The Loch Ness Monster | True Sightings and Historical Frauds

The Loch Ness Monster, otherwise called Nessie, is a legendary sea monster located in the Loch Ness lake in Scotland that is known chiefly for its oddly-shaped body that changes according to myth — some declare the monster sports a round physique with small or large fins along with a freakishly long, narrow neck. Others claim that Nessie is more like a long eel. Many even believe Nessie is a dinosaur-looking creature reminiscent of the prehistoric ages, with sharp T-Rex fangs and reptilian skin. Whatever this monster looks like, countless accounts of a giant sea monster in Loch Ness Lake date all the way back to ancient times. Could such a long-standing cryptid legend possibly have any credibility as being true?

A sketch of what the Loch Ness Monster is reported to look like by those who believe it to be an eel-like, reptilian and prehistoric creature.
A more “friendly-looking” Nessie is pictured here, less like an eel and more like a seal-like creature with a long neck. Heinrich Harder/Public Domain

Previously, I made a post with a similar title but with the Fae Folk instead of the Loch Ness monster. Since that post is one of my most popular, I’ve decided to start making “True Sightings and Historical Frauds” a recurring series here on the Ashland blog. It will feature sightings and frauds of mythical beings and legendary creatures. But for now, “let your eyes be mystified” by the fabled sea creature, the Loch Ness Monster!

The 1934 Sighting: “The Surgeon’s Photograph”

Pictured above was allegedly the Loch Ness Monster, taken by British doctor, Robert Wilson, in 1934. It was later turned out to be a hoax, but remains one of the most popular Nessie “sightings” to date.

One of the most popular Nessie sightings to date is the “Surgeon’s Photograph,” taken by a British doctor in 1934. It showcases a strange creature seemingly peeking its long neck out of the water, and part of its body surfaces behind it. This photo was first published in the Daily Mail as possible “proof” of the Loch Ness Monster and took the public by storm. Unfortunately, it was later revealed to be a hoax, all due to a revenge-crazed hunter, Marmaduke Wetherell. This man first tried to sell the Daily Mail false photos of animal tracks that he claimed were Nessie’s, but actually belonged to a hippo. Luckily, the Mail caught on and discredited Wetherell, who then went back to Loch Ness Lake, seeking to avenge with a toy submarine. Wetherell snapped the faulty photographs and used Robert Wilson to lend them credibility. It worked for a time, but the fraud was soon brought to light.

The Australian Couple Sighting

There are so many encounters with a Nessie-like being in the Loch Ness Lake and beyond that I certainly can’t list them all here. Hundreds of sightings continue to abound annually from tourists and locals alike and attract the curious fascination of the public. For that reason, I will showcase one recent-enough sighting in particular that caught my eye, and that is the footage that Australian tourists, Peter Jackson and Phillippa Wearne, took while driving along the loch in 2017.

The video features a black mass floating along the loch, and it looks eerily similar to depictions of Nessie, even down to its long and narrow neck. The couple is astounded by this and makes remarks of awe throughout the video. The only thing that I find strange about this footage, however, is the boat that casually passes close by it. Did the people on the boat just not notice it, or did they see what it actually was and thought nothing of it?

You can visit the article here to see it for yourselves. What do you think of the footage? Real, or just another fraud?

The Ancient Sightings

Scotland is very much known for their folklore and strong beliefs and superstitions surrounding mythical beings. Therefore, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the ancient Scots were allegedly spreading tales of water beasts with flippers, most likely to scare themselves silly. Some ancient Scottish stone carvings depict such a beast, and several accounts from centuries past have depicted a monster in the loch or nearby.

According to Britannica, “The first written account appears in a biography of St. Columba from 565 A.D.” The author writes of a swimmer who was bitten by what resembled some kind of giant sea monster. Columba reportedly ordered the beast to “go back” and surprisingly enough, it obeyed, sinking back into the deep waters. This was not in Loch Ness Lake, however, but in a neighboring river. Another later account by a British man taking a pilgrimage to Scotland tells again of a beast in the aforementioned river.

As stated in Medieval Manuscripts Blog, Walter Bingham of the 12th century describes an encounter he had with a Nessie-like beast (see drawing below). Bingham needed to get across the river and asked a group of fisherman to help him safely to the other side. The men looked at him with terror and refused, much to Bingham’s confusion. He then asked a young boy who was dragging his canoe along the shore, who granted his request after some hesitation once Bingham agreed to pay him one silver coin. Once they crossed and made it safely to shore, Bingham turned around to watch the young boy row back, only to witness a giant beast burst from the water and erupt a great roar as he attacked the boy and dragged him down mercilessly beneath the waves.

Found by the British Library, the manuscript of Walter Bingham features a drawing of some kind of water beast throwing its victim from a boat. Source.

The Unphotographed sightings

In tales of cryptids and legendary creatures, most of the “evidence” comes from word of mouth rather than of actual photographs. If you’re into this kind of stuff, you’re probably going to need to have a knack for believing things without actually seeing them. Because of this, the large majority of Nessie sightings remains with those who have seen it themselves and never thought to take out the camera, and as for those who haven’t seen the creature? Well, we’re just going to have to take their word for it and hope what they saw wasn’t actually just a large fish or other type of sea animal.

In the below scene from the show, River Monsters, a woman recounts her experience witnessing a “dark lump in the water” of Loch Ness Lake, which she strongly believes was the Loch Ness Monster. Interestingly enough, the woman claims that the monster did not look like an “eel” with many loops protruding behind it in the water, but actually had the body of an “upturned boat,” which I explained earlier as a round body with fins. She also said that other locals reported the same depiction, making me more inclined to believe that this is what the real Nessie looks like — if there is one.

Today, most Nessie sightings are debunked as being other forms of fish (including catfish and eels) and possibly debris like tree logs. Many have gone so far to theorize that the Loch Ness Monster is actually just a giant eel, contradicting the sightings of a creature with a round body that thousands have encountered. In reality, there is actually a scientific explanation to back this up. In 2019, a team of scientists decided to take water samples from the Loch Ness Lake and analyzed its DNA. From this study, the “giant eel” theory came forth when no DNA of a Nessie-like beast was found, but instead plenty of eel DNA. It’s hard to believe that all of the sightings ever were just some eels floating about, though. And how can you explain the “upturned boat” body that others have seen, or the ancient stories of men being attacked by a vicious water beast? Perhaps the Loch Ness Monster lived once, but not anymore. This legend is one that doesn’t seem like it’ll be proven any time soon, but it also doesn’t seem like it’ll ever be completely debunked.

Do you think Nessie exists?

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