Saturday 1 October 2016

An Update on the Jon-Erik Beckjord Film

I received an email from researcher Kim Schlotmann, who has been looking into the mysterious film taken by paracryptozoologist Jon-Erik Beckjord (1939-2008). I say the film is mysterious in the sense that few have seen it let alone know much about it (though we have a couple of stills shown below). Kim provides some answers as I reproduce his words to me below. One other aspect of Beckjord that fascinates me as much as his film was his claim that Tim Dinsdale confessed to him in private that he also believed Nessie was a paranormal phenomenon and recounted the tale of how received a visit from ghouls and demons in his boat, Water Horse when moored off Foyers. Perhaps the resolution to that is for another day.

But enough of my words ....


I promised to tell you about my results in researching Jon-Erik Beckjord’s famous Nessie wormhole film. It took me a long and hard time investigating this. Cryptozoology nowadays has to struggle with some serious problems: Possible pieces of evidence (photos, film footages etc.) get lost forever (as, for example, the McRae film), bloggers and researchers often don’t even give detailed sources for their claims (that’s a huge problem: I have to investigate the origin of many cryptozoological claims by myself because the bloggers don’t tell their readers in which newspaper and in which issue of this newspaper they found a special sighting report – this madness has to stop!

If I had done that when I was studying at my university [I have a bachelor’s degree in Germanistics and Philosophy and a master’s degree in Philosophy], my professors would have kicked my ass out of the institution for not following the scientific rules. And one of the biggest problems: Unfortunately, many researchers refuse to cooperate and don’t even answer replies when they are politely asked for something. All of these negative aspects are very damaging for cryptozoology’s reputation and finally lead to the sad result that mainstream scientists insult this discipline as “pseudoscience”.

I can only appeal to all persons who are involved in this field – may they be laymen or professionals – that they cite sighting reports and other claims in a detailed and correct way.

Anyway, let’s talk about Beckjord’s film.

In their Book The Mammoth Encyclopedia of Unsolved Mysteries, authors Colin Wilson and Damon Wilson tell us the following (have bought this book at Amazon, but it’s not delivered yet, so I can’t cite the precise page):

„ […] many people agreed that it showed a white, shape-shifting thing that was not a reptile“.

Both authors describe the audience’s reaction when seeing a 16 mm film made by Jon-Erik Beckjord at the shores of Loch Ness in 1983. He allegedly presented this film at the end of the International Society of Cryptozoology conference in Edinburgh in 1987. I asked Dr. Karl Shuker and Professor Henry Bauer, both were not able to remember this film’s screening. However, the Wilsons’ book is not the only source mentioning such a film.

In his book Hidden Animals.  Field Guide to Satsquatch, Chupacabra, and Other Elusive Creatures, author Michael Newton cites Beckjord as follows: 

‘[Nessie] ‚is not a biological full time zoological animal but rather that it is a paranormal/supernatural/ wormhole-traversing being that will never be caught nor killed. And we have a film that shows it coming from a space-time wormhole, and going later back into it’ “ 

(Newton 2000, 91).

It is unclear if both these films – the film mentioned by the Wilsons’ on the one hand and the film mentioned by Michael Newton on the other hand – are one and the same, but I think so.

The idea that such a film would actually exist fascinated me, so I decided to investigate this film’s fate. I started with cryptozoologists who attended the 1987 International Society of Cryptozoology conference, but as I said above, they couldn’t remind if Beckjord really screened his film. I also tried to contact a woman named Christine “Chris” Pitts, who seemed to have been Beckjord’s fiancee. Again, this was a dead end (I contacted eight different women with the name Christine Pitts – I only got one more or less rude answer from one woman, the rest was not answering my letters. So the real Chris Pitts, it seems, was not among the women I wrote to). So what to do?

I wrote a letter to Beckjord’s sister Pamela Beckjord-Forbes. Direct hit! She responded and was so friendly to give me the e-mail contact details of a long-time research fellow of Beckjord, a woman with the name Dr. Molly Squire. So I asked Dr. Squire what happened to this famous Nessie wormhole footage. On July 31, 2016, she e-mailed me: 

The film is still being catalogued with the rest of Erik's cryptozoological materials.  I'll tell you he also made some still photos from the film. Forget the words shapeshift and wormhole. It's fuzzy looking when blown up like any normal photography is that is taken from shore to a distance in the water. But it still shows something long in the water moving with an apparent head. The object is nowhere near any boat nor does it show any connection to any boats wake even though that is  one skeptical argument given against the  likelihood of Erik having filmed a type of anomaly.

All materials are at the China Flats, Willow Creek, California historical museum. All is being catalogued and plans are to scan all and have the archival materials available over the Internet for researchers to view online. It'll be at least a couple more years from what I guess. I'm  working on Erik's biography and may have a still image I can scan to send  you.  I'm writing this on a new phone. Came home from vacation and can't find my computer.

P.S. I am willing to swear that I've seen the loch Ness footage and it does appear Erik has something alive long and fast moving.

I then asked her what the exact technical details of this films were, i.e. when this film was shot, with which type of camera etc. Her following answer was quite confusing. Although the Loch Ness literature in its majority mentions that Beckjord was at Loch Ness in 1983, Mrs. Squire denied that date (e-mail from August 12, 2016): 

1. Not as early as 1983. 86 to fall 88. I say fall 88 instead of early spring 99 because of time Erik liked to go, August to September. And was probably 87 to 88 fall. I remember equipment shows in a couple of photos. Seem to remember he said can get finer details in black and white. I remember Nessie like object being in grainy black and white in enlargement. Will try to find photo.He kept journals by trip and date. They were turned over to the repository. Film is there also.

If the whole Nessie literature says that Beckjord was at the Loch in 1983, why does Dr. Squire says that this date is not true? However, the actual date is a minor problem. It might be that the many years since Beckjord’s Nessie adventure blurred her memories (No offence here, of course! Memories fading away is something that happens to all of us sooner or later). But the most important fact is that we now know what happened to one of the most legendary films in the history of LNM research.

I live here in Germany. I have no opportunity to travel to California and to verify if the information Dr. Squire gave me are true. So I cannot check the validity of her claims. But I would be glad if some of your U.S. based readers could go to the Willow Creek – China Flat Museum, 38949 CA-299, Willow Creek, CA 95573 and look if Beckjord’s whole cryptozoological legacy is there. I wrote to the museum’s staff, but unfortunately, they didn’t reply. Maybe some other researcher has more luck than I had in contacting the museum’s staff.

I’m working on a scientific article that deals with my investigation of this film’s fate and hope to get it published soon. When I’ve finished that, I’ll send you the article (but sadly, it will be in German, so you’ve been warned ;-) ).

Anyway, I hope I could make my contribution to solving this long-standing mystery.

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Wednesday 28 September 2016

Loch Ness Trip Report September 2016

It was off to Loch Ness the weekend before last to work, rest and play. The weather was good, the food was good and, if you know enough of the area, there is always something to do. I pitched the tent at my usual spot at the Foyers campsite with a view of the loch to enjoy and good facilities all round.

September must be one of those monster hunter months. Gordon Holmes had just vacated his spot at the same campsite and I took up the baton. Meanwhile, William Jobes was also finishing up in the Fort Augustus area of the loch where he took his 2011 pictures (and which we shall speak on in a future article).

I remember when I regularly read Rip Hepple's newsletter back in the 1980s, that he would report on who was going up to the loch for a week or two of monster hunting and tell us how others had fared on their return. It's nice to know there are people still continuing in that tradition in the teeth of those Nessie sceptics who class them as delusional.

Mind you, September is probably a good month to be there. The schools have gone back and the weather is still good. Having said that, the campsite was still at three quarters capacity and replaced by pre-school families and older couples.

I always go for a walk along the beach below the campsite near where the Hugh Gray photo was taken and from where I took the first photo above. It's a prop from the 1996 film, "Loch Ness" and belonged to the slightly nutty monster hunter character, Gordon Shoals. Who owns it or what is inside is unknown to me and I really ought to ask the campsite owner next time I am up.

The next photo tells of a curious sight further down the beach in the form of a felled tree. I say curious because all the trees around it were intact. The site staff thought it was an old tree which succumbed to heavy winds. Perhaps, though this stretch of beach is fairly well sheltered from the prevailing winds by a small peninsula. Monster, wind or unruly kids; it's all part of the fun of Loch Ness speculation.

I did various experiments which I shall not go into great detail, I have already spoken of the night run along the Inverfarigaig-Dores road in a previous page, but I also did some work with night vision binoculars. The "in situ" setup is shown below.

The infra red binoculars are on the tripod and a composite video cable feeds into the laptop on the chair via a usb converter. The process is complete with the Debut video software capturing the input and saving it to a file. As said before, it is pitch dark to the human eye, but the setup gives a pretty good view of the loch. Nothing of interest was seen and, as usual, it was the laptop battery that packed in before the binoculars.

What I hope to do in this area is to step up to a device such as the Flir TS32 Pro pictured below. They give a crisper image, are more portable and give a longer battery life. If anyone wishes to donate one to the cause, I will be more than happy to accept!

On Sunday, it was off to the "Monster Masterclass" run by Jacobite Cruises. The invited speakers were Steve Feltham (full time monster hunter for 25 years), Gary Campbell (who runs the Official Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register) and Willie Cameron (who markets Loch Ness and the Monster). Here they are shaping up to talk onboard.

It was a good series of talks as the history of the loch and its most famous resident were addressed from slightly different perspectives. A table of exhibits consisting of books, pamphlets and other material was on display and the whole thing was rounded off with a Q&A session. One thing that did not occur, which I thought may happen, was some tips on how to lookout for the monster and what actions to take if the old girl puts in an appearance.

What we were then treated to was the now controversial claim to a new record depth. I covered this in a previous article with a claim of 889 feet as opposed to the official 754 feet. As we approached the trench, the depth counter on the screen began to count up. I managed to get a snap at 884 feet and 838 feet on the wider sonar scanner.

Admittedly, the issue here is that others have not reproduced this result. I can accept that but it is strange that they can repeat this result on, not one, but two different instruments. Gary Campbell was of the opinion that perhaps a recent tremor had caused the silt to collapse in the trench and form a new depth. Only time will tell how this one eventually pans out.

Now an employee from a competitor cruise company was asking about this (and perhaps more details). He is none other than arch-Nessie-sceptic, Dick Raynor. That cruise company is literally a boatload of sceptics and won't hesitate to pounce on customers to purge them of any silly monster nonsense. The trouble is their logo below would make you think they were the complete opposite. Ah well, a picture of a floating log or a boat wake just doesn't look the same, does it?

Actually, I had an idea as the boat headed down the Ness towards the loch. The river at Bona Narrows is - you guessed it - quite narrow. A good place for a trap camera perhaps? After all, a lot of the width would be under the regime of the camera's motion detect and IR. Anything passing by of a cryptid nature would be more likely to be snapped as opposed to a camera looking out on a mile of loch. Perhaps one for the future!

On the final day before we headed south, we boarded another boat run by Cruise Loch Ness. Unlike the cruise just mentioned, these guys won't try and denessiefy you, but rather they keep an open mind on the subject. I talked to one of the crew, John, as we headed out to the Horseshoe Scree. It had been reported that he had seen a "100 pound salmon" which was not quite true.

The actual story was that he was looking over the side a few weeks back as they were heading out and he noticed an animal alongside just barely at the surface. He described it as having a kind of white mottled appearance and (pointing to a seat cushion), he estimated what he saw measured about three foot by a foot or more. It was only visible for seconds.

I photographed the size comparison seat with my size elevens for scale. What did he see? Seal, dolphin, large fish or Nessie? He wouldn't commit to an answer, though he thought a diseased salmon was a contender. My thought was how much of a dark back would be visible before the rest is lost to view leaving only three foot by one?

The sonar setup was also superior the other aforementioned cruise with two displays giving two different perspectives on the loch. These are the same as the ones shown above for the Jacobite cruise. To round off, one of the Cruise Loch Ness crew says they get large, anomalous sonar reading perhaps once every two years. That is a subject worthy of further enquiry.

And so, it was back to the city. I hope you have found my little travelogue informative and entertaining. I confess I have not done it in the format of the "from the shoreline" series back in May, that just ate too much into the Loch Ness evenings!

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Sunday 25 September 2016

In Quieter Times

On the back of my last post about photographing Loch Ness by night, I noted the painting above. It was painted by George Melvin Rennie, a prolific Scottish landscape artist who lived from 1874 to 1953. The work above is entitled "Morning, Loch Ness", though the date of execution is uncertain. One biopic I found says this of him:

George Melvin Rennie (1874-1953) was a Scottish artist whose name at birth was MacDuff. He studied art part time at Gray's School of Art in Aberdeen and became a full-time artist during the WWI. He opened a studio in Braemar in 1924. His favourite subjects were in the Grampians, but he also painted landscapes of Argyll, Ayrshire, Arran and the west coast of Scotland. He was a prolific artist. He is listed in the Dictionary of Scottish Painters.

Now having taken my night time picture of Loch Ness at "The Wall", I wondered if the painting above showed the self same wall? The time difference is perhaps as much as 100 years, the road has undergone redevelopment and allowances also have to be made for "artistic license". Here is a Google StreetView of the same stretch of road.

Well, it may not be that area, but if Rennie was paying attention to his shadow work, then the title of "Morning, Loch Ness" indicates it shows a scene from the south side of the loch where the Wall is. Anyway, the point relates to land sightings of the Loch Ness Monster.

Observe the pastoral scene of a shepherd leading his flock of sheep along the road in a southerly direction towards Inverfarigaig. This was the backdrop for such monster activity. Cars were a rare phenomenon and the road was a much, much less dangerous place for animals (only last week I drove past the fresh corpse of a deer on the same road).

If the area was safe enough for sheep to be herded, it was safe enough for a monster to make its rare excursions onto land - and indeed form the kernel of truth behind the land based Water Horse legends. But those days are gone now. Much of the roadside is fenced off, lined with crash barriers or overgrown with large trees.

The Wall may be one of those stretches where an amphibious creature could get onto land. However, the area on the other side of the road is quite a steep incline into forest interspersed with hard rockface. It is not clear to me what incentive would motivate a large creature to lumber onto this particular stretch.

I also have a postcard from the 1930s which depicts a similar car-less scene, though this is not the same place (it may be near Abriachan). The message is pretty much the same though. 


By the way, if you wish to purchase this painting, it is on eBay just now at this link

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