Saturday, 31 January 2015

Nessie Cartoons Through The Years

I ran an article a while back showing how the general populace and the media perceived the Loch Ness Monster through drawings and satire. I came across some more cartoons recently and have put them on here for comment and display.

Going back to the earliest days of the Nessie phenomenon, the Daily Express published this cartoon on the 14th December 1933, shortly after the first picture of the monster, taken by Hugh Gray, came to the world's attention. Click on the cartoon for a better image. The text of each cartoon is shown under it.

Diver to Nessie, "I can not help you to go, but good advice: stay at the bottom and have fun!"

Whether the artist referred to the Hugh Gray photo to draw his Nessie is arguable, but they do bear some resemblance to each other. The scene of various sceptics and party poopers trying to solve the mystery and consign it to history seems to meet with short shrift by the cartoonist. Whether there was anything in the loch or not, the newspapers wanted the story to run and stuff the naysayers!

The next cartoon is from The Daily Herald, some time in 1933. This is probably the least Nessie-like Nessie I have come across and one wonders where on earth the template for this monster came from. The backdrop to this cartoon was the discussion in Parliament as to what to do with this strange new phenomenon in a remote Scottish loch.

LOCAL RESIDENT: "Ye poor feckless beastie - get oot o' sicht while ye're safe! D'ye no ken the Hoose o' Commons,  Nineteen-thirty-three, has its eye on ye!"

From the Daily Mirror, 5th May 1971. The sign on the left says "Loch Ness Monster, £1,000,000 Reward". In 1971, whisky makers, Cutty Sark, offered an award of one million pounds to anyone who could capture the Loch Ness Monster. However, they began to get cold feet, and so asked Lloyds of London to underwrite the contest. The insurance company initially refused, saying the risk was too great. After being called chickens by the press, Lloyds agreed, on the condition that they got to keep Nessie!

"After all, what's a million quid these days."

The Daily Mail published the next cartoon on 3rd April 1972. It came after the police were unwittingly involved in the interception at the Forth Road Bridge of an alleged dead Nessie being taken out of Scotland. To the police's embarrassment, it turned out to be a dead elephant seal and an April Fool's Joke.

"Ignore it, Hamish McPherson - I'm damned if we'll be taken in again!"

From the Daily Sketch of 11th September 1970. A piece of newspaper lies beside Nessie with the headline, "Sex Potions in Loch to lure Nessie". This was a gift to cartoonists as the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau began to use the ground up reproductive organs of various animals such as eels as bait introduced into the loch. It didn't work.

"Ah warned ye if ye went swimmin' ye'd get covered wi' the stuff!"

On the 11th September 1973, The Sun parodied the arrival a few days earlier of a Japanese expedition to find Nessie. Despite having a miniature submarine at their disposal, the search was an unqualified failure as they headed back two months later having found some non-descript bones and recorded a strange noise.

 "Ah so. Honourable Nessie - unable to resist traditional Japanese bait!"

And to finally bring us up to date, here's one of the many cartoons depicting Nessie's view on the recent Scottish Referendum on independence (Daily Mail, 10th September 2014). More cartoons to follow in a future post.

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Thursday, 29 January 2015

The Nessie Effect

People love a mystery and they don't get much better than the Loch Ness Monster. So when tourist agency VisitBritain decided on Nessie as their mascot for promoting the Loch Ness area and beyond, it was a no-brainer.

Why that's? Because there is a monster in Loch Ness. Now at this point, sceptics will guffaw and splutter, but the Nessie Effect is one reason why some of their bank accounts are a bit bigger than they might have been.

You see, the large numbers of tourists filing through the exhibition centres and then coughing up for the boat cruises and souvenirs are lining the pockets of people who don't even believe there is a monster in Loch Ness. That must be a real weight on the conscience. It is certainly a weight on their wallets.

Then again, maybe this is all not so hypocritical. After all, some will subject their customers to their sceptical theories once they have them in the middle of the loch and they can't swim away! Do these tourists ever come back once their expectations about the monster are ruined by these people? I think, probably not.

Sure, some will claim tourist numbers are up. I say they could only have gone up after the depths of the Credit Crunch. I also argue the numbers would be higher if people were more positive about the creature they consign to mythology. In other words, the Nessie you will see promoting the cause of filling the coffers, will probably not be too far removed from the green, fluffy tat that inhabits the souvenir shops that line the loch. 

To some extent, I agree with hoaxer, George Edwards - the real Nessie needs to be promoted more. But I don't agree with his methods of doing it via fake photographs. I say, take your stand and argue the case against less than convincing theories from the other side.

Most people will see nothing when they arrive at Loch Ness, some will see something that is readily explainable, others will see the monster in its various degrees of awe-inspiring splendour. Get along there, take in the scenery, enjoy the facilities and don't forget to take the lens cap off if Nessie puts in an appearance!

The author can be contacted at

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Boat Collision With Nessie?

I caught this article on two alleged collisions between boats and the Loch Ness Monster. The first I did not recall and wonder if anyone knows any more about it? Original article here but reproduced here before it is pulled.

In the second incident, retired truck driver Stanley Roberts has revealed that a holiday cruiser, he owned was immobilised in a tragic collision on the loch near Urqhuart Castle. An elderly man aboard the cruiser suffered a heart attack and died following the incident around 1978, says Mr Roberts, from Lancashire who had rented the boat to the man’s family. Four bolts were stripped from the propshaft  and the propeller was damaged after the boat was pulled from the water at Fort Augustus.

Boatyard workers who then examined the cruiser "found flesh and black skin an inch thick along the propshaft", said Roberts, of St Helens, Lancashire, telling what had happened when he got a phone call from the boatyard telling him there had been an accident. He said, “The workers chiseled the flesh away and threw it into the Caledonian Canal. I said you stupid b-----s. It would have proved that Nessie was here.”

Stan, now 85, is in no doubt that the monster was most likely involved in a drama involving his cruiser. A family renting it collided with an unknown object near Urquhart Castle. "The propeller stopped turning. The family were very alarmed", said Stan. "The old man had a heart attack and seemed to have died. There was no radio on board so they  let off distress flares to get a tow back to Fort Augustus. The grandfather was taken by ambulance to hospital where he was found to be dead."

The rental managers phoned Stan at his home in St Helens to tell him what had happened. "They simply told me there had been an accident. It was only later that I learned more - what had been found on the underside of the boat when they pulled it out of the water." 

Told of the boat drama, Adrian Shine, of the Loch Ness project, said it was “very frustrating". With modern DNA techniques we could have learned a lot about exactly  what had caused the damage." Stan kept the cruiser on the loch for two years. 

I, too, express frustration that none of this black flesh was recovered for further examination. Black skin suggests it was not seals or dolphins, but then again, I don't know whether blackness occurs during subsequent decomposition; but it cannot be discounted that the sceptics' oft required, but seldom seen seal could have been involved.

This seems a new story, but if anyone knows of this case, can they leave a comment. Mr. Roberts then tells of his own personal sighting.

His reason for being convinced that Nessie was involved was partly an  earlier encounter he had himself. "I had just bought the boat and my family were up at Fort Augustus for a two-week trial run. The water was rough but the boat handled really well. That night I couldn't sleep so around 5am I got up to stretch my legs.

"The water was dull silver, flat as a mirror. I looked down the loch towards Foyers and I saw a black dot which I thought might have been a local fisherman. The dot continued to grow taller as it came towards where we were moored. "Then I thought to myself, 'There's no outboard motor!" It was then I realised its head and neck were like polished black leather.

"It gently lowered its head - and not a splash. It was so beautiful, you wouldn't believe it. It was like a nuclear sub going down. The bow wave travelling across the loch, bounced my boat like a cork. My wife was awakened by the commotion. And she told me off for rocking the boat.

The second incident is known to Loch Ness researchers and involves Lt Commander Francis Russell Flint in 1943. With the help of Henry Bauer, these details were forthcoming.

Details only emerged in 1969 when Lt Commander Francis Russell Flint wrote a letter to the Daily Telegraph. Flint said he was in charge of a Navy motor launch travelling from Leith to Swansea with about 20 men on board. Near Fort Augustus travelling at about 25 knots, “There was the most terrific jolt,” he said.  Everybody was knocked back. And then we looked for’ard. And there it was. A very large animal form disappeared in a flurry of water. It was definitely a living creature not debris or  anything like that."

Flint, who died in 1977, talked about the incident for years, said family members. He told author and broadcaster Nicholas Witchell that he signalled the Admiralty, “Regret to inform your Lordships, damage to starboard bow following collision with Loch Ness Monster. Proceeding at reduced speed to Fort Augustus.”

Flint said the Navy were not impressed with his signal. He got a “bit of a blast” when he returned to base. However Flint was an official war artist and painted a picture of the Loch Ness incident which went on display at a gallery in Leeds. It is not known where the picture is currently.
Sceptical cynics will suggest Flint made up the story to cover up his navigational inadequacies as he hit one of the local rocks. Funny how he kept talking about a monster into retirement ...

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Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Upcoming Fortean Conference

Just a heads up on an upcoming conference in Edinburgh next month. Entitled "The Scholarly Research of the Anomalous Conference", it will be held at The Counting House, 36 West Nicholson Street, Edinburgh EH8 9DD on Saturday, 21st February, 2015 from 1130 to 1830. Scheduled speakers and subjects are as follows:

Mike Dash –  Our Artist Pictures What the Witness Saw…

Roger Musson – The Enigmatic Bala Earthquake of 23 January 1974

Darren Naish – The Evolution of Sea Monsters in Terms of What people Report

Theo Paijmans – The Nazi Flying Saucer Mythos

Charles Paxton – Eyewitness Testimony and Bigfoot at the Botanics

At the end of the event there will be a panel session featuring all five speakers and the chairman will be Gordon Rutter.

Tickets cost £20 and include a buffet lunch and can be bought by submitting a Paypal payment to Charles Paxton at for £20.  No tickets will be issued so bring your Paypal receipt on the day, tickets are also available in person from the organisers, Charles Paxton and Gordon Rutter, and at meetings of the Edinburgh Fortean Society.

More details can be found here. I aim to be there myself and hope to meet up with long time email-acquaintance, Mike Dash. Though it is not an explicitly Nessie conference, there will be overlaps with the lake cryptids which should prove information to that genre.

Leave a comment below if you have any queries about the conference.

The author can be contacted at

Friday, 16 January 2015

A Photograph from Loch Ness

A strange looking picture has emerged from Loch Ness this week. Taken by author Geoffrey McSkimming from Australia, it appears to show something in the loch as he took a picture of his companion, Sue-Anne Webster.

The trouble is he was not aware of anything at the time which adds to the mystery. Assuming the picture is not a product of the proverbial photoshop, the object does appear to be part of the scene as vegetation obscure part of its form.

However, from a Loch Ness Monster point of view, what might be interpreted as the head is very elongated compared to classic eyewitness descriptions. In fact, it look more like one of the herons occasionally seen at the loch, though even that does not look entirely a perfect fit as the "beak" looks decidely blunt. I certainly do not think it is a defect in the image.

Comments are invited as to what this object might be and the author can be contacted at

If it is a photoshop job, Jens emailed me to suggest it is a PAPO Plesisosaur model. Okay, perhaps but needs a bit of stretching and editing! You can see the modern issue with coming up with a picture of the Loch Ness Monster that can evade the trap of digital image editing.

Original story:

Australian Adventurers Capture Loch Ness Monster

A pair of Australian adventurers have captured, in a photograph, this incredible image of the Loch Ness monster.

Geoffrey McSkimming, noted adventurer, world-traveller, raconteur and author, best known for the Cairo Jim and Phyllis Wong Mystery series of children’s adventure stories, and companion and fellow adventurer, Sue-Anne Webster, actress and freelance magician extraordinaire, were celebrating Sue-Anne’s birthday on the misty shores of Loch Ness, in Inverness, Scotland, when legendary lost dinosaur Nessie photo-bombed the happy snap.

Geoffrey reports that the pair had no idea the mysterious denizen of the deep was behind them, “Not until after we took the photo…oh my gosh! No! I swear when I took this photo there was nothing in the water.”

“No, there wasn’t when I looked either…she’s a teaser,” added Sue-Anne.

In the tradition of such pictures, the image of Nessie is indistinct, out of focus, blurry. Dour, unimaginative official types have described it as a smeared drop of water on the camera lens.

The creature, agreed by many investigators and scientists to be a prehistoric plesiosaur, a large aquatic dinosaur, probably became trapped in the deep mountain-edged lake in ancient times when it was still open to the ocean. The dinosaur has been given the tentative scientific name Plesiosaur McSkimming-Websterii. Possibly because the fabulous beastie skims through the water with large webbed flippers, and of course the Mc at the beginning merely indicates its Scottish origin. Why do scientists add two i‘s to the end of words to make them scientific? Nobody knows. It’s another mystery.

There are unconfirmed reports that this pair of mystery solving aces will now begin an expedition to the High Himalayas to discover the Abominable Snow Man.

Until then Geoffrey McSkimming’s children’s adventure stories are available in libraries, online and in all good bookstores, and the amazing Sue-Anne Webster is available for magical performances, including her world renowned I Dream Of Jeannie show.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Sewage, Phantoms and Ted Holiday

A recent post on the Zombie Plesiosaur page got me thinking about Ted Holiday's changing views on the Loch Ness Monster. He went from promoting the view that the creature was a large relation of an extinct invertebrate to something he classed as part of the Phantom Menagerie. What was not clear was how that transition panned out.

Holiday wrote three books which charted this change of mind. The Great Orm of Loch Ness from 1968 firmly puts him in the giant worm camp as he expounded on his mega-variation of the small but extinct creature called Tullimonstrum Gregarium. Its discoverer, Francis Tully, is shown below with a fossil to give you an idea of its size.

One or two interesting ideas came out of this theory, such as Holiday's idea that the Loch Ness Monster did not rely on fish as its staple food, but rather sifted through the sludge/mud/silt at the bottom as a source of nutrition. Whether this is a viable means of food for a number of large creatures is not known to me. Nutrient levels in lochs can be quite high, though whether they provide a balanced diet for a healthy monster is debatable.

Indeed, whilst there is talk of diminishing fish supplies in Loch Ness over the decades, a sludge processing monster may have seen an increase in food supply as human activity around the loch increased the amount of human and food waste nutrients being dumped into Loch Ness.

There are four main sewage treatments plants around Loch Ness and this is not the type of information you will tend to find in Loch Ness literature, so read on! Not surprisingly, they are centred on the four main population centres at Fort Augustus, Foyers, Drumnadrochit and Dores. So there is a sewage processing plant outside Fort Augustus, located on the opposite side of the River Tarff to the old Abbey building.

I can tell you from personal experience that you tend to smell it before you see it and it would not be the first place on your bucket list. I have occasionally gone between it and the river to get to Borlum Bay and I have yet to see anyone moving around the place.

There will be smaller processing plants such as the controversial one which was dumping semi processed human waste at the Visitor Centre at Urquhart Castle some years back. Loch Ness researcher, Tony Harmsworth, protested against it in years past. Overall, I would guess that at least 1000 cubic metres of processed effluent water is pumped into the loch every day.

Do these extra potential chemicals such as nitrogen and potassium do anything for a sludge sifting monster? Actually, though human activity has increased over the decades, with the attendant increase in waste, the efficiency of processing that waste has improved over the same time (though not in a smooth curve). So, whether extra nutrients have made it into the loch would require someone comparing water samples over the decades.

That prompted a side thought. Loch Ness is an oligotrophic lake being low in nutrients and high in oxygen content. If more effluence is pumped into the loch, then a process of eutrophication begins where the lowest forms of organism feed on this bonanza with the attendant knock on effects for further up the food chain and to more Loch Ness Monsters. One negative side effect is that the increase in the biomass can lead to oxygen levels depleting and some animals suffering asphyxiation.

Well, it was a mere gedankenexperiment, but Nessie has been reported for centuries, so it does not seem to matter how much of the smelly stuff ends up in Loch Ness.

But, Ted viewed sludge filtering as a viable proposition and cast doubt on any eyewitness accounts about feeding on fish. Now, if there is one thing that should be avoided, it is changing the data to fit the theory. Of course, individual cases can be disputed, but to consign a whole class of sightings to the bin because they don't fit your theory is more in keeping with the tactics of a sceptic.

But, on reflection, Ted did have a point as I cannot recall an eyewitness report where the Loch Ness Monster is seen eating a fish. We have reports, such as the recently posted article on John MacLean, where the creature is observed to be moving its head and neck in a way that suggests eating whilst in an area known for higher fish numbers.

But, then again, John MacLean does not mention seeing any fish in the act of being consumed. It is a matter of inference when fish are seen to jump about and the monster is seen to act in an energetic way about them. So, perhaps not so much a case of changing the data but re-examining that particular aspect of the sightings database.

Five years later, Ted Holiday was gravitating in the direction of the paranormal in his second book, The Dragon and the Disc. When he actually began to have second thoughts is not clear, but the odd, quirky things he thought were happening at Loch Ness were the catalyst.

So, where did his Tullimonstrum Gregarium fit into this new scheme? In his chapter, "What is a Dragon?", he reminds readers that he proposed a gigantic form of the Tullimonstrum in his previous book. He then says "my views on this have changed only in minor details". So, paranormal happenings come in but it remains a very biological creature.

Curiously, he likens the creature in the Lachlan Stuart photograph to a multi humped creature drawn on a prehistoric mound called the Knowth disc barrow in County Meath, Ireland. The disc barrow is said to be shaped in the same manner as the archetypal flying saucer and this gives you an idea of how Holiday attempted to synthesise these two "cults" into one recurring theme.

Whilst in the domain of dragons and discs, Holiday mentions a conversation with the paranormalist, John Keel. Holiday says that Keel had warned him to:

Proceed with great caution in your Loch Ness work. We are caught up in a series of games which must be played by 'their' rules. Anyone who tries to invent his own rules, or break the basic patterns, soon loses his mind or even his life.

Six years later, Ted Holiday was dead at the premature age of 59. The cause was natural enough being a heart attack but one can't help wondering if Holiday believed his days were numbered, having had a smaller heart attack the year before.

Do Loch Ness researchers live shorter lives or only those who are engaged in work too "close" to the truth? What about those like myself who seek biological explanations or those who simply seek to dismiss the whole thing as hysteria?

I would not have thought cryptozoologists live short lives. Roy Mackal lived to 84 years and I can think of others who are or were similarly aged (such as Loch Ness paranormalist, Winifred Cary). Indeed, John Keel himself lived for 79 years. Doubtless, there are those who died prematurely, but nothing to suggest anything beyond the norm. The conclusion is that Ted Holiday was just unlucky in the number of years allotted to him.

Did any lose their minds, as Keel suggested? That is a bit harder to determine and no doubt some will readily and cynically suggest anyone who is not a sceptic has lost some or all of their mind. But, I am not aware of any who became clinically and mentally ill (though statistically there must be some).

But moving on, by the time he wrote the manuscript in the late 70s for his third work, "The Goblin Universe", the change was complete. In Appendix A, he tells us that the question of whether these phantom creatures are biological or not is one of the big mysteries of our time. He then states he believes they are not biological. So there you have it, the transition is completed in the third and final book (which was published posthumously by Colin Wilson in 1986).

But was that the end of the transition? In Colin Wilson's introduction to "The Goblin Universe",  he tells us that Holiday sent the transcript to him in 1977. Wilson enthusiastically wrote to him and told him he would recommend it to his publisher. However, no reply was forthcoming for months.

Then Holiday unexpectedly wrote to Wilson saying he was dissatisfied with the book, was scrapping it and was writing a new one. Wilson obtained the transcript of the fourth book after Holiday's death and was disappointed to find it was a more generic book on lake monsters lacking the "daring range and sweep" of the Goblin book.

Having compared his own paranormal research to that of Holiday, Colin Wilson concluded that Holiday had not abandoned his belief in a paranormal Loch Ness Monster, but rather he had abandoned his objective to find and "present an unanswerable case for the Goblin Universe". For that reason, he gave up on the book. Sadly, both men are now dead and the whereabouts of Holiday's fourth and final book is unknown.

We all go through changes of opinion in our lives. Most since the 1980s have been to the sceptical side. Holiday's change was by no means unique in his day as there was a noticeable shift to a paranormal paradigm from the late 1960s into the early 1980s across various phenomena.

His was not a change, though, that was borne out of jumping on a bandwagon. He genuinely believed he had experienced things at Loch Ness that went beyond the mere biological or coincidental. Since his death, no one has seriously taken up that particular mantle and I think Loch Ness research is that little bit poorer for its absence and, come to think if it, his absence.

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