Stories and (Alleged) Sightings of the Loch Ness Monster

By: Nicole Antonio  | 
Blurry black and white image of the Loch Ness monster
Although the earliest eyewitness accounts of the Loch Ness monster date back to 1933, there's no scientifically confirmed evidence of its existence. Matt84 / Getty Images

The Loch Ness monster, often referred to as "Nessie," is one of the most enduring cryptid legends. Allegedly inhabiting Scotland's famous Loch Ness, this enigmatic creature has fascinated both locals and visitors alike for centuries.

Without conclusive evidence, the exact appearance and characteristics of the Loch Ness monster remain a mystery. Eyewitness accounts have likened it to an oversized eel or long-necked dragon; pop culture depictions often feature a long neck extending out of the water, as well as a a hump or series of humps protruding from its back.


The name "Loch Ness monster" itself derives from the creature's supposed residence in a lake (aka loch) of the same name. The deep freshwater lake is located in the Scottish Highlands and gets its moniker from River Ness to the north. Throughout the region, ancient Celtic mythology helped set the scene for this mystical water beast.

Origins of the Loch Ness Story

Scotland has long, rich tradition of folklore and mythical creatures associated with its waterways and natural landscapes, and in Celtic mythology, water spirits and creatures were often believed to inhabit bodies of water such as lochs, rivers and springs.

These spirits were seen as guardians or embodiments of the water, sometimes benevolent and protective, while at other times mischievous or even malevolent. Tales of kelpies (water horses capable of shapeshifting) and each-uisge (a creature resembling a water horse or sea serpent) were common in Scottish folklore. These legends contributed to the belief that mysterious and otherworldly beings could dwell within the depths of Scotland's lochs.


The mystique of Loch Ness and its remote surroundings played a part in the monster mythology as well. The stories of "water bulls" or "water kelpies" associated with the deep, dark waters were prevalent in local folklore. These creatures were described as fearsome beasts that would attack and devour unsuspecting victims who ventured too close to the water's edge.

However, the modern-day legend of the Loch Ness monster didn't take shape until the early 20th century.


Alleged Sightings

The first claimed sighting of the Loch Ness monster that gained widespread attention occurred in 1933 when Margaret and George Spicer reported seeing a large creature with a long neck and humps crossing the road near the loch. Their account in the Inverness Courier garnered significant media coverage, sparking public interest and speculation about the existence of such a creature.

People continue to report Loch Ness monster sightings, but all accompanying photos and videos have been soundly debunked. Additionally, advancements in sonar technology, underwater cameras and DNA sampling have been employed in systematic searches of Loch Ness, hoping to gather concrete evidence of the creature's existence or absence.


Despite the many eyewitness accounts, there is no proof that that Loch Ness monster exists. Here are three of the most famous reported sightings.

The Surgeon's Photograph (1934)

Robert Kenneth Wilson, a London gynecologist, took one of the most famous and controversial photographs allegedly showing the Loch Ness monster. Known as the "Surgeon's Photograph," the image depicts a small head and long neck emerging from the water. While it gained significant attention and was widely published, it was later revealed to be a hoax.

The Dinsdale Film (1960)

Filmmaker Tim Dinsdale captured footage of a large object moving through the water of Loch Ness. This film, known as the "Dinsdale Film," shows a dark shape with a hump visible above the water's surface. It remains one of the most notable pieces of evidence in support of the Loch Ness monster's existence.

The Holmes Video (2007)

Gordon Holmes captured video footage of a large, dark shape moving in the water while he was observing Loch Ness from his home. The video gained attention due to its clear imagery and the witness's credibility. However, like many sightings, it remains unverified and subject to interpretation.


Could Nessie Be a Living Dinosaur?

Plesiosaur, marine reptile from the Jurassic Period. Woodcut engraving, published in 1876.
Based on this 1876 illustration of a plesiosaur, it's easy to see why some people would think Nessie could be related to the Jurassic dinosaur. ZU_09 / Getty Images

Some eager believers theorize that the Loch Ness monster could be a plesiosaur, a large (and notably extinct) marine reptile that lived during the Mesozoic Era. Plesiosaurs are often depicted with long necks and flippers, resembling the descriptions of dear little Nessie. Proponents of the theory argue that Loch Ness provides a suitable habitat with sufficient food supply to sustain a population of large animals.

However, these suppositions are highly speculative and lack scientific evidence. The existence of living plesiosaurs in Loch Ness contradicts our current understanding of paleontology and the extinction of these marine reptiles over 65 million years ago. Moreover, the ecological conditions and the limited size of Loch Ness make it highly unlikely to support a breeding population of adult plesiosaurs.


This article was created in conjunction with AI technology, then fact-checked and edited by a HowStuffWorks editor.