As you’ll know if you’re familiar with the literature on the Loch Ness monster – and as you won’t if you’re not – Nessie is not only seen in the water; there are, in fact, quite a few claimed sightings that were made on land. The most interesting thing about these accounts is that they’re radically divergent, and it would seem that all manner of surreal giant monsters lurk in the bushes and woods around the loch. Here are a few of my favourites.
In 1932 Colonel Fordyce and his wife reported a shaggy-furred, long-legged, long-necked camel-like creature (shown above). It crossed a road to get to the loch. This bizarre account is little known but was discussed at length by Mike Dash (1991).
The most famous terrestrial sighting is that claimed by Mr and Mrs F. T. G. Spicer in July 1933. While driving along the road between Dores and Foyes on the south shore, they saw a horizontal, trunk-like object emerge from the bushes at the side of the road: it moved in a jerky, undulating fashion and was described as elephant grey in colour [one version of their sketch is shown here]. A curious detail is that something seemed to be protruding from the animal’s shoulder region, as if it was carrying something. The Spicer’s account became remarkably embellished over time. The object started off as being 6-8 ft in length, but later grew to 25 and even 30 ft (Binns 1983, Campbell 1986). We’ll never really know what they saw, but one of the most likely suggestions is that it was an otter distorted by heat-haze. Those who think it was an otter have suggested that it might have been carrying a cub. Those who think it was a 9-m-long modern-day plesiosaur have imagined that it was carrying a dead lamb, and we end up with wonderful artwork like this…
In December 1933, Mrs Reid – wife of the Inverfarigag postmaster – claimed to see a remarkable, hairy, hippo-like Loch Ness creature on land. She was in her car at the time. The creature was about 2 m long and had a rounded head, a mane, and short, thick legs. Far better known is W. Arthur Grant’s very detailed account of January 1934. Grant (at the time a 21 year old veterinary student: he’s shown in the adjacent image) was riding on his motorbike at 1 in the morning when, he claimed, something emerged from the bushes at the side of the road and crossed right in front of him. He had a good view and in fact nearly struck the creature. His description is of a long-necked animal that he was unable to identify: he likened it to a cross between a seal and a plesiosaur. Grant’s recollection of the details, and the several good sketches he produced afterwards, have always made his account popular with authors, particularly with those who like the idea that Nessie might be a long-necked seal or similar creature (Costello 1974). If he really did see what he says he did, perhaps it was an otter, as suggested by Campbell (1986) [an artistic version of Grant's sighting is shown below, from Witchell (1975)].
In 1934 a girl claimed to see the monster on land near Fort Augustus, but she provided no details other than that it was large, and that it had a small head on the end of a long neck. Rather better, perhaps, is Torquil Macleod’s 1960 account where a gigantic creature (perhaps 60 ft long) with squarish flippers was watched through binoculars for as long as nine minutes at a distance of about a mile. It was big and grey and had a projection that Macleod described as being like a large elephant trunk. The creature was apparently half ashore, and at the end of the sighting it curved into a U shape and flopped back into the water, apparently without much of a splash (is that even possible for an animal this size?) (Witchell 1975) [artistic version of Macleod's sighting shown below, from Witchell (1975)]
Macleod produced a sketch of his sighting, but it has been argued that there is no way he could have seen what he claimed to with the binoculars he had, given his position on the opposite shore (Binns 1983). Binns also drew attention to the fact that Macleod wasn’t a neutral observer, but a fervent believer who longed for a sighting. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean anything either way (or does it?).
Are these different descriptions artefactual: the result of various people’s attempts to acquaint their sighting with the animal most familiar to them, does it show that different people are misidentifying or misinterpreting various different Loch Ness animals, or does it show that we should simply disregard such reports? (Naish 2001). I have to say that I favour the last interpretation. There is no compelling evidence whatsoever suggesting that Loch Ness is home to a popular of large undiscovered animals, and these days I’m of the opinion that all claimed sightings represent misidentifications or hoaxes, all made because people expect to see a monster whenever any object or trick of light or shadow is seen on the loch.
I’m not the only blogger who has written about terrestrial Nessie sightings: Loren Coleman covered the subject at length back in December 2007.
For previous articles on lake monsters see…
- Really: photos of the Loch Ness monster
- The sad death of the Lake Khaiyr monster
- Best lake monster image ever: the Mansi photo
- Filming Migo, the monster of Lake Dakataua
- A ‘lake monster’ caught on film at Lake Champlain
Refs – –
Binns, R. 1984. The Loch Ness Mystery Solved. W. H. Allen & Co, London.
Campbell, S. 1986. The Loch Ness Monster: The Evidence. The Aquarian Press, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire.
Costello, P. 1975. In Search of Lake Monsters. Panther Books, St. Albans.
Dash, M. 1991. The camels are coming (LNM). Fortean Times 58, 52-53.
Naish, D. 2001. Sea serpents, seals and coelacanths. In Simmons, I. & Quin, M. (eds) Fortean Studies Volume 7. John Brown Publishing (London), pp. 75-94.
Witchell, N. 1975. The Loch Ness Story. Penguins Books, Harmondsworth, Middlesex.