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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Lachlan Stuart Loch Ness Photo - Hoax or the Real Deal?

One of the most famous photos of a supposed Loch Ness Monster is the one taken by Lachlan Stuart on July 14, 1951.

The original story goes like this:

On that day, Stuart had woken up around 6:30 a.m. to milk his cow. He was about 100 feet above the loch and on the opposite shore from Urquhart Castle. He happened to look at the loch and saw what he at first thought was a motorboat.

He soon realized, however, that it was no boat, when a second hump appeared behind the first one. He called out to his wife and Taylor Hay. Hay and Stuart ran down to the shore, and now saw a third hump. The creature had changed direction and was moving southwards through the lake, about 50 yards from the witnesses.

Stuart had his box camera with him, so he took a picture of the three humps. Afterwards, a long neck with a head "like a sheep but without the ears" appeared. There is a tiny black dot in front of the first (furthest left) hump in the photo, and some say that is the head of the monster.
The photo

The creature had come closer to the shore by this time, so Stuart and Hay decided to move further back up through the trees to where they originally were. The monster then swam back out into the center of the loch and submerged.

Stuart said he thought each hump was about 5 feet long, with about 8 feet between each of them. He said the first hump stood 2 feet out of the water, the second 4 feet, and the third 3 feet. The neck was about six feet long. Stuart also said there was a "commotion" in the water about 15 feet behind the last hump, which he thought might have been caused by the submerged tail of the monster. He described its skin as "blackish" in color.

This is one of the most famous Loch Ness Monster photos of all time. But is it real?


In 1984, Richard Frere in his book Loch Ness says this about the Stuart photo:

"I have no particular objection to hoaxers…and my chief reaction on getting first hand knowledge of the affair was surprise at how easily even experts can be duped. This amateurish invention was given the seal of approval by a leading zoologist as the 'most important picture.'"

Frere then wrote a letter to Alastair Boyd, which was printed in the "Nessletter" Number 88, in June 1988:

"Dear Mr Boyd,
"Thank you for your letter concerning Stuart's photograph of ?. As you say many years have hone by since 1951 but I happen to remember clearly a meeting at Loch Ness side, in the vicinity of the Whitefield cottage, with a man who represented himself as Lachlan Stuart. At that time I had a timber business and was in need of an additional horse for timber dragging. I had heard that Stuart had such a beast or could put me in touch with one and our meeting was arranged by a third party. I met with Stuart in early August. We discussed the horse but no bargain was struck, even after the woodsman had obligingly offered a dram from his bottle. Before we parted he took me down to the pebble beach, where, concealed within a clump of alder or hazel, I was shown on my promise of silence, three or four bales of hay (as supplied for horses) and some strips of tarpaulin. I was told that these were the 'humps' of ?. S was proud of his joke, in which he saw no harm, and he was greatly surprised that his photograph had come out at all, as it was taken 'near dark.' I did not enquire at what margin of the day it had been snapped. Stuart considered ? 'a load of nonsense' and poked fun at those who took it seriously. From this you can see that I did not participate in the hoax, although, perhaps, my silence until recently may be construed as that of an accessory."

So, we are left with two options - either the Lachlan Stuart photo of three humps in Loch Ness actually shows the back of the monster, or it is fake, made with bales of hay with tarpaulin over them.

As shown on the Loch Ness Investigation website here, the water in the area where the photo was taken is not that deep, so it wouldn't surprise me if Frere's account of the bales of hay and tarp are true. And it kind of makes sense, too. In his account Stuart says that he also say the head and neck of the monster. Why wouldn't he take a photo of that? Probably because it wasn't there.

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