Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. He is the author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), Dragons: A Natural History (1995), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), The Unexplained (1996), From Flying Toads To Snakes With Wings (1997), Mysteries of Planet Earth (1999), The Hidden Powers of Animals (2001), The Beasts That Hide From Man (2003), Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), Dragons in Zoology, Cryptozoology, and Culture (2013), The Menagerie of Marvels (2014), A Manifestation of Monsters (2015), Here's Nessie! (2016), and what is widely considered to be his cryptozoological magnum opus, Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors (2016) - plus, very excitingly, his first two long-awaited, much-requested ShukerNature blog books (2019, 2020).

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Monday 11 June 2012


"It was a bright spring day, and steely sunshine glinted over the mountains of Caithness when Colonel Arthur Trimble first saw the monster of Loch Watten.

"The monster’s eyes were slits in a huge squat head, and its body, which loomed under the rippling water, appeared at least 20 feet wide. It observed him for several seconds. He even had time to take a photograph of it. "

John Macklin – ‘The Trap He Set Was For A Monster...’,
Leicester Mercury, 28 March 1966.

I first learnt about the existence of winged cats – which subsequently became an investigative passion of mine - when, as a teenager, I read a fascinating little book by prolific author Peter Haining entitled The Monster Trap and Other True Mysteries (1976). That same book introduced me to a couple of other subjects that I have since pursued in depth too – the Green Children, and the mysterious mini-mummy of Wyoming.

Ironically, however, the chapter that interested me most of all (and which gave its title to the entire book) was also the one that has mystified me most of all – because, over 35 years later, and in spite of the fact that it is potentially of immense cryptozoological significance, its subject has resisted every attempt made by me to uncover any additional details regarding it. Consequently, I feel that it is now time to give this whole perplexing matter a long-overdue public airing online.


The setting for the truly extraordinary episode documented in this chapter is Loch Watten – a Scottish freshwater lake in Caithness’s River Wick drainage system. Its grim tale as given in Haining’s book (in which the chapters’ stories, although all allegedly true, are written up in a dramatised, novel-like style) can be summarised as follows.

According to Haining, the incident in question took place some 10 years before the flap of Nessie sightings in 1933, and featured local estate owner Colonel Arthur Trimble (who had retired in 1922 from the British army). It all began on the morning of 21 April 1923, when Trimble was walking his spaniel, Bruce, by the lochside, not far from his estate. He had a camera with him, as it was a pleasant morning and he hoped to take some photographs. After reaching his usual point for turning back, Trimble called to Bruce, who had run some distance further ahead, and after waiting for him to come back, Trimble looked out across the loch – where, in Haining’s words:

"Something dark and looming had suddenly appeared on the surface of the water.

"The Colonel squinted his eyes and raised his hand to half-shade his face. The form was clearer now. It looked like a kind of neck with a huge flat head.

"Keeping quite still, he looked harder and could see that it was indeed a head and neck, and that there were slit eyes staring directly at him. Below the surface of the water he could make out the shape of an immense body, at least twenty feet wide.

"Colonel Trimble could hardly believe the evidence of his senses. It seemed like some huge water monster."

Haining stated that although the monster was less than a hundred yards away, thanks to his years of army discipline Trimble did not panic, and lifted his camera. Just as he was about to take a photograph, however, his dog Bruce spied the monster and immediately ran towards it, barking loudly. Startled, the monster disappeared beneath the water almost at once, but at that same instant Trimble succeeded in snapping a single photo, although he had no idea whether he had actually captured the beast’s image. When he and Bruce arrived back home and he told his housekeeper, a local woman called Mrs Doris Dougal, what had happened, she confirmed that he had seen the loch’s legendary ‘serpent’, and suggested that he report his sighting.

With my copy of The Monster Trap (and an interested Velociraptor looking on...) (Dr Karl Shuker)

That same day, Trimble took his camera’s film to the local chemist shop for developing, and when he collected his photos two days later he was delighted to discover that although the picture snapped by him at the loch was slightly blurred, it did indeed depict the monster’s head and neck above the water surface. Consequently, that afternoon he penned an account of his sighting for London’s Times newspaper, enclosed with it a copy of his photograph, and posted it a few hours later. From then on, Trimble visited the loch daily, in the hope of seeing and photographing the monster again, but leaving Bruce at home to ensure that he didn’t cause any disturbance this time if the monster should reappear.

Unbeknownst to Trimble, however, on 1 May, while he was once again at the loch, Bruce managed to sneak out, and when Trimble returned home later that day he was met by Mrs Dougal with the disturbing news that Bruce was missing. The two of them spent some time searching for the dog locally, but to no avail – until Trimble saw a man approaching from the direction of the loch. The man was Trimble’s nearest neighbour, the local doctor Robert McArdish, who told Trimble that he had spied Bruce swimming in the loch – but just as the doctor had been about to call out to him, he had seen a flurry in the water, as if something else was also there, and then the dog disappeared, after which the waves settled again, but with no sign of Bruce.

Enraged by the apparent killing of his dog by the monster, the following day Trimble set about building an extraordinary ‘monster trap’, consisting of 50 fathoms of rope attached to an enormous sharpened spike of steel that had been shaped into a massive hook. Trimble baited this hook with a large piece of freshly-purchased horsemeat, and after rowing into the middle of the loch in his dinghy he lowered the hook into the water, attached a marker buoy to the end of the rope, and dropped it overboard. Then he rowed back to shore, and returned home.

The next morning Trimble went out to inspect the trap, but it had not been touched, so he repositioned it elsewhere in the loch, and came back home. This procedure was repeated up until the evening of 4 May, when he informed Mrs Dougal that he was going out to the loch again, even though it was almost dark. Just on 9.30 pm, after looking outside to see whether he was returning as he was late, Mrs Dougal suddenly heard a single loud, terrified scream, from the direction of the loch. Racing outside to the gardener’s cottage close by, she hammered on his door, explained what had happened, and the two of them ran fearfully to the loch. There, in some reeds at the lochside, was the half-submerged body of Trimble, and as they looked down at it, they saw to their horror that his chest had been pierced by the giant hook, which was still attached to the rope. And as they stood there, they heard something:

"…something that turned their blood to ice – and haunted them for the rest of their days.

"It was a sound which came from the loch. The sound of something large that splashed as it swam away from the shore... "

And with that dramatic little flourish, there endeth Haining’s tale of the Loch Watten monster (let’s call it Wattie, for short).


Needless to say, one would imagine that such an episode, far more sensational than anything that even Nessie can lay claim to, would have subsequently featured in every major (and minor!) cryptozoology publication as a matter of course, as famous – or infamous – as the story of the Surgeon’s Photograph and other endlessly rehashed and recycled cryptozoological histories. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.

Indeed, I have yet to discover a single mention of the Wattie history anywhere – I know of no book, periodical paper, magazine article, newspaper report, or website that contains even the briefest reference to it. Moreover, the only acknowledged claim to fame of Loch Watten, other than having been formally designated as an SAC (Special Area of Conservation), is that it is a good body of water for fly-fishing for brown trout. In stark contrast, any celebrity status as a monster-haunted lake is conspicuous only by its absence. So how can such anomalies be explained?

Let’s look at some background information, beginning with a few additional details supplied by Haining himself. In his book’s introduction, he stated that when selecting stories to be covered by him in it, he didn’t want to repeat ones that lots of other writers had already utilised. Instead, he decided:

"I would use stories that had particularly fascinated me in which I had done considerable research, if not actually visited the places in question. Consequently, I feel that it is now time to give this whole perplexing matter a long-overdue public airing."

Furthermore, in the opening to the ‘Monster Trap’ chapter itself, he stated that although Nessie was certainly the most famous Scottish monster, she was not the only one, noting that there were stories of water horses and serpents from many other Highland lochs, and then commenting:

"One particular monster story has always fascinated me, but amid all the fuss about ‘Nessie’ it rarely gets mentioned."

For ‘rarely’, substitute ‘never’!

Yet according to Haining’s book, local people claim that there have been stories of a monster, which they term ‘the serpent’, in Loch Watten for many years, but no documentary records of actual sightings prior to Trimble’s ultimately fatal incident. Is this true? Never having visited the loch myself, which is only 14 miles from John O’Groats in the far northeast of Scotland, I have no idea whether there is any verbal tradition of a monster here (though I have yet to communicate with anyone versed in Scottish mythology or cryptozoology who has ever heard of such tales). However, I would have expected at least some documentation of it, were such a tradition to exist. After all, as Haining correctly pointed out, there are accounts of monsters for a number of other lochs – including Ness, Morar, Oich, Lochy, Shiel, Arkaig, Lomond, Quoich, and Treig (click here to check out my ShukerNature blog article chronicling these lesser Nessies).

Loch Watten (Wikipedia)

Another anomaly concerns Loch Watten itself. Despite being the second largest of Caithness’s lochs, it is under three miles (4.65 km) long, less than a mile (1.6 km) across at its widest point, and boasts an average depth of only 10-12 ft (2.5-3.0 m) – a very far cry from the immeasurably greater size of Loch Ness, Loch Morar, and other notable bodies of Scottish freshwater associated with monster traditions. If the kind of huge reptilian monster (at least 20 ft wide – so how long was it?!) allegedly encountered by Trimble were truly real, it would surely require a much more substantial aquatic domain than Watten.

Nor do these inconsistencies constitute the full extent of my concern for the validity of Wattie as a bona fide cryptid. When I first attempted to research this subject, back in the early 1990s, I wrote on two separate occasions to Haining, having obtained his correct address, but I never received a reply to my requests for information, and as he died in 2007 this most direct line of investigation is no longer an option. In addition, I met with a succession of dead-ends when attempting to uncover any Trimble-related leads (not even trawling through death registers and army records online elicited any evidence for his supposed former existence). I also searched meticulously through the relevant period of back issues for The Times, but did not find any published letter or photo by Trimble.

Peter Haining (picture source unknown to me)

In short, the only known source of information (to me, at least) concerning Wattie is Haining’s book, and, therefore, Haining himself – which to my mind is the most disturbing aspect of all concerning this mystifying tale. The reason why I say this is that some of Haining’s other publications have already attracted considerable controversy in relation to the validity – or otherwise – of their claims.


For example: in a detailed paper on Spring Heeled Jack (Fortean Studies, vol. 3, 1996), Mike Dash revealed that he was unable to obtain independent corroboration of various accounts and details that had been published by Haining in his book on this subject (The Legend and Bizarre Crimes of Spring Heeled Jack, 1977). And even an engraving claimed by Haining to show the recovery from a marsh of one of Jack’s victims – a victim, incidentally, undocumented by anyone else – in reality showed no such thing.

Moreover, when Mike Dash wrote to him asking for sources, Haining replied that he was unable to supply any because all of his research material had been loaned to a film scriptwriter who had subsequently vanished. Not surprisingly, perhaps, in his paper’s annotated bibliography, Mike made the following comments regarding Haining’s book:

"The only full-length work on the subject is a curious hodge-podge of the accurate, the overtly-dramatised and the invented...it repeats many existing errors, creates new ones, and is so single-mindedly determined to fit evidence to the theory that Jack was the Marquis of Waterford that it does not flinch from introducing made-up evidence to support this case."

Equally controversial are Haining’s books on Sweeney Todd, Fleet Street’s homicidal hair-snipper. Although Todd is widely assumed to be an entirely fictitious character spawned by the Penny Dreadfuls of Victorian times, Haining published two book-length treatments, respectively entitled The Mystery and Horrible Murders of Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1979) and Sweeney Todd: The Real Story of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1993), in which he alleged that such a person had actually existed.

However, this claim has attracted much criticism, for a variety of reasons, including those summarised succinctly in Wikipedia’s entry for Haining [as most recently accessed by me today, 11 June 2012]:

"In two controversial books, Haining argued that Sweeney Todd was a real historical figure who committed his crimes around 1800, was tried in December 1801, and was hanged in January 1802. However, other researchers who have tried to verify his citations find nothing in these sources to back Haining's claims. A check of the website ‘Old Bailey’ for "Associated Records 1674-1834" for an alleged trial in December 1801 and hanging of Sweeney Todd for January 1802 show no reference; in fact the only murder trial for this period is that of a Governor/Lt Col. Joseph Wall who was hanged 28 January 1802 for killing a Benjamin Armstrong 10 July 1782 in "Goree" Africa and the discharge of a Humphrey White in January 1802."

In short, there are notable precedents when faced with questioning the reliability of claims made by Haining in the absence of any independent sources of evidence to examine. Even in another chapter of The Monster Trap, documenting the Green Children, it is curious to note that the famous, historically-recorded incident of the Woolpit Green Children receives no mention whatsoever. Instead, Haining devotes the entire chapter to an exceptionally similar version allegedly occurring several centuries later in Spain – a version subsequently revealed by other researchers to be a complete fabrication, by person(s) unknown, directly inspired by the Woolpit episode.

And I hardly need point out that Haining’s description of Trimble’s supposed photo – slightly blurred but showing a head and neck – is more than a little reminiscent of the Surgeon’s Photograph of Nessie. Also worth remembering is that aside from his non-fiction books, Haining was a well-respected, extremely knowledgeable anthologist of horror and mystery short stories of fiction.


It gives me no pleasure whatsoever in questioning the legitimacy of the Wattie affair as documented by Haining, especially as the book in which it appears is one that has been instrumental in introducing to me various other subjects that have since become significant in my own researches – and I would therefore be delighted if my concerns regarding this case could be convincingly dismissed. Yet it is clear that the omens for Wattie’s validity are not good.

Nevertheless, it would be rash to deny this tantalising tale out of hand without having first given an opportunity for it to be investigated publicly. So here, gentle readers, is where you come in. If there is indeed anyone out there with direct or indirect, integral or background information relating in any way to monsters reported from Loch Watten, and to the Trimble incident in particular, I’d love to hear from you.

Similarly, if Haining’s research files have been preserved, any details of where and whether they can be accessed would be very welcome. After all, if we are to believe his claim that all of the subjects in his book were ones in relation to which he had conducted considerable research, these archives undoubtedly offer the most likely source of primary and additional data concerning this most monstrous of Scottish crypto-mysteries.


The original publication by Fortean Times in issue #253 (September 2009) of my Wattie article (forming the basis of the above account of mine), and its republication in my book Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (CFZ Press: Bideford, 2010), followed by my posting of this ShukerNature version on 11 June 2012, have so far triggered six notable responses, as revealed in the following series of updates.


The first of these responses was an email of 28 August 2009 that I received from Rod Williams of Talgarth, Wales:

"I am a regular reader of Fortean Times and your item on Wattie was interesting but feel that it was a concocted tale by Peter Haining.

"I have read Hugh Miller's Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland and also Samuel Smiles’s biography of Robert Dick [Robert Dick, Baker of Thurso, Geologist and Botanist, 1878], baker, biologist (botanist mostly) and geologist. A man who walked many miles at night over large parts of Caithness.

"I cannot recollect in either book mention of Loch Watten or a/its monster. Both men were not above mentioning curious tales, particularly Miller who was well into hauntings and weird happenings; apart from being a quarryman turned geologist he seemed to thrive on such tales.

"I may have missed any reference of course but the book of Miller's can be read on line for free should you wish to check it out.

"Not sure of Dick's biography being on line but probably is.

"George Borrow's Wild Wales (circa 1854) mentions 'crocodiles' in Welsh lakes or rather stories of these mythical beasts and enquires of people on his journey whether they knew of any local legends relating to these little lakes and crocs.

"Again I don't remember any specific stories as it has been many years since reading the book. I think I need to re-read it sometime.

"Our local lake Llangorse Lake has large pike in it and one chap told me that when he was wind surfing and was stood in the lake (shallow in many places) something large brushed his leg."

Quite apart from confirming the absence of Wattie information from some literary sources new to me, Rod’s email is also of value for the interesting snippets of information concerning Wales’s mystifying water ‘crocodiles’, which I’ve read about in a number of publications and which deserve a detailed examination in their own right.


The second response was a letter penned by German cryptozoologist Ulrich Magin, which was published by FT in November 2009. In his letter, Ulrich revealed that Haining’s account of Wattie was almost identical to a tale included by French fiction writer George Langelaan in Les Faits Maudits (not Maufits – as erroneously titled in Ulrich’s letter) or ‘Cursed Facts’ - a book of forteana published in 1967, containing an eclectic mixture of retold press clippings and fictional stories. Langelaan claimed that his source for that particular tale was a Times news report from May 1932, but a search for it undertaken by Ulrich failed to unearth any such report.


The third, very significant response was a letter that I received from FT on 31 March 2010, which had been written to me on 23 March by Lance Shirley of Cornwall and was accompanied by a remarkable enclosure – a photocopy of an article that had been published in the Leicester Mercury newspaper on 28 March 1966 in what appears to have been a regular, long-running series of articles published under a ‘Stranger Than Fiction’ banner. Written by a John Macklin, the article was entitled ‘The trap he set was for a monster...but it was the colonel who died’. Reading it through, I discovered that its content and wording were so similar to Peter Haining’s chapter The Monster Trap that it seemed highly likely either that Haining had directly copied Macklin’s account or that he and Macklin were one and the same person.

Portion of the Leicester Mercury story by John Macklin (Leicester Mercury)

As I learnt from Mike Dash, Haining is known to have written under various pen-names as well as his own, so could John Macklin be yet another one? After receiving Lance’s letter and enclosure, I googled John Macklin on the internet, and discovered that just like Haining, he is/was a prolific author, and, again just like Haining, has authored many popular-format compilation books of supposedly true mysteries. Just another coincidence?

In his letter to me, Lance mentioned that he and his family had lived in Caithness, near to Loch Watten, from 1966 to 1976, during his childhood. While still living there in the early 1970s, he had read the Leicester Mercury article, which had belonged to his mother (it had been forwarded to her for its interest value from her father, who lived in Loughborough and always bought this newspaper), and was excited to think that such a creature may live so close to them. Whenever they passed the loch in the car, they always scanned the surface, just in case they could catch sight of the monster. Upon reading my FT Wattie article in September 2009, Lance realised that Haining’s account matched what he could still recall from that newspaper cutting from long ago. Moreover, while subsequently clearing out the loft in the family home, he was delighted to discover it, yellowed with age but still intact, stored inside a biscuit tin crammed with other cuttings (including another John Macklin ‘Stranger Than Fiction’ article from the Leicester Mercury, this time dating from 1969 and documenting a ghostly occurrence in Hoy Harbour).

As Lance points out, what is so interesting is that the Leicester Mercury article predates not only Haining’s book (by 10 years) but also that of George Langelaan (by a year). Consequently, it now seems that Langelaan did not originate this tale after all. Regardless of who did do so, however, no independent, substantiating evidence for its veracity or the existence in Loch Watten of a mysterious creature has ever come forward. Consequently, in my opinion the most reasonable conclusion remains that Wattie is a complete invention.

Irrespective of this, after receiving Lance’s letter I lost no time in pursuing the Macklin line of investigation further. My ultimate goal was the procurement of some current contact details if he is still alive (in which case, of course, he and Haining could not be the same person!); or, if he is dead, uncovering as much biographical information concerning him as possible, in the hope of determining conclusively whether or not John Macklin was indeed merely another pen-name of Peter Haining.

In April 2010, I emailed an enquiry to Macklin regarding Wattie via Sterling, the American publisher of the most recent Macklin book that I have yet been able to trace (a children’s book of true ghost stories, published by Sterling in 2006). So far, however, I have yet to receive any response from him.

Moreover, to me it seemed undeniably thought-provoking that whereas Macklin and Haining are/were both extremely prolific authors who wrote on extremely similar subjects, none of Macklin’s works are cited in the bibliographies of any of Haining’s books accessed by me (or vice-versa). Equally, I have been unable to trace any indication that Macklin has published any books or articles in the years following Haining’s death. And whereas photos of Haining are readily obtainable by googling his name, Google is currently (as of May 2010) unable to locate a single photograph of Macklin. Also, whereas Haining has a detailed entry in Wikipedia, Macklin (despite being a comparably prolific – and hence successful - author) has no entry whatsoever.

So were Haining and Macklin the same person, with Wattie merely the figment of an inordinately prolific writer’s fertile imagination? I was soon to discover the answer, which provided yet another unexpected surprise.

Jonathan Burton's wonderfully atmospheric painting from my Fortean Times Wattie article of September 2009 (Fortean Times/Jonathan Burton)


On 8 May 2010, I received a fourth response to my enquiry for Wattie information. This time it was a highly illuminating email from none other than FT’s own Paul Sieveking, who informed me that John Macklin was indeed a pseudonym – but not of Peter Haining! Instead, it was one of many pen-names used by another author of popular-format writings on mysteries – Tony James. The plot thickens! So did Tony James originate the storyline for the Wattie tale, or is there an even earlier version out there somewhere that he had read? If anyone has current contact information for James, I’d like to hear from you!


On 12 June 2012, I received an extremely interesting email from fellow FT columnist Theo Paijmans, author of the regular 'Blast from The Past' column, who provided me with the following additional information concerning the Macklin article on Wattie:

"I enjoyed your writing on the monster of Lake Watten.

"Like yourself I researched the origins of this story. The exact same article, illustration included, of the Leicester Mercury, 28 March 1966, was published elsewhere - and six months earlier. I found it in The Gleaner, a newspaper of Kingston, Jamaica, dated 5 September 1965.

"The earliest inception of the tale in print is now September, 1965, but an even earlier date of publication may yet be found. It is quite possible that Macklin's account was published in even more newspapers, abroad and in England.

"The Gleaner published columns not only by John Macklin, but also by Frank Edwards. I have another column by Macklin in The Gleaner, dated 13 February 1966 (The Boy Who Walked Through Walls!).

"I remember that Haining also received criticism for his inaccuracies in the field of horror and supernatural fiction."

So, just as Theo says, this story may go back even further in time. If anyone has seen an earlier version of it in print, I'd be delighted to hear from you!


On 3 August 2012, Sheldon Inkol kindly emailed me a pdf of an article that appeared in the September 1969 issue of Beyond, a monthly American magazine also sold in Britain packed with articles on all aspects of unsolved mysteries, the paranormal, UFOs, cryptozoology, and other controversial phenomena. One of the articles in this particular issue was entitled 'Scottish Monster Slays His Pursuer', documented the now-familiar Wattie story (but was illustrated with photographs of Loch Ness!), and was written by someone named Neil McTavish. Reading it through, however, I soon discovered that its wording was identical throughout to the article by John Macklin (aka Tony James) in the Leicester Mercury! Consequently, there seems little doubt that Neil McTavish is yet another pseudonym of Tony James, so the Beyond article - though its existence is interesting - provides no reason that I can see for believing that the Wattie case had any basis in fact.

Front cover of the issue of Beyond containing Neil McTavish's article re Wattie (Sheldon Inkol)

Incidentally, one of the two Loch Ness photos included in this Beyond article is of a mysterious blob in the loch that was allegedly seen and photographed by British explorer Sir Edward Mountain "as it cruised at great speed through the calm waters of the lake", according to the photo's caption. I am not familiar with this photo, as it looks different from the 1934 LNM photo snapped by him, so if anyone has information regarding it, again I'd welcome details.

Alleged photograph of the Loch Ness monster as included and captioned within Neil McTavish's Wattie article in Beyond, September 1969 (Sir Edward Mountain)

Meanwhile, my sincere thanks go to Sheldon Inkol, Ulrich Magin, Theo Paijmans, Lance Shirley, Paul Sieveking, and Paul Williams for shining some important light upon this increasingly complicated mystery, and I am intrigued to see if any new developments will occur in the future. After all, as a certain cult television series used to proclaim, the truth is out there – it’s finding it that’s the problem!

DASH, Mike (2010). Pers. comms, 1 & 2 April.
HAINING, Peter (1976). The Monster Trap and Other True Mysteries. Armada (London).
INKOL, Sheldon (2012). Pers. comm., 3 August.
LANGELAAN, George (1967). Les Faits Maudits. Encyclopédie Planète (Paris).
MACKLIN, John (1966). The trap he set was for a monster...but it was the colonel who died. Leicester Mercury, 28 March, p. 7.
MAGIN, Ulrich (2009). Wattie. Fortean Times, no. 255 (November): 69.
McTAVISH, Neil (1969). Scottish monster slays his pursuer. Beyond, vol. 2, no. 13 (September): 47-49.
PAIJMANS, Theo (2012). Pers. comm., 12 June.
SHIRLEY, Lance (2010). Pers. comms, 23 March & 2 April.
SHUKER, Karl P.N. (2009). In search of the missing monster. Fortean Times, no. 253 (September): 52-55.
SIEVEKING, Paul (2010). Pers. comm., 8 May.
WILLIAMS, Rod (2009). Pers. comm., 28 August.

This ShukerNature blog post is extracted and updated from my book Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (CFZ Press: Bideford, 2010)


  1. Thanks for that interesting article. When I was researching my book "The Water Horses of Loch Ness" I found pre-Nessie references to 50 lochs with monster traditions. Loch Watten was not one of them although nearby Loch Na Cloiche had one (it is about 20 miles west of Watten and is a virtual puddle).

    Sounds like he fabricated the story (or passed it on unwittingly). One would have expected the death of a colonel to not go unnoticed.


    Roland Watson

  2. Wikipedia attributes the Spanish green children story to... a 1965 book 'Strange Destinies' by none other than John Macklin, recounting a supposed 1887 tale; and published 1 year before 'The Monster Trap'.

  3. Hi Roland,

    Glad you enjoyed my article - it was a prolonged but very interesting investigation for me, as I had been curious for such a long time about this case, and why it had never attracted any coverage in other cryptozoological publications. As you say, the death of the colonel and the very dramatic nature of the incident itself would have surely guaranteed its becoming a world-famous, extensively-documented case had it been genuine.

    All the best, Karl

  4. Hi SJ,

    This is very interesting, and telling! It shows ever more clearly that Haining was in the habit of using Macklin's writings as primary sources for his own - not only Wattie but also the Spanish green children, two cases that are conspicuous only by their absence in other non-fiction works. Thanks very much for bringing this new piece of the jigsaw to my attention.

    All the best, Karl

  5. Mr.Shuker u r very good man .Iam happy to knowing u for your interesting sabjects and puctures .

  6. Hi Dr.Shuker! At the risk of sounding terribly starstruck I will merely say that I just finished your two newest books. Not only are they a must have for Nessie and other cryptocritter fans, but as a former English teacher with a Master's degree in English Literature I am extremely impressed with your writing style and attention to detail. Needless to say I'll be purchasing all of your works!

    The only insight I can offer on this already insightful article is what I ascertain to be the head, right eye, and mouthful of teeth visible in the supposed Nessie photo you included at the bottom. Do you see it or am I "filling in the gaps" with my brain instead of my eyes? Thank you for allowing my ramblings as I've been too shy to comment for a long time! May you enjoy forever success and keep your mother alive in your beautiful tributes to her through your work!

    1. Thank you so much, Tara, for your lovely comments, and I'm delighted that you enjoyed my two new books so much, and hope that you will do the same with any additional ones that you may obtain. Re the Nessie photo: I'm afraid that I can't actually see the features that you mention, but it is one of those ambiguous photos in which not everyone sees the same thing. There is another, much more famous Nessie photo in which a fair few people vehemently affirm that it is a dog swimming towards the camera, but try as I might, I can't discern this when looking at it. Clearly a case of Nessie, or rather a dog, being in the eye of the beholder?! lol. All the best, and thanks again for your very kind comments, which I greatly appreciate!

  7. I'd been wondering about the Loch Watten monster, as I had a copy of "The Monster Trap." as a child. However, since then I've married, and my wife grew up in Watten. Peter Haining's description of the place is rubbish. There are no mountains, for a part of the Scottish highlands, Caithness is famously flat. As you say, the Loch is only about 12 feet deep. There isn't room for a monster. There is no house or estate near to the loch that fits the books description. Further, Watten is a small rural community. If a Colonel had died in such circumstances, they would still be talking about it. As a child, my wife swam in the Loch. She was never eaten, neither were any of the fly fishermen, or any dogs. If there was talk of a monster, the Loch would be a place to avoid, not let young children swim in! The locals have never heard of it. In short, Haining made it up.

    1. Thanks very much for the extremely interesting additional information and first-hand local knowledge re Loch Watten, which I am delighted to see posted here and further reinforce the fictitious nature of the entire case. My only comment is that as revealed above by me in the various Updates, it now appears that although the Wattie story is unquestionably fiction rather than to any degree fact, it was not Peter Haining who originated it but rather another writer, Tony James, at least as far back as the 1960s, using the pseudonym John Macklin, with Haining subsequently appropriating it in his 1970s book The Monster Trap. All the best, and thanks again, Karl

    2. Thinking further, I recall checking microfiche back copies of the local paper for anything relevant. However I found nothing.

    3. Glad to hear you wife was never eaten by a monster!
      "What, never?"
      "No, never!"

  8. Used to fish Loch Watten years ago, there are large Loch Leven type trout & that's about it! The permits were obtained from a Mr Barnetson? Lynegar, the nearest thing to a laird thereabouts!