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Thursday, 11 April 2013

The Skegness Monster

On the 23 April, 1960, aeronautical engineer Tim Dinsdale took what was to become the most famous moving images of the Lock Ness Monster. An analysis of his four minute film by the Air Reconnaissance Intelligent Centre, concluded that the object " was probably animate, 12 to 16 feet long, 3 feet high, 6 feet wide and travelling at 12 miles per hour." The remarkable footage inspired  hundreds of would be monster hunters to descend on the loch in the hope of catching a glimpse of the elusive creature affectionately known as "Nessie".

What is less well known, however, is that in the August of the same year, the popular east coast resort of Skegness experienced its own wave of "Monster Fever" when sightings of an equally mysterious  creature were reported  with a frequency to rival that of Nessie herself. The first sightings of "The Thing"  occurred Sunday, 7 August 1960 off Gibraltar Point, when five day trippers reported seeing "a long black line on the surface of the water, about nine or ten feet long travelling a dead straight course towards Skegness."

In a report from "Skegness Standard" of Wednesday, August, 1960, one of the party Mr Ray Handsely, a former war time coastal defence worker trained  to recognise naval vessels and marine life said: "I have never seen anything like it in my life. It  was very fast. I'd say about 40 or 50 miles an hour, I had no idea what it could be. It was difficult to judge how far out it was, maybe a mile or two, but it looked like it was travelling along the edge of the deep water."  Another witness, Mrs Vera Digby thought that the object looked like a "torpedo", six to nine feet in length with about a foot showing above the water line. Her husband had been the first of the group to spot the object heading north in "an absolutely straight line" from the direction of Boston.

Above: Gibraltar Point, where in the summer of 1960, five day trippers reported seeing a strange creature in the water travelling at speed towards Skegness.

At Winthorpe, some 2 miles north of Skegness, on Sunday, 14 August 1960, holiday makers Len Booth and John Dutton were strolling on the promenade near the Derbyshire Miners Holiday Centre (now closed) watching two small yachts at sea when they saw what Len Booth described:

"I thought it was a whale and called John Dutton. We both watched it for about an hour. It was not going very fast and kept heading in a northerly direction, but swerved out to sea and back to within about half a mile of the shore as we watched it. It was black or dark coloured."

 Sightings continued. Mrs Joan Betts, Rosina Stubbs and Councillor J.D Williams, saw something strange  while watching the Derby Miners Welfare Holiday Centre Boat, which was about 800m out to sea. Mrs Betts said:

"I saw it twice on either Monday 15 August or Tuesday 16 August, I can not recall. The first time was mid-morning and I saw a long black thing hurtling along but not disturbing the water. I called Rosina to look, and we both watched it for a few seconds before it was lost to view behind camp buildings. It was travelling south to north and was long, dark and curved.

Those sceptical of the monster sightings claimed that the witnesses had seen natural phenomenon such as wave patterns, a shoal of porpoises, or the most likely explanation, a species of wild duck flying just above the water that from a distance may seem to form a long black line. Whatever the explanation it would be several years before reports of any  further sighting.

Above: "Strange Thing in Skegness Sea" This  footage from YouTube appears to show a bird or birds flying just above the water, creating the illusion of a "long black line"  described in many of the Skegness monster sightings of the 1960's

On a moonlit night in the early summer of 1966, Skegness man John Hayes was cycling along the promenade near the Derbyshire Miners welfare Holiday Centre at Winthorpe, when he heard 
 "a loud crack" out at sea. He stopped to look and saw a large black shape moving at about 20 mph and some 500 yards from the shore.

Later that year at Chapel St Leonards, 5 miles north of Skegness,  holidaymakers George Ashton and his wife May were out strolling on the beach when they saw a mysterious creature less than 100 yards off shore. In the Skegness Standard, 19 October, 1966, Mr Ashton said:

"It had a head like a serpent and six or seven pointed humps trailing behind it. At first I thought it was a log but it was travelling at about 8m.p.h and going parallel with the shore. We Watched it for some time coming from the direction of Chapel Point until it disappeared out of sight towards Ingoldmells.   I just didn't believe in these things and tried to convince myself it was a flight of birds just above the water, but it was leaving a wake in the water. I even thought it was a submarine but after watching it for some time I knew  it couldn't be. There was no noise. It just skimmed through the water."

May Ashton added; "It was an incredible sight. I really don't know what it was, people have tried to persuade us that it was nothing unnatural, but these people did not see what we did. I cannot understand why some people cannot accept that we would not openly claim to see something uncanny it it hadn't actually happened, especially with the amount of ridicule such a sighting creates. I will never be dissuaded that what we saw was not a flock of birds, a submarine, a torpedo or anything like that. It was something extremely large, a living creature of the sort which neither my husband nor I have ever before seen."

A whimsical illustration of the "Chapel St. Leonards Monster" by local artist Eric Blood appeared in the Skegness Standard Wednesday, 19 October 1966

The local press published further  reports of sea-serpents lurking off the Lincolnshire coast. In the Skegness Standard 6 November 1966,  Mr R.W.Midgeley of Boston wrote of a sighting of a strange creature he had seen whilst holidaying in Trusthorpe in the summer of 1937 or 1938:

"One summer, when on holiday at Trusthorpe, Lincolnshire, I was walking along the sea wall when, probably no more than 400 yards from the waters edge, I saw what I can only describe as a sea monster. No head was visible, but I saw quite clearly what appeared to be four or five half links of a partly submerged, huge snake-like body. It disappeared after about five minute.  I am  quite certain I had not witnessed a school of porpoises, dolphins or the like."

Mr J Bates from Leamington Spa writes of a similar encounter:
 "I saw the same object when I was on holiday in Chapel St. Leonards in early September of, I think, 1952. The "monster" was about sixty yards from the shore moving steadily parallel with the coast line in a northerly direction. It was about 20 yards long and consisted of equal brown or black bumps-probably about 12 of them with water separating each bump. I ruled out the likelihood of it being a line of seals or porpoise. It certainly was not a flock of birds! I still think it was the monster and I am satisfied that what I saw is exactly the same as in your report."

 The last reported sighting of the creature to my knowledge appeared in the  Skegness Standard, Wednesday, 4 October 1967.  The witness Mrs Diane Cook said that she was standing at the bedroom window of her home in Winthorpe when she saw : "A long black line with either spots or stripes on it moving at speed about a mile and a half out to sea. I thought at first it was a speed boat, then I thought it could be a flock of birds, but it was moving too fast. I first sighted the monster travelling on the surface of the water, off Winthorpe Avenue. It moved in a north to south direction and was lost to sight when it reached the pier."

Could there really have been a large hitherto unknown species of sea creature  lurking in the waters off Skegness in the 1960's? Or had witnesses seen natural phenomenon, such as  birds, whales and porpoise as was suggested at the time? With the passage of  years and lack of any photographic evidence, it is unlikely that we will ever know for sure. However, one possible explanation can be found in "White's History Gazetteer and Directory of Lincolnshire" 1882 in which it explains of Skegness:

"In fine weather that optical illusion called a mirage is sometimes seen here to perfection. On such occasions the ocean wears the appearance of a sheet of glass-not a ripple to be seen on its surface ,and the horizon appears to be bounded by a high, dark wall, upon which is seen, loomed up as in very clouds and magnified to a high degree, the vessels, birds and every other object upon the water. This phenomenon is designated a "sod bank" by fishermen and considered a portent of strong easterly winds."

The bizarre creature in the photo above is a giant Ocean Sunfish. In 1998 a specimen of this creature, washed up on Skegness beach much to the surprise of scientists, as sunfish favour much warmer, deeper waters than the North Sea. Although it bore a slight injury, the specimen had only recently died and was in fresh condition. Could a rare visitor such as this have been responsible for the rash of monster  sightings off the coast of Skegness in the 1960's? 

 Return Of  "The Skegness Monster"

This video footage of a strange creature spotted off Skegness beach caused an Internet phenomenon when it was uploaded to YouTube in 2012. Scientists later identified it as "one or two basking sharks" a species rarely seen off the Lincolnshire coast.

Leviathan of the deep: A dead Sperm Whale washed up on Skegness Beach in 2012.


  1. It's a fake!!! it's the original footage of the last video. Read the comments.

    1. Thanks, but I`m not really surprised. I`ve yet to see any footage on the web purporting to show ghosts, aliens, monsters etc that isn't fake.

  2. 2012 sighting now known to be a fake perpetrated by BBC TV programme James May's Man Lab as an attempt to boost Skegness' economy.

    1. Thanks David... says a lot for the so called "experts" who identified it as a basking shark!