Saturday 21 July 2018

A Follow up to the Aircraft Monster Film

The mystery concerning the film taken of a possible large creature in Loch Ness has been solved. It was indeed taken in September 1981 by explorer Sydney Wignall but at Loch Morar and not Loch Ness. Here is a newspaper clipping from the Daily Star of February 5th 1982.

PRINCE Charles has joined the great Scottish monster hunt. He has asked to see a film made last year that is said to "prove conclusively" that there are monsters in some Scottish lochs. And monster-hunter Sidney Wignall said last night: "By the time he's finished watching It, the Prince will no longer be in any doubt that these creatures are real and not just a figment of people's imagination."

Sidney. 59, shot the seven-minute cine film from a powered hang glider last September at Loch Morar in the Western Highlands. He claims it shows Morag, a relative of the Loch Ness Monster. "Part of the film shows two creatures leaving wakes behind them In the otherwise still water." he said. "Another part shows a 1,000 yard wake similar to a torpedo's.

"But the most frightening bit shows a creature - or something - lying perfectly still at the side or the loch. "Whenever I get to that bit, my hair stands on end - and I'm sure it will do the same to the Prince."

Sidney. of Old Colwyn, North Wales. has spent £4,000 on his hunt for the monsters, and he has sent several reports on his activities to Prince Charles. The film, which was shot over a period of five weeks, will be rushed to the Prince as soon as it is returned from Japan, where it is being studied at the moment.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said last night: "The Prince has said he is interested in seeing the film. But no date has been fixed yet. "I don't want to say too much - or well be deluged with Loch Ness monster things from now on."

However, this was not how I found the provenance of this film. A visit to the library to examine multitudes of online newspapers failed and no mention appeared in any crytpid book I perused. Then I thought to consult Rip Hepple's newsletter for 1981 and the answer was soon forthcoming as Rip wrote about watching the cine film himself on the ITN news in early November 1981. Since I carry that newsletter on this very blog in the Rip Hepple Nessletter archive, the answer was under my very nose in Nessletter No.49 which I would have read back then, but completely forgotten.

Sydney Wignall (above) was an explorer who undertook aerial surveys of the lochs reputed to have large unknown creatures and passed over Loch Morar as one of them. The main part of Rip's description is:

The piece of film was shown, and while it was very short it was most impressive. It was not stated which stretch of water it was, but from the glimpse of shoreline we had it did not seem to be Loch Ness. I thought it may have been one of the tree covered islands at Loch Morar, the very clear water seemed to support this. But what was on the film? It was as close as anyone could wish, to being a silhouette of a plesiosaur.

There was no real scale to judge size, but taking the small waves on the surface as a guide I would say the animal was some 25 to 30 feet long. The dark shape showed a fairly long pointed tail, it thickened considerably where it joined the body, which was oval shaped and had three flippers, that we could see, two rear and one front. Presumably there was a fourth one we could not see. The neck was long but not very long, thick at the base narrowing towards the head, which was distinct from the neck.

The animal was close to the surface and twisting to one side, showing movement as the aircraft passed over. The flippers were pointed, definately diamond shaped, in fact just what you would expect of Nessiteras Rhombopteryx, or perhaps Morariteras. Strangely this novel idea and the results it produced did not receive a mention in the press, also there seems to have been no follow up.

You can view a scan of the original page 1 here. Rip contacted Sidney and got a reply published in Nessletter 50 (Feb 1982). Sidney told him it was to be shown on the BBC children's programme, Blue Peter on Monday February 22nd (as one person has already said here). It was not an RAF helicopter but a four seater Rallye low wing monoplane fitted with floats (below) and he further spoke on how to get closer to such animals. There was another communication in Nessletter 51 (Apr 1982) in which Sidney laid out some plans for another expedition in 1982 as well as more about his previous work as well as a surface sighting at Loch Morar.

A fuller account was given by Wignall himself to the now defunct Pursuit Newsletter dated Second Quarter 1982:
In late September, overflying Morar, we saw something very strange lying on the loch bed in about three meters of water in an area we had covered a few days before and which on the earlier occasion showed nothing unusual. The "thing" appeared to be about six meters in length and had what could be fins or paddles, but not the four I expected to see. (I was being subjective and not objective, hoping to see a plesiosaur.) A cine-record was made from heights of between 500 and 200 feet.

A low pass at 50 feet nearly put us into the water when we hit a "sink" area. Climbing away, I took several still monochrome photographs. Then I saw about 30 meters away from the "thing," another "thing." Only this time, Thing No. 2 was most definitely moving slowly, about a meter under the surface. I managed one 35mm still frame of it, then it descended into deeper water, out of sight. A polarizing filter had almost completely eliminated surface glare.

It could not counteract the small surface chop that distorted the resulting photographic image, which appeared to be of an object 7 to 8 meters long, moving to the northwest at possibly one or two knots. It appeared to have a neck and a tail but only two fins could be seen, and these were on either side just forward of amidships. I managed only one dive in the area after that, and in one bay I came across a log which did not appear to relate either to Thing No.1 or Thing No.2. What had I seen? I very much doubt if No.1 was an animate object. Its shape wasn't quite right. No.2 was the real thing, but what it is I cannot say, if a plesiosaur, why not four fins? If a zeuglodon, wasn't the neck too long?

However, no further communications were received by Rip and I saw no further mention of Mr. Wignall in the next four years of Nessletters. One presumes they either did not take place or nothing of note happened. And so the entire mattered faded into obscurity until this week.

Sidney Wignall died in 2012 after leading a life of adventure. Now I know what you are asking - where is the film now and I suspect a familiar feeling of deja vu will roll over you when I tell you I don't know. Yes, it appears to have gone down the same plughole as the Irvine, Fraser, Taylor, LNIB and Beckjord films. Unlike some of these films, I don't even have a still image. That is not to imply that all these films are genuine cryptid films, but researchers will not get the chance to analyse them and come to any form of conclusion.

Neither does it imply this and other films are destroyed and gone for good. I suspect the film is lying around somewhere, forgotten and unloved. The resolution may yet lie with Wignall's next of kin or some Google warrior who uncovers some footage online.

What did Sydney Wignall see? Rip Hepple classed it as an impressive piece of footage though Wignall was not entirely convinced one of the objects was animate. However, his quotes in the Daily Star article are more bullish concerning it being two creatures. Will we ever have the chance to make that assessment ourselves? Well, I will see how far I can get with this.

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Thursday 19 July 2018

Upcoming Interview on the Loch Ness Monster

I will be a guest on the Paraversal Universe radio show tomorrow discussing you know what. Details are below.

Join Paraversal Universe this Friday, July 20th (2018) in North America at 2pm pst/3pm mst/4pm cst/5pm est, in Europe at 10pm gmt/11pm cet, & in Australia (Sat) at 8am aest on the Late Night In The Midlands Radio Network ( as we talk to Cryptozoologist & Author Roland Watson about his research into the Loch Ness Monster. We'll discuss his books "When Monsters Come Ashore" & "The Water Horses Of Loch Ness". Join us live in the chat room to ask questions & make comments at Listen live from your phone at (701)-719-9704. Check out our archives at Paraversal Universe Show Archives.

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Arthur Grant gets his own Plaque

It was with some satisfaction that I read Wednesday's Inverness Courier and a plan by local businessman, Willie Cameron to place plaques around the loch giving information on famous Nessie sightings. First I reproduce the story here from the original link:

Businessman pushes for 'Monster Trail' to show Nessie at her best

Written by Val Sweeney

Willie Cameron hopes a new plaque installed at The Clansman Hotel will set a trend around Loch Ness.

BUSINESSES around Loch Ness are being urged to help create a new monster trail by sponsoring special plaques relating stories and anecdotes about the area’s most famous resident.

Despite countless reported sightings of Nessie – as well as several infamous hoaxes – little information is available at locations around the 23-mile long stretch of water.

Drumnadrochit company Cobbs has now seized the initiative by installing an engraved plaque at its lochside Clansman Hotel, relating the 1934 sighting by motorcyclist Arthur Grant who reported seeing a long-necked creature in the water on a January night.

Company director Willie Cameron is now urging other businesses and organisations to sponsor plaques relating to more tales of Nessie through the years.

"The majority of people who come to Loch Ness come here for one reason – the Loch Ness Monster," he said. "Yet when you go round the loch, there is very little indication relating to the mystery."

He envisages the installation of plaques at 25 different locations, depending on permission from agencies including Highland Council, Bear Scotland and landowners.

The ultimate aim is to develop an app which would contain further details as well as information about any sponsors.

"It is good for business and it is excellent for exceeding customer expectations relative to the sense of place," he said.

"I have driven around the loch and not found anything other than in the Loch Ness Visitor Centre.

"What signs there are tend to be negative – no camping, no litter, no parking, no this, no that. These signs would put out a positive message."

I say all this because back in April, when I was conducting a guided tour of the loch for a client, we began at the Clansman Hotel discussing the Arthur Grant land sighting of 1934. My own research had indicated that Grant more likely saw the creature that moonlit night close to the hotel rather than a mile up the road at Abriachan. That reasoning is laid out in my latest book on land sightings.

However, I noted that the hotel displays a large model of the Loch Ness Monster by one of the streams feeding into the loch and it struck me that this "Nessie" on land was a great reminder of the Nessie on land seen by Grant possibly just yards away from it.

So, after the tour, I emailed Willie Cameron recounting this and suggesting it would be a good idea to erect a plaque by the model to remind visitors of that monstrous event. Good for Nessie, good for the hotel. I am glad to say Willie took me up on the idea and we now have the plaque installed.

However, being the local businessman he is, Willie has seen the opportunity to expand the idea to the whole loch with up to 25 such plaques being placed at sites. I think it is a great idea and gets away from the sceptical idea that we need to concentrate tourism on other aspects of the loch and push the monster as far away as possible from the tourist eye.

If the various tourist enterprises with their Nessie oriented items is anything to go by, they completely disagree with that notion. Sorry. but Loch Ness is all about the Loch Ness Monster and anything that promotes that ancient link is fine by me.

It's early days and we may not see something looking like the proposed Nessie Trail until next summer. It may well have its issues such as famous sites which are hard to get to (e.g. Hugh Gray), some locals may object to plaques being sited near their homes and will sceptics fight it all the way?

My one hope is that these plaques do not include sceptical disavowments as a general rule. A plaque which says "so-and-so saw a six foot neck and ten foot hump here ... but it was actually just a line of ducks" is a pure anti-climax. Adding that so-and-so claimed to have seen this is okay, but we don't want a series of plaques which tries to debunk away the area's most famous resident.

Now don't get me wrong, you are going to get a spectrum of opinions from Nessie believers on what is and is not a true sighting. The point is one group's agenda should not be imposed on this. I don't think the Surgeon's Photo is real but I still think a plaque should be placed at Altsigh to mention it.   However, I assume a map or some form of literature will accompany the trail and that should point out that these sightings, photographs or films generate controversy and some accept them and some don't; let everyone make up their own mind.

Just let the original people tell their story without any revisionism. As Willie says. we want "to put out a positive message"!

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Tuesday 17 July 2018

Loch Ness Monster Filmed from Air?

A reader of my blog just drew my attention to a comment made by a "William Smith" some months back on a Nessie video clip. What he said sounds astounding but I myself have no recollection of such a TV event back in 1981. To quote his words:

I was in the US Air Force in England circa 1981. The BBC used to broadcast the news at 9pm. They would always run a teaser just before 9 at the end of whatever program that was on before that. We lived in a dorm on base and there'd always be TV's on while we did whatever we were doing. One night, there were 4 or 5 people in my room and the TV was on.

It was also on in our dayroom, which was a communal relaxing room on the floor. ANYWAY,,,,,the teaser for the news came on. It totally blew us away. There in front of us on the TV was footage,,,,not video,,but film,,,taken from inside an RAF helicopter over a shallow area of Loch Ness. The guys in the copter were yelling and the camera was pointing below them. You could see the wash from the propeller on the water and in the middle of it was a creature. It looked like a small dinosaur,,,it had four flippers, a long neck and a somewhat short tail. It was thrashing about in a panic under the helicopter. The footage was real. They didn't have CGI back then, the inside of the copter was real,,,the men were yelling, the noise was loud,,,and the scene on the water was real.

The announcer was saying something to the effect that the RAF had found Nessie and details would follow at 9. Of course we all freaked out. We watched at 9 and absolutely nothing was said. We were completely perplexed. Many people saw the clip,,,I know of at least two of my superiors who contacted the BBC and the RAF and no one seemed to know anything.

We'd all seen it. I met locals who saw it as well. There was no internet then,,,no phones to text with,,,,so word couldn't get around like we can do today. I talked to people about it for weeks and many people saw it. The story faded away and one can only wonder what the hell happened. But for me,,,,the creature,,whatever it is, exists.

By some coincidence, a seperate facebook post from yesterday stated this:

I have not been able to find it again but I saw a video a few years ago taken from a helicopter hovering over Loch Ness and a sturgeon, from 20-25 feet long, was just under the surface of the water. Parts of its back were above the water. It is a perfect candidate (use Occam's Razor) for the Loch Ness "monster." It settled the matter for me.

It sounds like they are referring to the same video but with a differing interpretation. But anything 20-25 feet long filmed in the loch is a must see, sturgeon or not. So there are two questions here. Does anyone remember seeing this alleged clip back then and if it really was recorded, where is it now and why was it pulled?

Let's see how far we can go with this and see what turns up. I blogged on some airborne sightings a few months back.

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Sunday 15 July 2018

No, Dr Burton!

For your interest, I publish yet another article on the Loch Ness Monster from decades past. This one was published in May 1962 by The Scots Magazine and the author was no less than Alex Campbell, water bailiff at Loch Ness, multiple witness to the creature and an expert on the lore of the monster.

The title is a pointed reply to the writings of the monster's first major sceptic, Maurice Burton. He had just published the first sceptical book on the subject entitled "The Elusive Monster" and was active in pushing his views in various publications. It was Burton's predilection for vegetable mats that particularly drew Campbell's objections and to which he relates his own experience.

Campbell covers other topics such as pre-1933 reports which later made their way into Nicholas Witchell's 1974 "The Loch Ness Story". Giant eels also get a mention as well as a night time sighting from 1938. I am not sure if Campbell wrote any other magazine articles, if so let me know.

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