Saturday 31 December 2016

Nessie Review of 2016

Looking back on 2016, Loch Ness and its Monster had a worthy list of events in and around the place to keep the subject and this blog busy from January to December. Let us now go over these in largely chronological order.

January began with a big claim for a new record depth for the biggest loch in Britain. Jacobite Cruises went to press with the story that their new 3D sonar imaging equipment had detected a depth of 889 feet, beating the current record by 135 feet. The claim immediately generated controversy as others said they could not reproduce the result.

I myself saw the sonar recording a depth of 884 feet back in September, when I attended a talk on the monster. So, there is no doubt the equipment was doing what was claimed and the talk was whether a minor quake had caused a collapse of the bottom silt near the Clansman Hotel. However, the lack of corroboration leaves this one a bit up in the air and so we move on.

The month of March showed that despite sceptical assaults on the centuries old story, you can't keep a good monster down as the tourist agency, VisitBritain, decided to recruit the Loch Ness Monster for their promotion of the Highlands to foreign visitors. 

Admittedly, it was all a bit tongue in cheek, but more tourists means more chance of good videos and photos. Well, that is the theory, but the shortcomings of reality often intrudes on opportunity, be it distance, human frailty or poor equipment.

A few weeks later in April came the sensational news that a monster had been found, albeit one that had sunk without trace over 45 years ago. I am, of course, referring to the model monster made for the 1970 film, "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes". The prop did not actually appear in the film as it sunk before filming began. 

The relics of the prop had been found thanks to the latest in sonar technology in the form of a low flying sonar torpedo called the MUNIN Autonomous Underwater Vehicle. The missle's ability to draw near to target areas and produce higher resolution images was the advantage it had over previous searches.

Which clearly begs the question as to why previous sonar missions should be taken seriously when they claimed to have swept the whole loch and found nothing. They did not find this because they lacked the acuity of vision to see this monster sized object. Whether such new technology will be used again at the loch remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, pictures and videos purporting to be our favourite cryptid rolled in throughout the year. One of the first to "surface" was the webcam shot taken below by Diana in April of a strange looking neck like image. There were various such webcam shots that came to my attention over the year of varying quality, though the same conclusion applies to all. They may add to the story and the mystery, but they are too far away to provide conclusive evidence.

Other pictures came to the fore although most were no more than interesting and even explicable by natural phenomena. A video by Tony Bligh in June is most likely just a boat wake,. A picture also taken in June by a Texan tourist appears to show a dark shape under the water, but is too indistinct to tell. What was of more interest was a picture taken by Ian Campbell in August showing two strange objects swimming just under the surface opposite Inverfarigaig (below).

The picture suffers from being taken at a distance of about 400 metres, although Ian Campbell was convinced it was two creatures. Meantime, a strange carcass found on the shores of Dores was fooling no one. It was a publicity stunt for a forthcoming crime drama set by the shores of the loch.

Likewise, a picture taken in September claimed as one of the clearest yet, was clearly a line of seals playing and pursuing. The only argument was whether it was taken at Loch Ness or near the owner's residence in the Cromarty Firth. The argument leans to the latter, but it is certainly no Nessie.

Of more interest was the dorsal fin most certainly photographed at Loch Ness on the 22nd August by Kate Powell which had echoes of the Adams-Lee photograph of the 1930s. Further analysis showed it was no photoshop job and most were agreed on that. What was not accepted universally was that is showed a dorsal fin.

Indeed, the initial and well worn tactic of the sceptic was to first play the "Not taken at Loch Ness" card. This soon disintegrated when Steve Feltham produced the uncropped image. Panic soon set in as the prospect of a possible mystery stalked the sceptic and soon an alternative but pathetic excuse arrived in the form of an osprey taking a fish from the water. The answer is its own refutation, as they say.

But you know why it is a stupid explanation? Because if you had said it had been taken in the Moray Firth, the same Nessie deniers would have unhesitatingly screamed "Dorsal Fin". Please! Now what this photo actually shows is another matter. A local dolphin expert told me it was not one of the dolphins they track along the north east shores of Scotland. Bird? No. Dolphin? Maybe. Nessie? Not sure!

On a personal note, the hunt and research continued in 2016. Several trips were undertaken to the loch such as in September. The use of trap cameras and the like continues, but no conclusive evidence was acquired, but information about the loch useful in important conclusions were indeed acquired. Some strange things were investigated, though not necessarily of a monster nature!

Back at the desk and laptop, various advances were made in Loch Ness Monster research. After some pursuit, I was most pleased to make contact with H. L. Cockrell's son and obtaining a wealth of information on this famous photo of the monster - including the never before seen second photo. Sceptics don't give a rat's arse about pursuing such things, if you think it is all just boats and logs, where is the motivation? Leave that sort of stuff to those who believe there is something strange in Loch Ness. There is more to come on H. L. Cockrell in 2017.

Continuing in the vein of those who do proper research, a couple of mysteries were cleared up which had lain dormant for decades. The long standing conundrum of John Keel's 1896 Nessie was resolved when I dug deeper into the archives. Likewise, Peter Costello's brief mention of another 1896 reference to a monster in Loch Ness was also proven to be true, though not perhaps in the way predicted by either side of the Nessie debate.

Back in April, I also took part in a TV documentary on Nessie and delivered a lecture on the paranormal history of the Loch Ness Monster to the Scottish UFO and Paranormal Conference. Finally, I was pleased to renew my acquaintance with renowned Nessie researcher, Rip Hepple. I thank him again for his important contribution to the Nessie debate in the form of his 40 years of newsletters.

And so, the year draws to an end and even as I type these words, another late news item on a possible Nessie sculpture hits the media. You just can't keep a good monster down! It was a good year in terms of events and things to debate. However, evidence which will convince even the most die-hard sceptic continued to elude. Mind you, since that probably means a monster carcass, they could be waiting a long time.

I wish all readers a prosperous and healthy 2017.

The author can be contacted at

Wednesday 28 December 2016

Ted Holiday and the LNIB Hunting Irish Monsters (video)

A reader called Liam emailed me with a link to an old October 1969 RTE TV report from Ireland which covered the visit of some members of the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau to the boggy land of Connemara in the west of the Republic of Ireland. The members interviewed were Ted Holiday, Holly Arnold, Lionel Leslie and Ivor Newby.

Seasoned monster readers will be well aware of this trip as it was covered in Holiday's book, "The Dragon and the Disc" published in 1973. I refer you to that book for further details of the search for the Irish "Pieste".

The picture of Ted Holiday above is taken from the video which you can view here.

The author can be contacted at

Friday 23 December 2016

Nessie at Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the glen
Not a creature was stirring, not even a sceptic.
The cameras were placed by the lochside with care,
In hopes that Nessie soon would be there.

Okay, I couldn't get "sceptic" to rhyme, but I never claimed to be a poet. As we enter the Festive Season, I wondered if Nessie had ever added to the magic and mystery of Christmas by putting in a special appearance on Christmas Day? The answer appears to be "yes".

Now as far as appearances go, December does not fare very well. After all, the tourists have all but gone, the weather is cold and the locals are pre-occupied with turkey and presents. Indeed, you could argue that Christmas Day is the least likely day to hear about the Loch Ness Monster. But we have one account and only one account in the 83 long years of monster reports and it happened on the very first Christmas of the Nessie Era in 1933.

The story forms case no.33 in Rupert T. Gould's book, "The Loch Ness Monster and Others", published in 1934 which I reproduce below:

December 25, 1933. 
In Clayhole Bay. 
Time, about 8 a.m.
Weather clear.
Witnesses, Mr. John Cameron, Fort Augustus (second sighting). (L.) Mr. D. McIntosh. (L.)

[Clayhole Bay, which is not named on the 6-inch Ordnance sheet, is about 4 miles from Fort Augustus towards Invermoriston, and on the western side of Gobhar Sciathach - the promontory between Easter and Wester Port Clair.]

Mr. Cameron and Mr. McIntosh were driving in a motor-lorry along the Loch road (which runs close to Clayhole Bay) and caught sight of X lying about 30 yards from the shore, with its head (they considered) towards them. Mr. Cameron ran down to the shore to get a closer view; but as he did so X, apparently startled by the noise of the engine, swung very quickly round - making a great commotion in the water - and disappeared.

From the disturbance created, they deduced that X's bulk below water much exceeded that of the portion visible. This showed as a dark hump about 10 feet long, and rising some 3 feet above the surface. Mr. McIntosh also noticed, about 6 feet in front of the hump, "a clear and definite break in the water," which he considered might have been produced by the head.

I had never heard of Clayhole Bay before, though the location is familiar to me as denoted by the circle on the map below. Back then, the road afforded a better view as many trees had been cleared during the road widening. I suspect the foliage between road and loch is more substantial today.

Now one might hear the cry of "Bah! Humbug!" from the sceptical Scrooges out there. This was clearly a standing wave caught in an eddy in the bay from a ship whose crew forgot they should have been off for the day.

The fact that the creature was 30 yards from shore and unlikely to be mistaken is irrelevant say the Ebeneezers. Clearly, Mr Cameron and Mr McIntosh had indulged too much in the Christmas sherry and it was actually a duck at 1000 yards. Glad that was all cleared up, I was nearly getting too excited and gullible.

Getting back to reality, this sighting is typical and classical. The large, single hump is the most common type of sighting and the mention of the creature being sensitive to noise is a familiar description. Based on the overall description, this would appear to have been at least a 20 footer. Nice.

With that, I shall wish all readers a Merry Christmas!

The author can be contacted at

Monday 19 December 2016

Metal Monsters in Loch Ness

Having spoken previously about the variety of objects that end up in Loch Ness, a reader enquired further about the steam tractors that found their grave in the loch. I found this when reading a lengthy comment posted on a forum in August 2012, now is as good a time as any to post that comment - especially since it now appears to have disappeared from the Web.

Local readers may be able to add further details and I note the author mentions our favourite cryptid at the end (this was during the hype around the now discredited George Edwards photograph).

Around 1981 I fancied getting a steam engine and phoned an owner near Kirriemuir for guidance. "Fit wiy div ye na tak the anes oot o Loch Ness?" was his question.

He went on to say that in the nineteen thirties when the A82 was being realigned some old steam rollers had broken down and were cannibalised to keep others going. At the end of the contract the robbed rollers were simply pushed into the loch to tidy up. Seems the contractor involved had steamed them up from Glasgow in the first place, taking over three weeks for the journey.

Just west of Clansman Hotel I found the remains of a steam engine but all that could be removed by boat had gone. A pair of front wheels rested against the gable end of a cottage in Dores. The governor weights adorned a garden in Milton but around 25 years ago a team came up from England and salvaged what was sitting half on the shore.

Last year someone commented on the line up of vintage tractors at Bogbain, asking why was I not trying to take the steam lorry out of Leanach quarry, up by the Keppoch. Seems that when divers had been searching for Renee MacRae in the quarry in 1976 a diver reported seeing a steam Foden in the depths of the flooded quarry. The English team made enquiries but were told to bugger off, this area was now in someone's back garden.

John MacKenzie of Achnagarron tells me that he used to see the steam lorry sitting beside a croft beside Culloden Station around 1960. I hunted down local divers with a trail leading me to Frank Allan and then on to the late Jimmy Kelman. No, Jimmy had not been involved but back a long time ago the great John Oak had bought a barge down in Corpach and been quoted mega bucks to bring it home to Inversneckie.

Jimmy went west with his welding gear and welded brackets on the barge to take two outboard motors. Coming through Loch Ness, Jimmy stopped to have his flask and sandwiches and as he rested on the land side of the barge, there in the water, below the surface, was a steam engine. So guess who got on a jet ski and headed for "the point in the loch below where the piper used to play for the tourists", according to Jimmy.

Seeing nothing from the jet ski I then got a loan of a cabin cruiser and using a friend's home made underwater camera, I trawled the area for days but could find nothing. Then news reached me from the Jacobite Cruise office that I was in the right place because one of their men reported seeing wheels above the water whenever the Loch was low.

I phoned Adrian Shine to find out where I'd get a good copy of a survey of the loch. "The library", says Adrian, and there is a grand survey which was done by Sir somebody or other in 1902. The library was no use but bumping into a friend and telling him my mission into the city centre on a good working day my friend says "Phone Mike the bike, he has a copy".

Mike arrived with his bike and unscrolled the most beautiful detailed survey that anyone could imagine. Seems Sir so so had done it all with piano wire and lead weight and according to sonar he was spot on with his findings. The survey showed that water on the north side of the loch was shallow, meaning that any engine dumped there would not have gone down 600 feet.

I gave the survey to George back around March asking him to have a go and now he seems to have found some part from the salvaged steam engine near the Clansman. The search continues.

But three trips to South Uist earlier this year proved fruitless while looking for a steam roller that ran off out of control while being unloaded from a Ministry of Transport lorry during the last war. Probing with metal rods, a metal detector, and even using a magnetometer from a local firm that guides oil drilling in Canada, I have detected nothing. 

It seems we were in the wrong bog around Bornish. Leaving South Uist the last time, I ran into my friend at HEBCO who has been very helpful and I  listened again as he repeated "the man that used to tell us all about the engine used to say. "I'm the only person who knows exactly where the engine is". This suggests it took off out of sight of the public road and over the years the location has got mixed up. I should be over there at this moment because the bogs are at their driest in years but can't get past Torvean.

I know of two ladies who have recently seen the same sort of thing as Mr Edwards in the Loch, quite near Dores Inn but no way would they ever go to the press with the news for fear of attracting the ridicule that we see on this page today.

The picture of the traction engine at the top of the page may not be the type used at Loch Ness, but it is probably similar. Having read the comments again, I did a web search to find out more about traction engines at Loch Ness and found an item which may relate to this comment:

"around 25 years ago a team came up from England and salvaged what was sitting half on the shore.". 

At the following website, I found this picture of a traction engine which had this comment: 

The traction engine came from the shores of Loch Ness, it fell in while a road was being made along the side of the loch. It was recovered over 20 years ago via a raft made of scaffold and drums with an outboard motor on the back. and 2 trips in a lorry back to Abingdon. Still have the video somewhere of the weeks adventure.

The phrases "over 20 years ago" and "around 25 years ago" suggests these may be referring to the same tractor? I leave it to our intrepid local tractor hunter to put a bid in (as I recall he posted under the pseudonym "Bogbain" on the Inverness Courier)!

Nessie fans will recall how the extension of the Glasgow-Inverness road lead to hundreds, if not thousands of tons of blasted rock and other debris being regularly tipped into Loch Ness. The thought being that the Loch Ness Monster was disturbed from her "sleep" and embarked on a rash of surface adventures.

Now I am quite happy to accept that the continuous rumble of rubble did disturb the cryptid as I am of the opinion that the creature is not an open water creature, but one that largely spends its time amongst the submerged sides of the loch. These areas would have been particularly exposed to these torrents of rock.

Having said that, it is more likely that the opening of the road and the cutting back of the lochside vegetation that made it more likely for people to see the monster rather than the underwater disturbances.

I see I have now posted successively on three subjects which are not cryptid related. Back to Nessie now, but a knowledge of the local history around the loch adds to the interest in the area as well as potentially proving useful in Nessie forensics. I think I will add a "Local History" side bar to the webpage.

The author can be contacted at

Thursday 15 December 2016

Keep Nessie out of this!

I note a tweet from a senator elect in California called Kamala Harris. I don't anything about her, never heard of her and may never hear from her again. She says, "We must take on science-deniers who insist the earth is flat, the Loch Ness Monster is real & climate change doesn't exist." You can find her curious tweet here.

One thing I will deduce from her rant is that she probably knows next to nothing about the Loch Ness Monster. Doubtless spoon fed what to believe by "Nessie-deniers" to borrow her phrase, the creature is a convenient symbol of ridicule to hang her tweet on. What I am not clear on is why she didn't use the Bigfoot? After all, that cryptid is reputed to haunt her home state. Maybe she believes in Bigfeet? 

Anyway, the term "science-denier" implies her view of science has built an impregnable case against any such creature existing in Loch Ness. If one asked Ms Harris specifically what type of creature science had disproven, she would probably look at you stony faced with her mouth open. Science has not disproven the Loch Ness Monster, but neither has it proven it. In fact, science has nothing to say on the existence or non-existence of the monster.

Sure, we have seen various attempts to use "science" against the creature. These have been more than challenged on this blog over the years (and without reply in a lot of cases). Unfortunately, in this sceptical age, such "science" is generally accepted in an uncritical and prejudiced manner.

So, feel free to protest about resistance to climate change, but don't bring my nation's favourite monster into it!

The author can be contacted at


Sunday 11 December 2016

Saturday 10 December 2016

Saint Cummin's Bell

In a loch the size of Loch Ness, you will expect a wide of variety of objects to be lying at the bottom of its dark, murky depths. We have mentioned a panoply of such things over the lifetime of this blog and they include John Cobb's speedboat, various ships, a Viking longship, a Wellington Bomber, a monster prop, the body of Winifred Hambro, fridges, cars, myriad pieces of Nessie hunting equipment, steam tractors from the time of the 1930s road expansion and, of course, a number of Nessie carcasses. Perhaps you can add your own object to this Loch Ness junkyard.

Now I find another object named in the Aberdeen Press and Journal, dated 13th December 1950. This goes back to July 1544 and I reproduce the article below.

In hindsight, the story was already in my copy of George Campbell's "The First and Lost Iona". The bell was taken from the ruined priory at Cille-Chumein (the town's name before it was renamed Fort Augustus after the Battle of Culloden). The intention was to rehouse it in the Lovat's church in Glen Covinth near Beauly. Campbell's books relates how the bell was "sacrificed" as an offering to the spirit of the lake, which I would take to be the Loch Ness Each Uisge.

Now, the location of the holy bell is unknown and yet we are told the loch waters above it have healing powers. You just need to know where! The reference to Aneurin Bevan brings us down to earth as he was the then architect of the National Health Service (another religion of the British people).

However, Campbell speculates from the Wardlaw Manuscript in suggesting the bell may have been deposited at or near Ellanwirrich or Cherry Island as it is now called. But, using my previously calculated silt deposition rate of 4mm per annum suggests the bell is now under a metre of silt. One would presume that, if it exists at all, it is not going to be found anytime soon.

The author can be contacted at

Monday 5 December 2016

Is the Loch Ness Monster a Sturgeon?

The theory that the Loch Ness Monster is an Atlantic Sturgeon is not something new and has been doing the rounds since the early days of the modern Nessie phenomenon. The earliest reference I can find to this theory is from The Scotsman of the 4th November 1933 where a correspondent states the following:
That was about six months since the Aldie Mackay report in the Inverness Courier. The leading expert at the time, Rupert T. Gould, in his 1934 book, "The Loch Ness Monster and Others", examined the various theories to explain the reports that had been coming from the loch since the year before and addressed the sturgeon idea which he said was "in some ways ... rather attractive". His drawing below drew out some ideas.
The first being that the sturgeon's snout could, in theory, be mistaken for a long neck. Likewise, the bony plates along its back may be misinterpreted as a line of humps. In that light he considered it a theory worthy of examination. However, serious objections were finally raised by Gould. Firstly, that the claimed size of the Loch Ness Monster was up to three times longer than the biggest sturgeon known.
Secondly, the bony plates may be construed as humps, but their rather fixed configuration does not allow for the rather more pronounced double humps and so on, let alone the classic upturned boat scenario. However, Gould eventually went with his itinerant sea serpent idea and any thought of a sturgeon finding its way into Loch Ness largely fell by the wayside as more exotic theories won the day.
It was only when we entered the sceptical 80s and 90s that the theory began to gain traction as leading Loch Ness researcher, Adrian Shine, revived the idea with the suggestion that some sightings could be accounted for by errant sturgeon making their way along the River Ness from the North Sea into the loch. In an article for the BBC in 2012, he sums up this line of thought:

"I think it could be the occasional navigationally challenged Atlantic Sturgeon," he says, with a mischievous smile.
Known to grow to over 4m long, the fish, which has reptilian scaled plates along its back and a long pointed face with tusk-like barbells hanging from its jaws, is not indigenous to Scotland. It could conceivably make its way up River Ness and into the loch in the search for new breeding grounds.

"It could very easily have swum into the loch, been spotted and left again leaving nothing behind save an enigma," he says.

Adrian's thinking on this certainly goes as far back as Operation Deepscan in 1987 where he mentioned the possibility. However, it was the publication of a paper in 1993 for The Scottish Naturalist that caught the attention of the press and went worldwide. This clipping from the Times Daily of the 30th December 1993 sums it up.
Now, it is not to be denied that sturgeon have been caught in the general area of the Highlands for centuries. Some old clippings will suffice here and also show the typical size of such creatures. The first is from the Inverness Journal of the 31st July 1846 and then from the same journal of the 14th August 1812:

Note that even in the less consumer strained times of the 19th century, this creature was regarded as a rare visitor to the more accessible waterways. The near 11 foot specimen mentioned above weighed in at over two hundredweight which equates to over 16 stones or 100 kilos. Quite a beast in its own right, though a bit worrying for this theory that I could not find more modern stories.


Having said all that, I have yet to find a newspaper article from any year talking about a sturgeon being caught in Loch Ness. That does not mean that such an event has never happened, but the clippings above suggest that such an event would undoubtedly receive local newspaper coverage (angling was a big sport in the Highlands with newspaper carrying frequent reports on angling news).

The thing about this theory is that it is a bit player. It is not a theory crafted to explain many sightings, for in the world of scepticism, the monster is a motley mosaic of so called ordinary objects seen in so called extraordinary circumstances. My opinion is that such extraordinary circumstances are rare to the vanishing point. The sturgeon is offered as an almost monstrous monster to explain accounts which go beyond the simplistic boat wake or floating log.

But the problems with this idea of an itinerant sturgeon are greater than that for an exotic monster. I heard of an old Chinese proverb asking what is the most cunning animal. The answer is the one that is yet to be found. Whilst the disputed behavioural characteristics of the Loch Ness Monster allows it fulfil that age old puzzle, the same cannot be said of a sturgeon.

The point being that no sturgeon has been caught, let alone a verifiable photograph or video clip of one. You can take that thought two ways. It can either mean that this proves no sturgeon has ever entered Loch Ness or it means that large water breathing creatures can enter the loch and remain largely undetected.

The counter argument on that point is that the sturgeon is an in-out creature. Adrian's comment above that the said sturgeon would ultimately leave the loch seems an unlikely proposition for this type of creature. However, if a sturgeon did enter the loch and inevitably become loch bound, it again says rather a lot for the general monster hunt paradigm that even this type of well known creature cannot be detected in Loch Ness.


But the problem for this theory is its application. Given that scepticism so easily forces the round peg of monster sightings into the square holes of waves, logs and birds with the hammer of confirmation bias, it is perhaps no surprise how Adrian handles certain monster sightings. I quote from his aforementioned 1993 paper: 
In November 1933 Lt.-Commander R.T. Gould (1934: 30) listened to the account of Mr. John McLeod, who, some 20-30 years previously had seen, at the mouth of the River Moriston beneath the lowest fall, a creature with a "head like an eel and a long tapering tail". This is how a Sturgeon might appear from above. Another witness, Miss K. MacDonald, spoke of a "crocodile"-like creature, 6-8 feet long, ascending the River Ness and heading for the Holm Mills weir, in February 1932 (Gould, 1943: 38).

Rather more recently, in 1993, Mrs Marion MacDonald described to the author an experience at the Fort Augustus Abbey harbour. She saw what she first thought was a log, because of a distinctive 'scaly' bark pattern, but which then developed a wake and moved off to submerge, while she called her family. After she had sketched her impression (Figure 2, 8K) she was shown an illustration of a Sturgeon's bony plates, and considered the pattern to be reminiscent of what she had seen.

Three eyewitness reports are brought forward in support of the sturgeon theory. What struck me was how these sightings were not consigned to the usual sceptic dustbin of more mundane explanations. After all, we are repeatedly told that eyewitnesses practically forget all the important details by the next day, the newspapers exaggerate stories or it is just the locals having a laugh.

Yet, here, suddenly, the clouds of poor memory depart. The perception of the eyewitnesses becomes lucid and their descriptions are as sharp as a tack. The 1993 report would have normally been written of as a log. John MacLeod's sighting would have been told he saw a seal and Miss MacDonald's encounter was not even in Loch Ness!

Here we have an example of sceptics having their cake and eating it. Sightings are anecdotal garbage ... unless they are useful in promoting your cause. Try and tell me this is consistent and unbiased critical thinking!


It would be remiss of me not to mention the saga of Adrian Shine's pet sturgeon at this juncture.  It transpired back in 2000 that Adrian was rearing his own sturgeon in a pond at the Loch Ness Centre in Drumnadrochit. It seems it had grown to six feet long and Adrian was a bit peeved it's existence had been revealed as he was conducting experiments as to how visitors described it when it surfaced.

Other Loch Ness researchers were a little less sympathetic when they wondered what would have happened to the fish when it got too big. Would it be secretly dumped in the loch, caught and then declared to be Nessie? Conspiracy theories aside, what exactly was Adrian trying to achieve as viewing a sturgeon at a few feet away hardly constitutes a sighting reproduction. One also wonders what the endgame for the sturgeon really was? Fish and chips or fish and ships?


That a sturgeon may or may not have entered Loch Ness is not the point of the debate. They may have, but given the recent sceptical disdain for dolphins getting into Loch Ness, I doubt they could be of the opposite mind with sturgeons. Rather, such a creature is not a good fit for what is described and is actually just a debating tool to lift the sceptical debate above the banality of waves and birds. Indeed, sceptics admit such a creature would only explain a small percentage of sightings.
The situation is best summed up in the cartoon I saw recently which shows a dinosaur like Nessie snacking on a tiny sturgeon, to which eyewitnesses holler "WOW! There really IS a sturgeon in Loch Ness!". In other words, there are bigger fish to fry in Loch Ness.

The author can be contacted at

Thursday 1 December 2016

Interview With Affleck Gray

After reviewing Nick Redfern's Nessie book, I realised I had a couple of items to post. This was mainly inspired by Nick's investigation into other strange phenomena that haunt the general Highland region and may or may not have anything to do with the Loch Ness Monster.

The first of the two items is the Am Fear Liath Mor or Big Grey Man which is said to inhabit the area around Ben MacDhui in the Cairngorms mountains. This spot lies over 30 miles south east of Loch Ness. The Grey Man is a phenomenon that is more often heard than seen amidst the lonely peaks. However, a friend of Nessie sceptic, Richard Frere, did claim to see a large, brown humanoid figure heading down the hill.

A Scottish version of Bigfoot or something that has a more normal explanation? Affleck Gray was the man who wrote the definitive book on the subject in 1970 entitled "The Big Grey Man of Ben Macdhui" and back in July I stumbled upon an interview with him in a magazine found in a Stornoway shop.

The magazine was the Spring 1995 edition of "Tocher", which covers various Scottish folkloric and cultural subjects. The interview was conducted by Roger Leitch in 1994 when Gray was 87 years old. He died two years later in 1996 and so the interview probably gives us his last thoughts on the subject of the Gray Man and other matters. The scan of the pages can be viewed at this link.

I will post the second item on a possible UFO report from near Loch Ness presently.

The author can be contacted at

Saturday 26 November 2016

A Review of Nick Redfern's "Nessie"

Having reviewed Malcolm Robinson's book on Nessie, I now move onto another recent publication by Nick Redfern entitled "Nessie: Exploring the Supernatural Origins of the Loch Ness Monster". Now, Malcolm's book had its fair share of references to the psychic, paranormal and supernatural. But, if that book was the starter on this subject, Nick's is definitely the main course.

Following in the tradition of Holiday's "The Dragon and The Disc", "Goblin Universe" and Shiels' "Monstrum!", we have waited over 25 years for another like minded book, and Nick Redfern is the man to continue this centuries old thread in the tale. Now, one would normally expect such a book to be rubbished as the majority of Nessie people continue to look to the biological for a solution.

I, too, seek an answer in the realms of zoology, but I can view myself as being able to critique Nick's book to a certain degree as I was in the paranormal Nessie camp many moons ago. In fact, if you want to read my views back in the 1980s, I refer you to one of the archived Nessletters from Rip Hepple here.

I also recently gave a talk at the Scottish UFO and Paranormal Conference in which I examined the links between Nessie and Ley Lines. Well, actually, I was regurgitating stuff I had done back in the 1980s. What I exactly think of those results, I am not sure myself!

Anyway, I move onto the book. If one is going to talk about supernatural Nessies, one must start at the beginning with St. Columba and progress through the tales of water horses, kelpies and other such mingled constructs of overlaid truth.

Opinions vary as to the nature of these beasts as perceived by those who once told tales of them to riveted audiences. Nick takes a view which is, shall we say, all encompassing as to their nature and relation to other Highland phenomena of the time and their shape shifting tendencies. You could probably call it a paranormal Grand Unified Theory.

Indeed, there is a large degree of overlap between my own book and Nick’s as the folkloric landscape is surveyed. The question is how literally should one take these tales? How big was the kernel of truth that was too often obscured by ancient raconteurs? That answer very much depends on who you ask and Nick supplies his own opinions on these pre-industrial demons. 

Taking those demonic forms into the modern Nessie era is not normally done by the majority of researchers, but Nick takes this oldest of Loch Ness Monster theories and attempts to map it onto the modern phenomenon.

But how does one go about proving that the Loch Ness Monster is a supernatural beast? What exactly does that mean? Is it a product of the human mind or another mind? Is it a real sentient entity in its own right or does it even have a substantial form? Nick homes in on his answer as the book progresses.

Though having proven beyond his own doubt that plesiosaurs are not the answer, how do you do the opposite for a paranormal cryptid? The evidence is circumstantial. But then again, is that not the way of it with Nessie theories of all shades?

From that period and 1933 onwards, Nick narrates the Nessie story to the present day. There are the usual suspects plus a few minor typos on the way. Willox the Warlock did not battle the Loch Ness Kelpie, his ancestor did. Marmaduke Wetherell did not find the hippopotami spoors, he created them. Moreover, Loch Latch is written as Loch Laide.

But Nick follows a parallel course as he presents stories from in and around Loch Ness that suggest there is more to this area than just elusive aquatic beasts. With that in mind, we are regaled with stories of ghosts, the Loch Ness Hoodoo, UFOs, out of place cats, Aleister Crowley, exorcisms, Men in Black, witches and other strange people with somewhat magical designs upon the place.

Indeed, Nick will answer such questions as why researcher Jon Downes was butt naked at Loch Ness and what Boleskine House has to do with the Disney cartoon, The Jungle Book! But this all culminates in the sinister suggestion that a serpent worshipping cult may have operated at the loch, and may even do so today. The evidence for this is somewhat tenuous, but considering men are inclined to worship almost anything past, present and future, why should that surprise us?

After all, we have had the rituals of Donald Omand, Doc Shiels and Kevin Carlyon. Have we missed anything out? To this end, Nick refers us to further clues which I leave to your judgement. 

Ted Holiday and Doc Shiels, of course, figure highly, as does Tim Dinsdale. Holiday’s untimely demise is viewed with suspicion. Shiels’ activities are not viewed with the same eye as Nick embraces him. His 1977 Nessie photos are generally rejected, but Nick puts up a defence, omitting to address the matter of the audio tapes featuring Shiels and friend Michael McCormick in 1977 which records them discussing how to fake monster photographs. Nick needs to reply to that before we proceed further with Anthony Shiels.

We know Tim Dinsdale was a member of the Ghost Club and had his own fair share of spooky stories (as well as an alleged demonic attack). However, Tim’s public opinion very much stayed in the biological domain. Did Tim secretly believe in a supernatural Nessie? Only his family and closest confidants can come clean on this, thirty years after his death.

As one that continues to believe in paranormal phenomena in other domains, I accept that strange things happen around Loch Ness. The question for me is how statistically significant they are compared to other geographical regions and what is the relation between increasing distance from the loch and diminishing relevance to the loch?

Moreover, having accepted the premise of a supernatural Loch Ness region, how do you use that to make the leap to a supernatural Loch Ness monster? And here’s the rub. Putting aside old tales of talking kelpies and indirect stories of other things around the area, what exactly is it about the modern monster itself that speaks of a paranormal nature?

The answer is precious little as Nessies don’t vanish like ghosts. They don’t do unnatural feats like fly off or speak to you. They don’t look as weird as werewolves or mothmen. They don’t give off sulphurous smells like devils or cause any strange synchronicities.

Maybe they don’t have to, but there are one or two things with better promise. The shape shifting thing; is that paranormal or normal? Nick points to variations in appearances described by witnesses. Perhaps so, but how much of that is accountable by intra-species variations due to sex, age or seasonality? How much of the variation is just down to the fact that eyewitnesses cannot deliver a 100% accurate description (but still accurate enough to point to a large creature inhabiting the loch)?

But all is not lost. As I close, there are some strange things that defy explanation for me. Ted Holiday’s weird experiences after the 1973 exorcism are not so easily dismissed and that strange figure he met near Urquhart Castle may not just be a mad motor biker. There are other tales that also make you think twice. I refer readers to the story related by Tim Richardson, which does not make it into Nick’s book, but points to something perhaps beyond the normal.

Is the Loch Ness Monster a demonic form, a psychic projection, a zooform or something else that is currently beyond scientific explanation? I know there are many people who class themselves as paracryptozoologists. It is up to them to continue to make the case for such a thing. I suspect their number is increasing; they just need to increase the arguments in line with that.

The author can be contacted at

Thursday 24 November 2016

Helping Loren Coleman

There are two things cryptozoologists can be fairly certain of. They can be sure that some ailment will eventually overtake them in old age and they can also be pretty sure that there is not much money in cryptozoology to pay the bills. Long time cryptozoological researcher, Loren Coleman, has come up against the realities of both as he recently went into hospital for another operation.

The concept of medical bills is a bit foreign to me as a citizen of the United Kingdom where the State funded National Health Service picks up the tab, but that is not the way it happens in the USA. However, the concept of not paying the bills from cryptozoological work is not foreign to me. So, with a bill of over $7,000 to pay, he has set up this funding webpage to seek help from compassionate people. I have paid something in to help a man who has helped keep the mystery of lake and other cryptids in the limelight.

I hope you can too.

The author can be contacted at

Wednesday 16 November 2016

Some Thoughts on the Peter MacNab Picture

This photo needs no introduction to any seasoned Nessie fan. Peter MacNab's picture of the Loch Ness Monster was published by the Weekly Scotsman just seven days after they ran the story on the H. L. Cockrell picture on the 23rd October 1958. I ran my main article on that photo here and you can refer to that for background information on the main objections to the photo. Today, I will address another objection, end with a question, but I first start with a story.

I am going to pretend to be a sceptic and then debunk myself. I know, I know, how can a simpleton believer reach the intellectual heights of even the average sceptic? Well, I will try to leap that mighty chasm. The book below is a rather non-descript affair entitled "The Mystery of the Loch Ness Monster" by Jeanne Bendick published in 1976.

I bought a copy of the book, mainly because I collect such things, but the title doesn't make my list of Nessie books because it is a book written for children and it is one of those pop-books written on the coat tails of the surge in Loch Ness interest into the last half of the 1970s. However, while I was flicking through it, my attention was arrested by the picture below.

It is a picture of Loch Ness, I am not sure where it was taken and that is largely irrelevant. The thing that grabbed my attention was the text below it saying "Copyright, P. A. MacNab". The same copyright message is seen under the famous MacNab photo in the same book. Okay, well that proves to some extent that Peter MacNab was at Loch Ness. But when was the picture taken? The car in the picture provides a clue.

Not having any expertise in the matter of classic cars, I emailed the picture to someone who runs a Classic Cars website for his expert opinion. His reply was "Looking at the general shape, I’d plump for an Austin A40 Farina.". Okay, a quick look on the Internet tells me that is a good fit and so I'll go along with that.

However, these cars did not appear until 1958, the same year that Peter MacNab's photo hit the headlines. So the photo was taken no earlier than 1958, but I (pretending to be a sceptic) will point out that MacNab claimed he took his famous picture in 1955. Has Peter MacNab been caught out? Was his famous picture and the one above in fact taken a short time apart in 1958?

Cue images of sceptics jumping up and down like kids in a sweet shop singing "We've got MacNaaaaaaaab!". Of course, any interval of time could have passed between the Nessie picture and this one, but now it is time to debunk myself. The car was indeed introduced to the world in 1958 and so, going by this photo alone,  Peter MacNab must have been at Loch Ness no earlier than that year.

But looking at the car's wikipedia entry, I note that it was introduced to the world at the London Motor Show in October 1958. You can see the cover of the Daily Mail's review of the show below which states the show ran from the 22nd October to 1st November. Since Peter MacNab's Nessie picture appeared in the 30th October issue of the Weekly Scotsman and he was prompted by an article dated the 23rd October, it is highly unlikely that an Austin A40 Farina was motoring along the shore of Loch Ness when (it is alleged) Peter MacNab snapped his Urquhart Bay background photo for his alleged fake setup.

The sweet shop is now closed.

What we can deduce from this picture was that Peter MacNab revisited the loch, perhaps as early as 1959. Why would he do that? Well, wouldn't you if you had previously snapped a picture of a large and mysterious beast (or two as he thought)?

Peter MacNab; bank manager, local councillor and President of the Clan MacNab Society was still sticking to his story when he appeared on Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World over 20 years later. The psychological profile of the one shot hoaxer rather demands that they just quietly and voluntarily drop out of the picture. After all, sceptics always tell us that these photos are a "joke that went too far".


As an addendum to this little tale, you will have noticed I volunteered information that could be detrimental to a cryptid interpretation of the photograph. Do sceptics act the same way? To whit, Roy Mackal declared in 1976 that the MacNab photo was unacceptable as evidence based on the two apparently divergent pictures below.

In my main article on the MacNab photo, that argument was summarily dismissed once an overlay was done on the two versions. The top one was a slight enlargement and crop, leading to the foreground bushes being cropped out. End of argument (though that does not stop sceptics still pushing it, such as this website).

Now, I am no expert on photographic forensics, but one Loch Ness sceptic claims to be one. He shall remain nameless, but we shall call him Dick Raynor. On his own sceptical website, he includes the MacNab photo and a short analysis.

I was then struck by a minor revelation. If this self proclaimed photographic expert had spotted this non-argument as well, why didn't he put us all to rights on the issue? Why perpetuate a false argument against one of the best Nessie pictures? One can only make two conclusions. Either he was not expert enough to spot the non-problem or he did spot it but decided to keep silent about it. The end justifies the means? Draw your own conclusions on that one.


Moving on, since I published my previous words on the photo, another objection cropped up on Internet discussion forums. The argument basically ran that the image of the hump was too uniformly dark and it should have shown some degree of variation in reflection or tones due to the water lying or running off the skin surface. This was clearly an argument setting us up for the "painted on monster" hypothesis.

Well, this is one of those plausible as opposed to probable arguments that all too frequently crop up. As a comparison, I show you two pictures of another large, dark object that used to move past Urquhart Castle. I am referring to the dark hull of the Gondolier steamer ship.

Quite frankly, I see no variation in its tones either, despite the water crashing off it or differences in its surface texture or shades. The issue here is simply that both objects are too far away for any finer details to be resolved on what are less than superior images. If we had the original MacNab negatives, we may get somewhere, but it is clear that is not likely to happen.


And finally, as they say on the News, in our main analysis of the famous Peter MacNab photograph, I raised a question about a mystery within a mystery. Had Peter MacNab taken a second photograph of the creature at that time? To refresh memories, some accounts of the story state that MacNab took a picture with a telephoto lens camera and another with a simpler Kodak. The problem is this second picture has never been proven to exist. The continued absence of this picture has led some critics to comment that it further proves MacNab's deceit in the whole affair.

That remains an unresolved subplot, but I almost thought I had found it a while back! As I was researching a separate subject, I noticed a Peter MacNab photograph on a website that looked different to what I expected. On a closer inspection, I realised the differences between it and the "standard" pictures seen in books and magazines were not reconcilable. Unlike the alleged differences in known prints which were explained in the aforementioned article, this one was definitely different. That image is shown below, with the "Whyte" version added for comparison.

There are clear difference in the foreground and in the castle itself. An overlay test gave the result below. Now the fact that creature's position relative to the castle has not appreciably changed suggests this cannot be the second mythical photograph. So what is going on here?

A clue may lie in the dark area to the right of the castle. This was not, as I first presumed, the right side of the castle lying in shadow. Indeed, the time of the photograph would preclude this. In fact, this dark region covers an extended area that includes the castle wall and the surface of the loch. In other words, it is an artefact.

Allied with this was the observation that one of the foreground "bushes" tracks the reflection of the castle on the waters so well.  Furthermore, the contrast of all these extra images are so dark in comparison to the rest of the photograph (which is darker itself than the "Whyte" version).

These observations lead me to conclude that this was an image of the "Mackal" version of the Peter MacNab photograph that somehow got corrupted during an image processing procedure. Most likely, this may have occurred when it was being scanned from a book or magazine. Given that the websites carrying this distorted image go back over 15 years ago, a paper scan looks more likely than an image copy from another website.

However, I would still like to know where the original image came from to complete the circle. A quick perusal of this errant image using Google Images reveals nothing of note. If any reader with a bent for research can add to this little story, send me an email or post a comment.


These were a few things I dug up over the months and years as I continue to research Nessie cases old and new.  Back in 2008, Adrian Shine gave his opinion on this picture to the BBC on the monster's 75th anniversary. He admitted that "there is no definitive proof that the image is a fake" and that is the way it stands today.

There is no documented instances of a "Christian Spurling" coming forward and given the passage of time, I doubt there ever will. Perhaps new evidence will turn up, in the meantime, I continue to hold this up as one of the best pictures of the Loch Ness Monsters.

The author can be contacted at

Tuesday 8 November 2016

A Few Loch Ness Items

Just a few things that I noticed in days past. 


Firstly, congratulations to Steve Feltham on being just awarded the "Ambassador of the Year" at the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards. Having spent a quarter of a century at the lochside looking for that conclusive evidence to prove the existence of the Loch Ness Monster, his activities have attracted thousands of visitors to his home at Dores Bay and generated a large amount of articles on himself, the loch and the monster worldwide. You can't deny that this has added global interest to the phenomenon.

I remember watching his "Desperately Seeking Nessie" program on the BBC back in 1992 and was impressed by the dedication and sacrifice he had put into that decision. Of course, over 25 years, things change. His roving round the loch in his converted mobile library home ground to a halt when the MOT finally failed. He is now searching more for catfish than plesiosaurs and (the last time I checked) he has been married for at least eight years.

In between all that, he has had one Nessie sighting. Given the decrease in sightings due to the drop off in general fish stock countrywide since the 1980s, that is no surprise. One feels, it would have been better to have set up camp in 1934 rather than 1992, but there is nothing any of us can do about that (though stocks are beginning to recover).


I like the old stuff to do with Loch Ness, even if it is not monster related. I pointed out an old painting of the south side of the loch previously, but another has now popped up on eBay. For a mere £6,950, it is yours. It would look good over the fireplace whilst you lean on the mantle admiring it with a dram of Glenfiddich in your hand. 

Admittedly, I have no idea where at the loch the painting is meant to be set. The artist, Alfred de Breanski Jnr, could have painted it at the beginning of the 20th century, but given the dirt track that passes for a road in the painting, I would guess the south side approaching Foyers from the north, but post your own comment below.

While we're on the subject of old things from Loch Ness, take a look at this eBay item. It's a chopping block taken from a 17th century farmhouse at Drumnadrochit. Yours for £250! I am not sure I would pay that much for a block of wood!


Perhaps even less relevant to Loch Ness is Jeremy Clarkson and his team arriving at Loch Ness on the 2nd or 3rd of December to film the studio audience part of their upcoming episode of "The Grand Tour". What they will actually be doing at the loch is uncertain and will presumably have already been filmed before then.

Fast cars around the loch looks eminently impractical, but who knows what they could do around the quieter roads to the west? My bet is on them hiring the loudest, fastest boats to terrorise the loch with and send Nessie to the lowest depths. There may be a token appearance by a resident Nessie expert for them to guffaw over, but we shall wait and see ....


While I am here, I may as well blow my own trumpet as I noted today that this blog reached third on the Google rankings for a search of "loch ness monster". Like Andy Murray, it would be nice to hit No.1 spot, but, as far as I know, this has never happened. Mind you, I continue to wonder how "The Legend of Nessie" website manages to retain No.1 spot consistently - despite not having updated their website for years. Anyway, both websites put out a distinctly pro-Nessie message, and that is what matters to me.

The author can be contacted at