Monday, 21 August 2017

Nessie On Land: The Spicers Story




Back in July 1933, stories of strange sights in Loch Ness began to percolate through the local Highland newspapers. Such tales had been doing the rounds for three months and were mainly confined to descriptions of a large humped object in the water in various states of motion. However, one incident that was to help propel the newly named "Loch Ness Monster" to a wider audience unfurled on a leisurely sunny afternoon on the 22nd July.

It started quietly enough on the 4th of August 1933 when the Inverness Courier published a short letter from a Mr. G. Spicer of 10 Temple Gardens, London. However, such was the magnitude of the contents of the letter than the editor of the Courier felt he had to prepare readers for it with a counter-balance explaining it away as a large otter carrying its pup in its mouth. The text of Mr. Spicer's letter is below as well as the original newspaper article.

10 Temple Gardens, 
Golden Green, N.W.11, 
31st July, 1933. 

Dear Sir,

I have just returned from a motoring holiday in Scotland. and am writing to inform you that on Saturday afternoon, 22nd July last, whilst travelling along the east side of Loch Ness between Dores and Foyers Hotel, about half way, in fact, I saw the nearest approach to a dragon or pre-historic animal that I have ever seen in my life. It crossed my road about fifty yards ahead, and appeared to be carrying a small lamb or animal of some kind.

It seemed to have a long neck, which moved up and down in the manner of a scenic railway, and the body was fairly big, with a high back: but If there were any feet they must have been of the web kind, and as for a tail I cannot say, as it moved so rapidly, and when we got to the spot it had probably disappeared into the loch. Length from six feet to eight feet and very ugly.

I am wondering if you can give me any information about it, and am enclosing a stamped addressed envelope, anticipating your kind reply.

Whatever it is, and it may be a land and water animal, I think it should be destroyed, as I am not sure whether had I been quite close to it I should have cared to have tackled it. It is difficult to give a better description, as it moved so swiftly, and the whole thing was so sudden. There is no doubt that it exists.--Yours etc,

G. SPICER.



When the Loch Ness Monster story took off nationally and internationally, it was to be expected that the most sensational aspects of the creature's adventures would be prime journalistic material. So, for example, we have an extract from the Daily Sketch which interviewed George Spicer for its 7th December 1933 edition. This article also provides us with a photograph of George Spicer which is also reproduced below.

IT HAUNTS ME STILL

The only man who can claim to have seen this monster on land is Mr. G. Spicer, a director of Messrs. Todhouse Reynard and Co., of Davies-street, London, W.

"It was on July 22," Mr. Spicer told the Daily Sketch last night. "About 4 o'clock in the afternoon I was motoring with my wife about midway between Dores and Foyers, on the loch side, when my wife exclaimed, 'What on earth is that?'

I was looking ahead, and as my wife spoke I observed the most extraordinary form of an animal move across the road." I am willing to take any oath, I am willing to make any affidavit, and so is my wife, that we saw this Loch Ness beast. It seems futile to describe it because it is nothing like anything I have read about or seen. It was terrible. Its colour, so far as the body is concerned, could only be called a dark elephant grey. Its movement must have been rapid, although to us it seemed cumbrous because of its bulk. It had come out of the bracken on the hill side. I saw no tail, nor did I notice any mouth on what I took to be the head of the creature.

On the other hand, my wife drew my attention to something on the back of the monster that looked like a deer, but if that were so it would suggest that the creature's mouth was somewhere about the bulk of its body.

I was travelling at about 20 miles an hour and, in my excitement, accelerated; but although the creature could not have been more than some 200 yards ahead it had vanished before we reached the spot. It may seem strange that I heard no splash as the animal took to the water. It must have done so, for when I reached the part of the road it had crossed I stopped, but there was no sign of it.

My wife and I looked at each other in amazement. It had been a loathsome sight. To see that arched neck of the creature - each arch as high as its body - straggle across was something which still haunts us. We continued on our way. We met a roadman. When I told him I had just seen the monster, he was astounded - not frightened, just incredulous. When we reached Foyers I again told of what we had seen, only to be laughed at. I also reported the affair to certain scientific bodies, all of whom seem to have been incredulous, but I believe one expert is sufficiently interested to be still keeping a watch on Loch Ness."




And so would run the story which even appeared in the prestigious London Times on the 18th December 1933 with a rather more anodyne version. That particular article brings us to Lt. Cmd. Rupert Gould who had returned from Loch Ness having researched the subject and who recounted some eyewitness accounts for the Times.

As it turned out, Gould visited the Spicers in London around that time to interview them separately on the matter. This would be about five months after their experience. His study of the account was published seven months later in his seminal book, "The Loch Ness Monster and Others". I reproduce it below and would regard it as the most accurate account.

They had passed through Dores, and were on their way towards Foyers [he is not certain whether they had passed Whitefield] when, as the car was climbing a slight rise, an extraordinary-looking creature crossed the road ahead of them, from left to right, in a series of jerks. When on the road, it took up practically the whole width of it.

He saw no definite head, but this was across the road before he had time to take the whole thing in properly - it was only in sight for a few seconds. The creature was of a loathsome-looking greyish colour, "like a dirty elephant or a rhinoceros." It had a very long and thin neck, which undulated up and down, and was contorted into a series of half-hoops. The body was much thicker, and moved across the road, as already stated, in a series of jerks.

He saw no indications of any legs, or of a tail - but in front of the body, where this sloped down to the neck, he saw something "flopping up and down" which, on reflection, he thought might have been the end of a long tail swung round to the far side of the body. The latter stood some 4-5 feet above the road. The whole looked like " a huge snail with a long neck." 

It is from this book that we get the first sketch of  the creature and which has gone on to become an iconic image in the Loch Ness Monster portfolio. Gould added further details which we will go into as this analysis progresses, but at this point, it is sufficient to say that Gould eventually rejected the Spicers' story.



As the 1930s progressed, the Spicer story would be recounted many times in the media and it even turned out that a young enthusiast by the name of Ted Holiday wrote to George Spicer in 1936 who replied with a personal retelling of the tale. Ted Holiday would go on to become a renowned monster hunter with four sightings of the monster and author of three books on it.

To complete the chronology, Constance Whyte discussed the story twenty four years later in her book, "More Than A Legend". Mrs. Spicer had written to Whyte in May 1955 confirming the details of the story, but this is not reproduced verbatim in her book. However, Whyte includes a sketch of what the Spicers saw titled "Impression of the Loch Ness Monster as seen by Mr. and Mrs. Spicer".




This is unlikely to be a sketch supplied by Mrs. Spicer as it is not stated as such like other sketches in the book and is rather an attempt to represent the creature from the other side showing the proposed tail that was alleged to have been seen at its "tip" from the eyewitnesses' side. Hence the word "impression" rather than an eyewitness sketch. In that light, I would still continue to use the Gould sketch as the most accurate representation of what they saw.

You may note the illustration at the top of this article is taken from the Whyte sketch and was executed by an Alan Jones, being reproduced in Nicholas Witchell's "The Loch Ness Story". Unfortunately, Constance Whyte seems to indulge in the conflation that she performed on the Cameron-MacGruer land sighting case.

I say that because she recounts the story and footnotes "this account is, as far as possible, in Mr. and Mrs. Spicer's own words as recorded soon after the event". The words look likes Gould's book but they are sufficiently different to suggest Whyte has conflated various accounts together and may have included some words from the letter she got from Mrs. Spicer.

By the way, if you are into extreme interpretations of the Spicer event, you can't do much better than this rendition from "Mysterious Monsters" by Daniel Farson. A beautifully executed painting by Gino D'Achille, but a far cry from the original account!





THE REACTION

In my opinion, this is the most famous account of the Loch Ness Monster that does not involve a photograph, film or video. As a consequence, it has also attracted the particular interest of sceptics who tactically like to "take out" the most famous sightings as that will produce a greater psychological effect on those who accept such accounts.

As noted from the start, the very first mention of this story was also accompanied by the theory that they merely saw a large otter carrying its cub. George Spicer himself robustly replied a week later in another letter to the Courier, rejecting this explanation and stating what he saw was far larger than any otter.

Moving on, the otter theory continued to be embraced by sceptic, Maurice Burton, in his 1961 book, "The Elusive Monster".  Curiously, Burton seemed to take a semi-cryptozoological view in suggesting an otter over seven feet long may have been lurking around Loch Ness to account for some reports. He improvised further by suggesting the body was the adult otter while the undulating neck was a line of cubs.

The problem here is that cubs as a rule follow their mother, not the other way around. The otter theory was also advocated by Steuart Campbell in his 1986 book, "The Loch Ness Monster - The Evidence" and continues in another form today as espoused by researcher, Aleksandar Lovcanski, which I will return to further down.

The idea that the Spicers saw a group of deer is also popular amongst sceptics and I cover that next. That leaves the theory that the Spicers made the entire thing up and was a hoax. This is promoted by Ronald Binns in his sceptical book, "The Loch Ness Mystery Solved", who indulges in his usual character assassination of witnesses by branding George Spicer as a liar and publicity seeker based on inconsistencies he thinks he see and which I again cover below.


THE DEER THEORY

Did the Spicers merely see some deer crossing the road? Since it is the natural conclusion that people who see deer will almost certainly recognise them as deer, it was required to add a layer of complexity to the theory by adding a heat haze on the road to purportedly confuse the eyewitnesses.

The deer theory is actually quite a bit older than recent Internet chatter and goes back to the aforementioned Rupert T. Gould who personally interviewed the Spicers. His book asserted his confidence in the accuracy of what they claimed, but Gould later concluded that they had merely seen a "huddle of deer". I discussed this recantation in an article in which Gould's biographer, Jonathan Betts had discovered an annotation from November 1941, in the margin of Gould's personal copy of his Loch Ness Monster book which said:

"Were I rewriting the book, I should have omitted this case. I think the Spicers saw a huddle of deer crossing the road. RTG".

Why Gould came to this conclusion is nowhere explained and whether he thought it fit to employ a heat haze in his argumentation, we will never know.  As to what exactly constitutes a "huddle of deer" is not clear, but I will work on the assumption that it refers to at least three deer and maybe more.

So, we have a theory that three or more deer darted across the road from hillside to loch in front of the Spicers. The trouble with this (and other sceptical theories) is that they are half baked. In science, you propose a theory and then you test its validity by experimentation in the real world. Sceptics too often propose a theory but never test it - seemingly expecting us all just to accept it.

The tactical advantage they have in handing out untested theories is that they rely on no one being able or willing to make the effort to go to Loch Ness and put their opinions to the test. But in the case of the belief that the Spicers merely saw a "huddle of deer", somebody has gone out and put this to the test.

As it happens, this author makes regular trips to the loch and is suitably equipped to tackle this by going on dawn runs between Foyers and Dores with a dashcam to record deer events. Those two years of footage have now been analysed and this real world data can be compared against this particular sceptical opinion.

Dawn is a good time to see deer as it is one of their peak times of activity. The task was simple enough in terms of definition, record a huddle of deer dashing across the road to the loch. As it turned out, I did four runs up and back down the loch with ten deer events recorded. Two main statistics were recorded, how many deer per event and what direction were they heading. The three directions were to the loch, away from the loch and neutral (e.g. standing still or in another direction).

The result was that each of the ten events involved only one deer. Multiple deer were never seen crossing the road in any direction. The only instance I could call multiple deer was in the video clip below. You can see the fawn in the headlights of my car looking confused as to what to do next. To the right of the camera on the non-loch side was what I presumed to be the mother standing and watching. She is not visible to the dashcam, but was visible to the naked eye.






A more typical single deer event would be the clip below where a single deer is seen to dart out from the loch back to the hillside as the noise of the car increases. You can see the deer near the end of the video clip. In fact, in my general driving around that area, the only other multiple deer event I recall was also a mother and fawn pair near the Foyers Hotel. Otherwise, deer seem to be loners when they come down from the hills to the loch. A huddle of deer? Not on the evidence I have recorded.





The second result was also interesting in that of those ten events, five recorded deer crossing the road from the loch to the hillside, four were what I would call neutral and only one was towards the loch. That single lochward event was the fawn and was not what I call a typical event (the mother stayed firmly on the other side).

The four I would call neutral involved one deer standing still on the non-loch side, one was of a deer coming out from the non-loch side but then turning back that way on seeing my car (video below). Two did actually involve a deer heading in the direction of the loch, but these occurred in the stretch of road between Foyers and Boleskine where the loch is actually a long way off and a long way down (over 200m away) and so I would not class them as loch bound.





In other words, not only did I not see any huddles of deer, but I did not see any deer dashing from the hillside to the lochside. The conclusion is, based on this evidence and analysis, that there is no compelling reason to believe this deer theory, but rather that it should be rejected. One wonders how many other sceptical theories would be found wanting if they were subjected to real life testing?

However, on reflection, what I observed seemed eminently reasonable. If a deer hears the approaching noise of a car, where would it rather be? The restricted shoreline with a daunting and vast body of water before it or the more familiar surroundings of the trees and hills where it spends most of its life? It makes less sense to me that a deer would bolt towards the loch on a car approaching rather than stay in the hillside where it has more options for escape routes.

Why deer would go it alone when heading to the loch for a drink is less certain to me. Comments from aspiring animal behaviourists are welcome. The deer theory is now theoretical roadkill, let me move onto another theory attempting to debunk the Spicers.


THE OTTER THEORY

The problem with the otter theory should be apparent on a cursory inspection. The problem being that otters are small and Loch Ness monsters are large. I highlighted this issue when the otter explanation was examined in the Harvey-MacDonald land sighting from January 1934. That particular creature was claimed to be up to six feet high and ten foot long and I reproduce the relative sizes of a typical otter and this creature from that article below.



One would not expect somebody to mistake one for the other. However, the sceptical analyst will usually regard the witness as honest but would then interpret their "extraordinary object" as an "ordinary object" seen in "extraordinary circumstances". The extraordinary circumstance suggested in this case would be a heat haze.

The most current proponent of this theory is Aleksandar Lovcanski who wrote an article entitled "Monster or Mirage?" on this subject back in 2010, which you can find here. Aleksandar raises some general objections to the Spicer account which I address in another section of this article, here we focus on mirages.

The idea of illusion brought about by light refraction due to a temperature inversion over a surface is not a new theory in the realms of cryptid scepticism.  It goes back to 1979 and beyond when W. H. Lehn tried to use it to explain the H. L.Cockrell photograph. Lovcanski re-applies it to the Spicer sighting and uses the otter as the "ordinary object" while the "extraordinary circumstance" is the extremely rare observation of an otter in a heat haze.

Now I say an otter is an "ordinary object", but it is no mean feat to actually see one as they stick close to the water and are more active at dawn and dusk. For the Spicers to actually see one in a heat haze is an improbable event in itself as I discussed in a previous article. It would seem strange to replace one improbable event with another one.

Leaving that aside, Lovcanksi begins to set up his parameters in a way that is not acceptable. Firstly, he dismisses George Spicer's revised estimate of at least 25ft and sticks to the original 6-8ft. However, for some reason, Lovcanksi prefers to go with the revised distance of up to 200 yards rather than the original 50 yards.

Aleksandar suggests an average otter length of 1.1m but hints at the need for something bigger by quoting Burton on one unverified specimen of 2.4m. Why say that if his theory purportedly works with an average otter? More importantly, since the main direction for mirages here is in the vertical, this 1.1m length would only translate to a height of 0.2m.

Let me tell you, no mirage is going to magnify a 1.1x0.2m otter into an 6x1.4m monster, hence the need here to shrink the monster as much as possible as demonstrated in Aleksandar's "revised" drawing below and compared with the original Gould sketch. His reason for this is that he claims the Spicers only said the monster filled the road but not the grass verges.




Was Gould that dumb? I don't think so and I explain that in the next section. The reason why Lovcanksi needs the monster to only fill the road is readily apparent to me and is a classic case of changing the data to fit the theory. Quite simply, if the creature was indeed straddling the grass verges, the mirage effect would cease above the cool grass and the theory falls apart.

It is apparent that Gould's sketch is not playing ball with Lovcanski's mirage theory as he states further on regarding the air turbulence causing the undulating neck effect:

The otter’s tail was positioned lower than the rest of the body where such turbulence would be at its strongest, and this is why it appeared to undulate, albeit not as much as it is shown in Gould’s exaggerated drawing. 

Tell you what, guys. Why don't you sceptics tell Gould and Spicer how the drawing should have been done, draw a new one and we'll all get in line? Changing the data to fit the theory is a mug's game, you can do whatever you want to guarantee your desired outcome. Avoid it all costs, Loch Ness researchers.

Moreover, Lovcanski suggests that the magnifying lens effect of the inversion could make the otter look at least 0.4m tall. That is still a long way off Spicer's estimated height of up to 1.4m and a bit unconvincing.

But ultimately this theory suffers from the same problems as the deer huddle theory. It is a theory that is untested and consequently may have no validity at all. No scientist would embrace such a theory until it has gone through this testing phase, no matter how good the maths or physics sounds.

Now I understand Aleksandar lives in Serbia, so one cannot expect him to come over to Scotland and test his theory. But how you test this theory is unclear. Presumably one would have to identify the location of the Spicer event, wait for a hot day and pull an otter model across the road which was being filmed by an approaching car.

Perhaps this does not even need to be done at Loch Ness, if one reproduces the conditions from July 1933 adequately enough. Now I have actually seen a heat haze on the Dores-Foyers road as I was heading north out of Inverfarigaig downhill towards what is called "The Wall". There is a stretch of shaded road first which would not be ideal for heat hazes, but as that came to an end, I saw the heat haze ahead.

In my case, I can tell you it was not very impressive and since I had been looking out for one to try and gauge its mirage worthiness, it was simply not hot enough to show no more than a slight shimmering of the road. Of course, I was going downhill and not up like the Spicers, so it was not like for like although the weather conditions would be similar to that July 1933 day.

The other problem is that I saw the heat haze on a nice, modern tarmacadam road. The bitumen in the tarmac is the item that heats up under the sun and re radiates the heat. However, it is unclear what the composition of the road was back in 1933 as the road underwent an upgrade in the 1960s. It may well have been the case that it was no more than a dirt track as suggested in this picture of the road at Foyers in pre-Nessie times. If it was a non-bituminous road, I suggest Aleksandar's mirage theory at best needs a major revision, at worst should be ditched.





MORE OBJECTIONS

Moving on, various critics of the Spicers have raised objections to what they claimed to have seen over the years. I will go over some of them here, beginning with the estimated length of the creature. Darren Naish, in his "Hunting Monsters" (reviewed here) says this:

Over the years, the description became increasingly sensational. It started out as 2– 2.5 m in length but gradually increased to 9m.

The aforementioned Lovcanksi also raises this as an objection and regards it as an "important discrepancy". I regard it as important too, but only insofar as it exposes what passes as "research" in crypto-sceptic circles. Darren Naish's use of the word "gradually" implies a process rather than an event in the manner of the proverbial "fish that got away" that gets bigger with the retelling.

Let us take a look at the chronological retelling of the tale of the length of the Spicers' monster:

1. Inverness Courier August 1933: six to eight feet
2. Daily Sketch December 1933: no height given but about four feet high
3. London Times December 1933: no height given but four to five feet high
4. Gould book June 1934: at least twenty five feet long
5. Letter to Ted Holiday 1936: twenty five to thirty feet long
6. Whyte book 1957: body as wide as road excluding grass verge - ten to twelve feet

Now I am struggling to see how there is growth in this retelling. There is no sign of Naish's "gradually" growing length here "over the years". In fact, I see rather a leap from 6-8 to 25-30 feet in a matter of months and that is it.  In fact, what I find most disappointing is that despite their claimed research, these critics deliberately hide from their readers the reason why the estimated length tripled. George Spicer wrote to Gould before his book publication and said: 

After having ascertained the width of the road, and giving the matter mature thought in every way, I afterwards came to the conclusion that the creature I saw must have been at least 25 feet in length.

George Spicer had an advantage many eyewitnesses do not have, his monster was lumbering over a ruler - the road. When he discovered the true length of this ruler, the length of the monster changed accordingly. But because the sceptics omit this important fact, they give the impression to readers that Spicer was just making it up as he went along.

Deliberate deception or wilful ignorance? You decide, reader. Needless to say, in the subsequent lengths given, there is no logical inconsistency between "at least twenty five feet" and "twenty five to thirty feet".

Now what about Lovcanski's rewriting of the original data which squeezes the entire creature onto the road and not the surrounding verges? We have already said he had to do that to keep the creature in the mirage "zone" else his theory disintegrates. However, a look at the original accounts proves there is no need for such revisionism.

Lovcanksi's revision hangs on Spicer's sentence: "When on the road, it took up practically the whole width of it." which Aleksandar literally takes to mean the entire visible creature. But how is this reconciled across the page where the road is said to be twelve feet wide but George Spicer estimates the length to be at least twenty five feet? What happened to the other thirteen feet? Are we to presume that George Spicer thought a tail at least thirteen feet long was wrapped behind the creature?

A look at the Gould sketch shows a body roughly equal in length to the neck. It is reasonable to assume George Spicer estimated a tail roughly of the same length, giving us a tail, body and neck each about 8 feet long. That means the neck extends beyond the road by about 4 feet and that is what we see in the sketch. Gould and Spicer made no mistakes when carefully executing the sketch.

The matter is resolved in Spicer's letter to Holiday which states: 

The body then came into view and this was roughly four of five feet in height. We did not see any feet  and I think its tail was curved round the other side from our view for convenience of going along the ground. There is no doubt it came down from the hillside. When it was broadside on it took up all the road. This I have measured and it is twelve feet wide.

And, again from the Whyte account: 

The tail was evidently curled round on the further side, its tip having the appearance of something being carried on the animal’s back at the junction of the neck with the body. The creature stood about 4 feet high and the body was about the same length as the road is wide, that is 10 to 12 feet (excluding the grass verge).

Clearly, it was the body that took up the width of the road, not the entire length of the creature, Again, examining the Gould sketch, the body on its own is about the width of the road. Finally, if Lovcanksi was correct in his opinion, the height of the creature would only be about 2 feet high in his revised sketch, whereas George Spicer put it at 4 to 5 feet.


DISTANCE, WEIGHT AND SPEED

There is also an attempt to make some mileage out of the change in the estimated distance to the creature. In the original account, the distance is given as fifty yards. However, thereafter it becomes about two hundred to two hundred and fifty yards. Where this change comes from is not clear as it is not mentioned by George Spicer when he gives his reason for revising the length of the creature.

However, my money is on Mrs. Spicer as she told Gould when interviewed that she thought the creature was about 200 yards ahead. It looks like her estimate on that matter trumped her husband's in Gould's final analysis and it has stuck ever since.

Now, Aleksandar also tells us in his article that he calculated the weight of the claimed creature via water displacement of a model and came up with a weight of 10 tonnes.  He then asks how such a huge creature, weighing twice as much as two adult elephants could possibly get around terrestrially?

Now, I must admit I would like to see the model he made to come up with this figure. It also transpires this weight is not unsurprisingly based on the largest possible estimate of thirty feet. Be that as it may, I performed my own calculations minus the kitchen sink. The main body of the creature is roughly proportioned on an ellipsoid. The volume of an ellipsoid is derived from the formula below


where a, b and c are the three elliptic radii. Using the estimated height of 4-5 feet and body length of 12 feet based on the road width, we plug in radii numbers of 1.82m, 0.68m and 0.68m to get a volume of 3.52 cubic meters. Using Aleksandar's vertebrate flesh density of 1000kg per cubic meters gives us a weight of 3.52 tonnes for the main body.

What about the neck and tail? No dimensions are given for the neck and so we estimate it from the sketch based on a body height of 4.5 feet to give a neck thickness of 0.27m. The neck length is estimated from the road width on the sketch to be 4m which compared to the usual monster metrics is quite long in proportion to the main body. However, applying the following formula for the volume of a cylinder


gives an estimated neck weight of 0.23 tonnes. Now we have next to no information on a tail. I assume the creature had one, and all we have is the speculation that the tip of the tail is visible, but it could be something else. So, based on other reports, I can only hazard a guess and say it would be roughly the same mass as the neck which would give us a total body mass, not of ten tonnes, but of about four tonnes.

Comparing this number to known aquatic animals puts us in the upper range limit for the weight of male adult elephants seals and these are well known for the ability to move about on land despite their huge weight. So I am unconvinced by the over ponderous weight argument.


THE DASH TO THE LOCH

Allied to the weight argument is the speed argument. Lovcanski takes the view with others that the reason there was no monster in sight when the Spicers' car reached the crossing point was because there was no monster, but rather an otter (or deer) would have simply vanished into the undergrowth.

This is said despite the claimed presence of depressed undergrowth consistent with a large weight ploughing through it. It is counter claimed this was simply a deer track, but apart from the weakness of the deer argument stated above, I am dubious of deer tracks running to dead ends at loch sides.

I suspect no actual calculations have been down to see if this dash to the loch was possible. The monster's mission, should it accept it, is to get from the hillside to at least six foot of water before the Spicers' car reached the exit point through the undergrowth.

Some numbers are required here. The creature first has to cross a distance from the hillside to a point where it again is out of sight to the observer. Assuming a road plus grass verge width of about sixteen feet and assuming the body plus neck fills this, then the creature has to travel thirty two feet to fulfil the observation window of the witnesses.

How long was it in view? The Spicers merely state seconds and so a range of 5-10 seconds will be used. Using these numbers gives a speed range of about 3 to 6 feet per second or 4 to 2 miles per hour, which is a speed well consistent with the full grown elephant seals previously mentioned.

How far did it have to travel to be out of sight underwater? Spicer told Holiday in 1936 that the loch "was only twenty foot down on the right". How further out to get into at least six foot of water? Rupert Gould places the Spicer sighting near Whitefield and the 1904 bathymetric survey map of this region is shown below.



As you can see there is a considerable degree of depth variance. I would note that very near to where Gould places his Spicer sighting is a near cliff edge descent to a depth of 140 feet. Using the scale on the survey map shows that depth was sounded 68 feet from the shore. If the loch depth increases proportionally to that point, then the creature is in six feet of water within three feet of going in.

On the other hand, there is also other soundings which give a depth of 68 feet at a distance of 170 feet from the shoreline. A proportional descent to six feet there would require wading out to fifteen feet from the shoreline. One can also progress to even shallower waters where one has to go out 408 feet to achieve a depth of 97 feet or 25 feet to get to six feet deep.

So road width plus distance to loch plus distance to minimum depth would vary from 39 to 64 feet. At our minimum creature speed of 3 feet per second, that gives an "escape" time of 13 to 21 seconds. At our maximum creature speed of 6 feet per second, these reduce to a range of 7 to 11 seconds.

Finally, how long did it take the Spicers' car to get to the exit point? The car was stated as travelling at 20mph initially, slowing down to a stop or virtual stop at the exit point 200 yards on. Assuming it was a gradual deceleration, that gives an average speed of 10mph or 14.7 feet per second and so it would have taken them 40 seconds to reach the exit point. Even if we assume a hard brake after a speed of 20mph, that still gives the creature up to 20 seconds to cover the complete distance.

Clearly, there is plenty of scope for the creature to make its sensational appearance and be back safely under the water by the time George Spicer got there to see the loch.


ACCUSATIONS

Now going back to Ronald Binns' so called analysis, he takes issue with George Spicer on a few things. The first is the usual Binns technique of obliquely accusing witnesses of being less than honest. In this case, Binns implies from Spicer's original letter that he was totally ignorant about the monster, whereas he clearly gained some information on it when he told Gould he discussed the matter as soon as he got into the nearest village of Foyers.

In fact, Binns goes wild in claiming that Spicer had not just heard of the monster prior to the letter being written but "knew all about the monster legend" as if he was some expert. Where he gets that from is totally unclear. Indeed, to claim Spicer's letter indicates total ignorance of the subject cannot be defended at all as George Spicer merely asks for "any information about it".

Then there is the matter of the unfortunate lamb. Binns quotes Whyte who says the Spicers were  "annoyed" about reports of a lamb being carried in the monster's mouth. Binns finds it "hard to say" why they should be annoyed because he claims they were the ones who said it.

Unfortunately, Binns seems unable to comprehend the difference between the statements "appeared to be carrying a small lamb or animal of some kind" (original letter) and "was carrying a small lamb" (what the press were saying). Binns has a new book out, will it be the old "analysis" though?


A CRUMB OF COMFORT

Okay, so are we done here? No, there is one thing the sceptics can hang onto in their attempt to debunk this event and that concerns the car that the Spicers were driving in. Rupert Gould states that the car did not stop during this extraordinary event, but George Spicer states in his letter to the young Ted Holiday that he got out of the car to see where the creature had gone. The exact quotes are:

Gould (1934;p.46): "They did not stop, but slowed down as they came to the spot ..."
Holiday (1968;p.30): "I got out of the car and could see the traces of where it had gone ..."

Now given there is not much left for them to hang onto, a few Binns hyperboles may be employed to hype up the importance of this discrepancy. Perhaps "damning contradiction" or "a game changer" could be used in a manner reminiscent of politician-speak.

For me, I could make a weak attempt to resolve the contradiction by suggesting that George Spicer got out the car while it was at a crawl to briefly inspect the loch before jumping back on. But I would rather not fight scepticism with sceptical tactics.

Quite simply, somebody made a mistake in transmitting this minor piece of information. Was it Holiday or Gould? Since Holiday is actually quoting a letter from George Spicer while Gould is discussing the matter in his own words, I would tend to prefer the primary source over the secondary source and go with Holiday.


OR PERHAPS IT WAS THE MONSTER

If you thought seeing the Loch Ness Monster in the water of the loch was difficult, try getting a glimpse of it on land. The chances of being witness to such an event is vanishingly small, but when they happen they are worth multiple water sightings put together.

When I took to the dawn road with the dashcam, I obviously would have loved to have caught our favourite cryptid crossing my path a la the Spicers, but I am certainly not betting the house on that happening, even for a pro-Nessie person.

Not unexpectedly, certain sceptics latched onto this night run stuff with ad hominems about trying to find a water horse bounding about with deer parts in its mouth. Actually, as seen above, it was to rend their own deer theories into body parts.

Moving onto the acceptance that this was a bona fide account of the creature, what observations can be made from a cryptid point of view? The first is the controversy over what may or may not have been a deer, lamb or something else. Critics have latched onto Mrs. Spicer's use of the word "deer" to claim it was a deer. They don't seem as to keen to latch onto the word "lamb". I guess huddles of lambs are a stretch even for them.

What George Spicer actually described was an object "flopping up and down" where the body meets the neck. The flopping was presumably a consequence of the stop-start jerking movement of the creature as it headed for water. Spicer speculated it was no small, furry animal, but the tip of the tail obscured on the other side.

That seems plausible, though the idea the creature wraps its tail close to its body as it moves on land is a curious propostion as one would naturally expect the tail to be dragged along like any other creature. Since the creature's underparts were obscured by the brow of the small road rise, I would take the view that if the limbs of the creature were not visible, then the tail would likely not be visible either.

Holiday saw this flapping appendage as relevant to his super-invertebrate theory as indicative of parapodia. In my overview of land sightings, I could not see any real parallel to this feature, until I came across an old case rediscovered from 1925 which made the following observation:

There was something on its large, rounded, humped back which looked like wings.

In that article, I interpreted this as perhaps something akin to a dorsal fin. The idea that this is something superfluous like a skin flap does not comport with efficient design for swimming, hence my speculation concerning such an appendage. But the vagueness of the description is not too surprising as the Spicers only had seconds to take in what they were seeing and they would be forgiven for not giving us clarity on the finer details.

The jerky movement is all too reminiscent of a creature that is more acquainted with water than land and again reminds me of the motion of an elephant seal:



However, the most surprising feature is the long neck. This is quite a long neck, as long as the body itself, but not too surprising as a rule of thumb concerning the creature's morphology is that the tail, body and neck are of roughly equal length. What catches my attention is the undulating nature of the neck.

Gould says they "undulated up and down and was contorted into a series of half loops" while Holiday says they saw "a very long neck which moved rapidly up and down in curves". How does one actually visualise this motion? I first thought of the lateral undulations of a snake as shown below. Imagine the neck is like looking down on a snake.



I don't think this can be reconciled with a traditional verterbrate head-neck morphology and I have stated in the past that I do not think there is a real head at the end of this long appendage usually called the neck. The fact that witnesses find it hard to distinguish any head at the end of the "neck" is supportive of this.

The extreme flexibilty of the Spicer "neck" is more suggestive to me of a powerful, boneless, musculature which has some predatory function with whiplash speed and flexibility and a grabbing orifice at the end. Controversial even to Nessie fans, but I welcome comments on this aspect of Loch Ness Monster morphology.

Note this does not imply I am thinking Nessie is an invertebrate, only from the "neck" up. You may ask where that places other organs such as the eyes, nostrils and brain. Who knows, but I have to admit this is a train of thought I have had for some time and still have come to no firm conclusion purely down to the lack of detailed eyewitness data. The creature is often seen afar off, so such details can be sketchy.

I will leave the last words to the Spicers in what may have been their last media interview in 1938 (from "The Encyclopedia of the Loch Ness Monster"):

It isn’t something we are proud to be associated with, it’s very embarrassing and the bad publicity we have received has made it into something of a mockery. I wish we had never encountered the thing. When we reported it to the newspaper we believed we were doing something right, and hoped that others would come forward to explain what it was or most likely was.

The only way I could describe it was prehistoric in its form, it looked malformed, ugly and quite appalling really. I don’t care what people say about us imagining it or being tired and it not being what we thought. We know what we saw, we did see that thing and it wasn’t anything small or that one would expect to see crossing the road in front of your motor car. It covered the width of the road, it was a frightening experience for us both, one we shall never forget or be allowed to forget.




The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com



122 comments:

  1. I am just diving into this one but I notice a date problem - you've got the Spicer letter published on 4 July, but the incident was on 22 July and the letter is dated 31st. Was the letter published 4 August? I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this piece, as I put no truck in land sightings at all...

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    1. i blew up the Ian k. photo of the loch ness monster he encountered on land nut photographed in water.theres mottled patterns on this animals back.quite interesting.
      Roland could you do one of your expert analysis of this photo?

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    2. I did try and contact him, but no success so far.

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  2. always good to read your detailed analysis of
    the main sightings. would love to see a followup to the "Smith film" - surely the two schoolboys are still alive and someone could interview them now? The film is so grainy and indistinct that it's impossible to tell whether the object is animate, other than the Smith's accounts, which did seem to
    agree. If indeed one of the boys was out in his boat, and the other one was on the shore in plain view, how was the "wooden pole" manipulated, given the strength needed to raise and lower it without the object swaying with the waves? Would love to see the boys interviewed now that they are adults. Great work, Roland! More!!!

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    1. I too would love to hear what the boys have to say today.

      Nonetheless, when you've got two schoolboys using weighted fishing line for a "school project" that the school later claims to know nothing about, the account more or less writes itself!

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  3. As for images of the scene, I always liked this one. Lacking the car, of course it may just by a picture of Nessie with a sheep. I always imagined this was the Spicer incident, but just before the Beast entered the water...http://www.ambaile.org.uk//?service=asset&action=show_preview&asset=36184

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    1. Yes, looks like that postcard was inspired by the Spicers story.

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  4. Sorry about the running commentary, but I am enjoying this post. I'd say the most famous account of a LNM without photo, film or video is St Columba's, followed by Alex Campbell's. Spicer is #3 on my list...

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  5. As for deer - loads of them where I love. Nice typo; and where I live. Mother often follows her one or two young ones, and if you see one deer there is most likely a few more about. One day I was driving near my home and two deer dashed across the road in front of me, followed by a dog, followed by a deer!?!

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    1. Yes, I don't doubt huddles of deer occur elsewhere, but the topology of the Dores-Foyers road does not seem to allow this to flourish, if exist at all.

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    2. Hi,

      I just want to put this out there.

      I have lived in Foyers for seven years and spent six of them driving to and from Inverness at various times of the day along the road you travelled. It is not uncommon to see more than one deer. Usually of the Sika variety, but sometimes fallow deer as well. Rather than cross the road in a huddle, they usually form a line, which is why it is risky not to reduce one's speed if a deer crosses the road in front of your vehicle: there is a reasonable chance that another one is going to suddenly appear from the roadside verge and follow in its brethren's footsteps (hoof steps?).

      I have personally seen this many times and observed the deer to move in both directions - both from woodland to loch side and the other way.

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    3. Thanks, now if you could only put what you say onto a video clip. Do you have a dashcam?

      Like I said, I have never seen a line of deer at dawn, afternoon or evening and my dashcam is on all the time. However, I will continue to record events in anticipation of confirming what you say.

      Of course, George Spicer would not have been fooled by a line of deer as you say.


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    4. No dash cam, I'm afraid.

      I see a marked increase in deer on the road in the darker winter months of the year. I suspect that this is because the deer are hungry and overcome their reluctance to leave the woodland habitat for some loch side chow. As a result, they are seen on the road more often.

      This could explain why you have not seen them if you have been visiting at other times of the year.

      Alternatively, they tend to move around during the dusk and dawn periods and this could explain why the deer are seen more often in the winter, when first light occurs much later and nightfall occurs much earlier than during the light months of the summer.

      They would still be out and about in the summer months, although perhaps less frequently in road side locations. I note that your trips are occurring around dawn so you may just be unlucky not to see them (or perhaps lucky not to see them, considering the damage they can do to a car if a collision occurs).

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    5. Yup, winter. As far away from the Spicer date as you can get. And, yes, I collided with one in May.

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    6. Two more things regarding deer being responsible for the Spicer sighting - deer have very long legs. For a little while they almost more leg than body. Also, when startled, by say a car driving toward them, they will run. As they do, they flap that little stubby tail around. It is white on the underside, so you would see that flashing as it ran. This is not at all what the Spicers describe...

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    7. Ain't no deer, but sceptics have to cling onto something ...

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  6. The main problem I have with these "dash to the loch side" tales is not so much that an elephant seal (to use an animal you mentioned) could not possibly do what is described; it might be able to. But how did it get half way up the lochside to be in position to make that dash?

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    1. It wold be great if the spot could be identified to get some context on this. Perhaps I will give that a go on my next trip up.

      But I don't believe the creature would have made much if any progress up any hillside.I suspect it was pretty much just over the road.

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    2. My theory is that the animals leave the water at shallow areas, then move on land. If one of them is seen descending a slope so steep it doesn't seem possible they climbed up it, then stop and have a think. The animal did not necessarily leave the water at the same spot. It may have left the loch at an easier point then moved unseen in the woods to the point the car driver saw the animal and startled it. That's my humble theory on this anyway. Location of sighting does not automatically mean it's the point the animal left the loch.

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  7. As for figuring out the distance, Spicer says that in his excitement he accelerated, so stopping point will probably be well past the actual monster crossing point no matter how much he tried to slow down after that speeding up...

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    1. Not sure, will check the books again.

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  8. That was a long read Roland ha, but good work again. I think this story has been round the block a few times and its been changed a bit to sound rather far fetched. After reading this im more convinced he did actually see something and its not a made up story like some people think, but what he saw i dont know.

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  9. Wonderful analysis. The Spicer story always had the ring of truth for me. The sceptical explanations quickly fall apart under the spotlight. The description of the animal is precisely in keeping with what others have reported for decades. I think your article banishes any doubt. They saw the Loch Ness Monster, of that there is no doubt in my mind. Thank you so much for this.

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    1. "Banishes any doubt" might be a bit of a premature statement.

      This account still has plenty of holes.

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  10. I'm a Nessie believer, my question is why would an aquatic creature venture on land? Lack of food?

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    1. Well, the sceptics always tell us there's not enough food in the loch ...

      Why? Food seems the best option to me. Aquatic creatures do go for land based animals when the opportunity arises.

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    2. Andrew Bennett of lake okanagan,has photos of what appears to be female ogopogo in a nest with eggs.
      One of the eggs is hatching and a baby reptile like big eyed creature emerging.
      I would theorize that the waterhorse and the waterbull both nest on land.
      I think that maby they can go quite inland to give borth.

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    3. I don't think they nest on land. Eggs or their fragments would have been found long ago.

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    4. John, do you have a link for any of those photos?

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    5. Have you seen the photos John describes GB?

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    6. I have one image purporting to show a dark long necked creature in what looks like a forested background. Taken by a chap called Barrett I believe.

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  11. Hello G.B.
    thanks for all the work you do on these articles,they make for very interesting reading and are much appreciated.

    When you talk about a powerful, boneless, musculature are you thinking of something like an Elephant's trunk? If so the organs such as the eyes, nostrils and brain could be located at the base of this possible (proboscis) much the same as an Elephant.This is not to suggest that Nessie is a bathing Circus Elephant.

    Once again thanks for an interesting article.

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    1. Again Rises The AquaPhant!

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    2. The 'trunk' notion brings to mind the recent post regarding the unpublished photo taken by American visitors. The sender of the photo suggested that the animal in question something that moved from side to side like an elephant's trunk.

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    3. And some other land sightings describe the heck as swinging from side to side as if it wasn't required to see the way ahead.

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  12. I love this classic sighting, but the issue for me has always been why a large animal prone to such behaviour - even if only very occasionally - would remain so elusive in such an environment. I'd expect it's existence to have been established unequivocally a long time ago.

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    1. Well, here's the thing. I could go up and down that road for the rest of my life and see nothing and not be surprised. Land sightings are exceedingly rare. A look at the overview list shows that after the 1933-34 spike, there have been 13 claimed land sightings, that is one every six years! The 33-34 spike had 12!

      So, these land excursions are so rare as to be non-existent for practical research purposes.

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  13. Hi Roland...great article, as usual. A couple of years ago, whilst working in the Nessie Shop in Drum, a young lady asked me if Adrian Shine was in that day...unfortunately he was in America at the time...turned out she was the Spicers granddaughter! I felt as though I had met Loch Ness Royalty!

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    1. Dang! Wish I had been there to speak to her.

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  14. I have altered the end of the article to include what may have been the Spicers' last media words on the matter.

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  15. The fact that the creature was so different in its physical attributes to anything the Spicers had ever seen in real life or book and film is very interesting. It somewhat answers the above questions relating to how it would ascend from the loch. The answer is that we do not know how, we just know it did. One day we'll hopefully know more about these animals and be able to describe the method of land movement.

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  16. Im back from the loch, no sightings and no animals crossing the path in front of my car im afraid. Just a quick note on another topic we had lately, I was told off a good source that there is to be a large cutting down of the trees around the loch soon, so views for the loch will be far greater.

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    1. They're certainly cutting trees above Borlum Bay.

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  17. Another account that highlights the hideous aspect of the creature...the others being Greta Findlay and the couple (can't remember their names I'm afraid!) that were motoring along the alongside and felt sick at the sight of it...what is this thing?

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    1. Given that people get the heeby-jeebies when faced with small snakes, tiny spiders, and other less traditionally-charismatic animals, I don't doubt that an apparent encounter with some quite large, unexpected, and apparently non-mammalian animal, outside of most folks' frame of reference, would elicit a certain amount of shock, fear and bewilderment. Stomach-churning feelings, you might say.

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  18. This is where I come to get my Nessie fix! This is a great article and analysis Roland, well researched and sheds light on G. Spicer, I'm glad to see this account so clearly studied. George Spicer seems sincere and if heat from the road was creating a mirage I think he would have considered that judging by his report wording, sounds like a person ( along with his wife ) that has seen something extraordinary.
    I'm sure we have seen heat mirage over hundreds of times if you are over twenty years of age. It's so common, nothing special. I've seen heat mirage many times and never once was fooled or confused into thinking I witnessed anything abnormal.
    George Spicer witnessed something BEFORE the Loch was renowned for harbouring a monster, zero power of suggestion. He lived in London, not on the shore of the Loch where locals could tell him stories.

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    1. skeptics are getting desperate!
      lol,a lake monster heat mirage,lol!

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    2. It would have to be a pretty good mirage, for film buffs, like the intro to Lawrence of Arabia.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSZ90GMlvHQ

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  19. There hasnt been many land sightings over the years and hardly any in the last couple of decades. The only one I can recall is one by an american woman on the south shore about 17 years ago.

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    1. This could be due to a number of factors. I suspect that the unwillingness to be subjected to ridicule would be high on the list. Modern vehicle speed may put off these animals from crossing the roads. There may now also be fewer access points from the loch by which the animals can climb onto roads. A lack of reports does not mean a lack of sightings. Important to remember that.

      I remain convinced by the Spicers. The strange description of the animal does not make sense if it was a fabrication. It does make sense in the context of the multiple reports of these animals in the water.

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    2. Here's the thing, from my perspective. It doesn't sound or look like anything I've ever heard of. And I'm not quite sure how well it tallies with water sightings, but one has to imagine that is where it was heading. The lack of splash confuses me though. I wonder are Nessie sightings quite silent in nature.

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    3. Spicer thought the sound of his engine drowned out any splshing noise. I suspect car engines were a bit noisier back in 1933?

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  20. Like the short live expectancy of beached whales and orcas, there must a weight limit for aquatic animals on land before internal organ damage becomes a factor. Maybe a subject worthy of study for the coming winter nights.

    Elephant Seal bulls will reach a startling 16ft long and weigh 2500Kg. I can't imagine an water living creature much bigger than that being keen on terrestial sorties. Even a unknown exotic species [ like Nessie ] must abide by the laws of morphology.

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    1. I am sure the old girl does ...

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    2. We shoudl also recall Stellar's Sea Cow which grew to 10m and weighed up to 10 tonnes and was observed to come on the land.

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  21. I think, Roland, you once Inclined to the belief that only juveniles venture on land, and I believe you may be right...this would bypass the internal organ damage problem.

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    1. Yes, but still pretty big compared to seals!

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    2. there is no" imternal organ" damage natural law of nature.
      thats a skeptic contrivance!

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  22. I have driven that road in summer many times and never seen a mirage strong enough to make me misidentify an otter or a deer at 200 yards range.

    Also, when he stopped to look for the monster, surely he would have noticed a small herd of deer between him and the loch?

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    1. I agree. But it is not clear how closely Spicer inspected the site. Did he go through the crushed bracken to the shore or just stay near the car?

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  23. Wonderful article which has generated lively discussion. Hats off to the website owner. The site is a treasure trove of information about the Loch Ness Monster. As a whole the articles of this site outweigh a dozen books on the subject.

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  24. A comment accidentally posted by John Rutherford to another article, copied here:

    "Interesting article but it fails to convince, Spicer was a chancer and a fantasist. GB's illogical passion for land sightings continues.

    How could a creature weighing a ton or two with short flippers, webbed claws, feet or whatever rudimentary limbs it possessed crash through the thick trees and scale the steep banking from the loch to the road ?

    As for Spicer's annoyance Binns was correct to point out that the only person to mention the lamb was Spicer not the press. Why mention it at all if you were unsure ?

    What was Spicer's reason for being in the area, had he heard about the McKay sighting ?"

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    1. It is Binns that pushes the chancer theory, but he is the one being the chancer in trying to make this out as deception. As I stated in the article above, yes Spicer saw something on the creature's back he wasn't sure about. The press turned it into a certainty. Hardly, George Spicer's fault.

      Who said anything about crashing through thick trees and scaling steep banks? Have you been to the site?

      There is no indication Spicer knew about Loch Ness Monsters as he drove south from John O'Groats on his driving holiday past Loch Ness.

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    2. ogopogo was seen leaving the lake,going up a boat ramp and into a horse pasture.he was 6 feet high at the shoulder,and moved so fast,it was hidden in seconds." moved like a catipiller,boy did it move!( very muscular,and face like a lizard frog).
      These animals are very strong,imo,and can easily crash through braken,or climb hills as fast as you can jog.

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    3. Food for thought indeed John! Are you of the opinion that Ogopogo and Nessie are the same species? I've always tended to believe they are not, but maybe I'm wrong. I think Nessie and Champ are the same, but Ogopogo is a larger and more aggressive animal.

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    4. no.
      i think nessie is of 3 different animals.1-a waterhorse
      2-a waterbull ( steve plambeck and grey photo)
      3-"horse eels"

      ogopogo may be a nothosaurus as postulated by andrew bennett who recently photographed ogo prints ( big!!) on land.
      in addition ogo may ALSO be a basilosaurus.
      finally ogo may ALSO be a cadborosaurus.so three different animals=ONE phenomenon.
      of ogopogo,i think its very capable of grabbing a human a city block or more inland.
      the footprint was to an animal of 30 feet in length.( conjecture if snakelike)

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    5. off topic.
      how about the entire website as a book?

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    6. Yes, that needs to be done in some form. The Internet is great for easy resource access, but it is fickle for letting old websites go. I note Karl Shuker has done an anthology of his blog articles, perhaps something like that.

      It could end up being the biggest ever Nessie book though.

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    7. I've been saying the same thing. This website could be crafted into an amazing book. I would buy a copy. The possibility of everything here one day disappearing from the internet is terrifying. Years of detailed research and effort are held here. Put my name down as a book buyer please.

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  25. Spicer..." Length from six feet to eight feet and very ugly."

    Can we interoperate this report as a monster? I'm about 6ft in height that's me laying across a road, and giving as to the above quote 6-8ft I fail to comprehend what Spicer witnessed could be Nessie.

    I think there is some creature/s in the Loch but false claims of sightings (Spicer) Yes he may have misinterpreted what he saw or there again???

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    1. What about a young Nessie?

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    2. Well, he revised it to 25ft based on the road width.

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  26. One can assume the road alignment hasn't changed and the shoreline between the south road and the loch in 1933 is as overgrown with bracken, trees and saplings as it is today .
    I do know the road well and there is scant yardage on the road from Inverfaraig to Dores where the road gets close to the level of the loch, it's a bit of a slog for a mere ancient humanoid like me to get from the lochside up to the road in a few areas.
    Another point is that the loch is infamous for its steep shelving [ don't know the technical term ] i.e. it goes from 1 foot deep to 100 feet deep in a matter of yards. Surely a hindrance to a large creature attempting to get on to the shingle.

    Good news that tree felling is mooted for the area.

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    1. Spicer gave 20 yards from road to loch, so let us see what I find next month. As also stated in the article, there is a wide range of steep and shallow shelving in that area.

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    2. It's no great stretch of my imagination to picture these animals ascending the shallow scree areas where the road is nearly at loch level. There are many areas it could happen, and indeed we know from the accounts that it has. The trouble is the difficulty of capturing such events on camera. The animals are thought to be nocturnal. The land excursions are very rare and probably brief. The best we can realistically hope for is what we have. That's a few very brief but unequivocal sightings by people of sound and honest minds.

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  27. I was on the south shore road yesterday and the stretch of road below Foyers where Dinsdale filmed in 1960 which was cleared of trees a few years back has been rapidly replanted and has now got a healthy growth of new firs.

    God knows how those big tour buses negotiate that narrow track from Foyers to Whitefield.
    The loch is a tourist attraction of world renown and we expect tourists to travel on crap 16th century drove roads. There's quaint and untouched, then there's criminal lack of investment, Ireland seems to manage it.

    Rant over.

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    1. You don't get a lot of tour busses on that road for obvious reasons. They tend to carry straight on through Gorthleck to Inverness. It's the camper vans that are a nightmare.

      To be fair if you were to increase the width of the road, you'd only be inviting more traffic.

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    2. It's a local road for local people, lol.

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    3. I like the road the way it is, I would hate to see it end up like the other side.

      The only bit I don't like is between the Foyers Hotel and Boleskine House.

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    4. "Ireland seems to manage it."

      What, quaint and untouched, or a criminal lack of investment? ;)

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  28. I walked the south shoreline and road from Dores to Foyers one afternoon wondering where the Spicer sighting occurred, there are many things to conceal a large animal in terms of foliage and brush. If the noise of the approaching car the Spicer's were driving was heard from a distance then the creature had plenty of time to return to the water. What I like about the sighting is that George Spicer was completely puzzled and astonished by what he had seen, he was convinced there was something highly out of place on the road ahead of him and his wife. His whole account is of a person who viewed something really strange.

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    1. We have a few clues, perhaps enought to identify several candidate locations.

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  29. My work entails travelling long distances in rural locations at all times of day and night and in all weather conditions.I regularly see deer, badgers, foxes, dogs etc at all kinds of different distances and never have I seen any of the above look like anything other than what they actually were.I once saw a herd of approx 12 deer cross the road some distance ahead of me in twilight and at no point did the spectacle look like something 'strange'. The description that Spicer gave of this 'animal' is so unconventional (in 'monster' terms) that I'm inclined to think that the sighting was genuine. If there is something unusual in the Loch then I'm inclined to think that this was a genuine sighting of it.

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    1. Thanks, deer will be interpreted as deer. Sceptics know this and attempt to bring in heat hazes, false memories and above all the almost magical "Nessie Expectation" phenomenon. So, (according to them), if you had seen your 12 deer cross the road by Loch Ness rather than your normal beat, you would have seen a Nessie ... because you're at Loch Ness.

      George Spicer had no knowledge of the creature as he made his way back to London via the loch.

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  30. Not only did Spicer have no knowledge of the creature at the time of his sighting, but the notion of the LNM as plesiosaur had not taken root at this early stage. He may have described it as "the nearest approach to a dragon or prehistoric creature" but the drawings do not depict a plesiosaur. This is a very important point. Life was not imitating art in this episode.

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    1. I must mention the "King Kong" theory here. It is so specious I did not even cover it in the article, but I rebut it here:

      http://lochnessmystery.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/abominable-science-and-loch-ness-monster.html


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    2. Quite so...the Spicers could have just as easily described a giant ape crossing the road!

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    3. That would the Grey Man of Ben Machdui!

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  31. Perhaps it was a Giant swan like in the Hugh Gray photo. ;-)

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    1. Hmm, a bit of lateral thinking there Gezza.

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  32. Had G. Spicer seen King Kong back those years ago? There is no way of knowing of course, he possibly may not have even known of it, perhaps he heard of it but who knows. If what he saw resembled in any way the diplodicus from the movie King Kong he definitely would have compared it to that dinosaur. The creature was " the nearest approach to a dragon or prehistoric animal " plus he described it having features differently than that of the dinosaurs from said movie.
    I have seen many movies containing many monsters, dragons, dinosaurs, and so on and never once came close to thinking I had seen any of those creatures in the forests I camp in, lakes and oceans I swim in. Over years I have on occasion glimpsed an animal in the woods from a distance day or night, fields or in snow ( you have as well ) and not once did I jump to concluding it was a large beast from say " Jurassic Park " or for example " Alien " just because they were popular movies at the time.
    George Spicer contacted the Inverness newspaper to find out if other people had witnessed the strange creature - his report is that of a couple that were trying to figure out something that was more than local wildlife.

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    1. Gould states in his 1934 book that George Spicer had confirmed that he had seen the film. It was not stated when he saw it however.

      As you say, even if he had, that doesn't mean you're going to mistake deer for plesiosaurs.

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    2. I'm sort-of sceptical (not entirely convinced, but not an aggressive debunker) and I don't doubt that King Kong's groundbreaking effects sparked a few imaginations, but I have trouble accepting that they were responsible for a rash of brontosaur-lookalike sightings around Loch Ness, in 1933. Dinosaurs - including sauropods - and plesiosaurs were already known to the public (The Natural History Museum in London recieved a certain, popular Diplodocus cast in 1905), well-documented, well-illustrated, even featured in cinematic media (Winsor McCay had some success with a certain animated character) and were generally a big deal in and since the 19th century. I don't think the then-lifelike appearance in King Kong would've been quite enough to provoke a bout of mass hysteria in the Scottish highlands -
      it'd be something like a sudden occurence of sightings of Velociraptor-like creatures in, say, central Spain, in 1993!
      I think the Kong brontosaur would have been a handy, fairly well-known pop-culture reference when describing a large animal with a long neck, but I don't think it would've 'created' sightings in itself. Indeed, as far as I know*, no-one used the film creature to describe the LNM - 'dragon' was the first term that George Spicer used in his letter - and the King Kong hypothesis is a fairly new idea, to attempt to attribute some cultural phenomenon as an explanation for the sightings. As if someone looked at the release date for the film, the date of the Spicers' sighting, added two-plus-two, and got five.

      This thing about dinosaurs sparking monster stories reminds me of something: the abundance of Protoceratops fossils apparently littering the Mongolian desert, prompted some relatively recent speculation that the remains of these beaked and clawed animals were the inspiration for the idea of griffons, in myth and legend. It's a theory that's since been debunked. I think the Kong speculation about the LNM could join it.

      * I'll defer to someone with better recall of LNM sightings!

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    3. I don't recall reading any Nessie report of the time making a reference to King Kong in its text.

      The most important plank that sceptical theories stand on is the "nessie expectation" theory. The King Kong angle is just a minor variant of this. It is the theory that witnesses will pass normal sensory data through some kind of "monster" filter that fools the rest of the brain into thinking they are actually beholding a large, unknown creature.

      Closely allied to this is the "stupid witnesses" theory that insists that all eyewitnesses have never actually accurately described what they claim.

      stupid and desperate seems to be the over hyped words here.

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  33. The Spicer's ignorance of Nessie has yet to be proved.

    The fact remains that the McKay sighting was printed in the Inverness Courier on 2nd May and the Spicer sighting was on 22nd July.

    With my inquisitorial Poirot hat on, the Spicers were touring the highlands and it's not beyond the realms of fantasy that they heard in the bars and restaurants of the hotels and B&Bs they stayed in that the Loch they were planning to drive along may be the home of a monster.

    A small doubt like this can rack up with other small doubts to grow into a reasonable doubt.

    M'Lud I rest my case.

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    1. This is pure conjecture, surely?

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    2. John, the Inverness Courier was at best a regional (Highlands)paper. Spicer was from London - a long way from the highlands. The notion of an unusual animal in the Loch didn't break as a national story until late in the year 1933. At the time of the Spicer sighting in July '33 there had previously only been a small handful of published reports of something odd in the Loch, with most of those sightings taking place in the Fort Augustus area, so it was more or less a local mystery. None of those published sightings described a long necked beast; usually just a hump or humps. And all those sightings were water sightings. So if Spicer was a faker why: a.) Talk about having sighted a creature on land that had previously only been seen in the water (and was presumed to be an aquatic animal or fish of some sort)? b.) Describe the creature as having a long neck when no such structure had previously been reported? c.) Describe the neck as having those rather bizarre arches when surely just a long neck would've sufficed to push it into the realm of a prehistoric beast?

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  34. <<<>>>

    Theoretical Extrapolation surely ?

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  35. I have never took to the King Kong theory that led to people seeing loch ness monsters. In fact i think its ridiculous.

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  36. Great response to this article, GB...well done!

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  37. I doubt the monster was so popular in the highlands in 1933 as to make people see prehistoric beasts from having heard enough tales of Nessie.
    Not every highlander believes in Loch monsters, many people around the Loch are nonbelievers and are tired of the Nessie stories. A few years back I walked around Dores, Foyers, Invermoriston, Fort Augustus, and the Drum asking locals about Nessie. Often I was received with skepticism and slight annoyance - although I spoke to a few locals who claim to believe.

    It's not a hotbed of Nessie mania up there. In 1933 the mystery was gaining momentum but far from enough to make people envision dinosaurs.

    If G. Spicer was influenced by watching King Kong into seeing a dinosaur at Loch Ness where are all the other claims from other people seeing dinosaurs around the world because they watched King Kong??

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    1. The "locals" are a bigger mix than what we had in the 1930s. A lot more incomers, business people, seasonal workers and those who have little ancestral connection with the area or its traditions.

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  38. And if Spicer was influenced by King Kong - namely the Diplodocus in the film - then why did he not just describe a Diplodocus? Instead, what he described was a ponderous body, a long neck-like appendage flexing into strange arches, and something flapping at the junction of neck and body. No head, no limbs, no tail. This simply doesn't make sense in terms of Spicer telling a tall-tale.

    And as for the sceptics who accept the Spicers actually did see something, but it was a case of mistaken identity, they haven't been consistent on what the animal was that the Spicers saw. Some say deer, others otter, which via heat haze transform into a large bulky mass with an elongated neck-like appendage out in front. That's quite a heat haze that can potentially morph two very different mammals into something that calls to mind for the eyewitness "a dragon or pre historic beast."

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    1. Well said Paddy. I couldn't agree more.

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    2. I agree, I know some Nessie sceptics who think this theory is overdone.

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  39. It just shows how over the years the stories can get blown out of proportion. I was always under the impression Spicer said it was bigger. Its good to see the proper story, well done Roland.

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    1. It's criminal the way some sceptics twist this story to further their own agendas.

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  40. If it was big but not monsterous big i wonder if it could of been a big eel.I have always wondered if loch ness is home to some big eels.A very large eel out of water in the dark could look very monsterous and we know eels do come out of the water. There is a video on youtube called ' eel in new zealand' you can see by this how a large eel out of water could look like a strange monster.The drawing above does look like it could pass as a big eel.

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    1. A few years ago a scientist suggested that an occasional eel might decide to stay in the loch rather than emigrate to the Sargasso Sea and subsequently grow to gigantic proportions. Wonder what happened to that research?

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    2. I doubt a giant eel could have covered that distance in the stated time.

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    3. I saw an eel come out of the water once when i was fishing, and believe me when it saw me it shifted fast.

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  41. I wrote this before awhile back but since the subject of giant eels has come up on this thread I'll just state my thoughts on that once again. There's a type of eel known as neck or longneck eels where the first third of the body has a taper to it which makes it seem as if these eels have an elongated neck. My idea is that we may have an offshoot of these eels where the neck-like portion of the body has evolved into a true neck in the sense that it is capable of independent flexure from the rest of the body. In response to this adaptation the pectoral fins have shifted further down the body since they would play no useful role up behind the gills if the neck is now a true neck. These adaptations are not outlandish, if anything they're conservative and what you'd expect to happen if my scenario is a reality. Also, eel studies at Loch Ness and elsewhere have shown that as eels get bigger they increase in girth around the mid-section. So my own view as the resident LNM fence-sitter is that if there are actual unknown animals behind the hair/horse eel tales from Scotland and Ireland then a giant, thick-bellied offshoot of a neck eel with the adaptations I've just described is the most realistic candidate. Eels are capable of amphibious behavior, and what I've described could conceivably account for the Spicer and Munro land sightings.

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  42. Certainly a huge eel would be a better candidate for land excursions. It would have to be some size for it to cause people to describe its girth as 4 foot high though.

    GB's excellent essay on the Munro sighting threw up so many problems re distance, size and inconsistent details that even the most ardent believers must lob it, to join the Grant sighting, into the probable hoax basket.

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    1. If it threw up "problems", I don't regard it as excellent.

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  43. You estimated the distance to be three times what Munro claimed it was, so even with 8x binocs she couldn't have seen the details of the skin texture that she said she did.[ like an elephant's she said deliberately not copying other's testimony ].
    Such excellent research should be commented upon.

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  44. Munro did not claim the creature was 300 yards away. She placed it near the Alt Na Dubhair stream.

    No mention of texture is made in her testimony, the immediate context mentions the colour of the skin - as stated in my article.

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  45. I'm convinced that the Munro land sighting was genuine. I was previously quite convinced and the article on this website very much strengthened my belief. I see no reason to doubt the account.

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  46. Well no, the Inverness Courier [ surely a unimpeachable source ] article states that Munro said " and the skin was like that of an elephant ".

    Taking such a description at face value one can assume she meant colour AND texture ?

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