he was getting heat from his employees about this Loch Ness Monster "nonsense" and backtracked. He later went back to what he orginally believed he saw.

  14. Casing Leviathan11 October 2013 at 13:14

    I would certainly agree that he appeared suddenly worried about the amount of publicity his sighting was receiving.

    In the words at the time of Dom Cyril Dieckhoff, (who was preparing notes for a book he hoped to write about the Monster), Campbell “…later modified his statement to say that the sun was in his eyes and a misty haze on the water…gave impression that for some reason was anxious to minimise what he had previously said and absolutely refused to allow name to be mentioned to anyone, though previously had expressed willingness to give his evidence to any scientific enquirer, though not to the press.”

    He had apparently received a letter from the Ness Fisheries Board about his alleged sighting. (Does anyone know if a copy of this exists anywhere?) Bear in mind this was at the height of The Slump and the man had a family to support. He MAY have been mistaken or even lying, but given the times and the circumstances I can see alternative explanations for his subsequent back-tracking.