Elephant or Lake Monster? What Do You Think?

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on March 6th, 2006

Is this the picture that Cryptomundo readers referenced in Loren’s post Nessie as Elephant Theory Shortsighted?


I had found this photo on the internet several months ago. I’m not sure if the details about it are correct, but I will include them here:

The photo was taken from a plane in Mexico back in 1956.

The pilot claims that this was a large animal but within the photo itself there is nothing to give it scale–plus it’s blurry. This photo has been analyzed over and over–some think its an elephant, but no elephant should have been there either. Color was added to the background to aid the contrast between the object and the background in this faded image.

Is this the photo of an elephant swimming, a lake monster, a hoax, or something entirely different? Please weigh in with your opinion. If you have any additional, or even contradictory, information regarding this photograph to add, please share that as well.

Elephant Swimming

And here is a photo of an elephant swimming. While the photos are similar, they also have distinctive differences. What do you think?

Elephant as Loch Ness Monster

Does this diagram even look feasible?

About Craig Woolheater
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad, Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster, Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot: Return to Boggy Creek and Beast of the Bayou.

20 Responses to “Elephant or Lake Monster? What Do You Think?”

  1. Arkansan_88 responds:

    I don’t know whether the photo is fake or not so I can’t say it’s a fake for sure. I looks like a hoax to me though.

  2. Loren Coleman responds:

    The photo referenced on my posting about this was from Sri Lanka, was of an elephant swimming in water there, was carried in Fortean Times, and directly related to theories being floated about at the time that Lake Monsters such as Nessie could be swimming elephants.

    It was as illogical to talk thirty years ago, as it is today, about swimming elephants in Loch Ness being mistaken for Monsters.

  3. pteroophia responds:

    I reckon hoax, I know it’s blurry but it all looks a little 2D to me, it looks like it’s just been planted there

  4. ZenBug responds:

    Even if we allow that it’s a monster of some kind, are we supposed to believe it to be a plesiosaur-shaped cryptid: a humped back, a long neck and a head? I don’t see how it could possibly be that; the “head” would be impossibly small, and the body seems too far out of the water…It would almost have to be floating.

    I think that’s a common problem with the analysis of cryptid photos. Even unidentified animals are subject to the laws of evolution and physics. That photo wouldn’t “make sense” as a plesiosaur-esque criptid.

  5. Mysteriousness responds:

    I tend to not assume “hoax” or “fake” immediately because these days, even the most genuine-looking evidence can be faked. If it’s fake, it’s fake, but there’s no way we can know without having the original analyzed. Anything other than that is pure conjecture – just as bad as those who bash our faith in the undiscovered.

    Assuming the photo is genuine, we are either looking at a sauropod-eque creature (the bulk of the body is out of the water and a fully aquatic creature would probably have trouble suspending itself like that) or a swimming elephant. Due to where the creature is located with regard to the shore, the water would have to be uniformly shallow for a sauropod to walk (also it was probably a sea-plane that took the photo, since it is so low to the water and no sane pilot would fly a non-amphibious plane that low). Therefore, whatever is there is swimming and so is probably not a sauropod. Lake monster? Maybe. Swimming elephant? More likely. What is the elephant doing there? I have no idea, but I could come up with a dozen explanations, each more plausible than the presence of a lake monster (even though that would be pretty sweet).

  6. chrisandclauida2 responds:

    Something in my head is screaming photo shop or a like program. I agree it is too 2d and looks out of place. It is also cut or printed in a way that allows no comparison of size or movement in the water.

    I don’t automatically assume fake because a picture is blurry bit a blob is not a cryptid make.

    The term blobsquatch was coined on the big foot forums as the description of all the squatch pics that are dark blobs of suposid Sasquatches. So if I may I will call this a cryptoblob.

    feel free to use the new word just credit me if you use it in a book. lol

  7. John Kirk responds:

    You can read more about this photo in my book In the Domain of the Lake Monsters.

    The photo of the supposed lake creature is probably a hoax. You can see right through it. I am familiar with this photo as it was first uttered as representing Chan, the creature of Lago Alberca, Mexico.

    Leopoldo Bolanos, a Mexican cryptozoological researcher said the photo was sent to him by someone who claimed that it was Chan appearing after an earthquake in the Gunanajuato region in 1958.

    The trouble is, Lago Alberca looks nothing like the background scenery. I personally don’t accept this photo as evidence because there is too much wrong with it and associated with it.

  8. Ken Gerhard responds:

    To me, this exercise is a good example of how photographic evidence, regardless of quality may be a waste of time and energy to some extent. Even if the image clearly displayed a plesiosaur, it would be in dispute because photo manipulation is becoming too easy. Perhaps it’s time to consider focusing on collecting real, physical evidence like a body.

  9. CryptoInformant responds:

    With the advances in photoshinanagons, so too come advances in detecting it.

    This thing, however, CLEARLY DEPICTS a 2-D poorly done cut-out that is STATIONARY in the water. Whatever it would be if it were 3-D, it is not swimming.

  10. shovethenos responds:

    Just a couple observations:

    – Its sort of similar to the Mansi photo of Champ, for what that’s worth. But the other commentors are right, the above photo’s authenticity does seem dubious.

    – I don’t think the posture or position areguments are particularly strong, since I don’t think we know for sure what kind of movement pleiosaurs or their relatives were or are capable of. Seals or sea lions are able to “stand up” on their flippers. Otters sort of look awkward when they stand up too – they (and seals/sea lions) sometimes seem to have an odd arch in their back. And something like tanystropheus would be capable of standing and would probably look pretty awkward as well.

    – I find the “swimming elephant” arguments very unconvincing. I think that might fool someone momentarily, but anyone who saw something that incredible and stuck around to see what happened would eventually catch what it was. And although elephants seem to be capable swimmers when they choose to they are not made for it – they can’t swim particularly fast and I doubt they can remain submerged for long. So sooner or later the elephant would have to surface or come ashore, exposing itself.

    The Nessie and other lake monster sightings seem to be of something that is a reasonably fast swimmer and that can remain submerged for long periods of time. For the most part a witness sees it for a brief period and then it submerges and swims away. That doesn’t seem like very elephant-like behavior, or even something an elephant would really be capable of.

    I think some of the more hardcore skeptics are really reaching with the “swimming elephant” theory. I mean counterexamples and counterexplanations have to make sense, just because one is a skeptic of cryptozoological phenomena does not mean that your reasoning can be any less rigorous than the opposition.

  11. EdwardHowland responds:

    I dunno… looks kinda like a mokele-mbembe to me.

  12. Benjamin Radford responds:

    Seems dubious to me too…

  13. CryptoInformant responds:

    A few things I have come up with regarding this photo and the theories surrounding it.
    -Elephants only remain submerged for about half a second, then stick their trunks up.
    -They aren’t exactly aquatic versions of the Flash, but elephants can reach speeds high enough to avoid potential predators and idiots in amphibious cars
    -On the fact that it looks a little like the Mansi photo, the cutout may have been modeled after it, albeit crudely

  14. Rebgirl420 responds:

    Okay, even if it’s not real and their aren’t any lake monsters (I honestly hope there are), it’s still scary as crap for me to go swimming in the ocean. Just for the fact that you can never be 100 percent sure. Doesn’t anyone else feel this way? lol, it’s stupid I know but come one, even if this thing can’t eat you i’d still crap myself if nessie came outa the water.

  15. pyro71691 responds:

    like some other people said, why would an elephant be in the middle he loch in scotland, i never even kneew the elephants swam in there, which there probably aint no elphants in or by that lake.

  16. irwinsam responds:

    I have to agree with everyone that this picture is probable a fake or hoax. I also have to agree that the swimming elephant theory to explain all lake monsters sightings is totally laughable. Elephants don’t live all over the world so how can they be swimming in every lake were lake monsters are reported. I think if an elephant jumped in the waters of Loch Ness or Lake Champlain, the elephant would jump back out very quickly. He definitely wouldn’t be swimming very long.


  17. cor2879 responds:

    Y’know when I was a kid I had some hard plastic dinosaur models from the British Museum of natural history. They were very cool for a young boy and also as accurate and to scale as our science at the time knew them to be. I have to say that the profile of the image in that folder looks -exactly- like the Apatasaurus model that I had. I’m not saying that makes it legit… quite the opposite. It looks like they used that same model to make the photo.

  18. shumway10973 responds:

    um, just how low was this plane flying when it took the picture? How far away was it suppose to be? That thing could be something really small and they moved the camera to take care of the larger waves usually seen in hoaxes

  19. Notsobigfoot responds:

    Thanks a lot for that actual photo of a swimming elephant, i had until now not seen one that actually showed an elephant in such a pose. One thing worth noting, the elephants ears look a lot like the supposed “beak” on the lake van monster, i have always felt the elephant description worked best with that particular one due to the shape of the head, color of skin etc. As far as the elephant theory in other monster sightings, im sure it makes up some of them, however all in all it cant explain the majority.

  20. CryptoHaus_Press responds:

    hoax, imho.

    as a person who’s done dark room work (back in the photo-chemical era; making me a relic as well as some extinct species in the digital age!), this looks like a photographic print that has been slightly ‘pulled’ as the process of exposing the negative (which was also probably doctored) on the light stand.

    the developer probably thought it would help obscure the matte/bleed lines around the cut-in ‘creature’ so that professionals/semi-pros like myself would be less able to detect them — it’s easy enough once you maginify a photo-chemically produced image (remember those old blue jiggly lines around the matted in dinosaurs in the old Hollywood movie?).

    this slightly pulling the photographic paper while the exposure was being ‘beamed’ down onto it would also create the ‘see-through’ sign many of you have written about. that’s because the first image of the lake would be exposed and then the image of the ‘lake monster’ as it is pulled across the previously-exposed image of the lake itself.

    that may sound complicated, but think about the ‘double exposure’ photographs you’ve seen of faked ghost pictures and you’ll get the basic idea if you’re not into photographic lingo.

    anyway, my theory proves nothing, but does account for two ‘flaws’ in the photo — both the blurring (which was probably later attributed to a plane to account for it) and the ‘see through’ quality.

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