One of the most dreadful events to take place at Loch Ness during my period living here occurred as part of the death throes of the Frank Searle Loch Ness Investigation.
This individual had been one of my original inspirations for following up my interest in the Loch Ness Monster. Although initially impressive, on closer examination his evidence crumbled into absolute blatant fakery. The two photographs below are a good example. On this occasion we believe Searle placed some objects in the water and photographed them.
However, what he did next gave the game away, so to speak. He re-photographed the picture on the left, but overlaid a third hump. If you look closely at the water ripples on the left of the picture in front of the monster, you can see that they are identical with the ripples in the second picture and so both photographs show the same instant in time.
Another photograph, which I mentioned in a previous chapter, shows what can only be described as some sort of prehistoric aquatic reptile breaking the surface. A close examination even shows skin texture and sinews and muscles in the neck. Even an eye is visible under a magnifying glass. I should point out that the version you see here is not as good as the one Searle had on display.
What an incredible photograph. Surely this was conclusive proof of Nessie’s existence?
However the Sunday Mail newspaper had discovered a postcard on sale in the local shop at Foyers and all became clear. Searle had carefully cut out the neck and the back of the brontosaurus, pasted it down on a picture of some disturbed water and then re-photographed it, reversing the image in the process to partially hide his tracks. So simple, yet so effective.
The exposure of Searle’s photographs appeared as a centre page spread in a 1975 edition of the Scottish Sunday Mail, yet the local people continued to tolerate his presence and even sent visitors to his small exhibition on the lochside. This seems to stem from an attitude which was prevalent in the seventies and eighties, that anything about Nessie was good for tourism. Lies, deceit and fraud seemed to be an irrelevant issue. Sadly, of course, people who genuinely claimed to have seen things in the loch were tarred with the same brush and real scientists just nodded knowingly that the whole subject was nothing more than a tourist gimmick.
In this sense, Searle did a great deal of damage to reputable investigators.
Searle was also an accomplished and compulsive liar, lulling his audience into a sense of security with a comprehensive series of accurate facts only to slip in, almost unnoticed, very carefully constructed lies. Dropping convincing lies into a series of truths was a very effective ploy.
After moving to the loch and starting my research for the Loch Ness Exhibition, I had already become aware of Searle’s material being faked. Nevertheless I wanted to mention him in my exhibition and I asked permission to use some of his photographs, not monster pictures, but of his exhibition and himself.
The response I received was extremely venomous and no permission was granted. He then began to bad-mouth everything I was attempting to do at Drumnadrochit. During the early eighties I received death threats and threats of other violence from him. He also sent people around to cause problems at my exhibition.
Usually when this happened I would take the culprits across to the hotel and buy them a cup of coffee while allowing them to read the Sunday Mail newspaper article. They were, of course, furious that they had been taken in and seriously embarrassed too. I doubt if any of these people bothered to go back to Searle and so he probably never realised how his strategy was backfiring upon him.
As the nineteen eighties progressed, Searle’s venom diverted from me to Adrian Shine and he wrote a series of libellous articles about Adrian in his quarterly newsletter.
Adrian eventually decided to take action and threatened to sue Searle’s publishers. They naturally refused to publish any further Searle newsletters. His book publishers also withdrew their offer to publish an updated version of Searle’s “Seven Years In Search of the Monster”. Searle’s reaction was swift and very nasty.
He used red paint and a huge paintbrush to scrawl on the thirteenth century walls of Urquhart Castle:
He also set off from Foyers for Adrian’s base camp just south of Achnahannet and when he arrived at the beach he threw a floating petrol device at the shore station. It caught fire just a few feet from where a young girl student was sleeping. She woke and was later able to identify the man in the boat as Searle from a series of photographs.
The police did visit Searle, but regrettably far too late to be able to examine the boat for evidence.
The foolhardy use of a petrol bomb could indeed have been a much more serious event than actually resulted. The shore station, in the days before mobile phones, had no way of contacting the expedition leaders who had been staying at the base camp in Drumnadrochit that night. It was a walk of several miles and the information arrived too long after the event to be of much use. After this event Project communications were improved considerably.
Nevertheless, Frank Searle disappeared from the loch not long afterwards and was never seen there again. There was even a suspicion that he had been “done away with”, but a TV researcher did eventually discover that he had lived in Blackpool until his death in 2005 so the Project, much as they may have liked to, had not become a guild of assassins.
The loch had lost one monster though, and good riddance.