Friday, 23 August 2019

Professor Gemmell sets the Date

Credit: Graham Sellers @G_S_Sellers


So the date has been set and it is Thursday 5th September at the Loch Ness Centre in Drumnadrochit. The eDNA work and conclusions of Professor Gemmell and his team from Otago University in New Zealand and beyond will be announced to the world. An article from the BBC website sets the scene and quotes Prof Gemmell: 

There have been over a thousand reported sightings of something in Loch Ness which have driven this notion of a monster being in the water. From those sightings there are around four main explanations about what has been seen. Our research essentially discounts most of those theories, however, one theory remains plausible.

This hearkens back to a statement he made back in May when some perhaps exuberant headlines were written:

Just to clarify, at this point, we can't rule out one of the common theories used to explain the monster myth ... For the record, we are still investigating the data. Most popular hypotheses seem unsupported; one cannot yet be excluded.

This was in response to some articles which quoted him thusly:

Is there anything deeply mysterious? Hmm. It depends what you believe. Is there anything startling? There are a few things that are a bit surprising.

Of course, "surprising" may refer to something unrelated to large monsters directly, but perhaps indirectly (e.g. food chain). But my own thoughts were on this quartet of monster theories he mentions but never divulges. Was it a generic quartet of fish, amphibian, reptile and mammal? Or perhaps a cryptozoological quartet of plesiosaur, giant eel, long necked pinniped or ... well I am not sure what would be number four.

Or is is a more mixed bag of sturgeon, catfish, giant eel, plesiosaur? I suspect the last list but when he says the "fourth" one cannot be excluded and remains plausible, I presume that means there is identified DNA fragments in Loch Ness consistent with such a theory. Well, I look forward to the event, but as said before, fans of paranormal and itinerant Nessies will be less moved by such events. Adrian Shine, whose Loch Ness Centre will host the event said:

We are delighted to welcome Prof. Gemmell back to the Loch Ness Centre on 5th September where he will announce the results at a press conference. Undoubtedly, many will be waiting to see if any of these results shed light upon the mystery of the Loch Ness Monster. Prof. Gemmell, in a press invitation yesterday, claims to have dismissed a number of monster theories but has promised that ‘one remains feasible’. Naturally, we look forward to much discussion and debate!

As an aside, I was in email communication with a media company who were asking me for Loch Ness Monster information for a documentary which they said would likely air on September 15th on the Travel Channel. He was a bit coy about their access to the eDNA results. So perhaps that will be worth watching in regard to this latest scientific venture into Loch Ness. I also asked Otago University's PR team about live streaming the press event, to which they said wait and see.

In conclusion and as said before, various past ventures have seemed to promise much and delivered little, such as the LNIB surface watches of the 1960s and the sonar-led Operation Deepscan of the 1980s. The shortcomings of the former were laid out by Ted Holiday in his books while the latter did have its contacts but it became clear that interpretation could turn the raw data into anything.

 


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Thursday, 15 August 2019

A Word on Paul Harrison




As readers may know, Paul Harrison is a well known author on matters pertaining to the Loch Ness Monster. Most enthusiasts for the subject will have a copy of his "Encyclopaedia of the Loch Ness Monster" and may also have his other cryptid work, "Sea Serpents and lake Monsters of the British Isles" on their bookshelves. However, it is in true crime writing that he had established his name writing a plethora of books and engaging on a career devoted to that subject.

But it was with sadness and regret that I recently read of allegations by the Sun newspaper that he had lied about and fabricated interviews with famous serial killers Peter Sutcliffe and Ted Bundy amongst others. Paul has made some sort of confession and has now withdrawn from social media and other activities awaiting whatever happens next.

In blog posts over the years, I have intimated that Paul said he had the manuscript for a book concerning one or more interviews he held with infamous monster hunter, Frank Searle, whom he said he tracked down to his home in Lancashire in his latter years. A book on a serial hoaxer would have fitted in well with his books on serial killers I surmised.

But now in the light of these allegations, I must question whether such an interview took place at all and whether it was just a fabrication like those interviews conducted with famous serial killers. The fact that Paul repeatedly put off publishing such a book despite saying he had the manuscript all but ready does not fill me with confidence either.

Now Paul may well have tracked down Frank like he said he did and there is still a book to be read. But the onus is now on him what to do or say next about this matter. I won't pre-judge him and neither will I contact him as I suspect he has a lot on his plate to deal with and Frank Searle will be the least of his concerns.

So I will just leave it at that but thank him for the research he has contributed to the great subject of the Loch Ness Monster over the years.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com




Sunday, 11 August 2019

A Review of an Interesting Book



I thought I had just about all the Loch Ness Monster books listed on my booklist, but then I discovered another one recently. It is more an A4 booklet running to just under 60 pages and it describes an expedition to the loch by the senior school pupils of Blackdown High School in Leamington Spa back in 1971 and 1972.

One may assume this would be a publication more worthy of juvenile books that I generally avoid and not even list, but this book is a delight, well researched and written and, as you can see from the table of contents below, has its own highlights. In fact, the book begins with a foreword by none other than influential author, Constance Whyte. She offered a lot of help to the pupils in their research into the topic. Her foreword does not say much that Nessie researchers do not already know, but her anti-scientist stance (not anti-science stance) included a hope that these bright young things would augur a better future for Loch Ness Monster research.




That was over-optimistic in hindsight, but let me go over some of the nuggets I found whilst digging into this snapshot of Loch Ness research in the early 70s. Most of the notable researchers of the time were talked to or got a mention. That list includes Ted Holiday, Alex Campbell, Frank Searle, Tim Dinsdale and so on.

Obviously, Frank Searle has been exposed since then, but he comes across as being helpful to the kids including giving them a copy of his first "monster" photograph from October 1971 and a sketch of a tail he claimed he have seen on August 8th 1971. Now I am not actually sure I have seen this photo before. I included most of his photos in my most recent book, but not this one, so I include it here for readers' interest, though the quality of the reproduction is not great.



What was most interesting was their interview with monster aficionado, Alex Campbell, at his cottage in Fort Augustus. A few interesting points came out of that chat. As usual, he recounted his only sighting of a head, neck and humps in Borlum Bay back in 1933, but what I was always unsure of was his father's experiences, as he was the previous water bailiff. 

This was clarified when he said his father had also seen the creature multiple times and had warned him as a kid not to go into the loch due to the water horses that resided there. However, what caught my attention the most was that Alex Campbell "expressed some doubts about land sightings". That surprised me as one might assume that those who believe there is a monster in the loch would tend to accept the possibility of it coming ashore.

Apparently not, and we can now add Alex Campbell to a list that includes Frank Searle, Alistair Boyd and whomsoever else. Campbell's reasoning was that he would have expected to have seen evidence of more compressed vegetation, some which I presume he expected to have seen as the roving water bailiff.

Moving on, all the classic black and white photographs are discussed except for one - Peter O'Connor. In fact, it is not even discussed in dubious terms, I presume it was the only photo dismissed by the LNIB and others when the school kids were discussing evidence. The survey of sightings show some sketches done for the kids. This includes the classic Gregory Brussey neck sightings but also a sketch supplied by Ted Holiday of his August 26th 1968 hump sighting (which I believe was his penultimate sighting).




To my own interest, I found some sightings which were not on my own list of eyewitness reports, though it is not clear whether these have appeared elsewhere in the literature. These are a head and neck sighting by a Mrs. Scott of Foyers in November 1969 seen from a bus on the way to Inverfarigaig which stopped to see the 4-5ft neck approach to within 200 yards of the observers.

Another "new" sighting was actually two reports from a Miss Mackay of Foyers. Her first encounter with the beast was in 1955 as she was cycling to work at about 7am. Assuming an awful noise of splashing was a boat, she looked at the loch to see a big black hump in mid-loch. It had the classic upturned boat appearance only to submerge and reappear as a "big black heap" whereupon a second submergence led to a final re-appearance which now included a very small head on a long neck. The sighting lasted 10 to 15 minutes with the creature moving at a fast pace.

She had a less spectacular second sighting years later and also commented that her father had seen a whale like creature in the loch and she knew of the old tales of the monster from her childhood. As it turns out, the school group had two sightings of their own on June 22nd 1971 and July 2nd 1972. The first was seen in Foyers Bay, being a hump seen at the centre of a pool of ripples, though it was at 600 yards in rain for ten seconds.

The second a year later from the same spot involved a four foot long dark object moving at speed from the Foyers Bay towards the Hydro-Electric plant. It moved 80-100 yards in 13 seconds to give an average speed of 14 mph. In a sobering lesson in monster hunting, no photos or film were taken (some equipment being lent by the LNIB).

So, plenty of excitement for our young hunters, and by way of example of those days, the school had access to the LNIB records of accepted sightings and they randomly took 1968 as their year and from this they tabulate 15 sightings, Of which six were single hump sightings, four double humps, two of three humps, one was two pairs of humps  and two involving a head-neck (one of which was a hump-head-neck).

When the media talks about a record 11 sightings this year, the quantity is comparable to 1968 but the quality is well short. So, the school's report hearkens back to a time when activity was high at the loch and so it seems was the monster itself. At some point, I will scan all the pages in allowing all to study this document from 47 years ago.

As an interesting appendix, Frank Searle mentions helping out the school in his unpublished work, "Loch Ness Investigation". However, he is not very complimentary of a teacher from the group whom he accuses, amongst other things, of passing information onto ex-LNIB members. The teacher himself later accused Frank Searle of plagiarising a chapter from this very school report in his 1976 book, "Nessie, Seven Years in Search of the Monster". To Searle's chagrin, his publishers settled with the teacher and let Searle's book lapse out of print. Never a dull moment with Frank!


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com




Sunday, 4 August 2019

Latest Loch Ness Monster Sonar Story



Let us now look at another recent Nessie event when Mike Bell, captain of the cruise boat, Nessie Hunter snapped this sonar hit when near Urquhart Castle on the 27th June. The account from the Sun newspaper is quoted below to give a flavour of what happened:


LOCH SHOCK

Loch Ness boat skipper claims he’s finally found Nessy as sonar image shows ’25ft monster lurking beneath waves’

A BOAT skipper claims he's finally found the Loch Ness Monster lurking beneath the waves in Scotland. Mike Bell captured the remarkable sonar image which he reckons shows 25ft-long Nessie. The sonar picture, taken while he was taking a group of tourists for a trip on Loch Ness on June 27, shows the bottom of the loch, a fish and a long, thin object about 115ft below the surface. But when the 24-year-old skipper took readings at the same spot the mystery object had vanished. Mike, from nearby Drumnadrochit, said:

“I would like to think this is our creature, Nessie. It’s my first year being the skipper in the boat in five months and I’ve never seen it or had something that big on the sonar. My dad is the more experienced skipper who has been doing this for a few years and has said he’s never seen it that big before on the sonar. It’s my first sighting of Nessie and I think my dad is a wee bit jealous as he has never seen it. The standard size on the sonar is usually a sharp prick suggesting a small fish. The large line about 35 metres in the water was about 10-25 feet. An object of that size I would think is way too big for the normal species in the loch. It must have been about five or six minutes we spent trying to pick up this creature again.”




Now I wasn't sure if this was the same Nessie Hunter boat associated with the infamous George Edwards. Perhaps it is or was, but it doesn't matter as this is a different person with a different story to tell. What can we tell from the sonar image at the top of this article? Three targets are circled in the picture and the first one at the bottom coincides with the depth measure of 101m at the top left and so we can take this to be part of the loch bed.

There are two objects in mid water, one elongated and one more compact in shape. Since there is a depth scale on the right, we can estimate the depths and apparent sizes of the objects, The shallower object is at a depth of 18 metres with dimensions of about 2m wide by 3.5m high. The deeper object is at a depth of 32 metres with dimensions of 17m x 3.5m. 

That suggests objects of notable size in the range of a sonic nine feet high and not likely to be fish or a group of fish (because fish do not shoal into larger aggregates in Loch Ness). Below is a Fishfinder screen for what fish tend to look like. Here the depth is in feet and not metres and is shallower at 30 feet deep. You can see the fish as crescent images generally taking up a height of less than a foot.




But let me point out again that though the vertical axis denotes depth, the horizontal axis denotes time and that is why this should not be interpreted in the same manner as an optical image. In real time, the sonar screen moves from right to left, with the sonar returns on the right being the most recent data.

Does this imply a creature with a body thickness of nine feet, which is big even by Nessie standards? Well, we do not know the orientation of the object or whether it changed over time, so that is unknown. Also, the 17 metre (54 feet) extent of the image suggests that the object is moving in roughly the same direction as the boat for no more than 17 metres before moving out of the sonar beam.

However, if a true elongated object was aligned with the boat's length, then as the boat passed over such a stationary object, then the trace would be consistent with its true length. Whether this is a stationary or moving object trace is hard to say. Meantime, one interpretation of the shallower compact sonar image is that it could be an elongated perpendicular object which is either stationary or moving away from the sonar sweep.

Note that the false colour scale of each object is also a measure of the object's density. The lighter the colour, the stronger the return of the sonar echo. What one can deduce from that in this image is unclear, but in the case of fish, it is the swimbladder that returns the strongest signal and the lungs for mammals and reptiles. Opinions are divided on whether the Loch Ness Monster has lungs, swimbladders, other air sacs or nothing at all which would give them a weak sonar signal.


WHAT WAS IT?

Having said all that, what kind of objects could produce this kind of trace? What about waterlogged tree trunks which have achieved a degree of mid water buoyancy? I am not sure these would account for the thickness of object traced and we are told the objects could not be found on a rescan of the area.

The thermocline is also oft mentioned in such scenarios but would not such a large super structure produce more than a 17m blip on the screen? Indeed, what does the thermocline or logs or seals or other objects of interest actually look like on modern sonar screens? Surely an appropriate catalogue of such images would be a boon to interpreting such images.

The final explanation would be effects of false sonar images produced by reflection and refraction. However, this just begs the question again, what do such images look like? Are the possible variations in such spurious echoes so wide and varied that it becomes an unfalsifiable scenario? Again, proven comparison images are required here.

So, the account focuses on the deeper sonar hit, although one is inclined to include both images in the debate and I still have a query over the relative brokenness of the deeper image.  These could be images of two large creatures and they are certainly of more interest than the recent surface photography and ranks with a similar sonar image taken by Marcus Atkinson in 2012.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com




Monday, 29 July 2019

Recent Loch Ness Webcam Clip

Let us look at the latest webcam clip from Eoin O' Faodhagain who recorded what looked like two objects in the water estimated by him as 20 feet in length and about five feet out of the water. The clip was recorded on the 10th of July at 12.53 pm. A cruise boat can be seen making its way north at the top of the picture complete with wash.

Looking at the two objects throughout the two minute clip one can make out that they slightly move further apart and then closer together which gives the impression that they are merging into one larger object. As with Eoin's video of a long, shadow like object back in November 2018, I brought in a shot of a cruise boat from the same webcam and did some overlay measurements.


 

Once the two pictures were overlaid and the two objects dragged over to be underneath the boat image, some estimate of size could be attempted, though with a degree of error for the fuzziness of the objects. I low balled the numbers with this boat last time but one commenter said it was the 80 foot Jacobite Cruiser. If that is the case, then the objects are about three to six feet wide and six to nine feet from each other.

That gives a total extent across the water of twelve to twenty one feet, so Eoin was in the ballpark with the estimates. Since the objects look near spherical, the height of each object is roughly the same as its width. It is not possible from this clip to ascertain whether it is one single object or two separate ones. What could it or they be? Well, too big to be birds is an obvious interpretation or how about two kayakers moving with not so visible paddles?

Beyond that there is nothing that could be conclusively deduced from the images, though others are free to comment. I asked Eoin how the event panned out after the clip ended and he said the objects remained in view for at least another four minutes, but as the objects drew further away, one disappeared and then the other one or two minutes later. One question that was on my mind was how visible this webcam vista is from the busy Urquhart Castle area? Are the objects often brought up for discussion clearly visible to tourists at the castle? That is an important question, but one I do not have a ready answer to.

The Daily Mail article is below (link here), note the reporter erroneously states both objects are twenty feet long, when it is rather the total length of the objects and the space between them that is correct.

A veteran Nessie hunter claims to have filmed two 20ft monsters swimming together in the legendary Scottish loch. Eoin O' Faodhagain, 54, was watching a live stream of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands when he saw the beasts on Wednesday, July 10. He immediately started his own recording of the live stream, run by researcher Mikko Takala, to show the world what he had seen. The footage shows two dark objects moving closely together close to the shore in Urquhart Bay - which Mr O' Faodhagain believes are two Nessies.

He said: 'The day of the sighting was extremely windy, as you can notice from the trees moving over and back. When I noticed the two strange shapes first they were either side of each other and not behind each other, going in the same general direction. Never did I think it was two humps from the one animal, the sighting did not give me that impression.'

Mr O' Faodhagain, from Co Donegal, Republic of Ireland, added: 'The two strange shapes were identical to each other, and that also gave me the impression it was two separate objects. 'I was quite startled to see two possible Nessies on the webcam. I think it's a bit of a rarity to view this.'

Mr O' Faodhagain estimates the objects were both in the region of 20ft long and reaching about 5ft out of the water. He said: 'I have never seen two objects so close to each other on the webcam before and I have been watching for years. Their shape in the water is very strange.

Mr O' Faodhagain, from Co Donegal, Republic of Ireland, saw two dark objects moving closely together close to the shore in Urquhart Bay 'What are they, I don't know. They could be two Nessies.' Mr O' Faodhagain has now spotted the Loch Ness Monster four times altogether, and three times in 2019 alone. 


While we are on this article, the Mail quotes the owner of  the webcam, Mikko Takala: 

Mikko Takala, a computer scientist who has been researching Loch Ness for over 20 years, believes climate change may have effected the increase in sightings of the legendary creature. He said: 'There has been a slight increase in surface temperatures in Loch Ness due to climate change and it is possible that a cold blooded creature like Nessie may be encouraged to return and/or stay longer in the warming waters of Loch Ness.

'We believe that the recent winter was milder and less road salt was spread as a result (the previous winter saw thousands of tonnes spread locally during a long cold treacherous spell). 'It all finds its way down water courses and into the loch raising saline content and that may deter the monster(s) to the point at which they leave it until levels normalise again.' On the possibility of there being more than one Loch Ness monster, he added: 'I've always believed there has to be a family of unknown creatures in the loch, albeit a small one.

'It's too much of a stretch to believe that a single creature can live for hundreds, if not thousands of years or more. Also, there are cave like formations near Urquhart Castle, known as Edwards Deep and no attempt has ever been made to see if these are navigable.' 

Are Nessie sightings on the increase due to climate change? In a recent article I penned, I argued the exact opposite, sightings are down historically due to climate change. The problem here is relative, I am looking over the decades as there is a real drop since the 1960s where Mikko is looking at the recent uptick in reports. The problem for me is that a lot of the claimed sightings made in recent years do not come up to standard of older reports and I doubt would have made it past older researchers. It seems today any report that comes with a picture or video is automatically hyped by the media and gets logged as the genuine article.

UPDATE:

I had a look at the satellite images over Urquhart Castle to guess where this webcam might be. Based on the topography of the immediate area in front of the webcam, I have included this map to circle the area and the line of general sight (though that depends on the orientation of the camera). It looks like the camera is pointing over the busy area of the Castle. Why is the castle not visible? This is because the area in question is high above the castle and the main road which will be out of sight.



I could be wrong, but draw your own conclusions. This location is several hundered metres from the loch.
 


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com


Thursday, 18 July 2019

Loch Ness Mystery Blog Nine Years Old Today.




Happy Birthday to me.

It was on the 18th July 2010 that the first rather innocuous post was logged onto lochnessmystery.blogspot.com. Nine years later the blog is still running, still posting and still here. The tally of articles is now six hundred and ninety six (including this one) with the number of page views now in the millions since defending the famous Loch Ness Monster began.

The range of articles has varied in content and depth, some just simple announcements ranging to articles series such as the five articles on the Peter O'Connor photo and the four devoted to the Lachlan Stuart picture. The article with the biggest number of hits is "The Hugh Gray Photograph Revisited" at 88,500 page views and not far behind is the article on the 2012 Marcus Atkinson sonar image with 83,118 views. How many unique users that equates to is impossible to calculate.

Meantime, the site continues to at least appear on the second page of various search engines, but has gone as high as third ranking on Google (below). It rather depends how many articles I churn out it seems. In terms of global coverage, 45% of the views come from the USA, 22% from the UK going down to the likes of 0.5% from Spain.




A perusal of the various articles should make it clear where this blog stands and the strap line at the top is as true today as it was in 2010 - Reclaiming the Loch Ness Monster from the current tide of debunking and scepticism. Since the late 1990s and the rise of the Internet, the noise of scepticism and its errant child, pseudo-scepticism has grown with every browser refresh. Though there were cryptid websites around, there was an imbalance in the debate which needed some more counter-weight. Therefore, the remit of the blog can be broken into four areas:

  1. Counter sceptical arguments against the phenomenon.
  2. Promote arguments and theories in favour of a cryptid view.
  3. Cover current and folkloric aspects of Nessie culture.
  4. Write on the history of the monster hunt and its personalities.

One may ask if this implies total gullibility as every sighting, photo, film and sonar is swallowed as evidence. That is not the case if one reads through the blog, but certainly the logical and scientific facade displayed on the other side is rather the opposite of gullibility to me - namely cynicism and negativity towards cryptid theories and their adherents. This is exemplified in the attitude that not one witness out of the thousands has ever accurately described what they saw and not one case is ever problematic.

So be it, but this blog does "Messy Nessie" insomuch that it is bolder to accept various cases while others sit on the fence or run away at the first sceptical debunking. That means we get it wrong sometimes, but I don't really care much for that as it is not the intention of this site to protect a reputation or ego. We shall leave that to others.

Likewise, the odds of being proven right on any case as opposed to wrong is small as that means the monster has been proven to be a large, exotic animal. One thing you can be sure of, the sceptic and pseudo-sceptic are safe in their comfort zone while that situation persists. Denounce everything in the safe knowledge that it is unlikely they will be caught with their pants down when a carcass is pulled up the next day!

So here is to hopefully another nine years of blogging Nessie. Where you and I will be in 2028 is unknown, but I am pretty sure one or more monsters will continue to be seen.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com




Friday, 12 July 2019

Ted Holiday Interviews Loch Ness Monster Eyewitnesses (audio)




Here's a treat for all Nessie fans as famous monster researcher, Ted Holiday, conducts audio interviews with various eyewitnesses to the Loch Ness Monster. How this came about was thanks to Will Matthews, a Fortean researcher from the USA, who had been helping with the processing and archiving of material by the late great Ivan T. Sanderson and his organisation, the Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained.

During this unpacking, his friend indicated he had found an old audio reel tape of Ted Holiday conducting interviews with five monster witnesses lasting about 30 minutes. These were played back on an old tape player and he recorded them on his phone. He sent me a copy and I have listened to these interviews and was excited to hear the actual people talk about what they saw back in their day many years ago. In particular, I was very glad to hear the voice of John McLean recount his close up encounter from 1938.

In sequential order, the eyewitnesses interviewed with the years of their sightings are Hugh Ayton (1963), Peter Hodge (1965), Tom Skinner (1952), John MacLean (1938) and Alistair Grant (twice in 1963). The link to the audio is at the end of this article, but I would like to make three points regarding these and eyewitness recordings in general. Firstly, you may ask where can you find other recordings of eyewitnesses? During the 1960s and 1970s, Loch Ness was a hive of monster hunting activity as researchers pursued not only the creature but witnesses to it. Many were recorded onto audio media by the likes of Ted Holiday and Tim Dinsdale and I have no doubt there were others. But today you will struggle to find any of this even on the vast sprawling Internet.

The reasons are two fold. The cassettes and tape reels still exist, but those who hold them are doing nothing about digitising and putting these online. That is partly down to time, resources and trust. They personally do not have the time, money or know-how to do the conversion but at the same time, they do not want to hand over the items to relative strangers to do it for them. That is understandable to a certain extent but leaves us all in limbo.

The second reason is that there are those who hold these legacy items from past researchers and organisations but are not inclined to do anything public with them because they do not believe in the Loch Ness Monster, so why go to the trouble over something that was likely a log or a wave? Indeed, why encourage belief in these annoying monsters at all? It is better to stay quiet and do nothing. Well, there is one overriding reason for them to go that trouble and that is profit, but I will say no more.

But focusing on Holiday specifically, he not only recorded these interviews but transcribed them for his book, "The Great Orm of Loch Ness" in 1968. In Holiday's book, we have the transcripts of nine eyewitness interviews. Of the six eyewitness accounts on the audio, all but Hugh Ayton appear in the book. The four eyewitness transcripts that are in the book but not the audio are those of William John Holme, David Wathen, Simon Cameron and John Cameron. This certainly suggests a possible cache of other audio tapes created by Ted Holiday which are currently beyond public reach.

The second point is how accurate was the transcription process from tape to book? On listening to the John Mclean audio interview while following its text version in the book, there had been editing by the publishers as unnecessary phrases such as "you know" and vocal pauses such as "errr" and "umm" were omitted.  Some sentences had been removed for the sake of summary which had no material effect on the account itself and personal details were removed. In other words, there is no conflict between the written and spoken word.

The third point is that, as you might expect, the hand of the pseudo-sceptic is in here as they try to discredit and debunk anything that elevates the Loch Ness Monster story and these audio interviews would be no different in that respect. In this case, they have accused Holiday of asking leading questions to influence the witnesses' answers. A leading question is one that prompts or encourages the answer wanted, either consciously or subconsciously. But can Holiday be accused of this? If one asks a witness "How big was the Monster?" as opposed to "What was the length of the object?" you would be correct in saying the last question is more neutral than the first one. However, is such a line of questioning going to turn everyday objects into thirty foot monsters? Even deciding what is a leading question and what, if any, effect it has on the interviewee may be in the eye of the beholder and their own confirmation bias (whatever side of the monster debate you are on).

But Holiday does sometimes ask non-neutral questions, suggesting answers such as "round" when asking about the shape of the creature to John MacLean. Given that Mclean's sighting had been publicly available in the press and in books such as those by Whyte and Dinsdale, it hardly seems relevant to talk about leading questions. All the information was already out there whereas the idea behind leading questions is to produce new but false information.

This would also apply to the Skinner report of the prior decade and the Ayton/Grant interviews were done one year after the event. However, the Peter Hodge interview was done on the same day as the event and Holiday may well have been their first interviewer. Listening to that and the parallel text, I saw no leading questions apart from one when Holiday asked what may have caused the creature to turn from shore and suggesting a car in the same breath. Obviously, this had no bearing on the actual description of what was seen.

So, in my opinion, the attack regarding leading questions can be put aside as I invite you now to listen to these 34 minutes of the best type of monster talk - eyewitness talk. The audio can be accessed at this link and the transcripts of each sighting can be found at these pages in the first edition of the Great Orm book:

Peter Hodge pp.74
Alastair Grant pp.78 (twice)
John McLean pp.82
Simon Cameron pp.100
Tom Skinner pp.151
William John Holme pp.157
David Wathen pp.165
John Cameron pp.167


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com