Loch Ness Monsters and Novembers

Posted by: Loren Coleman on November 18th, 2011

November, it turns out, is a month of some importance in the history of the Loch Ness Monster.

The first photographic image of the Loch Ness Monster was taken near Foyers in November 1933, 78 years ago. The Gray photograph was obtained on 12 November 1933, by Hugh Gray, who was walking back from church when he saw an “object of considerable dimensions, making a big splash with spray on the surface of the Loch.”

Hugh Gray had his camera with him, so he began snapping pictures.

Debunkers have dismissed the one Gray photo that seems to appear to be the “Monster” as a blurry blob that shows hardly anything at all. Many have suggested that it looks like a distorted image of a dog (perhaps Mr. Gray’s) carrying a stick in its mouth, as it swims through the water.

But others dispute this easy explanation. One critic of the “dog debunking” is artist Jeff H. Johnson of Texas, who has analyzed the photograph in depth, in conjunction with his creation of a model of one of the Loch Ness Monsters. Johnson says it merely is “pareidolia at its most convenient.”

Johnson found that one of the originators of the dog explanation, Dick Raynor “has changed his mind and now thinks it was perhaps a dead goose or swan laying on the surface,” despite the fact that Raynor still has the “dog” explanation up on his site.

This week, at the International Cryptozoology Museum, we added to the Loch Ness Monster displays, Jeff H. Johnson’s replica of the Loch Ness Monster (above). Besides the Gray photograph, Johnson used the configuration and mottling that he found in various image of the Loch Ness Monsters, for example, as shown here with Tim Dinsdale (below).

Johnson also used the structure of the Monster as seen in the drawings of the creature as described in the Arthur Grant encounter of 1934.

BTW, the term “monster” was reportedly applied for the first time to the creature on 2 May 1933 by Alex Campbell, the water bailiff for Loch Ness and a part-time journalist, in a report in the Inverness Courier. Campbell reaffirmed and reminded historians of this in The Sun of 27 November 1975: “I’m the man who first coined the word ‘monster’ for the creature.”

Johnson’s work also includes his Thylacine and Bigfoot (now at the ICM), and hopefully someday his Caddy (below).

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.

20 Responses to “Loch Ness Monsters and Novembers”

  1. Cass_of_MPLS responds:

    Yup! 78 years ago! And you know…she don’t look a day OLDER!

    Seems she moisturizes a lot….

  2. Survivor16 responds:

    All these years of staring at this picture, and I STILL can’t figure out what exactly I’m looking at. All I see is a blob that looks like it has a tail.

  3. scaryeyes responds:

    This has long been one of my favourite Nessie photos, because I do think it’s genuinely very difficult to explain away. And while I can’t tell you exactly what it is we’re looking at there, I’ve never ever bought the Labrador dog story.

    I do have it in my head though that Arthur Grant (he was the vet student, right?) later admitted his story was a hoax; an elaborate story to explain being late for his tea, but that’s purely off the top of my head, I might be confusing him with someone else.

  4. Loren Coleman responds:

    Let’s be careful about placing in the record material like “Arthur Grant was late for tea,” based on pure memory, without a source. Okay?

    Tony Harmsworth feels the Grant story is a hoax, but then Tony has said things to counter sightings, like “Whisky was popular in the early twentieth century, too!”

    Harmsworth has written: “A much reported sighting which Mr Grant had actually admitted as a joke to Mr Alex Menzies. He had apparently fallen off his motor bike and told his mother that the damage to the bike was caused by the monster making him crash! Will all authors please stop treating this sighting as if it were genuine.”

  5. scaryeyes responds:

    Loren, apologies, I was just trying to participate in discussion, not assert anything for the record, hence I made it clear I was working from memory and might be mistaken. I was hoping someone else might recall the story and be able to provide more details. With respect, though, rigorous sourcing is not exactly the norm in the comments here; it’s very common to see commenters make assertions and recollections made without any source or disclaimer, and they usually pass without reprimand.

    As it happens, I think you’re right, I probably am remembering something Harmsworth wrote. I agree he’s inclined to be over-dismissive and his bias is very obvious, but that doesn’t mean he’s never right. Fair to say he’d also benefit from clarifying his sources, though; I’d be interested to know who Mr Alex Menzies is and how Harmsworth came by that information.

  6. silverity responds:

    I have written an article which I think puts a good argument that;

    a. The “labrador” just isn’t there.

    b. There may be an eel-like head visible to the right of the picture.

  7. silverity responds:

    Well, the other issue with the Grant sighting is that some people from Edinburgh found large flipper-like impressions in the ground near his alleged encounter which I thinks adds some credibility to the account.

  8. bobhelferstay responds:

    It’s an out of focus dog with a stick. I saw a documentary on Loch Ness that showed it.

  9. springheeledjack responds:

    My sentiments go along with Survivor 16. I look at it and still can’t see whatever it was Hugh Gray saw. On the other hand, I never saw the dog–I think that’s a classic example of the debunkers falling prey to their own debunking theories–namely that people see what they want to see. The debunkers were so desperate to come up with any rational explanation that they extrapolated a dog.

    Again, I’m not sure it shows anything and certainly doesn’t add much to the evidence record other than another account of seeing something big in the loch. My initial reaction was, okay, here’s another sighting to file away into the library and I left it at that. It’s one of those things–if we could have seen what he did before he took the photo, we might have been believers based on this shot too…

  10. bobhelferstay responds:

    The documentary that I saw, I think it was Monsterquest, or something else on the History channel put the photo back in to focus. It’s definitely a dog swimming in the water with a stick in it’s mouth.

    The way I usually deal with photographic evidence is that if it’s not clear and I have to sit there and look at it to figure out what it is, I usually dismiss it.

    As a matter of fact, here in 2011 I don’t put a lot of stock in photographic evidence, since you can no longer really believe what you see in a photograph.

  11. wuffing responds:

    Bobhelferstay wrote “History channel put the photo back in to focus. ”
    Good old History Channel – but when I look closely I see that the photo is actually sharp, but a double exposure, with evidence of retouched water in the top right quadrant which in some versions is a dark reflection of something in the background.
    This suggests to me that the photo was not taken where it was claimed and therefore an intentional prank. Common at Loch Ness, I believe.

  12. silverity responds:

    It’s not a dog for one simple reason – where’s the body?

  13. Lyall M responds:

    What you saw was a drawing of a person’s interpretation of what they saw in the photo. It was not a computer clean up based only on algorithms to determine lightness/darkness/shake etc. One of the dog creation series is here:


    I always thought the 1934 BBC films of the “monster” swimming in the rain actually showed a sturgeon swimming at the surface. Gray’s photo seems too indistinct to characterize.

  14. bobhelferstay responds:

    The body is in the water. The dog is swimming.

  15. bobhelferstay responds:

    Lyall M, maybe it was just a interpretation that MonsterQuest did. I personally don’t see anything in the photo. It could be anything, so I dismiss it.

    For me, it’s hard to take photographic evidence of anything. It’s so easy to fake photos. Especially now a days. And look at the surgeons photo. It fooled everyone for decades, and it was nothing but a toy submarine.

    Personally, I’m of the mind that there is nothing in Loch Ness. I used to believe, but it’s been looked at for so long that if there were a colony of large unknown creatures there, they would have been found by now.

    Now this does not discount creatures in other lakes. In Lake Champlain they pick up echo location signals, and there is nothing known in that lake that uses echo location. So there is more evidence that something unknown is living there.

  16. wuffing responds:

    Bobhelferstay wrote “Personally, I’m of the mind that there is nothing in Loch Ness. I used to believe, but it’s been looked at for so long that if there were a colony of large unknown creatures there, they would have been found by now.

    Now this does not discount creatures in other lakes. In Lake Champlain they pick up echo location signals, and there is nothing known in that lake that uses echo location. So there is more evidence that something unknown is living there.”

    My response to the first part is that Bob is probably correct, with the emphasis on “colony of large unknown creatures”, but I think there could be some seasonally active fish awaiting detection in the loch. There are of course seals, eels and salmonids visiting the loch from the sea. As for the echo-location in Champlain, “something” was detected by a team on three occasions during a film shoot eight years ago, but they were using unfamiliar equipment in an unfamiliar environment, outside their normal area of expertise, without any control experiments, and the results have never been repeated. An untested daisy-chain of detectors, processors and recorders all running off a boat inverter is a recipe for harmonic mayhem. If the scientific community really thought there were animals echo-locating in the lake the place would be crawling with post-grad zoologists looking for their Ph.D.

    and there is nothing known in that lake that uses echo location” – true, apart from dozens of boats.

    Just my thoughts.

  17. bobhelferstay responds:

    wuffing, I didn’t know that about the echolocation in Lake Champlain never being duplicated, and that they were using equipment that they were not familiar with. Again, I saw it on MonsterQuest, and I guess they tend to leave out little details like that.

    It’s hard to say if anything is visiting Loch Ness. I’ve seen a lot of theories as to what the creatures could be. Some are better than others.

    I’m sure there are millions of creatures in the oceans, and even in lakes that have yet to be discovered. It would be interesting to drain the lake and see what’s there once and for all. Not possible, I know. But I think that’s the only way to really know for sure.

    Also, aren’t the two entrances to Loch Ness from the ocean very shallow, making it hard for something to enter and exit without being seen?

  18. wuffing responds:

    bobhelferstay asked ” aren’t the two entrances to Loch Ness from the ocean very shallow, making it hard for something to enter and exit without being seen?”

    One route, via the Caledonian Canal, is OK for fish if they are feeling lucky. Loch Ness is 52 feet above sea level so there are quite a few lock-gates to pass through. There’s no way large unknown animals will slip through unnoticed.

    The other one is the River Ness which is the natural overflow from the lake. There are several weirs and shallow rapid sections, and the river is generally 50 to 100 yards wide but only a few feet deep. Seals get into the lake this way. Some sections are easily observed as it flows through the centre of Inverness city.
    There’s a webpage on Dick Raynor’s site that shows some of it – and there’s always GoogleEarth and Streetview.

    On another point – the “ocean”, the Inverness and Beauly Firths, where the River Ness and the canal meet salt water is itself very shallow, only a few metres deep for several miles, and has been fished, netted and speared for thousands of years. There are no records of monsters being caught.

  19. bobhelferstay responds:

    I think that what people are seeing in the Loch are things like logs, lake sturgeon, seals, boat wakes… things along those lines. Its location causes a lot of optical illusions.

    If there were a breeding population of large creatures in that lake, or even coming in to that lake, I think we would have found it by now. One would have washed up on shore, or been caught in fishing nets, or something.

    People really do believe they are seeing a monster. Most I’m sure are not lying. But what they are seeing are simply things they are misidentifying.

  20. simannn responds:

    and I’m not convinced there’s some form of animate life in the loch. I’ve studied accounts of sightings: of the monster, talked with witnesses but ..

    You can find here the details and stories Of monster-life In Loch

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