Nov. 12th: First Photo of Nessie

Posted by: Loren Coleman on November 12th, 2009

On November 12, 1933, Gray was reportedly walking home from church with a simple box camera in hand. He spotted an “object of considerable dimensions, rising two or three feet above the water, dark gray in color with smooth and glistening skin.”

Gray took five snapshots of the animate shape, but was later discouraged that four of the photos had not developed properly. However, the fifth picture depicted an unusual shape in the water. Still, many felt that Gray’s image did little to prove the existence of a lake creature, that it was too vague. Others have remained open-minded that Gray, indeed, captured the first image of Nessie.

Thanks to an idea from Teresa Santoski

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

14 Responses to “Nov. 12th: First Photo of Nessie”

  1. lukedog responds:

    A cryin shame the other 4 photo’s came to nothing, but that is the way with these things.
    Certainly doesn’t appear to be driftwood. Fits more with the’Unusual Wakes on the Loch’ scenario.
    A classic it remains!

    Dimensions are so impossible to judge, earlier this year I thought I was watching a Elk size critter instead of otter size in Olsen film.

  2. BlueTinkerbell responds:

    I thought this had been debunked a long time ago as a blurry picture of a dog swimming with a stick in its mouth?

  3. AlbertaSasquatch responds:

    Wow BlueTinkerbell, I had never heard that one before but after looking at the picture after reading your comment I have to admit that it does look like a golden retriever’s head that is blurred out with a stick in the mouth. But how come the stick isn’t blurred but the dog’s head is?

  4. Alexias6 responds:

    It is worth seeking out the book “The Enima
    of Loch Ness” by Bauer, which contains a crisp
    reproduction of the Gray photograph, reproduced
    from a glass negative. All dogs and sticks
    disappear, and you see a slimy skin
    surface, not unlike a slug.

    There is no way to judge scale or size. It is
    always possible that Gray was faking, but
    I doubt that he could have been THIS successful
    in the mid-1930’s.

    I don’t think the last word has been written
    about the Surgeon’s photograph, and suspect
    that the hoax story itself may be a hoax. The
    Adams photo just doesn’t have enough context
    to tell what it is, much less whether it was taken
    at Loch Ness. The MacNab photo is clearly a leg
    pull. I’ve heard violent arguments pro and con the
    ‘3 humps photo’ – the humps certainly don’t line
    up, and there is the accusation that they are bales
    of hay covered with tarp, but the author making
    the accusation merely states it, with no specifics.

    I think the Rines photos are legit, with the exception
    of the ‘gargoyle head’ which was a case of
    mistaken identity, and not a hoax.

    Of the films I would go with Dinsdale, the blurry
    Hodge film, the Raynor film (though he disowns it!),
    the Smith film and possibly the new one, though
    the cameraman is a bit fishy and makes me skeptical.
    Certainly in the stabilized, slow motion version
    of the film, the animal lifts a long neck out of the
    water briefly, and it casts a shadow on the water
    below, so……


  5. fmurphy1970 responds:

    To me it looks like one photo superimposed upon another. You can see wave ripple coming through the image of the creature. I would be interesting to see a clearer version of this photograph, as mentioned by Alexias6 to see if this is the case. I’m not convinced by the dog theory though. It’s interesting that Alexia6 mentions that it looks more like a slug. It has been my belief for some time that Nessie may possibly be some type of giant mollusc. Some eyewitness descriptions mention the creature having protrusions that like like horns, and sometimes it does not have these. Others describe the creature changing shape in the same way a slug would. The famous Spicer land sighting, where the creature crossed the road in an undulating movement could fit with the ‘slug theory’. The Spicers also reported that the creature had no limbs that they could see. Also molluscs would have no problems surviving the very cold conditions of a freshwater loch. The weakness of this theory comes when you have to explain eyewitness accounts of flippers on the creature, plus the largest currently known sea slugs are only a few inches long. But you can never rule out a new species unknown to science.

  6. geekomancer responds:

    Weird, I don’t remember seeing this photo before. Cool to see it though.

    If what Alexias6 say about the glass negative is true, the slimy skin may point to the anguilla eel theory

  7. erinmar13 responds:

    i saw a special, most likely on the history channel, during which they took this photo and sharpened it up. it was revealed to be a close up shot of a retriever with a duck in its mouth. i don’t recall if it was a double exposure or if it was just a blurry photo.
    it’s always made me wonder about the other 4 photographs. anybody know if they’ve ever been publicly shown?

  8. wuffing responds:

    In his sworn statement Mr Gray said he photographed the creature from a distance of about 200 yards and he was 30 to 40 feet above the water. With a simple box camera the opposite shore of the loch would have to be in the frame. It isn’t.

    Alexias6 mentions a crisp version published by Henry Bauer and made from a glass negative. In my June 1934 first edition of Gould the image, labelled “untouched print”, is not crisp, and Mr Gray’s camera did not use glass negatives but roll film, so I suspect that that the “Enigma” version may be one of the retouched copies that Gould himself mentions. At 200 yards I doubt that skin texture would be visible.

    I agree with FMurphy’s point about multiple exposure. I have long felt that the photo presented shows at least one divers helmet, possibly two, perhaps taken at the aluminium factory where he worked, but there is evidence of two or more separate exposures; the waterline with the diver(s) is sharp, but the dog-face is out of focus. Box cameras often had no interlocks so you could cock and release the shutter and then go right ahead and do it again without advancing the film. I suspect that the object he saw on Nov 12th 1933 isn’t even in the picture shown here.

    Just my 2 cents worth.

  9. lukedog responds:

    Holy Smoke, I do see the dog head, Is NOTHING SACRED!

  10. jerrywayne responds:

    Huge Gray’s photo is too indistinct to count as evidence of Nessie. The 1930’s foundational stories of the loch’s “monster” suffer from a lack of impartial, on the scene reporting. At he time, it seems, either one was a “believer” or a “scoffer”. The foundational accounts and photos were promoted as virtually decisive by the advocates of the time (and under investigated by skeptics). However, if judged freshly today, I think most of the Nessie “evidence” from that time would look highly suspicious and naive.

    To my mind, the only interesting evidence from the Nessie “classics” would be the 60’s film of Dinsdale. The foundational Spicer sighting still excites some advocates, and I’ll admit its weirdness precludes it from being an outright hoax. On the other hand, the recountings of the sighting are not consistent in many of the details, such as the distance between the Spicers and the object. Again, there appears to be no real attempt by any investigator of the time to truly investigate this sighting. Either you believed it, or scoffed at it.

  11. wuffing responds:

    jerrywayne wrote, regarding the Spicer’s sighting:
    Again, there appears to be no real attempt by any investigator of the time to truly investigate this sighting. Either you believed it, or scoffed at it.

    I think you may have overlooked Rupert Gould’s investigation, which takes up 3 1/2 pages in his 1934 book. Based on his on-scene investigations during his 10-day visit to the loch in November 1933 he was of the opinion that their story was rather fanciful. After meeting with them later in London he changed his mind, and later again, in his biography, changed it once more to the view that they had seen a group of deer crossing the road.

    This is an interesting evolution because it mirrors later thinking that many witnesses did see “something” but not what they thought it was at the time. The challenge for present day investigators is to try to establish what those witnesses may have seen. In some cases like the Spicers it is mainly a process of intelligent speculation; in others like the Dinsdale film where there is hard data to examine, modern techniques like image stacking clearly show the helmsman in the boat.

  12. jerrywayne responds:


    Thanks for your post. I haven’t read Gould in ages and didn’t remember his extended discussion of the Spicer sighting. I need to search for a copy because I think his early, on the scene comments would be worth reading again.

    My larger point concerned the foundational accounts of a “monster” in Ness and whether there were objective and not advocacy and scoffing investigations of the phenomena at the time. I should backtrack a bit and note that I really have no idea what may have actually been the case; I have no contemporary literature to draw on (excepting Gould). Having said that, when the Ness story is rejuvenated by writers decades later, such as Whyte and Dinsdale and others, the foundational stories are retold confidently as if passed along uncritically by advocates and ignored (not explained) by scoffers.

    Gould, of course, was an advocate of sorts. As a
    believer in “sea serpents,” he quickly adduced the Ness phenomena as representing a single sea serpent trapped in the loch. It’s no wonder he thought the Spicer sighting was “fanciful,” since it did not seem to fit his idea of a possibility for a “sea serpent.” Interestingly, his investigation apparently did not lend credence to the later, popular idea that Ness is home to “monsters” going back centuries.

    Today, some folks believe the Spicer sighting may have been of an otter or family of otters.
    Interestingly, the original images of the Spicers”
    animal crossing the road have changed from a truly weird apparition to a more conventional image, able to accommodate an otter or plesiosaur-like explanation. I would like to know why Gould thought the Spicers saw deer. That is an interesting explanation. My own arm-chair speculation is that the Spicers may have seen some type of mechanical farm implement, a tractor for instance, crossing the road farther ahead than they believed. This would account for their sighting of a jerky-motioned object, large bulbous body actually the large tractor rear tires, and the undulating neck (highly strange for a real animal) in fact a forward pole with a wrapped around, yet blowing, caution flag.
    (Hey, I said it was “arm-chair” and “speculation”. Smile.)

  13. fossilhunter responds:

    Greetings All!
    I have to say, I’ve never been able to figure heads from tails in this picture! Could someone please walk me through it?

  14. lukedog responds:

    Its like one of those MENSA tests, once you see the dog head , thats all you see.

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