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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Marmaduke Wetherell, The Loch Ness Monster, & Hoaxes

What does this guy have to do with
the Loch Ness Monster?

During the Nessie craze of 1933-1934, big game hunter Marmaduke Wetherell was hired by the Daily Mail to travel to the loch and look for the monster, and, if he could, catch it. Instead of actually looking for the monster, however, Wetherell did something else - he perpetrated hoaxes.


In December 1933, Wetherell claimed to have located something. Not the monster itself, but its tracks. The gigantic footprints were found on the shore of the loch and led into the water. The monster tracks, however, turned out to be nothing of the sort. When they were examined by the Natural History Museum, it turned out that they had been made with a dried hippo's foot! The foot itself had been used to make an ash tray. 
Wetherell (right) examining the "monster tracks"
 he found at Loch Ness

After the hoax was exposed, the Daily Mail made Wetherell look like a fool. He retreated from the public view - but his hoaxing at Loch Ness was not done.


The most famous photograph of the Loch Ness Monster is the "Surgeon's Photo" taken in 1934. But that photo does not show a monster at all. Thought to be the best evidence of the monster for nearly 60 years, it turned out to be a hoax.

Surgeon's Photograph

In April 1934, a highly respected British surgeon, Robert Wilson, came forward with a photograph he said he took of the Loch Ness Monster. He claimed he had taken the photo on April 19, when he spotted the monster while driving along the northern shore of the loch. After he came forward with the photo, he did not want his name associated with it, so it was called the "Surgeon's Photograph."

For years and years many people thought the Surgeon's Photo was the best evidence for the Loch Ness Monster. Skeptics said it was a hoax. This time, the skeptics turned out to be right.

In 1984, Stewart Campbell analyzed the photo and published an article in the British Journal of Photography. He concluded that the object in the photo could not be more than two or three feet in length. He thought it was probably a bird and the tail of a diving otter. He thought Wilson knew this when he took the picture. Campbell was right, but at the same time, he was wrong, too.

In 1994, Christian Spurling, just before his death at the age of 90, confessed that the Surgeon's Photo was a hoax. But wait, how did he know? The photo was taken by Robert Wilson, right? Nope. This is where Wetherell comes back onto the scene at Loch Ness.

Spurling was Wetherell's stepson, so when Wetherell decided to fake a photo of the monster after his humiliation because of the Loch Ness hippo tracks. Spurling remembered him saying "All right, we'll give them their monster."

Spurling made a small model of the monster's neck on a small toy submarine, took it to the loch, photographed it, and gave it to Robert Wilson to take to the press. In the original photo, you can see the shore on the opposite side of the loch and a tiny monster, but the one given to the press was cropped to make the monster seem bigger.
Un-cropped version of the Surgeon's Photo


So, the "Surgeon's Photo" is a hoax. Wetherell's "monster tracks" were hoaxes also. Despite that, you will see a lot about him if you read any old newspaper articles on the Loch Ness Monster. At the time, people really thought he found evidence of the monster on land. (People actually have reported seeing the monster on land. The sightings by George Spicer and his wife and Arthur Grant are two particularly well-known ones.) Nothing that Wetherell "found" at Loch Ness should be trusted. He is a hoaxer, and his hoaxes help the skeptics even more.

Despite these hoaxes, the legend of the Loch Ness Monster remains. There were many sightings during the time that he was at the loch, so his two hoaxes should not effect the credibility of them.

Wetherell was a hoaxer, but the LNM is real!

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