Thursday 31 May 2018

Ted Holiday's Final Days

It's back into the world of the paranormal as we consider the dark world of cryptozoologist Ted Holiday and events prior to his death in 1979. From time to time I like to to speculate in deference to various believers' theories about the monster and today I put on the paranormal thinking cap.

Holiday's weird adventures have been analysed before by the likes of Nick Redfern in his supernatural Nessie book and Ted Holiday himself had things to say on the various unusual events that followed him around Loch Ness in his final book, "The Goblin Universe", posthumously published in 1986.

One can hardly begin to connect tales of fleeting tornadoes, unusual lights, curious synchronicities and strange men in black with the idea of an unknown but flesh and blood creature swimming the dark depths of the loch. However, I do not wish to dismiss Holiday's tales just because they do not fit with my preconceived notions of what ought to be.

Ted Holiday's encounter with the dark garbed man on the road near Urquhart Castle evoked the classic image of the Men In Black for some investigators. Theorised to be black ops government men or even aliens, they constitute the darker side of the study of UFO phenomena.

This strange encounter was the climax of several days of strangeness which began on Saturday 2nd June 1973 with a tense exorcism of the loch by the Reverend Donald Omand. This was followed on the Tuesday by a traumatic encounter at the home of his friends, the Carys. This involved poltergeist type phenomena as a tornado like effect swept through the garden accompanied by thudding like noises against the house. Meantime, Holiday saw "a pyramid shaped column of blackish smoke about eight feet high revolving in a frenzy" before it all ceased within 15 seconds.

Winifred Cary said she also saw a beam of white light illuminating Ted Holiday's forehead as it shone briefly from the window. Curiously, her husband, Basil, said he saw and heard nothing. All this had come to pass as they were discussing a claimed UFO landing near Foyers back in August 1971 by a Jan-Ove Sundberg. Things got even stranger as I recount Holiday's own words from "The Goblin Universe":

The next morning before breakfast I decided to step down to the lower caravan to collect some oddments from my suitcase. It was a beautiful fresh morning, and the lawns wet with dew. As I turned the corner of the house I stopped involuntarily. Across the grass, beyond the roadway and at the top of the slope leading down to Loch Ness at the top of which the caravan was located, stood a figure.

It was a man dressed entirely in black. Unlike other walkers who sometimes pause along here to admire the Loch Ness panorama, this one had his back to the loch and was staring at me fixedly as soon as I turned the corner. Indeed, to all appearances he was waiting for me. We were about 30 yards apart, and for several seconds I just stared back wondering who the hell this was. Simultaneously, I felt a strong sensation of malevolence, cold and passionless. Vaguely I remembered Sundberg's black figures around the UFO, and for a second tried to form an association. But the notion seemed so utterly absurd in broad daylight with half a dozen friends within calling distance that I shut the idea out.

I walked forward warily, never taking my eyes off the figure. He.was about six feet tall and appeared to be dressed in black leather or plastic. He wore a helmet and gloves and was masked, even to the nose, mouth and chin. The eyes were covered in goggles, but on closer approach, I could detect no eyes behind the lenses. The figure remained motionless as I approached except possibly for a slight stirring of the feet. It didn't speak and I could hear no breathing. I drew level and hesitated slightly, uncertain what to do next, then walked past at a range of about a yard. I stopped a few feet beyond him and gazed down at Loch Ness.

I stayed thus for perhaps 10 seconds, making a decision. Something about the figure seemed abnormal and I felt the need to test whether it was real. I started to turn with the vase plan of pretending to slip on the grass so that I might lurch against the figure and thus check its solidity, but this proved impossible. As I was turning my head, I heard a curious whispering or whistling sound and I swung round to find the man had gone. In two steps I was on the road. There was about half a mile of empty road visible to the right and about a hundred yards to the left. No living person could have gotten out of sight so quickly.

Yet he had undoubtedly gone. I told no one about this incident for months because it seemed logically impossible, and I had not the slightest evidence that it took place.

But what has a "MiB" got to do with the Loch Ness Monster? As a believer in various forms of paranormal phenomena, but without a clear theory on their origins, one is tempted to hold the two in tension for now. With that in mind, I recently read through two books by Ted Holiday which gave me a new slant on things.

The first was the aforementioned "Goblin Universe" and it became clear that Holiday was a man whose strange experiences were not limited to Loch Ness. In that book, I counted at least two UFO sightings he had had near the Irish cryptid lakes and again on the Welsh coastline in 1966. There is even a suggestion that Holiday had a close encounter of the third kind in Wales. Then we have his three ghost and/or poltergeist encounters to which we add the aforementioned phenomena he encountered at the Carys by Loch Ness.

Finally, there are his four Loch Ness Monster sightings which gives us a rather impressive tally of at least thirteen Fortean experiences. Now one could argue as to the reality of these accounts, as some have tried to do with his Nessie stories, and conclude that either Holiday was not a reliable observer or he was in the right places at the right times. If it was the latter, then what was going on here?

Now UFOs and Loch Ness have some kind of parallel history. Ted Holiday mentions some sightings in and around the loch and we have the curious experiences of Tim Dinsdale who was himself an all round paranormal advocate. The aforementioned Sundberg case is certainly controversial and I note Holiday's claim that some people claimed to have seen UFO activity in the area a few days before Sundberg's account.

Investigator Steuart Campbell, known for his sceptical book on the monster went to investigate the case and found that the area where the UFO had purportedly landed was too thick with trees for anything of that size to occupy. Ted Holiday was aware of Campbell's conclusions and was intent on his own investigation before deciding against it on Winifred Cary's advice. That is a pity as we no longer have a second contemporary opinion on the case.

I actually visited the area of the Sundberg case a year ago and made an attempt to locate the claimed landing area. However, the passage of forty six years guaranteed that little headway would be made in this case. Campbell had correlated the location of Sundberg's photograph to a loop of wire in the foreground fence. That loop was no longer present on my walk by the fences and so a determination was made based on Sundberg's map and the photo below gives a suggested location.

Whatever the veracity of Sundberg's claim (and the further claim that he too was harassed by MiB), Holiday was convinced of the UFO-Monster connection as he had just published his second book, "The Dragon and the Disc" only five weeks before the Loch Ness exorcism. Did Holiday regard these subsequent strange encounters as more than mere coincidence? He doesn't quite say so but he certainly regarded the events as paranormal.

But perhaps that curious encounter has nothing to do with a monster in Loch Ness as I looked into a book entitled "The Dyfed Enigma". This was a book Ted Holiday co-authored with Randall Jones Pugh and was published in October 1979. The subject matter concerned strange UFO phenomena experienced in South West Wales in the 1970s. I found one review for this book:

"The Dyfed Enigma" represents a history of some of the more dramatic manifestations of ufological activity that occurred in West Wales between 1974 and 1977. The skeptic and the cynic will doubtless dismiss these case histories as products of the imagination, hallucinations, mental aberrations, or downright hoaxes.

But the authors and the many witnesses interviewed know otherwise, for the bizarre events described in this book actually happened, and involved normal, sane, down-to-earth country people: A 17-year-old youth takes a punch at a silvery-suited monster which suddenly appears before him. An 11-year-old boy is chased by a robot-like figure. For almost an hour, a retired civil servant watches a silver, egg-shaped object hover over a house, accompanied by the grotesque figure of a man hanging motionless in space twenty feet above him. A farmer's wife is chased in her car by a "flying football" for over a mile.

Fourteen schoolchildren view a UFO that landed near their school. How does one explain the weird effects that UFOs have on animals, and in what way does the ancient history and folklore of the region contribute to this strange drama? "The Dyfed Enigma" considers questions such as these, and discusses the implications of the sightings in precise, clinical detail. Scientifically speaking, the events described are an impossibility, since they cannot be scientifically explained. But they did occur. And they are frightening. And they could happen to you. The authors have presented the facts as they know them. They leave the interpretation of them to the reader.

Randall Jones Pugh, son of a village schoolmaster, was born at Haverfordwest in 1915. On leaving grammar school, he served four years in the RAF during World War II, before qualifying at Glasgow University as a veterinary surgeon. He has had numerous articles published in both farming and veterinary journals, and he became interested in the investigation of UFOs largely through the involvement of domestic animals.

F.W. Holiday was born at Stockport in 1921, and educated in Canada and at the Halton RAF School. He was a columnist for The Western Mail for 15 years, and published eight books, as well as short stories and articles on wildlife subjects. His interest in UFOs began in 1966, when he watched a low-level UFO in Dyfed through binoculars. Until his death in February 1979, he believed that there is convincing evidence, such as UFOs, for paranormal levels of existence.

If the statement here that Holiday died in February 1979 is true, then this makes "The Dyfed Enigma" yet another posthumously published book from him. I noticed further that the ending of the book overlaps with Holiday's "Goblin Universe" in using that exact phrase in moving the conjecture from lake cryptids to UFOs and ancient traditions such as fairy entities (note the term itself is attributed to Bigfoot researcher, John Napier).

When Holiday got involved in Welsh flying saucers is not clearly stated, but given that the phenomena is said to have run from 1974 to 1977, then one could suggest that since he lived in the area and had a sighting there going back to 1966, he was in it from the start. Certainly Randall Pugh said he got involved from at least March 1974. That would put mere months between his Loch Ness MiB and the ramping up of UFO events in Wales.

If he really did see a MiB in June 1973, was it connected more with his recently published UFO-paranormal book and his increasing involvement with UFO events in Wales? Was it a warning bizarrely summed up in a heart attack he suffered at Loch Ness a year later in 1974 very near the spot he had previously encountered his dark stranger? We know this happened because Holiday told us and we are left in no doubt that he thinks this synchronicity is no mere coincidence.

Events took an even stranger turn when his co-author, Randall Jones Pugh, did a radical thing when in 1980 he destroyed his UFO work and walked away from the subject. This happened after a series of personal experiences which he saidwere too frightening to talk about".

Why did he do that? What were these experiences that put fear into him and did the death of his fellow investigator, Ted Holiday, months before add to some intimidation he felt he was under? There is now no way to tell since Randall died in 2003.

Or perhaps one could put on the sceptical thinking cap instead and suggest that after Holiday's first heart attack, he should have taken it easy and not move in such circles. Pugh described Holiday as "incapacitated" after his first heart attack indicating health issues. That may be so, but then again, the events Holiday described are not so easily dismissed.

And so I return to the world of flesh and blood animals ...

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Wednesday 30 May 2018

The eDNA Hunt Publicity

In the ongoing discussion about the eDNA experiment, I stumbled across the official website for the team who will be conducting the experiment this year at this link. It gives more information on how the whole scheme will be executed, including the added experiment of obtaining "control" samples from Loch Morar and Loch Oich.

I assume they will also be obtaining control samples from lochs with no monster traditions. Actually, one person who has been obtaining samples from Loch Morar for eDNA purposes has been Professor Eric Verspoor of the Rivers and Lochs Institute of the UHI. he has not answered my queries, so it is uncertain if he is part of this experiment or not. He may have something to say on the matter of lochs and eDNA surveys.

I would also assume the funding, which was initially put at £100,000 is now in place, perhaps put up by a TV company such as the History Channel on the condition that they get exclusive rights to the results for a forthcoming documentary some time in 2019. However, the main thing I wish to note is the tenor of the website which is publicising this as the final enquiry into whether the Loch Ness Monster does or does not exist. To that end, we have such statements as "Finally, science can solve one of the world’s biggest mysteries" and "The world has waited more than a thousand years for an answer. It's only months away.". I would suggest that these are statements more inclined towards TV PR than empirical science.

We have had such statements before in the media, such as with Operation Deepscan in 1987 which seemed to leave things hanging on a thread with those three unexplained sonar contacts. They were dismissed as possible seals, even though no one saw any seals in the loch. Let us put it this way in saying that science is not always an exact science, especially when it comes to living things. The point being, what is the definitive test that would prove or disprove the Loch Ness Monster?

Firstly, one may initially suggest a sample of DNA that does not match anything on their DNA databases. That would seem to be the "gold standard" test but the problem is that it does not prove that this is the DNA of the monster, it could be the DNA of another species. We indeed would have an unclassified sequence of DNA, but the question of identity is not clear. Any attempt at such an answer will depend on the proximity of the unclassified DNA to other sequenced species.

Secondly, the eDNA may match so close to a known species that a false negative ensues. In other words, if the Loch Ness Monster was some kind of giant eel, its DNA profile may be so close to that of the known indigenous eels, that it may be construed as such.

Thirdly, eDNA profiling is not a technique with a 100% success rate. Not all species are captured in the survey. That can happen due to inadequate water sampling, the population of the missed species, the type of water body and the taxon of the species. The technique is improving, but I refer readers to this study.

Fourthly, there may be no DNA of the monster to capture and analyse because like salmon, trout and seal, it is itinerant and not always there. Sightings of the creature going up and down the River Ness certainly give weight to that theory. And, of course, if the late Ted Holiday was around, he would expect nothing to be found, because he thought Nessie had no DNA.

Anyway, I believe the team will begin work at the loch tomorrow and I wish them success and accuracy. It was four years ago that I suggested eDNA sampling as a tool to try out at the loch, let us now see how this pans out.

The author can be contacted at

Tuesday 29 May 2018

The Loch Ness Monster on Coast To Coast AM

I will be appearing on the well known chat show Coast To Coast AM this coming Thursday night through Friday morning. Naturally, the subject of my slot will be the Loch Ness Monster with the focus on land sightings, the recent eDNA news and doubtless a host of other topics. It will be a live show and callers will be invited to call in and ask their questions. Perhaps some of the regular readers of this blog, be they for or against a bona fide monster will wish to call in with their own questions?

The interview will begin at 8am my time, which will be British Summer Time here in the UK and you can calculate your local time accordingly. Further details can be had at this link.

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