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The Monster That Never Sleeps—An Investigation into the Latest Loch Ness Monster Photo

Hayley Stevens

Volume 23.2, Summer 2013

George Edwards has led boat cruises on Loch Ness for the past twenty-six years; as an avid believer in Nessie, Edwards has presented the world with two photos that he claims show the monster. The latest of these became public when Edwards approached the Inverness Courier with it in August 2012.

hump prop from documentaryThe hump prop used in the Truth Behind the Loch Ness Monster documentary.

In the photo you can indeed see a humped, dark-colored mass in the water a short distance away from the boat with the beautiful Urquhart castle looming in the distance. “Could this be the Loch Ness Monster?” asked the Courier on August 3 (http://bit.ly/NXgPFs). The article also quoted Edwards as saying, “It was slowly moving up the Loch towards Urquhart Castle and it was a dark grey colour. It was quite a fair way from the boat, probably about half a mile away but it’s difficult to tell in water.”

Upon inspection of the photo many were quick to point out that it was unlikely that the object was half a mile away from the boat, but as Edwards said himself, it can be difficult to judge distance when on open water, so I didn’t suspect foul play at that stage. I thought this was a case of misidentification because there was nothing that suggested foul play, and people misidentify things as monsters on Loch Ness all the time. On a trip to Loch Ness with Joe Nickell in March we met Steve Feltham—the only full time Nessie hunter—who told us how he is always disappointing excited tourists who have taken a photo of driftwood or the wake of a boat thinking it’s the monster.

postcard showing Loch Ness MonsterThe postcard George Edwards has been selling for years showing the “hump” of the Loch Ness Monster.

I realized that the most logical thing to do would be to contact George Edwards and get the story from the man himself. I sent various emails to the cruise business that he runs and made several phone calls, too, but didn’t manage to make successful contact and was constantly told to call back later. I turned my attention to those on the ground at Loch Ness that I had met during my trip there in March thinking that they might know something that the rest of the world didn’t.

They didn’t disappoint.

I had an almost instant response from Adrian Shine of the Loch Ness Visitor and Exhibition Centre (http://www.lochness.com) who told me he believed the photo was of a stationary object in the water that was bobbing slightly to produce concentric ripples, and that he believed the object to be no farther than twenty meters from the camera. More interestingly though, he told me that George Edwards had been selling the photo on a postcard for months before he went to the press with it (http://bit.ly/RPhxoJ), revealing that it certainly wasn’t a new photo at all. “For Mr. Edwards’ background you should look at Dick Ray­nor’s website,” Adrian told me.

The hump out in the water of Loch Ness.The hump out in the water of Loch Ness.

There I found out that George Edwards had taken a similar photo in 1986, though that photo showed a dark mass in the water in motion, leaving behind it quite a wake. On his website Dick Raynor says of the 1986 photo, “I remember him telling me at the time how hard it had been to drag the water filled tube out of the back of a van and down to the water before it was towed out into the loch!” (http://bit.ly/NlHGtr).

I also contacted Steve Feltham (http://www.nessiehunter.com) who lives in a van on Dores Beach overlooking the Loch. He moved to Loch Ness in 1991 to find the Loch Ness monster and is credited as the only full time Nessie hunter; he holds the Guinness World Record for the longest Loch Ness monster vigil. Joe Nickell and I met him in March and were both touched by his dedication and honesty. I knew that if anyone was likely to know anything about the photo it would be Steve, but sadly I didn’t hear back from him, which left me in a predicament. I couldn’t get in touch with Edwards to talk to him directly. Although there were suggestions of hoaxed photos by Edwards, there was no definite evidence of this, and although the photo had been sold on a postcard for months that didn’t prove anything in particular either. There wasn’t much progress to be made with the photo at all, and I could only speculate—which is never helpful.

Then, on August 22, Steve left a comment on my blog (http://bit.ly/PLZ9Rt), explaining that the photo by Edwards was a hoax and that he had the evidence to prove it.

I can quite categorically say that George Edwards has deliberately punted a photo that he knows to be of a fibreglass prop from a documentary, as a real picture of something unexplained . . . no question. I now have this hump, I also have film of it being used in the water, and I also have film of it on the DECK OF HIS BOAT! Go to my Facebook page and there you will find the whole story as it unfolds. Also drag out your copy of “The Truth Behind the Loch Ness Monster” documentary, and watch the first seven minutes, you will even see a shot of the hump in the same position in the Loch as where George filmed it.

He wasn’t wrong. He had posted several photos on his Facebook wall on August 19 (http://on.fb.me/Sg2yEE) showing a fiberglass hump that had been used in a documentary by National Geographic for Chan­nel 5 called The Truth Behind the Loch Ness Monster, which did indeed resemble the thing in the photo. Steve re­ported on his Facebook page how he had contacted the producers of the show to ask what had happened to the prop used during filming and got a response from the production team stating that they had recognized the photo, now being reported on internationally, as the prop they had used in their documentary.

hump shown on boat with peopleThe hump on Edwards’s boat during filming of the documentary.

Feltham also reported how he had visited Edwards a few days after the photo had gone public to clarify whether there were more photos of the monster or not. Edwards, frustrated by the questions, told Feltham that there were eleven photos that had all been sent to Peter Jolly, a local freelance photographer who, when contacted, explained that despite being told he would be sent the eleven photos hadn’t seen them at all.

As this was all unfolding, colleagues of Feltham went through the opening sequence of The Truth Behind the Loch Ness Monster, in which the original prop was used, frame by frame. For the opening sequence the prop was towed through the water to create the effect of a monster gliding through the water of Loch Ness with Urquhart Castle in the distance. George Edwards was driving the boat the film crew was on. When the frame by frame shots of the prop are overlaid onto the Edwards photo it becomes quite apparent that the object is the same size and shape—just in a different position. If, as Steve Feltham alleges, Edwards sneaked a photo of the prop in the water during the filming of the opening sequence for the documentary, then this change in position is something you would expect to see.

overlaid frame by frame shotsFrame by frame shots of the hump prop (right) overlaid onto the Edwards photo shows they are indeed the same object.

George Edwards has not commented on the hoax allegations, though a few weeks following the accusations from Feltham, Edwards did a radio interview about the Loch Ness monster with Radio 4 Extra (http://bbc.in/OJKql9) in which he talks about the 1986 photo, but not the one from August . . . perhaps he has the hump?

All in all, the investigation into the latest Loch Ness monster photo has been an interesting one, with those who want there to be a monster coming up with the solution that others couldn’t. The investigation also showed that even the oldest monster myths still have life in them.

Hayley Stevens

Hayley Stevens is a skeptical podcaster, writer, public speaker, and founder of Project Barnum, an educational resource about psychic trickery. She also hosts the popular Righteous Indignation Podcast, and, being a reformed ghost hunter, she can often be found trying to educate people about the pseudoscience involved in the majority of ghost and monster research.