The Loch Ness Monster: just about everyone has heard of it. A large number of people claim to have seen the long-necked, humped leviathan of the deep. Some have even photographed and filmed it. Nessie, as the beast is affectionately known, has been a staple part of the world of the unexplained since 1933, when the phenomenon of the monster exploded in spectacular, planet-wide fashion. Since then, millions of people have flocked to the shores of the 22.5 miles long and 744 feet deep loch, all in the hopes of seeing the elusive creature. Attempts have been made to seek out Nessie with sonar-equipment, aircraft, balloons, and even submarines. Theories abound as to what Nessie is – or, far more likely and correctly, what the Nessies are. Certainly, the most captivating theory, and the one that the Scottish Tourist Board, moviemakers, and the general public find most appealing, is that which suggests the monsters are surviving pockets of plesiosaurs. They were marine reptiles that the domain of zoology assures us became extinct tens of millions of years ago. The possibility that the monsters are actually giant-sized salamanders holds sway in more than a few quarters. As does the idea that perhaps massive eels are the culprits. Then there are scenarios involving sturgeon, oversized turtles, catfish, and even crocodiles, giant frogs, and hippopotami! But, what if the Nessies are nothing less than extraterrestrial beings? While it might sound outrageous to even suggest a thing, the fact is that there has been a lot of UFO activity at Loch Ness.
From August 30 to September 20, 1975, the BBC ran “Terror of the Zygons.” It was a four-part Dr. Who story, broadcast on Saturday evenings, and which put an interesting spin on the story of the Loch Ness Monster. In much the same way that the monster of the 1970 movie, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, was actually an advanced piece of machinery – namely, a carefully camouflaged submarine – so was the Nessie that tangled with the world’s most famous, fictional time-traveler, Dr. Who. “Terror of the Zygons” tells the story of an alien race, the Zygons of the title, whose home world was decimated and destroyed by solar flares centuries ago. As a result, they decide to create a new home for themselves. No prizes for guessing the planned location of that new home: the Earth. The one, solitary band of Zygons that successfully makes the journey to Earth has the distinct misfortune to crash in none other than Loch Ness. And they remain there for hundreds of years, patiently planning for the day when they can finally claim the Earth as their own.
To help them in their quest to seek control of the planet, the Zygons employ the use of a terrifying, huge monster known as the Skarasen. It’s an ancient beast of the deep waters that the Zygons turn into a cyborg – a half-flesh, half-machine that does their every bidding and which lives in Loch Ness. It has, over time, of course, become known as the Loch Ness Monster. That bidding includes a wave of mysterious and violent attacks on oil-rigs in the North Sea. It’s up to Dr. Who and his comrades, Sarah Jane Smith, Harry Sullivan, and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, to defeat the deadly Zygons – who are shape-shifting monsters that can take on the form of any human being they choose. Fortunately, Dr. Who finally saves the day, as he always does. But not before the Skarasen/Nessie wreaks havoc in and around London’s River Thames and the Zygons do their very best to take hold of the planet.
There can be little doubt that the writing team behind the story had some knowledge of the lore and legend of Nessie. After all, the creature is presented as not just an unknown animal. Far from it, in fact. In addition, the story does not shy away from the UFO-themed connections to Loch Ness. And, let’s not overlook something else of great importance: the masters and manipulators of the Loch Ness Monster, the Zygons, are diabolical shape-shifters. Just the like the murderous kelpies and water-horses of centuries long past that haunted Loch Ness and terrified the local folk. Although strictly fiction, “Terror of the Zygons” provided an intriguing and thought-provoking scenario to explain the mystery of the Loch Ness Monster. And, just perhaps, fact is stranger than fiction. Maybe, they sometimes blend together in extraordinary ways, as we shall now see.
According to Swedish Jan-Ove Sundberg, twenty-three at the time, on August 14, 1971, and at some point between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m., he was in a section of woodland above Foyers Bay, Loch Ness when he came across something staggering. No, not a fully-grown Nessie roaming the landscape. Sundberg near-stumbled upon a landed UFO and its presumed extraterrestrial crew! The craft was situated in a clearing, giving the impression that its pilots had chosen the site deliberately, since it gave them the opportunity to land and hide their presence – that is, until Sundberg inadvertently foiled their plan. The craft was, to say the least, a decidedly odd one. It was around thirty feet in length, dark gray in color, and cigar-shaped. It had a significantly sized section on top that reminded Sundberg of a large handle. The overall image was that of a giant iron used for getting the creases out of clothing. Amazement turned to concern when, out of the trees, came a trio of figures: all humanoid in shape, of approximately human proportions, and dressed in outfits that closely resembled the outfits worn by divers. In fact, at first, Sundberg assumed they were divers, from a then-active team that was searching the depths of Loch Ness for the monster. It became apparent the three were not divers, however, when they entered the odd-looking craft via a panel and the craft took to the skies, vertically, for about sixty feet. After which it began to move horizontally over the hills and in the direction of nearby Loch Mhor.
Nessie-seeker and author Ted Holiday made what was, perhaps, an inevitable observation on the Sundberg affair. It was an observation obviously prompted by his knowledge of how the Nessies seemed to negatively impact on photos and photographers. Holiday, by his own admission, found it extremely curious – but very typical – that someone at Loch Ness, when confronted by something so incredible and mysterious, should have been unable to secure photographic evidence of its existence. Notably, Sundberg explained this by stating that he felt a sense of paralysis came over him. Actually, Sundberg did manage to take just one photo, but it was one which researcher Stuart Campbell came to believe showed nothing unusual. Indeed, it’s important to note that Campbell believed Sundberg’s sighting to have been nothing but a strange form of hallucination - which, inevitably, means we have to be very careful how, and to what extent or otherwise, we embrace the case. Whatever the answer, it’s intriguing that Sundberg claimed on his return to Sweden he was threatened by Men in Black, experienced supernatural events in his home – such as poltergeist activity – and received odd phone calls. The husband and wife team of Colin and Janet Bord have, like Holiday, noted that camera-based problems have always been issues for Nessie-seekers; in fact, since the very year in which mega-scale Nessie fever began. The Bord’s say: “When Hugh Gray took the now famous photograph of the Loch Ness Monster on 12 November 1933 he did in fact take five shots but four were blank.”
The inference is obvious: there is some force at work, and both in and around Loch Ness, that prevents people from getting too close to the truth of the things they so intensely seek. And it prevents them in what is clearly a toying, manipulative fashion. Maybe even in a cruel and malevolent fashion. Finally on this case, we have something rather synchronistic. August 1971, when Sundberg claimed his UFO encounter, was the very same month that I traveled to Loch Ness for the first time, as a six year old, with my parents. It was the height of the regular, summer holidays. And, with the U.K.’s schools closed for a customary period of six weeks, it allowed us to spend much welcome time at the water’s edge. Although I saw nothing strange on that dat, and neither did my parents, it was a life-changing experience – one that eventually set me on a quest for the truth surrounding the Nessies. It would be appropriately weird – and weirdly appropriate - if a young Nick Redfern was unknowingly in the presence of both monsters and aliens, the former lurking in the loch and the latter hiding in the surrounding trees.
Now, it’s time to address the matter of the Loch Ness Monster and the Men in Black. As dawn broke on one particular morning in 1974, Nessie-hunter Ted Holiday took a walk down to the loch. What a catastrophic mistake that was. As he did so, Holiday could not fail to see a man, at a distance of around ninety feet, standing atop the slope that led directly down to Loch Ness. This was no normal man, however. It may not even have been a man, at all. Whoever – or whatever – this curious character was, he was dressed entirely in black, from head to toe. Whereas most people who go to Loch Ness focus their attentions on the deep waters, in the hope they just might be lucky enough to see something monstrous rear its head, this character had his back to the loch and was staring directly at Holiday, who later commented that as the figure focused on him, “I felt a strong sensation of malevolence, cold and passionless.” The man appeared to be dressed in what Holiday described as black plastic. His hands were gloved (black, too), and his head was covered by something that looked like a motorcycle helmet. No surprises on its color. Goggles covered his eyes, and even his nose and mouth were covered – by a black band, possibly made of cloth. Holiday tentatively walked towards the definitive Man in Black. Even when Holiday was mere feet away, the MIB neither moved nor acknowledged his presence. Most terrifying of all, there appeared to be no eyes behind the goggles. Shocked, Holiday continued walking for about ten feet and then stopped.
He turned then, specifically to see if the Man in Black was physical in form, or some kind of intangible specter. Holiday was prevented from doing so, however, when the sounds of whistling and unintelligible whisperings filled the air, and the MIB vanished – as in dematerialized, literally. As Holiday – now petrified out of his wits – shakily scanned the half a mile of open road that dominated the landscape, it became clear to him that there was simply no way the man could have made good a stealthy escape in conventional fashion. Stunned to his core, Holiday tried to reconcile the whole thing as nothing but a bizarre hallucination – a theory that, he knew deep down, simply wasn’t viable. He tried to take his mind off the matter by paying a last visit to the Cary family and to say his goodbyes to the Reverend Omand. It was all to no avail; the specter of the thing in black remained, like an albatross around Holiday’s neck.
Of equal fascination – and of deep relevance to this story – back in September 1866 there occurred the sighting of a mournful-looking man in black attire on hills near Lochindorb. He was seen – by a terrified farmer – strapped to the back of a large, fiendish dog that was prowling the same hills. The farmer didn’t wait around to see what might happen next and he fled the hills for the safety of his home, fearful that the hound might wish to make him its next victim. It was probably a very wise move. There is a decidedly sinister sequel to this aspect of Ted Holiday’s quest for the truth of the Loch Ness Monster and his Man in Black experience. One year later, in 1974, Holiday’s creature-seeking excursions were suddenly cut short by a serious heart-attack – right at the very spot where the MIB manifested and then vanished around twelve months earlier. A warning, perhaps, to Holiday that he should walk away from the matter of the Loch Ness Monster. And walk away now. While he still had the chance and before the reaper came calling for his very mind and soul.
More UFO-themed Loch Ness weirdness hit the news in 2011, specifically in August of that year. The UK’s Daily Express newspaper splashed a headline across its pages that read: “Alert as UFO is sighted over Loch Ness.” The story was, undoubtedly, an odd one. That something occurred does not appear to be in doubt. It is, however, the nature of the “something” that remains open to debate. It was on the night of August 20, 2011 that a number of people –many being completely independent of each other – encountered something unusual in the skies over Loch Ness. Witness descriptions of the movements of the object fell into two camps: those who said they saw it descending into the loch and those who maintained it was actually hovering above the expansive waters. As for the appearance of the UFO, it very much depended on who one asked. But, whatever it was, it quickly caught the attention of the emergency services, who were contacted by worried locals.
Martin Douglas, of the Loch Ness Life Boat crew, told the Daily Mail that someone in the area had seen what, superficially at least, resembled a microlight or a hang-glider, and which actually seemed to enter the loch in a controlled flight. Oddly, however, others who saw the unknown craft described it as being somewhat balloon-shaped. Then there were those who opined it looked eerily like a fully-open parachute. There was, then, no real, solid consensus on what was seen – or on what wasn’t seen. Crew member Vivian Bailey added that although the mystery was not resolved, the emergency services were pleased that concerned people had quickly contacted them. There is, however, a very odd afterword to all this. Exactly one month previously, on July 21, law enforcement offices in the vicinity of 125-miles-long Lake Champlain - which covers parts of New York and Vermont, and portions of Quebec, Canada - were inundated with calls from worried locals, all who had seen a balloon-like object fall into the huge lake, near Rouses Point, New York. Police and Border Patrol personnel were quickly dispatched and scoured the area, but with no luck. After around four hours, the search was called off. It remained a mystery. It should be noted, however, that, just like Loch Ness, Lake Champlain has its own resident monster. Champ, as the creature is famously known, is, like Nessie, a large, long-necked leviathan that has taken on near-legendary proportions.
Is it only coincidence that two lakes on opposite sides of the world – both with resident monsters – should have been the sites of unusual, and very similar, UFO-like activity within a month of each other? Or is this yet further evidence of profound paranormal weirdness wherever lake monsters lurk? In the summer of 2015, the controversy of the Loch Ness Monster was taken to a new height – as in literally. That was when the mystery was yet again linked to the matter of high-flying UFOs. As we have already seen, there is nothing new about a Nessie-UFO link: Jan Ove Sundberg claimed an encounter with a landed unidentified flying object at Loch Ness in 1971, Ted Holiday had a sighting of a menacing Man in Black at the loch three years later, and in August 2011 numerous people caught sight of an unidentified flying object over the loch. As for the 2015 affair, it was yet another weird addition to the Nessie mystery.
The three key people in the story were Alan Betts and his wife, Anna, and Anna’s mother, Tatiana. The family, from the English city of York, were holidaying in Scotland. It was April 2015, and the three were staying at a cottage near Urquhart Castle – which, as has been demonstrated in these pages, is an undeniable hotspot for Nessie encounters. While at the loch, and as is the case for practically everyone who visits the loch, they took a good number of photos. It wasn’t until the Betts returned home, however, that they realized just how weird one of their vacation pictures was. Taken by Tatiana, it appeared to show a pair of anomalous objects in the sky, right over Loch Ness. As if Nessie wasn’t enough of a mystery on its own!
Alan – the director of a refrigerating company - said when the story hit the headlines two months later that the timing of their vacation was fortuitous. The weather was pretty much perfect: that’s to say it was bright and sunny for almost the entire time. However, on one particular day, and after the Betts spent hours of checking out the area, things changed. The sunny weather was suddenly gone and everything quickly became dark and gloomy and the rain poured in definitive deluge style. Tatiana decided to take a photo of the moody skies – something which proved to be crucial to the story. It was only after the family got back home, and downloaded their holiday pictures onto their PC, that they noticed something odd on that particular photo. It was a pair of brightly lit objects that appeared to be flying over Loch Ness, but which weren’t seen at the time Tatiana took the picture. Alan was a self-confessed skeptic, but admitted that he was at a loss to explain what the camera had captured. Interestingly, Alan added: “Our Akita dog, Yuka, was strangely unsettled that night.”
Anna, when approached by the Huffington Post for comment on the growing controversy surrounding the photo, said: “We can say 100 percent that the camera was perfectly fine. It was raining very heavily, there were no lights in the house to resemble the objects in any shape or form.” While no-one suggested that the Betts had deliberately faked the photo – not even the skeptics believed that – some commentators suspected that the entire matter could be explained away via light reflection. Both Anna and Alan felt that such an explanation was unlikely, noting that no lights were on when the picture was taken. And, at the time of writing, that’s pretty much where things stand today. The Betts are sure they photographed something unusual, while the skeptics are positive the case can be explained in wholly rational terms. As all of the above demonstrates, the matter of UFOs and the Loch Ness Monster runs deep. Just perhaps, and despite how sensational and unlikely it all sounds, Nessie really is an extraterrestrial entity – perhaps, even, not unlike the fictional version presented in the BBC’s long-running Dr. Who series.