References to a creature in Loch Ness date back to St Columba’s biography in 565 AD, but the modern legends of ‘Nessie’ appeared in the press only during the 1930s with three photographs. The first photo, taken by Hugh Gray (a passer-by walking back from church) on November 12, 1933 was less famous than the surgeon’s photographs released a year later. Although only one of the pictures he took that day showed a blurred shape, it was enough for the believers. Skeptics, however, dismissed this above (above first) as a distorted image of a dog (perhaps Mr. Gray’s own) carrying a stick in its mouth as it swims through water.
In the next year came the “Surgeon’s photographs”, the photos that started a million-dollar industry and befuddled many scientists for generations. Like Gray’s picture, these pictures taken by Colonel Robert Kenneth Wilson–who was a respected London surgeon–clearly showed the slender neck of a “sea-serpent” rising out of the Loch. Two pictures (second, third above) were taken on April 19, 1934. Two days later, when Wilson returned to London (he was visiting his mistress secretly in Scotland), he sent the photos to the Daily Mail, which published the picture. Decades of frenzied speculation, costly underwater searches, and a million dollar tourism industry soon followed. Circus impresario Bertram Mills offered £20,000 to anyone who could capture the monster for his circus. One scientist tried to explain the phenomenon through floating and surfacing logs.
In 1994, a 90-year old Christian Spurling confessed involvement in a plot, that included the flamboyant moviemaker Marmaduke Wetherell and Colonel Wilson. It so happened that Hugh Gray’s photo caused a newspaper to hire Wetherell to track down the monster. Wetherell was humiliated when the supposed monster’s footprints he found were nothing but dried hippo footsteps, and asked his stepson to fashion a hoax monster out of plastic and toy submarine.