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Nessie and a Controversial Photo

Peter A. MacNab’s July 1955 photograph of what appears to show the humped backs of a pair of Nessies – one large and the other significantly smaller – has been reproduced in numerous books, and has been praised in glowing terms by the Nessie faithful. It’s very easy to understand why: the photo does, admittedly, look very impressive. With ancient Urquhart Castle to the right of the frame and the two Nessies to the left, the photo appears to be absolute prime evidence of not just significantly sized monsters in Loch Ness, but ones that have the ability to reach  truly enormous sizes. That much is made abundantly clear from MacNab’s legendary image. It suggests – based on a careful comparison with the castle – the larger animal is close to sixty feet in length. But the picture is certainly not without its problems. And, when and where there’s a problem that so often smacks of a hoax.

Although the photo was taken back in 1955, it was not actually publicized until 1957. Namely, in the pages of Constance Whyte’s book More Than a Legend: The Story of the Loch Ness Monster. When the image was revealed for one and all to see, it provoked amazement – as does the real Nessie when it occasionally surfaces. The problem with MacNab’s photo is not actually what it shows or even that it exists. Rather, the problem is that there are two versions of the photo. The late Roy Mackal – who was a dedicated seeker of the creatures of Loch Ness – obtained a negative of the photo from MacNab and instantly noticed something that he perceived as being very odd. The photo which MacNab had provided to Constance Whyte was not made from the negative given to Mackal. In both images, Urquhart Castle and a nearby clump of trees are reflected in the water. Problematic is the fact that the reflections are at variance with each other.

MacNab, who was a respected bank-manager, claimed that he took two separate photos with two different cameras. Fair enough. But that still doesn’t explain one critical factor: MacNab also asserted that as he watched the beasts, they were continually on the move. Yet, the two photos – despite the differences in the reflections, to angles of around four degrees, and the apparent use of two different cameras – show the alleged Nessies in exactly the same place in both photos. And, by that, I do mean exactly. On top of that, the Whyte photo shows a tree in the foreground, which is missing in the negative acquired by Mackal. Yet, due to the angle at which both photos were taken, the tree should be present in both. Or should it? Maybe not.

Roland Watson has carefully studied the issue of the tree that is seemingly there one second and gone the next. Roland says that what has been perceived by some as a red-flag may not be a red-flag, after all. He explains that the copy in the hands of Roy Mackal was, “a zoom-in which was sufficient to exclude the foreground tree. The tree had not been edited out by nefarious means, but rather was just out of view in the new version.” For some people, Peter MacNab’s picture is just too good to be true. For others, the possible anomalies suggest it’s not good enough. Will we ever get an answer to this curious and intriguing saga? Or, is the whole thing destined to remain unresolved to the satisfaction of everyone? I hope that, one day, we’ll learn it’s the former.But, I have a strong feeling that it’s almost certainly going to be the latter.


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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