LIZZIE: (SCOTLAND)

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One unfortunate fisherman had a terrifying encounter with this bizarre beast while pike fishing on Loch Lochy in 1996… and another fellow claims that he discovered the skeleton that proves the creature is real.

Loch Lochy — which is Scottish Gaelic for the virtually unpronounceable Loch Lochaidh — is a 10-mile long freshwater lake that is separated from Loch Ness only by LOCH OICH, both of which are the alleged homes of a LAKE MONSTERS. Much like most of the lakes in Scotland, Loch Lochy is said to be the home of a large, serpentine creature, which the locals have dubbed “Lizzie.”

Lizzie was first spotted in 1929 — a full four years before the original internationally acclaimed Nessie encounter — by two game wardens near Spean Bridge. Initially the pair assumed that they were looking at nothing more than a downed tree, but when one of the wardens produced a telescope the duo soon realized that they were looking not at floating debris, but at an animate creature. The men continued to watch the beast travel for what they estimated to be about a mile before the animal finally submerged back into the murky depths of the loch.

Once the floodgates were opened, it wasn’t long before a surplus of sightings came rolling in. One of the most notable came in 1930, when an unnamed man living near the loch bore witness to a creature that terrified him so much he forbade his wife to ever go down near the loch to do their laundry again.

He was no doubt horrified by the prospect of the monster snatching his bride away in much the same fashion that the LOCH NESS MONSTER was inclined to do in the days before its humbling encounter with St. Columba.

Maintaining the tradition of holy men and their run-ins with Scottish lake cryptids, the monks who lived in the lakeside Fort Augustus Abbey reported a plethora of eyewitness encounters with the bizarre beast in 1933. The monster would slip into a three decade hiatus following this spate of encounters, until 1960, when the modern era of monster mania would begin with a bang.

In July of 1960, Eric Robinson, his family and nine other witnesses — while staying in a caravan near Glen Fintaig — spotted what they thought was a standing wave in the center of the loch. Robinson fetched his binoculars and, much to everyone’s amazement, claimed that the “wave” was alive!

Robinson estimated that the animal was between 30 and 40-feet in length, with a dark spine and a paler underbelly. Robinson and the other witnesses watched as the creature began to roll in the water, exposing a huge flipper, before disappearing below the surface of the loch.

That same year, a man named Maurice Burton was sent a photograph that was taken at the loch, which seemed to show a dark object descending amid a circle of churning foam. The “thing” allegedly disappeared beneath the surface of the loch mere seconds after the picture was taken. This photograph has proven difficult to track down.

In 1975, Margaret Sargent of Fort William was driving past the loch with her husband and her 4 year-old son when they saw a strange black shape moving through the loch.

In the furor of the encounter, Sargent managed to snap a photo of the creature as it disappeared below the surface of the water. Her son would remember the event and recount it years later on March 6, 2009. Here are excerpts of his account:

“I was four years old and we were driving from Fort William to Inverness in our little blue three-wheeler van… we were alongside Loch Lochy when my parents suddenly pulled over in a right commotion. Next thing I know, my Mum has dived out of the van with her camera and my dad is staring agog into the water.

There were no windows in the back of the van, so by this time I’d unbuckled my seat and pulled myself towards the passenger window. I looked in astonishment as I saw what appeared to be a large trunk-like tail protruding from water. As any four-year would, I yelled ‘Daddy, It’s the Loch Ness Monster!’ At this moment, the ‘beast’, apparently reacting to my shouts, subsided below the surface. (I’ve been kicking myself ever since. So have my parents.)

Mum had run a good half-mile back down the loch-side so we set off up the road to turn round and collect her. We drove back and collected Mum, who by this time was somewhat flustered, and indeed traumatized — she had felt distinctly eerie as she stood alongside this strange beast.

Amazingly my Mum had kept her wits about her, and instead of firing off shots at random, she’d actually tried to set the picture up with the correct focus and exposure, as you had to do in those days. And this was whilst running along the road. Consequently she was delayed in taking the crucial photo, and my shouting had been badly timed, it transpired.

The photo was taken just as the grey object dipped below the surface, leaving just a huge wake in the water as evidence of its presence. Clearly we were disappointed that the picture didn’t show the ‘monster’. It was such a rare opportunity, to see something at such close quarters and (quite by chance) to have a camera with us.

We still feel the photo is strong evidence for the presence of something in the water, as yet, unexplained. The wake is equivalent to something a mid-size power boat would make: not the trace of an otter or seal. It is clearly not a log or a rock — for where did it disappear to? The photo was submitted for analysis by several experts, none of whom have been able to provide a definite explanation. It is documented in a number of books, and we still treat it with an open and intrigued mind.”

1996 was a banner year for ol’ Lizzie. The first major event was a mass sighting that was reported by the guests and staff of the Letterfinlay Lodge Hotel, who claimed to have seen the beast frolicking in a “strange fashion” in the Loch near the hotel.

As frightening as that may have been for the eyewitnesses at the hotel, it would be nothing compared to the harrowing experience that angler Alastair Stevenson would have later that same year while fishing for pike on the loch.

According to Stevenson, an animal approximately 18-feet in length — and roughly the shape of an overturned rowboat — snatched his bait beneath the water and began pulling his vessel. Stevenson described his encounter thusly:

“I knew immediately it wasn’t a pike with that ferocity. I had to stop the line but when I did the power started dragging the boat behind it. All the time I’m thinking it was like a scene from Jaws. Fortunately my line and rod snapped and that was the end of that. I have no idea what it was, but it was a lot bigger than a pike.”

This incident was one of the many which inspired the members of the Official Loch Ness Monster Fan Club to launch their own expedition into the loch that very same year. On the first day of the search, the team — led by cryptozoologist Cameron Turner — had a massive contact with an object near Spean Bridge, where the very first reported sighting took place.

The “object” was estimated as being between 18 and 20-feet in length, and was moving at a depth of 160-feet below the surface.

The boat lurched starboard in order to pursue the hit and approximately two minutes later a second contact was made, this time at a depth of 200-feet. The object finally disappeared as the boat sailed toward the center of the loch, above an abysmal trench which is reportedly over 300-feet deep.

Turner and his team returned to the loch in September 1997.  They rented a boat from the Stevenson family and almost immediately made another sonar contact approximately 270-feet down in the loch.

The squad followed the contact for 3-minutes and claimed to have gotten clear pictures of the sonar screen. While they never actually saw the beast, Turner’s team made a fascinating discovery with sonar hits which appeared to show hole at the base of the loch that were over 2000 feet deep.

This may help to substantiate long held speculation that the other monster infested lochs of the Caledonian Canal are connected by a series of sub-aquatic tunnels that connect the lakes and enable large animals to traverse back and forth… and possibly into the Atlantic Ocean.

Arguably the most intriguing mystery to emerge from the loch concerns a story that was published by the Loch Ness Times on January 18th, 2003.

The story claimed that the father of a local politician had stumbled upon the 8ft-long skeletal remains of the notorious lake monster in long grass near the family’s private graveyard at Clunes, near Achnacarry, Inverness-shire. Excerpts of the article are reprinted here:

“The Lochy Monster — The father of Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy believes he may have unearthed the remains of “Lizzie” the legendary monster of Loch Lochy, near the family graveyard in Lochaber. Ian Kennedy revealed recently he had made his unusual discovery while rebuilding a footbridge to the site at Clunes, near Achnacarry, in preparation for the funeral of his brother Donald.

Kennedy recounted how he stumbled across his astounding discovery:

“When I went to check the graveyard, I found that floods had carried the bridge away. So I set about building a new footbridge. While I was working on the bridge, I found the remains of the skeleton. There was no head and no tail, but the rest of it was 4-ft 8 and a half inches long. It has a thick neck, twelve ribs, six horizontal bones from the vertebrae to the pelvis and two hind legs. It has massive two toed feet, with a long talon on the end of each toe, making it look rather like a bird’s leg.”

Kennedy went on to describe what he felt to be this skeleton’s most bizarre feature:

“But the strange thing about it is that it has a dorsal fin about three inches high and spiky bones jutting out about three inches all the way along its back. I wish I had found the head and tail as it would make it easier to identify, but I think it’s a lizard like creature, called a Thecodont. It could well be the monster that was seen in Loch Lochy. I think it probably swam up from the loch and came to a sticky end where I found it.”

Local fossil expert, Dr. Chris Robinson, examined the bones — which, as aforementioned, sadly lacked a skull or tail — and claimed to be “baffled” as to the identity of these mystery bones.

He further stated that he was unable to decide whether they are the remains of a dinosaur or a kangaroo.

Kennedy, however, seemed convinced that the remains represented a prehistoric animal that very well might be the ancestor of Lizzy, Nessie and the rest of their lake dwelling, Highland ilk:

“The skeleton’s appearance would suggest something from an earlier time. No head or tail was to be found, but the enclosing structure formed by the ribs, and the bones to which they are attached was very robust.”

One can only hope that these remains — be they common marsupial or bizarre cryptid — manage find their way into the hands of a scientific institution that can properly identify them. If this has happened, it has yet to be reported.

More recently — although precisely when is in question — the co-proprietor of the lakeside Corriegour Lodge, Lorna Bunney, admitted that she had seen a strange animal in the loch from her kitchen window. Initially she mistook the animate object for a boat, but swiftly realized that it was alive:

I thought at first that it was just the wake from a cabin cruiser but it was too fast, and the ripples too close together for that. I ran to look out of the kitchen door and I realized it was some kind of creature. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

While it is easy to dismiss the eyewitness testimony of inn owners as being “good for business,” Bunney received some unexpected support for her claims just three weeks later when the staff and guests of the Corriegour noticed a black, 12-foot object creating a tumult on the loch. Guests Derick and Lindsay Burney were amongst a group who hustled to the dining room’s large picture window in order to get a better look at the beast. According to Burney:

“At first we thought what we were seeing was an upturned boat. Then suddenly it started moving backwards, and then round in circles, and we noted that it had three humps. It was causing quite a stir. It was very large, about twelve feet in length, and it wasn’t a seal or any other mammal we’ve ever seen before. And we’ve been coming to Loch Lochy on boating holidays for the past seven years.”

Lizzy seems to fit very nicely into the standard mold of the Scottish lake monster, but one can’t help but to wonder whether or not the evidence of the existence of heretofore unidentified fresh water “monsters” is not collecting dust in a box somewhere in Inverness-shire.

© Copyright Rob Morphy 2002 — 2011