Monday, 2 May 2022

A Recent Video Examined


A few days back came the latest video published by the Daily Mail of a wake filmed by an anonymous couple from above Urquhart Castle at about 6am on the 25th April. Below is the relevant text from that article:

The woman had woken up just after 6am on Monday and decided to take some photographs as the loch was so still that its surface was like glass. But after spotting something large moving in the water, she began filming on her iPhone and could be heard saying ‘What on Earth is that?’ as her husband joined her to watch what was unfolding. The couple filmed for two minutes and 37 seconds from 6.21am as the mysterious creature – they estimated it to be between 20 and 30 feet in length – swam beneath the water and gave them tantalising glimpses as it broke the surface.

It appeared to have at least one fin or limb, which paddled under the water ‘like an oar’. The woman also took several still pictures from the vantage point of their holiday cottage set on the hillside opposite Urquhart Castle, around a quarter of a mile from the loch. She added: ‘I really don’t know what it was in the water. It was something large. I don’t think it really equates on the video quite how large it was. ‘We don’t know what the creature was. It was propelling itself with something. It wasn’t how a fish would do it.

‘You could see it much clearer than it’s come out in the photos. The lumps or humps or whatever they are kept disappearing under the water, but it was still pushing forward under the water. ‘You could see something under the water, then it rushed forward and turned round. From what we could gauge, it was between 20 and 30 feet long. There was nothing else on the loch, no boats, nothing.’

The shot below with the castle in the foreground gives some context. Now when I read the headline that it was a double hump film and the best footage for twenty years, I thought I have to see this. But as they say, the trailer is often better than the film and I was disappointed with what I saw. In fact, I struggled to see much detail in the mobile camera clip. We are told they were high on a hillside about a quarter of a mile away from the loch.

And therein lies the problem, they were in a comparable position to the controversial webcam clips that have regaled newspapers in recent years. Though admittedly, the resolution of this is a bit better. I believe this is a 640x360 resolution (at 25 frames per second) and it looks like the webcam is 480x360 and so the couple's video has about 33% more information. This is not much compared to the webcam, though I suspect the original iPhone video would be higher, perhaps 720p. If so, an investigation is incomplete without seeing this original file.

Now the image at the top of the article is taken from the Daily Record presumably was a highly zoomed in frame from the video. I say that because we also learn that some photographs were taken by the lady and I suspect they may provide more detail than the video. At this point, I do not have access to these and again the investigation may be incomplete without them. However, if this is an enlargement of a photograph, then perhaps they are not that useful.

But what we see in the top image is interesting in that the two dots are behind the bow of the wave which is being generated by something else. In fact, there appears to be nothing at the head of the wave. Clearly there has to be something there and the conclusion is that whatever it may be is lost in the pixellation.

We have the video and there are photos, but we must not discount the naked eye testimony as others are wont to do. The eyewitness said what they saw with the eye was superior to what was recorded and that I can agree with. The human delivers something which no camera can. In that context, some details come out:

It appeared to have at least one fin or limb, which paddled under the water ‘like an oar’. ... The lumps or humps or whatever they are kept disappearing under the water, but it was still pushing forward under the water. ‘You could see something under the water, then it rushed forward and turned round.

Nevertheless, they were still a quarter of a mile away or about 400 metres. This is not a great distance - unless a thirty foot creature wholly breaks the surface with a double hump and long neck display and goes on a swim for a good few minutes. But certainly, going by the video alone, nobody could conclusively identify what is in the sequence - unless somebody comes forward and confesses they had a vessel or something in that area at that time. However, the lack of detail in the video should not be taken as a reason to discount the naked eye testimony.

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Tuesday, 19 April 2022

The Usse of North England


Here is a clipping from the Cleveland Standard dated May 5th 1934. The news of a monster in Loch Ness brought out various interesting stories from the end of 1933 onward as some newspapers vied for attention bringing up stories about their own local monsters both past and present. This one goes right back to the 17th century for one of oldest tales that I have come across. Here is the text of the article:

Just an Usse!

I have just come across something which will make the Loch Ness Monster wish he had never seeen the light of publicity. It is an Usse. There is recorded in an old 17th Century volume I was looking at the other day an account of a queer monster stated to have been found at Coatham back in 1615. The entry reads:

October 28. Being Satterday, 1616. In Teasmouth, besides Cotham, in the Countie of Yorke, came ther to land a mightie ffish, the length whereof was 19 yards. The bodye in compass 20 yards. Betwixt the eyes four yards with 32 teeth as big as one's arme, long 9 inches. In coloure like the blewe sky. Skynn without skaylis with haire like the seale. The same (as some may yt having seen such fish) is an Usse. Sir Henry Bellansys having the title and right to all sea wrecks and pisces regale from Runswick to Yarme, sold the cyle and parmasetye to one John Whyte, of Cotham, for £120.

And now we know!

The town of Coatham is located near the modern city of Middlesbrough and the creature appears to have been stranded at Teasmouth or in or near the estuary or mouth of the River Tees. The location is shown below in two maps.

One can certainly imagine big fish stories coming from the East of England bordering the North Sea. But what of this strange beast called an "usse" by this narrator from over four hundred years past? So we have a beast almost sixty feet long, which excludes a lot of candidates right away. The "compass" of twenty yards we presume to be the circumference, in which case if it was a circular body would equate to a diameter of 6.4 yards or nineteen feet across. So the length to diameter ratio perhaps was three to one indicating a bulbous body.

However, no mention is made of our typical long tail or neck associated with the Loch Ness Monster. In fact, perhaps in the manner of a catfish, we have a great gash of a mouth four yards long dominating the front of the beast, which was not far off our suggested body diameter of six yards. Add to this the teeth each of nine inches and we have a formidable beast. With blue skin like that of a seal, what could it have been?

The fact that this was deemed a rare find is shown in the fact it was sold for £120, which is over £30,000 in today's money. This suggests this was something that didn't arrive on those shores very often. In fact, a clue lies in the word "parmasetye" which equates to our modern word "parmacetti" which I am told "is the pearly white, waxy, translucent solid, obtained from the oil in the head of the sperm whale: used chiefly in cosmetics and candles, and as an emollient."

What the other material named "cyle" is I am not sure, but we seem to be in the realm of toothed whales such as the sperm whale, whose teeth indeed can reach up to nine inches as a maximum and sixty feet is easily achievable as a length. They can also be blue-grey in colour. So perhaps not such a competitor to Nessie as first suggested.

As for that old English word "usse", that is the mystery to me. The word "whale" was already in use at that time. In fact, the King James Bible, published at that time uses the word "whale" when referring to some large sea creatures. So why didn't they just refer to it as a whale? Perhaps it was a local dialect used by people from that region? Suggestions are invited in the comments.

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Tuesday, 12 April 2022

Day Trip to Loch Ness


It was a quick trip to the loch this Sunday as I got up at 0630 in Edinburgh and arrived at the village of Inverfarigaig by about 1030. Surprisingly, I was greeted by patches of snow around the outer lying villages, though the loch seemed pretty clear. I also had to dodge an unusual number of cyclists until I realised the Loch Ness Etape cycle race was coming soon and there was plenty of practise runs going on.

The day basically consisted of watches from four areas. The first was near the Wall which is less than a mile on from Inverfarigaig at a parking spot where I sometimes like to watch the loch from. The loch surface was pretty calm as the sun occasionally broke out from the clouds but it stayed dry. From there it was a drive of a few miles to the second spot at Whitefield and the beach where Lachlan Stuart took his famous three hump photograph in 1951.

I walked for a long distance south crunching through myriads of pebbles keeping an eye on the loch but also the low lying branches that sprouted towards the loch. There was what looked like a big black water tank lying on the beach. Did it come from the road or from the loch? It was a bit hard to say either way, I suspected it was fly tipped from the road and rolled down the short hill. Either way, it is a shame that rubbish is too often encountered on the beaches.

Driving onto to the outskirts of the northernmost village of Dores, I disembarked again with camera and binoculars for a walk along the southern side of the beach, heading back the way I had come from towards the salmon farm. Everything was setup for photographing an appearance, but the old girl would not oblige. By the way, here are some tales from the salmon farm, as told by Ally MacLeod on Steve Feltham's Facebook page, here and here.

The salmon farm has had some monster stories over the years. It was not long after this blog started that I covered the interesting picture taken by Jon Rowe (link). The annotated picture below shows the two "protuberances" to the left, the shadowy water and my impression of the back. All speculation of course, but they certainly were not two birds bottoms up. Some suggest this place should be crowded by Nessies trying to get at all those salmon. The only problem with that is the fish are impossible to nab but I always fancied this was a good spot for CCTV or a webcam.

It was then onto Dores and I grabbed the camera and binoculars again and went for a walk along the southern part of the beach. I went down almost as far as the salmon farm but nothing showed despite the ideal conditions for a surfacing. With that I drove on and parked by the Dores Inn and walked along the top part of the beach as far as Tor Point. The forest there has been landscaped to allow tourists and locals to walk along a nice path around the point and onto Aldourie. It was a pleasant walk with various points from where you can go straight to the shoreline. I stopped at one such place and conducted a final watch opposite a point close to Lochend (picture below).

A white cruiser made its way along the opposite shore and the background hills gave the odd impression of being made of two parts with a split down the middle. It was near this walk that a local gave me an account of their sighting with a friend back in August 2018 (link) and one of the sketches is below. I chatted with them but they wished anonymity, which makes me wonder how many sightings are like this because of the reception they may get from sceptics?

As an aside, I had trouble finding the above 2018 report and had to look through the annual reviews which I have now updated up to 2021 and are useful as a kind of index for events since 2012 (link). On the way back, I checked in with fellow monster hunter, Steve Feltham, who was working  on his models. We chatted through the issues of the day such as webcams, the salmon farm and other recent events. I have to agree with Steve that the webcam is done once the paddle boarders came forward as some alleged "mysterious" objects.

I would just say to anyone using this under powered webcam to do some "calibration" and present clips or images of what you identify as known objects be they boats or otherwise. With those provided, they can be compared against what is claimed as "unknown". But to this day, no one down below has corroborated any of these images, so case closed for me. However, we hope for better, shinier, whizzier webcams for all those budding remote hunters to move over to. Just don't expect the same number of mystery hits, people.

With that it was back on the road south and the expectation that I will be back up next month for an extended visit. Good luck to all who endeavour to capture images of that elusive monster in the months ahead.

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Tuesday, 5 April 2022

Upcoming Nessie Podcast

I have been invited to speak on the Truth Proof live stream podcast with Paul Sinclair. This will go out live on Thursday 7th April at 7pm GMT followed by a Q&A session as people chip in with their comments and questions for me. Feel free to tune in and make your own contributions. The discussion is expected to be wide ranging across various Loch Ness Monster topics, but will be partly listener driven. Perhaps we will get to hear of some previously unheard of Nessie sightings?

Go this link on YouTube where the livestream will take place in two days. See you there!

The author can be contacted at


Sunday, 3 April 2022

"The Most Amazing Pictures Ever Seen"


Well, so went the headline from the Scottish Daily Record of  the 1st November 1972. It concerned a series of photographs taken by Frank Searle which lit up interest in the Loch Ness Monster at that time. I do think things had been rather quiet at the loch up to that point in time. The Loch Ness Investigation had just wound up and who would take up the mantle? However, the Rines Flipper picture had just been published and this kind of photo had not been taken since, well, Frank Searle's previous photograph a year or so before. Mind you, Nicholas Witchell in his "The Loch Ness Story", was to opine a year or so later that the Flipper photo had been upstaged:

And yet, in spite of this, they received surprisingly little coverage when they were released in America by the Academy of Applied Science in November 1972. For some reason they were virtually ignored by the media; perhaps because the announcement coincided with the release of a set of highly ambiguous surface photographs which were splashed across the front page of a popular daily newspaper. They, not unnaturally, made no lasting impression since their source is highly suspect but they did obscure the media's attention and resulted in no more than cursory references to the underwater material.

I think I know what photographs he was talking about, don't you? Now this could become a rather short article if we just do the normal thing and declare it a fake, quickly conjure up something vaguely resembling an explanation of how he did it and move on to something more interesting. But I don't think I have seen a detailed analysis of his photos. Besides, whatever the outcome, this post is perhaps directed at someone other than Frank Searle, which I shall explain at the end. So for now let us treat it like a normal sighting report and take it from there. First we have the account from the Daily Record:

The loch was calm in the cool evening air. Then, suddenly, there was a tremendous splash and Nessie reared out of the water. At least, that's how monster hunter Frank Searle tells it - and he's got pictures to back it up. Last night at his lonely camp on the shores of Loch Ness, I talked to Frank about the pictures which are sure to start a "is it or isn't" controversy.

"Look" he said "I've known all along there was a monster in the loch. I've even got pictures four times before - but - this time they're the best yet."

More than three years ago Frank quit his London job and moved to Loch Ness to become a full-time monster watcher.

"I spend up to 19 hours a day" he said "either out in my boat or just watching the loch." 

Ten days ago he was out in his boat, when it suddenly happened. 

"The loch was very calm" he said "It was a beautiful evening. Then suddenly there was this tremendous splash and the monster appeared. I grabbed my camera and banged off four shots. I could hardly believe it. I know I had the monster's head, neck and one or two humps. It set up a huge set of ripples and then moved forward out of them."

Frank went on "The wake started from the body, and I got the impression there were big flippers near where the neck and body met. After about 20 seconds, the monster dived. Then, about two minutes later, it reappeared on the other side - it had obviously passed right under my boat. It didn't raise its head or neck this time, but I got another six shots in the half-minute it stayed in sight."

He described Nessie as "blackish and rough with one or two humps showing. It seemed to have a bump or bumps about its forehead."

Five years later, Frank Searle adds further details of this story in his autobiographical book, "Nessie - Seven years in search of the Monster". The incident happened on the 21st October and I reproduce the text from page 38-41:

Gradually things quietened down. I continued the search. Of all the newspapers who'd interviewed me, only one, the Daily Record sent a contribution to my funds. With that money I bought a much larger tent and a second-hand outboard engine. Local enthusiasts were visiting me at regular intervals to find out if anything else was happening. They were also directing visitors to me who asked about Loch Ness in local pubs, shops, guest-houses etc. On August 11th at 9 p.m. I had a long-distance sighting near Tor Point. Too far off for a picture, but seven motorists parked on a lay-by on the opposite side of the Loch saw both the creature and my boat heading towards it.

Summer gave way to autumn, the days shortened. On October 19th, an Australian school-teacher came to Inverness. She had a month's holiday and had come up to get information about the Loch Ness Monster for a school project when she returned home. She stayed the night at a guest house whose owner knew of me. When she started asking about Loch Ness she was told, "Go out and see the man in the tent." So next morning, this attractive twenty-three-year-old Aussie arrived at my site. She saw my picture, newspaper cuttings etc. I told her all I knew about Loch Ness and she was fascinated. Then she simply said: "I've got a month's holiday. Can I stay with you?" Well! What man turns down offers like that?

And anyway, she made good coffee. So she went and collected her gear and moved in. Next morning, when I would normally have taken the boat out at first light, it was pouring with rain and the visibility was terrible. So we stayed in. It was almost 2 p.m. before the weather improved and off we went, away up the Loch towards Foyers. The water was fairly calm but nothing showed. Around 6 p.m., the sun dipped behind the hills and the light began to fade. We were then near Urquhart Bay. I said: "Well, that's it for today. We'll head back for some food," and turned for home.

And suddenly, there it was! Some six hundred yards to one side of the boat, head and neck out of the water in front of a large hump. I got four pictures and then the thing slid below the surface with hardly a ripple. I swung the boat round in a big circle, camera at the ready. Nothing, until the circle was almost complete, then there, on the other side of the boat was a big black hump and in front of it a small hump which was probably the top of the head. I got two more pictures, turned the boat towards it. The beast turned away, set up a large wake, then disappeared. By now, the light was really bad. I cruised around for a few more minutes. Nothing showed. I turned towards my site. And only then did I realised that I hadn't heard a word from my guest. 

She was sitting there absolutely shaking from head to foot. Her little Instamatic camera still lay on the seat. I had to shout at her before she even looked at me. We got in, I pulled the boat up. She just walked up to the tent without a word. When I'd tied up the boat and followed her, she was sitting there still shaking. All she could say was, "I did see it, Frank, didn't I?" Over and over again. Next morning we sent the film off. I knew I'd got something this time. When the pictures came back we were delighted. The bad light had killed any chance of detail at that distance but the shape was clear and I'd got good background. One picture showed the creature's mouth wide open.

I remembered the newspapers that hadn't sent me a small contribution after the last sighting, then for-got them, and gave an exclusive to the Daily Record and its sister paper in England, the Daily Mirror. The result was sensational. The Record gave its entire front page to the best picture with huge headlines, "The Most Amazing Pictures Ever Taken". And more inside! Other newspapers, magazines, television, came to interview me. One T.V. interviewer asked my companion how she'd come to be there. She explained how she'd been sent to see me, how she'd been fascinated with the information and had asked if she could stay. "Frank said 'Can you make good coffee, darling?' " she laughed. "I said yes I could, and he said, 'Well, come in and put the kettle on.' 

That became a big joke over the years. Girls would come along and tell me they could make good coffee. Well, I suppose there are "perks" to every job. And I wasn't complaining. The teacher stayed on for the rest of her holiday but we had no further sightings. I guess that would have been too much to ask for. One thing that this sighting really proved was the fact that it's pure luck. There's little one can do to improve the chance of a sighting. I'd been on the Loch over three years and had only got two indistinct pictures. My guest had been in Scotland about forty-eight hours and had actually been out on the water for less than five hours. I didn't get another sighting for six months so if she'd come to Scotland twenty-four hours later, she could have stayed for six months and seen nothing. She's back in Australia now, but I'm sure she'll never forget those few minutes on Loch Ness on October 21st, 1972.

I have managed to find all of the six photographs Searle claimed to have taken on that day. He took four snaps of a long necked object with a hump, then circled his boat, whereupon he says, it surfaced on the other side and he took the final two shots (or six according to the newspaper report).They are shown below in what I think is chronological order, although the print quality varies. Photo one is the most reprinted and the best quality of the first four. Numbers two and four are courtesy of Henry Bauer who took them on cine film when he visited Frank Searle's exhibition hut, where they were on display. The final two come from Searle's book.

Let's check out a few things first. Frank said he had headed south from his base at Balachladaich towards Foyers and by 6pm he was near Urquhart Bay when it was getting dark. On October 27th, the sun sets about 1745 which is consistent with that statement. The hills in the background are also place the photographer near Urquhart Bay. Where exactly is less easy to ascertain. Using "Google Boat" or Google's aquatic version of Street View at Loch Ness, the map and view below gives one possible spot with the arrow suggesting it may have been further to the centre of the loch.

This correlates reasonably well with this wider shot below of the best known picture of this sequence. It was more difficult to line up the opposite shore as we basically have just a dip between two hills and that occurs everywhere. One could try and match up terrain features against modern images but with fifty years having passed, fields and forests can change beyond recognition. So where this was taken is an open question and for now we just assume it is the opposite side looking to near Whitefield. 

What one can say is that the hills on the Urquhart Bay side look darker than the ones on the opposite side. This is done by comparing various versions of photographs of the two sides, since the same scene can have a different contrast in another picture, we need to look at them in the round. This being the case, this observation is also consistent with the reported time as the sun would be setting behind the Urquhart Bay hills, moving them into silhouette. Meantime, the sunlight would still be illuminating the hills on the opposite side.

So, we could say with some confidence that Frank Searle was where he claimed to be at the stated time. Now we move onto the object itself. As you can see from the first four pictures, there is a large hump followed by a smaller hump and then a long neck and a head with an apparently open mouth. The other curious feature is a smaller third hump which appears from the second picture on the left and then appears to adjoin itself to the main body. Frank says nothing about this third hump despite its anomalous behaviour marking it out for attention. We will revisit this later.

The charge is then made that the alleged head and neck do not budge an inch during the sequence of four pictures suggesting they are inanimate. Now it is clear they do not move in any significant way but even the slightest movement would negate the word "inanimate". One way to achieve that would be to overlay the four pictures shown and look for subtle differences. The overlay below is of the first and fourth pictures and demonstrates the analytical problem. The first image is good but the rest are poorly reproduced, making subtle comparisons problematic. There may be a change in head-neck position below, but it could also be due to problems in aligning the images due to blurriness.

We then have the two pictures from the other side of the boat which shows a main hump and a smaller hump - claimed to be the head by Frank Searle. The object then seems to move as indicated by the wake being generated. The main observation here is that the main hump of the last two pictures does not look like the main hump of the first four pictures. The last one is semi-circular in form while the first looks like a semi-circle with a smaller semi-circle on top. Once again, Frank doesn't make a comment on this. In fact, he generally does not go into any detailed analysis on his photographs.

What I have seen is that nobody denies that the object photographed is actually there. One could argue the object is overlaid into the original print and rephotographed. However, that would seem to be unlikely as one can observe reflections on the surface of the water from the main hump in the first photograph as well as in the area of the alleged head and neck. So we will proceed on that assumption as did Steuart Campbell when he analyzed this photograph for the Winter 1982-83 issue of the Sceptical Enquirer magazine (volume 7 issue 2).

The article was entitled, "The 'Monster' Tree-Trunk of Loch Ness", and it was clear where Steuart was heading with this. He had been prepared to give Searle the benefit of the doubt back in the 1970s and that perhaps one or two of his pictures were genuine, but not this one. Eight years after the pictures were taken, Steuart made contact with James Menzies, who owned Temple Pier and lived there. Mr. Menzies made his view of the photo clear: 

During our first conversation, in 1980, I asked Menzies about Searle and his photographs. He said that he had seen a large branch or a tree trunk drift into Urquhart Bay from the River Enrick on the day Searle took these pictures. When, in July 1981, I showed Menzies the first photograph taken by Searle (Figure 1), he identified it as a picture of the tree trunk he had seen in 1972. In his book, Searle admitted that there had been heavy rain earlier that day; it would not be surprising, therefore, if some portion of a tree had been washed down the flooded river.

The rest of the article mainly runs along those lines, with an extra analysis by a Charles Cazeau who suggests the lack of water disturbance around the object is again indicative of a dead tree trunk. He also claims the object is "slowly rotating", a claim that I cannot verify from the images I have. Steuart also points out that Searle had by then stopped a photograph agency from selling prints of the six pictures. Why he did this was not initially clear to me. 

Accusations that Searle contrived various pictures as logs and branches is a common enough charge. Others suggest he used specially prepared models or he simply overlaid cut outs onto empty scenes - as with his infamous brontosaurus picture. But going back to the tree theory, I must admit, whatever one may think about Frank Searle, that does not look like a tree trunk to me. But Andrew Menzies said he saw a log like it on the same day, right? There are a couple of things that could make me doubt this. Going back to Steuart's conversation with Menzies, 

Mr. Menzies said in 1980 he saw a large branch in the bay on the day of the Searle pictures. How did he know it was on the day of the pictures? The only source I know of was the Daily Record article (and its sister newspaper, the Mirror) which gave the date when it printed eleven days later. So I assume he saw the article, in which case, why did Steuart have to show him the photo on the second visit to confirm it? After all, the picture was on the front page. The fact this was happening nearly nine years after the event does not make me confident of perfect recall about what a tree branch looked like in 1972. I say that because Nessie sceptics would have no problem querying eyewitness recall after such a long time. However, they also have no problem accepting testimony against eyewitnesses without any similar querying.

But that seemed to be the least problem. I go back to that strange hump object moving from left to right. So how exactly does a tree trunk or branch account for that? It cannot as one would deduce if it was part of the trunk, it would stay in the same position relative to the rest of the trunk. Moreover, if this hump like part of the tree were to emerge from the water, i.e., bob up, I would expect an opposite and equal reaction as something bobs down, such as the alleged neck. As it happens, nothing else moves in any direction.

A look around at other sceptical views had Ronald Binns coming to the same conclusion, that it was a tree trunk and he even claimed to spot a branch sticking out of the second hump. I have had a good look at the best images I have but cannot see such an item. As a side note, Andrew Menzies is mentioned in another story from Loch Ness lore and that is the land sighting by Arthur Grant in 1934. Menzies claimed he overheard Grant admitting to hoaxing the story. I examine that claim in my book on land sightings - but back to Frank Searle. So, have we managed to soften your attitude to Frankie boy a bit? Let us now rewind and go back to pictures one and three shown below.

I now direct your attention to photograph three with some lines drawn in to highlight some waves.

If one carefully compares these outlined waves with those in the first photograph, it becomes evident they are present in both and therefore they have come from the same original negative. The reason the alleged head and neck are static is not because it is an inanimate object like a log but because it is the same picture. Perhaps the tree theory is right after all, but that may not matter at all. But what about that wandering third hump?

In perusing the available data, I found a less cropped version of the fifth shot taken from the other side of the boat. I found it in Barrie Robertson's "Loch Ness and the Great Glen" which I would guess was published around 1973. This shows a third hump that had been cropped out of the corresponding photograph at the top of this article. 

The next book to be consulted was Frank Searle's "Around Loch Ness" published later in 1977. The same photograph was found and is reproduced below.

You may have noticed that there is something missing. The rightmost hump is gone, so perhaps this is a different picture? Unfortunately not, as an another examination of the water patterns around the humps conclusively shows it is again the same photograph. The only question is whether the hump was removed from the original image or was added to the original image? Since it is easier to overlay an image than delete part of an original, it was surely added to unoccupied water.

And therein lies the mystery of the migrating third hump in the second to fourth photos. It was likewise an acetate overlay or similar added three times. In fact, the clue to this is the fact that the other two humps and head-neck cast some form of reflection on the water, whereas our moving hump presents a clean straight line with the water surface (see image below). Now we know why Frank stopped copies of these photos going out when the expose of him began, researchers would have obtained quality copies and found them to be wanting. 

The only open question is what constitutes the main objects in the first four and last two pictures. Is it a strange looking tree trunk, a model or something else? As stated, they are not the same shape and one could invoke the famous shifting humps of the monster, but we are not at the level of confidence in these pictures to proceed anywhere near such speculations. The pictures have been doctored and because of this we need to back off and proceed no further. Nevertheless, it still doesn't look like a tree trunk to me, but who knows? If the original picture was of a monster, he destroyed any trust in it by overlaying it with fakery.

Which brings me to the final part and perhaps the main reason for this article. In all of this drama, we almost forgot about the young lady who Searle tells us was on the boat. It was another of his Girl Fridays who was great at making coffee. I would think making great coffee was a euphemism for something else. Did Frank like his coffee granulated or percolated? Best not to ask.

You may think that this woman was as fictional as Frank's photographs, but apparently not. In Frank's unpublished work, "Loch Ness Investigation - What Really Happened" she is named as Carole Kennard, an Australian school teacher aged twenty three at the time. Frank goes over the Urquhart Bay incident again but alleges that three members of the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau came with a request to borrow the negatives:

Quite how Frank drops from six to three snaps is unclear, but he then alleges that they came back with a bottle of whisky, an offer to go on an American lecture tour and £250 to buy the negatives. That would be about £3500 in today's money. Now how much of this is true, false or exaggerated is also unclear. I can quite believe the Bureau would have taken an interest in the pictures in order to examine them in the same manner as this article. In the light of what has been uncovered here, it is no surprise Searle refused to hand them over! I can't quite conceive how the Bureau could profit from them and we have already quoted LNI member, Nicholas Witchell, casting doubt upon them soon after. Gone were the days when, according to Ronald Binns, the LNI described Searle as a fellow operative in the Dores area. Nevertheless, I do think there was some kind of meeting at his base with these three people.

But going back to the main point, Carole Kennard was also mentioned as being interviewed by TV when these photos went public. Where is that video clip? If she exists and is still alive, she would be aged about 72 now and there are various Carole Kennards out there. So we have a missing piece of the jigsaw, a claimed co-witness. Or perhaps she is just a figment of Frank Searle's imagination? There may be an archived newsreel of her talking about this sighting, but that may prove to be a long and fruitless hunt. Is she still alive, is she still in Australia, does she often google for "Frank Searle" and "Carole Kennard" together? The next time she does it, she will find this article.

While I am on the matter of finding Frank Searle's girlfriends, I also mention a Miss Lynda Tate, a student from Yorkshire, whom Searle claimed co-witnessed another photograph he took on July 9th 1974. Let us see where these matters take us.

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Friday, 11 March 2022

A Rare Book up for Sale


Here is something that does not turn up very often, a copy of "The Monsters of Achanalt" by Robert Cassie. There is a copy going for about £300 on eBay right now. Now the fact that I am telling you this is mainly because I am not interested in paying that kind of price for a book which is essentially a collection of tall tales, with the emphasis on "tall" when Cassie speaks of seeing monsters almost as big as the small lochs he claimed to have seen them in. I have already read the book via the well stocked National Library of Scotland from which I published my piece on the creatures a while back.

Don't all rush at once!

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Wednesday, 2 March 2022

George Spicer and his Car

Undoubtedly, the George Spicer account is one of the most significant eyewitness stories to come out of Loch Ness. One a hot summer day in July 1933, George and his wife claimed to have seen a lumbering grey creature over twenty feet long cross the road in front of them before disappearing into the loch. I have covered this seminal story several times on this blog with the main article published here.

Though it was not the first report of the Nessie era, it was certainly the one that catalyzed national and international interest in the Loch Ness Monster. After all, this was not just distant hump in the middle of the loch, but something that could break out in front of you on the road! The controversy has continued to this day, was it something akin to a prehistoric monster or something more mundane, such as a line of otters or a huddle of deer as some have averred?

With this in mind, I was contacted recently by one of George Spicer's grandsons, Nigel Spicer. As it turns out, he is one of three brothers and one of them will be appearing on an upcoming documentary to discuss what their grandfather and grandmother saw 89 years before. I think this documentary is the one to be shown on Channel 5 and which our own Malcolm Robinson, author of the "The Monsters of Loch Ness", took part. We look forward to seeing this when it comes out.

But in the meantime, one of the brothers sent me the above photograph of George Spicer with his car. The first question is whether this was the car he was in on that day alongside Loch Ness? The answer is most likely yes. The account related in Rupert T. Gould's book starts in this way:

They were motoring round Loch Ness in their [open] 12-h.p. Austin, having been as far as John o' Groats and back via Inverness.

A look around for a picture of an open top Austin 12 gives us the example picture below.

A comparison with the photograph at the top satisfies me that this was likely the car driven down the loch on that day in 1933. This naturally leads us to the next question which is whether this photo of George Spicer and his car was taken at Loch Ness? After all, people were most likely to take pictures on holidays back then. Would it be too much to ask it was taken at the actual location of the sighting? Probably, yes.

But that would be a picture with powerful connotations, but, alas, the information in the image is not enough to be conclusive on the matter. The top of the car is off, suggesting a sunny day like that at Loch Ness and there are trees or bushes around again suggestive of countryside. But then again it could have been taken a year later three hundred miles away, so who knows? In general, Nigel had this to say about the sighting:

The grandparents (my father’s parents) 1933 sighting has long been of great interest to myself as well as to my two older brothers ... We have all visited Adrian Shine. The only childhood memory we have is one of my brothers sitting on grandmother’s lap as a little boy and her telling him about the sighting. He can remember little of it now but has long been convinced that his grandmother would not lie to a little boy sitting on her lap!

Our biggest regret is that we didn’t really discuss it much with our parents when we were older (parents died several years ago) but I do remember my mother saying that they (as her parents in law) were straight and honest people in her view. She also used to say it was a great pity that that year (1933) my father did not accompany his parents on the Scottish holiday (as he had done in previous years) because he was quick witted as a young man in his early twenties and often had his camera with him. How things might have been different if he had been there too!

We can be certain (unlike one noted sceptic, Ronald Binns) that no lying or deception was involved with the Spicers. Explanations have been proferred and positions have been taken. I know where I stand and I look forward to the tale being recounted on the next Nessie documentary.

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Tuesday, 22 February 2022

Review of Lochend - Monster Hunting on the Run


Joe Zarzynski, seasoned hunter of the monsters of Lake Champlain and Loch Ness has published his autobiography and I review it here. I pre-ordered this in mid-December when it was announced, but it took until a couple of weeks ago before it finally arrived. As the title suggests, it is a biography that spans two worlds, running and hunting. The running refers to Joe's love for marathons and the other was his second love of cryptid hunting.

To be more specific, Joe crafts his story around an ultra-marathon run he did from Fort Augustus to Lochend in 1984. An ultra-marathon is running a distance beyond the 26 miles of the classic marathon. Before that, Joe tells us how he got into the two pursuits around the same time and how they grew together as he ran marathons into the 1980s with his interest in cryptozoology beginning in the mid 1970s and developed into expeditions at Loch Ness and his more local Lake Champlain for at least another ten years.

Joe got to Loch Ness in 1975 and thus began a series of trips as he tells us about the various characters we have got to know about through other books, videos and so on. The list includes Gregory Brussey, Alex Campbell, Tim Dinsdale, Robert Rines, Roy Mackal, Adrian Shine, Winifred Cary (whom I mentioned in my last article) and others.

We are regaled with tales of Joe working with these people and their projects and some helping him at Lake Champlain. Add to this his trips to other lochs reputed to have monsters and we have an enjoyable mosaic of tales to read. Indeed, the chapters recounting the monster and people landmarks along his marathon run of 1984 are also informative and entertaining. Indeed, Joe may be the only person to have seen both Nessie and Champ!

Joe eventually moved into marine archaeology but never lost his belief in cryptids or the taste for the hunt. His later interest in underwater wrecks was preceded by his sonar and scuba searches which gives us interesting insights into the sunken Wellington bomber of Loch Ness, Marty Klein's stone artifacts and the Loch Ness Monster prop lost in the loch around 1969.

Now I am no fan of marathon running or athletics in general. I only ever really took an interest in the 100m and 200m sprints and watching the likes of Alan Wells, Carl Lewis and Usain Bolt. One thing that did chime was Joe's 1984 Loch Ness run and his encounter with the cars and lorries racing down the road. Joe tells how he had to dodge these vehicles as he ran.

I can totally concur as I once had to walk from a parking layby to a spot of interest a couple of miles down the A82 and just opposite Foyers. That was not an easy trip as I had to keep a keen eye out for approaching vehicles and moving quickly to the safest spot. That may have been jumping over a wall into the bush and grass or just stepping into the ditch as there was nothing resembling a path. The things you do in the name of research.

So runs the story of Joe Zarzynski, marathon running and Loch Ness. Joe speculated that he may have been the first person to run a marathon along Loch Ness. He may well have been, it was not something I would know of, but I thought I would check the newspaper archives for any predecessors. Admittedly, most long distance athletes were of the aquatic variety as various people have swam the length of the loch. There was even a diver who walked along Loch Ness underwater!

However, there may have been at least one person who ran the length of Loch Ness back in February 1960. At that time, the owner of the Butlin holiday resorts had put up a £5,000 prize for a national walk from John O' Groats to Lands End. The News Chronicle for 29th February gives an update on the competition:

Late last night Robinson and John Grundy, from Wakefield, Yorks, were both at Fort Augustus. 19 miles farther along the loch. about 150 miles from the start Robinson arrived at 8:50. after covering the last 42 miles in 11 hours 40 minutes; Grundy, a marathon runner. who runs all the way, arrived at 8:12 after taking 8 hours. 20 minutes for the same stretch. Robinson. who lives at Maidenhead, Berks, was a member of the Oxford University cross-country team in 1953. 

So it appears a John Grundy ran 42 miles from Dingwall to Fort Augustus 24 years before Joe, though it surprised me he was allowed to run and not walk. Well, you could argue it wasn't a marathon along Loch Ness, I will leave others to define what constitutes a marathon run.

The book is accurate and balanced throughout, the only error of note that I saw was that he placed the fake Marmaduke Wetherell hippo prints at Dores, when it was actually further south near Foyers. It is apparent Joe still believes in the likelihood of large creatures in Loch Ness and Lake Champlain and I would like to have read more about what he classes as the best sightings, photos, etc from his perspective as a seasoned monster hunter. I guess that includes such items as the Mansi photograph.

All in all, a book I recommend to Nessie and Champ lovers.

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Thursday, 10 February 2022

Winifred Cary's House for sale


At least I think this is the house where she and her husband, Basil, lived for many years at Strone, high up and overlooking Urquhart Bay. Winifred Cary was one of those colourful characters that made up the rich tapestry of Loch Ness Monster personalities during the 1960s and 1970s. I wrote a biopic of Winifred and her many monster sightings back in 2020 and she was one of those people who had one foot in the psychic and paranormal world when one considers the story of the monster.

The three bedroom property and converted barn are available for offers over £385,000. The property can be viewed at the estate agent's website. Her house hosted many a Nessie hunter over the years and one in particular was Ted Holiday who alleged a supernatural encounter in her house and then a curious encounter with a person dubbed today as a Man In Black. I covered that one back in 2011.  But one room pictured below from the sale website that interested me most was the sun lounge, for it is here that I think an extraordinary incident occurred as related by Ted Holiday in his book. "The Goblin Universe":

At that precise moment there was a tremendous rushing sound like a tornado outside the window, and the garden seemed to be filled with indefinable frantic movement. A series of violent thuds sounded as if from a heavy object striking either the wall or the sun-lounge door. Through the window behind Mrs. Cary I suddenly saw what looked like a pyramid-shaped column of blackish smoke about eight feet high revolving in a frenzy. Part of it was involved in a rosebush, which looked as if it were being ripped out of the ground. Mrs. Cary shrieked and turned her face to the window. The episode lasted 10 or 15 seconds, and then was instantly finished. I still sat there, staring at the window, feeling alarmed and rather peculiar. Basil, who was preparing his drink, had heard nothing and he turned in amazement when his wife screamed. Dutifully he searched the garden but found it silent and quite normal.

Paranormal incident or freak weather event? If you don't place much credibility in those things, at least it has a great view of the loch. Place your bids!

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Thursday, 27 January 2022

The Richard Jenkyns Sighting

What Richard Jenkyns saw on a windy morning just under fifty years has become one of the classic Loch Ness Monster sightings, appearing in various of the top books of the time. Let us start with the account of Richard Jenkyns' sighting taken from Rip's Nessletter number 3 dated May 1974 (No.3):

I can now include the very good sighting had by Mr. Richard Jenkyns from the shoreline of his property at 'Point Clair'. 

The date was Saturday November 10th and the time 1145 approx. The weather was stormy with a strong wind blowing from the N.W. but in spite of this quite large rollers were coming in to the shore, say 18 inches to 2ft in height but they were not in the form of white horses or breakers. My site was a small clearing in the woodland about 20 yards from the shore and about 20 ft above the level of the loch, I was starting a reluctant tractor and in order to do this, it had been found necessary to remove the silencer, the tractor started with a roar, much black smoke etc. and almost immediately afterwards I heard a very large splash as if someone had gone in from the high board very flat and all this over the noise of the gale rushing through the bushes and the tractor.

I got off the tractor and went to look at the loch but could see nothing so after a few moments returned to the tractor, I then took a further glance and saw a ring of concentric expanding ripples in the waves just out from the end of the new jetty which we are constructing, nothing further so back to the tractor. A few moments later I glanced again towards the loch and there nicely framed by a curved overhanging bough, a fish like object (at first) started to appear quite slowly and steadily until it was about 18 inches above the water surface, it then seemed to pause but on reflection I think that this may have been a wave rising up the neck, and then came up about another two feet or so.

It then seemed to stay quite motionless for a short time, very hard to say how long as I was flabbergasted, it was leaning slightly forward and my view was that of a profile. It then moved slowly forward towards the easterly end of the loch and parallel to the shore and slowly sinking from the base upwards but not splashing forward or porpoising etc. It moved about forty yards or so out of the frame work of the bough and I walked forward to see it finally sink out of sight. Now for the first time I realised that I had probably seen the beastie and I became rather bewildered and it has taken me some time to rationalise my sighting. 

Now for a description and I am sorry that I cannot draw, colour black or a browny grey, texture neither rough nor smooth or slimy, matt is the best word I can think of at the moment, diameter say 9", no fins or gills, there appeared to be scales very large on the head only but this was only an impression, a great gash of a mouth at least 9" long and tight shut and above the centre of the mouth what may have been an eye, but possibly a blow hole, very small it appeared to me to be about the size of a pea and pitch black. I was under the impression that the animal was well aware of my presence.

When it first appeared it was about 15' out of the vertical leaning forward but when it sank, it increased this angle to about 30'. There was no further indication of how much remained under water but about a week later I found a 10lb salmon still just alive with a large wound in its side against the jetty. I wonder if it had attacked this fish. The general appearance of the animal was that of a tube, slightly rounded at the top with the head profile rather like that of a lizard, snake or frog. I saw no sign of the often mentioned horses head. 

So it is time to analyze the ins and outs of this interesting report and see what we can conclude from it. As I progressed in this study, I noted the words beginning to increase at a rapid rate. The result of this was a decision to publish this as a monograph at a small price. You can see the title on the cover page below as I have used this as a template for how to look into other such sightings. It will be published as a kindle e-book and I would like readers to consider it as a donation as well. After all, the previous few hundred articles have been free of charge!

Some famous sightings just do not make it to this blog. You won't read about the Torquil MacLeod or Arthur Grant land sightings here, they stay in the book "When Monsters come Ashore" and so on. Enjoy the read and remember to leave an Amazon review, thanks.

The book can be found at and at

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Saturday, 22 January 2022

The Monster of Lago Di Garda


A recent photograph has circulated on social media purporting to be the legendary beast of Lake Garda in Italy. Now this is a cryptid tale I am not familiar with but I had a look into it for this piece. The actual posts on the picture were in Italian and so a translation was required. From the Italian:

Ciao a Tutti Fatto questa foto a Manerba sul Lago dl Garda queste estate! Prova a aprire la foto Forse sono solo lo che vedo qualcosa di strano o anche voi? 

Ho fatto delle elaborazioni della immagine del lago di Garda . immagine piu chiara e definita. SI vedono le pinne sotto il pelo dell'acqua i sole che si riflette su parte della testa e sulla parte del corpo esposta al sole (macchie bianche). Per la lunghezza se qualcuno puo elaborarla avendo come punti di riferimento la barca, a occhio non piu di 5/8 metri. Lascio a voi un giudizio.

We get this through Google Translate:

Hello everyone Made this photo in Manerba on Lake Garda this summer! Try to open the photo Maybe I'm just seeing something strange or you too?

I did some elaborations of the image of Lake Garda. clearer and more defined image. You can see the fins under the surface of the water the sun reflecting on part of the head and on the part of the body exposed to the sun (white spots). For the length if someone can process it having as reference points the boat, to the eye no more than 5/8 meters. I leave a judgment to you.

I know, it is a bit terse when you use Google Translate, but we get the gist of the text and that the poster is the taker of the image. His brief post suggests he was no aware of anything in the picture until he examined it more closely. Here is the wider photograph of the lake with the object of interest to the bottom left. After this is a processed image by the owner, whose identity we do not know yet as it has been edited out.

As a digression, Lago Di Garda does indeed have a monster tradition as this text from a tour cruise website summarizes:

Aside from many historical legends about the towns surrounding its shores, with its castles, kings, princesses, princes, and battles, Lake Garda also has a myth about a creature that inhabits its abyss. According to some, inside Lake Garda there may be a prehistoric monster called Bennie, that may even be related to the well-known Nessie, the monster of Loch Ness, in Scotland.

The hypothetical presence of a beast of colossal size in the placid waters of Lake Garda has ancient roots. Since the middle ages there have been sightings of sea monsters that terrified fishermen, local inhabitants, and monks of the monastery on Garda Island. But the legend of the monster of Lake Garda began in the 20th century. The most renowned sighting dates back to the 17th of August 1965 near Mermaid Bay (Baia delle Sirene) on the eastern coast of the lake, not far from the town of Garda.

It was here that a group of about 10 tourists claims to have seen a huge 10 metre long sea creature with a shape similar to a snake rise from the water, and then plunge back into the underwater caves of Garda Island, where it may live shrouded in darkness. The event was reported by many national newspapers and immediately became one of the most intriguing mysteries of Lake Garda.

Garda isn’t the only Italian lake to have its own monster. Even Lake Como has its own legend that talks about a monster roaming its waters called Lariosauro (Lariosaurus). The presence of fish monsters has become one of the main Garda related news in the past few years.

Over the decades, the sightings became more and more frequent, especially from the year 2000 forward. There are about 15 sightings or so, and the “monster” of Garda Lake earned the nickname “Bennie”, in honour of Lake Garda’s ancient name: Benaco. In 2001 a diver claims to have seen Bennie near Gargnano, a later sighting was reported by a hotel owner in the area of Manerba, and in 2013, once again in the area of Mermaid Bay, which seems to be the most mysterious part of the lake, a family claims to have seen a creature over 15 metres in height, with the scary mixed appearance of a snake and a whale.

The last sightings of the Lake Garda monster date back to 2016 and 2018, and Bennie’s international fame has in recent years brought to the origin of many lake tours dedicated to him, as well as many souvenirs and gadgets.

Bennie, named like this by Armando Bellelli, native to Desenzano and expert in mystery stories, is considered to be a “good” monster who has never attacked anyone, and is, in the collective imagination of the locals, depicted as a good fellow, a timid guardian of the lake, who protects it from pollution and excessive exploitation from men.

The mystery of Bennie and its presence in Lake Garda has aroused great interest not only among those passionate about mysteries and legends, but also among the media, like in the TV show “Mistero” (Mystery), on air on Italia Uno, and scientists, like biologist Jeremy Wade, director of the BBC show dedicated to mysterious sea creatures called “River Monsters”.

During an episode dedicated to Lake Garda, that went on air in August 2019, Jeremy Wade has actually caught a giant torpedo catfish over 120kg in weight and 2m in length, but this doesn’t seem enough to describe the mystery of the Garda Lake Monster.

It is in fact believed that in recent years the number of catfish in Lake Garda has been on the rise, with the fishing of some specimen around 80kg in weight, but sightings of the innocuous Bennie continue. To go “hunt” Bennie there have been explorative missions with robots and sonars to scan the depths of the lake, but the mystery, just like with Loch Ness, has yet to be resolved...

Lake Garda itself is located in the North of Italy, about 100 km east of Milan and a similar distance to the west where the sea is. It is about 44 km long and varies between 2 and 10 km wide, so it is of a similar size to Loch Ness. So it has a monster tradition and of a size big enough to harbour one. But what about the photograph? A YouTube reference to the picture was dated to September 2017, so it is over four years old. A quick look at Lake Garda and comparing the picture with satellite coastline gives the location of the picture and confirming it as near the town of Manerba.

Not that this tells us nothing about the genuineness of the photograph. The poster refers to the white boat to the left of the object and I would guess is at least 15 foot long, making the object at least twice as long at thirty feet long - a typical Nessie length. However, that would make the boat a mere sixty feet from the object, which naturally raises the question - did the boat occupants see this object? 

The boat is moving away from the object, if it is moving at all as I cannot see any wake. I see no one on board but that is a hunch. I get the impression it is shallow water, but again this is something I cannot be dogmatic on. There is also a pier to the left at a similar distance with buildings and there are other boats further out - how did no one see this and get some superb pictures? To a lesser extent, why did he not see it at the time?

Which brings us to the main point. It is easy to produce such a picture using image manipulation software - as we saw with the recent so called drone footage of Nessie. In fact, the ease of production and the ready availability of people ready to hoax has made many take the default position that any such picture will be a hoax until proven otherwise. It's really a case of guilty until proven innocent in the world of cryptid images and proving your "innocence" is no easy matter.

So the first task is to find a plesiosaur image of similar posture on the Internet which may have been overlaid into the original photograph or find the original photograph minus a monster. On my own searches of the first few hundred plesiosaur images on Google, I saw nothing which matched well and a look at tourist pictures of the bay did not show up the bay with the same boat in position but with no "Bennie". 

Of course, my search was not exhaustive and the bay photo may have been a picture taken by the poster but I invite others to have a look around. So, as I said, it is guilty until proven innocent these days and time must be allowed to make progress on finding the two incriminating pictures I mentioned before further comments are made.

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