Thursday, 1 May 2014

Ted Holiday's Little Monster

Back in the 1960s, when the modified plesiosaur theory held sway amongst Nessie believers, we had Ted Holiday and his little monster. The letter below from Ted Holiday to the Inverness Courier on August 16th 1963 laid out his general invertebrate theory and makes for interesting reading (click to enlarge).





However, in 1966, David James gave Ted an article on a new fossil find. This led to a train of thought that produced his main work, "The Great Orm of Loch Ness" two years later. That fossil was Tullimonstrum Gregarium, a strange creature found fossilised amongst the carboniferous deposits of the coal strip mines some 50 miles south of Chicago. The first find was made in 1958 by Francis Tully, to whom he lent his name to the fossil ("Tully's common monster").

The resin model below is representative of the small size of this creature which has ranged from three to fourteen inches and you can pick up the occasional fossil on eBay for a reasonable sum. Some fossils also had a suggestion of an orifice below the "paddles" which lent speculation to the "neck" passing prey to this mouth. The creature continues to puzzle palaeontologists as to which phylum it precisely belongs to.



Holiday was convinced this was the solution to the Loch Ness mystery and "bet his shirt" on it in his Orm book. The problems were obvious though and the passage of four subsequent decades of palaeontology has not altered this.

Firstly, the creature is far too small compared to the typical thirty foot of a mature Nessie and even Holiday knew talk of these fossils being larval was a bit of a stretch.

Secondly, these fossils have continued to be only found in the state of Illinois, a long way from Loch Ness.

Thirdly, these creatures have been extinct for about 300 million years.

Morphologically, the basic Tullimonstrum is no Loch Ness Monster. Only two front "paddles" are present instead of the accepted four limbs and it is a favoured interpretation that these are in fact eyes set at each end of a stiff bar structure.

Ted Holiday would try and find parallels with these bulbous structures in the Hugh Gray and Kenneth Wilson photographs as well as descriptions of appendages in such cases as the Spicers. Certainly, the two side objects in the Hugh Gray picture continue to generate speculation, but even if the Wilson picture was not a hoax, I doubt a case for any appendage could be made from it.

It should also be borne in mind that despite talk about lobes on the Spicer beast, Tullimonstrum was most likely incapable of locomotion on land. The alleged lobe on the Spicer monster is another source of speculation. The sceptic suggests a deer's head, the opposite camp has tended to it being the tip of the creature's tail.

So why was Ted Holiday so wedded to this creature, despite the difficulties? Even though the plesiosaur theory had its challenges, it certainly seemed to be far more plausible than this creature. Holiday was certainly an original and lateral thinker who was prepared to think outside of the box, but even this would seem to be a speculation too far.

Eventually, Holiday moved over to the paranormal camp, though it seems he still tried to synthesise his worm theory with this paradigm. Therein lies further problems and one wonders what Ted's final thoughts were before he died of a heart attack in 1979.

Personally, I never quite embraced Holiday's idea of a giant worm. His general proposal of a gastropod of the nudibranch family had its attractions, but the main problem was always size precedence. I don't think species of this class ever exceed one metre in size.

Meantime, reptile, amphibian or mammal advocates could at least point to something big that was living or extinct that indicated size possibilities. Nevertheless, Ted Holiday was an original thinker and if this mystery is to be solved, then it is going to require some more of that type of thinking.







59 comments:

  1. Ted Holiday's was the first Nessie book I ever read, and remains one of my favourite reads. He's a tremendously compelling and evocative writer, and the image of his loathsome invertebrate Orm has stayed with me. He was witness to one of the Nessie sightings I find hardest to explain away, his extended view of the back of a mustard-coloured beast, corroborated by witnesses on the opposite shore. I think he was off-beam with the Tully monster, but his original gastropod idea is worth further consideration.

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    1. Geordie Sceptic2 May 2014 04:48

      Having read Holiday's "The Dragon and the Disc" I couldn't possibly take anything he said seriously. Random garbled nonsense would be a polite description of that book.

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    2. I certainly don't agree with his conclusions in the Dragon and the Disc, but to be honest I don't really agree with the conclusions of most Nessie writers but still find their books interesting to read. I would certainly recommend The Great Orm of Loch Ness over The Dragon and the Disc, but TD&tD is very interesting for its folklore, and Holiday collected a lot of good data about Irish lake monsters which very few other writers have delved into in much depth.

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    3. Hi, we took a pub of your blog on our site :)
      http://cryptozoologie.conceptforum.net/t2086-loch-ness-monster-blog#28647
      Good job

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    4. Yes, Holiday's interest in Irish lake monsters featured in the documentary about them - Ollpheist Chonamara, in which some interviews with him are shown. Not sure if it's easy to get hold of - Dick Raynor sent me one. I felt like a total amateur compared to Holiday when he spoke of his seven-hour watches, rarely manage more than an hour or two at a stretch myself before I fancy the pub.
      What strikes me about the letter to the Inverness Courier above is the sheer certainty of the man. I mean, he describes the anatomy of the animal in incredible detail considering he's basing his conclusions on sightings and a few photos alone. Speculating as to anatomy is always fun - the weighing up of the rival candidates is a highlight of Mackal's book for me - but Holiday seems a touch hasty in the level of detail he is willing to assert.
      So I'd agree with GB that we need to think outside the box to get to the root of this mystery but perhaps Holiday is not the best role model - any of us could come up with a hypothetical LNM and then go on about its habits but that seems unlikely to convince even believers, let alone sceptics!

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  2. Nothing wrong with the slug theory. At least Mr holiday sticks 2 his beliefs not runs away from them when people ask him difficult questions or challenges him on his beliefs . At least he can provide answers. We all have different opinions, he has his slug, Mr Watson has his amphibian, Mr Rines had his plesiosaur, Mr wade had his greenland sharlk, and so on. Personally i think nessie is a big unknown fish, something new 2 science a bit like the megamouth shark was or 1 of the fish discovered in the tsnuami. We have proof of new ones bn discovered and im sure there are plenty more. The greenland shark loves deep dark water and vary rarely surfaces, maybe its similar 2 our own nessies .

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    1. Geordie Sceptic3 May 2014 08:44

      Other good things about Holliday is he didn't make up anecdotes about non existent events to support himself when proven wrong, plus he didn't pretend to be 2 different people.
      There's no glory in sticking to a theory without evidence.

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  3. I have a couple of books on the subject. Not read Mr Holidays. Might be worth a read. Its good that he did not change his mind.

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    1. Geordie Sceptic4 May 2014 02:59

      Why is it good to never modify your theories over time? Stubbornness is not a scientific trait.
      Anyway didn't he end up with a paranormal theory?

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    2. I think he tried to synthesise the two theories.

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    3. Burton Caruthers4 May 2014 07:11

      Holiday certainly did change his mind over time, moving from the invertebrate theory to the paranormal/conspiracy/hoodoo business late in the game, replete with men in black and UFOs. I also remember reading that he even began questioning his own sighting of the mustard-colored "back" of the beast, stating it could've just been a boat. I wish I could recall where I read that, but unfortunately I don't. Regardless of how outlandish some of his theories may have been, his books were enjoyable and interesting reads. I've read 'The Great Orm of Loch Ness' and 'The Goblin Universe', and started 'The Dragon and the Disc', have to get back on that one.

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  4. I have never buckled under my big fish theory. Now lots of questions have bn put 2 me for example the head and neck and th obvious back fin which would be easily seen. Despite this i have kept my beliefs.fish differ, an eel looks nothing like a bream 4 example and a new fish washed up in the tsunami although small did resemble a nessie. We could have bigger ones. Then a few months ago Mr Wade found the greenland shark theory and pointed out the small fin at the back of the creatures back, showing us that a fish could show a hump like feature without the fin showing. So 4 me personally my beliefs came good. Now some people would be dismayed if nessie turned out 2 be a fish , but 4 me if it was a large unknown fish like a megamouth shark it would be a remarkable discovery and would prove all the eyewitnesses right all along. But of course a big fish is just my belief , everyone has their own and should be respected.

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    1. Geordie Sceptic4 May 2014 06:51

      Then you must be saying every single head/neck report is a misidentification or hoax, and that in itself is very interesting. If all those eyewitnesses can be wrong, why can't the others?

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  5. I didnt say that Mr sceptic. I said thats what people put 2 me, that fish dont have necks. But my argument is who knows? Did you see the nessie lookalike fish washed up in the tsunami? It looked like it had a head and neck. Take a look see what you think.

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  6. I base my beliefs on nessie after living in Loch Ness for so long. I know people who have seen things along with friends i met through fishing the Loch. A good friend of mine had a sighting in the 80's whilst out fishing in his boat, a large hump moving through the water. I believe it is a large fish because it must breathe in the water, yes so can amphibians but no amphibians come from the sea and that is where i think they originate from and have been landlocked. Now Mr Watson is a great believer of the amphibian so what is your theory of this hurdle? Now Mr Watson im not saying it cant be an amphibian its just my opinion on it, unless you have a theory 2 this hurdle?

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  7. Geordie Sceptic4 May 2014 11:27

    Post a link please. Giant fish with long neck and head on the end. Gotta love this website!

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  8. Well would not a giant thick bodied eel look similar to a creature with a long neck. Keep up Mr Sceptic . Im saying it could resemble it. Take a look yourself at the fish washed up in the tsunami.

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  9. If you read properly Mr Sceptic i said ' look like' if you base your argument on something you dont read properly then its a wase of time speaking with you. Im not wasting my time speaking 2 you but go along and take a look at the tsunami photos and you will see, well you probably wont, a fish that resembles what people see in Loch Ness

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    1. Geordie Sceptic5 May 2014 07:04

      http://www.pascack.k12.nj.us/cms/lib5/NJ01000238/Centricity/Domain/168/tsunamifish.JPG

      Hey John, did you mean that fish, with the long beaky face, or is there another one you're referring to which actually has a long neck?

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    2. Geordie Sceptic5 May 2014 07:08

      John, do you know how to copy URLs and paste into your posts? It would help us know what you're talking about when you refer to things you've seen on the web.

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  10. Anyway Mr Watson i will keep 2 discussing things with people who are not just here to cause an argument. Going back 2 your amphibian theory, like i said i believe nessies came from the sea but maybe not. Do you think an amphibian could have got into the Loch another way or even not as far back as the 12, 000 years everyone presumes?

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    1. Hello John,

      I take the view Nessie is either an amphibian or an amphbious fish. Just now I tend to the latter. But for our freshwater loving amphibian to get in to Loch Ness from the salty sea, my speculation is there was a window of opportunity during the last ice age melt when the surrounding waters were more brackish.

      It could have come from the south or the north of the great glen fault (Inverness or Fort William sides). That aspect of the theory needs more development.

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  11. Interesting. Well i suppose anything is possible. Science gets more suprises all the time.

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  12. Mackal went with the amphibian theory. And whilst the salamander is the biggest amphibian these days there was some larger ones in the past. I read that some fossils of these were found in higher scotland , how true that is i dont know.

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  13. Geordie Sceptic5 May 2014 13:32

    My theory is she's a giant dinosaur wearing a tam o shanter and playing the bagpipes. And I'm sticking to it!

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  14. Amphibious fish Mr Watson ? Maybe. There could be a distant link 2 the african lung fish which came ashore and amazingly badoozled science by being a fish that grew lungs .

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  15. Mackal's second "choice" was indeed a giant, thick-bodied eel. I should not be using the word "choice" though. He scored the candidates numerically on how many of their traits would account for reported details and behavior, and the eel scored a close second behind giant amphibians, both of which came in much higher than the other possibilities. Parsimony works against the eel though, almost if not completely putting it out of the running. There are no eels that large in the fossil record, nor are there any truly thick-bodied eels living or extinct. So it would take two whole steps to change an eel into what is needed. On the other hand giant amphibians and even marine "salamanders" appear in the fossil record. For it to be one of them we need only one step: survival. Unless of course you insist on it really having a long neck, in which case we're back to two steps: there has never been a long-necked amphibian. Then we have a living branch of primitive aquatic giant salamanders that spread globally after the KT extinction, for which we'd only need one step, a doubling or tripling in length from the largest known living species, Andrias davidianus (but again we have to let go of the long neck).

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    1. Geordie Sceptic5 May 2014 22:51

      And if we don't want to dismiss the long neck we can create a hilarious drawing of a giant salamander with a massive erect tail poking out of the water, eh Steve?

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    2. Okay Geordie, I'm guilty as charged :) But regular-sized salamanders do exactly that on occasion. In fact the Wilson photo could have been faked with a California Newt instead of a floating toy. The scale is right and the resultant photo could have been identical. I'm not suggesting that's what actually happened, only that it could have sufficed for the picture. No self-respecting California Newt would have volunteered to be part of a hoax. If pitched in the Loch, it probably would have sniffed it's giant hungry cousin lurking below, and run for the hills :>

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  16. Im sure there are plenty of new fossils waiting 2 be discovered. The colecanth suprised a few , as im sure there are plenty of more suprises.

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  17. Interesting debate. Good isssue on amphibians and necks. A newt differs slightly from a salamander and even in some positions looks like it has a bit of a neck. Maybe we have something that differs again so the neck looks longer. However i dont think the neck of these animals are as long as people make out- and i agree we have plenty more new discoveries waiting to be found-

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  18. If we're postulating giant salamanders (without a body to be found) then why not postulate long-neck giant salamanders within the last 12,000 years? That's the one I'm going for from what I understand of the evidence.
    And while we're in Holiday mood, what about the salmon that he claimed to have seen on sale in Fort Augustus with evidence of predation? Just possible that this was caused by a large pike, but nudge, nudge...
    Have there been any similar reports?

    *AnonStg*

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    1. Pretty hard to trace that back to Nessie. As you say, a few other predators could have taken a bite.

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    2. Who the hell would attempt to sell a salmon 'with evidence of predation'??

      I mean, seriously?

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    3. An eccentric paranormal angler, perhaps? My reference was a bit sloppy. Here is what Holiday actually said:

      "When calling on Mr John Cameron to record the sighting given above, I happened to notice a salmon lying on a slab near the door which had been caught by one of his friends. It was a fish of between 12-15 lb. and down the middle, from dorsal fin to belly, was a wide predation-mark. This mark was roughly 6-8 inches wide and the sides were parallel. most of the scales had been ripped off and the exposed flesh looked dark but there was no obvious sign of teeth."

      Holiday initially thought that it was a seal bite but later calculated that such a wound would have been curved, slashed and substantially smaller. He also mentions that there was local interest in this and that a photo (location unknown) had apparently been taken.

      *AnonStg*

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  19. Why has the fish / amphibian suddenly become a favourite for the loch ness monster? People used to think it was a plesiosaur / reptile until sceptics questioned it because they are air breathers. Now everyone plums for the amphibian because it can breathe in the water so an easy answer to the sceptics. Well don't underestimate the power of reptiles being able to adapt. Some turtles can store oxygen in their backsides and others have a gill type. Some can sleep underwater for hours on end and even hibernate. The description of the loch ness monster is closest to a reptile with the long neck and flippers. Dont underestimate it or change to a amphibian / fish idea to suit the sceptics.

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    1. The air breathing candidates do have the same problem, be they repitles or mammals. They should be seen more often. The habits of the creature suggest something that is more used to staying in the deep water.

      I am not discounting the reptile theory, it is a matter of finding the best idea that fits not only morphology but also behaviour. If we begin to modify a plesiosaur to tick all the boxes, that is not the best approach. I would compare that approach to sceptics rewriitng eyewitness accounts until they begin to sound like a boat wake, log or string of birds.

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    2. And I'd like to add/clarify for Anon, chronologically the giant salamander theory came >first<, before plesiosaurs were proposed. It was originally published by Col. W.H. Lane, on whom GB wrote a fine article over a year ago on this very blog.

      And >before< the Surgeon's photo and the press got involved, the local nicknames for the animal were "the salamander" and "the great salamander". That's not speculation -- historical sources for that are cited in one of my own articles.

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  20. I don't believe a viviparous turtle has ever been discovered. If Nessie were a turtle, there'd be eggs on land. Land sightings are too infrequent to be accounted for as nesting behavior, and the eggs could not go unnoticed for centuries.

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  21. A salamander could look like a reptile from a distance likewise a reptile look like a salamander/ yes it could be either of the two but i wouldnt discount a reptile because it should be seen more often. Who knows how a plesiosaue could operate if left landlocked in deep dark water. Reptiles are masters to learning how to adapt and they could be more active in darkness and sleep during the day. And as some turtles have shown us can stay underwater for very long hours.

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    1. I'd imagine the plesiosaur would 'operate' as it always had done - by regular surface breathing.

      I think the plesiosaur theory is a busted flush in the Loch Ness debate. It simply would have been discovered long ago.

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  22. Im not saying nessie is a turtle. Im just using the turtle for an example. I think a turtle could be very similar to a plesiosaur type of reptile. The turtle has remarkable powers to adapt and has survived for millions of years. So could our loch ness reptile.

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  23. Chasing Leviathan7 May 2014 12:13

    I've always found the journey of discovery/revelation/madness, call it as you will that Holiday goes on during his quest for the Beast to be one of the most fascinating parts of the human story of the hunt, albeit it seems to have been at a tragic cost to his health. I wonder if anyone out there has any information on his history outside of monster-hunting? I'm given to understand he was born in Yorkshire, served as a mechanic with the RAF during the war in Iraq and the Western Desert, ended up living in South Wales and was a respected writer on angling, publishing several books on the subject in addition to his columns in the Western Mail. Beyond this, he remains something of an enigma compared to the other hunters of his day. If anyone can help provide me with any more information on him I'd be very grateful.

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    1. Your best bet would be Dick Raynor, I believe they were in the same house at some point in time.

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    2. Geordie Sceptic7 May 2014 14:25

      I'm beginning to modify my theory now. I think Nessie could be a dinosaur in a Tam O Shanter, playing bagpipes.... but from a 4th dimension wormhole which breaks the space-time continuum.

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  24. I think Holiday had lost the plot well before he left the Loch Ness scene to be honest. Some of his theories were just nonsense.

    Any author in the 'investigative journalism' genre is utterly reliant upon his credibility, and for me Holiday had none.

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  25. Yes plenty of suprises in the fossil department. Wasnt the coelacanth missfrom two eras ?

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  26. Missing from two eras sorry .

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  27. Well i have just read about a new fossil discovery . A tyrannusauraus rex type of dinosaur with a long snout. Now we would never have believed a long snouted tyrannus rex before this would we ? ?

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    1. Geordie Sceptic9 May 2014 12:15

      Discovering new fossils, or indeed new living animals in the vast oceans, doesn't in any way enhance the case for a Loch Ness Monster. To enhance the case for the Loch Ness Monster you would need to find..... you've guessed it - a Loch Ness Monster.

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  28. Yes i think the coleacanth disappeared off the fossil record skipping 2 periods. Proof that plenty of new creatures are waiting to be discovered anon

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    1. Geordie Sceptic9 May 2014 15:49

      I'll bet there haven't been any new creatures discovered in the last 80 years in any lake in any well populated modern part of the world. It just doesn't happen.

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  29. I've no doubt there are plenty of undiscovered species in the world's deep oceans. However, Loch Ness by comparison is a very small, contained, and relatively busy inland body of water, that is well populated along its shoreline.

    As Arthur C Clarke once put it - you could almost accept the prospect of an undiscovered dinosaur roaming the Mato Grosso, but not Hyde Park.

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  30. But of course we are talking about creatures in deep water that we cant see. Work it out boys.

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  31. The gwyniad in bala lake north wales mr sceptic. Landlocked and the only place in the world.

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    1. Geordie Sceptic11 May 2014 01:58

      Having searched the web that fish does not seem to be a new discovery at all. It seems to be a fish unique to the lake (that in itself is in question), but it appears to be a fish people have always known about. Try again.

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  32. Searched the web? I thought you knew it all Mr Sceptic ? Somebody discovered it some day so yes it had been living there undiscovered until it was found. Not sure how many years but that is irrelevant. And why 80 years Mr Sceptic?

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  33. Again he cany answer my question.i think slowly we are turning him back into a believer its a pity he let sceptics bully him out of his true deep down beliefs in the existence of nessie. .

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