No. 3: Elusive Lake ‘Monster’ Caught on Film?

The sighting of a Loch Ness monster lookalike in England made quite a splash this year. Tom Pickles and Sarah Harrington told The Telegraph they saw an “enormous snake” the size of three cars speed past them on a kayaking outing at Lake Windermere.

“Each hump was moving in a rippling motion and it was swimming fast,” Pickles said. “Its skin was like a seal’s, but its shape was completely abnormal – it’s not like any animal I’ve ever seen before.”

Terrified, the two rowed back to shore right away, but not before Pickles took a photo of the slippery creature with his camera phone.

The snapshot was called the best evidence yet of England’s version of Nessie. There have been seven other sightings in this lake of an apparition known as the “Bownessie” in the past five years. Is it possible this unsuspecting couple stumbled upon the missing link?

Mythical creature expert Loren Coleman called this sighting pure fish tale. “I was very suspicious from the beginning. There was a lot of publicity and it seemed too good to be true,” he said. Coleman has been studying creatures elusive to science, a discipline known as cryptozoology for 51 years. He went on a two-week expedition in search of the Loch Ness monster in 1999, studied numerous sightings, and wrote books on the topic.

The smoking gun against this claim was the discovery by a family walking by the lake of cut tires that could’ve been used to fake the grainy photos about a month after the sighting.

That is not to say there is not very good evidence that unexplained sea creatures exist in Loch Ness and other lakes around the world, Coleman says. He categorizes those sightings about “20 percent of cases.” The other 80 percent are  “misidentifications.”  And, “fakes and hoaxes make up 1 percent, but the get the most media attention.”

Of the credible cases, Coleman says some have described what they saw as creatures with “whiskers and manes on the back of their heads,” “a giant walrus or a snail that can travel across land from loch to ocean.”

“The key element is that they are not isolated in the loch but can go up and down in water and on land,” he says. “This is definitely some kind of mammal.”

Perhaps it is this mobility has kept the creature ever elusive.

Photo: Tom Pickles

Pueng Vongs is the San Francisco editor for Yahoo! Local. She has spent the past 20 years in print and online media, working at such outlets as the MercuryNews.com, Pacific News Service, CBS.MarketWatch.com, and Money magazine. Follow her on Twitter.

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