Dr KARL SHUKER

Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. Author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), and more recently Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), and Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), his many fans have been badgering him to join the blogosphere for years. The CFZ Blog Network is proud to have finally persuaded him to do so.

Dr Karl Shuker's Official Website - http://www.karlshuker.com

IMPORTANT: To view a complete, regularly-updated listing of my ShukerNature blog's articles (each one instantly clickable), please click HERE!

IMPORTANT: To view a complete, regularly-updated listing of my published books (each one instantly clickable), please click HERE!

IMPORTANT: To view a complete, regularly-updated listing of my Eclectarium blog's articles (each one instantly clickable), please click HERE!

IMPORTANT: To view a complete, regularly-updated listing of my Starsteeds blog's poetry and other lyrical writings (each one instantly clickable), please click HERE!

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Wednesday, 22 July 2015

NICK REDFERN REVIEWS DRAGONS IN ZOOLOGY, CRYPTOZOOLOGY, AND CULTURE - THANKS NICK!


Dragons are clearly in season right now. Following hot on the heels of two excellent recent reviews of my book Dragons in Zoology, Cryptozoology, and Culture, by Richard Freeman in the CFZ's magazine Animals and Men and by Matt Salusbury in Fortean Times respectively (click here to read both reviews on ShukerNature), is a third fantastic review, this time by none other than fellow cryptozoologist, bestselling author, and - most important of all! - Black Countryman Nick Redfern.

Please click here to read Nick's review on the spectacular website Mysterious Universe.

Thanks again, Nick - bostin' review, as we Black Countrymen say!! (And for those of you who may not have any idea what I'm talking about and what or even where the Black Country is - shame on you! - click here to read Wikipedia's account of this historical region of the West Midlands in England, where Nick and I were both born, just a couple of mile or so from each other, in fact, and which has such a long, proud heritage in England's development and advancement, especially during the Industrial Revolution).

http://mysteriousuniverse.org/2015/07/dragons-zoology-culture-and-more/
Header to Nick's review of my dragons book on Mysterious Universe ((c) Nick Redfern/Mysterious Universe)







Saturday, 18 July 2015

DEBUNKING A TRIO OF QUASI-COLOURED MOCK PYTHONS


Photograph of a supposed green and white ball python, found by me on Pinterest (see below for © of original photograph)

Having a longstanding interest in animal colour morphs, I knew that something was very wrong – distinctly off-colour, in every sense – when, while browsing on the image-sharing/-hosting website Pinterest a couple of days ago in search of some unusual animal photographs to pin to my recently-created Pinterest board devoted to cryptozoology, animal mythology, and (un) natural history, I came upon the remarkable picture opening this present ShukerNature blog article. (Click here to view my Pinterest board - but you'll need to sign into Pinterest's site once you've clicked this link before it will let you see my board.)

For although I knew that a dazzling range and vast number of colour morphs have been developed for many snake species (including various pythons and boas) commonly sold in the pet trade (such selectively-bred forms being referred to as designer snakes), I felt pretty sure that these did not include a green and white variety for the African ball python Python regius (aka the royal python), regardless of what my eyes were seeing when looking at this particular photograph. (I know that a morph dubbed 'green' does exist, but in reality it is merely khaki, not grass-green like the specimen in this photo.) Anxious not to lose it, however, I swiftly pinned it to my Pinterest board, and then did what I always do as standard practice nowadays whenever confronted by a strange or unexpected animal picture – I conducted a Google image search for it online, in the hope of tracing its origin.

A normal, wild-type specimen of the ball python (public domain)

But all that I could find, pages and pages of them, were links to this self-same image on dozens of other Pinterest pages as well as many pages on other image-sharing/-hosting websites too, such as Tumblr and Flickr, yet with no clues whatsoever as to where it had originated. I didn't even come upon a single comment from any of these numerous image-sharers that queried whether these pythons of a very different colour were genuine. (Then again, if it's on the internet it must be true! lol)

Something that I did find, however, was that this photo of a green-and-white ball python was not one of a kind, because during my search I discovered two equally unlikely variations upon its crazy colour scheme.

The same photograph as the one opening this ShukerNature blog article, and again common on image-sharing/-hosting websites, but in which the green hue has been replaced by a pink hue (see below for © of original photograph)

That is to say, I found some copies of exactly the same photo but in which the green hue had been replaced by pink, and some other copies in which it had been replaced by lilac – both of them once again being shared ad infinitum on Pinterest, Flickr, Tumbr, etc, but also once again with no clues as to where either of these variants had originated, and no challenges to their serpentine subjects' authenticity.

The same photograph as the one opening this ShukerNature blog article, and again common on image-sharing/-hosting websites, but in which the green hue has been replaced by a lilac hue (see below for © of original photograph)

The fact that I had now uncovered three different colour versions of the very same photograph meant either that two of these versions were fakes, photo-manipulated by person(s) unknown from the third, or that all three were fakes, photo-manipulated from a true-to-life original version that I had yet to locate online. I favoured the latter possibility, because, as already noted, I was not aware of any comparable yet genuine green, pink, or lilac colour morphs existing for the ball python, and after checking a number of websites devoted to ball python morphs I found no evidence whatsoever that any of the three did indeed exist. Clearly, therefore, there was a fourth, original, unmodified version of the photo out there somewhere, currently unseen by me, and which would prove to be the original version – but what might the snake in it look like, what would its true colouration be?

When I had first seen the green version, it had struck me straight away that, ignoring its markings' bizarre colouration and focusing instead upon their form and paleness, the snake recalled the ball python's very abundant golden colour morph. This particular colour morph has been developed by selective captive breeding in a number of other constrictor species too, perhaps most famously in the Burmese python P. bivittatus. Golden specimens of this latter species are exceptionally popular, very highly-prized pets due to the enhancement of their already beautiful appearance by way of the huge and extremely impressive body size for which this species is renowned (and which, again, is actively selected for when captive-bred by the pet trade).

A xanthistic Burmese python (© Dr Karl Shuker)

Genetically speaking, this golden morph is xanthistic, i.e. it occurs due to the expression of a certain specific mutant gene allele that causes a specimen possessing this allele to produce an excess of yellow pigmentation; sometimes the specimen's normal red pigment for its species is lacking and has been replaced entirely by yellow pigment. Despite this, however, in the pet trade xanthistic snake specimens are often confusingly called albinos (yet, genetically, this term should only be used to describe pure-white specimens with pink eyes, such specimens being caused by different gene alleles from those responsible for xanthism). The most sought-after xanthistic pythons of all are ones that lack both red and black pigmentation, resulting in exceptionally handsome specimens that seem almost to emit a golden glow when viewed under certain levels of illumination, and are known technically as amelanic xanthistic pythons.

Consequently, I decided to conduct another Google image search, but this time using the specific search phrase 'albino ball python' – and sure enough, after scouring through countless photos of such snakes, I finally came upon one that, except for the snake's colour in it, was identical to the green, pink, and lilac versions that I'd previously encountered online. There could be no doubt – this particular photograph of a normal, real-life golden ball python was the original that had been photo-manipulated very professionally if anonymously by agent(s) unknown. And here, as absolute proof, is that original, undoctored photograph.

Golden (or so-called 'albino') ball python (© Nat Turner/all rights reserved – fair use only here on ShukerNature; click here to access Nat's webpage containing full  technical details for this photograph)

This photograph had been snapped without flash by American photographer Nat Turner on 22 May 2004, it depicts what Nat describes as a large female specimen, and it had been posted by him onto his Flickr site, which is where I found it. Moreover, it is one of several photos by Nat that seem to depict the same specimen, and which are all contained in an online Flickr album of his entitled 'Snakes'.

The quasi-coloured mock pythons beloved and believed in by so many online image sharers were no more – a trio of counterfeit serpents duly debunked and discarded, yet another case of photo-manipulation chicanery summarily expunged from the archives of valid zoological anomalies.

A specimen of the ball python's black-eyed leucistic ('snow') morph (© The Urban Zoo – be sure to click here to visit their excellent pet-store website)

Incidentally, another very popular python morph that is sometimes termed albino in the pet trade, but which once again is very different genetically, is the snow python. For although it does possess the albino mutant gene allele, it also possesses the axanthic mutant gene allele, whose effect is the exact opposite of the xanthic version, because it does not increase yellow pigmentation but reduces it instead. The combined effect of these two alleles' expression is an ethereal-looking snake that is pure-white all over like a bona fide albino specimen, but has blue or black eyes, instead of pink ones like an albino.

Finally: it may seem scarcely believable but it is not unknown for park rangers and others to witness occasionally the astonishing spectacle of an enormous Burmese python locked in mortal combat with a mighty American alligator in the Florida Everglades. Such titanic battles occur because this huge non-native ophidian species has successfully established breeding populations here following pet specimens having escaped and/or been deliberately released during the 20th Century. And because both are top reptilian predators, whenever they encounter one another neither one of them is willing to back down.

Battle of the reptilian behemoths – a wild-type naturalised ball python versus an adult American alligator (public domain)




Friday, 17 July 2015

REVIEWING DRAGONS IN ZOOLOGY, CRYPTOZOOLOGY, AND CULTURE


My second dragons book – Dragons in Zoology, Cryptozoology, and Culture, published by Coachwhip Publications (© Dr Karl Shuker/Coachwhip Publications)

The year 1995 saw the publication of two books of mine, one of which was Dragons: A Natural History – a lavishly-illustrated volume in which I concentrated upon providing a series of vibrant, lyrical retellings of famous and lesser-known dragon myths, legends, and folktales from around the world, arranged into chapters focusing upon different morphological and natural history categories of dragon, and interspersed throughout with smatterings of cryptozoological content and snippets of other dragon-related background information. Over the years, it was translated into over a dozen languages, has been reissued many times, and, judging from its huge sales worldwide, may well be the most successful non-fiction book on dragons ever published. So how could I follow that?

Some of the many English and foreign-language editions of my book Dragons: A Natural History – From left to right, top row: English, Czech, Italian, Spanish, and Japanese; bottom row: Estonian, Hungarian, German, Dutch, and French – click image to enlarge it (© Dr Karl Shuker)

And yet I did want to follow it, because I'd always planned to write an extremely comprehensive review of dragons in their entirety – not just their myths, morphology, and natural history, but also providing in-depth coverages of the real-life and possible cryptozoological influences responsible for engendering dragons, and these mythical monsters' omnipresence in human culture, both ancient and modern – from religion and the mystic arts to the visual arts and literature, fashion to sport, tattoos to compute games, rock music to dream interpretation, and mush more besides.

With my very own young dragon skull and dragon egg… © Dr Karl Shuker)

After extensive research, I finally wrote my long-planned second dragons book – entitled Dragons in Zoology, Cryptozoology, and Culture – and saw it published in 2013 by Coachwhip Publications of Greenville, Ohio. It constitutes one of the most comprehensive dragon-themed factual books ever published, is sumptuously illustrated throughout in full colour, and today I was delighted to see not one but two positive, encouraging reviews of it.

The beautiful dragon painting by the very talented cryptozoological artist Thomas Finley that appears on the front cover of my newest dragons book (© Thomas Finley)

By one of those wonderful coincidences that happen only rarely but help to restore one's belief that the world may indeed be a good place to inhabit when they do happen, today I received in the post two different magazines, only to discover that they each contained an excellent review of my newest, second dragons book. One was written by fellow dragons aficionado Richard Freeman, and appeared in #52 (February 2015) of the Centre for Fortean Zoology's magazine Animals and Men; the other was written by longstanding cryptozoogical researcher Matt Salusbury, and appeared in #330 (August 2015) of Fortean Times.

So for those of you who haven't read my new dragons book and may be interested in doing so, here are these two reviews, each one a two-pager. Please click the images to enlarge them for reading purposes.

Richard Freeman's review of my book Dragons in Zoology, Cryptozoology, and Culture in Animals and Men (© Richard Freeman/Animals and Men)


Matt Salusbury's review of my book Dragons in Zoology, Cryptozoology, and Culture in Fortean Times (© Matt Salusbury/Fortean Times)

My sincere thanks to Rich and Matt for their reviews, which have made all of the toil researching such a vast albeit fascinating subject as dragons worthwhile.

If you'd like to read more about my new dragons book, please click here to read its own page on my website, which also includes direct links to Amazon's USA and UK sites for anyone wishing to purchase a copy. Also, please click here if you'd like to purchase a copy via its publisher, Coachwhip Publications (which is also the publisher of my definitive Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals). Click here and here for more information about my new dragons book as posted on ShukerNature; and click here and here to read two lengthy excerpts from it exclusively on ShukerNature.

My two books published so far by Coachwhip Publications (© Dr Karl Shuker/Coachwhip Publications)





Monday, 13 July 2015

LESSER NESSIES - SURVEYING THE 'OTHER' MONSTERS OF MAINLAND SCOTLAND'S FRESHWATER LOCHS


Sketch of Morag, the monster of Loch Morar, based upon eyewitness accounts (© Michael Playfair)

Everyone has heard of Nessie, the reputed monster of Loch Ness, but fewer people realise that mystery beasts of various forms have also been reported from a sizeable number of other mainland Scottish freshwater lochs. Many of these reports were first compiled in Peter Costello's standard work In Search of Lake Monsters (1974) and later summarised in Michael Newton's very comprehensive Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology (2005), but here is a representative selection.


LOCHS ARKAIG, ASSYNT, AND FEITH AN LEÒTHAID

With a maximum depth of 359 ft and measuring 12 miles long, Loch Arkaig is situated in the Lochaber area of the Highlands. In a diary entry for 3 October 1857, English politician Lord Malmesbury recorded that his game stalker, John Stuart, had twice seen at Achnaharry the horse-like head and hindquarters of a 'lake-horse' basking at the loch's surface at sunrise when there were no ripples on the water. This loch monster has since been dubbed Archie.

Loch Arkaig (© Angela Mudge/Creative Commons Licence)

In an article on Scottish loch monsters published during the early 1850s, Malmesbury included a claimed monster sighting from 1837 on Loch Assynt in Sutherland by two fishermen, who also saw it a second time shortly afterwards on a small island in this 6.3-mile-long loch. Very hairy, and grey in colour, the creature was compared by them to a young bull in size but with a broader back. It was about 3 ft tall, quadrupedal, with a bulldog-like head and large eyes.

Loch Feith an Leòthaid is connected to Loch Assynt, and during the 1930s an unidentified creature with a long neck and a deer-like head apparently surfaced close to the boat of Kenneth MacKenzie from Steen, gazing across this vessel's stern before disappearing again.


LOCH AWE

The third largest freshwater loch in Scotland by surface area (which is approximately 15 square miles), Loch Awe in Argyll and Bute is also this country's longest at 25 miles in total, and is reputedly home to a mysterious serpentiform monster known as the beathach mór. As far back as the 16th Century, fishermen were claiming that this loch's waters harboured gigantic eels "as big as a horse with an incredible length" - a belief that remains prevalent here today, though no eel of such inordinate dimensions has ever been drawn forth and made available for scientific scrutiny.

Do enormous eels inhabit the vast waters of Loch Awe? (public domain)


LOCHS EIL AND LINHE

One of the most unusual water monsters reported from a Scottish freshwater loch is the faceless, vermiform horror encountered at Loch Eil in the western Highlands by author Denys-James Watkins-Pitchford and documented by him in 1962. Here, quoted directly from his book September Road to Caithness and the Western Sea, is his first-hand description of what he saw:

I was watching some mallard paddling about among some weedy rocks at the end of a little promontory when there appeared out of the calm water exactly opposite me a large black shiny object which I can only compare with the blunt, blind head of an enormous worm.

It was, I suppose, some 50 yards from where I was standing, and it kept appearing and disappearing, not moving along, but rolling on the surface. The water was greatly disturbed all round the object. It had a shiny wet-looking skin, but the head (if head it was) was quite unlike a seal's and had no face, or nose, no eyes. It rose quite a long way out of the water, some three feet or more, before sinking back.

The most obvious explanation for a large elongate creature in a Scottish freshwater loch is an eel; but unless the creature was inaccurately recorded by its eyewitness, an eel with no face, not even any eyes, would be a very unusual one indeed - and one that could rise 3 ft or more out of the water would be even more so (as would a worm for that matter!).

Loch Eil is linked to Loch Linhe, a sea loch on Scotland's west coast and where, during the 1890s, a still-unidentified eel-like animal of sizeable length but bearing a mane was found dead at Corpach Lock, close to Fort William at Linhe's north end. Might this have been a vagrant giant oarfish Regalecus glesne that had made its way, or (perhaps dying) had been carried by water currents, into this coastal loch from the open sea? Long-necked Nessie-type monsters have also been sighted here, during the 1940s and again during the 1960s.

Was a giant oarfish found dead in Loch Linhe? (public domain)


LOCH GARTEN

Situated in the Strathspey area of Scotland's Cairngorms National Park, Loch Garten is most famous nowadays for the RSPB-coordinated success story in the breeding of wild ospreys here, but in bygone times it was famed for reputedly being home to a fearsome lake monster known as a water-bull or tarbh uisge. Resembling a hybrid of horse and bull, it sported a huge horned head, a jet-black mane, and would give vent to an extremely loud, hideous, roaring bellow.

According to local lore, a bold crofter once sought to trap this formidable creature, using as bait a young lamb attached to a very large hook, which in turn was tethered by a long sturdy rope to a huge lochside boulder weighing many tons. After rowing out to the centre of the loch and dropping the hooked lamb there, the crofter returned to shore in the hope that the water-bull would swallow the bait during the night, and thus be snared internally by the engulfed hook, after which he would haul the beast ashore. But when he checked the following morning, both the lamb and the boulder were gone. All that could be seen was a deep rut in the ground, where something with immense strength had dragged the massively heavy boulder into the loch.

Was a water-bull lured to its death in the dark waters of Loch Garten one night by a canny crofter? (© Steve Garvie/Wikipedia – photo-manipulated by Dr Karl Shuker)

As the water-bull was never seen or heard again, the inference in this tale is that once in the water, the huge boulder's weight had dragged the water-bull down to the loch bottom - where, unable to free itself from the hook that had snared it internally when it swallowed the lamb, the monster had drowned.


LOCH LOCHY

The lesser Nessie that has attracted most media attention in fairly recent times is Lizzie, the monster of 10-mile-long Loch Lochy - Scotland's third deepest loch (531 ft at its maximum depth), sited immediately below Loch Oich. With no publicised sightings for 36 years, Lizzie reclaimed the headlines in September 1996, when a 12-ft-long, dark-coloured mystery beast with a curved head and three humps reared up out of the water and began moving round in circles in full view of several staff and guests at the Corriegour Lodge Hotel, overlooking the loch. According to Aberdeen University psychology student Catriona Allen, who studied this amazing sight through binoculars: "It certainly wasn't a seal, otter, porpoise or dolphin".

In late July 1997, a six-man expedition featuring previous Loch Morar diver Cameron Turner and led by Gary Campbell, president of the Official Loch Ness Monster Fan Club, arrived to conduct a sonar sweep of the loch. Encouragingly, they achieved success on their very first day, when their equipment detected a large unidentified object swimming in the middle of the loch and estimated at 15-20 ft long - far bigger than anything known to be there. Turner came back to Lochy in September 1997, but no new evidence was obtained.

Maps pin-pointing some of mainland Scotland's 'monster' lochs – click to enlarge (© Ordnance Survey (left); © Jarrold & Sons Ltd (right))


LOCH LOMOND

By surface area, totalling 27 square miles, Loch Lomond in Scotland's West Dunbartonshire/Argyll and Bute/Stirling region, and marking the boundary between central Scotland's highlands and lowlands, is the largest stretch of inland water in the whole of the island of Great Britain. In terms of anomalous aquatic animals and other esoterica, moreover, it is also famous as the locality claimed in an atlas published in 1659 to harbour "fish without fins" and a mysterious "floating island". And in 1724, Alexander Graham of Duchray claimed that locals living nearby sometimes see the water-horse reputedly inhabiting its waters.

More recently, at Easter 1980, a Mr and Mrs Maltman and their daughter were camping near the edge of Loch Lomond at Luss when a head and slender neck rose up to a height of about 5 ft above the water surface, no more than 200 yards away, with a long curved back visible behind. This amazing spectacle lasted for 30 seconds or so, then the head and neck swiftly submerged and were not seen again. The Maltmans were so frightened that they fled, later returning only to pack their belongings before journeying back home. And in 1997, a somewhat indistinct, unidentifiable moving object was filmed in the loch by investigator Nick Taylor.

Equally unexpected but totally verified, incidentally, is the presence on Inchconnachan, one of this loch's islands, of a naturalised, thriving population of Australian red-necked wallabies Macropus rufogriseus (also known as Bennett's wallabies). They are descended from some that were introduced there during the 1940s by Lady Arran Colquhoun, and Inchconnachan is nowadays referred to colloquially as Wallaby Island.

A rare albino Bennett's wallaby (© Dr Karl Shuker)


LOCH MAREE

The fourth largest of Scotland's freshwater lochs by surface area, and situated in Wester Ross in the Western Highlands, Loch Maree is also referred to as Loch na Bèiste ('Loch of the Beast' in Scottish Gaelic), due to the muc-sheilch. This is a local name popularly applied to its own particular water monster and loosely translates as 'turtle-pig'. Yet despite its descriptive name, and the fact that sightings of this monster are reminiscent of Nessie reports, featuring humped backs rising above the surface and resembling capsized boats, zoologists have sought to identify it as merely a large eel.


LOCH MORAR

The most famous lesser Nessie is Morag, the monster of Loch Morar, whose history, like Nessie's, dates back many centuries, as testified by a very old Scottish song:

Morag, Harbinger of Death,
Giant swimmer in deep-green Morar,
The loch that has no bottom...
There it is that Morag the monster lives.

Loch Morar is 11 miles long, approximately 1.5 miles wide, and with a maximum depth exceeding 1000 ft it is Britain's deepest freshwater lake. Unlike the waters of Loch Ness, however, which are extremely peaty, Morar's are very clear, enabling objects situated at quite a distance beneath the surface to be perceived with remarkable clarity - as exemplified by visitor Robert Duff's extraordinary sighting on 8 July 1969.

A joiner from Edinburgh, Duff was fishing from a boat in Meoble Bay on the loch's southern shore, where the water is no more than 16 ft deep and very lucid, when he spotted what he described as a "monster lizard", lying motionless on the loch's white, leaf-strewn bottom, looking up at him. Duff estimated the creature to be 20 ft long, with a snake-like earless head, slit eyes, and a wide mouth. Its body was grey-brown with rough skin, and it had four limbs, with three toes visible on each front foot, plus a tail. He was so startled that he revved the boat up and made off at once. Later, however, he returned to the same spot, but the animal had gone.

Loch Morar (© Lynne Kirton/Geograph Project/Wikipedia Creative Commons Licence)

Even more dramatic was the 5-minute confrontation experienced on 16 August 1969 by Duncan McDonell and William Simpson. At about 9.00-9.30 pm, but while still daylight, their motor boat was travelling along the loch at a speed of 6-7 knots when McDonell, at the wheel, saw a creature in the water about 20 yards behind but moving directly towards them. A few seconds later it caught up, and collided with the side of their boat, seemingly unintentionally but nonetheless with sufficient force to hurl a kettle of water off the boat's gas stove and onto the floor. McDonell attempted to fend the beast away with an oar, frightened that it may capsize the boat, but because the oar was old it snapped in half.

When Simpson saw this, he picked up his rifle, ran out of the cabin, and aimed a shot at the creature - which slowly sank away from the boat. They did not see it again, but they did not see any blood either, or any other sign to indicate that Simpson's bullet had hit it.

According to Simpson and McDonell, the portion of the creature that they had observed was 25-30 ft long, with rough, dirty-brown skin, and three humps or undulations standing about 18 in above the water surface at the highest point. The head was brown and snake-like, measuring approximately 1 ft across the top, and raised 18 in out of the water.

On 1 August 1996 came the electrifying news that Cameron Turner, a diver from Darlington, had discovered some bones from a large unidentified animal at a depth of 60 ft in Loch Morar. Could these be the mortal remains of a Morag? Sadly, no - the following day a biologist formally identified them as the bones of a deer.

Returning to the media headlines in 2013 after two decades of cryptozoological reticence, the most recent claimed encounter with Morag featured a trio of sightings in close succession. For within the space of just two days during summer 2013, holidaymakers Doug and Charlotte Christie from Brechin in Angus apparently saw the monster on three separate occasions while staying at Kisimuil bed-and-breakfast at the lochside. They saw a 20-ft-long black object in the middle of the loch, for 10 minutes on the longest occasion before it submerged again. Charlotte likened it to a whale, Doug to a submarine.


LOCH OICH

Wee Oichie or Oichy of Loch Oich, directly below Loch Ness and 4 miles long, traditionally sports a flattened head rather than the familiar equine form often noted for Nessie and various other Scottish loch monsters. Having said that, the head of the very big, black, serpentine beast that rose to the surface one summer's day in 1936 was vaguely dog-like, according to A.J. Robertson who spied it while boating at the loch's southwestern end. Certain other eyewitnesses, moreover, including a former loch keeper at Oich interviewed by investigator J.W. Herries during the 1930s, have likened Wee Oichie to a huge otter.

Swimming otters may sometimes be mistaken for monsters – and vice-versa? (© Dr Karl Shuker)

As a river connects Loch Oich to Loch Ness, some researchers have speculated that perhaps Wee Oichie and Nessie are one and the same, merely swimming back and forth from one loch to another via this interconnecting river. Indeed, during the mid-1930s, Herries interviewed three eyewitnesses who claimed to have actually observed such an animal journeying via this means from Ness to Oich.

The most recent Oichy sighting currently documented occurred on 22 August 1998, when two Lochaber locals who wish to remain anonymous saw a large dark-coloured hump, rough but symmetrical in shape, break the surface a few hundred yards east of the Well of the Heads and about 22 yards from the shore as they were driving along the road next to the loch. Interestingly, they could see underneath the hump, thereby indicating that the creature was coiled and elongate. The two eyewitnesses got out of the car and ran onto the beach, armed with cameras, but the hump had already gone back down. Readily discounting identities such as swimming sheep, a line of otters, a seal, deer, and other commonly-posited candidates, they speculated that it might have been an eel, but with what they estimated to be a diameter of 18 in, if so it would have been one of truly prodigious proportions.


LOCH QUOICH

Situated west of Garry roughly 25 miles northwest of Fort William in Lochaber, Highlands, Loch Quoich is 9 miles long, with a maximum depth of 281 ft, and is supposedly home to a horse-headed but markedly serpentiform water monster. During the early 1930s, one such creature was even allegedly witnessed on land, when an unnamed lord, fishing on the loch's shores, spied it lying on a stony beach near to the water. It was also seen by the two fishing guides accompanying him, but he swore them to secrecy, afraid that the locals would consider all three of them inebriated, so their accounts remained unreleased for many years.

A collection of monster reports from Loch Quoich and other Scottish freshwater lochs was compiled by Father Henry Cyril Dieckhoff, from the Benedictine Abbey at Fort Augustus. Sadly, however, he died in 1970 before completing a book that he had been preparing, and which would have contained all of these reports.


LOCH SHIEL

Loch Morar is a famously remote lake, much of which can be reached only by boat, but this is also true of Loch Shiel - Scotland's fifth largest loch, with a length of 17 miles, a width ranging from 100 yards to a mile, and a maximum depth of 420 ft. Its own resident monster is known as Seileag.

A mesmerisingly beautiful image of Loch Shiel (© Gil Cavalcanti/Wikipedia Creative Commons Licence)

Seileag's most diligent investigator was the afore-mentioned Father Dieckhoff, who collected many reports. One of these, dating from 1905, featured Ewan MacIntosh, two young boys, and an old man called Ian Crookback, all of whom observed three humps above the water surface with the aid of a telescope while travelling across the loch opposite Gasgan aboard the little mail steamer Clan Ranald.

A massive creature with a broad head, wide mouth, long thick neck, and seven "sails" (humps) on its back was viewed through a telescope by Ronald MacLeod as it emerged from the water at Sandy Point one afternoon in 1926. Indeed, it was claimed by MacLeod to be bigger than the Clan Ranald!


LOCH TAY

Scotland's sixth largest loch by area and over 490 ft deep at its greatest depth, Loch Tay is situated in Perthshire, is approximately 14.5 miles long and typically 1.0-1.5 miles wide. Cryptozoologically speaking, however, the most notable mystery beast from this vicinity was not reported in the loch itself but from the nearby Firth of Tay, during the late evening of 30 September 1965. Moreover, it was actually seen on land, and therefore in full – a rare event indeed.


Here is my documentation of that very remarkable incident, from my book In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995):

[It] was brought to cryptozoological attention by veteran monster hunter F.W. Holiday. It was 11.30 pm, and Maureen Ford (wife of amateur flyweight boxer David Ford) was driving with some friends along the A85 by car towards Perth, in northeastern Scotland. Close to Perth, Ford suddenly spied an extraordinary creature by the roadside, only a few yards from the banks of the River Tay, which enters nearby into the Firth of Tay - an inlet of the North Sea. She described it as: "...a long grey shape. It had no legs but I'm sure I saw long pointed ears."

Less than 2 hours later, it was seen again - but this time on the opposite side of the road, to where it had evidently crossed during the intervening period. At 1 am, Robert Swankie was driving along the A85 away from Perth towards Dundee, when his headlights revealed an amazing sight. As he later revealed in a Scottish Daily Express report (5 October 1965):

"The head was more than two feet long. It seemed to have pointed ears. The body, which was about 20 feet long, was humped like a giant caterpillar. It was moving very slowly and made a noise like someone dragging a heavy weight through the grass."

Swankie slowed down, and opened his window, but he could see another car not far behind, so he decided not to stop, and continued his journey. His testimony, and also that of Ford, were taped by an enthusiastic investigator, Miss Russell-Fergusson of Clarach Recordings, Oban, and the police were also informed. In the Express report, one of their spokesmen commented that in the dark the headlights of a car could play tricks when they strike walls and trees - but as Holiday sensibly pointed out, if Swankie's sighting had merely been an optical illusion, why didn't he see monsters throughout his road journey?  And how can an exclusively visual deception create a dragging sound?

Far more reasonable, surely, is the scenario of a reclusive sea creature emerging under the cover of darkness from the Firth of Tay, possibly via the River Tay itself, and, by sheer chance, being seen by two night-travelling eyewitnesses during its brief overland foray.

A popular cryptozoological identity for highly elongate water monsters is an evolved, modern-day species of zeuglodont whale, possessing a more flexible vertebral column than that of fossil forms and therefore capable of performing the vertical undulations often reported for serpentiform aquatic cryptids. Might this be what emerged from the Firth of Tay 50 years ago?

Restoration of a zeuglodont, revealing its elongate body shape (© Tim Morris)


LOCH TREIG

A reservoir since 1929, the ominously-named Loch Treig (Scottish Gaelic for 'Lake of Death') is 5.6 miles long, and is located in a steep-sided glen just over 12 miles east of Fort William in Lochaber, Highlands. According to local medieval folklore, it was home to ferocious water-horses, but mystery beasts have also been reported here in modern times. Indeed, in 1933, during the creation of the extensive hydroelectric scheme now present in this area encompassing Treig, B.N. Peach, an engineer in charge of that scheme, stated that some of the divers working on the project had quit the job or had asked to be moved to other jobs because they claimed that there were monsters in this loch's depths.


LOCH WATTEN

Last – and definitely least – is Wattie, the infamous monster of Loch Watten, infamous inasmuch as its history owes precious little to cryptozoology, and even less to reality, as I discovered when conducting the only detailed investigation ever undertaken into this extraordinary case. All is revealed elsewhere on ShukerNature – click here to read my full exposée.

Holding my copy of The Monster Trap – Peter Haining's collection of supposedly true mysteries containing his account of the Loch Watten monster that inspired my extensive investigation of this exceedingly dubious cryptid (© Dr Karl Shuker)

As with the Nessie saga, many sober sightings have been reported at these Scottish lochs that do appear to feature something more than misidentified otters, seals, sturgeons, birds, boats, algal mats, and suchlike - but what? All of the familiar cryptozoological Nessie contenders have been offered - a surviving plesiosaur, an undescribed species of long-necked seal, an elusive modern-day version of the officially long-extinct elongate zeuglodont whales, a giant form of eel - but with no physical evidence to examine, no firm taxonomic identification can be offered.

If such reports as those documented here are indeed genuine, however, it seems likely that the species responsible can actively migrate overland, or via connecting rivers, from one loch to another (eels readily come to mind here) - thus explaining sightings in bodies of water that are too small or insufficiently stocked with fish and other potential prey to sustain a permanent, viable population.

Reconstruction of the possible morphology of the long-necked (aka longneck) category of water monster, represented by both marine and freshwater versions (© Tim Morris)

They do say that it takes all sorts to make a world, and certainly, from traditional water-horses, water-bulls, and turtle-pigs to modern-day long-necked, serpentiform, and even vermiform aquatic cryptids, this maxim is also clearly applicable to the cryptozoological world, at least as far as the multifarious monsters reported from mainland Scotland's freshwater lochs are concerned.

Beautiful vintage picture postcard depicting Loch Awe (public domain)

This ShukerNature blog article is excerpted from my forthcoming book Here's Nessie! - A Monstrous Compendium From Loch Ness, and was inspired by a much shorter account that originally appeared in my book Mysteries of Planet Earth.