Wednesday, 24 May 2017

More on Nessie the Predator




I recently published a letter from Tim Dinsdale to Herman Cockrell and was struck by Tim's concern to Herman in case he ever ventured out in his kayak again - "... for heaven's sake, be careful ... the plesiosaurs were predatory animals!".

That was back in 1961 when Tim discussed his first book, "Loch Ness Monster". What he thought of their predatory habits twenty years later as his book approached its final revision may have been less dramatic, but it brought back to mind my article on the possible predatory habits of the creature on land as well something Tim wrote some years later.

That view of mine was twisted by some sceptics, but I want to quote a story I read recently in Tim's other book, "Monster Hunt" on page 38:

During the course of the Loch Ness expeditions I have been careful to collect 'odd' stories, and scraps of information which, for one reason or another, lie outside the usual category of evidence. Much of this information is based on hearsay, which can be very unreliable; but some of it is believable because of the circumstances connected with it. One such account emphasizes the carnivorous nature of the beast — or Beiste, as it is known in the Gaelic. Some years ago, a stag was hunted down one of the glens which lead to the northern shore of Loch Ness.

In fear it entered the water, swimming out strongly. When some way out it became involved in a sudden swirl. Changing direction, it headed back to the shore — but on climbing out, over the rocks and shingle, it was seen, quite literally, to be walking on three legs. The fourth leg was missing! The reason why this account has not been publicized is because the stag was not, I understand, being hunted legally. A recurring situation in the Highlands of Scotland, one may add.

If this story is true, I would surmise the Loch Ness Monster was the only Loch Ness inhabitant capable of parting a deer from one of its legs. The thought naturally arose as to why we don't hear more of these predatory stories. Admittedly, it is rare to even see a deer swimming across the loch, let alone an incident like this. But I would add one other story here. It comes from the Inverness Courier of the 20th October 1933.


The community of Benedictine nuns who once resided near Fort Augustus are now living close to me here at Holme Eden Abbey, and one of the lay sisters, an old Inverness-shire woman, says she can remember fifty years ago talk of an uncanny beast being seen in the Loch, and also that animals grazing by the loch-side disappeared.

Livestock grazing beside the loch shores was undoubtedly a more common thing back in those days than it is now. This is exemplified by the postcard below of sheep moving along the shores of the loch. Clearly, such a sight would not be possible now on these car dominated roads, but I do not see much in the way of shoreline livestock on my trips and there is more in the way of wire fencing between them and the loch.




It also seems as if predation of humans is limited to the old water horse stories. I can think of no instance of a modern story which ascribes the disappearance of anyone to the Loch Ness Monster. Of course, people have disappeared around the loch over the decades and centuries. Most would have fallen into the loch from the shore or from boats and drowned. When searching old newspapers, I found quite a few stories of drowned people from the 19th century when health and safety procedures were not so important.

If such a thing happened alone and the body was never recovered, it is easy to raise a question mark over the cause of the disappearance. But is the lack of human predation a proof against the Loch Ness Monster? After all, if the monster is partial to salmon, trout and the odd deer, then why not humans?

It all goes back to Dinsdale's warning to Cockrell. It is reasonable to assume humans are on the menu if the monster is a form of plesiosaur. After all, it is doubtful that plesiosaurs have evolved into herbivores. Of course, their relatively small jaws could not swallow a human whole, but they could undoubtedly cause a fatal injury.

Yet multiple people have swum the loch and nothing has happened. Was this just expected due to the vast size of the loch or because the creature mainly sticks to the sides of the loch? Is this a proof that the creature is not carnivorous or, for some reason, humans are off the menu? After all, didn't Saint Columba only grant the creature the freedom of the loch if it left people alone? Only kidding.

However, my own opinion is that these creatures will in theory eat humans. If you eat meat and are a lot bigger than a human, it is reasonable to assume you will go for them. I would think, though, that they are opportunistic since their hunting instincts are not primarily geared to seek out humans. For example, a drowned body being scavenged or someone falling in 200 feet above them.

I don't think the number of times swimmers and divers have been in the loch has been statistically significant enough to trigger such an event. The loch has a volume of 7.4 billion cubic metres, the volume of a human is about 0.07 cubic metres. The odds of a human and a Nessie being in proximity are pretty small; but given enough time, something will eventually happen.

On an unrelated but interesting point, you would have noted our quote from the Inverness Courier of 20th October 1933 saying "she can remember fifty years ago talk of an uncanny beast being seen in the Loch". That would place events around 1883. By some strange coincidence, on the very same day, the historian, David Murray Rose, had a letter published in The Scotsman, saying this:

In the summer of 1885, stories were circulated about a strange beast being seen by many people about Loch Ness. It usually only appeared for a few minutes on the surface of the loch, so that no one could properly describe it.

Murray Rose has been panned by sceptics many a time. It's nice to see some corroboration for what he was claiming. Whether the kelpie-averse newspapers picked this up remains to be seen.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Sunday, 21 May 2017

More Monster Hunting on the Isle of Lewis




I had previously written of my monster hunting activities in the distant Isle of Lewis back in 2011, including my attempt to get to Loch Ulladale, the stories surrounding that creature as well as the various other lochs of legend. I was back on the island last July and was minded once more to go about some cryptozoological business of the aquatic variety. 

As a primer, I purchased a rather delightful book entitled, "The Secret of the Kelpie" from the tourist shop in the town of Tarbert (which is actually on the adjoining Isle of Harris). What could I find in the way of modern kelpies in 2016? Back in 2011, I had made the long hike to Loch Ulladale and was within sight of the loch before being turned back by deep bogs and a plague of horse flies. 

That was frustrating, but I had another loch in my sights and that was Loch Urabhal (pronounced "uraval"). This was motivated by a story from the Glasgow Herald of 29th July 1961 which is reproduced here from Paul Harrison's "Sea Serpents and Lake Monsters of the British Isles" (2002).

A monster appeared in Loch Urabhal, near the village of Achmore, in Lewis, on Thursday evening (27 July 1961), Mr Ian McArthur, a Forres school teacher who is holidaying in Lewis, said yesterday. Mr McArthur had gone out fishing with Mr Roderick Maclver, a teacher from Stornaway, and his brother Donald, on leave from teaching in Aden. `Roddy and I were fishing at the shallow end of the Loch, when Roddy jumped to his feet shouting "There's something in the Loch".

I then saw it myself. Donald, who was fishing farther up the Loch, did not see it, but he saw we were excited about something. It was about 45 yards away from us in shallow water and it appeared three times. It had a hump and there was either a small head or fin about 6 feet away from the hump. It swam like a dolphin but was much bigger. `Urabhal is an inland Loch, and no dolphins could get into it. I have been fishing there and so have the Maclver brothers since we were boys and have never seen anything in the Loch.

I asked my father if there were any legends about the Loch, but he said there was none. He thought it must have been an otter, but this did not swim like an otter. We saw it distinctly because the sun was shining and the water was calm. I had my camera out ready for a picture when it submerged for the last time.' According to a local historian, Dr Donald MacDonald, of Gisla, there are no traditions attached to Urabhal.

With all this in mind, it was off to Loch Urabhal on the 28th July 2016. The maps below give you some idea where this little loch is in relation to Loch Ness.




Parking at the village of Achmore, we donned the hillwalking boots and waterproofs and headed north. The hill adjoining the village was ascended as we navigated round the hi-tech communication masts erected there. After that, nature resumed and the going underfoot was firm to soft depending on the nearby streams and contours. As you can see, Lewis is a place rather bereft of trees.





It took over an hour to trudge there, but the loch eventually came into view once a ridge was cleared. As expected, it was a rather small affair. The loch measures about 900m by 400m at its widest points and I suspect the depth was not great, but obviously enough to fish from, going by the Herald account.




I panned across the loch as you can see on this video.



The loch was scanned for a while and nothing of a cryptid nature showed itself, apart from this object which was noticed on the other side of the loch during our surveillance. Was it a shark or some other finned life form? Unfortunately not, as it was immobile throughout and so was presumed it to be nothing more than a rock (there were other small outcroppings dotted around).




Now it was pretty clear that nothing of the size described could live here for long in terms of an indigenous, breeding population. So, if this was an accurate account, it seemed the best theory was that something came in from the sea. The fact that the report stated the men were fishing implied that, like the surrounding lochs, there was a supply of trout or salmon to be had and these most likely migrated from the sea (as opposed to being resident trout).

The loch is about five miles from the western coastline as the crow flies. An examination of the map does show a complex pattern of small lochs and their interconnecting streams and that revealed a route to the sea from the loch that takes in four other lochs along the way. So, a large creature could with some effort get from sea to loch.

I agree with the original account that a dolphin is an unlikely candidate which leaves a seal or some other semi-aquatic creature. My only quibble with the seal theory is that a seal is unlikely to disappear in such a loch and should have surfaced frequently enough to be identified.

So, whatever appeared in that loch fifty six years ago was likely a "flash cryptid"; here today, gone tomorrow and a guest rather than a resident. Having said that though, it is entirely possible that the skeleton of a large creature which failed to get back to the sea still resides at the bottom of this shallow loch ......


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com


Friday, 19 May 2017

An Interesting eBay Item (Secret of the Loch)




Here is an interesting item that has a few days to run on eBay. It is a collection of old 9.5mm reels containing that epic 1934 film, "The Secret of the Loch" and directed by David Lean who went onto fame as an Oscar winning director for the film, "Lawrence of Arabia". Quite a contrast.

I previously wrote on this enjoyable old monster romp some years back, so there is nothing much to add apart from the shot below which seems to think Nessie is a giant iguana. These hapless creatures were a mainstay of early monster films when they were placed amongst miniature houses and have terrifying prosthetics attached to them. This was probably a cheaper alternative to the stop motion animation technique used in King Kong and so on.




I was pondering bidding myself, but I have a DVD of the film and transferring 9.5mm film to DVD/MP4 is an expensive task if you don't have your own equipment. But perhaps some reader may feel compelled to own a genuine piece of 1930s Nessie memorabilia - and it does have a sequence from the 1933 Malcolm Irvine film as a bonus.

My previous article had embedded a Youtube link to the entire film, but that has now gone. Anyone know of a new link?



The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com



Monday, 15 May 2017

Tim Dinsdale Prepares His First Book

A bit of Loch Ness Monster history here as I reproduce a letter Tim Dinsdale wrote to Herman Cockrell dated February 1st 1961. Tim was in the late stages of completing his seminal book "Loch Ness Monster" and sought Herman's permission to reproduce his classic 1958 photograph of the creature. 




Indeed, the photo had formed part of the 1959 magazine article that inspired Tim to study the phenomenon and head north to Loch Ness where he obtained his famous film footage in April 1960. Click on the images of the letter, then right click for "View Image" to read them.










I have edited out Tim's address, but looking around the web, it appears to have been sold over 20 years ago. If you want to know what Tim's house looked like, take a look below.




The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Yet More Nessie Images?




Hot on the heels of the image snapped a week ago, a video emerged from the weekend taken by a Rob Jones which the Scotsman newspaper ran. What is shows is an animal nonchalantly swimming away from a cruiser boat as they cross paths and both eventually disappear from view.




Now, one may just dismiss this as a swan or cormorant, especially since Nessies are not known for hanging around boats in a relaxed manner. So the one thing that intrigues me is the possible size of the object. We have a scale here as you would have noticed the man on the boat watching the animal swim away from it. The visible portion of the animal looks almost as tall as the man.




Now I know there is the matter of perspective which can make objects closer look bigger than those further away. So the matter is to be resolved by the man (or woman) on the boat. What do they think they saw from their prime vantage point? A simple bird or something else? I hop he was recording whatever is was! However, the Scotsman theory it was a log looks rather far fetched.

One other possibility is that someone is playing games (or experiments) here as we noted in our previous article the curious picture that turned up on the same day in the same area of Urquhart Bay. Watch this space I guess.

POSTSCRIPT: An interesting analysis of the video can be found here.



From the Scotsman:

After being posted missing for months without a sighting, tourists have captured new video of Nessie..although it may have been a log. Rob Jones, 35, from North Wales, shared the footage taken on Sunday of a mysterious shape moving across the Loch. A large group of tourists watched and took pictures as the object moved slowly close to a passing boat before disappearing.

Mr Jones said he remained sceptical: “I saw it quite far across the Loch near the castle, but by the time I stopped the van, It was very close and other people stopped to take photos too. Sadly I don’t believe in monsters, but would love to know what it was.”  



The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com
Rob Jones, 35, from North Wales, shared the footage taken on Sunday of a mysterious shape moving across the Loch

Read more at: http://www.scotsman.com/regions/inverness-highlands-islands/video-is-this-the-loch-ness-monster-probably-not-1-444140
After being posted missing for months without a sighting, tourists have captured new video of Nessie..although it may have been a log. Rob Jones, 35, from North Wales, shared the footage taken on Sunday of a mysterious shape moving across the Loch.

Read more at: http://www.scotsman.com/regions/inverness-highlands-islands/video-is-this-the-loch-ness-monster-probably-not-1-4441401
After being posted missing for months without a sighting, tourists have captured new video of Nessie..although it may have been a log. Rob Jones, 35, from North Wales, shared the footage taken on Sunday of a mysterious shape moving across the Loch.

Read more at: http://www.scotsman.com/regions/inverness-highlands-islands/video-is-this-the-loch-ness-monster-probably-not-1-4441401
After being posted missing for months without a sighting, tourists have captured new video of Nessie..although it may have been a log. Rob Jones, 35, from North Wales, shared the footage taken on Sunday of a mysterious shape moving across the Loch.

Read more at: http://www.scotsman.com/regions/inverness-highlands-islands/video-is-this-the-loch-ness-monster-probably-not-1-4441401
After being posted missing for months without a sighting, tourists have captured new video of Nessie..although it may have been a log. Rob Jones, 35, from North Wales, shared the footage taken on Sunday of a mysterious shape moving across the Loch.

Read more at: http://www.scotsman.com/regions/inverness-highlands-islands/video-is-this-the-loch-ness-monster-probably-not-1-4441401
After being posted missing for months without a sighting, tourists have captured new video of Nessie..although it may have been a log. Rob Jones, 35, from North Wales, shared the footage taken on Sunday of a mysterious shape moving across the Loch.

Read more at: http://www.scotsman.com/regions/inverness-highlands-islands/video-is-this-the-loch-ness-monster-probably-not-1-4441401
After being posted missing for months without a sighting, tourists have captured new video of Nessie..although it may have been a log. Rob Jones, 35, from North Wales, shared the footage taken on Sunday of a mysterious shape moving across the Loch.

Read more at: http://www.scotsman.com/regions/inverness-highlands-islands/video-is-this-the-loch-ness-monster-probably-not-1-4441401

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Some Game Camera Pictures

Every year, I leave some trap cameras strapped to trees as silent sentinels monitoring the ever changing waters of the loch. This year I upped the count to five cameras and will continue to add more as time and money allows. I am still working through the thousands of pictures they snap, but show you today what they have seen.

Watching the surface of Loch Ness for things of cryptozoological interest is largely a thankless task. If anything appears beyond a certain point, you may get your own personal experience and even get a clear view through binoculars, but the resultant camera image is not likely to be decisive in the Loch Ness Monster debate.

The trap camera paradigm solves that issue by only snapping object within about twenty metres in accordance with the sensitivity of their motion or heat detection systems. Clearly, if the creature puts in an appearance at that distance to an 8Mb or 15Mb pixel resolution lens, we will likely get something of considerable interest. 

The cameras are also configured to take three pictures in succession to provide further data in examining any objects that come into view. I have decided that taking video clips is not a generally good idea as the video clips are not of a good quality and only last 5 seconds lest they consume the entire SD card in a matter of weeks! Having said that, one camera is set for combined picture and video.

Of course, in the process of taking thousands of images, something may randomly appear further out, but I am not pinning any hopes on that and it is not the main purpose of the venture. With that said, here are some examples of images taken this year. Ignore the date and time in the image, they are miscalibrated.

Firstly, a typical view of the loch from this camera. Waves rolling in to break below the camera, branches gently shaking and green hills beyond. All set to catch the usual and unusual. Click on each image to enlarge them.




The next sequence shows the "three rapid shots" setup as some kayakers slowly make their way in front of the camera.






However, some things are just too fast, even for an automatic camera. This shot shows the trailing wake of either a speed boat or a rib boat or something like that. Of course, it could be a Nessie, but that would require calculating the speed it requires to clear the lens without detection. For now, its a speed boat!




In terms of night shots, clarity of image will be compromised by the lack of light, hence the infrared component will flash a series of LEDs in the infrared spectrum to illuminate the area on the heat detection going over the threshold. The branches are visible as usual as they reflect back the infrared flash and note the lights in the distance which correspond to houses perched on the hills opposite. The headlights of traffic will often also appear (though it is the branches triggering the IR).




Which make wonder what the object in the next three images could be that was moving in front of the camera? It is not in the water, but rather some feet up right in front of the camera. Note the object is bright purely due to its close proximity to the IR flash. It will be some kind of animal, though what is not clear to me. Suggestions are welcome.







Other pictures look a bit odd such as this "smudge" picture showing something in the middle of the image. It appeared at the end of a three picture sequence which means it did not trigger the sequence and one may presume that is was something on the lens.




The review of the images continues (I am at 3000 out of over 7700 images) and the cameras will be back at their stations later in the year. Clearly, five cameras covering a total of about 330 square metres is a very small portion of a total loch surface area of over 56 million square metres is a long shot, but the hunt continues.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com



Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Is Nessie Back?





Has the Loch Ness Monster put in an appearance for the camera for the first time this year? Sceptics will scoff and believers will mull it over. I reproduce the story below which you can read here. The Sun newspaper also adds some eyewitness testimony:

I had stayed in a backpackers’ hotel and on my last night decided to go for a walk through the woods and ended up on the banks of the loch. It was lovely and at dusk. Then about half a mile away I saw this dark shape sticking up – like a neck. I thought at first it was a tree, but it was very strange. I took a picture. It was there for a couple of seconds, but when I looked back it was gone. I was shocked.

Thanks to Gary Campbell of the Official Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register, I have more information on the event, so we can proceed a bit further. The witness, Hayley Johnson, was at the part of the bay near where the rivers Enrick and Coiltie empty into the loch at Urquhart Bay. The date was yesterday (1st May) and the time was about 8:30pm. 

The viewing conditions were good under a cloudless sky (see accompanying photograph). The length of the sighting was about 30 seconds before the object disappeared and it was about half a mile away as the Sun recounts. The camera was an iPhone 6 and she was the only person present. Hayley emphasised to Gary that the object was not there this morning when she went back to check.





But what was it? A log or a bird or something else? My inclination is not to accept a log purely down to the shape of the object. As I pointed out in a short article last month on deceiving logs, these things tend to grow in straight lines and not undertake curves as this object appears to do. I sketch a general outline below, but if it is a log, it will still be around, so let's see if anyone produces a picture. In that light, I will let this lie for a week to see what happens on that score.





This was another picture Hayley took at the time. note the log on the beach showing a rather more straight configuration.




POSTSCRIPT: Apparently this was photographed in the vicinity on the 7th May (six days later). It has a very papier-mache look to it and one wonders if an Adrian Shine type experiment is going on?




A tourist has captured an image she believes could be the famous Loch Ness Monster - the first reported sighting of the creature in eight months.

Hayley Johnson, from Manchester, noticed a strange and dark shape at dusk in Urquhart Bay, near Inverness, Scotland. 

Nessie's official recorder, Gary Campbell, had became 'worried' that there had been no sightings of her for almost a year. 

Fans from Adelaide, Australia, and Moscow, Russia, called Mr Campbell - who records every reported sighting - to voice their concerns.

The Home Office recently rejected a cheeky bid by a group of artists from Glasgow to grant the Loch Ness Monster permanent UK residency after Brexit.

But Mr Campbell, keeper of the Official Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register, had said it had appeared Nessie had left the country already.

However today he was relieved after Ms Johnson's sighting on May Day.

The 51-year-old, from Inverness, said: 'She was taking pictures on her iPhone at dusk when she spotted a dark shape in the water, higher than the waves.

'There have been sightings of Nessie there before. This a credible sighting but is obviously unexplained.

'I was quite worried that there had been an eight month gap since the last sighting and so was the whole world it seemed. 

'I fielded calls from around the world - from Moscow, Adelaide and California, everywhere, asking what had happened to Nessie?

'I am relieved and delighted with this sighting - and so will the planet.

'Last year was a record year for the 21st Century with eight sightings and then she seemed to have disappeared.

'Nessie is seen in the winter but she's much more common in the summer - this is why it was unusual that nothing was seen after August 21.'

Mr Campbell added: 'The reason for the summer sightings is twofold - there are more people around in the summer but more importantly, there are much longer daylight hours and the weather tends to be better.'

Mr Campbell said 2016 was a 'fantastic' year for Nessie sightings - which he put down to the growth of smartphones and webcams.

He said two of the sightings were by webcam, including one from an online watcher in America.
Mr Campbell said: 'It means that there are more people than ever before are looking for Nessie - which would explain the rise in last year's sightings.

'In fact, you have to go back to 2000 when there were 11 sightings, for more appearances of Nessie.'
The last previous sighting was on August 21 when Ian Campbell, a government worker from Argyll, was cycling along the west side of the loch near Drumnadrochit.

He was with his son and a family friend when he pictured two creatures in the loch about 33 feet in length just out from the shore.

On the same day a Mr Smith, visiting the area, also saw something very similar.  

It was in 1996, Mr Campbell saw something resembling a 'mini whale' - with a black shiny back - at the south end of the loch.

He added: 'I have spent the last 21 years trying to explain it. Like most sightings I only saw it for a few seconds. When I went to record it, I found there was no register, so I started one, the following May.'

Since then Mr Campbell, a chartered accountant, has logged 1082 sightings. 

Among the most famous claimed sightings is a photograph taken in 1934 by Colonel Robert Kenneth Wilson.

The image was later exposed as a hoax by one of the participants, Chris Spurling, who, on his deathbed, revealed that the pictures were staged.





The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com


Sunday, 30 April 2017

Some Old Loch Ness Paintings

These watercolours of Loch Ness are currently up for sale on eBay. They were executed by a C. A. Grove in the late 19th century and the eBay blurb says:

From an album drawn between 1888 and 1892 by C A Grove of Ferne House, Donhead St Andrew, Wiltshire. The album includes views of India, Scotland, Jersey Southern England and their home, Ferne House. We have been unable to determine the first names of the artist, or their relation to Sir Thomas Grove. The watercolours were pasted to both sides of the album pages. The India watercolours have been left intact. The English and Scottish drawings have been removed from the album pages and the inscriptions copied on to the reverse. 

I like to look at these old paintings and get a sense of the place before technological and industrial advances took a hold and the new roads came along. And, perhaps, one such artist would have painted in a strange, dark looking object that just suddenly appeared as he contemplated the beautiful scene before him.

Mind you, some of those hills look well out of proportion, especially in the first painting!


"Loch Ness Wet Day"


 "Loch Ness near Fort Augustus"


"Salmon Ladder, Invermoriston, Loch Ness"


"Loch Ness from Culachy"

"From a Boat on Loch Ness"



The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Poor Old Alex Campbell (Part III)


 Alex Campbell (right) with Bernard Heuvelmans


It was May 1983 and Alex Campbell was nearing death. He had been in increasing ill health having been forced to retire from his work as an Inverness Courier correspondent in September 1981. He was to die the following month, perhaps aware of a book that had just been published that was making various accusations against him.

Fortunately for the author, Alex Campbell was probably too weak to answer the charges. The author's name was Ronald Binns and his book was entitled "The Loch Ness Mystery - Solved". I actually gave a small review to Rip Hepple's Nessletter the month after its publication. A fuller review was printed in issue 70 (June 1985) by Henry Bauer. You can read that here from page 4 onwards (note this book was co-authored with an R.J.Bell of whom not a lot is known).

This was not the first sceptical book on the monster to be published. That honour goes to Maurice Burton's 1961 tome, "The Elusive Monster". But these two books have some symbolism as they bookend the hectic era of the Loch Ness Monster between 1961 and 1983. Back in 1961, nobody was listening to Burton as monster fever began to grow. By 1983, people were more receptive to Binns' almost convincing logic.

What the books share is the predictable attempts to portray eyewitnesses as people easily fooled by drifting logs, swimming birds and passing boat wakes finished off with an overstated dash of expectation. It wasn't a convincing mish-mash of theories in 1961, nor 1983 and certainly not today, but the sceptical meme dominates today and so gets an easier audience - just like the monster meme did in the 1960s and 1970s.

But my aim is not to review all of this dubiously titled book, but to concentrate on those parts which discuss Alex Campbell. Indeed, an entire chapter titled "The Man Who Discovered Monsters" is devoted to Campbell.  Some people think Binns has done the business on Campbell. It is now time to present a different view.


BINNS BINS CAMPBELL

Binns devotes a lot of pages to Alex Campbell in his book and undertakes a multi-pronged attack on Campbell's character. The first method of attack is one that is generic to the whole tone of the book and it is the style of writing. In the context of Campbell, the style is basically a timeline narrative which is a mixture of facts, deductions and speculations.

There is nothing particularly wrong with that approach, it is rather the assertive style which tries to browbeat the casual reader into swallowing whatever he writes. In that sense, the text is often that of the politician rather the researcher. To that end, you will find phrases which seek to put down and exaggerate.

For example, Binns describes Campbell's written account of the first Nessie sighting as a "cumbersome and stilted piece of prose". Why this is relevant to the Nessie debate is unclear as Campbell was writing a short newspaper column, not a novel to compete with G. K. Chesterton.

However, the reason becomes clear on further thought as Binns' tactic is psychological as he attempts to make Campbell look small in the eyes of the readers by criticising anything about him. It's a filthy tactic and others have picked up on this acidic approach in past reviews of the book.

Other examples include his suggestion that Alex Campbell was "deeply committed" to monsters in the loch and whose Mackay report was "by no means a neutral, detached account". What Binns means by deeply committed is unclear and opens the door to all kinds of unwarranted speculations. The reference to not being neutral or detached is a laugh coming from someone who I could also claim is deeply committed to his sceptical cause and is hardly neutral or detached in the subject either!

There is no neutrality in this subject and Binns needs to come clean on his own prejudices in the matter. To me, Binns is again attempting to plant the meme that all this makes Campbell unreliable and possibly even untruthful.

The unproven ad hominems directed at Campbell are too numerous to mention here and this machine gun approach is a form of Chinese water torture designed to beat the unsuspecting reader into submission. Fortunately, this reader had his armour on as he waded through the mire.

One repeated ad hominem I will finally mention on this style topic is Binns' continual reference to Campbell as a zealous publicity seeker. Again, Binns unsuccessfully tries to portray Campbell as a person driven by ego. Indeed, on page 82, Binns labels Campbell as "the self appointed high priest of the loch's mysteries". Where he gets the proof for this vacuous accusation is entirely unclear. Binns tells us that Campbell "became the man everyone went to when they wanted to learn more about the monster".

Indeed, Campbell is held up as the focus of a "pilgrimage" by Tim Dinsdale when he first visited the loch in 1960. Note Binns' tactical use of religious metaphors as he tries to elevate Campbell to some kind of mystical figure presiding over an irrational cult of monster hunters.

The truth of the matter is that Alex Campbell was just one amongst a number of people Tim Dinsdale visited during that week. These were Hugh Gray, Constance Whyte, Aloysius Carruth and Colonel Grant. But by omitting these other people, Binns gives the misleading impression that Campbell was somehow a special visitation.

So, when Binns says on page 83 that Campbell "had a great zest for publicity" by virtue of various radio, TV and newspaper interviews, I have somewhat to say on that matter. Again, where is the proof of this? I say that because when I was searching online newspaper archives for references to Alex Campbell, I found none! So much for the self-serving publicity seeker.

That does not mean Alex Campbell is to be found nowhere in the media, but I suggest that it is less than Binns makes out. Indeed, some other figures came to mind. Father Gregory Brusey was another go-to man at Loch Ness who frequently recounted his tale of a long neck sighting to the media.

Does that make him a self serving publicity seeker? What about the modern day example of Steve Feltham? Are his numerous interviews a sign of a big ego? Or what about leading sceptic Adrian Shine? He has been on numerous TV, radio and press interviews for years now. Will some sceptic now come forward and tell me that Adrian Shine has a big ego? Or does this argument only apply to monster believers?

I think the truth is more a matter of media laziness than Alex Campbell desperately banging on the door of the media for attention. When the press invariably turn up at Loch Ness for the film and photo ops, there is a default list of people to visit in their limited time, be they sceptic or believer. Alex Campbell had one advantage over Tim Dindale, Ted Holiday and Robert Rines. It wasn't a driven ego, it was the plain fact that he lived at Loch Ness. So let's just drop the hyperbole about egos and high priests.


BINNS ON CAMPBELL'S JOURNALISM

Moving on, Binns takes Campbell to task over his reporting of the creature to the Inverness Courier. Alex Campbell was the man behind the very first Nessie era report on a "strange spectacle at Loch Ness". That was the reported sighting by the Mackays on the 2nd May 1933. Now, Binns on page 12 accuses Campbell of producing a report that was "wildly exaggerated" and therefore proof of his over zealous mission to promote the monster.

I covered this seminal Loch Ness Monster report back in 2013 as part of the 80th anniversary of the monster's first modern appearance and you can read that here. However, in that article, I diverted to Binns' less than satisfactory handling of the case and concluded he was the one who was wildly exaggerating. First, I quote Campbell''s 1933 report on the Mackays:


Now, however, comes the news that the beast has been seen once more, for on Friday of last week, a well-known businessman who lives in Inverness, and his wife (a University graduate), when motoring along the north shore of the loch, not far from Abriachan pier, were startled to see a tremendous upheaval on the loch, which, previously, had been as calm as the proverbial millpond. The lady was the first to notice the disturbance, which occurred fully three-quarters of a mile from the shore, and it was her sudden cries to stop that drew her husband's attention to the water.
 
There, the creature disported itself, rolling and plunging for fully a minute, its body resembling that of a whale, and the water cascading and churning like a simmering cauldron. Soon, however, it disappeared in a boiling mass of foam. Both onlookers confessed that there was something uncanny about the whole thing, for they realised that here was no ordinary denizen of the depths, because, apart from its enormous size, the beast, in taking the final plunge, sent out waves that were big enough to have been caused by passing steamer.

The  watchers waited for almost half an hour in the hope that the monster (if such it was) would come to the surface again; but they had seen the last of it. Questioned as to the length of the beast, the lady stated that, judging by the state of the water in the affected area, it seemed to be many feet long.


Binns alludes to another recounting of the Mackay story "months later" and uses this to pick out two discrepancies in Campbell's account. One was that Mr. Mackay actually saw nothing and that Mrs. Mackay had only seen a "commotion in the water" akin to "two ducks fighting". That's it and these are the justification for Binns applying the accusation of wild exaggeration. In fact, the other unnamed account was Rupert T. Gould's interview with the Mackays in November 1933 which was reprinted in his June 1934 book, "The Loch Ness Monster and Others" which is reproduced below:


Mrs. Mackay and her husband were driving from Inverness to Drumnadrochit. At a point of the road almost opposite Aldourie Pier [which is on the other side of the Loch] Mrs. Mackay caught sight of a violent commotion in the water nearby, about 100 yards from shore. She thought at first that it was caused by two ducks fighting; but on reflection it seemed far too extensive to be caused in this way. 

The commotion subsided, and a big wake became visible, apparently caused by something large moving along just below the surface. This wake went away across the Loch towards Aldourie Pier. Then, about the middle of the Loch [some 450 yards from her], the cause of the wake emerged, showing as two black humps moving in line - the rear one somewhat the larger.

The rear hump appeared first, and Mrs. Mackay took it for a whale on account of its blue-black colour [she has often seen whales at sea]. The two humps moved with the forward-rolling motion of a whale or porpoise, but always remained smooth in outline, exhibiting no traces of fins. They rose and sank in an undulating manner [as if sliding along a submerged switchback] but never went entirely out of sight.

Mrs. Mackay estimated the overall length of the two humps at about 20 feet. X, after rising, continued to move towards the pier for some distance. Then it turned sharply to port and, after describing a half-circle, sank suddenly with considerable commotion. [Mr. Mackay, who was driving the car, only stopped in time to see the final commotion, and a noticeable "wash" which came rolling on to the shore after X had sunk.

Now, I might be going out on a limb here, but Campbell's account hardly looks like a wild exaggeration of what Mrs. Mackay recounted to Gould. Indeed, Binns is the one in the dock here for executing a hatchet job.

Observe that Binns claimed that Mr. Mackay "had seen nothing". That is not true, as Gould's version says he saw the final commotion. Binns also tries to make out that Mrs. Mackay only saw two ducks fighting and completely ignores the two humps that she recounted to Gould.

In a last futile act to discredit this sighting, Binns indulges in some guilt by association mud slinging by stating that Mrs. Mackay's brother "was a major source" for pre-1933 monster stories. On investigating this claim further, it turns out that Kenneth Mackay had told Rupert Gould about a monster account in 1913 involving a James Cameron.

And that was that! Just one story passed onto Gould. Please tell me how that makes him a "major source" of stories and please tell me what on earth this has to do with the sighting by the Mackays. Binns is playing mind games here and his credibility over this so called analysis is already halfway out the window.

As an aside, Binns mentions the letter of a Captain John MacDonald which the Courier published ten days later. Binns, in one of his frequent meme-enforcing metaphors, tells us that Campbell's report was "squashed flat" by MacDonald lengthy critique as a man who had fifty years experience as a boat captain on the loch.

Now, I am being kinder to Binns here and will not presume that he deliberately omitted information that did not suit his case. For as it turns out, Captain MacDonald changed his mind some months later when he told a Daily Mail reporter:

If so many reputable people say they have seen 'the beast' one inclines to the belief that there is something in it.

I am only too glad to keep Ronald up to date where his research falls short. I note there is currently at least one other boat captain likewise claiming fifty years experience on the loch. Perhaps one day he too will be inclined to the belief "that there is something in it" ... but I doubt it.

Binns asserts that Campbell "made no reply" as if to imply that no reply was possible. But he did, by reporting on the continued eyewitness reports and letting the monster do the talking for him.


On the subject of newspaper reports, Binns also tries to make some mileage out of a report filed in the Northern Courier on the 27th August 1930 in which the creature made an appearance to three anglers. His basic accusation is that Alex Campbell authored the report and again indicates his obsession with getting the monster into the public eye.

Now this 1930 incident is worthy of a whole article itself; but whether Campbell authored it or not is a matter of debate, but not one that is important as the three witnesses were subsequently interviewed by Gould for his 1934 book to confirm it as a genuine incident and not something made up or even exaggerated by Campbell (curiously this story also made it into some international newspapers!).

So what is the big deal here and why does Binns throw around the hyperboles in claiming this is "very revealing"?  If Campbell was the author, he was just reporting an incident that had come to his attention. Where was the deception or so called over-fostering of a so called non-existent monster? The only thing Binns can nail on Alex Campbell is an enthusiasm for a strange creature he believed inhabited Loch Ness. In that, he was no more different from a range of people from various walks of life from decades past.


BINNS ON CAMPBELL'S FIRST SIGHTING

Now as intimated in the previous part of this series, Alex Campbell claimed to have seen the creature in late 1933. He then retracted it in a letter to his employees and then retracted the retraction by claiming it as a genuine sighting some years later. From that point on until his death he continued to insist it was his first and best sighting of the creature.

Clearly, this double "volte face" was a golden opportunity for Binns to put the boot in as he employs another irritating hyperbole dubbing it as "so extraordinary". Well, actually it is not extraordinary. Seeing a 30 foot beast in a Scottish loch is extraordinary, this is not. Why Campbell so uncharacteristically wrote this sceptic letter is beyond Binns as he deems it "inexplicable" and "obscure".

The explanation is a bit more mundane than Binns' elaborate psychological monster theories when we understand that Campbell's employers were taking a dim view of the whole monster thing and it would not do that an employee would be claiming to have seen it. Campbell obliged them with a sceptical letter and his job during those Depression era years was safe. Read my previous article for more details. Another poor piece of research by Binns is his statement that:

Unfortunately for Campbell his letter came to the attention of Rupert Gould, a monster investigator and author, who promptly splashed it across the pages of his book ...

Now I must admit I am disappointed with this piece of subterfuge by Binns. Throughout his book, Binns quotes and footnotes Gould's 1934 book, so he must have been quite familiar with its contents. Yet here he twists something he should have been clear on as Gould clearly states that he obtained permission from both Campbell and his employer to print the letter! This is footnoted by Gould right below the letter Binns examined!

Indeed, it is most likely that it was Campbell that told him about his letter when Gould met him at Loch Ness in November 1933! Yet Binns again tries to make Campbell look small by stating the complete opposite to what had transpired. Thus, this untruth allows Binns to create another when he says:

Campbell's discomfiture at finding himself quoted against the existence of a monster must have been immense.

Really? I would suggest Campbell was quite happy to have his letter quoted as it kept him on the right side of his employers. When the time was right, Campbell would eventually come clean on his sighting.

Binns on page 81 finally takes Campbell to task for not being accurate enough in the recounting of his 1933 sighting over the span of three decades. The first issue is there are at least three dates for Campbell's sighting: 7th September 1933, 22nd September 1933 and May 1934. Only the last one is actually a direct quote from Campbell, the other dates are stated by secondary sources. This does not bother me as Campbell himself says of May 1934, "If I remember aright", and the 22nd September may actually be an entry date in Cyril Dieckhoff's diary.

But it seems to bother Ronald Binns, who does not seem to take the fading of memory after a quarter of a century into account. Likewise any discrepancies in the retelling of the actual account. I re-read the three accounts I have of this story from the Scotsman newspaper of 1933, Constance Whyte's 1957 quote of Cyril Dieckhoff's 1933 diary entry and Campbell's letter to Tim Dinsdale in 1960. You can read these yourself in my previous article.

Based on those re-readings, I am convinced Binns is again being reckless in his comparisons. One problem with his assessment is that if one account does not mention something, but another does, then this is apparently a contradiction. I see no logic in that, because if a detail is omitted in one account, that does not make it a contradiction. Rather, a contradiction appears when two statements are made that cannot both be true at the same time.

One example will suffice in that Binns claims one account says Campbell saw the creature's flippers and another says he saw no flippers. The actual texts are "he could see the swirl made by each movement of its limbs" (Scotsman 17/10/33) and "Noted front paddles working, on either side alternately, as it turned about." (Dieckhoff 22/09/33). If these are the accounts Binns is referring to, then I see no contradiction. In fact, it is unclear from these whether Campbell did or did not see any part of the limbs.

I will only briefly mention Binns' handling of Campbell's seventeen claimed sightings. Binns, in his usual manner, calls this an "astonishing sightings record". But Binns (or anyone else for that matter) is in no position to make such a statement as we only have a record of perhaps five or six accounts. We have no idea what the other eleven or twelve accounts contain and they seem to have been unworthy of any publicity, making me wonder how "astonishing" they actually were?

Looking further, two of the accounts we know of did not actually involve eye contact with a monster. One was the rocking of his boat and the other was a strange night time noise. Without eye contact, Alex Campbell could not say for sure these were Loch Ness Monsters. That just leaves about three visual sightings of note and these recorded accounts are the only ones we should take seriously.

Three visual encounters with the Loch Ness Monster over the space of 35 years is not so "astonishing" and Ronald Binns should acknowledge that. However, Mr. Binns' overall analysis has been weighed in the balance and found wanting.



CONCLUSION

In conclusion, others have waded in on this debate since Ronald Binns published in 1983 and to be fair to him, he has not gone to the ridiculous lengths that these people have. For instance, somebody called Josh Bazell goes further in claiming that Alex Campbell wrote anonymous letters to the Highland newspapers making up eyewitness accounts to bolster the case for the monster. Not surprisingly, he does not have a shred of evidence to back up any of this, it is just a speculative tautology based upon the a priori assumption that Campbell was an inveterate liar.

Speculation becomes deduction and deduction becomes fact in the less than logical world of some so called analytical sceptics.

The last time I looked, Ronald Binns was still around and was still a sceptic. You can find him here reviewing Gareth William's book, "A Monstrous Commotion". His was a generation who went to the loch with a "Veni, Vidi, Vici" attitude to the mystery of the Loch Ness Monster. It appears the monster had other ideas as it refused to bow down to their demands for final, conclusive evidence.

Naturally, some became sceptical and some became vindictive about the whole thing when they left empty handed. That bitterness is still evident today when you engage with such people. Others continued to accept there was a large, unknown something in the loch; some because they had seen it and others because they were less cynical about the evidence.

One such person was Alex Campbell. I visited his grave near Fort Augustus last year and as I paid my respects, I resolved to dismantle the untruths that have swirled around him since his death. He no longer has a voice to defend himself, but I hope these series of articles will do justice to a man who helped propel that mysterious denizen of the deep into the public limelight.





The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com