10 Famous Paranormal Hoaxes

'Surgeon's Photo' of the Loch Ness Monster
This is one of the famous 'surgeon's photographs' of the Loch Ness monster allegedly taken by Dr. R. Kenneth Wilson. Many years later, someone confessed the photos had been staged. Keystone/Getty Images

The legend of the Loch Ness monster has captivated northern Scotland for over 1,500 years. Carvings of a flippered beast with an elongated head are etched into the ancient standing stones near the massive lake south of Inverness [source: Lyons].

However, the hunt for "Nessie" reached a fever pitch in the 1930s, when a newspaper report of an "an enormous animal rolling and plunging on the surface" prompted thousands of tourists to flood the area hoping to catch a glimpse of the Jurassic beast.

The most famous photographic "proof" of the Loch Ness monster is a blurry 1934 image known as the "surgeon's photo." The iconic image, supposedly snapped by respected doctor R. Kenneth Wilson, shows the shadowy profile of a creature, its long neck outstretched above the water. The powerful image served as de facto proof of the mythical animal's existence since its original publication in London's Daily Mail.

Not until 1994 did a series of revelations bring the real story behind the "surgeon's photo" to light. The creature was in fact a model built atop a toy submarine, part of an elaborate hoax perpetrated by a big-game hunter named Marmaduke Wetherell [source: Lyons]. Wetherell held a grudge against the Mail, which had hired him in 1933 to track down the Scottish monster. He was publically humiliated when he mistook phony hippo tracks for Nessie's footprints.

Wetherell's 93-year-old step-son confessed to building the makeshift model for his father, who was able to convince the otherwise honorable Dr. Wilson to deliver the photo to the newspaper [source: Lyons].