Our favorite sea monsters – Nessie (#6)

One of the most famous “sea monsters” of all time – so famous that her outline graces the Ocean of Pseudoscience Week logo – actually lives in a lake. I’m talking, of course, about “Nessie”, the Loch Ness monster.

Local reports of a bizarre creature inhabiting the Scottish lake go back over a thousand years, but the story became popularized in the 1930’s when Dr. Robert Kenneth Wilson took a now-famous photograph.

Dr. Wilson's photo, image courtesy UnMuseum.org

Nessie is believed by many to be a plesiosaur that somehow survived the extinction of the rest of her species. Propelled by public interest, numerous scientific expeditions have been launched over the decades to find her. Using SONAR, submersibles, and hydrophones, teams of experts from around the globe have consistently failed to find any sort of actual proof that Nessie is there.

Several explanations have been proposed for the sightings and Dr. Wilson’s photograph. Some experts have proposed that tourists eager to see Nessie have, in their excitement, misidentified common animals (eels, seals, large fish) or common objects (logs). Others have a simpler explanation – people who want to become part of the legend are making up stories.

The most interesting explanation for Dr. Wilson’s photo I’ve heard is that it’s of an elephant’s trunk (check out this National Geographic article on the subject). Yes, I know that elephants don’t live in Scotland, but I challenge you to show me something in that photograph that proves it was taken in Loch Ness. Again, a simpler explanation exists – the photo was faked. According to the Museum of Hoaxes, Christian Spurling confessed on his deathbed in 1994 to helping fake the picture using a toy submarine and a plastic model of a plesiosaur head. He allegedly gave the photo to Dr. Wilson who would be more likely to be believed.

While Nessie is the most famous Lake Monster, there are many others. My family regularly vacations in upstate New York, and I grew up hearing tales of Champ (the Lake Champlain monster).  The story is similar in most cases – some locals swear that something lives in the lake, lots of witnesses claim to have seen something, and not a shred of evidence exists to prove any of it.

Nessie easily earns a place in our list of favorite sea monsters.



  1. jessica · September 12, 2010

    Nessie Loch Ness Monster and the Black Man without a face date 1949-
    Artist Maurits Cornelis ESCHER 1898-1972 NL

    June 29th 2010, Rome
    Great works of art
    Andrea Dipré, famous art critique with Antonio Prospero, CEO of the Escher-
    Nessie association.
    Welcome to you all by Andrea Dipré, presenter of the program The Great Works
    of art. The subject of today’s program is a drawing of exceptional and
    fundamental importance due to its artistic value by the Dutch graphic artist
    and engraver Maurits Cornelis Escher who, with his genius, tackled the
    geometrical representation of art.
    One of his works was found by chance a few years ago, stashed away for decades
    in an old and forgotten garage in a small village in the southern region of
    Campania. This work is of extraordinary importance.
    Escher was loved by scientists, mathematicians and logicians. The work is
    dedicated to the myth of the Monster of Loch Ness known as Nessie.
    The picture is held together in a wooden oak frame and depicts a mysterious
    figure playing a fife who seems to be enchanting the sea creature with his
    Here you can see a life-size photo of the original, which is well hidden in a
    secret location. On the back of the picture there is the signature of Escher
    himself as confirmed by a scientific study of his calligraphy.
    The work is a charcoal drawing measuring 53 cm x 42 cm. This extraordinary
    piece of art was found, as said above, by chance by policeman Raffaele De Feo.
    The calligraphy and signature have been officially recognized. The work is of
    amazing importance also due to the sightings of the Monster of Loch Ness which
    began in the 1930s.
    The work was given to policeman Rafaelle De Feo’s mother and brought to Italy
    a few years later to Volturara Irpina a small village in the southern province
    of Avellino . Escher managed to represent the essence of Nessie. Here is the
    life-size photo of the picture. You can contact the owner or Mr. Prospero for
    more information, and have the chance to see the original which belongs to myth
    rather than history.
    The work, I remind you, is an Escher, the great Dutch artist who was born in
    1898 and died in 1972. Mr. Prospero is also working hard to make the piece of
    art obtain the recognition it deserves. It has already had great success by a
    vast public, but my wish is for it to obtain even larger and wider popularity.
    Thank you.




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