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Tuesday, 31 October 2017

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO NICK TAYLOR?

'Croc Lomond?' an alleged photo of a crocodile-like Lake Monster
taken by Nick Taylor in 1997
Definitive Evidence?
In 1997 Edinburgh photo journalist Nick Taylor was featured on an episode of the now defunct U.S. paranormal series, 'Strange Universe', where he claimed to have photographed and filmed not one, but two British Lake Monsters, in Loch Lomond, Scotland and Llyn Aled, Wales. Both pieces of footage were quite remarkable in their professional clarity and for the natural and animal like movements of the creatures captured both photographically and on film.
I remember seeing the episode when it first aired and again years later on youtube, and thinking that it was possibly the most palpable, clear and convincing evidence of  plesiosaurid animals in British waters.

Here was evidence that could be studied, and used as a valid research tool for learning about the behavioural habits and the habitation of these animals in our waterlogged isles. However, much to my consternation and dismay, not only were the photographs and film footage never released for academic study, but they also disappeared from youtube and other paranormal websites altogether.

Definitely Missing
What could be the reason for such a wholesale withdrawal of such illuminating evidence? I have since searched tirelessly for any online evidence of the original footage and photos and now can only source 2 grainy photos, one of each 'monster' in Llyn Aled and Loch Lomond respectively. The removal of this evidence from the internet, nearly in its entirety does not seem to offer any financial incentive, and withholding such astonishing evidence for 20 years is tantamount to hiding or destroying, through absence, an important body of 'assumed' zoological evidence.

So, I began my search to find the missing footage of these plesiosaur-like creatures with the realisation that I must first find the man, if I am to have any hope of obtaining what could be a decisive win in the fight against the prehistoric extinction camp!

Nick Taylor was an Edinburgh freelance journalist, but where he was born and raised or any other detail of his life seems to be unobtainable or at least inaccessible from the current information that is known about him. Indeed, he strangely seems only to have been known for his discovery of these 2 elusive and previously unrecorded or at least photographically undocumented denizens of our inland waters.

In searching for a sign of his career I have corresponded with the N.U.J. (National Union of Journalists) and Reysher Entertainment who own the rights to ‘Strange Universe’ among others, but have observed a true absence of Nick and his monsters in every source and lead that I pursued. With footage of this kind, it is important to note that dispersion via social media, like YouTube, Facebook and twitter etc. would make deletion of this material from the internet nearly impossible, but as this footage was aired on a short lived American Paranormal show in the late 90's, the online sources available at that time for dispersion of this film and its photographic evidence were in short supply. 

In my search for evidence of this vanished capturer of Celtic Cryptids I have knocked on many digital doors, those of my peers, cryptozoology writers and researchers alike, who have served many real years in this arena, to ask them to empty out their memories and let me see if my quarry may lie somewhere inside. 

I have badgered cryptozoologists like Loren Coleman, Richard Freeman and also Dr Karl Shuker to seek confirmation of this missing journalist and his extraordinary footage. Yet, even among these noteworthy and experienced persons, the material itself and the journalist were barely known, now only residing somewhere on the outer edge of the collective memory, perhaps?  Symbolic of a time when content was transitory in nature, recorded in the memory (or on VHS) and shelved in a format that was unlikely to be viewed by anyone other than those known personally to oneself, and almost certainly in a format that would not be dispersed and shared around the world, in the way that it is now so readily available to anyone with access to a smartphone or computer.

Nonetheless, this only gives us the story of the missing man; and the man without ‘the evidence’ we seek is unfortunately, just another man. No more useful to my endeavours than any other stranger on the street. So, I went back to the web, to snoop and sneak and find the Nick I seek! But alas, either he is no more or his footage is lost for ever, for I could not find a trace of either.

Disturbing Disappearance
Nick lamentably is not alone, but joins a respectable list of people with convincing or at least 'worthy' video and photographic evidence, who have somehow disappeared from public view. This strange disappearance of compelling evidence or even a witness or two is not unusual in cryptozoology and Nick Taylor is just another crypto-witness who has disappeared off the face of the earth, so to speak, along with his 'conclusive' evidence.

Below is the account of the Loch Lomond Sighting

10th April 1997 - A mystery monster has been seen gobbling ducks in Loch Lomond. The 12ft long beast, now captured on video, has left scientists baffled. One even said it looked like a giant crocodile? SSPCA chiefs yesterday confirmed they had received several reports about the new Nessie. A five-minute film of the beast has been shot by pals making a pop video on the banks of 
Loch Lomond, near Rowardennan. Edinburgh freelance journalist Nick Taylor, who owns the film, said: "When the group were packing up they discovered this creature swimming in the water. The thing was gliding through the water slowly, but it often picked up speed and swam against the tide. They got quite a shock, especially when it started to swim towards them at one point. They thought it looked like some giant crocodile or alligator. They had never seen anything like it before.

The film was shown to  Dr. Andrew Kitchener, of the Royal Museum of Scotland. After viewing the tape he admitted that the creature it showed did appear to be a crocodile; however he made it clear that a crocodile would be unable to survive in Loch Lomond. Dr Kitchener was able to rule out a mink or an otter as the creature in the videos identity.

Croc Lomond of Loch Lomond
or the Denbigh Dinosaur of Llyn Aled ?
there is now some confusion over the location in
which each 'monster' photo was taken.
After reading the account of  the sighting at Loch Lomond, I suddenly read the name of a person that I recognised, who could hopefully be contacted. Thus, In a last ditch attempt to trace someone who may be a viable witness to this evidence I contacted Dr Andrew Kitchener, The Curator of Vertebrates, at the Royal Museum of Scotland, the only traceable person to have both seen and scientifically examined this footage. Dr Kitchener was kind enough to respond that he had seen the footage and remembered it well, and may still have a copy somewhere, but that it was on an unlabelled VHS (video tape) somewhere and that he did not have the means to check which tape it was on (i.e. -he did not have a VHS player!).

So started my attempt to obtain this footage by any means possible. It started with my request to receive the suspected VHS tapes on which the footage might be stored in order to view them on the appropriate equipment (a VHS tape player!) and have them professionally transferred onto a modern format and returned to the owner with the original.

I did of course besiege the good doctor for any information about the missing man himself, or any guidance that may lead to a direct contact but his contact with Mr Taylor had been limited and the journalist was not personally known to him. 1 week later I decided to harass the good doctor further with a phone call and was fortunate enough to speak to him. Dr Kitchener confirmed some rather important details about the footage he had seen and also cleared up some details that were misrepresented in his original analysis of the animal in the film. Dr Kitchener stated that he was approached by a band and Mr Taylor, who were making a music video when they claimed to have captured the beast on camera. However, rather than confirm that it was a crocodile as was claimed in the later newspaper article, he instead told them it appeared to be a dead sheep with the spinal column showing above the water.

Additionally,  Dr Kitchener informed me that although the creature appeared to swim from left to right several times in the original footage, He perceived a fishing line which can be clearly seen pulling the object. He was kind enough to inform the group and Nick at that time that there was no way the animal was a crocodile or lake monster, only to be told that they intended to report just the opposite to the papers anyway.

Needless to say, the sheep became a crocodile which then became a lake monster. Adding together these rather damning bits of testimony, the mysterious disappearance of the monster film/s becomes ever more telling, in that a dead sheep being pulled by a fishing line is unlikely to maintain its mystery in an age of digital analysis technology at the fingertips of every internet debunker. Dr Kitchener remains committed to finding the original footage if he indeed has it, and has promised me a copy in any eventuality, which I will undoubtedly and happily share with believers and sceptics alike.

One thing that does trouble me about his analysis is that in the photo still, taken from the 5 minute footage now thought to be that of the alleged 'Croc Lomond' and not 'The Denbigh Dinosaur', the creature does not appear to be skeletal at all, and if anything it has a reptilian head, with a large rounded bumpy hump protruding from the water, which is much too far away from its head to anatomically be that of a sheep, (unless 2 animals were used at the same time to give the effect of a long necked lake monster.)

That of course does nothing to explain the other lake monster photo, purportedly taken at Loch Lomond as well,  which quite clearly shows the crocodilian back and part of the tail of an unknown animal. Clearly in cases such as this, where the credibility of the progenitor of such controversial footage is in question and the footage unofficially missing, we are left with only our gut feeling to guide our conviction and conclusion.


Again, the answer to most fakes and hoaxes is usually a simple one and the more complicated the 'alleged' hoax is purported to be, the less likely a hoax it becomes! This mystery was one that I believed would endure for some time to come, but thanks to the people at Lake Monsters, the original footage has at least been found. We can now see that the animal/object in the footage of the Llyn Aled (Denbigh Dinosaur)  footage is not a dead sheep at all, but something quite unusual! This goes some way at least to exonerate the man himself, although the means of his journalistic demise are no clearer!


Written by Andrew McGrath

'Beasts of Britain' is now available in Paperback and Kindle 

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Thursday, 5 October 2017

SOME 'FIN' STRANGE AT LOCH NESS!

Basking Shark Fin

At 4:30pm on Monday 2nd October, newlyweds Rebecca and Paul Stewart who were honeymooning at Fort Augustus at the south west end of Loch Ness, observed what appeared to be a strange 'Fin' like object for 5 minutes, as it travelled across the loch. The couple, who took several photos of the object were convinced it was the large fin of a shark, although admitting to being confused as to how such an animal could have travelled so far from the sea, surviving the change from saltwater to freshwater.

Rebecca Stewart said: "We only saw the shape clearly when we zoomed in on the photo. At the time we saw seagulls flying near it, but they were tiny in comparison to whatever it was. We were standing on the jetty at Fort Augustus and it was on the foyers side of the loch and We were on the west side of the loch. My opinion is it looks more like a shark shape, but I can't think of any shark that big that could survive in cold fresh water. There is access to the sea but it's a long way away. After about 5 minutes a big boat went towards it and it disappeared."

Mysterious 'Fin' at Fort Augustus.
(Close up) photo by Rebecca Stewart
October 2nd, 2017
Paul Stewart added: "In the pictures I took on my phone you can see the movement of whatever it was across the water. I couldn't clearly see the shape until Becky zoomed in on it. We weren't sure about the scale of it until a bird flew towards it, and it was small in comparison to the dark object. It had to be twice the size of the sea gull. It's a very big fin if indeed it is a fin!? I was then speculating that it could be a tree or debris of some sort, until it was disturbed by the noise of a boat leaving the Caledonian Canal and never resurfaced. That's when I had no other explanation as to what it could be, it had to be something big and very much alive!"

When asked if he too thought that the object could be the fin of a shark, he said: "We have watched documentaries about Greenland Sharks and Porpoises to see if it's possible they could be the culprit, but if this was a fin we saw, then I don't think it could be either of these animals as they 
Mysterious 'Fin' at Fort Augustus.
photo by Rebecca Stewart
October 2nd, 2017
only have quite small fins in proportion to their body size. I'm just so baffled now. I just don't see these animals having a fin as big as the one we saw."

I proposed to the witnesses that it could be some type of inanimate flotsam, but our witnesses were sure that the object was moving out into the Loch as other pieces of debris were being washed ashore. Additionally, what they perceived as the 'object' sinking, upon seeing a large boat entering the Loch from the Caledonian Canal, seems to indicate an animal-like instinct to hide and is unlikely to have been a coincidence.

Paul and Rebecca spoke about their sighting with some locals who are attempting to locate the skipper of the boat ,that was seen heading straight for the animal before it sank, to find out if he too had seen 'something'. Some of the chatter based upon the description of the vessel indicates that this is a temporary cruise boat in the service of  'Cruise loch Ness', until they have their new boat built.

The Stewarts however are not alone in their sighting, as the 'animal' was seen near the Castle just one day before swimming against a strong wind in a "side to side" motion; itself a very fish-like characteristic and one that excludes the possibility of the animal being a cetacean.

1:Series of 3 photos by witness Paul Stewart
showing the migration of the strange 'fin-like' object.

In opposition to other ill fitting candidates like the Greenland Shark(A Nessie explanation proposed by 'River Monsters', Jeremy Wade.)Sturgeon(a favourite of Adrian Shine and others) or Porpoise. I would propose that a Basking Shark's fin seems to offer a better fit to what we 'may' be seeing in these photos, but freely admit that it would be miraculous if one of these sharks managed to travel this far from the sea in freshwater; traversing the somewhat awkward route from the sea via Loch Linnhe and Loch Eil, The River Lochy, Loch Lochy, Ceann Loch, Loch Oich and the River Oich to Fort Augustus in Loch Ness. There is of course another route via the River Ness that would superficially appear to offer a more direct journey to Loch Ness from the sea, but in actuality it is rather shallow in places and has several weirs; as well it inconveniently running directly alongside the town of Inverness; making the likelihood of a sighting or a stranding more probable via this route.

The Stewart's are not alone in their strange sighting, as there are other historical sightings of what appear to be animate, 'Fin' like objects in this area, that may corroborate what the Stewart's believed they saw. One of these was occurred in the spring of 1958 when  Hugh Rowland, who was then running the Foyers Inn was sitting on the front lawn with his wife and two friends, when they saw an object they described as 'fin-like' when seen from the side. Mr Rowland upon seeing Tim Dinsdale's film in 1960, said his sighting was identical to what was captured in this now legendary footage. What is interesting is that both the Rowland sighting and Tim Dinsdale's film were in the same location, although 2 years apart. As recently as November 2014, there was another (anonymous) sighting reported by a couple from Lancashire, who claimed to have seen a large 'fin-like' object in the centre of the loch, about 1 mile from Fort Augustus and again in September 2016, when a curious photo resembling something akin to a dolphin shaped fin appeared in a national British newspaper. The odd ‘fin’ shaped object clearly visible in the photo seems to be of a greyish hue with a white tip, leading to some of the more seasoned commentators on this subject postulating that in any other location it would quickly have been dismissed as the fin of a dolphin. However, how such a creature could make its way into the loch from the sea seems to be out of the common remit of or beloved experts on the permissible species that are allowed to defeat the formidable borders of Loch Ness ;)

2:Series of 3 photos by witness Paul Stewart
showing the migration of the strange 'fin-like' object.
Some proponents of the plesiosaur theory, such as myself, have theorised that these 'fin-like' sightings could be the hump of the animal viewed side on, in an arched position/formation. There are many sightings which describe these creatures displaying some flexibility in their backs and in some cases they have been observed adopting this position and then 'straightening out' However, this particular sighting was shortly after, debunked; or as I prefer to term it ‘clarified’, when one of the crew of ‘Cruise Loch Ness’ handed in a photo of a ‘fin’ shaped piece of driftwood taken that same day as they were exiting the Caledonian canal!

3:Series of 3 photos by witness Paul Stewart
showing the migration of the strange 'fin-like' object.
Alas! the issue with loch Ness is that it is so vast and almost every sighting captured by any average person carrying a camera is always beyond the range of decent observation. However, I think this mysterious 'fin' sighting is significant because it hints at the possibility that large animals can travel from sea to loch and vice versa; which for some of us zealous believers in Nessie, creates a more plausible transient presence of the 'monster' in Loch Ness and its adjoining waters.











Written by Andrew McGrath

'Beasts of Britain' is now available in Paperback and Kindle 

Follow 'Beasts of Britain' on Facebook & Twitter