Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Revisiting a possible land sighting from 2003

I have been aware of this land sighting for some time, but never really addressed it until now. However, I recently found a recounting of it in an old issue of "Animals and Men" published by the Centre for Fortean Zoology. I will reproduce their take on the matter at the end of this article, but I did not think this would be the only coverage of the story back then. So with that in mind, I went to the National Library of Scotland and looked for the primary sources as I could not find them online. As it turned out, the sighting was reported in the Inverness Courier dated 2nd January 2004 from which I extracted the text from the clipping below using OCR.

Loch Ness monster r-eely does exist 

TWO Canadian visitors and a Scottish friend had a monstrous experience when they saw a giant sized creature on the shores of Loch Ness. However, a Beauly woman to whom they reported their sighting does not believe the three were treated to a close up view of Nessie. She had her own close encounter with strange creature on the loch some years before. The three young women, aged between 19 and 21, saw the creature close to Dores a few weeks ago and reported the sighting to family friend Christina Palmer, who had her own Nessie sighting experience in 1998.

 "They were walking along the shores of Loch Ness when one of them shouted that she had found an 'anaconda'," Mrs Palmer said. "When the others reached the spot, they saw what they described as an enormous eel about 28 to 30 feet long. They thought it was dead to begin with. but it appeared to move its tail as they watched, and all three ran off screaming. They went back to their car and after deciding it was not Nessie and unlikely to harm them, they ventured back to take pictures of the thing, only to find that it had indeed been alive and had slithered back into the loch."

Mrs Palmer said the women were certain they had seen an eel and were definite about the estimated size of the creature. "I said to them that was some length, but they were adamant about it," she said. Eels 10 to 15 feet in length have been seen in the loch and a giant eel was recently suggested as the most plausible explanation for monster sightings In Loch Ness. The Devon-based Centre for Fortean Zoology announced plans this autumn to visit Loch Ness. They hope to find evidence to support their theory that the monster sightings are actually of a eunuch eel - which does not travel to the Sargasso Sea to breed, but remains in freshwater and continues to grow. However. Mrs Palmer rules out this explanation from personal experience. "What I saw was the size of a whale." she said.

Her sighting came during a birthday cruise for her husband aboard the Jacobite Queen "We were going up the loch towards Urquhart Castle", she recalled. "Just after we passed the Clansman Hotel, I was down on the lower deck with my younger sister and a couple of other people. All of a sudden this thing rose in the water in front of us. To all intents and purposes, it looked like the back of a whale. I didn't know which end was front or back, it was just this big thing. "It frightened me and I'm not easily frightened. It was longer than 30 feet, but we never saw a tail or the head. The creature was caught on camera by someone videoing the birthday celebrations. We've shown the film to people, but because it's mainly about the party we don't say anything and just put it on. Everybody notices it."

Loch Ness Monster Fan Club president Gary Campbell said the theory that Nessie could be a giant eel is a valid one. "There's a hypothesis the Loch Ness Monster is a giant eel or number of eels and of all the rational explanations It is the most plausible," he said. "We've had reports from a guy in a 16 foot long fishing boat who saw an eel go past him and it was longer than the boat. He said to us 'If that wasn't the Loch Ness Monster, I don't know what is.' But I would say that if someone saw a 28-foot eel, that has got to be a record".

This seems a topical event, given the talk some months back about eDNA surveys and giant eels. So we have the three witnesses: two Canadians and their Scottish friend plus a local named Christina Palmer, who we are told saw the creature five years before. However, Christina was dubious that they saw Nessie because her sighting was whale-like whilst theirs was eel-like. We also have the curious circumstance where they decided it may not have been Nessie and went back to check it out. What was the thinking behind that? The animal was described like an anaconda which sounds like a fair description as the Green Anaconda can grow to 30 feet long and has a diameter in excess of 12 inches.

I was particularly intrigued by the reporter's matter of fact comment that "eels 10 to 15 feet in length have been seen in the loch". I would like to know more about those creatures, but doubt any such eel has been officially caught in the loch. But we do have the intriguing third account of an eel-like creature longer than an eyewitness' fishing boat. The next installment in this story came on the 13th January when the Inverness Courier quotes local monster hunter, Steve Feltham, on his opinion on the case.

Nessie-hunter explains away 'mystery' creature 

(Steve Feltham with a length of alkathene pipe which he believes was mistaken for a giant eel. )

NESSIE-HUNTER Steve Feltham believes he has solved one mystery of the loch and the identity of a strange beastie found on its shores. The "creature" was discovered on the near Dores by two young Canadian visitors and a Scottish friend. Christina Palmer of Beauly, a family friend of the Scots girl, told The Courier the person in the group who had spotted the creature shouted to her friends she had found an anaconda. On closer inspection, the three young women saw what they described as an enormous eel, 28 to 30 feet in length.

"It appeared to move its tail as they watched it and all three ran off screaming." Mrs Palmer revealed. The three later returned to the spot to take photographs, but the animal had disappeared. Giant eels have been reported in Loch Ness and have been suggested as a possible source of Nessie sightings. though these are usually only half the size of the object seen by the three girls. However. Mr Feltham believes there is a more mundane explanation for the girls' close encounter. "Lengths of alkathene pipe from the nearby fish farm." he declared. 

"It's black and about two to three inches in diameter and comes with an adaptor that looks like a hump. There are great big shards of it about and, when it's flapping about on the shoreline, it looks a lot like a live eel." Mr Feltham, who has lived in a converted van on the shores of Loch Ness since 1991, believes the pipe could easily be mistaken for a living creature. "There was about 60 feet of it in the water along there and great big chunks of it on the beach," he said.

However, Mrs Palmer was adamant the girls had not seen a pipe. "No way — it was definitely mobile," she commented. "They knew what it was. One of them goes fishing on the lakes in Canada with her father and has seen some pretty big fish there. She knows what she has seen. I believe they definitely saw something like that, but whether it was as big. I don't know." Mrs Palmer has been told where the girls had their sighting and intends visiting the scene for a closer look. "I think it was dying because I don't think it would have been on the shore if it was able to move." she added. 

Notice that Christina Palmer has now warmed to the experience compared to the first article and is defending the view that the women saw something alive and unusual. She also seems to be speaking on their behalf, though two of the witnesses were still around. Steve is in the other corner explaining it away as the plastic pipe. Note the diameter of the pipe is substantially smaller than that of an anaconda - 2-3 inches versus up to 12 inches. Mention is made of an adaptor which can look like a hump, but I see no mention of a hump by the witnesses. The final communication was by Christina Palmer  by way of a letter to the Inverness Courier, dated 3rd February 2004.  

Further findings on giant eel 

Sir. For those who are interested in the giant eel that was seen on the Loch Ness shore in November 2003 - the area has now been inspected and measurements taken at the location in the presence of two of the witnesses. The measurements were approximately 22 feet eight inches and judged to be the minimum length of the eel. The student who identified the eel is studying marine biology. One person, not involved, suggested that what the girl saw was some black piping used at a fish farm. As the "sighting" was nowhere near to the fish farm there is no such possibility. 

Yours etc,

Christina M. Palmer. 

Christina now comes out saying the object was a giant eel and here the estimated length drops a few feet to just under 23 feet. One would presume that if one of the witnesses was a marine biology student, they should be able to figure out an eel when they saw one. On the other hand, I do not accept her comment that fish farm pipes could not reach Dores. Another important factor is the time between when they ran away and when they came back. The shorter that time, the less time for an alleged pipe to be washed back into the loch (which I do not think happens that quickly). Finally, the witnesses are not recorded as describing the colour of the object but anacondas are sure not black like these plastic pipes. I believe they are green or yellow.

So what do we make of all this? This land report was mentioned in the comment section of an older article here on this blog and Steve was still sticking to his guns: 

The pipe was at least 20 metres long. It rolled in the waves as they washed onto the beach, as I remember it was there for more than a week before I pulled it out. Came from the fish farm (a mile away up the loch) Lots of this sort of piping used to wash in, along with numerous other bits of "fishfarm'ary" including a cage.. Twice.
A long time ago now, and laughed about at the time.
Hope this helps.

One thought from that comment was that if Steve's bit of pipe lay there for more than a week, then why was the eyewitnesses' alleged pipe gone when they came back? I also managed to track down Christina Palmer who still lives in Beauly and talked to her on the phone about her own sighting as well as the land sighting. Sadly, 17 years on, she had lost contact with the eyewitnesses, though she was also sticking to the eyewitnesses' version of the story. But at the end of the day, it is not protagonists on either side, but the people who actually saw this object on the beach that I would really like to talk to. For now, that objective has not been fulfilled. Anyway, these events happened seven years before this blog started, but this led me to do some further thinking. So I decided to find out what a thick piece of plastic pipe on a beach looks like. What would you think if you stumbled upon this item on your local beach?

Yes, you're right. You would say "Oh look, a piece of plastic pipe". Now transfer this scenario to Loch Ness and apparently this becomes "Oh look, it's a 30 foot long giant eel. Run!". I usually take the view that eyewitnesses are not that stupid, or rather one should not assume it as a first step. Given that at least one was a marine biologist and another (or the same?) was a regular angler, they would seem to be people not so easily fooled. Moreover, a piece of plastic pipe lying on the beach should still be there when they came back as the prevailing south westerly winds push debris to the north of the loch. But then again, why did the girls go back thinking it may not have been the monster? Only they can answer that question.

But, do we have a corroborating report from another eyewitness? In the first newspaper article mentioned above, Gary Campbell, who runs the Loch Ness Monster sightings register had this to say at the end of the clipping:

Mr Campbell added that he had received another report from the Dores area, very similar to the sighting by the three young women. A man walking by the loch had seen an eel-like creature on the shore, which slithered back into the water as he approached. "It stacks up." be said "Eels do travel over land and there is the number of eels in Loch Ness but it's not something people want to hear." 

I asked Gary if he could expand on this report, but 17 years on he could not find it in his files and it is not mentioned on his website chronology, so this is a bit of an outlier. To complete the coverage of that time, here is the article from "Animals and Men" issue 35 authored by Jon Downes. I don't think it adds anything new other than to promote the giant eel theory which would seem to be the main beneficiary of this story if it is indeed accurate.

Over the past year we have been extolling the theory that the Loch Ness monster - and indeed other northern European and North American lake monsters - are giant eels. which have achieved an immense size because they have become sterile due to some unknown chemical agent in the water. This theory was given a boost recently when two Canadian girls, and a Scottish friend - visitors to the loch - saw what they described as an enormous eel, 28 to 30 feet in length. ''it appeared to move its tail as they watched it and all three ran off screaming."

They reported the incident to veteran Loch Ness monster expert Steve Feltham - the man who became famous after featuring in the BBC documentary "Desperately Seeking Nessie''. He has a less exciting explanation for what the girls saw. ''Lengths of alkathene pipe from the nearby fish farm," he declared. "It's black and about two to three inches in diameter and comes with an adaptor that looks like a hump. There are great big shards of it about and, when it's flapping about on the shoreline, it looks a lot like a live eel."

Mr Feltham, who has lived in a converted van on the shores of Loch Ness since 1991, believes the pipe could easily be mistaken for a living creature. "There was about 60 feet of it in the water along there and great big chunks of it on the beach.'' he said.

However, Mrs Palmer - a friend of the three witnesses - was adamant the girls had not seen a pipe. "No way - it was definitely mobile." she commented. ''They knew what it was. One of them goes fishing on the lakes in Canada with her.father and has seen some pretty big fish there. She knows what she has seen. I believe they definitely saw something like that. But whether it was as big, I don 't know." Mrs Palmer has been told where the girls had their sighting and intends visiting the scene for a closer look. ''I think it was dying because I don't think if would have been on the shore if it was able to move", she added.

The author can be contacted at

Sunday, 3 May 2020

Latest Webcam from Eoin

As far as I know, there has been no lochside reports of the monster yet, and we can largely put that down to the current covid-19 lockdown as tourists (generally) stay away from the loch and locals are restricted in their movements outside of their houses. With all that in mind, it could turn out to be a low year for sightings, perhaps the most in a long time.

So, as more and more people go online to fulfill their needs and wants, the Loch Ness webcam comes more to the fore more than ever before. So, as things stand, we have three reported sightings, all of them on webcam, all of them on one webcam and all from our friend, Eoin O' Faodhagain. The video can be viewed here from its YouTube link and has received over 200,000 as I type:

The video was recorded at 0826 on Wednesday the 22nd April. The Sun newspaper ran the story from which I quote:

A NESSIE enthusiast claims he has spotted the Loch Ness Monster for the third time this year.

Eoin O'Faodhagain says his recording is the biggest ever "confirmed" sighting of the mythical beast. The 55-year-old veteran Nessie watcher believes he saw the legendary creature swimming and splashing about in Urquhart Bay last Wednesday. He describes spotting a 30ft long shape in the water before quickly hitting record on his camera. In the video, a long black shape can be seen floating atop the water.

The mysterious object remains suspended in the water for a few moments, before slowly submerging over the course of two minutes. As the clip ends, the shape disappears without a trace under the tranquil waters of Loch Ness. Mr O'Faodhagain, from Drumdoit, Co Donegal, immediately recognised the creature and submitted his findings to the Official Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register.

The organisation have since "confirmed" the footage, which is thought to be the largest ever seen. The 55-year-old said the mythical beast emerged from the water and stayed motionless. But then “after a few seconds splashing motions can be seen on the video.”

Mr O'Faodhagain explained: ”Then it submerged slowly into the loch disappearing from sight."

“This sighting is also special because there was no boat traffic or wave disturbance in the video and the surface of the loch was calm.”

He believes the pictured Nessie was at least 30 feet long and rose at least 4 to 5 feet high.

He said: “It was amazing to see such a large image caught on video compared to my previous sightings.”

Mr O'Faodhagain is no stranger to Nessie, having caught the first sighting of the decade back in January as well as a further sighting earlier this month on 14 April – as well as four times last year.

Now, as stated before, the quality of the image is diluted by four factors, the distance between camera and object, the quality of the camera, the quality of the screen displaying the feed and the fact that another camera is recording the screen. A normal Loch Ness image only involves the first two factors. But there is not a lot Eoin can do about that. 

Eoin reckons it is his best image yet and I would tend to agree with that and he reckons the extent of what we are looking at is about 30 feet and about 4-5 feet out of the water. The main thing is that the object appears to submerge which is important in excluding various candidates. He also told me it came up out the water, there was nothing there when he began watching, though this happened too quickly to record. A further image he took can be seen below.

He also said there was evidence of splashing around the object, which is a bit harder to see in the video. In this instance, we can't look to visitors to the castle to corroborate as the site is currently closed. So what could it be and what are others saying? Looking around the chat sites, we have suggestions of a tree trunk, a windrow or the monster. The only reasonable "natural" contender is the windrow which is a reflection of the dark hillside amidst more turbulent water. That phenomenon is explained here.

Having seen pictures of windrows, this image looks sharper but that may be due to the increased contrast. However, the main factor in favour of a reflection is to watch the large shadow above it and note how it decreases in darkness and size in sync with the smaller dark patch. This would be enough to suggest to me that it is a form of reflection fading as the sun shines more.

This is demonstrated in the two snapshots below from the beginning and end of the video clip. Note the large reflection on the surface has more than halved in sized while the smaller monster one has completely vanished. This is because they both have a common cause.

On a related note, I contacted Historic Scotland about installing a webcam at Urquhart Castle. They said they had no plans, despite me suggesting it would be great publicity for them to stream the loch with some part of the castle complex in the foreground (after all, you have to prove it was taken at Loch Ness). I suspect this is more a financial issue to them and will pursue it further. Such an installation would cut the distance by a factor of at least 10, depending how close an object was to the camera and root out the false positives from further webcams.

The author can be contacted at

Monday, 27 April 2020

The Surgeon's Photo and Long Necks

A recent item on eBay got me interested again in the history of long necked sightings. It was an old postcard shown above featuring an artist's rendition of the monster rephotographed against the familiar backdrop of Urquhart Castle. Now, monster postcards are part and parcel of the commercial and cultural side of the phenomenon. I have many in my collection of postcards but this one may have the distinction of being the first monster postcard or certainly one of the first. 

The reverse side shows it was used and posted on the 12th January 1934, though it appears to have been posted in another part of Scotland in Edinburgh. A lot of these postcards are not postmarked and so the date of their invention can be uncertain, but certainly this is the oldest one I remember and may be dated to at least late 1933 - mere months into the new media sensation of the Loch Ness Monster.

Here is a zoom in on how the artist perceived how the head may look like though one must be wary that such artists may introduce some of their own exaggerated cartoon effects rather than this being a sincere attempt to reproduce what eyewitnesses were seeing. The eyes are certainly an invention as such things are rarely described and one wonders if the artist had the plesiosaur in mind as he drew it?

Now if you read the sceptical literature, you may get the impression that the Surgeon's Photograph was the archetypal and original pose of the long necked monster which others used as some kind of template. This may be presented as some kind of logical discourse, but it is certainly also used psychologically. The reason for this is that if you can link the perception of the monster as a long necked creature to a now discredited photograph, you have instilled the seed of doubt into the minds of those you seek to recruit to your side.

But this photograph was published at least three months after the postcard so there is no need for it as the basis that the newly reported creature had a long neck and it is rather surplus to requirements. A look at the contemporary newspaper reports confirms the already established facts. I will give five examples to prove this.

First and most famously is George Spicer's land encounter with the beast which was reported by the Inverness Courier on the 4th August 1933, in which he describes a long neck. I could include the sketch normally associated with the Spicers published by Gould, but this sketch would only muddy the waters as it was not published until June 1934, months after this postcard.

The Courier then related the experience of Commander Meiklem on the 8th August in which he describes the monster as like a black horse.

We then have the account from the Inverness Courier dated the 3rd October 1933, which relates another land sighting from 20 years previously by William MacGruer and other kids which describes a camel like long neck and small head.

Evidently the idea of a long neck was gaining currency as the national newspaper, The Scotsman, now joined the fray and on the 16th October 1933 published a general article theorizing that the creature was "resembling in form the prehistoric plesiosaurus".

Finally, the Scotsman sent a reporter up north to talk to eyewitnesses and got them to produce or guide sketches of what they had seen. Those sketches are shown below as they appeared in the newspaper for the 15 November 1933. Clearly, the concept of the creature possessing a long neck was well established by the end of 1933 and it was no surprise that our artist drew on these accounts to draw how he or she saw monster.

So it was not the case that the Surgeon's Photograph set the trend. It was the other way around. The trend was already set and it was this that influenced the future forgers of this infamous picture. And if you're wondering how the postcard bid on eBay, it went for the sum of 57 pounds, well above the usual couple of quid for most monster postcards.

The author can be contacted at

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Nessie eyewitness recounts her experience

Over on Steve Feltham's facebook page he alerts us to an item from BBC Radio Scotland's "Out of Doors". The person interviewed is Iona Moir who was one of a carload of people who witnessed the monster in its multi-humped and long necked aspect back in October 1936. This was a repeat of an interview with Iona from 2017 when she would have been about 90 years old and must have been about 10 years old when this event happened.

This is a story well known to Loch Ness Monster enthusiasts as the Marjory Moir sighting and the sketch above is taken from Tim Dinsdale's 1961 book "Loch Ness Monster". Iona was Marjory's daughter and the youngest in the number of five eyewitnesses. Her mother can be seen in the picture below being interviewed for the BBC's 1958 documentary, "Legend of the Loch".

Back in 2014, a granddaughter of Marjory had contacted me with the transcript of a tape conversation her grandmother had made back in the 1980s before she died. You can follow that aspect of this sighting here. I also covered this classic sighting in general back in this 2011 article. You can listen to the interview with Iona here for the next 26 days and it starts about 18 minutes in.

For those who cannot access the BBC podcast, I have recorded the segment to this link.

I recorded this audio interview with my mobile phone, so anyone that cannot link to the BBC interview, let me know. The one point I would make from this interview is Iona's speculation whether that monster was the only monster and once it died, that was it. The teams of investigators who turned up in the 1960s and 1970s were too late in her opinion.

I note Harry Finlay made a similar remark when we talked about his 1952 encounter. I can assure them that what they saw were likely different creatures and there were and are more tales to tell of the Monsters of Loch Ness.

POSTSCRIPT: I am sure there was a video on YouTube somewhere of Iona Moir being interviewed. If anyone can track that down, let me know.

The author can be contacted at

Thursday, 9 April 2020

Tim Dinsdale's Binoculars get repaired

A member of my family told me to watch the BBC programme, "The Repair Shop", for a Nessie item and I was not disappointed when I watched the catchup on the BBC's iPlayer. Normally I have my tivo box set up to record anything to do with the Loch Ness Monster, but this one had slipped through the net.

It was series 6 and episode 4 televised on the 8th April 2020 and it had none other than Tim Dinsdale's famous binoculars brought in for repair by one of his sons, Simon (below). Why are they famous? It is because they were the binoculars used by him on that fateful day in April 1960 to check what he was looking at out in the loch before he proceeded to record his famed film which is now a major part of Loch Ness Monster lore.

The pictures in this article are of the actual item which were snapped straight off the screen with my mobile phone camera for your enjoyment and edification. They are a pair of Carl Heinrich 7x18 binoculars and they were a bit the worse for wear. Simon had brought them in as one of the focus wheels had begun to spin and he wanted to take them up to the loch for the 60th anniversary of the taking of his father's film which is now only two weeks away (23rd April).

As you can see from the picture above, the item was in two parts because Tim had unscrewed it to allow Simon to use it as a discreet device during his surveillance operations as a police officer. They were also lacking the usual rubber eyecaps and one of the glass prisms used to invert the image the right way up had a chip in it. 

However, our expert repairer found a new prism and the item was delivered back to a delighted Simon ready for that trip up to the loch sixty years on from that fateful day. Of course, it has to be pointed out that the country is now in a coronavirus lockdown, but I hope Simon can get up there as soon as he can.

So it was a great piece of Nessie history to watch and if you have access to the BBC iPlayer, you can still watch for a number of days before it is removed. The link is here and it is available for one month. Note there are other repair jobs in this episode, but it is a general good watch if you are into antiques.

The author can be contacted at

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Another Nessie Land Hearing (as opposed to Sighting)

As a follow up to the story of Arthur Kopit and the walrus like noises he heard in 1962, we have a similar story to tell here and this seems as good a time as any to recount it. It is from a letter written to the Inverness Courier dated 11th November 1975. It is from an L. B. Croston after the Courier had published an account of the better known Lipinski land sighting some weeks before. 


Avoch. Ross-shire IV 98AT

Sir. — The contribution on the sandbank stranding report of the Loch Ness Monster (October 14th), was most interesting. Some years ago, before returning to Scotland I was checking essays of matriculation students in England. One of the subjects was "An exceptional holiday." A teenager, from the middle of Lancashire, I was afterwards able to find out, wrote a vivid account of a personal experience in the same area: so vivid I discounted it both on its "imaginative perception" and on the fact that most sightings were in the Lewiston - Dores - Foyers triangle. The writer mentioned how in the middle of the night the two boys were awakened by a terrific commotion outside their tent, near the abbey at Fort Augustus, on the loch side, and the drenching sound which fell upon their ears. They did not move until daylight when they found the motor cycle knocked over, their tent nearly awash and the shrubbery hard by beaten down and broken. It was quite evident from their experience that the Monster had indeed paid a visit — Yours etc., L. B. CROSTON. 

Thus ends the short account to add to the roster of land reports. Like Arthur Copit, the emphasis on the story is no so much what was seen as what was heard. Our unknown teenager had effectively filled in a sighting report by way of an essay for his tutor to mark. Where that interesting essay is now, is anyone's guess and all we have is a brief summary by his teacher attempting to remember the event years later.

The disconcerting story could have happened in the 1960s or even further back in the 1950s, who knows? I would like to think the teenager is still alive and with us, albeit now perhaps a pensioner. But all we have are a few sentences, and what can we make of them?

One may be inclined to think the hapless teenagers had merely experienced a stormy night at the loch as incoming waves battered bushes, tent and motor bike. The mention of drenching and a tent awash may suggest this and since they did not venture outside, they cannot be ever sure a large creature was roaming around their tent late at night.

On the other hand, you would think they would know the difference between a stormy night and a disruption which put them into that unsettled state. Indeed, it is unclear whether any of the noises described could be classed as vocalisations rather than noises produced by collisions between one object and another?

I fancy this account happened on the beach at Borlum Bay which is just on the other side of the River Tarff from the Abbey. Needless to say, Mr. Croston's remark about the "Lewiston-Dores-Foyers triangle" is a bit simplistic as the Abbey area has had its fair share of reports over the years. But as to what exactly happened that night decades ago, we need more than this.

A search of the genealogical records reveals Mr. Croston to be Leslie Banks Croston who died in the Black Isle in 1980 aged 71. From another search he turns out to be Major Leslie Croston from St. Helens, Lancashire and confirmed by this 1972 Aberdeen Press and Journal picture of him.

He also owned the Norscot Marina Restaurant in Avoch. The reference to a Lancashire student suggests he previously taught somewhere in that area, perhaps in a military school, but that is more speculative. If the school could be identified, then one would then look for an "alma mater" website or forum and ask who remembered Leslie Croston. Well, that may require a bit more work, perhaps others can help out here? And with that I will leave it there.

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Sunday, 29 March 2020

The Story of Arthur Kopit's Land Sighting

I have been looking into some less familiar reports of the Loch Ness Monster on land and this led me to this blog for today which raises the profile of one such case involving an unexpected figure. I had been aware of the case of Arthur Kopit for some eight years, but a recent Internet search has given enough information to tell you more.

The source for the story was a letter Arthur wrote to the New York Times which was printed on the 1st August 1976. The newspaper had been running various features on the loch, the monster and its followers awaiting the result of Robert Rines' AAS expedition. On the heels of the success of the 1975 underwater pictures, the Times signed a contract with the Academy ensuring first refusal on all findings.

As it turned out, the AAS returned empty handed, presumably once they positioned their camera and sonar rigs properly. But that is another story. Meantime, the events of 1975 prompted people to come forward with their stories and so we come to Arthur Kopit and we reproduce the text of his letter which turned up on the Internet and is below.

Oh monster, poor monster

One night in August 1962, I was in the vicinity of Urquhart Castle, on the shore of Loch Ness. I had no idea at the time that this area was the site of the most frequent Loch Ness “monster” sightings. It was perhaps 11, and there was a full moon shining toward us across the loch.

When I parked my car outside the castle gate, at least 100 yards from the loch, I was able to hear a very loud sound. I did not have to strain to make the noise out; indeed, I, and the girl I was with, heard it as soon as we left our car. And as we approached the castle, it quickly became clear that the sound was emanating from a spot beyond the castle - that is to say, the water.

It was a halting sort of sound; uneven breath; a kind of gasping. It made me think of an asthmatic walrus (not that I have ever met one), or some such amphibious creature that could breathe on land but with effort only. A large creature, surely, to expel such a volume of air. The thing was obviously eating a lot. Munch munch munch. Snap snap snap. By the time we reached the castle we had no doubt about what was happening: A large amphibious creature of some sort was feeding on a bush or tree.

At the castle (as I recall) the ground rose so that one could walk from the grass or dirt directly onto the parapet. As we walked up said parapet we realized (she, apparently, to her delight; I to my consternation) that “the thing” was directly beyond the parapet on a small beach or spit of land.

It did not sound like a cow or sheep or dog; it sounded like an aquatic/land creature, Also, the loch is extremely cold; nothing sensible (like dogs or cows) would swim in it by choice. From where I stood, I could see there was no apparent way for a land creature to walk around the castle and get to this spot; it was guarded from land approach by the castle walls.

Well, all I had to do was poke my head over the ledge beside the parapet and I would have seen what it was. However, it occurred to me that whatever it was would also see what I was. Perhaps Nessie was a predator. “You go first,” I whispered to the girl I was with, and she pointed to me. Whereupon I devised a plan: to find a large rock, drop it over the side and (no, not knock it out) drive the creature toward the water, whereupon we would be able to glimpse the thing in retreat. Safely.

However, I made a bit more noise than necessary and the creature departed into the water. The girl I was with claimed she saw a long tubular creature slide into the water. That is her report. I did not see it. I believe I saw a V‐shaped wake in the water by the edge of the beach, but then I may have wanted to see the wake and will not swear I truly saw the wake, as I swear to everything else I report.

Subsequent to this event, it has seemed to me that I came upon, by accident, a favorite feeding spot of “the creature.” Possibly my information may help you in obtaining clear photographs and irrefutable evidence of the thing's existence.

I hope you will not take my slight jocular tone as a sign of a hoax. I really have better things to do than make up this tale. It is just that I have told the story so often to friends - like Jack and Carol Gelber - who have smiled very skeptically, that I suppose I have developed a kind of joking tone in the telling.

This is a grand adventure. Wish I were with you.


Middletown, Conn.

Now this is not a story that made it into the classic literature, since Arthur only put it into print in 1976, but it appears again in a letter printed in the September 1999 issue of the Fortean Times. This letter was written by researcher, Ulrich Magin, in response to a previous Nessie article. However, in the letter, the name of Arthur Copit was the name associated in the literature with this event, which led to some fruitless online searching.

But the original letter names him as Arthur Kopit and a google search soon revealed this was the same famed American playwright. His picture below is taken from his Wikipedia page. In fact, the letter title "Oh monster, poor monster" is derived from one of his best known plays, "Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad".

Arthur is now aged 82 and so I began a search to make contact with him. This was finally achieved with the help of his daughter who was glad to make my acquaintance and told me how her Dad's Nessie story was a "classic" within the family and "it really sounds like he did encounter her". Evidently, like so many eyewitnesses, Arthur still stands by his story.

She gave me his phone number but I was told that he was in relatively poor health but would be willing to talk. But given that and the current circumstances worldwide, I was more inclined to take a rain check on that and contact Arthur later to get his story and also ask about his female friend who actually saw the creature. But let us move on with what we have.

Now what can we say about the story itself, these fifty eight years on? In August at that latitude, the sun would have set by then, but we are told there was a full moon which places the event around the 14th August which places sunset more precisely at 9pm. But it is a full moon which provides a reasonable degree of illumination. But unlike the well lit castle at the top of the article, I doubt there were any spotlights around and the modern visitor centre was nowhere to be seen.

Having said that, Arthur did not see the creature as the idea of popping your head over the wall did not come across as a great idea to him. I can wholly sympathize with that view. If you heard loud animal noises beyond a wall and it began to dawn on you that the stories of 40 foot creatures may be true, would you stick your head above the proverbial parapet? 

The tactic to disturb the beast and then catch a view of it retreating sounds eminently reasonable, but the monster's classic aversion to noise was not known to Arthur and it was off before its appointed time. However, his female friend is stated as seeing "a long tubular creature slide into the water". That could be interpreted in two ways. She may have seen the long neck of the creature swimming away or it could have been a more extended view of the body. There is no way of knowing more as things stand.


But what Arthur lost in the visual was made up for in the auricular. What are we to make of sounds like asthmatic walruses and munching and snapping noises? Reports of noises associated with the Loch Ness Monster are rare indeed, so we should pay some attention to them when they do come along. The first thing to be said is that the sound was associated with something large. It was heard from 100 yards away and that was with the castle between them acting as a sound buffer.

Naturally seals or some other larger pinniped may be suggested by those more sceptical of a monster and the description of it being akin to a walrus noise may lend credence to that idea. If you want to know what a walrus sounds like, there is a link here. I guess Arthur had looked into some aquatic calls as part of his own attempt to understand what he had encountered and this composite idea of a walrus halting or struggling for breath was the best he came to.

But it is not clear whether this halting breath was due to it being out of water or indulging in these crunching and munching noises. It seems unlikely that the monster would draw much if any nutrition from bushes and trees so one wonders if it was just gnawing at them for some dental purpose? A look at the foliage below the castle in a more recent photograph suggests that even if Arthur looked over the wall, he may not have seen anything for dense foliage until the creature was further out in the water.

But this does make me think that monster hunters on their forages around the loch should pay more attention to trees on the shoreline which have suffered damage - especially higher up. It's a bit of a long shot, but who knows? Any such find should involve a search for any material that is not part of the tree and I wish Arthur had gone back the next day in sunlight to check out what had been left behind!

This episode also bring into focus the competing theories of indigenous water breather and itinerant air breather. Could such a noise be made by something that draws its oxygen from gills or similar organs? The answer seems to be "no" unless there is something other than lungs involved here. The only answer there is the strange ability of the creature to rise and sink vertically using some highly efficient buoyancy mechanism which may involve gas intake and discharge. We have some reports where this sinking and rising involves a foaming action around the waterline of the object. Could this be gas discharge as the object descends? How would that discharge sound out of the water?

I know, just a piece of idle speculation, but as I have said before, a lung breathing animal will not be long unseen and unheard in the loch. The only explanation for that scenario is the horned air tubes that have been postulated for our favourite beastie and as perhaps demonstrated in our previous article which brought you Harry Finlay's horned monstrosity.

I am not so convinced by that, but I know others are. But if it was an air breather, why did it sound as if it was struggling to breath? It sounded like this was a creature that was not accustomed to being out of the water on a regular basis like seals and the extra weight on its lungs due to being wholly or partially on land was actually a burden on its oxygen intake process.


Now some are trying to figure out where Arthur was standing when he was at the "parapet". I called upon my extensive collection of postcards and include this one which is a better view of the castle grounds. People can refer to this and others in considering the literal lie of the land. Arthur mentioned

"At the castle (as I recall) the ground rose so that one could walk from the grass or dirt directly onto the parapet. As we walked up said parapet ..."

In the postcard image, there is a small hill rise in the foreground to the castle and a wall along it to the left. It may have been this wall he clambered onto as a first guess. Another possibility are the walls on the far right concerning which I add a second image to show their relatively lower height on the centre right.

So thus ends Arthur Kopit's fascinating account and it may raise more questions than it answers, but isn't that the way with a lot of Nessie stories?

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