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When a Monster was (Maybe) Caught on Film

In the year 1960, one of the most famous, and controversial, pieces of film-footage of an alleged Loch Ness Monster was taken. It was the early morning of Saturday, April 23, 1960 and acclaimed Nessie-seeker Tim Dinsdale was several days into an expedition at the loch when something remarkable and – for Dinsdale – life-changing occurred. It was the final day of Dinsdale’s trip, so it was a case of now or never. Very fortuitously, for the man himself, it turned out to be now.

At roughly 8:30 a.m. Dinsdale, who had risen early, decided that as nothing unusual or amazing had happened in the previous five days, he might as well cut short his last day. So, he bid both the loch and the monster farewell and headed off to his hotel. It was while driving through Upper Foyers, however – and still in the direction of his hotel – that Dinsdale saw something amazing. It was something dark, something that was moving across the surface of the loch at a distance of what Dinsdale calculated was around 4,000 feet. Given the circumstances, Dinsdale remained surprisingly calm and collected.

Indeed, he did his best not to get over-excited: he brought the car to a halt, turned off the engine and reached for his binoculars. Whatever the thing was, Dinsdale could see that it was of appreciable size. It was of a mahogany color and somewhat egg-shaped. On its left side was a dark patch – of what, Dinsdale had no idea. Interestingly, Dinsdale’s instant thought was that the contour and color reminded him of an African buffalo, with plenty of girth, and standing noticeably out of the water. As the creature began to suddenly move, Dinsdale could see ripples developing in the water, and, in his own immortal words, “I knew at once I was looking at the extraordinary humped back of some huge living creature.”

Dinsdale’s calmness was now utterly gone: he raced to grab and turn on his 16mm Bolex cine-camera – which had a 135mm telephoto lens and that was already perched on its tripod in the car, right next to him. In seconds, Dinsdale was filming the mysterious blob. He later said that, as he watched, he couldn’t fail to notice that the thing left a definite v-shaped wake in the water and appeared to be slowly – as in very slowly – submerging. That’s when things turned from exciting to stressful. Dinsdale was extremely low on film and realized that if he kept filming from his then-current position he might use up all the footage, but without capturing a clearer, close-up shot of the assumed animal. So, he took a sudden decision. Dinsdale stopped filming, jumped into his car, and shot away at high speed, careering along the road to Lower Foyers, across a field, and finally down to the water’s edge. Disastrously, the thing was no longer in sight. Mind you, there was still the approximately four minutes of film Dinsdale had taken.

Despite Dinsdale’s determination to keep the affair, and the footage, secret, word soon got out within the monster-hunting community. It wasn’t at all long before the British media was hot on the trail of the monster, of Dinsdale, and of his potentially priceless film. On June 13, 1960, the Daily Mail newspaper ran Dinsdale’s story, along with four stills from the footage. He also appeared on the BBC’s popular current-affairs show, Panorama. Dinsdale and his monster-film were big news. He was deluged with mail, phone calls, and personal visits – not just from the media but from the public, too. It was a wild and crazy time for the monster-hunter; a time that ensured Dinsdale’s pursuit of Nessie was destined to go from strength to strength.

Bolex camera

There was a major development in the story of Tim Dinsdale’s forty-feet of film in 1965. It was all thanks to a man named David James. As well as being a persistent pursuer of the Nessies, James was also a former member of the British Parliament. And as such, he had a lot of contacts and influence in the government, including personnel from what was called JARIC, the Joint Air Reconnaissance Center, based at Royal Air Force Brampton, Huntingdon, England. JARIC’s five hundred or so staff were experts at studying film-footage – and, sometimes, hazy and hard to define footage, which was, and still is, certainly a good way to describe Dinsdale’s film. Plus, studying film of an alleged Loch Ness Monster was a welcome break for the JARIC people, whose work was generally focused on analyzing footage of Russian fighter-planes, bombers, and missile bases.

Not only did JARIC carefully scrutinize Dinsdale’s footage, they also came to a remarkable conclusion. Noting that the object was likely “not a surface vessel,” such as a small boat, the team said that, “One can presumably rule out the idea that it is any sort of submarine vessel for various reasons which leaves the conclusion that it is probably an animate object.”

Although critics, such as Dr. Maurice Burton, suggested the whole thing was a case of mistaken identity – of nothing more remarkable than a boat – the monster-hunting community was delighted. Roy P. Mackal said that: “The JARIC analysis is important as an independent and expert study, free of either pro or con monster bias.”


Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.
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