The Loch Ness Monster

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Nessie? Waves? Total fake?

The Loch Ness Monster, also referred to by the nickname Nessie, is a creature rumored to inhabit Loch Ness in Scotland. Its description varies from one account to the next, but it's generally regarded to be similar to a plesiosaur in appearance. Other descriptons depict a serpentine creature. Evidence of Nessie is largely anecdotal, many photographs have been proven hoaxes, and what little sonar readings exist are largely inconclusive. Nessie was first brought to the world's attention in 1933 by a journalist named Alex Campbell, and the first photograph, taken by Hugh Gray, was published in December of the same year.


In the Life of St Columba, written in the 7th century, there is an account of a monster associated with the River Ness. The creature mauled a man swimming in the river, and only his corpse could be recovered. Columba sent another man to swim across the river, and the beast attacked this man as well, but retreated when Columba made the sign of the cross and commanded it to stop. The occurance was hailed as a miracle. Those that believe in the Loch Ness Monster frequently cite this story as the earliest evidence of a creature in the region, though skeptics point out the source of the story. Water beast stories were a frequent occurance in medieval saints' stories.

What is widely regarded as the first true sighting of Nessie, and where modern interest in the creature was first sparked, took place in July of 1933. George Spicer and his wife saw a creature cross the road in front of their car. They described it as about 25 feet long and 4 feet high, with a long, undulating neck. After crossing the road it moved towards the loch, about 20 yards away. While several sightings are on record prior to 1933, they have been largely discredited.

In June of 1933 a young woman named Margaret Munro claimed to have observed the creature onshore for about 20 minutes. She described elephant-like skin and a long neck with a small head.

In August of 1933 a man named Arthur Grant claimed to have nearly struck the creature while out on his motorcycle around 1am. He claims to have gotten off his motorcycle and followed the creature from the road to the loch, but only saw ripples in the water.

In December of 1954 the fishing boat Rival III detected a large object moving along with the boat at a depth of 480 feet. The crew observed this occurance for half a mile before contact was lost.


Skeptics have listed everything from ducks and otters to elephants swimming underwater to explain what some hav seen disturbing the surface of the loch. A relatively small bird, or a group of birds, can create an enormous wake in the dead calm conditions common in the loch. A giant eel was among the first suggestions made, eels do naturally inhabit the loch, and an eel would fit the description given in many sightings. This has been dismissed largely because the side to side undulation of an eel moving through the water is not a feature of any sightings, and eels do not lift their heads above water.

The elephant theory was first post by a bioligist named Dennis Power and a geographer named Donald Johnson. They cclaimed the Surgeon's Photograph was the top of the head and extended trunk of an elephant, taken in another part of the world and simply claimed to be taken at the loch. In 2006 Neil Clark suggested an elephant from a travelling circus could have been allowed to refresh itself in the loch.

Seals have also been a confirmed presence at the loch for up to months at a time, though their visits are infrequent enough to call them visitors, as opposed to a permanent colony.

Rotting trees are another explanation for some of the anomalies visible at the loch. Pinewoods are present around the perimeter of the loch, and because of the high resin content of this type of wood, the rotting gasses of any sunken logs are sealed inside until pressure builds enough to launch them out of the depths and through the water to the surface.

Surgeon's Photograph

Original cropping of the Surgeon's Photograph.

Nessie's legend has attracted its share of tricksters as well. One of the most famous photographs, taken in 1934 by a London doctor named Robert Kenneth Wilson became known as the Surgeon's Photograph, due to Wilson's reluctance to have his name associated with it. The photo was published in the Daily Mail in April of that year. In 1994, the photo was exposed as a hoax, and several men stepped forward to reveal the elaborate plot surrounding it.

The creature itself was a sculpted head and neck attached to a toy submarine, built by Christian Spurling, the son in law of big game hunter Marmaduke Wetherell, who was ridiculed by the Daily Mail after his search for Nessie. He had discovered footprints in the land around the loch and sent them to scientists for analysis. They were determined to be hippopotamus tracks, left by some prankster with a hippo foot umbrella stand.

The Surgeon Photograph hoax was an act of revenge, apparently meant to make a mockery of he paper for spurning Wetherell. The story was disputed by a man named Henry Bauer, who asked why the perpetrators didn't reveal their elaborate ploy sooner if their goal was revenge. Regardless, analysis of the uncropped version of the photograph revealed the creature to be a mere two to three feet long, hardly the monster one would expect Nessie to be.

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