Friday 12 July 2019

Ted Holiday Interviews Loch Ness Monster Eyewitnesses (audio)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday 7 July 2019

Video of the Loch Ness Monster?

Here is a video taken back in January this year that I did not see before. Perhaps it was not publicised and it was a fellow Nessie enthusiast that alerted me to it last week. I believe it was taken by an Australian by the name of James Petch right at the beginning of the year while they had a Christmas and New Year holiday in Britain. You can see the whole video here.

Having watched it, I am not sure anything solid is seen at the surface and this naturally brings to the fore the wave explanation. Just as the old legends used to talk about "waves without wind" we wonder if this is a "waves without boats" scenario?  The owner helpfully pans his video recorder across the loch and no boat is to be see, which is perfectly understandable for early January when boat traffic is minimal.

I know it is said that boat wakes can persist for up to ten minutes after the vessel has passed, but I see no evidence of a boat that is ten minutes gone in the panning of the loch. However, on closer inspection at about 10s into the video, a line of three smaller waves is seen to the right and at 1m20s in, one wave disappears at the spot to be replaced by one just further to the left. Also, there is a faint suggestion of a completed bow wave in its environ suggesting it is indeed part of a decaying boat wake.

So while the person exclaims "what else can it be?", there is something else it can be. While I am on the subject of objects in Loch Ness, here are three pictures put forward as possible evidence of the monster. The first was taken in February this year, the second last August and the third in June, All have made in into the media as "Nessie" photos.

Now I had already pointed out that the June picture was just the log below seen in the bay, but it didn't twig (excuse the pun) that other two claimed pictures were of the same object. How many people are going to picture this decidedly non-Nessie object and tout it to the press? I suspect there may be more, let's hope not. Alongside this trio there is the issue of the Hayley Johnson picture covered in May 2018,

Now I was not inclined to say the Johnson was the same log as, well, it did not look like it. However, it is in the same area as the log and one would have to argue the log somehow stayed out of view. Another layer of interpretation would be required here such as a video artefact which muddied the image, but I am not going to defend this picture with much zeal.

Perhaps some person will move this pain in the ass log so we do not get yet another Nessie picture from this spot which the witness claimed submerged. Meantime, we await more pictures of the quality of Roy Johnston, James Gray, William Jobes and so.

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