Sunday, 3 June 2018

The Peter O' Connor Photograph Part V




I have been told to expect another sceptical critique of the Peter O'Connor photograph in the weeks ahead. I will leave any comments on that article for next month, but in the meantime, the author mentioned some things that reminded me of my own previous research on the topic. If you wish to see my prior thoughts on the subject, you will find them listed under the Photographs of Nessie section linked on the right of this page. What Aleksandar Lovcanski tells us was this:

Maurice Burton claimed that he stumbled upon THREE distinctly different versions of the photograph during his archival research of a certain newspaper.

Now when I was researching this topic some years back, I contacted researcher Steuart Campbell for further information. He replied with some documents and I quote a portion of a letter from Maurice Burton to Steuart dated 12th December 1984. As stated before, Burton took his family on a visit to the loch in June 1960 to fact find for his forthcoming book, "The Elusive Monster", the very first sceptical work on the Loch Ness Monster.

He came, he saw and he thought he had conquered as he visited the O'Connor camp site and found various items he deemed part of a conspiracy to create a fake photograph. My very first article on this picture demonstarted that all was not as clear cut as Burton had claimed. However, Burton mentioned something else to Steuart Campbell is his letter:

There is a tailpiece to all this. Several years later I called at the offices of the Daily Mail. I wanted to be able to examine the original negative of the London Surgeon's photograph. The art editor was most helpful. He took from a safe a folder containing Wilson's negative. In the folder I noticed a contact print of 35mmm film (I think it was 35mm).

There were three frames, not separated but in one strip. One frame showed O'C's picture as published in the Weekly Scotsman. The second showed the same object sagging in the middle. The third frame showed the same object moderately well restored to its original shape. There was no sign of a picture of the alleged animal creating a commotion (see Dinsdale 1961, p.152, 6 lines from bottom). Indeed, the whole account as reported by Dinsdale on pp.152-3 just makes me laugh.

What struck me during the brief glimpse of these three pictures was that O'C had allowed the most damning evidence to find its way to Fleet Street. And I marvelled at the obtuseness or naivete O'C had shown in allowing such a thing to happen! In fact, this second frame was comparable with Forbes' results and my own. But since my aim at that time was to seek an interpretation of Wilson's photo I did not pursue the matter. 

So there you have it. According to Maurice Burton, there are not one but three pictures taken by Peter O' Connor on that day of May 27th 1960. What do we make of this astonishing claim? Now when I read it at the time, I was dubious in the extreme and put it down to another of Burton's exaggerations. Quite simply, if I had stumbled upon two new O'Connor photos, I would have most certainly have made time to obtain copies of these pictures and publicised them. But Burton just breezes past them as if it was some minor detail

To add to the puzzle, one would have presumed he would have gone back to the Daily Mail to retrieve these alleged photographs, but he did not! We can see how much contempt Burton had for O'Connor (as well as Tim Dinsdale), so these would have been his equivalent of finding a hoard of gold coins and a final victory for Burton over O'Connor - if indeed the images were as bad as he claimed.

But not only did not go back to get them, he also doesn't bother to make this known to anyone else for twenty years! In that light of these inconsistencies, I dismissed it. Perhaps Aleksandar has further information on these alleged missing photographs? We will find out soon enough but I highly doubt Burton would have passed up on such an opportunity back in the early 1960s.

Likewise, I would also have marvelled with Burton at O'Connor's "obtuseness" and "naivete", so much in fact that I would further doubt the whole Burton story. Do hoaxers tend to give publishers their pre-hoax setups and experiments as well as the final, perfected picture? Yes, I though they tended not to either. But if Aleksandar can produce this contiguous strip of three pictures, I may change my mind

You may say I am being hard on Maurice Burton, but he has previous form in giving other researchers the run around and making statements that are not true (how much of that is due to misremembering or plain deception I would not say). Others may swallow everything Burton has said but this blog would prefer to see something more.

On a similar theme, Burton mentions a person by the name of Forbes in the above quote who he claims found the stick used to mimic the monster's head-neck. Where is this stick now you may well ask? Alas, Burton tells Steuart Campbell he was, like the two missing O'Connor frames, unable to retrieve it and display it to the world because Forbes lost it in curious circumstances:

Shortly after my return to London, Professor Peacock, of Dundee (or was it Aberdeen), brought a certain Angus Forbes, retired journalist, to see me. He told of having visited O'Connor Cove soon after we left. Among other things he told of having found, in the bivouac, a stick lying on the ground, beside where the occupant had slept, that corresponded as nearly as made no odds with what could be seen of the 'monster's' neck and head in O'C's photo.

"Where is that stick now?" I asked eagerly. To this Forbes embarked on the following story. It seems he (Forbes) came to the same conclusion as we did and having found the stick decided to use it to reconstruct O'C's monster. Returning home, he obtained a plastic sack, inflated it and weighted it, using the shallows of the river Dee for his experiment. He also chose the hours of darkness for his experiment to screen his activities from curious passers-by. As he was pushing the stick into the mud, in front of the sack, it snapped.

At that moment a stentorian voice demanded what was he doing. He had been mistaken for a poacher. Startled, he accidentally snapped the stick and, during the brief conversation in which he sheepishly explained what he was up to, he had the chagrin of seeing the important part of the stick, the part visible on O'C's photo, drifting downstream to be lost in the darkness.

Forbes' photographs of the inflated sack were not very successful but were sufficient to suggest that had he had more time, free of interruption, he would have produced a convincing 'double' of O'C's photo. That is why I spoke of his photograph not differing "in any significant way from O'Connor's photograph". I did not say 'identical, as you did in your letter.
 
It seems Maurice Burton had no luck whatsoever in getting his hands on all this vital evidence. Mind you, in an earlier article to another journal, Burton himself claimed he had found the stick on the beach during his 1960 visit. Now some might want to point out that I sound like a sceptic handling an eyewitness account of the monster - i.e. they don't handle it and bin it.

To be fair, I have lodged my reasoning here, but if Burton claimed he saw something unusual - like a Nessie witness - I can but leave the door ajar and we shall see. But in the light of all this, I think I will take the stance of Peter Costello when it came to things claimed by Maurice Burton:

Nevertheless, Dr Burton would have to produce evidence for the existence of the all too easily found polythene bag before I would believe him.

Note that in the original text, Costello puts the last word in italics. 


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com
  

 

25 comments:

  1. Funny. There's not been much new Nessie evidence to discuss almost for years and in like the last month there's been that controversial photo you got sent, 2 intriguing new videos and now and possible 2nd O'Connor photo!

    I have much to say on the possible new O'Connor pic but I'll wait until Lovchanski and you do a blog on it first.

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    1. We'll see ... I should comment on the two new recent videos.

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  2. Roland, it sounds to me like Maurice Burton was just making things up to suit his views. I agree that it's inconceivable that he would see the three photographic negatives and not obtain prints. He'd have proudly shown the world his discovery and welcomed all the congratulations it would have brought. The more I read about Burton the less objective he seems. Not a fan at all. Thanks for this great article. I also went back and read the previous instalments. You put your case over very well indeed. I'm inclined to believe the O'Connor photograph is genuine and shows Nessie close up.

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    1. He may have seen three prints, but he may have misremembered the contents after 20 years.

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    2. Note my previous articles concern themselves more with critiquing sceptical theories rather than proving the object in the picture is a 20 foot long monster. That is rather more difficult to do.

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    3. Understood, Roland. I'm really of the view that if a photo stands up to decades of debunking attempts then it's almost definitely the real thing. I'd classify the O'Connor photo as in that category. Thanks largely to your skill in debunking the debunkers.

      I'd always taken a positive view on this photo. Quite simply the object is so close to the camera that if it really were constructed from fake materials such as tarpaulin and a stick it would be instantly recognisable as such, but that's not the case. The texture of the back looks anything but man made to me. I believe this is what people see when they report seeing a single hump. I apologise if that sounds too optimistic but I'm firmly in the believer camp and have been since the 1970s.

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  3. Part V! Geez, Iv'e been away too long.

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  4. I have no real idea if this is genuine or not. But Mr Burton's 'debunk' amounts to nothing really. I'm in full agreement with you there. Burton sounds like he was a slippery character. Withholding evidence (the Taylor film, because no one would believe it of course) and shaping his jigsaw pieces to fit. Not the mark of a scientist.
    It's funny, yesterday I had a sighting of what I was convinced was a seal, close to shore. Turned out to be a rock with waves splashing upon it, giving the impression of motion. However, that was my mistake and not everyone else's. That's the way I look at it, but that view is clearly not shared by many'scientists' involved in the Loch Ness mystery. We are a species bestowed with great intelligence, and great stupidity.

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    1. Your rock/seal sighting sounds a lot like Dinsdale's first film, which I don't think anyone has seen...

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    2. I didn't know he had a first film. I was actually driving which made a sighting sproradic, but I would imagine anyone who was filming was stationary. I've seen a few things with wakes as well that show me how easy it is to misidentify, but also how much more valuable that makes an unambiguous sighting.

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    3. Dinsdale describes the event in his book. I do not recall if he was watching or driving for this "sighting", but it was much as you described - something that looks alive is just water around rocks. I think (do not have the book in front of me) that the light was bad/sun was setting, but Tim was sure enough to film. When he went back to the site the next day he realized it was just mostly submerged rocks. I wish Tim had released this footage, as it is an interesting part of the story. I do want to see photos/film of things that could pass for Nessie, natural or otherwise, but are nothing of the sort, in the same way that I want to see photos/film of an actual Nessie. But all I ever see is obvious fakes/floating sticks, or blurry, indistinct blobs. But seeing what fooled Tim would be informative in many ways...

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  5. I'm dismayed the amount of blog time spent on this obvious fake, while Burton is indeed a fabricator and an unreliable chronicler it seems churlish to point out his shortcomings while ignoring the fact of O'Connor's phenomenal and spooky fortune in getting a close-up snap of a creature after only a few days on the lochside.

    On a another tack, maybe it's another Burton porky but was the DM owned Wilson original negative still around in the early 1960's ?

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    1. Well in one sense it is an article about Maurice Burton. On the other hand, and bizzarely, these and other articles critique sceptical theories - something sceptical forums/websites should be doing.

      Regarding the Wilson negative, we are talking 30 years after the event, I presume it could have still been around, I don't recall the likes of Whyte or Dinsdale mentioning it.

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    2. I think it's a fake John but I'm still intrigued by the new revelations and GB's take on it.

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    3. A rather poor fake. Burton that is. As for the photo? Physically improbable in the extreme...

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  6. Great write up again Roland and im eagerly awaiting your write up on the new video taken off the webcam.

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    1. If you are referring to the recording made by Eoin O'Faodhagain off of a computer monitor of the web cam operated by Mikko Takala, which I believe you are, I don't think much can be said about blurry images recorded with a 1 mega pixel potato cam used by Mr. O'Faodhagain. :) I wonder if the onsight web cam video is somehow recorded. Then there is a chance of showing something definitive, because it does appear to be HQ video as you can see here:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNAenAGor-s

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    2. I disagree with that John. It clearly shows something sizeable moving through the water blurry or not. I agree its a must to get the actual webcam image and wonder if its available. I brought it up because i know Roland is the man to dig up any information.

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    3. Hello Gezza, is this the video? It certainly doesn't look like a boat in the water does it? https://youtu.be/ZQHx6vwaCAk

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    4. GEZZA Agreed! It's "something" and sizable. Barring acquisition of web cam video, a video capture card would have come in handy.

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    5. It looks like he did what he did in the heat of the moment.I cant see how he could do anything else to be fair.

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  7. Yes, another shambolic missed opportunity. Or maybe there's no point carrying good equipment because you'll only see something if you never have the means to capture it....

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  8. Surely the footage will still be available ..i thought thats wat the webcams wer for ..so u look back on anything that looks unusual! Getting the actual webcam recording wud be a must so we cud study it further! Its intrestin but wud be good to get the cam recording... it cud be anything and it does look like it changes shape and goes down but if the loch was choppy and it was a small boat it cud make it look like its going down even though its not. Can we find out the weather conditions on that day? Was it choppy? Im sure we can leave that in ur capable hands GB lol. If its not a boat its very intrestin..but we need to get more info on it and the conditions...love new material and we shud spend more time on this than old hat fotos we still go on bout..only my humble of course....cheers Roy

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    1. I don't know about that. Mikko Takala might consider a recording as proprietary and want his own “experts” to analyze it. You know how touchy, possessive and guarded and the infighting that goes on with some researchers about major discoveries or conclusions. Hopefully GB is on good terms with Mr. Takala. Just saying. lol

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