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Loch Ness, Scotland

Written by Rick Archer
Published October 2013



Rick Archer's Note:  This article takes a look at the enduring Loch Ness mystery.  I became intrigued with the story when Marla and I visited Loch Ness on our Oslo 2010 cruise. 


I soon learned that Loch Ness has an odd shape. It is 22 miles long and one mile wide.  I also learned that "Loch" is Scottish for 'lake'.  So I have a question for you.  Six of the names below are well-known lakes in Scotland, but one is made up.  Which one of the following lake names listed below is a fake name? 

  1. Loch Lomond

  2. Loch Oich

  3. Loch Glen

  4. Loch Morar

  5. Loch Lochy

  6. Loch Dochfour

  7. Loch Linnhe

Now before I answer the question, I have another question for the Reader.  Have you ever heard of any of these lakes?  

Perhaps you have heard of Loch Lomond.  After all, it is the largest lake in Scotland.  But more likely you have never heard of any of them.  In fact, I am sure the Reader will readily admit the only lake in Scotland you have ever heard of is Loch Ness.  And we all know why that is. 


Nessie is worth a small fortune to the Scottish tourism industry.  Specifically, it is of great value to the economies of Inverness (Gaelic for "mouth of the river Ness") and the Highlands.  In fact, one can argue the legend of the Loch Ness Monster is by far the most profitable 'rumor' in recorded history.  For example, why on earth would our cruise ship stop near this obscure place otherwise?

Although Loch Ness is the second largest Scottish lake by surface area after Loch Lomond, due to its great depth, Loch Ness is the largest lake by volume.  Having seen it, I can attest Loch Ness is a vast lake indeed.  My pictures of the lake cannot begin to do justice to its immense size. 


On the other hand, compare Loch Ness and its surface area of 22 square miles to Lake Erie and its 9,910 square miles. Mind you, Erie is the smallest Great Lake.  In other words, Loch Ness is big, but it isn't that big.

By the way, "Loch Glen" is the fake name.  Did you guess it?  Hey, cheer up. I would not have gotten it right either.  I am simply making the point that without the monster, no one outside of Glasgow or Edinburgh would have ever heard of Loch Ness.  The monster is responsible for its fame.

The famous 1934 picture that started all the fuss

Four of the lakes listed - Loch Lochy, Loch Oich, Loch Dochfour, Loch Ness - are part of the Great Glen.  The Great Glen is series of rivers and lakes that follow a large geological fault line known as the Great Glen Fault

Basically the Great Glen is an enormous gash in the earth that splits the Scottish Highlands into two parts.  The Great Glen forms a chain of rivers, canals and lakes that connect the North Sea all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. This long waterway is known as the Caledonian Canal Take a look at the map and try to guess how long the canal is.  I bet you will be surprised at the answer.  I know I was.

Completed in 1822, the Canal bisects the Scottish Highlands into the Grampian Mountains to the southeast and the Northwest Highlands to the northwest.  This giant gash in the earth is so deep that it divides Scotland in two.  In a way, the entire area known as the Northwest Highlands is an "island" of sorts.

The Glen is a natural travelling route in the Highlands of Scotland, which is used by both the Caledonian Canal and the shoreline road A82.  Both arteries link the city of Inverness on the northeast coast with Fort William on the west coast. 

So how long is canal?  60 miles. 

The four lochs comprise 40 of the 60 mile length. Then there are 20 miles of man-made canals that connect the lakes.  However, if you add Loch Linnhe just south of Fort William, then the distance becomes closer to 90 miles.  And when you add in the large Moray Firth at Inverness, the combined total reaches 130 miles.


Are there river cruises on the Caledonian Canal? The answer is yes. Since the canal cuts completely through Scotland’s interior, a boat can cross the entire nation by water (hint - this makes for an excellent trivia question).

Stretching from Inverness to Fort William, this unique waterway offers visitors an unending path of spectacular scenery.  There are riverboats that take tourists on a fascinating voyage through the legendary lochs and the giant mountains looming above complete with castles and moors. 

I knew you were going to ask - The answer is "yes, there are locks on the lochs".  In addition to the 4 lochs, there are 29 locks, 4 aqueducts and 10 bridges in the course of the canal.  In a manner similar to the Panama Canal, there are locks at both end. There are eight locks at Neptune's Staircase in Banavie and Dochgarroch Lock near Inverness at the other end.



The Cold Hard Facts about the Loch Ness Monster

To many, the unusual depth of the lake lends credence to the theory that maybe a monster might indeed exist down there.  Surely in this vast body of water a giant sea serpent could find a subterranean lair to hide in.


Most scientists do not agree.  Few scientists believe such a creature like Nessie could plausibly exist. They think the chances of a monster surviving in these sub-zero waters are as likely as the existence of Santa Claus.

For example, if Nessie was a plesiosaur or some other Mesozoic marine reptile as some suggest, she would need to surface frequently for air.  Loch Ness may be one of the largest freshwater bodies in Europe, but it is hardly large enough for something of Nessie's size to hide while breathing regularly.  As pictures of the lake indicate, one can see all the way across the lake at a glance.  There are no easy nooks and crannies for a creature the size of a whale to use as secret breathing spots. 

If we can spot dolphins and whales that pop up quite regularly for air, surely a floating dinosaur would be seen once a day by someone.  Given that there are so few 'sightings' considering the ridiculous number of eyes scanning the loch all day long every day, the possibility that any air-breathing animal could avoid being spotted becomes exceedingly small.


Now it is true that lots of people claim to see something.  However, with the increased frequency of cell phone cameras, one would assume there should be plenty of pictures by now... but there are practically none.

Even if the hypothetical creature were not an air breather, then there's the problem of food supply.  Assuming the monster exists, it would have to eat hundreds of times the weight of all available life in the lake just to survive. Unfortunately, Loch Ness has hardly any fish larger than your average thumb.  That is because there is little for fish to eat!  Since the lake is too deep for sunlight to penetrate to the lakebed, little to no vegetation grows in it.  If the lake can't sustain large fish, how would it sustain a plesiosaur?

Finally, how exactly would the monster reproduce over all these centuries?  One would assume a breeding population of giant underwater monsters would consist of several monsters for mating purposes, not just one. 

The more one thinks about it, the more implausible the legend becomes.  But after all those eyewitness sightings, it becomes very difficult to not have second thoughts.  One is forced to wonder, "What could it be?"


Origins of the Loch Ness Monster

Legends of a monster in Loch Ness have existed for over a thousand years.  Over the centuries there have been several sightings.  They all indicate some sort of large fish.  The Loch Ness Monster is often called Nessie, an anglicized version of Niseag from Gaelic.


By all accounts, the first written account of Niseag appeared in the Seventh Century. Saint Adomnán (627-704), abbot of Iona, wrote a biography called The Life of St. Columba.  Adomnán reported that in 565 AD an Irish saint named Columba had saved a man from being attacked by the Loch Ness monster simply by making the sign of the cross and commanding the beast to retreat.


Comparing the date of the biography's publication to the event itself, there is a gap of about one hundred years.

According to Adomnán, the Irish monk Saint Columba was staying in Scotland, the land of the Picts, with his Irish companions when he came across the locals burying a man by the River Ness. They explained that the man had been swimming the river when he was attacked by a "water beast" that had mauled him and dragged him under.


They tried to rescue him in a boat, but were able only to drag up his corpse. Hearing this, Columba stunned the Picts by sending his follower Luigne moccu Min to swim across the river.  Immediately the beast came after him, but Columba made the sign of the Cross and commanded: "Go no further. Do not touch the man. Go back at once!"

The beast immediately halted as if it had been "pulled back with ropes" and fled in terror.  Startled by the spectacle of the beast cowering before Columba's confident command, both Columba's men and the pagan Picts praised God for the miracle.


1933 - The Mystery Begins with a New Road

The series of lakes known as the Great Glen form a long waterway between giant mountains. These rugged mountains overlooking the lakes made building a roadway very difficult.  Not until the 1930s did Scotland finally undertake a project to blast a road out of the mountains that parallel the lake. 

In 1933, the new road A82 was finally completed along the waters of Loch Ness. This shoreline-hugging path afforded drivers a clear view of the lake. Some say the massive rock debris falling into the Loch must have surely awakened the sleeping monster.  Almost the moment the road opened, a series of very strange sightings began to occur. 

Four sightings in particular were widely reported in the press.

1  April:  Aldie MacKay
2  July:  George Spicer
3  August:  Arthur Grant
4  December:  Hugh Gray


April 1933 - Event 1: Aldie Mackay

On April 14, 1933, Mr and Mrs John Mackay, proprietors of the Drumnadrochit Hotel, were returning home from a trip to Inverness. It was about 3 pm when Mrs Mackay pointed to the lake and said, "What's that, John?"

The water in the middle of Loch Ness was in a state of commotion. At first Aldie Mackay thought it was two ducks fighting, but then she realized there was no way a duck battle could cause a disturbance so widespread.

As her husband slowed down, the two of them watched incredulously as a creature swam towards the Aldourie pier on the opposite side of the lake.

For a brief moment they glimpsed two black humps which rose and fell in an undulating fashion. The creature then suddenly sank beneath the water and did not reappear.

The Mackays stared at each other incredulously.  Shaking their heads in disbelief, they had a hard time accepting what they had just seen.  

The Mackays made no attempt to publicize their story.

However, gossip about the sighting reached Alex Campbell, a young water bailiff (policeman).  Campbell was understandably very curious.  Since he happened to be a local correspondent for the Inverness Courier, he called upon the Mackays who agreed to share their tale.

The story appeared in the paper two weeks later.  The editor is said to have commented, "If it's as big as they say it is, it's not a creature, it's a monster!"

And that is how the Loch Ness Monster acquired its name.

July 1933 - Event 2: George Spicer

On a hot summer afternoon, July 22, 1933, Mr and Mrs George Spicer were in the Loch Ness area on their way back to London after a holiday in the Highlands. Around 4 pm they were driving along the Loch Ness Lakeshore Road when they spotted a huge, black long-necked creature that stretched across the road.

They stopped the car and watched from 200 yards away.  To their surprise, they realized this massive object was in motion. They gasped when they realized they were looking at a long neck. This was soon followed by a grey body about five feet high. It moved across the road in jerks.

On 4 August 1933, the Inverness Courier published the assertion of a London man, George Spicer, that he and his wife had seen 'a most extraordinary form of animal' cross the road in front of their car.

After reading the Courier report, Commander Rupert Gould, a man researching the Loch Ness Monster, asked to interview them as well. Gould's account is considered the most thorough.

George Spicer offered vivid details to Gould.  "It was horrible, an abomination!"  

He described it as a "huge snail with a long neck, but with no tail. It was the nearest approach to a dragon or pre-historic animal that I have ever seen in my life."  

The creature stood about 4 feet high and was 25 feet long.  It had a long narrow neck that slightly thicker than an elephant's trunk and as long as the width of the road (about 10-12 feet wide); the neck had a number of undulations in it.

Because Spicer and his wife were on a slope, they could not see whether it had legs or not. By the time their car had reached the top of the slope, it had vanished into the undergrowth opposite.

Spicer said the animal trundled across the road toward the Loch carrying "an animal" in its mouth.  It was later suggested to be perhaps a dead sheep.

Gould said when he first heard of this newest sighting he was dubious, but after speaking with the Spicers at their London home, he had no doubt they were telling the truth. He described them as still shaken and upset. He also noted that as "Londoners", they had no knowledge of the local legend.

(Footnote: Rupert T Gould was a lieutenant commander in the British Royal Navy.  He was taken by George Spicer's earnestness in relating this strange story; Spicer's sincerity struck a chord in him.  Thanks in large part to his meeting with George Spicer, Gould would take a lifelong interest in the Loch Ness Mystery. 

Gould became one of the first to systematically investigate the Loch Ness Monster.  After the Spicer talk, Gould set off from Inverness on a motorcycle on 14 November, 1938, and circled the Loch twice over a period of days (a round trip was close to 50 miles). He interviewed as many witnesses as possible, including the Spicers.  He investigated various theories for the sightings, such as the idea that the monster was a prehistoric creature, or perhaps a normal sea animal that had swum into the loch by accident.

The book which resulted from his travels is highly detailed and includes reports on all known sightings, including some that occurred prior to 1933. It is copiously illustrated; all three of the photographs then believed to be of the monster are included, in addition to numerous sketches based on eyewitness accounts.

Gould put all his notes together and transcribed the first major work on the phenomenon, entitled The Loch Ness Monster and Others, a 1934 collection of several eyewitness accounts. 

The book proved to be a big hit.  After his book was published, Gould's interviews with people like Arthur Grant and George Spicer became the definitive lore to be repeated over generations.  Consequently Gould became the de facto spokesman on the subject. He was a regular contributor to radio shows and newspaper articles any time the subject of the Monster came up.

Gould’s conclusion was that there was a creature living in Loch Ness.  He is remembered as one of the earliest and most thorough of the Loch Ness investigators.  We all have him to thank for the preservation of so much early information relating to the creature and the many people who saw whatever it is they saw.)


August 1933 - Event 3: Arthur Grant

In August 1933, a motorcyclist named Arthur Grant claimed to have nearly hit the creature while approaching Abriachan on the northeastern shore around 1 am on a moonlit night.

Grant claimed that he saw a small head attached to a long neck, and that the creature saw him and crossed the road back into the loch. A veterinary student, he described it as a hybrid between a seal and a plesiosaur.

Grant said he dismounted and followed it to the loch, but only saw ripples.


December 1933 - Event 4:
Hugh Gray's Photograph

Hugh Gray is well known in Loch Ness Monster circles as the man who took the first photograph of the Loch Ness Monster.  The event took place around noon on November 12, 1933, near the mouth of the Foyers River (see map)

The Daily Record printed his picture as well as Mr. Gray's account.

"Four Sundays ago after church I went for my usual walk near where the Foyers river enters the Loch.  The Loch was like a mill pond and the sun shining brightly. An object of considerable dimensions rose out of the water not very far from where I was.

I immediately got my camera ready and snapped the object which was two feet above the surface of the water. I did not see any head, for what I took to be the front parts were under the water, but there was considerable movement from what seemed to be the tail, the part furthest from me.

The object only appeared for a few minutes then sank out of sight."

Hugh Gray's picture.
Hmm.  What exactly are we looking at here?  The Blob?

Hugh Mackenzie, the future Provost of Inverness, conducted Gray's interview. 

Peter Munro was present as well.  Munro was representing Hugh Gray's employers at the British Aluminium Company.  Munro was along as a character witness as to Gray's integrity.

Whatever Munro said must have impressed Mackenzie because Mackenzie went on to describe Hugh Gray as a man highly respected by his fellow workmen, employers and locals.

Bolstering Gray's credibility, the Daily Record had the negative examined by 4 experts who deemed it as untampered. 

Over the years, Hugh Gray never once backed down from his story.  Tim Dinsdale, another major Loch Ness researcher, recounts in his book Loch Ness Monster how he visited Hugh Gray in April 1960.  Dinsdale described Gray as "a most courteous individual" as he took him to the spot of the sighting.

According to Dinsdale, Hugh Gray spoke with "complete conviction" about the events of that day. 

Despite the passage of time, not once did Gray wander from the same details he had stated in his original story from 37 years earlier.  Indeed, Gray spoke as if the same thing had just happened yesterday.  It was permanently seared into his memory.

A Second Account of Hugh Gray's Photo

In November 1933 the creature was photographed for the first time. Hugh Gray, an employee of the British Aluminum Company, was walking on a wooded bluff about 50 feet above the loch. Like George Spicer, Gray was near Foyers as well.

Gray had seen the monster on a previous occasion and consequently now carried his camera with him everywhere. On Sunday, November 12, 1933, Gray sat down for a moment to look out over the loch. It was a clear, sunny morning and Gray could see all the way across to the northern shore without a problem.

As he stared at the water, he saw the creature rising up out of the water about two hundred yards away. Gray raised his camera and snapped while it was two or three feet above the surface. The creature quickly dropped back down out of sight.

Gray was ambivalent about what to do next. He was very worried about being subjected to derision, an instinct that would prove painfully correct.

Gray left the film in his camera for two weeks. Finally his brother couldn't stand the suspense any more, so he took the film from Gray and handled it himself.

After Gray saw the results, he was disheartened. He had taken five shots. Unfortunately, his shots were blurred because he had hurried too much. The best shot showed only a vague, grayish bulk. Gray's other four shots were even worse.

The blurred shot of the beast appeared in the Scottish Daily Record and the London Daily Sketch on December 6, 1933, along with a statement from the Kodak film company that the negative had not been retouched.

As Gray feared, the critics came out in droves. Professor Graham Kerr, zoologist at Glasgow University, declared that the picture was utterly unconvincing

Kerr said he couldn't even tell if it was actually a depiction of any living thing.


1933 - Monster Fever Builds

1933 had been quite a year for the Loch Ness Monster.  It had all started with Aldie Mackay.  Then came George Spicer.  Next up was Arthur Grant.  Then came Hugh Gray.  There were several other sightings as well.  For example, Hugh Gray's photo was listed as the 25th report of the year.

There was so much happening that people could hardly catch their breath. Indeed, on November 23, just a few days after Hugh Gray's sighting, there was yet another event.

Dr. James Kirton and his wife were walking down the hill behind the Invermoriston Hotel when they saw a creature swimming away from them. They saw a rounded back with a protuberance in the middle. It seemed to them to be "like the rear view of a duck in a pond", but much larger of course.  Commander Gould registered the Kirton's observation as 1933's 26th sighting.

One week later came the incredible 27th sighting. Miss Nancy Simpson saw the monster lying motionless in the water for ten minutes in an area near Altsigh. She judged its length to be about 30 feet long. Then she saw it swim underneath to the center of the loch "at the speed of an outboard motor boat".


As one would imagine, Monster Fever was now rampant in Inverness.  Public interest started gradually during the spring of 1933 with Aldie Mackey's report, then picked up sharply after Mr and Mrs George Spicer reported seeing the creature lumbering across the shore road.

By October, several London newspapers sent correspondents to Scotland.  Radio programs were being interrupted to bring listeners the latest news from the loch. A British circus offered a reward of £20,000 for the capture of the beast.

Hundreds of boy scouts and outdoorsmen arrived, some venturing out in small boats, others setting up deck chairs and waiting expectantly for the monster to appear.

Hunters began flocking to Loch Ness in the hope of capturing the monster.  One man said he was "determined to catch the monster dead or alive".  Another hunting party claimed they were having a special harpoon gun made and would return with 20 "experienced men" to track the monster down.


This development alarmed everyone.  Everyone agreed that as the creature was popular with the public, it would be better not to kill either it or the myth.

There was so much certainty that a creature did indeed exist that in Parliament, the House of Commons debated what sort of protection might be afforded the monster.  Documents show consideration was given to issues such as stationing observers round the loch to capture Nessie on camera and whether it would be possible to trap the monster without injury.

"That there is some strange creature in Loch Ness seems now beyond doubt, but whether the police have any power to protect it is very doubtful." 


December 1933 - Marmaduke Wetherell

In just one year, the story had infected all of Great Britain.  Indeed, the story had spread to most of the planet as well.  This frenzy set the scene for perhaps the most incredible story of all.  Into this super-charged atmosphere appeared a former soldier of fortune with the improbable name of Marmaduke Wetherell. The world would never be the same.

Marmaduke (“Duke”) A. Wetherell (1884-1956) was a flamboyant Fleet Street figure.  A born self-promoter, some called him a rogue and a scalawag.  His dubious reputation aside, Duke was a character so profoundly absurd that a movie should be made about him... or at least a statue in his honor should be erected for his part in creating the Loch Ness Monster legend. 

The most extensive account of Wetherell on the Internet can be found in a strange article concerning the making of the 1917 movie Rose of Rhodesia.  Duke Wetherell was the lead actor in the movie. 

Yorkshire-born Marmaduke (“Duke”) A. Wetherell began his career overseas as a frontier policeman in the Bechuanaland Protectorate (Botswana).

Returning to England, he acted in northern repertory theaters and spent a couple of years in North-Western Rhodesia (Zambia) as a pioneer farmer at Choma before taking to the stage again in 1912 with Leonard Rayne’s South African touring company. He was “loaned” to AFP in 1916, appearing as a lead character in most of their films, and played an active role in the production of A Border Scourge in Swaziland over Christmas and New Year of 1916-17.

According to one report, “Duke” had got on splendidly with Labotsibeni, the sage old Queen Mother of the Swazi

Born in Yorkshire up in the northern part of England, Duke Wetherell spent much of his 20s and 30s overseas in Africa.  First Wetherell was a policeman.  Then he was an actor in the 1917 silent-film classic Rose of Rhodesia (we've all seen that one, right?). There are even suggestions that Wetherell was once the boyfriend of Labotsibeni, the most famous African queen in the world.

After his acting career tailed off, Wetherell morphed into a big-game hunter and safari leader. Later in the 1930s, he became a writer, director, and producer back in England.  Or so he says.

If a movie is ever made about the story behind the Loch Ness Monster furor, Duke Wetherell has to be the lead role for sure.  One can easily visualize the hype:

"This is the incredible story of an cop turned actor turned big game hunter turned monster hunter.  Doc Savage and Indiana Jones, meet Marmaduke Wetherell... khaki shirt, bushy beard, monkey perched on shoulder, wide brimmed hat, maniacal stare, monster beware!"

For a man who led a wild and colorful life, Wetherell would become most famous for permanently etching the Loch Ness Monster legend deep into the hearts and minds of the entire world. 

Who better to track down an elusive dinosaur than our brave hero, Marmaduke Wetherell, the infamous big game hunter from the deadly jungles of Africa?


The Hunt for Nessie Begins

Rick Archer's Note:  Much of the following account was written by Tony Harmsworth in his book "Loch Ness Understood"

The flurry of 1933 dinosaur sightings had captured the public's imagination in a big way.  People were hungry for information. 

The London-based newspaper Daily Mail was hot on the trail of the story.  Even the slightest mention of the Loch Ness Monster was huge for sales.  Now the Daily Mail was no longer content to simply wait for new stories to break. 

They wanted to stir things up a little.  So in December 1933 the paper decided to send an expedition up to Loch Ness.  They found the right man to lead the chase.

Wetherell wasted no time.  On December 18, he set off for the loch with an entourage of reporters.  He also brought along a Daily Mail photographer named Pauli to better document his glorious adventure.

Wetherell seemed very confident.  He even
chartered a motor vessel called the Penguin in case it became necessary to pursue the monster across the loch.  Wetherell said he wasn't going to just photograph the beast, he would even try to capture it if the opportunity presented itself.

Wetherell's next move was to enlist the help of young Arthur Grant, the veterinary student who had nearly run into the monster while riding his motorbike several months back.  Wetherell asked Grant to show him the spot where the creature had been sitting in the road near Abriachan

After just 48 hours of searching,
Wetherell found fresh footprints on the loch's beach of a large, four-toed animal. Based on the stride between these newly laid footprints, this suggested to his experienced stalker's eye "a very powerful soft-footed animal about 20 feet long."  Wetherell added that this track was less than a few hours old.

Even better, thanks to Wetherell's foresight to bring a photographer along, his friend Pauli was Johnny on the spot to immortalize the exact moment that Wetherell discovered giant footprints in the sandy dirt.

That was fast!  People throughout the Loch Ness community were impressed at how quickly Wetherell had made progress.  Was it just good fortune or was it Wetherell's great skill as a big game hunter which enabled him to discover those rather large footprints nearby?  Whatever the answer, his skill was simply amazing. 

With great fanfare, Wetherell made plaster casts of the giant footprints.

Shortly before Christmas Eve, he sent them off to the British Natural History Museum in London for analysis.  The Daily Mail printed every detail and electrified the country.  The odd timing of Wetherell's discovery made for a very unusual Christmas Season in Merrye Olde England.

People were so excited they could hardly contain themselves.  However, the examiners told everyone to calm down; they would need some time to study these prints.  Besides, it was Christmas.  People would just have to wait. After all, they had families too!

Forced to wait for the museum’s verdict all through Christmas and into the 1934 New Year, no one had the slightest bit of patience. While the world waited for the museum zoologists to return from holiday, legions of monster hunters descended on Loch Ness, filling the local hotels.

Inverness was floodlit for the occasion and traffic jammed the shoreline roads in both directions.  Santa Claus was spotted near the lake twice.

Calm down?  As for the Daily Mail, it wasn't going to wait. Far from it!  Heck, their very own guy had broken the Monster story wide open with his footprint discovery. 

Marmaduke Wetherell had been hired in December 1933 in part due to his boast that he could produce fast results.  Now that the big game hunter had delivered, they weren't going to sit on the scoop of the century for nothing!

Pictured is the Daily Mail's famous headline.  Note the date on the paper is December 21, 1933.  This was the issue where the Daily Mail broke the news of Wetherell's amazing discovery.  The world was on fire with Monster Fever.

All that was left now was the wait for the upcoming Museum announcement.  That seemed a certainty.  Surely the experts would confirm the footprint conclusively proved the existence of a dinosaur-like amphibian living in the Loch Ness waters.  The excitement was unbearable.

It took ten days, but finally the suspense was over. The British Museum said it was ready with an announcement.

A breathless army of reporters rushed over to report the big news.  The Museum said their analysis had shown that the footprints were entirely consistent with that of a somewhat shriveled hippopotamus foot.

Hippopotamus?  What exactly was a hippopotamus footprint doing next to the spot where Arthur Grant had spotted the monster?  There had been 27 sightings of the Monster in 1933 and not one of them suggested a hippo.

Many theories abounded about the source of this foot and all sorts of explanations were provided.  These suggestions ranged from a local person’s umbrella stand to the possibility that a circus had passed by and allowed a real hippo to go for a swim. 

The circus theory claimed that over the years many traveling circuses had used the road that runs parallel to the loch. They theorized that larger animals such as hippos and elephants were set free to cool off and wash in the waters of the loch.  In fact, perhaps the alleged serpent was in reality just your average elephant going for a swim, resulting in what looked like some sort of monster from a distance.

It wasn't difficult to poke holes in this theory.  For one thing, what sort of African-born hippo or elephant wants to "cool off" in the icy Loch in December?  The poor animal would surely either freeze to death or at the minimum get sick. 

And what circus lets its valuable elephants swim free in the Loch?  What if Babar doesn't want to return?  Then what?  Just how exactly does one coax a giant elephant into coming back on shore?  Play bagpipes? 

These circus theories were so preposterous that almost overnight the entire planet lost its patience with the monster stories.  Most people thought there was a much better explanation... someone had obviously planted that mysterious footprint and that person was probably Marmaduke Wetherell!

Every newspaper in Great Britain had a field day with that one... except the London Daily Mail of course.  The editors there didn't see any humor at all.

Wetherell explained to the Daily Mail that he himself had been hoaxed by the fake hippo print.  Nonsense. The paper didn't believe a word he said.  Now that Wetherell had made himself as well as the Daily Mail the laughing stock of the nation, the Daily Mail promptly sacked the amazing big game hunter... and apparently they weren't delicate about it either.   

Embarrassed and humiliated, Wetherell became bitter over his treatment by the paper.  He slunk back to Twickenham a bitter and beaten man.

Marmaduke and the Daily Mail weren't the only ones crimson-faced with shame.  The entire Inverness area had become the butt of the joke for the whole world. It wasn't easy, but most people had been willing to keep a straight face when Hugh Gray's picture of the blob was first published.

However, the sheer absurdity of the circus explanation pushed everyone completely over the edge. In the blink of an eyelash, the farce surrounding the fake hippo footprint switched the Monster story from serious business to great mirth.  People began to giggle.

Soon the outburst of hilarity was absolutely seismic. It had taken the work of only one idiot like Wetherell to change the entire world's perspective from excitement and fascination to ridicule.  Once the monster rumor was seen in this new and far less flattering light, the Inverness area was taken to task for trying to dupe the world with their ridiculous fish tale.

Cartoons mocking the monster legend began to appear in newspapers around the world.  Everyone had a good laugh and pretty soon the story completely vanished from the papers. 

Monster Fever was done with and put to rest.  Or so they thought...




1934 - The Surgeon's Photo

The furor had barely died down when
suddenly the Loch Ness Monster came roaring back to life. Only four short months had passed since the footprint scandal when a new development shocked the nation.

On April 21, 1934, the iconic picture of the monster first appeared in the London Daily Mail.  The sensation this photo caused was practically cataclysmic.  People were dumbfounded.  Seeing was definitely believing.

"Oh my gosh, it's real!  The monster is real!  I can't believe it. It's really real after all!"

The story behind the famous picture involved Colonel Robert Kenneth Wilson, a highly respected London-based gynecologist.  Wilson had quietly come forward to present the London Daily Mail with a picture that appeared to show a sea serpent rising out of the water of the Loch. 

Wilson said he took the photograph early in the morning on April 19, 1934, while driving along the northern shore of Loch Ness. Returning from a hunting trip, Wilson noticed something moving in the water and stopped his car to take a photo.

Wilson turned out to be rather skittish about his remarkable photograph.

He preferred the paper keep his identity a secret.  Wilson did not mind accepting money from the paper in exchange for rights to his valuable photograph, but oddly enough, he refused to allow his name to be used.    When asked, he said the lady companion along with him that day was a married woman... but not married to him...

Meanwhile, since "gynecologist" didn't have the right ring to it, the Daily Mail named it The Surgeon's Photo.

Copies of the photo quickly appeared in newspapers around the world, captivating people in every distant corner of the planet.

Besides the excitement, it didn't take long for the burning question to be raised.  How valid is this photo?  The debate began; this became the most controversial topic of the day. 

Not surprisingly, the skeptics came out in droves.  Their patience with this nonsense was completely exhausted.  They didn't believe the picture was legitimate.  Plus the footprint scandal had left a bad taste.  Fool me once, shame on you, but fool me twice, shame on me.

However, the iconic image managed to withstand the challenge.  Although it never actually proved the existence of the Loch Ness monster, it was sufficiently compelling to nourish the legend and shake the doubters.  For one thing, this time the new evidence managed to win over many of the scientists.  Scientific experts were called in to examine the photo and they declared it could be a plesiosaur.  They also mulled over the wave patterns and concluded the beast was definitely on the move, adding to the picture's authenticity (a stationary photo would be easier to fake).

Meanwhile the London Daily Mail stood firmly beside its image.  Unlike the fake hippo print, this photograph proved much more difficult to question and to prove false.  Even better, the public was on their side.  To their satisfaction, the public was by and large completely convinced this photo was the real thing.

When asked who had taken the picture, the editors referred to the impeccable reputation of the source.  They told anyone who asked that the man who brought forward the picture did not wish to have his privacy violated, but that he was an upstanding pillar of the community. 

Of course, the mystery of the man's identity simply reinforced the skeptics' belief that the London Daily Mail would stop at nothing.

So who was this mystery man?

Lt Colonel Robert Kenneth Wilson (1899-1969) fought in both world wars. Wilson was no ordinary pencil pusher who barked orders from a safe, comfortable office in London.  In WW I, Wilson had seen action at the front lines and received several promotions.  In the upcoming WWII, Wilson would join the Special Operations Executive to parachute behind enemy lines into Holland, France and Borneo. He was obviously a very brave man.

Wilson was a well-known expert on firearms.  He was asked to lecture on ballistics at the Old Bailey during the 1930s. He also wrote a definitive text on automatic pistols with editions published in 1943 and 1975.

Wilson was also an accomplished physician.  He was an Edinburgh Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons (1926) who had a practice in general surgery and gynecology on Queen Anne Street and Harley Street during the 1930s.

In other words, R. Kenneth Wilson, MD, wasn't your average witness.  He was a highly respected member of the London medical community. If Wilson said he had taken a photo of the Loch Ness Monster, the London Daily Mail was not ready to rigorously interrogate the good doctor.

And why should they?  This photograph was worth a king's ransom.  The paper's circulation was at an all-time peak.  It was hardly in their best interests to ask too many hard questions.

This photograph would become the defining image of the Loch Ness.
The picture itself was riveting. In many ways, the monster's new picture far exceeded the imaginations of most people.  Previous descriptions had included unflattering words such as "beast, abomination, snail-like".

Instead what people saw now was a classic portrait of an upraised head and long slender neck held over the waterline. To everyone's surprise, the monster was as poised and graceful as any swan, yet decidedly serpentine in its visage.

The subtlety of the shadowed figure on the gloomy waters made a dramatic impact.  People weren't afraid of it anymore.  As monsters go, whatever it was, it didn't seem particularly dangerous. In fact, this lost-in-time creature seemed vulnerable and very lonely.  It evoked a type of sympathy.

Furthermore, people could not help but look at the photo and think, "Hey, that's a damn good-looking monster!"  As any fan of Dracula will attest, if a monster is sexy and good-looking, people will forgive a lot of things.  And let's face it - Nessie was very sexy.

The picture was a real boon for the Monster Legend.  Without this photograph, the legend may very well have perished for good.  Instead, the goofy hippo prank was quickly forgotten and the Faithful returned.  Hopeful viewers of a wild spectacle flocked to the loch in droves.  Countless people lined the shores with binoculars, cameras and picnic lunches to peer out over the waters should Nessie decide to reappear for an encore.

The famous 1934 picture that started all the fuss

Thanks to the Surgeon's Photo, the media had a field day.  The world had become totally infatuated with the Monster. In fact, the picture had become so popular that the world begged to know the identity of the hero who had snapped the photo.  Noting the fanfare, Wilson, the reclusive surgeon, decided to come forward and identify himself.

Do you remember Rupert T. Gould, the man who interviewed George Spicer?   Apparently R Kenneth Wilson contacted Gould and did an interview.  In turn, Gould put Wilson's "Surgeon's Photo" on the cover of his book The Loch Ness Monster and Others and published Wilson's identity for the first time.  This was quite a coup for Gould and guaranteed his book would become a best-seller.

No one can be sure why Wilson chose to step forward, but people have speculated Wilson originally wanted to escape the kind of criticism and ridicule that had followed publication of Hugh Gray's "Blob" photo.  Once he realized his picture was a huge hit, perhaps Wilson wanted to bask in the adulation for breaking this mystery wide-open.

So what did Rupert Gould learn from Wilson's report? 

On April 19th, 1934, Wilson and a friend named Maurice Chambers were driving northward (note that Wilson changed his story about the 'married woman' who was his earlier reason for not saying much).  The two men had leased a wild fowl shoot near Inverness and meant to take some photographs of the birds.

Wilson had borrowed a camera with a telephoto lens for the occasion. It was 7 am in the morning. They stopped the car on a small promontory two miles north of Invermoriston.  As they stood watching the surface, they noticed signs of 'considerable commotion'. Wilson's friend Chambers shouted, "My God, it's the monster!"

Wilson rushed to the car, came back with the camera, and managed to expose four plates in such a hurry that he did not even look at what he was photographing. The creature almost immediately withdrew below the water surface.

Wilson said he never got much of a look at it.  Wilson claimed only to have seen "something in the water" some 200-300 yards from shore. Unsure whether he had captured anything, Wilson hurried to town and took the plates to a chemist named Morrison, announcing that he had just seen and photographed the Loch Ness Monster.  


The first two exposures were blank and the fourth one lackluster.  However the third photo was exceptional; it became the one known worldwide as the "Surgeon's Photograph".

Oddly enough, the publication of Wilson's photo provided a closure of sorts.  People were much happier believing Wilson's photo was legitimate after the disappointment of the fake hippo print.  It was obvious that the public wanted there to be a Loch Ness Monster.

Regardless, the Loch Ness Monster faded from public interest shortly afterward with the rise of a far greater monster, Adolph Hitler.  As threats of a Second World War loomed ominously, people now had a far more serious problem to concern themselves with.

Indeed, for the next 60 years, outside of the Inverness area, Nessie was largely forgotten. There was an occasional new photograph, but none anywhere near as compelling as Wilson's had been.

During this time, R Kenneth Wilson's picture became accepted in the public's mind as the true picture of the Loch Ness Monster. 
Wilson had not only photographed Nessie, he had immortalized her.  




1933 - 1993 

60 Years Later, the Truth comes out.

For over half a century, the Surgeon's Photo served as an enduring symbol to rally all true believers.  The photo was so compelling that the Believers based much of their defense upon its validity. Whenever the Skeptics appeared to be winning the Nessie-doesn't-exist argument, the Believers would trot out the cornerstone of their defense, "But what about the Surgeon's Photo?"

Try as they might, thanks to that photo, the Skeptics were getting nowhere debunking the story in the court of public opinion.  The Skeptics could churn out dozens of scientific reasons why the Monster had to be a Myth, but as long as that picture stood, the Loch Ness Monster was Real in the public's eye.

In 1991, researchers Alastair Boyd, a zoologist, and David Martin, a writer, were members of a scientific project dedicated to discern the truth of the Loch Ness mystery.

Leaving no stone unturned, they came across an obscure 1975 letter in the gossip column of a British news magazine in which Marmaduke Wetherell's son Ian claimed he and his father had once fabricated a photograph of the monster. 


Ian Wetherell, now 62, had written a letter to Mandrake of "Sunday Morning with Mandrake". (Note: Mandrake is the name of the long-established social diary in The Sunday Telegraph newspaper).

Ian Wetherell related how he had once helped his father and a man named Maurice Chambers pull off a fake Nessie picture.  

"We found an inlet where the tiny ripples would look like full size waves out on the loch, and with the actual scenery in the background. Then it was just a matter of winding up the sub and getting it to dive just below the surface so the neck and head drew a proper little V in the water."

Boyd and Martin stared at the yellowed newsprint in shock. This December 7, 1975, letter in the Sunday Telegraph was a real corker, but apparently the entire world had missed its significance.  Why had they never heard of this before?  And why didn't anyone follow up on it? 

At first thought, they assumed that no one knew how to put two and two together.

First, the monster's existence wasn't exactly a burning issue in 1975.  No one was keen on the Ness monster at the moment.  So 'apathy' was one explanation.

Second, Ian Wetherell did not specify which particular photograph of the monster he was speaking of.  Since there were at least a dozen or more possibilities to choose from, no one suspected this might have something to do with the most important photo of all, the Surgeon's Photo.

Finally, most people reading the paper had not the slightest idea in 1975 that the "Wetherell" name had been intimately connected to the monster from back in 1934.  Consequently the average citizen never gave the admission a second thought. 

What really aroused Boyd and Martin's curiosity were two unusual facts contained in the letter.  Ian Wetherell had named Maurice Chambers as a part of the conspiracy.  Boyd and Martin remembered Wilson had told Rupert Gould that Chambers was his companion on the day he took photo.

Also Ian Wetherell had mentioned that the photo taken had included the far shoreline in the image. Very few people knew that the Surgeon's Photo was actually a crop taken from a much larger picture that had a stretch of the Loch Ness shoreline in the background.  However, Boyd and Martin were well aware of this obscure fact.

This letter had a definite ring of authenticity about it! 

Then Boyd and Martin stumbled on another mind-blowing fact.  They noted that the Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau and Maurice Burton of the Natural History Museum possessed copies of the 1975 article, but had not given the information any apparent importance. 

How could this be?  How could such an important lead as this have slipped through the cracks?


The more they thought about it, the more bewildered Martin and Boyd became.  Staring them in the face was clear evidence that certain authors of published works about the Loch Ness monster were behaving suspiciously.  These authors had access to correspondence and other information that should have made them realize the Surgeon's Photograph was a hoax.  But seemingly they had dropped the ball.

In Boyd and Martin's opinion, it likely would have taken a willful ignorance to ignore the true significance of what the materials meant. This was too big an oversight to be a mistake.

Then it dawned on them - there had been a cover-up.  Certain knowledgeable people had deliberately chosen to suppress the truth about the Surgeon's Photograph.  Obviously they had their reasons and agenda to allow the Surgeon's Photo to continue unchallenged.

Boyd and Martin took a while to let that sink in.  Both men continued to shake their heads in disbelief.  This was like a 4 year old learning there was no Santa Claus, but much worse. They had dedicated their lives to uncovering the truth only to find out they were being deceived by certain people they trusted.

After talking it over, they decided they wanted to know as much of the truth as possible.  Unfortunately, sixteen years had passed since the 1975 article.  They knew Wilson, Chambers, and Marmaduke Wetherell had already died. But what about Ian Witherell?  No luck.  They soon learned that Ian Wetherell had died five years earlier in 1986. 

However, there was one last hope.  Christian Spurling, Ian's 89 year-old step-brother, was still around... but just barely. 

David Martin took the lead.  Martin and his wife Jane met Spurling and his wife Joy at Spurling's home in February 1991. To Martin's undying relief, Spurling was more than willing to talk about the Surgeon's Photo.  Spurling said this whole affair had been a prank cooked up by his stepfather Marmaduke Wetherell.  Spurling's key comment at that meeting was: "It's not a genuine photograph. It's a load of codswallop and always has been." 

Spurling added the popularity of the photograph had long been a source of great amusement to his family.  In other words, the secret of the Surgeon's Photo was known to quite a few people in the family circle, but no one bothered to share this bombshell with the outside world.  Martin shook his head in disbelief.  With so many people aware of Marmaduke's shenanigans, how had the truth stayed hidden for so long?

Boyd and Martin decided there could be only one explanation.  The truth had stayed hidden this long because practically everyone associated with the monster wanted it to stay that way.   

Alistair Boyd asked to participate in the follow-up interview.  Boyd and Martin visited Spurling in June 1992.  This time Spurling was ready to tell everything that had happened down to the last detail.

Christian Spurling's Story

Spurling said he had been 30 years old when the fuss and fury surrounding the monster had reached its fever pitch.  Like anyone else, he and his younger stepbrother Ian, 21 at the time, had followed the events of 1933 in the paper closely.  So did his stepfather Marmaduke Wetherell. 

In his youth, Marmaduke had spent many years leading safari expeditions through the African bush in South Africa and surrounding areas.  As a big game hunter, he was no stranger to tracking large and very dangerous animals.  Those had definitely been his glory years.  But Duke Wetherell was 50 now.  Those days were long gone.  Now Wetherell missed the limelight badly. 

As Spurling explained, in the privacy of his home, it turned out Marmaduke believed in the existence of the monster.  In fact, Marmaduke was obsessed with the monster.  Almost daily he would speak of his ever-changing theories about the monster.  One day it was a hippo, the next day a giant salamander, a rhino, a giant tortoise, a sturgeon or a seal.  

Finally Duke Wetherell couldn't take it anymore.  He was itching to get back in the game and he had an idea how to do it.  He would approach the London Daily Mail and offer his services tracking down the Loch Ness monster.

Sure enough, he set up an appointment.  Duke Wetherell started the interview by boasting of his prowess in the African bush. He told stories how he had led wealthy men deep into the wilderness and how he always came through for them.  He could track any animal in the world.

However, the men at the Daily Mail were very skeptical.  Tracking a lion in Botswana was one thing, but how did he expect to find an underwater monster when not one local person in the area had the slightest clue?  Where was he going to look first?  What was he going to use for bait? 

Wetherell was unfazed.  He confidently predicted he could pull this off.  Bankroll him for two weeks and he would guarantee results. 

The Daily Mail editors rolled their eyes. This seemed like a waste of money.  However, that's when Wetherell reminded them how people had said the same thing about Christopher Columbus and look how that gamble had turned out.

In the end, Wetherell's brazen confidence and fast-talk had won him the job.  The editors could not believe the brass of this guy, but heck, why not?  What did they have to lose? 

But now Wetherell felt pressure to produce quick results.  In fact, he was worried he had bitten off more than he chew.  He was desperate for the attention any sort of discovery would bring him, but he had no more idea how to find the monster than the next guy.  It wasn't like the monster was going to leave bread crumbs in the water for him to follow.

Now Christian Spurling dropped a bombshell.  It was Marmaduke's desperation to justify his big talk quickly that had prompted him to fake the hippo print in the first place.

Boyd and Martin were incredulous.  They could hardly believe their ears.  In the past, Marmaduke had always denied that he had been the one to fake the footprint.  So they asked Spurling to elaborate.


Spurling said that the night prior to leaving for Loch Ness to begin his expedition, Marmaduke had been talking about how important it was to produce immediate results for the newspaper.  Marmaduke had already decided this expedition was his last hope at a big score. He wanted to recapture the glory of his youth when all cameras were focused on him. He was determined to milk this opportunity for a long ride back to fame. 

As he smoked a cigarette in his den, Marmaduke noticed his solid silver ashtray was set on top of an actual hippopotamus foot. Hmm. He picked it up and ran his fingers over the four-toed base.  The wheels of his mind turned.

On the spot, Marmaduke decided to pack the hippo ashtray and bring it along with him.  In other words, Marmaduke Wetherell had come fully prepared to create his own discovery.  After exploring the area for a couple days, one night Wetherell slipped out of his hotel and returned to the investigation area to make the footprints while there was no one around.

Wetherell thought he was so clever. And then to his dismay, he got busted by the Museum of Natural History. 


Spurling paused for a moment.  In fact, Spurling suggested, the original silver ashtray was probably still in the possession of the Wetherell family.  Spurling imagined Boyd and Martin could track it down if they cared to.

Then Spurling laughed.  One of the amazing facts of Marmaduke's ploy is that no one in the press had ever printed that the footprints were all from the same left hind foot.  Didn't anyone find that a little bit strange? 

And no one in the press had pointed out that the hippo print from the ashtray was less than half the size of an ordinary hippo's foot.

If anything, the Museum of Natural History had done Wetherell a real favor by limiting their public criticism.  When they called it a "somewhat shriveled hippo foot", what they really meant to say was that the footprint was nowhere near the right size.

Spurling laughed some more, then started up with more of the tale. 


Spurling said he had not known in advance what his stepfather had tried to pull off, but once he learned the truth, he was proud of the old man.  What a brilliant trick!

His stepfather was quite a guy. He had more guts than any man he had ever met.  Marmaduke had attempted to fool the entire world with an ashtray hippo print.  How would anyone ever be able to top that?

On the other hand, his grandfather had been also been a real fool. In retrospect, this hippo foot prank probably didn't have the slightest chance in hell to succeed.  Unfortunately, Wetherell had simply not thought this through properly. 

Too bad it hadn't worked out.  Nice try though! 

Now Wetherell had to face the music.  The editors at the London Daily Mail reamed him inside and out.  Wetherell had ruined the credibility of their paper.  His stupid stunt had made their paper not just the laughingstock of London, but the entire goddamn world!  What the hell was he thinking?

Wetherell lamely tried to bluster his way out by saying someone in the Loch Ness area had played a dirty trick on him, but the editors weren't buying it.  They had correctly guessed that Wetherell would say anything to save his skin.  After all, what was that nonsense about the footprint's "spoor" being only a few hours old?  Gosh, Marmaduke, are you telling us you can't tell a hippo track from a sea monster track? What were you DOING in Africa all those years?

That's when they told him to get the hell out of their office and go jump in a loch.  Then for good measure, the Daily Mail printed a story publicly castigating Wetherell for the entire scandal. If the public wanted to blame someone for the deception, go take it up with Marmaduke Wetherell, not the paper.

Marmaduke was incensed at the way those snobs at the Daily Mail had treated him.  No one had the right to talk to him like that!  No one had the right to publicly embarrass him like that!  He was completely and utterly humiliated. 

Spurling paused for a moment. He pointed out that Wetherell had a lot of pride.  He didn't handle some of the things those editors called him very well.  "Scam artist, buffoon, rhino chaser, big talker."  His oversized ego was badly wounded.  But the worst part was the public criticism.  Unfortunately, there wasn't much Wetherell could do to fight back.  It wasn't libel for a paper to tell the truth.

As Spurling put it, "My stepfather was an extrovert, an eccentric, a likeable rogue.  But most of all, he was a vain attention seeker. The paper had insulted him and slapped him the face.  He vowed to get even."  


Spurling said his stepfather had seethed for days on end.  However, rather than accept his humiliation was his own fault, Wetherell decided the fat cats at the Daily Mail needed to pay for their cheekiness.  He was going to teach them a lesson.

That is when Marmaduke Wetherwell made his fateful decision.  He decided to pull one over on the smug bastards.  Muttering aloud, "We'll give them their monster," he and his son Ian decided to stage a photo.  They started by purchasing a clockwork submarine and several tins of plastic wood.

Next Marmaduke and his son Ian approached Christian Spurling with the idea of creating a fake monster.  Spurling was brought in on the conspiracy due to his skills as an expert model-maker. 

"The fake monster was modeled on the idea of a sea serpent," Spurling recalled.  Spurling decided to be careful.  He intended to make it took look as realistic as possible.  First he studied a book of dinosaurs. He picked the plesiosaur since it best resembled various sketches of the creature made back in 1933.  Then he took his time making the dinosaur look realistic. 

In all, it took him 8 days to build the model. Mounting the 12-inch wood plastic sea serpent model on top of the 14-inch toy submarine, he now had a miniature monster simulation way ahead of its time, easily 60 years ahead of Spielberg's Jurassic Park dinosaurs.

Confident they had done their job well, now they had to find a sponsor.  It would do no good for Marmaduke to prance back into the London Daily Mail waving his photographs.  For this to work, they needed to find someone credible to sell their photo to the world. 

A mutual acquaintance named Maurice Chambers, an insurance agent, suggested Colonel R. Kenneth Wilson.  Robert Wilson and Chambers had leased a wildfowl shoot at the Beauly Firth near Inverness. Maybe they could photograph the monster model up near there, get it developed and then take it to the paper.

Chambers explained to Marmaduke that his buddy Wilson was extremely fond of a practical joke. The surgeon would be a suitable candidate since Wilson had a devilish sense of humor and would be ripe for a good prank.  Spurling didn't think that wasn't much of a reason for Wilson to participate, but apparently all it took was a suggestion from Chambers to get Wilson on board.  Chambers said Dr. Wilson was game to give it a try.



(Note:  One really has to wonder why a doctor like Wilson risked his entire career and reputation to participate in this scheme when there was nothing in it for him.  Wilson had nothing to gain and much to lose.)

On April 19, 1934, Duke and Ian Wetherell drove one car to Loch Ness while Wilson and Chambers drove another.

They found a quiet bay at the edge of the loch and put the submarine in motion.  Ian Wetherell took four photos.  Despite the small size of the model, once surrounded by water, the men agreed the monster model looked very realistic.

Now it was time for Robert Kenneth Wilson to offer the pictures to the Daily Mail.  This was the easy part.  The Daily Mail took the bait faster than you can say 'Trojan Horse'.

So history was made and Wetherell got his revenge.  Or did he?

Wetherell's newest stunt backfired in a very strange way. The irony is that the fake picture was the luckiest thing to ever happen to the Daily Mail.  The paper saw its circulation explode and never suffered the slightest negative consequence in the process.

Wetherell's original plan was to expose the newspaper for its greedy tendency to publish anything without regard for the truth.  However, to the astonishment of the five conspirators, the fake monster trick had worked far too well.  The photo of the monster had become international news!  Even more amazing, the Scientific Community by and large gave its approval.

Spurling's model had been perfect. Maybe too perfect. The idea of the moving submarine was brilliant. The illusion of motion really helped sell the authenticity. By mounting the fake monster on a toy submarine, the waves created around the serpent helped create a highly realistic photo.   In the photo, the waves suggested this monster was clearly moving through the water.  This helped dispel any suspicion of a fake photo. 

But the real coup was getting someone respectable like Dr. Wilson to join the plot and draw suspicion away from Duke Wetherell.

The original plan was for Marmaduke to come forward and tell an competing newspaper how he had pulled one over on the Daily Mail.  But Duke had not expected the photo would be widely accepted by the public as real.  That surprise changed everything.  Now the conspirators realized they would taking a real chance were they to come clean.  The pranksters were trapped by their own success.  Their trick had aroused such a huge fuss, now they were afraid to confess.

Dr. Wilson had the most to lose.  His medical practice depended on the respect of every professional person in London.  One slip and his reputation was ruined.  Christian Spurling, Marmaduke and Ian Wetherell weren't in the clear either.  At the least, they might be facing criminal prosecution, but at the worst the wrath of an entire world might drop on their heads for tricking them.  If the truth came out, would some disappointed monster lover beat them up or burn their house down? 

All five men agreed that to expose the monster as fake now would doom them to be regarded as the worst people on the planet.  The pranksters decided the smartest path was to keep quiet. That explains why Marmaduke abandoned his revenge angle. He felt things had gotten too out of hand to speak up now. Instead he wisely chose to laugh quietly to himself. So Marmaduke remained uncharacteristically silent until his death in the 1950's.

Dr. Wilson had gone a separate route.  As the clamor rose for the identity of the photographer, he knew someone at the Daily Mail would eventually leak his name.  At that point, there would be many questions.

Seeing how there was no way he was going to dodge being identified at some point, Wilson took the bull by the horns and decided to step forward.  Better to speak up and play the hero than wait to be identified.  Wilson granted the Commander Rupert Gould an interview.  By wrapping himself in the respectability of Gould's upcoming book on the Loch Ness monster, Wilson could establish his 'alibi' and pray that it took hold. 

Although Wilson had earlier claimed his friend was a married woman, now he admitted it had been Maurice Chambers who was in the car with him. Wilson figured the more truth he told, the better his chances of coming out unscathed.


And with that, Spurling concluded his story.  He pointed out that he didn't care what anyone thought about him.  And the other four were long gone.  Duke Wetherell and Maurice Chambers died in the mid-Fifties. R. Kenneth Wilson died in Australia in 1969. His stepbrother Ian Wetherell had died in 1986. 


In an odd turn, Christian Spurling himself died in November 1993.  This happened just weeks after finishing the interviews regarding his strange tale. 

With Spurling deceased, there was no hurry.  So the researchers decided to time their scoop to the 60th anniversary of the photograph.  They deliberately waited four months after his death before breaking the news. 

Boyd and Martin released the story of the scandal to the public on March 11, 1994. 


Of course, the media immediately termed Spurling's story a "deathbed confession", but that wasn't exactly true.  After all, Boyd and Martin had sought out Spurling, not the other way around. 

However, terming it "deathbed confession" made it seem more dramatic, so that's how people referred to it.

Five years later in 1999, Boyd and Martin would go on to offer every juicy detail in a book, Nessie: the Surgeon's Photograph Exposed.

In case anyone is curious, Spurling said the fake model is buried at Loch Ness.  Apparently shortly after the photo shoot, Duke Wetherell heard the water bailiff approaching.  Panicked at being caught, Wetherell stuck his foot out and crushed the fragile model.  Then he mashed it into the sand beneath the shallow waters.

So one can assume there truly is at least one Loch Ness Monster lying down at the bottom of Loch Ness.

(For a wonderful 2 minute National Geographic recap of this story, click here)


Here We Go Again!!


Rick Archer's Note:  Just when you think things can't get any weirder, it turns out there has been a recent 2013 replay of the Surgeon's Photo scenario.  And what is especially funny is that our old friend the Daily Mail is carrying the story.  Some things never change!

Cruise Boat Skipper Admits Hoax!

By Lizzie Edmonds
The Daily Mail Online
5 October 2013

George Edwards' March 2012 photo was billed as some of the most convincing evidence that the Loch Ness Monster did exist.

But now the skipper behind the image of Nessie has now confirmed it is a fake.

George Edwards owned up to the hoax - saying he'd created the fraud for 'a bit of fun'.

The 61-year-old simply photographed the same fake hump that was featured in the 2011 National Geographic documentary, Truth Behind the Loch Ness Monster.

Today Mr Edwards, who was involved in the production of the documentary and had access to the fake hump, said he had no regrets about the picture despite fooling people for over a year.

The image will now join a host of other fakes, including the now notorious image taken by Dr Robert Kenneth Wilson in 1934 showing the monster's head and long neck.

Fraud: George Edwards, pictured in his tour boat,
says the mystery of the monster brings tourism to the area.
He does not regret publishing his fake photo.


This is Nessie expert Steve Feltham pictured beside the carbon fiber hump that George Edwards used to produce his image.

This 'hump' was originally used in a 2011 National Geographic documentary

Mr Edwards, a cruise boat operator on Loch Ness, produced and published the image in March of 2012.

Mr. Edwards said:

"Why should I feel guilty for having a bit of fun?

Where would Loch Ness be without the world’s best known forgery, the Surgeon’s Photograph?

These so-called experts come along with their theories about big waves and big fish, and their visitor center, but I’m sick to death of them.

People come here for a holiday and a bit of fun. I’m one of the people who has brought thousands of people to the Highlands over the years. I can tell you they don’t come here for the science."

The skipper also added that the picture was well known as a fake - and that he had owned up to it just days after the image was published.

However, there is no record of Mr Edwards' confession.

Furthermore, at the time Mr Edwards released his now-debunked picture, he was adamant it was genuine.

Back when Edwards was first questioned about his Monster photo in 2012, he said at the time:

"I did not want to mention my sighting until I was sure that I had not photographed a log or something inanimate in the water in the water.

I have friends in the USA who have friends in the military. They had my photo analyzed and they have no doubt that I photographed an animate object in the water. I was really excited as I am sure that some strange creatures are lurking in the depths of Loch Ness."

Edwards told how he spent his life on the loch - around 60 hours a week - taking tourists out on his boat Nessie Hunter IV. He has led numerous Nessie hunts over the years.

Edwards said the image he photographed in 2012 convinced him that there really was a monster out there.  The image showed a mysterious dark hump moving in the water towards Urquhart Castle in the distance.

This is the picture George Edwards published in March 2012.
He has now admitted that this picture is a fake. 
Edwards said he did it for "the fun of it".

At the time Mr Edwards first released his picture, he was adamant it was genuine. 'Unequivocal': Edwards said he had the picture independently verified by a team of US military monster experts as well as a Nessie sighting specialist.  He now says he released the image for 'a bit of fun'

Back in 2012, Edwards said this about his photograph:

"I was just about to return to Temple Pier in Drumnadrochit and I went to the back of the boat which was facing the pier and that’s when I saw it.

It was slowly moving up the loch towards Urquhart Castle and it was a dark grey colour. It was quite a fair way from the boat, probably about half a mile away but it’s difficult to tell in water.

I watched the object for five to ten minutes, then it slowly sank below the surface and never resurfaced.

I’m convinced I was seeing Nessie as I believe in these creatures. Far too many people have being seeing them for far too long."

The first recorded sighting was in 565 AD and there have been thousands of eye witness reports since then.

All these people can’t be telling lies. And the fact the reports stretch over so many years mean there can’t just be one of them. I’m convinced there are several monsters."

Meanwhile, local people are up in arms. 

Steve Feltham, a man who has dedicated the past 22 years to hunting for Nessie, was praising Edwards' photo a year ago.  Mr. Feltham  was unequivocal when he said in 2012:

'It is the best photograph [of the monster] I think I have ever seen.'

'I think the images are fantastic - that’s the animal I have been looking for all this time.

'I would say it doesn’t prove what Nessie is, but it does prove what Nessie isn’t.  A sturgeon is a fish that has been put forward as one of the main explanations as to what Nessie could be.  But this hasn’t got a serrated spine like the sturgeon.'

Yesterday, Mr Feltham said the admission harmed Mr Edwards’ credibility and the Loch Ness Monster brand. Feltham added that the skipper is nothing more than a fake and a fraud.

'It does the subject [of the monster] no good and damages his own reputation.'

'When you read things like this in the papers, people will think it’s all just a fairytale.'

'But if you read the reports and books you’re more likely to think that something is there to be explained. He’s supposed to be taking people out on tours but he’s nothing more than a faker and a liar.'

The Loch Ness area is no stranger to controversy.  Over the years, the Monster has been the subject of many sightings in the Scottish Highlands.  Out of the hundreds of supposed sightings over the years, most have been dismissed as hoax or fantasy.

In the past, Mr Edwards has criticized area's tourist community, who he says takes a 'scientific' rather than a 'fun' approach to Nessie.

Edwards has said the Drumnadrochit Chamber of Commerce treats the monster as 'a myth' which damages the tourist industry.

In June, Edwards wrote an open letter to the group in which he said:

"Most of the people I talk to on my boat know that it’s just a bit of fun. What brings more people to Loch Ness - my little stories about Nessie, or the so-called experts going on about big waves and big fish?  They should stop taking themselves so seriously.

At the end of the day there’s no such thing as an expert on Loch Ness, just people with an opinion."


The Latest Loch Ness 'Sighting' Causes a Monstrous Fight

Written by Jenny Gross
The Wall Street Journal
October 4, 2013

Discredited Nessie Photo Emerges to Shake the Faith in Drumnadrochit

DRUMNADROCHIT, Scotland Steve Feltham was surveying the shores of the Loch Ness last summer when his cellphone rang, breaking his concentration. A local reporter was calling to say she had just received a photo of the Loch Ness Monster—its arched hump protruding from the waters—and she wanted to run it by him before sending it to print.

Mr. Feltham, a full-time monster hunter for 22 years, studied the photo.

"It is the best photograph I think I have ever seen," he told the journalist at the Inverness Courier from his home, a van parked on the pebbled shores of Loch Ness.

Many in Drumnadrochit, a village in northern Scotland, and throughout Britain, hailed the photo taken by George Edwards, a tour guide, as one of the most convincing monster pictures ever taken. It is the centerpiece of his tour company which operates out of Nessieland, a Loch Ness tourism center. He sells postcards of his photos to passengers for 50 pence (80 cents) apiece.

But now Mr. Feltham has retracted his backing of a photo of Nessie, igniting a controversy

Mr. Feltham says his endorsement was a grave error. He says he soon realized the photo was actually of a 6-foot-long fiberglass hump used as a prop in a documentary filmed on Mr. Edwards's boat in 2011.

Other local experts agreed. Adrian Shine, a Nessie researcher and designer of the Loch Ness Center and Exhibition, and Dick Raynor, another researcher, say the photo is so obviously fake that it's an insult to visitors.

Mr. Edwards's photo has become the centerpiece of a fierce debate ripping through Drumnadrochit.

It has exposed a bitter truth: Some key players in the Nessie industry don't believe the Loch Ness Monster exists.

One Monday afternoon recently, Mr. Edwards lashed out at his critics to passengers on his tour boat.

Nothing irritates him more than the fact that some of his customers have just walked over from the Loch Ness Center and Exhibition where they are told the monster may not be real (the Center sits 300 yards from Nessieland).  They are so depressed that these people are ready to go to home.   

Incredulous, Mr. Edwards in May escalated his complaint with the town's fathers.

"I carry thousands of tourists on Nessie Hunter every year and I am concerned when passengers tell me that after they have visited the self-proclaimed Official Loch Ness Exhibition and Center they come out feeling disappointed after [being] told that Nessie is a myth or a figment of the imagination."

Mr. Edwards wrote in a letter to the Drumnadrochit Chamber of Commerce.

"In recent years we have seen a decline in tourism across Scotland and maybe it is time for Adrian Shine to put up or shut up."

Tony Harmsworth is the author of the book Loch Ness Monster, Nessie & Me. He is also a tour guide and the editor of the chamber's website.  In a written response to Edwards' comments, Harmsworth accused Mr. Edwards of treating tourists like gullible fools and sending them away with "their heads full of garbage.  Edwards should not have to resort to 'fakery' to keep his customers entertained".

Says Mr. Shine: "I would concur with that. That is exactly what he [Mr. Edwards] does and what he now admits of doing. He says people like it this way."

Not everyone agreed with Harmsworth or Shine. The Chamber of Commerce demanded Mr. Harmsworth remove his rebuttal to Mr. Edwards from the website, along with any other critical comments about Mr. Edwards.

Disgusted members of the Chamber of Commerce as well as the Loch Ness Center and Exhibition resigned in protest. Robert Cockburn, the Chamber chairman, says the group is officially neutral on Nessie's existence, and he is ambivalent on the Loch Ness Center's resignations.

Angered that fellow members failed to back him, Mr Harmsworth subsequently also resigned from the Drumnadrochit Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. Harmsworth argues that monsters cannot possibly live in Loch Ness. "Can anyone trust what the chamber is doing anymore?" he said. "To just feed people fake pictures because that's what you think they want is not really the way forward for tourism in the Highlands of Scotland."


Obviously Edward's fake photograph has exposed a rift in the Loch Ness community as deep as the Great Glen itself. Some support the 'commercial approach' while others prefer to stick to science.

A major battle front is the competing tourist centers, Nessieland and the Loch Ness Center.

Their tours start similarly with visitors walking through a dark, tunnel-like entrance. But at Nessieland, tourists are regaled with tales of monster sightings and secret passages in the loch where Nessie may be lurking.  Contrarily, the Loch Ness Center casts the monster as a myth. When it talks about supposed sightings of the monster since 1933, it plays circus music in the background.

The two tourist centers have a history of not getting along. In June, police cautioned and charged the owner of Nessieland, Donald Skinner, for stealing a sign outside the Loch Ness Center.  Skinner said he "took custodianship" of the sign because it was blocking one of his own.

Mr. Shine says tourists would rather know the truth than be misled.

But Mr. Edwards, who was laid off from his job as an oil worker in the 1980s, disagrees.  He says his critics are trying to destroy Loch Ness, which depends heavily on tourism. "Can you imagine if Mr. Shine or Mr. Raynor came across to America and walked into Disneyland and told all the children there's no such thing as Mickey Mouse?  Don't be taken in by all this rubbish. That's what they're doing here."

Mr. Edwards adds that he has no doubt that there are some mysterious creatures in the Loch Ness, including Nessie.

But he also has a confession. Throughout the fracas over his photo, it is true he insisted to the local media it was real. He initially declined to comment to The Wall Street Journal.  But he has relented, recently telling a boat full of passengers that he manufactured the shot to win attention for Nessie and to prove how easy it is to fake photos.

However, he said another photo he took of Nessie—from summers ago—is for real:

"I've taken photographs over the years. One in particular, on the 6th of June, 1986, is an absolutely genuine photograph."



The George Edwards Loch Ness Photos Debunked as a Hoax

Squatchdetective's Blog
Thoughts from Steve Kulls
February 8, 2013

"There are times when I write something with a heavy heart, and this is one such occasion.

In February 2011, I [Steve Kulls] was the team leader for the National Geographic special, The Truth Behind the Loch Ness Monster.

The skipper for the boat we used, The Nessie Hunter, was George Edwards.

Edwards was a life long tour boat guide on the Loch who claimed to have two sightings of the famed Nessie.

In March 2012 George released what was purported to be the best picture of Nessie yet.

Tonight (February 8, 2013) while doing a radio show, someone asked if I had seen the photos of George Edwards. I did not, but then I was suddenly surprised as I remembered our weathered Scottish captain.

When I saw the pictures, my heart sank as I recognized it immediately.

That picture of Nessie was almost certainly the same prop we had used in our documentary.  I was sure of it.

I began to think back.  I remember George on the top deck of the boat, taking pictures of our prop hump, the one we used in sighting recreations for the program. The hump itself, was not made by the crew but had previously been used for another program.

Yes, they are certainly the same.

Sorry George, I now believe you are a hoaxer, and I say this with a heavy heart.

But it is what it is.

I also remember being suspicious of George. When our 3 day boat expedition had come to an end, it was time for the polygraph tests of some of the eyewitnesses.  These tests were administered by the super examiner and Scotland Yard retiree, David Byrd, who was phenomenal.

Both Mikko Takala and the nice lady from the Highlands passed the test with flying colors. Then it came time for George’s turn. He looked nervous as hell. Edwards failed the test.

Due to George running a local tourist business, a decision was made by the production team to cut that from the final copy of the show, as did the hydrophone testing run by the Marine Biologists brought in.

Although I say this with a heavy heart, I am so proud of polygraph operator David Byrd who was right on the money.

It seems that the two people involved in the show who turned out to be hoaxers, their main motive was money.  First Preston, trying to sell his photograph to anyone who wanted to put it in a commercial application and now Edwards trying to boost his tour boat business.

Well, yet another hoax busted and another hoaxer revealed. But its all part of the job."  -- Steve Kulls

2011 National Geographic special:
The Truth Behind the Loch Ness Monster

The newest fake photo of Nessie, March 2012

George Edwards


The Wish to have a Monster


Rick Archer's Note:  I hope you have enjoyed this story of the Loch Ness Monster.  I am sure you will agree it is a tale that reveals a great deal about human nature.

It seems over the course of this story, people tend to get more honest when they have less to gain and more dishonest when they have more to gain.  Time and again, we see the story of this Monster has brought out both the best and the worst in people.  At its very core, this story has been about truth, honesty, lies and deception.

While researching, I became increasingly aware that there is still a great deal of debate on all sorts of things.  Of course there is the neverending back and forth over the existence of the Monster, but I was surprised to see there is a very serious debate over the truth of the 1994 "Spurling's Confession".


Starting in 1934, for sixty years the debate centered around the validity of the Surgeon's Photo.  Then starting in 1994, the past twenty years has seen the debate include the validity of the 1994 Spurling Confession.

I was very surprised to discover some people don't believe "Spurling's Death Bed Confession" about Marmaduke's lust for revenge using the toy monster model.  For that matter, I found articles from certain writers who still believe  Colonel Wilson's Surgeon's Photo is legitimate.

I could not understand why these people were arguing so fiercely until this information caught my eye:

"Tourism is said to have generated an estimated $37 million to the Highlands in 1993, but then came the crippling Christian Spurling deathbed confession.  The debunking of the Surgeon's Photo drove a serious stake deep into the heart of the Nessie faithful across the planet.

Unfortunately, business has slowed down in recent years. In 2007, it was estimated that Nessie tourism brought in an estimated £6 million ($12.2 million), less than a third compared to the year that preceded the confession."

I had no idea how devastating the 1994 news of Spurling's Confession had been to the area's economy. Then it dawned on me - the Loch Ness economy does much better when most people believe the monster exists.  Many yearn for the days to return when the Surgeon's Photo ruled the earth.  And the only way that will ever happen is to discredit Spurling's Confession.

The leading 'Spurling Confession' critic is a man named Henry Bauer.  Dr. Bauer is an emeritus professor of chemistry and science studies at Virginia Tech. 

Dr. Bauer has created an incredible 27 page Powerpoint on the Internet to prove that Christian Spurling was lying on his deathbed and that this whole elaborate story about the balsa wood model and Marmaduke's revenge motive is complete nonsense. 

I took a brief stroll through all 27 pages.  I can certainly attest that Dr. Bauer went to a lot of trouble.  I was impressed with how thorough he was.

That said, I don't agree with Dr. Bauer.  I have a hard time believing that a 90-year old man in failing health is going to make up a story as intricate as Mastermind Marmaduke's revenge story.  Mind you, Spurling's wife is listening in.  Mind you, two investigators were taping his every word. 

Furthermore, the story is plausible with plenty of details.  If Marmaduke is crazy enough to try one hoax - the stupid hippo foot - why would it surprise anyone to think Marmaduke wouldn't try another trick after he has been disgraced? 

My point is simple.  Proving or discrediting the existence of the Loch Ness Monster absolutely dominates the lives of some people.  Rising to the level of obsession, some people will stop at nothing to prove they are right. 

The famous Surgeon's Photo was taken on 19 April, 1934. It triggered a public passion for “Nessie” that lives on to this day.  In 2014, we marked the 80th Anniversary of that iconic picture.  What is remarkable is that 80 years later without a single definitive SIGHTING, there are still people who devote their lives to searching for the monster. 

Cary Cooper, professor of psychology and health at Lancaster University, explained why he thought Nessie had captured people’s imagination for so many years.

“In general, people’s lives are incredibly mundane and predictable, and from that a desire to find something “inexplicable” – monsters, spaceships or aliens, runs through us.  Science says Nessie cannot exist, and even if she did they would have found her by now, but that only seems to fuel the flames for theories. 

The famous picture has been dismissed as a fake, but that has not stopped people wanting to believe that she is real – that she defies what the rational scientists tell us.

If you add to people’s natural leaning for a belief in the unexplained to the slick marketing machine behind the monster, then you have a mystery that will never die.”  



People predicted Spurling's Confession would be the end of the Loch Ness Monster, right?

Not even close.  Although it may have dampened the enthusiasm a bit, the Loch Ness Monster industry is still thriving today.

Tourists still flock to the Loch to have a peek.  Every year there is a new documentary such as the 2011 National Geographic investigation.  Every few years there's a new, expensive expedition that sets out to find the Truth. 

Sometimes people go to extraordinary lengths.  For example, there was a 2003 BBC special that employed satellites in outer space and 600 separate sonar beams to try to track down the beast once and for all...

The BBC used satellite navigation technology to aim 600 separate sonar beams through Loch Ness to ensure that none of the loch was missed. The research team hoped their instruments would pick up the air in Nessie’s lungs as it reflected a distorted signal back to the sonar sensors. The only signal they got was from their test buoy moored several meters below the surface.

“We went from shoreline to shoreline, top to bottom on this one, we have covered everything in this loch and we saw no signs of any large living animal in the loch,” said Ian Florence, one of the specialists who carried out the survey for the BBC. The show, called Searching For The Loch Ness Monster, was made for BBC One.  


They found no trace of the monster.  But does anyone ever quit?  Heck, no.

The fact that there are "cryptozoologists" in the world should tell us something.  I had no idea what that word meant, so I looked it up.

A "cryptozoologist" is a person who specializes in tracking legendary creatures to prove they're real, i.e. the type of person who spends a lot of time looking for Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster.  Indeed there are people who have staked their reputations on the creature being real and depend on the income from books asserting such.

"My Loch Ness theory is better than yours!" 

Not just the cryptozoologists, but also people like the Loch Ness tour guides have staked out well-defined positions on the Monster. When one realizes that someone's income depends on being right, then one realizes why grown men and women go to battle every day over the "wooden head glued to a toy submarine" theory... and why two Loch Ness tourist traps espousing opposite positions argue with each other on a daily basis.  

In the end, it seems over and over throughout the course of this story, people tend to get more honest when they have less to gain and more dishonest when they have much to gain.  Time and again, we see the story of this Monster has brought out both the best and the worst in people.  At its very core, this story has been about truth, honesty, lies and deception.

Speaking of deception, now we come to one of the greatest deceptions in history.  You will absolutely love this story.


1972- The Great April Fool's Joke!!


The most amazing April's Fool's Joke in history revolved around the Loch Ness Monster.  This incident took place in Scotland, 1972. 

John Shields was the resident education officer at the Flamingo Park Zoo in Northern England.  Due to his position, Shields, 23, was in frequent contact with other professional zoologists at the large Flamingo Zoo.  Due to shared interests, these young men enjoyed hanging out together.   One night over perhaps too much ale, one of the men excitedly announced that he was part of a team hired by Loch Ness Phenomena Bureau to prove the existence of a monster in the loch.  In his zeal to succeed, the young man announced he had developed a new 'hormone sex bait' that was certain to lure the Loch Ness Monster from the depths in search of a mate.  (No, I didn't make this up.)

"Hey guys, why don't you join me?  We can head up to the lake on the weekend and have an expedition!  Presumably we will be poised with a camera and the whole lot of us will become famous."

Shields wasted no time volunteering for the adventure.  Like the others, he was ambitious and ready to make a name for himself.  However, the real lure was the chance to hang out with his buddies on the weekend.

Meanwhile, a group of British researchers stationed in the remote Falkland Islands had captured an unusual bull seal about 4 years old.  Located in the South Atlantic just off the coast of Argentina, the Falklands were 8,000 miles away.  Thinking this unusual specimen was perfect for a zoo, the rare animal was shipped to the Dudley Zoo in mid-England. 

Alas, the long trek was too much for the animal.  It died within a couple weeks after arriving at the zoo.  Here the story lacks details, but it appears that when John Shields got wind of the sad tale, a devilish thought crossed his mind.  By coincidence, April 1st would be Shield's 23rd birthday.  Having been the butt of April Fool's jokes his whole life, maybe the time had come to turn the tables and give things an interesting twist?

Taking note that the group's excursion was scheduled for Friday, March 31, one day before April Fool's Day, why not take advantage of this creature's timely appearance?   With the Loch Ness adventure soon to take place, Shields requested the animal's corpse be transferred to Flamingo Park Zoo 130 miles to the north.  When Shields received the strange beast, he smiled.  Yes, of course his friends knew what a normal seal looked like, but this bull elephant seal from 8,000 miles away was so exotic and weird-looking, maybe he could fool his friends. 

First Shields shaved off the dead animal's whiskers.  Then he stuffed its cheek with stones to distort its features.  His next step was to freeze the carcass for a week.  When the time was right, Shields removed the stones.  Sure enough, the seal's features were seriously altered.  Shields noted with satisfaction that the seal looked like nothing he had ever seen.

Shields found a good reason to avoid accompanying his friends on their Saturday expedition.  Instead he secretly arrived early on Friday, March 31, at Loch Ness 260 miles to the north.  Knowing the eight-member team planned to meet at the Foyers House Hotel for breakfast, Shields promptly found a nearby cove and rented a small dinghy.  About 300 yards out in the shallow water, he dumped the carcass overboard, then beat a hasty retreat.  

For his next step, Shields phoned the manager of the hotel to anonymously report a really strange sighting on the beach.  For good measure, Shields added he had heard there might be some researchers staying at the Foyers House.  Would the lady mind asking the men to have a look?

The manager dutifully passed on the information to the men just as their meal was being served.  Someone had just called, she said, to report seeing a "large hump" floating in the loch near the hotel.

Of course the men scoffed, but they were also curious.  Methinks they weren't skeptical enough.  It never quite sunk in that this was quite a coincidence.  How convenient that the sighting had taken place within walking distance of the hotel!!  Unable to resist, the team put down their knives and forks and walked outside.   What they saw took their breath away.  Sure enough, a large, dark object was bobbing up and down in the waves about 300 yards offshore.

Terence O'Brien, leader of the team, immediately swung into action. He directed the team into their boat and they headed out to investigate.  Twenty minutes later around 9 a.m. they returned to shore dragging behind them a bizarre carcass that appeared to be the dead body of the Loch Ness Monster.  This was an amazing moment for the eight men. 

The actions of the men were viewed in plain sight by several of the villagers.  Within minutes, news of the discovery reached a local reporter who promptly passed on the information to London and the rest of the world. Television news anchors solemnly informed their audiences that the Loch Ness Monster had been found, but was dead.  Spurred by the sensational report, the media went nuts trying to get more details.  The problem was that Loch Ness was 450 miles north of London, so the best the reporters could do was get people on the phone and write down what they said.  This, of course, allowed people to exaggerate what they saw without corroboration.


Local residents confirmed that something very weird had been dragged out of the water.  For example, Robert MacKenzie, a 23-year-old Inverness musician, claimed he had the nerve to touch the beast.  MacKenzie said, "I touched it and put my hand in its mouth.  It's real, all right.  I thought it looked half-bear and half-seal... scaly, green in color... with a horrific head like a bear with flat ears.  I was shocked."

Over the phone, witnesses told reporters the creature was somewhere between 12 and 18 feet in length.  Although in reality the beast was 350 pounds, it was estimated to weigh 1½ tons.  Asked what it resembled, someone recalled what the scientist team had told him.  He told the reporter the animal was like a cross between a walrus and a seal, but 'very different'.


Next a reporter contacted Don Robinson, Director of the Flamingo Park Zoo.  Robinson was not in on the hoax, so he was just as intrigued as everyone else.  Robinson was quoted as saying, "I've always been skeptical about the Loch Ness Monster, but this is definitely a monster, no doubt about that. From the reports I've had, no one has ever seen anything like it before... a fishy, scaly body with a massive head and big protruding teeth."

That was exactly the quote the reporters needed.  A reputable source had just given them a printable description of the animal.  Unable to make the long trip to Loch Ness in the far northern part of Scotland, they had enough material to write the story sight unseen.  

The next morning, April 1... yes, April Fool's Day... the discovery made front-page headlines around the world.  "Nessie is Found!"  The British press dubbed the creature "Son of Nessie."  The prank of John Shields had worked far beyond his wildest imagination. 

While the reporters spread the news far and wide, there was a fascinating development back at Loch Ness.  After dragging the carcass to shore, the scientists from the Flamingo Park Zoo sent a telegram to their boss, Don Robinson.  After Robinson told them to bring it back to Flamingo Zoo for inspection, the men quickly loaded the body into their truck and took off. 

Mrs. Margrete Good, manager of the hotel, later told the press, "The zoologists were thrilled to bits.  This was a dream come true.  They could not wait to transport the monster back to the zoo for study."

Only one problem.  According to the 1933 Act of Parliament, it was illegal to remove the Loch Ness Monster from the area.   Granted it was unlikely these scientists were familiar with this obscure 40 year old law, but, as they say, ignorance of the law is not an excuse.

The moment the local Inverness police were informed the scientists had hightailed it with the Loch Ness Monster, they were infuriated.  These were 'English' scientists, after all, who appeared to be hell-bent on removing Scotland's most famous lake monster.  With visions of the vast, lucrative tourist trade about to be destroyed, the police mobilized. 

The scientists had too much of a lead for Inverness authorities to track down, but the magic of electronics solved the problem.   Immediately the police radioed their colleagues in the Fifeshire County police department.  After explaining the situation, the Fifeshire police were asked them to chase down the fleeing truck and apprehend the heinous monster-nappers.

Spurred by patriotism and outrage, the entire police force sped off with sirens wailing, red lights flashing.  They soon caught up with the team of alleged rogue scientists.  

Out of nowhere, the scientists were stunned to see a fleet of six police vehicles chasing them.  Intimidated by the sirens and flashing lights, the terrified scientists swiftly pulled over to the side of the road.  From there, the frightened zoologists were surrounded by a dozen policemen.  As one might gather, they readily cooperated with the police.  They wasted no time opening the back of the truck to show the officers what they were carrying.

There it was.  Sure enough, according to the subsequent police report, lying inside the truck was a large "green and scaly" creature, quite dead. 

The men turned white when one of the officers accused them of killing the animal.  Fortunately, the scientists were able to convince the officers that the animal had been dead for some time, but it wasn't easy.   The police officers were absolutely convinced these men had tried to escape with a national treasure.  Unsure what to do next, the cops radioed back to the station for advice. They were told to take the monster to the nearest town, Dunfermline, where it could be examined by Scottish scientists.


Searching for a Scottish scientist to examine the creature, they were able to persuade Michael Rushton, general curator of the Edinburgh Zoo, to come take a look.  With Edinburgh only 15 miles away, it did not take Rushton long to arrive.  He walked slowly around the carcass a few times, poked it twice, and then announced his verdict.

In Rushton's opinion, this was indeed a strange creature, but it was no lake monster.  Instead, it was a bull elephant seal, whose natural home was the South Atlantic Ocean located vast thousands of miles away.  Furthermore, the body showed signs of having been frozen for an extended period of time.  Very suspicious.  The eight scientists stared at each other.  Why hadn't they noticed this? 

Rushton continued, "This animal is a typical member of its species. It is about 3 to 4 years old. Since their natural habitat is in the South Atlantic, Falkland Islands or South Georgia, I have never known them to come near Great Britain.  I don't know how long it's been kept in a deep freeze, but this has obviously been done by a human hand."


Uh oh.  It was about this time the Flamingo Park scientific team realized there was something very fishy going on, pun intended.   How on earth did a bull elephant seal from the other end of the earth come to be floating in Loch Ness?  What was the answer?  Since they had no idea their buddy John Shields was behind this, the men had not yet figured out they had been set up.  Instead they phoned their boss Don Robinson back at the zoo.  He told the men to return home and he would try to get to the bottom of it.

Just about this time, Robinson noticed Shields walk by.  When Robinson told the young man what had happened, Shields turned white.  Uh oh.  What should he do?   The answer could very easily have remained a mystery for some time, but Shields knew he would never get away with it.  Eventually someone from Dudley Zoo would hear the story and put two and two together.  Realizing the joke had gotten way out of hand when his colleagues were chased down by the police, Shields wasted no time confessing to his boss what he had done.  His boss was instantly irate, but that quick confession probably saved his life and his job

Now it was up to Don Robinson to phone the authorities.  In the end, on Sunday, April 2, the anxious world got the bad news... the whole thing was just a hoax.  Furthermore, the creature was nowhere near as impressive as initial press reports had claimed.  It was only nine feet long, not 18 as some reports had listed, and weighed a disappointing 350 pounds.  With the parade ruined, everyone was bummed out.  Much ado about nothing. 

It was left to Police Superintendent Inas McKay of Inverness to give the press the final, official verdict on the incident:

"It was all just an elaborate April Fool's Day joke."

Epilogue to the John Shields Story



Rick Archer's Note:  

They say every picture tells a story.  Look how busy the Urquhart Castle is.  On the day I visited the Urquhart Castle, there must have been ten different tourist buses in the area.  Indeed, the Loch Ness Monster is the best thing to ever happen to Scotland.  Research shows that in 2018, the Loch Ness Monster is worth $54 million dollars per year to the Scottish economy.

So whatever happened to John Shields?   After extensive research, I was unable to find any suggestion that Shields was punished for his outlandish stunt.  I think everyone took it for what it was: an extremely clever stunt that went a little awry. 

And why did it go awry?  Because it was so Brilliant everyone bought the scam hook, line, and sinker!!  I could not stop laughing at the thought the cops were so convinced the English scientists were stealing their beloved monster. 

Although I am sure his boss and friends wanted to murder him, I think deep down they appreciated their friend's genius.  If anything, I say John Shields deserves a medal.  By drawing renewed international attention to the Monster story, no doubt he brought countless new tourists to the Loch Ness shores.  

Beyond a doubt, John Shields pulled off the greatest April Fool's joke of all time.


The Truth is Out There... Somewhere


Researcher Alastair Boyd Still Believes in Loch Ness Monster
3/13/94 (source)



LONDON (Reuter) - Researcher Alastair Boyd, the man who helped expose the most famous Loch Ness monster picture as a fraud, still believes in the creature, Britain's Today newspaper reported Monday.

It quoted Boyd as saying he was convinced he saw Nessie, as the monster of popular legend is known, in the Scottish loch in 1979.

"I saw it roll around in the water like a whale. It must have been at least 20 feet long.  That is why I'm skeptical of people who claim to have taken photos.

When you see it, you don't have time to fiddle with a camera.  You are too busy picking your jaw off the ground.

I understand that it is ironic given my involvement in the Spurling case, but I still believe there are creatures down in the loch.''


Rick Archer's Note: 

So what do I believe about the Loch Ness Monster?   Actually I am a little surprised at myself, but after researching this story carefully, like Alastair Boyd, I believe there is probably something to the legend.

The first time I studied this story back in 2010, I came away completely convinced this story was the domain of hoaxers and con men.  But the second time I went much deeper.  I spent time reading some of the testimony of the 27 people who claimed to witness the creature back in 1933.  I came away believing these people were sincere.  They saw something.  They don't know what it is they saw and they had no proof, but they saw something.

Although I have a healthy streak of skepticism in me, I am not cynical.  I believe most people tell the truth, especially when it comes to issues where they have nothing to gain.

Like everyone else, Marla and I took our shot at watching the lake


Some people are crooks.  The stories about Marmaduke, Colonel Wilson, and others make that obvious.  That said, in my heart, I believe most of the Monster Sighters are people who were telling the truth. 

Now it could be that they mistook a duck swimming in the distance for a monster.

Or it could very well be that whatever they saw 27 times in one year back in 1933 may be long gone by now. 


But that is no reason to dismiss the heart-felt testimony of a thousand witnesses over the past 80 years.  They saw something. That's good enough for me.  In closing, I would like to point out that Alistair Boyd, one of the two men who responsible for obtaining Christian Spurling's Deathbed Confession, is still a believer himself.  By exposing the hoaxes, Boyd says he has merely discarded a single piece of supposed evidence of dubious origins.  Boyd says this does not rule out the remainder of the evidence amassed from eyewitness accounts.


Boyd has categorically stated that in spite of the hoax he helped unveil, he is still an ardent believer in the creature's existence.  Why?  Because Boyd says he has personally seen the beast at close quarters.  Boyd had his own sighting of the creature on July 30, 1979, as he related in the 1999 documentary, "The Beast of Loch Ness".

Seeing is believing.  To emphasize his point, Alastair Boyd spent three weeks in 1996 observing the Loch.  Although he himself was not fortunate enough to obtain a sighting at that time, 16 other people staying at the Craigdarroch Hotel did, much to their delight.


On the other hand, since I first wrote my article in 2011, Alistair Boyd has dropped out sight.  During my 2019 update I was unable to locate his Internet story where 16 people staying at the Craigdarroch Hotel became eyewitnesses.  Very disappointing. 

Will we ever get to the bottom of the Loch Ness Monster story?  Probably not, but it sure is a lot of fun to hope the legend someday proves to be true. 

Rick Archer
April Fool's Day, 2019
(PS - Everything I have written is as close to the truth as I could get.)




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