The Loch Ness monster seen on land


As you'll know if you're familiar with the literature on the Loch Ness monster - and as you won't if you're not - Nessie is not only seen in the water; there are, in fact, quite a few claimed sightings that were made on land. The most interesting thing about these accounts is that they're radically divergent, and it would seem that all manner of surreal giant monsters lurk in the bushes and woods around the loch. Here are a few of my favourites.

In 1932 Colonel Fordyce and his wife reported a shaggy-furred, long-legged, long-necked camel-like creature (shown above). It crossed a road to get to the loch. This bizarre account is little known but was discussed at length by Mike Dash (1991).


The most famous terrestrial sighting is that claimed by Mr and Mrs F. T. G. Spicer in July 1933. While driving along the road between Dores and Foyes on the south shore, they saw a horizontal, trunk-like object emerge from the bushes at the side of the road: it moved in a jerky, undulating fashion and was described as elephant grey in colour [one version of their sketch is shown here]. A curious detail is that something seemed to be protruding from the animal's shoulder region, as if it was carrying something. The Spicer's account became remarkably embellished over time. The object started off as being 6-8 ft in length, but later grew to 25 and even 30 ft (Binns 1983, Campbell 1986). We'll never really know what they saw, but one of the most likely suggestions is that it was an otter distorted by heat-haze. Those who think it was an otter have suggested that it might have been carrying a cub. Those who think it was a 9-m-long modern-day plesiosaur have imagined that it was carrying a dead lamb, and we end up with wonderful artwork like this...


In December 1933, Mrs Reid - wife of the Inverfarigag postmaster - claimed to see a remarkable, hairy, hippo-like Loch Ness creature on land. She was in her car at the time. The creature was about 2 m long and had a rounded head, a mane, and short, thick legs. Far better known is W. Arthur Grant's very detailed account of January 1934. Grant (at the time a 21 year old veterinary student: he's shown in the adjacent image) was riding on his motorbike at 1 in the morning when, he claimed, something emerged from the bushes at the side of the road and crossed right in front of him. He had a good view and in fact nearly struck the creature. His description is of a long-necked animal that he was unable to identify: he likened it to a cross between a seal and a plesiosaur. Grant's recollection of the details, and the several good sketches he produced afterwards, have always made his account popular with authors, particularly with those who like the idea that Nessie might be a long-necked seal or similar creature (Costello 1974). If he really did see what he says he did, perhaps it was an otter, as suggested by Campbell (1986) [an artistic version of Grant's sighting is shown below, from Witchell (1975)].


In 1934 a girl claimed to see the monster on land near Fort Augustus, but she provided no details other than that it was large, and that it had a small head on the end of a long neck. Rather better, perhaps, is Torquil Macleod's 1960 account where a gigantic creature (perhaps 60 ft long) with squarish flippers was watched through binoculars for as long as nine minutes at a distance of about a mile. It was big and grey and had a projection that Macleod described as being like a large elephant trunk. The creature was apparently half ashore, and at the end of the sighting it curved into a U shape and flopped back into the water, apparently without much of a splash (is that even possible for an animal this size?) (Witchell 1975) [artistic version of Macleod's sighting shown below, from Witchell (1975)]


Macleod produced a sketch of his sighting, but it has been argued that there is no way he could have seen what he claimed to with the binoculars he had, given his position on the opposite shore (Binns 1983). Binns also drew attention to the fact that Macleod wasn't a neutral observer, but a fervent believer who longed for a sighting. Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean anything either way (or does it?).

Are these different descriptions artefactual: the result of various people's attempts to acquaint their sighting with the animal most familiar to them, does it show that different people are misidentifying or misinterpreting various different Loch Ness animals, or does it show that we should simply disregard such reports? (Naish 2001). I have to say that I favour the last interpretation. There is no compelling evidence whatsoever suggesting that Loch Ness is home to a popular of large undiscovered animals, and these days I'm of the opinion that all claimed sightings represent misidentifications or hoaxes, all made because people expect to see a monster whenever any object or trick of light or shadow is seen on the loch.

I'm not the only blogger who has written about terrestrial Nessie sightings: Loren Coleman covered the subject at length back in December 2007.

For previous articles on lake monsters see...

Refs - -

Binns, R. 1984. The Loch Ness Mystery Solved. W. H. Allen & Co, London.

Campbell, S. 1986. The Loch Ness Monster: The Evidence. The Aquarian Press, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire.

Costello, P. 1975. In Search of Lake Monsters. Panther Books, St. Albans.

Dash, M. 1991. The camels are coming (LNM). Fortean Times 58, 52-53.

Naish, D. 2001. Sea serpents, seals and coelacanths. In Simmons, I. & Quin, M. (eds) Fortean Studies Volume 7. John Brown Publishing (London), pp. 75-94.

Witchell, N. 1975. The Loch Ness Story. Penguins Books, Harmondsworth, Middlesex.

More like this

"In December 1933, Mrs Reid - wife of the Inverfarigag postmaster - claimed to see a remarkable, hairy, hippo-like Loch Ness creature on land. She was in her car at the time."

Coincidentally this was the same month that Marmaduke Wetherell was hoaxed by somebody who laid out a false set of tracks probably made with a single hippo foot... Hmm, I wonder if the Inverfarigag postmaster owned a hippo foot umbrella stand... It's certainly a possibility.

By Oll Lewis (not verified) on 02 Oct 2009 #permalink

"There is no compelling evidence whatsoever suggesting that Loch Ness is home to a popular of large undiscovered animals"

What is your oppinion of Tim Dinsdale's footage of a fast moving "Probably animate" (to use the words of the RAF Photographic analysts who examined the film)object in the Loch?

Interesting post.

We humans are a strange lot. On one hand we assume we a re the measure of all things and our laws give special standing to eye-witness testimony. On the other, objectively, we humans are pretty poor at visual information collection and recollection. Toss in a bit of, possibly unconscious, bias, irrational belief, a festering desire for fame, and a romantic desire for the corners of our world to remain in shadow and it is no great wonder that accounts vary widely.

It doesn't help that the area is pretty poor for 'seeing'. With fog, frequent temperature inversions and distortions, and a landscape that makes range and size estimation difficult a simple branch floating and rolling in a current up close can look remarkably like some thing much larger farther away.

Toss in a desire to be one of the special few who have seen something that makes the news, to experience something mysterious and possibly magical and there is no wonder see 'things'.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the Loch Ness monster is not the monster, or the search for it, or the sightings. But rather the story itself and how people get involves in, sometimes wrapped up in, the story and how the story triggers the contradictory urges to eliminate the unknown by exploration and to hold dear a mystery and the romantic notion that somethings cannot be explained away.

Oh, I LIKE the "camel-o-saurus" at the top of the page, even though its feet look like a Dr. Seuss creation! Is the drawing by the alledged witnesses, or is it your reconstruction on the basis of their description?

By Allen Hazen (not verified) on 02 Oct 2009 #permalink

"Wonderful artwork" indeed! Because the body of the plesiosaur is copypasta from a Burian painting, that's why. :-)

By David MarjanoviÄ (not verified) on 02 Oct 2009 #permalink

I get a feeling of nostalgia reading a post on the Loch Ness monster. I've seen some other things relating to Nessie and other cryptids lately (the 1976 American movie "The Mysterious Monsters" is being shown in it's entirety on Youtube.) I'm convinced that, the occasional hoax aside, most witnesses to the "monster" are honest, and guilty of misidentifying natural animals or objects. Nessie would make for a more convincing life form if the descriptions weren't at such odds with each other (and if Loch Ness wasn't such an unfit habitat for a colony of large marine animals.)

By Raymond Minton (not verified) on 02 Oct 2009 #permalink

Robert (comment 2) says...

What is your oppinion of Tim Dinsdale's footage of a fast moving "Probably animate" (to use the words of the RAF Photographic analysts who examined the film)object in the Loch?

It's a boat.

Allen (comment 4) says...

Oh, I LIKE the "camel-o-saurus" at the top of the page, even though its feet look like a Dr. Seuss creation! Is the drawing by the alledged witnesses, or is it your reconstruction on the basis of their description?

It's an exact copy of the drawing published in Dash's article. So far as I recall this drawing is indeed a 'reconstruction' based on Fordyce's account.

Wow, I think I want that painting of Nessie eating lamb on my wall.

Tim Dinsdale tells of his first serious effort to get nessie photographs. He is driving the road when he sees nessie out in the loch. After fifteen or twenty minutes of frantic chaos he gets his camera with telescopic lens set up and there she is. She rotates a little and a twig with a leaf comes up. So I think Tim Dinsdale is honest in telling you what he thinks.

If there is a population of nessies, where are the little ones? I think I recall an account or two of folks seeing juveniles.

By Jim Thomerson (not verified) on 02 Oct 2009 #permalink

That painting of Nessie with the lamb in her jaws is awesome. Where did you find it?

By Kevin Schreck (not verified) on 02 Oct 2009 #permalink

FWIW, the "plesiosaur with mutton takeaway" painting is by the prolific book-cover artist Gino d'Achille - I recognise both his distinctive style and, more definitively, his signature.

By Terry Hunt (not verified) on 02 Oct 2009 #permalink

What about that expedition and photos, in Nature journal of all things, with article and pictures of "Nessiteras Rhombopteryx"? Was that just rubbish? It looked good enough at the time (and just because you can make a sneaky anagram, doesn't prove anything ...coincidences happen, skeptics are always blowing them off ...)

"There is no compelling evidence whatsoever suggesting that Loch Ness is home to a popular of large undiscovered animals"

Without being a smart-arse, souldn't an "In my opinion" be inserted in there?

By M. O. Erickson (not verified) on 02 Oct 2009 #permalink

What about that expedition and photos, in Nature journal of all things, with article and pictures of "Nessiteras Rhombopteryx"?

The famous "flipper" photograph is a highly imaginative retouching of the original - see Dick Raynor's Page for more. The other underwater photos ("head and neck, "gargoyle head") are logs that have a vaguely monster-like shape brought on by an advanced case of pareidolia.

When I was about 17, I was driving home one night along a country road in the Virginia Appalachians, with my mother in the passenger seat. As we came over a hill, we both saw a strange creature crossing the road in front of us, which seemed different from anything else we had seen (we had both grown up in the country, and were very familiar with all the local wildlife).

We compared our observations, and they were remarkably similar. The thing seemed to be quadruped, with outrageously long, slender legs; we estimated the legs to be as much as 3-4 times longer than the depth of the torso. The body was elongate, with a long neck and a very small, indistinct head. There was no visible tail. It seemed to be a dark gray color. It rapidly crossed the road at a running pace, and seemed to have an odd gate in which the legs moved only at the hip and shoulder joints, without flexing at the elbows or knees; it looked like it was on stilts. We were completely at a loss to explain it.

About 3 weeks later, we saw a second creature at almost the same place in the road, but this time it was twilight and we could see it a bit better. In the better light, it was just a white-tailed deer, like we had both seen hundreds of times. The odd proportions were just chance effects of lighting and shadows.

As most trial attorneys know, eyewitness observations, even by trained observers, are often worse than useless.

I love cryptozoology so much. Oh how I wish it were true... Except that when a previously unknown animal is discovered, somehow it never seems as exciting as the promise of something undiscovered. It never ends up being magic like the undiscovered ones, but just another tame fact like all the rest of the known.

Surely all someone needs to do is work on perfecting their thistle whistle as it seems from my recollections no nessie can resist them! All together now "You can knock it, you can rock it, you can go to timbukto - but you'll never find a nessie in the zoo"

For those who weren't in england and a child in the 80s I'm talking about

It seems a nessie with lipstick on is about as likely as some of these sightings!

By RStretton (not verified) on 03 Oct 2009 #permalink

Thanks for comments. Some assorted answers...

The 'Sirrush' (comment 11) - the name used for the mythical Middle Eastern beast, supposedly depicted on the Ishtar Gate - is properly termed 'Mushush' or 'Musrush'. Despite desperate attempts to identify the Ishtar Gate animal as a mokele-mbembe, giant monitor lizard or other cryptid, it looks to me like a random and imaginary composite and not a depiction of any real animal.

Nessie with lamb takeway painting: Terry (comment 14) is right, it's by the awesome Gino d'Achille, whose paintings are always hilariously over-the-top but highly worthy pieces of art anyway. The painting here is used as a double-page spread in Daniel Farson's 1975 Vampires, Zombies, and Monster Men (Aldus Books/Jupiter Books, London): despite its strange title, it also includes sections on sea serpents, lake monsters, yeti etc. etc.

Flipper photos (comment 15): as Cameron notes in comment 17, the flipper photos are WITHOUT ANY DOUBT WHATSOEVER retouched pictures of mud and floating silt. The original versions are simply of mud on the loch floor and silt floating in the water; the widely publicised versions had flipper shapes 'cut out' of them. 'Fake' might be too strong a word, but it's difficult to think of a better one. I previously discussed this in the Loch Ness article here.

As for the binomial Nessiteras rhombopteryx Scott & Rines, 1975, the anagram thing - so often trotted out by those wishing to rubbish the monster - is one of my pet peeves, and it seems very naive to think that it really means anything. It's very clear from their many published statements on the subject that Scott & Rines were NOT putting this paper out (in Nature!) as a trick or hoax: they both honestly thought that the Loch Ness monster was a real biological entity, and that it was deserving of a name. So, the anagram really does seem to have been an unfortunate coincidence. Scott later argued that the name was also an anagram of 'Yes, both pix are monsters - R' ('R' for Robert Rines).

The trouble with Fordyce's "camel" report (aside from its outlandishness) is that he waited so long to make it. He published his account in 1990, 58 years after the fact. Memory is unreliable at the best of times; over such spans and in cases of this nature, doubly so. It's especially unfortunate that while the sighting was apparently made in 1932, a year before the LNM came to national prominence, it was reported so long after the story became well known it's impossible to know how much Fordyce was affected by knowledge of what came after. And though, to be fair, one can hardly say his surreal description was heavily influenced by the majority of Loch Ness witness accounts, it's certainly true that a bizarrely high proportion of land sighting reports describe whatever was seen as 'camel-like'.
I was working on an article to be titled 'Land sightings of lake monsters' for the late Mark Chorvinsky and Strange Magazine before he died, and drew up a list of 64 separate cases from all over the world - there are almost certainly more. The thing that is most striking about this list is that there are only 23 cases that clearly describe limbs, and 22 of those descriptions are of legs and feet, not flippers. Clearly, then, the one thing we are not talking about witnesses seeing and credibly describing is animals adapted to an aquatic environment.
From this perspective I find Alton Dooley's post (#18 above) one of the most interesting I've seen on this perplexing topic.

I would be delighted if evidence emerged to show the Loch Ness monster was a genuine previously unknown animal - but having read numerous books and articles on it, from both sides of the argument, I think the 'nays' have it.

I have heard several people make comments about how mysterious Loch Ness is. Over the years I have visited the Loch quite a few times and I have never found it to be so (there are other lochs that are). The fact that the main road from Fort William to Inverness runs along one side of the loch for most of its length makes it less isolated than many other lochs (and also makes it difficult to believe that a population of sizeable air breathing animals could go unnoticed).

One man I know claimed to have had a sighting - but when he described it to me, it became obvious that in anyother lake or river he would have recognised it as being due to submerged vegetation and thought nothing more of it, but because it was Loch Ness he thought he'd probably seen evidence of the monster.

I suspect that people get it into their heads to expect mystery and monsters at Loch Ness and then interpret what the see in the light of those expectations.

There are lots of mysteries in the world, but unfortunately I think most of the mystery in Loch Ness exists only in the mind.

By Mark Lees (not verified) on 03 Oct 2009 #permalink

At the risk of seeming terminally geeky, some of those drawings remind me of Frumious bandersnatch Doheny 21??. (Sorry, can't find the publication date.) We may suspect that earth once had a resident bandersnatch population. Could a few have survived over the past 1.5 billion years?

By John Harshman (not verified) on 03 Oct 2009 #permalink

Years ago, the Discovery Channel (IIRC) aired a "Hunt for Nessie" show that courageously came down on the side of rationality, for once. The researchers said that the local topography appeared to produce unusual effects in the surface water--effects otherwise known only from much deeper down. So observers who said, "That can't be nothing but a wave--there must be something else going on," were correct; they were seeing something like the smoothly rolling back of a briefly surfacing aquatic animal, but it was really water behaving strangely.

IANA physicist, so I have no idea how accurate their hypothesis might have been.

By Jenny Islander (not verified) on 03 Oct 2009 #permalink

Mike (comment 22): I clearly should have re-read your article before penning the above, didn't recall the incredible gap between Fordyce's purported observation and filing it on record.

As for seeing creatures weirdly distorted by light and/or shadow, I'm on record for having seen a giant lizard cross the road in front of the vehicle I was in (this was in southern England, where lizards of any kind are thin on the ground). I was shocked and dumbfounded, and also thrilled at being so fortunate. As we drew closer it turned out to be a fox, moving backwards while pulling a rabbit along. The limp rabbit formed the lizard's 'tail', the fox's raised tail formed the lizard's 'head'. There are a few fantastic accounts (mostly from N. America) of bizarre stilt-legged humanoids seen at the side of the road at night time, some of which were identified as deer as the witness drew near.

I've always thought that it's a pretty reasonable hypothesis that, due to the massively increased availability, usability, and resolution of photo and video recorders (standard in just about every cell phone more than $15), any *real* phenomena (monsters, UFOs, etc) should show a massive increase in witness reports backed up by decent video and photo evidence. If, on the other hand, it's all just bad memory, desire for fame, etc. it should pretty much vanish.

Plus, why does nobody like me ever see these things. I'd jump out of the car and stab whatever it is so I could bring back a tissue sample. Or just floor it and bring back a corpse.

I was driving at night in Massachusetts and saw an anteater stumble across the road. I got out of my car to get a better look, and it turned out to be a raccoon with his head stuck in a McDonald's drink cup.

One other thing that's very little-known, but worth putting on the record here: Rupert Gould, the pioneer LNM researcher who first published the Spicer land sighting report, regarded the witnesses as so unreliable he later regretted having featured the case in his book The Loch Ness Monster and Others.

This fact appears nowhere in the cryptozoological literature, and I was unaware of it until told it by Gould's biographer, Jonathan Betts. Betts subsequently mentioned the point in his book Time Restored: The Harrison Timekeepers and R.T. Gould, the Man Who Knew (Almost) Everything (Oxford 2006) p.259. Betts had access to the annotated copies Gould kept of his books. Against the Spicer report, the author had written: "Were I rewriting the book, I should have omitted this case. I think the Spicers saw a huddle of deer crossing the road."

A pretty remarkable admission, considering how central to the LNM 'legend' the Spicer report has become.

That's completely new to me, Mike, thanks for sharing. Another 'classic' dies a death. I'll spread the word :)

By the way, do you have a digital version of that incredible drawing you showed in your talk on Dr McRae?

[from Darren: sorry, delayed by spam-filter]

Yes, indeed. I've just uploaded both versions of the sketch here:

For those unfamiliar with this tale, which will be most of you, the talk Darren refers to was a presentation I gave last year on the great 'Holy Grail' of aquatic monster studies, the mysterious so-called "MacRae films". These were two close up film sequences, supposedly shot by a Scottish doctor in the mid-1930s, one showing the Loch Ness Monster and the other a sea serpent in Loch Duich, a sea loch on the west coast of Scotland. The full presentation is available online here

for anyone with 58 minutes to spare, but, very briefly, the traditional version of the "MacRae films" story states that both movies were placed in a bank vault "until such time as the subject is taken seriously," and access to them was protected by three trustees appointed by the cameraman. One of these was the well-known Scottish landscape artist Alastair Dallas. My investigation of the case revealed that Dallas had actually claimed his own close-up sighting of the LNM in 1936: he saw "the monster" hauled out of the water, sucking weed from rocks on the shore (and, in one version of the tale, was so close to it that he was able to throw his sandwiches at it).

Being an artist, Dallas had a sketch book with him, and he quickly drew several views of the unlikely-looking creature. Years later, in 1974, he was approached by an LNM researcher named Alan Wilkens. Actually, Dallas wouldn't speak to Wilkens direct, but he agreed to talk to a representative named Tom Skinner, who was head of biology at Annan Academy. Dallas couldn't find his sketch at first, so he drew it again from memory. Later, he did discover the original (so he said, though as I noted in my talk, he could equally well have drawn it from scratch in 1974), had it lithographed, and gave a copy to Wilkens, who gave it to the Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau, and it can be found in their archives in the Loch Ness Exhibition Centre in Drumnadrochit. Wilkens gave me a copy of the other, rougher, sketch. So far as I know, I'm the only person who has now has a copy of the latter, so I'm sure it is a good idea to archive both online.

What all this shows is anybody's guess. I am just a historian, not a scientist, but the creature as sketched by Dallas seems to have evolved some pretty specialised features, and even I can see that its appearance is - to put it mildly - odd, and that the idea of a 20ft long monster capable of subsisting in Loch Ness by sucking weed off rocks is rather implausible.

I'd be most interested to hear the views of specialists on the morphology of the Dallas "creature".

"In 1932... a shaggy-furred, long-legged, long-necked camel-like creature... crossed a road to get to the loch."

Weren't there attempts to (re)introduce moose to Scotland in the early 20th century? Moose are known to swim across large bodies of water and to dive to the bottom of lakes to eat underwater vegetation. Moose have been implicated in several North American lake monster cases, IIRC. An antlerless moose, seen by someone not expecting to see one, could easily be described as a "camel-like creature".

If not a moose, it could even have been a large, antlerless red deer, with the same kind of visual distortion as described in Alton Dooley's comment (although it wouldn't have been going *into* the loch... but just down to the shore to graze or drink?). OK, so the tiny-headed Dr Seuss-camel in the drawing doesn't look much like a moose or deer (although, if i cross my eyes, it does look oddly like a foreshortened Asian elephant... or a Trunko with legs), but you know what drawings based on other people's verbal descriptions are like (just see mediaeval bestiaries)...

I've heard the Spicer and Macleod sightings suggested to be an out-of-place elephant seal. If the original description of the thing Spicer saw was only in the 2m size range and the larger sizes claimed were later exaggerations, then the much more plausible grey or common seal seems likely.

"Nessie with lamb takeway painting: Terry (comment 14) is right, it's by the awesome Gino d'Achille, whose paintings are always hilariously over-the-top but highly worthy pieces of art anyway. The painting here is used as a double-page spread in Daniel Farson's 1975 Vampires, Zombies, and Monster Men (Aldus Books/Jupiter Books, London): despite its strange title, it also includes sections on sea serpents, lake monsters, yeti etc. etc."

I was also blown away by the illustation.

I would love to see artists and photographers given credit for their creations when they are used in blog posts...

Camelochnessie looks so dejected. Is it because he wandered out of his Dr Seuss book and ended up in Scotland?

Seriously, though, if moose were reintroduced to Scotland around that time I wouldn't be surprised if that's what was seen. Especially if the people looking are unfamiliar with them. They're big, shaggy and have a hump.

Thank you Darren! I've been trying to locate book with the awesome illustrations of Nessie, Yeti, and the Kanzai Rex for years!

By Dinosaur Teacher (not verified) on 04 Oct 2009 #permalink

"Camelosaurus" is not Nessie at all. It's two Bigfoot (Bigfeet?) hiding under a bearskin rug and holding a branch in front of them, Chinese-dragon style.

By Christophe Thill (not verified) on 04 Oct 2009 #permalink

While the moose might be a popular explanation for the Fordyce sighting, it likely isn't. Moose have been reintroduced as of 2008, and otherwise haven't been present in Scotland for a millennium.

By Keith Morrison (not verified) on 05 Oct 2009 #permalink

Keith: I was sure i'd read something somewhere about attempts to reintroduce moose to Scotland some time either just before or just after WWI, but, from a Google search, it seems you are right (or at least, there's nothing online about any reintroduction attempt before 2008). Maybe i was getting mixed up with the moose in New Zealand...

In that case, red deer it almost certainly is then.


I am glad the creature in that first picture ("Camelosaurus") almost certainly doesn't exist. What a hideous thing...

By William Miller (not verified) on 05 Oct 2009 #permalink

"In December 1933, Mrs Reid - wife of the Inverfarigag postmaster - claimed to see a remarkable, hairy, hippo-like Loch Ness creature on land. She was in her car at the time."
There's also at least one or two accounts of vaguely hippo-like beasts (one with a rhino-like horn!) from other lochs, iirc.

By Tiktaalik (not verified) on 05 Oct 2009 #permalink

Hm, an interesting heap of very different animals, a cameloid sirrush, Spicer`s giant slug, the classic plesiosaur, Macleods aquatic âanteaterâ, what a zoo. I am not so sure they are all misidentifications or hoaxes, but some of them are night sightings in bad light. How can one expect a person to sketch an accurate picture a very long time later. Trained wildlife observes can, provided they also have drawing skills, most people donât. Just check up Sasquatch reports and you find immature and primitive sketches of very different creatures, and artistsâ sketches are coloured by their personal views because they have never seen a hairy man themselves. The same goes with sea serpents.
The land sightings of Scotland are intriguing, and I got several and also similar ones from my home country, Norway. If there are so called sea serpents living in Scottish lochs, there must be a lot of common traits to these animals, not aan alien zoo of various species. Has anyone ever done a comprehensive study of these land sightings?

By Erik Knatterud (not verified) on 08 Oct 2009 #permalink

I suggest an explanation in psychology and physiology and topography as follows, causing an amplification of everyday eye-witness unreliability:

Prolonged driving along a monotonous, though erratically-varying, lochside road in poor light induces a form of sensory deprivation. This is something the human organism finds disturbing - we crave pattern, meaning and regularity, also novelty, in our sensory experience. We usually and automatically filter out from awareness much detail of our surroundings, to avoid being swamped with excess data; we also fill in (with the brain's best guess) everyday details that we do not clearly preceive but know from experience are there. When faced with paucity of meaningful data, our filter-settings may be adjusted in the other direction, to more readily bring to attention whatever little pattern there may be to be gleaned - or more readily fill in gaps - so if really nothing much is there, our mind may simulate it.
For example, shut your eyes tight or keep them open in total darkness, and you perceive illusory light and movement; be still and concentrate hard on listening, in total silence (or the nearest you can get to it in nature outdoors) - especially when alone for a long spell - and it is easy to imagine hearing human voices just below the threshold of certainty. This can feel quite spooky!

Driving through Shifting shadows, with headlights illuminating objects at suddenly further and closer ranges as one's car dips and sweeps around curves, can confuse our distance/scale perception. (Bushes and trees, being largely fractal in form, do not offer firm bases for calibration). This fluctuating amorphous visual field may offer something akin to an open fire - a ready screen for the mind to project its preoccupations onto, (pareidolia), seeing forms or faces in randomness.

Add to these a knowledge (conscious or subliminal) of Loch Ness as being a place where strange things have been seen or at least reported by multiple individuals, and there is a strong likelihood of misidentifying an ordinary but unfamiliar object suddenly and fleetingly spotted for something extraordinary. The very divergent reports tally with this - there is no common factual origin upon which they depend and upon which descriptions can converge, only the possibilities of human senses, imagination and folklore to define what is 'seen'.

The world we perceive is all the time a simulation constructed by our minds, in accordance with sense-data + past experience + focus of attention/intention; and since our perceptions are expressed not just as they came to us but as we have interpreted and reconstructed them, and also with adjustment to other's expectations. Thus, witnesses are not necessarily being unusually dishonest in reporting strange sightings; but we should make allowance for such effects contributing to their accounts of what they experienced.

By Graham King (not verified) on 09 Oct 2009 #permalink

In #2, Robert asked "What is your oppinion of Tim Dinsdale's footage of a fast moving "Probably animate" (to use the words of the RAF Photographic analysts who examined the film)object in the Loch?"

JARIC wasn't playing with a full deck. As Richard Carter pointed out in the early '90's their "probably animate" comment was based on the calculated speed being too high for a non-planing hull, and that planing hulls are normally painted so as to be photo-visible, yet a hull is not visible, ergo it is "probably animate". Unfortunately they did not take into account the breaks in filming while the clockwork camera motor was being rewound. Once these periods are added in, the average speed drops to that which can be achieved by a typical Loch Ness anglers 14 ft boat with a Seagull engine on the back and the "probably animate" solution is no longer the most logical.

Furthermore, examination of the frames published in Adrian Shine's 1997 booklet "Loch Ness" clearly shows an object above and about 12 feet behind the origin of the bow wave which is totally inconsistent a "now fully submerged" Nessie, while fitting very well with the position of a helmsman in a boat.

Only a cryptozoological Houdini could escape the conclusion in Darren Naish's comment #9 - "it's a boat".

Equally, within the remit of the 1965 JARIC examination, which did not even include projection as a moving film, and with the image analysis techniques available to "civilians" prior to the mid 1980's, neither TD nor JARIC could have known this.

It's intriguing that accounts of "mysterious creatures" often gives them lengthened body parts. Most accounts of Nessie and other lake monsters describes the creatures as having long necks, legs, and other appendages. Other accounts of "ape-men" and the like give the creatures long, gangly limbs. Therefore, these are probably known species who look different because their body parts appear longer or larger. This is optical distortion, due to poor light or, in Loch Ness' case, heavy fog, and lends credence to the idea that what the eyewitnesses have in common is the human eye, not the fact of witnessing the same mysterious creature.

By Rachel Wayne (not verified) on 12 Oct 2009 #permalink

Rachel W.,
While I claim no qualifications or expertise in optical effects, I'm not sure that I can agree that poor light or heavy fog leads to distortion. I have been carrying cameras with me for over 12 years now as I go about my job on Loch Ness but have so far failed to record anything under the conditions you describe.

I continue to wait for that cormorant distorted by a "mirage" showing an extra long neck, but my experience is that these distortions do not occur at ranges of less than about 1500m, at which the bird is too small to be visible. Boats and their wakes, further away, can sometimes be seen floating in the sky, but my passengers are not particularly impressed.

In my experience the most interesting events are those where everyday objects are not recognised, and the brain creates and remembers an interpretation rather than the raw data itself.

I have a few sample clips on my website at

We don't actually get many foggy days on the loch, but you can always check the current conditions in Urquhart Bay by visiting my webcam page

If you have examples of your own showing these effects, I'll be happy to learn from them.
Cheers, DR

Slightly off-topic, but very much Loch Ness-related: legendary Nessie hunter Robert Rines has died.

Mark Lees wrote:

"One man I know claimed to have had a sighting - but when he described it to me, it became obvious that in anyother lake or river he would have recognised it as being due to submerged vegetation and thought nothing more of it, but because it was Loch Ness he thought he'd probably seen evidence of the monster."

I saw a programme a couple of years ago about the Monster on Discovery Channel or a similar channel, i cannot recall. In it they showed an interesting psychological experiment: they took a 2by4 and put it in the lake then balanced it with weights so that only about 10 centimeters of it was visible protruding from the water. When they put it in the Loch Ness and let tourist see it then later (when it was no longer visible) asked the tourist what they saw, many of them said it might have been the monster and many gave descriptions that could have been those of living creatures, often resembling those popular nessie-descriptions. Then they took the same contraption to an "ordinary" lake somewhere in England, did the same with it and then asked the people on the shore what they had seen - most of them said it was a pole, a beam or a branch, maybe driftwood. None of the "witnesses" suspected anything living, not to mention a monster...

When you see something unusual crossing the road anywhere in the world it's just an animal you failed to recognize. If you see it along the Loch it becomes Nessie.


The 1932 sighting by Colonel Fordyce and his wife was only one of a series of long-legged, camel-headed beasts seen to come out of the woods and go into the Loch (or vice Versa) and this is in fact the traditional Water-horse. Such sightings are commonly stated to be a creature about six feet tall at the shoulder. In fact all of the earlier sightings and some past the point of Fordyce's match the description of a moose or elk. Moose had been introduced into scotland for hunting during the 1800s and again more recently, so although they could have persisted from earlier times,it is not necessary to maintain that must be so. The range of what Ivan Sanderson called the Norther Lake Monsters corresponds to the moose and Sanderson elsewhere identifies this range as the belt of the Taiga vegetation. On the North American end of the belt, lakes such as Okanagan house similar creatures but prior to the 1960s the reports commonly included features such as large flapping ears, a beard, and occasional moose antlers specified in the reports. The "multi-humped" effect would be recounting the appearance of an interference wave or waves in the wake.

By Dale A. Drinnon (not verified) on 03 Jan 2010 #permalink

i just love the lochness monster pics of urs. thxs 4 sharin them to people lik me

By fermina orosco (not verified) on 19 Feb 2010 #permalink

Has anyone ever come across the account of a sighting in which a huge dark shape moved across the road in front of a couple (?) and they reported a horrible stench accompanied the creature? I seem to recall it was near Urquhart Castle. I would like to know the book I found the account in. Thanks!

By Dr. Jeffry L Smith (not verified) on 10 Nov 2010 #permalink

nessie is real im almost 11 my mom says kylie nessies not real but i say it is .......... scoott lands loch ness..nessie