Sunday, 20 April 2014

The Surgeon's Photo Eighty Years On

It was eighty years to the day on the 21st April 1934 that the Daily Mail introduced the most iconic image of Nessie to the world. The Surgeon's Photograph as it was dubbed caught the imagination of the world and has ever since been the lead image for the monster.

Almost immediately, the photo gained acceptance amongst the monster hunting fraternity as Rupert T. Gould approvingly included it two months later in his work "The Loch Ness Monster". That was the way it pretty much stayed as Constance Whyte gave it prominence in the 1950s as did Dinsdale in his later works and into a plethora of authors throughout the 1970s and beyond.

As the photograph was scrutinized for further hidden clues, things became somewhat strained as Dinsdale thought he saw a concentric ripple near the object indicating further monster activity. Meanwhile, Ted Holiday, in his book "The Great Orm of Loch Ness" claimed to see monstrous appendages in the shadows which bolstered his invertebrate theory of Nessie. The less well known monster author, Edward Armstrong, made a somewhat better effort in claiming a print defect was in fact a seagull flying past the monster, thus making it about seven foot high. To complete the list, there was also the story from the 1990s by Nicholas Witchell of whiskers being visible on a computer enhancement of the photograph.

Sceptics may chortle at these failed attempts, but in their desire to look more clever than they really are, they too made themselves look a bit silly in hindsight. Roy Mackal, in his book "The Monsters of Loch Ness" pronounced the photograph to be no more than a water fowl. Maurice Burton decided it was perhaps an otter's tail caught in the act of diving, whilst the Linnean Society of London decided the object was a tree trunk thrust to the surface by erupting gases.

To be fair to Tim Dinsdale, he cooled a bit on the photograph in later years, but it was the research of another monster believer, Alastair Boyd, along with David Martin that finally exposed the story behind the picture nearly sixty years after its creation. It seems the whole affair was a model neck stuck to a toy submarine concocted by Marmaduke Wetherell, Christian Spurling, Maurice Chambers and Kenneth Wilson.

I won't go over the details of this oft repeated story, but suffice to say the case is closed for me and the majority of Loch Ness Monster researchers. Some unanswered questions remain, such as the nature of the less well known second photograph of the object submerging. To this day, there is no satisfactory explanation for this, and given the various failed sceptical theories about the first photograph, I wouldn't assume they have a grasp of the situation either. Critics may often accuse "believers" of accepting any old evidence, but I think that ad hominem has been disproved in this case (well, perhaps some still accept the picture as evidence).

But what of the man himself, Robert Kenneth Wilson? In an article from the ANZ Journal of Surgery published in December 2007, some more facts are revealed about him. Born on the 26th January 1899 into a medical family, he developed a love of firearms and joined the Royal Artillery in 1917, only to be wounded in action on the Western Front in 1918 (which left him with a slight limp for life).

Gaining the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1926, he established a practise in Queen Anne Street near Harley Street, specialising in gynaecology. His expertise in firearms led him to be an expert witness in court trials and his expanding collection occupied three walls of a special room at their Highgate residence. The outbreak of war compelled him to donate the guns to the Metropolitan Police as personal armouries were outlawed. He also wrote a book on the subject of firearms.

The Nessie hoax with his shooting partner, Maurice Chambers, was a mixed affair to Wilson. The Daily Mail bought the picture from Chambers for £100 (over £6000 in today's money), but the British Medical Association fined Wilson £1000 for allowing his name to be associated with the picture! This was deemed as advertising and therefore improper for what his wife Gwen deemed a "silly prank" to their children.

It was claimed in this 2007 article that Maurice Chambers had confessed to all in his will after he died in 1944. I have examined a copy of the will obtained through the usual means, but have found no such confession.

Wilson again fought for his country in the Second World War, seeing action in France, Germany and the Far East. For these he was awarded the French Croix de Guerre and the Royal Orange Order of the Netherlands.

Having moved to Australasia in the 1950s to continue his medical practice (picture below), he retired in the mid-1960s after a stint with the Australian Petroleum Company. Our short story ends with Kenneth Wilson dying on the 6th June 1969 in Melbourne from oesophageal cancer.

Kenneth Wilson was obviously a brave and talented man, but even he and his co-conspirators could not summon the courage to come clean on a photograph that unexpectedly swept like wildfire around the world. Such is the power of the appeal of the Loch Ness Monster and eighty years on we look back on his part in this appeal with mixed feelings.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Nessie on Land: Predator

It is back to this blog's occasional series on land sightings and there is one interesting aspect to the Loch Ness Monster on land and that is its role as hunter. Of the thirty five alleged land cases I know about, three are reported with an indication of prey being carried away.

Now sightings of a large creature in Loch Ness are interesting, stories of this monster lumbering about on land are even more fascinating. But stories of the monster helping itself to cows, sheep, deer and other animals around the loch boggles the mind and may make some a bit wary of  wild camping along secluded parts of the shore! Critics have often complained there are not enough fish in the loch to sustain a group of large predators, but what about on land? It is now time to indulge in some wild speculation!

The first case of these three is the famous story of the Spicers, though the suggestion of predation here is not so clear. George Spicer had reported seeing something like a lamb on the back of the creature but this was transformed into a tale of the monster carrying off a lamb in its mouth. However, the Spicers had never claimed to have seen the head of the creature. The picture below by the talented Gino D'Achille sums up how the media culture overlaid this sighting into a story of a prehistoric monster carrying off some hapless livestock.

As an aside, I remembered this painting from a book I owned in my youth and it was only a few days ago that I found the book in a charity shop in Edinburgh for a couple of quid. It was Mysterious Monsters by Daniel Farson for those who collect these things.

The second such story is attributed to a Mrs. Eleanor Price-Hughes in 1933. The oldest source for this story comes from sea serpent researcher Oudemans in 1934 who wrote an article on the Loch Ness Monster with these words roughly translated from the Dutch:

1933 (no date). Mrs. ELEANOR PRICE-HUGHES, Stanford, Surrey.

Her husband saw it, coming from a thicket at Drumnadrochit and disappear into the loch, with what appeared to be a baby in its mouth; are not baby seals pinkish?

Commander Gould wrote to me, dated 5th June 1934 thinking it was a mere hoax. On what grounds? Because he believes that the Loch Ness creature is like a giant salamander. This "flesh-colored baby" was probably a big .... ?

The last word is lost on my copy, so could be anything that lives by the loch side (certainly not baby seals). So it was not Mrs. Price Hughes, but her husband who allegedly witnessed this event. I suspect the original source for this story lies in an article or letter written to an English newspaper at the time. It appears that Oudemans accepted this report but Gould did not.

Since the loch is not visible from Drumnadrochit, this story is more likely to have taken place around the rivers feeding into Urquhart Bay just beyond the village. I have scouted around this area several times which is the location for several land sightings. There are pathways winding around the area, though other parts need a bit of an effort to get to.

Of course, the mention of the emotive words "baby in its mouth" may well have motivated Gould to have pronounced this a hoax. Portraying the Loch Ness Monster as a man-eater excites the imagination, but would it do much good for tourism or credible research?

One sceptic suggested this story may have been a seal with a pink salmon in its mouth or a cow with its pink tongue hanging out. However, the credibility of these suggestions is predicated on the witness catching only the briefest and inconclusive of glimpses of the creature. The text of the report suggests otherwise. The creature was seen to emerge from a thicket and disappear into the loch. Clearly, it would help to see the original account, before forming a better judgement.

The third account is similar to the Price-Hughes story. The story is found in Paul Harrison's "The Encyclopedia of the Loch Ness Monster" and though he does not state the source, it seems clear it was a local newspaper report. An anonymous witness described as a "very trustworthy man" was driving north of Foyers at about 5:30 in the morning of 15th May 1971. It is then stated that he saw a large grey animal appear from the woods to his left dragging itself into the loch. In its mouth were parts of an animal, possibly a cow. It was described as lizard like, 30 foot long and 6 foot tall with an oily sheen on its skin.

Sunrise is at about 5am at that time of year and the driver must have been driving south for the creature to appear from his left. I have no idea what kind of livestock grazed around that area in 1971, but if this story was true, it could equally be a deer.

So that is it, three reports or more likely two mentioning a Loch Ness Monster as a land hunter. It is not much to go on, but are they indicative of a behavioural pattern of the creature that is barely known?

First it has to be said that aquatic creatures hunting land based creatures is no big deal. The YouTube clip below of crocodiles taking out gazelles will be familiar to watchers of wildlife documentaries.

Looking more closely at flipper-based creatures, who can forget the spectacular shots of killer whales driving themselves onto land to capture seals?

On a more sedate level but perhaps more relevant is this intriguing clip of catfish sneaking up on pigeons for an unexpected meal.

No doubt there are other examples, but I think I have got the point across that certain species of water based animals are not limited to what they can find in the water to survive. But how relevant is this to the Loch Ness Monster? 

Clearly, there are no reports of any such displays of predation at the loch shoreline. The stories we have here are of the beast moving inland to seek out prey whilst these clips have the predator staying within its preferred domain.

If there is anything to this aspect of the Loch Ness Monster, then it has to be a behavioural trait that occurs at night time. I have already stated my belief elsewhere that Nessie is largely a creature of the dark.  This is borne out by the fact that a higher proportion of land sightings occur in hours of darkness.  

But the question has to be asked why the Loch Ness Monster would take to land at all? What motivates any creature to behave in certain ways? Since animals are primarily driven by the instinct to survive, I would suggest this boils down to the matter of food. The other factor is reproduction, but I see that as a less likely candidate here. In other words, it is not just these two or three stories about the monster with food in its mouth that are relevant, the whole genre of land sightings has "food" written all over it.

Now the first thing to dismiss here is the idea of Nessie chasing cows and sheep around the fields of Loch Ness. It is just not on when you consider the nature of the beast. The motion of the creature on land is described variously as waddling, lumbering and jerking. I suspect even a pregnant cow could easily evade a land bound Nessie.

No, the modus operandi must function along the lines of the animals mentioned above. Just as  crocodiles, orcas and catfish cannot pursue gazelles, seals or pigeons on land, neither can the Loch Ness Monster. Our little gedankenexperiment must also embrace the concept of the ambush.

The ambush can operate in two domains, at the shoreline, like other aquatic predators, or further inland. In both cases, our dark skinned creature lies inert in the darkness waiting for its quarry. At the shoreline, it lies in the shallows as deer come to the loch to drink. Inland, it lies amongst the trees, indistinguishable from the rocks around it.

In this imagined scenario, the long neck of the beast comes into its own. The deer approaches the peat stained waters seeking to slake its thirst. Unaware of the dark mass about six feet away, it is suddenly seized in the leg by a long, sleek neck that thrusts from that black lump. The last thing the deer sees are the receding trees as it is dragged into the loch to a watery death. The ancient Kelpie legend of victims being taken into the loch takes on a new meaning.

The inland version of this is similar in its execution, though since more energy and risk is required in this venture, it makes it seems a less likely episode to me. Not impossible, just less likelier than staying at the shoreline waiting for the victims to arrive. Having said that, the night time hunt by the shore is less likely to be observed by potential witnesses from the road.

As I said, it is speculation, but if there is a Loch Ness Monster, it is a possible one. How much food could land based creatures provide for a monster diet? I cannot say, but an entire deer is a major meal, more than a goodly number of fish.

And what does this mean in practise for the seasoned monster hunter? The frequency of land sightings is down over the decades. Increased fencing, thicker foliage and noisier roads all act as deterrents. But I already have my night vision equipment, I just need to stake out the appropriate beach at the dead of night. Just be wary of those dark rocks which don't quite look right .....

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Nessie on the Allies Side!

During World War Two, even the Loch Ness Monster was not immune to the propaganda of the Axis powers. Previously, I had written of a Nazi Germany April Fool about Nessie being captured and displayed in Edinburgh in 1934. Not quite wartime propaganda, but Goebbels went to war on Nessie in 1940 with a dismissive article about the monster being a tourist trade scam. So now you know how to answer in future when anyone asks you what Nessie debunkers and Josef Goebbels have in common.

I also mentioned the Italian spoof about one of their bombers taking out Nessie in 1941 and cryptozoologist, Paul Cropper, sent me further details from this article from "The World's News" of Sydney dated 22nd November 1941. I love the picture of patriotic Nessie cocking a snook at the Fascist plane as its bombs miss her!

Of course, the article is not going to reveal much about the identity of the Loch Ness Monster. However, since this blog tries to be holistic and seek out the folkloric, historical and cultural as well as the analytical and scientific, then such newspaper clippings are always welcome.

The good thing was that Nessie made a triumphant return with a sighting from the 18th August 1941 being reported in the Daily Mail. A Mr. MacFarlan-Barrow, his wife and three children were out in a dinghy when the creature broke surface near Glendoe Pier. It was described as having a long, snake like neck with 15 to 18 feet of body showing in the classic "upturned boat" fashion. For ten minutes, Nessie moved around before it disappeared half a mile from Fort Augustus.

Critics will be enraged that the MacFarlan-Barrow family did not bring their box camera with them and will therefore dismiss the sighting. Josef Goebbels would no doubt have decreed the sighting to be a line of merganser birds. Goebbels himself would nod approvingly at the need for witnesses to be re-indoctrinated, ermmm, re-educated in what they actually saw .....



Monday, 31 March 2014

The Carcass Problem (Part 1 Appendix)

Whilst compiling the list of alleged Nessie carcasses, this one completely escaped my mind. Richard Carter was an active monster hunter back in the 1990s and found this skull on the shores of Loch Ness which then went through various hands before it seems ending up in a Yorkshire landfill site. Richard Carter no longer is on the Loch Ness scene, but in a recent exchange of messages with me, he still believes there is something unusual in the loch and is drawn to the Giant Eel theory.

It is probably a cat, and I recall F. W. Holiday talking about finding a wildcat carcass during his shoreline searches. But it could be something else (though not necessarily mysterious) and does show that things are found around the loch, albeit not of a Nessie nature. It is a matter then of figuring out what exactly it is (I contacted Steve Feltham who was of the opinion it was a cat).

The comments below are taken from a website on Scottish Big Cats.

In February 1995, Richard Carter from Huddersfield, found, along the banks of Loch Ness, the remains of an animal that he could not readily identify. He gathered the bones and the skull, which reminded him of a large cat, because of its fangs. The skull he gave to Steve Feltham who later passed it on to Di Francis, the bones he took home to Yorkshire.

Later he discarded the bones in the dustbin. It was two years later, in late 1997, when I visited Richard at his home. He showed me the photograph and told me the brief details. He did have a report made, which I think was by Rita Gould, although I never had the chance to see it. So thats it, but I would liked to have seen the picture without the decoration's around the skull. Also Richard would like to know what became of the skull?

With regards to the Loch Ness photo taken by Richard Carter, the features of this skull were rather obscure. There appears, however, to be too many teeth for it to be feline. To me its canine.

Nigel Brierly.

I tend to agree with Nigel that they could be of canine origin as the skull does seem to be some what elongated.

Clive Moulding (Beastwatch.)

The image is rather blurred and the skull is covered with debris making any sort of identification very difficult. However, if it compared to the skulls identification section, I would agree that it does look possibly canine rather than felid.

Chris Smith, Scottish Big Cats

About 15 years ago my dog found a large pile of seaweed on Winterton beach in Norfolk. It was a badly decoposed body about 8 foot long with (rotted bits it would be longer) very large canine teeth and jaws bigger than an alsation. I eventually made up my mind that it must be a type of sealion and left it to rot in peace.

Terry Dye

Hello Terry, Thanks for the info. I've come across a few porpoises and seals on the beach myself so the possibility that the Loch Ness skull might be a seal or sea lion is an interesting one. Seals are often seen in the river Don at Aberdeen so I guess there might be some in Loch Ness. I think there are gates between the Loch and the sea so access might not be as easy for aquatic creatures to the Loch as it is to the river Don. Chris , Scottish Big Cats

P.S. Your comments reminded another member of the group that he also thought the skull might be a seal.

The Loch Ness skull: Other than the photographs on the SBCT website, little exists. In discussion with Di Francis at beginning of this year I had the chance to examine her collection of photographs first-hand, as illustrated in her books/ articles.

She states the skull was passed over to amateur Loch Ness Monster hunter Steve Feltham, who then passed it on to her. She was ADAMANT the skull is only a "cat" be it F.cattus or F. sylvestris.

Looking at the photograph on your site, behind the upper canine teeth are 2 visible teeth, whose size, both relative to each other, and to the length of the maxillary upper jaw show it to be typically FELINE. The premolars are huge in cats, with characteristics of size and shape, clearly seen in the photograph, albeit a poor quality one.

Note, pinnipeds such as common seals, have short albeit very sharp, highly curved upper canines (cf photo - large canines, carnivore) and are followed by an array of premolar and molar teeth all very much the same in terms of size and morphology. I describe them as 'leaf' like, with 3 `trident like' cusps/spurs projecting above the gum margins.

The photo shows what appears to be an ear, rounded pinnal cartiledge flap of tissue behind the bulk of the skull. Comparatively the skull appears domestic-wild cat. The almond shaped eye like slit is rather deceptive. Ocular cavities of domestic cats and grampus are HUGE, the eye of dead animals rapidly looses moisture and dehydrates or ruptures, the slit like opening - the skin concaving into huge orbits, typified by "small cats", but felids in general.

Nothing I've seen of Loch Ness skull would convince me it is anything different from the 2 F.cattus/sylvestris skulls I have myself.

Aron Bowers

PS. I asked Di Francis what became of the skull, but she couldn't remember at the time where its' location is.

Original Link Here.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The Carcass Problem (Part 1)

Is there a Loch Ness Monster? Does anything swim in the dark depths of that Scottish lake? The proofs offered range from controversial photographs and films to close up sightings by various people of varying observational skills. However, the gold standard that will finally convince the majority is a piece of the monster itself. 

Once you deliver that pound of flesh to the laboratory of science, it is no longer a case of "if" but "what".  To be fair to scientists, that has been pretty much the stance of zoologists since this mystery came to the public's attention 80 years ago. Admittedly though, some have departed from this strict methodology. Dr. Maurice Burton, who worked at the Natural History Museum, was one of the early advocates of some large creature in Loch Ness. As we know, he eventually retracted such views.

There was also Dr. George Zug, curator of Reptiles and Amphibians at the renowned Smithsonian Institute in Washington. Having examined the 1975 underwater photographs of the Academy of Applied Sciences, he said: "I believe these data indicate the presence of large animals in Loch Ness, but are insufficient to identify them."

But, in general, zoological scientists demand a live specimen or a verifiable sample of a dead animal. From these, morphological and genetic analysis leads to the creature being classified and taking its place in the "official" tree of life. Clearly, the Loch Ness Monster still swims outside of that system, despite premature names such as Nessiteras Rhomboteryx.

Visit a few cryptozoological forums and it won't take long to find skeptics deriding any talk of large, unknown creatures in lakes, forests or mountains which do not provide the body. The Loch Ness Monster is no different and the question has to be asked, why has no physical evidence for this creature turned up after eighty years of searching?

The critics say it is because there is no Loch Ness Monster. This blog takes a different answer to that question. But for part one of this subject, I look back at some claimed carcass finds in decades past. To this end, I recommend Glen Vaudrey's "Sea Serpent Carcasses: Scotland: from the Stronsa Monster to Loch Ness".

Glen's focus is on the various bodies that have washed ashore on Scotland's coasts over centuries past such as the Stronsay Monster of 1808 and the strange Gourock beast of 1942. Most of these have or will turn out to be the ubiquitous Basking Shark carcass, others may live on in mystery.

Firstly, in terms of folklore, we have a few tales of Kelpies being killed or captured. Those captured were press ganged into forced labour and one tale of a dead one describes it as assuming a jelly like form by the morning. None of these tales centre on Loch Ness.

But carcass stories from around Loch Ness take up about a tenth of the book and range from whole bodies to bits and pieces. The oldest one is surprisingly from 1868 when a strange looking body was found washed up at the top end of the loch. I covered this one in a previous article and it may surprise people that such a stunt was pulled  65 years before the Nessie story began in 1933. But monster tales have been around longer than that and evidently some waggish boat crew took advantage of this.

So a monster hoax presumes a monster tradition, and that carried on through to 1933 when Marmaduke Wetherell found his fabricated tracks on the loch side. This is not strictly carcass material, but residual traces of monsters such as tracks or faeces could, in theory, provide DNA material. I mused on this subject in this article.

The most well known Nessie "carcass" is the one which was supposedly found at Loch Ness on April 1st 1972 and was apprehended by the police by the Forth Road Bridge as its owners headed south. An examination proved it to be nothing more than a dead elephant bull seal with some cosmetic alterations. The date also gave away the motives of the perpetrators.

There are other stories you can consult in the book such as the dead conger eels found in 2001, the plesiosaur fossil vertebrae of 2003 and the alleged tooth of 2005. But there are two stories not mentioned in Dale's book which I cover here. 

The first is the alleged carcass spotted by Robert Rines' team in 2001 as they sent a ROV down into the mouth of Urquhart Bay (below). It was found at a depth of about 330 feet. Now it has been speculated that it has a morphological resemblance to the Loch Ness Monster and that is conceded. 

I myself think it is nothing more than tree debris. A lot of logs and branches make their way down from the rivers Enrick and Coiltie into the bay. Moreover, the size of the object is not stated and as far as I know, no attempt has been made to recover it.

The second concerns the object in the postcard below.

Now the story of this foot was certainly doing the rounds in the late 1950s and into the 1960s and was presented as proof of the Loch Ness Monster. Tim Dinsdale recounts looking at it during his second expedition to the loch in July 1960. You can read his fuller account in his book "Loch Ness Monster". However, he found it at a house in Drumnadrochit and the owner allowed him to examine it. The foot was well preserved and measured thirteen by seven inches.

It was apparently found by Urquhart Castle, but Tim was in little doubt it was the foot of an alligator or crocodile. He speculated it may have been from the Gharial species, of which we have a picture below to compare feet. Also note the long snout which Tim speculated could be mistaken for a long necked monster!

But Tim (like myself) speculated this may actually have been a genuine carcass find at Loch Ness. Dinsdale refers to the story related by Rupert T. Gould in his 1934 book, "The Loch Ness Monster and Others" (page 140). Gould tells of a story from a Mrs. J. S. Fraser who was told to watch out for the crocodile by the shore of Dores in 1888. This was apparently due to a South African who had settled in a house between Dores and Foyers and had brought three young crocodiles. When they became too big to look after, he arranged for them to go to a zoo, only for one to escape into the loch.

A different slant on this story is given in a letter by David Murray Rose to The Scotsman newspaper of 30th November 1934. He tells of how three young crocodiles were presented to the Scientific Institute at Inverness by a John Fraser of Charlestown, Carolina in 1827. Two of them died and the other was placed in Loch Ness  at some unspecified time. Rose speculates whether the longevity of crocodiles saw this one survive to that present day.

In fact, one crocodile was definitely seen in Loch Ness in 1938 as this article from the Scotsman shows!

Gould also makes mention of a crocodile like skull that was found in the waters of the River Shiel in Loch Moidart some years before 1933. This is a long way from Loch Ness but interestingly feeds into that other Water Horse body of water - Loch Shiel. Perhaps one loch monster has a carcass to speak of?

Such is the story, but one must wonder how long a crocodile would survive in Loch Ness? The aforementioned foot seems to have been found in 1937 in the waters of Urquhart Bay, according to an article I found from the Aberdeen Press and Journal of May 8th 1958 (below). Could this have been the foot of this escaped crocodile? Perhaps, perhaps not. I leave it to the reader to form their own opinion. It may yet turn out to be nothing more than a trophy foot brought in from a foreign trader.

In conclusion, Loch Ness has its fair share of carcass stories, but all are hoaxes with the possible exception of our crocodile foot. I am not suggesting Nessie is a crocodile, but two independent sources suggest a crocodile may have once inhabited Loch Ness for some period of time. One wonders where this foot is now? It makes for a great story and a nice exhibit for one of the exhibition centres at Loch Ness!

Part two of this article gets down to the nitty gritty question. Why has no Loch Ness Monster carcass been found? There are three possible answers to this, I concentrate on one of them next time.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Shooting Bigfoot

A Sasquatch parenthetic here. The documentary "Shooting Bigfoot" will televise on British channel BBC4 this Monday (24th March) at 9pm.

"Shooting Bigfoot looks into the religiously obsessive, competitive and bitterly divided cult of Bigfoot hunting, as filmmaker Morgan Matthews accompanies three American Bigfoot search parties trying to capture proof of the elusive ape-like creature. Tom Biscardi has been hunting down Bigfoot for 37 years and adopts a military approach with his 'A team' of guys armed with thermal imagers and tasers in increasingly far-out attempts to capture the beast. Unemployed Dallas and Wayne in Ohio use more basic techniques, utilising cans of mackerel and Native American chants to lure the creature in. Only renowned 'master tracker' Rick Dyer is intent on shooting and killing the mysterious beast as he stakes out a stretch of woods in Texas populated by homeless people, many of whom claim to have seen Bigfoot. As truth and fact tip into malarkey, night-time hunts devolve into farcical displays of voodoo and comic stretches of the human imagination. What starts as a humorous look at perception gone off the rails, descends into a dark mystery as things get out of control during a close encounter in the woods."

This should shed some light on the Rick Dyer controversy ... I hope. YouTube trailer is here.

POSTSCRIPT (spoilers warning)

I just watched the program and it is intriguing to say the least. My assumption was that something was shot dead in the footage but that does not appear to be the case. Something was shot at, but no body was filmed. Morgan Matthews claims Dyer went back and did that. However, there is footage in the dark of something humanoid and hairy moving away with its back to the camera as Dyer races after it.

Whilst Matthews holds back, something with a fleeting, hairy face lunges at him and knocks him to the ground and is seen walking away as Matthews is left in a daze. Man in a hairy suit or Sasquatch? Matthews won't say and the film is not detailed enough to decide, it is too dark.

Anyway, puts me in the mood for my planned night hunt at Loch Ness next month, except I won't be packing a rifle!