Sunday, 6 March 2016

Who are the Monsters of Loch Ness?





With the upcoming book on Frank Searle, I was minded to follow up on a few things in advance to perhaps raising awareness of this topic. When you think of Frank, you think of personality clashes, vendettas and even vandalism and violence. However, the perhaps not so surprising thing is that this little piece of monster hunting history was only the most publicised aspect of a general thread that has run through the decades. In other words, monster hunters and ex-monster hunters are not some cosy conclave of nice but eccentric folks akin to bird spotters, but rather a microcosm of the all too inevitable failings of human nature.

Whether this sub-plot of rivalry played out in the early days of the Hunt is not so clear, but when large numbers gathered at the loch from the 1960s onwards, the ingredients for conflict also came together. Perhaps this is best summed up by Paul Harrison who went public with his views on 2001 when he wrote for the CRYPTO magazine:


To the unwary, Loch Ness is almost like some surreal real life fairy tale, tiny hamlets surrounding a huge expanse of water, exhibitions, tourist shops, whisky and the occasional ‘Monster Hunter/Researcher’ running around in search of the creature(s). To the tourist, a huge farce is played out as the so called ‘experts’ expound their own personal theories, almost demanding to be elevated to the position of world’s number one and sole expert on the matter.

Away from the tourists, these same ‘experts’ (they are indeed the only one’s who class themselves as such) appear to be hell bent on destroying not only the opinions of others but also on succinct character assassination. The reality with Loch Ness research is that it is a complete and utter mess, sighting reports (old and new) held by some and other valuable information is selfishly withheld by those who choose to keep it from the public domain, as these folks absurdly believe that their personalities are bigger than the tradition itself of the Loch Ness Monster. Virtually everything that can be postulated about the Loch Ness creature(s) has been printed in countless books, magazine articles and newspaper columns, therefore I do not intend to dwell on the subject, other than to say until serious and sensible cohesion can be brought to bear on research matters then the real search for the truth will never progress.

As for ‘lake monsters’ such as those believed to inhabit Loch Ness, perhaps the real monsters are of the human kind, whatever it is or they are that inhabit Loch Ness, they are not as mysterious as the personal politics involved in research there. Seals, boat wakes, eels, standing waves, floating logs, or just plain old hoaxes, Loch Ness will continue to be the epicentre of Dracontology and Cryptozoological matters, a great shame it could not set the ideal academic study and research example. Loch Ness is indeed the tip of the Dracontology iceberg, but its also drifting towards oblivion, a Cryptozoological subject which may be cynically dismissed by new researchers as ‘untouchable’.

When Paul speaks of those who wish to be seen as the "world’s number one and sole expert on the matter" or are "hell bent on destroying not only the opinions of others but also on succinct character assassination" I can readily empathise with that, having experienced it first hand for myself on the new platform of Internet forums.

Whether it is the same people involved in 2016 as in 2001 is not a matter I wish to pursue in this article. The point is that the problem has not gone away and it is appropriate that Paul is the author of this new book on Frank Searle entitled "The Monster Hunter - The True Story of Nessie and Frank Searle". That phrase, "the true story" implies there are things about Frank Searle that have been either omitted, exaggerated or just plain fabricated. What those are remains to be seen, but I have spoken before about Frank's unpublished second book, which was pulled after protests by Adrian Shine. That book was, until recently, available online. I note that link has gone dead, so you can now download and read the PDF from my own archives at this link.








It is a publication you should take with a pinch of salt given the high tensions of the period, but to state it is wholly fabricated is something that should also be taken with a pinch of salt. Apart from a couple of less than flattering claims made against a prominent Nessie sceptic often seen on cryptid Internet forums, the one that intrigued me most was the claim that Tim Dinsdale was at Loch Ness in April 1960 with another man with whom he later had an argument and was seen bundling into his car after he collapsed.

This sounds fanciful but is based on what a claimed local eyewitness who approached them told Searle years later. The fact that no one has stepped forward saying they were that mystery man seems to mitigate against it. Such are the claims and counterclaims of the Frank Searle story.

As a prelude to Paul's book coming out, I decided to look again at the infamous "petrol bomb" incident of August 1983. What we know of this mainly comes from those who were Frank Searle's enemies. Since the phrase "the victors get to write the history" is a truism even in the Highlands, I decided to look beyond these people. A search of the newspaper archives at the invaluable National Library of Scotland turned up two articles. The first is from the local Inverness Courier dated the 23rd August 1983. Click on the images to enlarge for reading.




The second comes from the Aberdeen Press and Journal of the 22nd August 1983.






Clearly, something happened on the 21st August 1983 when somebody lobbed a lit plastic bottle filled with petrol at a boat and somebody had daubed words against Adrian Shine on the walls of Urquhart Castle two days before. The Inverness Courier took a neutral stance in talking about an "alleged petrol bomb attack" and did not name any suspects. The Press and Journal had a similar approach but also mentions police involvement and the vandalism at the castle.

However, things get obscure beyond these newspaper clippings. A further search makes no mention of the outcome of this police investigation and no mention of Frank Searle. One can only presume the investigation fell through due to lack of evidence.

Mike Dash, Fortean researcher, wrote on this incident as he was there as a volunteer with the Loch Ness and Morar Project. He did not witness the incident at 5:30am but was there to observe the consequences. He said a female volunteer identified the man who threw the bottle from a photo of Frank Searle, but nothing came of this important witness evidence.

Combining this with Searle's account of the incident in his unpublished booklet, it would seem the police quickly visited Frank Searle at his Foyers base only to find him painting the ceiling of his small exhibition. They also asked him if he would take part in an identity parade, to which he refused since he claimed he was too well known to allow an unprejudiced procedure.

Searle's booklet makes no mention of the castle incident, let alone making a defense against it. Though he does argue against the petrol bomb incident, claiming that the idea was stupid since a molotov cocktail had to be made of glass and the waves were so high that morning they would have extinguished any flame.

A final source was a friend of Frank Searle by the name of Graeme Caisteal. He countered Mike Dash's account by claiming Frank had a prosthetic foot from his army days which would make it nigh impossible for him to clamber up to the castle and daub the walls. Perhaps, but he also said that the police found the engine of Frank Searle's boat to be stone cold and that there were a group of tourists there to vouch as alibis.

Frank Searle claimed he had an idea who perpetrated the bottle attack and claims he was set up. He does not name the person and we are left in the awkward position where Frank Searle is the obvious suspect, but evidently not obvious enough to press charges. Counter arguments can be made against such arguments as parties classed as monsters by the other party clash with all teeth bared.

As for me, I will simply await Paul Harrison's book to see what it has to say about that day on a shingle beach thirty two years ago. I do hope no one tries to block this book as they did with Frank Searle's.

Meanwhile, the envenomations will continue as personalities and agendas trump research in the great Loch Ness Monster debate!

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com




32 comments:

  1. You do have a great range of topics Roland i must say. Whilst other blogs and forums on the subject have fallen by the wayside yours has stood the test of time. Long may it continue.

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    1. Six years come July, 463 posts and still plenty to talk about.

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  2. It was reported that after a bottle of scotch TD ran through Foyes shouting "Bring out your dead" That was in the days before Special Brew.

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  3. I remember reading Searle's booklet on docstoc.com, which has since folded, if that is the site GB refers to. Quite a tale Ole Franky spins, if there's any grain of truth to it. All this from a man who, it is alleged, passed off faked photos as genuine. Seems he had an axe to grind with just about every other LNM investigator. Didn't appear to make many friends, so he lashed out at all his perceived enemies. Searle is no longer here to defend his accusations. Who knows what parts of the story are true, fabricated or just plain lies, if any. We may never know. There are more mysteries and entanglements to the Loch Ness Monster saga than just the monster. As the article advises his story is to be taken with “a pinch of salt”

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    1. No doubt that he spun a few tales. But there's a back story here that needs further probing. I recommend you read Paul Harrison's updated entry on Frank Searle in his kindle edition of The Encyclopaedia of the Loch Ness Monster. Frank Searle alleges that a group of men came round to his spot and beat him up as a downpayment if he didn't move on. When he left the loch, somebody came round, trashed his caravan and tipped it into the loch.

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    2. My take being that when the police failed to press charges, somebody, somewhere decided to dish out their own form of "justice".

      Frank Searle looked as if he would never leave Loch Ness, even the Sunday Mail expose of 1976 didn't budge him, so what else could? This assault allegation certainly makes sense from that point of view.

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    3. As for who ordered this alleged assault, I have my candidate. Of course, I won't say who I think it is, but it is NOT Adrian Shine, Dick Raynor or Tony Harmsworth!

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    4. I've never heard of that incident. The firebombing was the last straw and those responsible for the beat down considered him a very dangerous man, so he had to go one way or another. For him to leave in a hurry, leaving his caravan, all he couldn't take with him, and never be heard from again, would suggest that they meant business. I guess Searle could be a very violent individual himself, Lee Frank could attest to that when he got roughed up by Searle. I once heard an interview with Lee Frank on the Coast to Coast radio program here in the states where he tells of his encounter with Searle. He doesn't mention the rough up, but just says the Searle became very “upset”. It was on YouTube at one time, might still be there.

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    5. If even half the stories I've heard about him are true then he was a dangerous lunatic.

      His behaviour towards Nick Witchell for a start should have landed him in a jail cell, never mind boasting about it as though it's something to be proud of.

      As for people running him out of town - given his rep for philandering it could've been any number of put-out boyfriends / husbands.

      Good riddance to bad rubbish. His chapter in the Loch Ness story is best consigned to the dustbin of history.

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    6. Not that I'm condoning violence, but in my experience people who like to let their fists do the talking can't have any real complaints when they find themselves on the receiving end of similar.

      Live by the sword.....

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    7. Yeah, not many people would disagree with you there. It's kinda hard to feel any sympathy for someone like that. For my part, I feel more sorry for the man, a troubled soul. He could have been one of the well known and regarded researchers, but only to throw it all away because of his jealousies, envy, resentment and failure to work harmoniously with others. His consuming desire for recognition and monetary gain led him down the wrong path. He made his bed and had to lie in it. In the end you could say he self-destructed. Thus, the sad end to one of the monsters of Loch Ness.

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    8. Well, let's get something straight here. I am not trying to canonize Frank Searle and demonize his opponents. It's quite clear he faked, lied and assaulted. But there is more to this story than demon Searle against some angelic host on the other side of the loch.

      I want to find the truth whoever it exonorates or condemns.

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    9. There's always been a lot of egos involved in the Loch Ness story. Even today you've got the 2 centres falling out with each other, characters like George Edwards, and people like Tony Harmsworth proclaiming himself to be the 'leading expert' on the subject.

      With so many conflicting opinions in the mix, I doubt you'll find an unbiased perspective. We do know enough though to categorically write Searle off as a nutter.

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    10. Yup, plenty of egos out there. Some as hollow as those easter eggs that were floated on the loch recently. :)

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  4. I recall reading somewhere that Searle was alleged to have tossed a smokebomb into either the LNI or Ness/Morar project campsite from his boat. Or is this firebomb incident the same thing?

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  5. If you really want to get your speculative juices flowing, Frank Searle sent out his last newsletter on Dec 1983 saying he was leaving the loch. A few weeks later on the 16th Jan 1984, his much hated Loch Ness Exhibition Centre suffered a devastating fire. Ironic or what?!

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    1. For the avoidance of doubt, the Loch Ness Exhibition Centre at Drumnadrochit which Frank Searle hated so much suffered a huge fire ...

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  6. 'His behaviour towards Nick Witchell for a start should have landed him in a jail cell, never mind boasting about it as though it's something to be proud of'

    can someone explain please as i dont know about this ? i know that witchell dismisses searle's photos was there more to it than that ??

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    1. It's in the Searle booklet, page 9 . Searle writes “ I grabbed him and punched him very hard and the little rat squealed like a rabbit in the grip of a stoat” For simply taking pictures of pictures at the entrance to Searle's tent. Which, by the way, were probably already in the public domain. Not very nice of Searle.

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    2. Interestingly, I was at his display in 83 and took some photos. He didn't beat me up though. :)

      The allegations he made about "weird" Dick Raynor dumping LNIB caravans into the loch makes me wonder how well connected he was to the local grapevine?

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    3. Were you were a wee lad then and Searle didn't hit kids? As for "weird" Dick Raynor, he was probably in his long hair hippie looking days and Searle didn't like hippies. LOL

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    4. I was no wacky baccy hippy, but I am pretty sure my karate lessons would keep me safe or I could just easily outrun Frank!

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  7. Well, there's a bit of a difference between a firebomb and a smokebomb. Regarding Searle's abrupt departure from the Loch Ness area it sounds to me like somebody sent Guido Tortellini and Sal Minilla to make Searle an offer he couldn't refuse.

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    1. Haha! The Loch Ness Mafia. Wonder who the Godfather is?

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    2. That's the way I see it, Paddy. He comes across as a stubborn old sod, so making him leave Loch Ness may have required a bit of "persuasion".

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  8. John, not the mafia, but probably clan related. The clans are still active in Scotland, and there's an individual in the loch Ness area who's a power-player/string-puller. This individual could be considered a clan chief. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that this individual or the clan are involved in criminal activity. But once Searle's activities became dangerous to life & limb I think it was brought to the chief's attention, who then sent some muscle to 'persuade' Searle it would be in his best interest to seek greener pastures. And it probably took some physical persuasion as Searle, being an ex British commando, was no wilting flower.
    Having said all this, I'll put my head on the chopping block by saying that Searle's first Nessie photo looked pretty good to my eyes. May God and Adrian Shine forgive me (and not necessarily in that order)!

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    1. Hmmm, interesting.

      Frank claimed 20,000 hours watching the loch. That's about 3.5 hours a day for 15 years. Statistically, he should have seen something if he was in a quiet boat free environment. What that might have been may be revealed in the new book.

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    2. If Searle was a it more clever about the whole thing he could have a major player. Far too many photos though, and most of them don't even resemble each other! Some have small dome like humps, some are small and triangular and some are "animals" with huge, massive bodies. If he had stuck to one model and just a few photos just imagine what he could have gotten away with...

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  9. What do folk make of Searle's claim that Tim Dinsdale did not film Nessie from the spot near the Foyers Hotel but actually from lower down. Must be easy to prove one way or the other?

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    1. I would think Tim was where he said he was.

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