The Toy Photo that Fooled the World for 60 Years

The Surgeon’s Photograph

“I realised, for the first time, with complete assurance, the picture was not a fake and that the Loch Ness Monster was real and tangible; a living animal -or one that had been real and alive when the picture was taken in 1934.”

-Nicholas Witchell, The Loch Ness Story

The year is 1934, Marmaduke “Duke” Wetherell, a movie-maker and big game hunter, was hired by the London Daily Mail to find evidence of the Loch Ness Monster. He arrived at the lake and found mysterious footprints. After having the casts of the prints tested, it was found out that the prints belonged to a hippopotamus. The London daily Mail wouldn’t let Wetherell live this down.

Livid, Wetherell came up with a plan. He’d give them precisely what they had asked for, evidence of the monster, one way or another.

Enter Christian Spurling, Wetherell’s professional model making son, Dr. Robert Kenneth Wilson, a general surgeon and gynecologist, and Maurice Chambers.

Spurling connected a tin toy, geared submarine to a toy serpent head. They set it afloat during their “fishing trip” and Spurling captured the picture. The film was passed to Chambers, then to Wilson. Wilson had the film developed, took credit for the image, thus known as the “Surgeon’s Photograph” and sold an image to the London Daily Mail for £100.

Duke Wetherell

The concocted story

“The revelation of the hoax says more about the willingness of believers to force evidence to suit their own inclinations than it does about the existence of a large creature in the loch.”

Nessie’s Secret Revealed

Wilson claimed he and Chambers were driving past the lake on their way to go fowl hunting, saw commotion and rushed to grab the camera they’d brought along to take photos of the birds. They rushed to get the images developed directly after. 2 of the 4 negatives were blank, one was the one you see in this post, and the one the London Daily Mail purchased, and one was a blurry image of the head going back into the water.

Wilson wouldn’t go into any further detail, which largely led to his credibility in connection to his scientific background, rather than the more likely reasoning that he didn’t want to expose his lie.

The Reveal

There is slightly different info published in every source of this event. I suppose that only makes sense, when all the details were kept secret until 1993, 59 years after its occurrence. All the men involved had passed away, except Christian Spurling. On his deathbed, Spurling revealed the truth, or well, what’s been accepted as the truth. Some Nessie believers think it’s highly suspect he waited until all the other men were gone, and therefore unable to be questioned, before revealing this story.

Experts reviewed the photographs at the time. The negatives had not been tampered with. Maybe it was an otter’s tail or a tree trunk? No one even guessed it was a model of a monster.



Loch Ness Monster, Robert Kenneth Wilson

So what do you think?

Read more about the history of toy photography, and it fooling the world, here.

You must cite this page if you use information directly from it –

“The Toy Photo That Fooled the World for 60 Years.” Tourmaline ., 27 May 2020,

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