Did Tom Pickles photograph Bownessie?
Fellow BARsoc researcher, Paul Pearson, wrote an excellent article last week detailing the Bownessie monster case from the first sightings, all the way up to the recent photo that was reported to have been taken by Tom Pickles in February that shows a humped thing in the water that people claim is the Bownessie monster living in lake Windermere.
The story was reported in the local news  and has since spread across most news websites and the usual paranormal interest sites and has inspired much discussion, with most people coming to the conclusion that it’s a hoax. I tend to agree with that conclusion, especially as Dr Ian Winfield, a lake ecologist at the University of Lancaster has been quoted in several news articles as saying:
“It’s possible that it’s [the “monster”] a catfish from Eastern Europe and people are misjudging the size but there is no known fish as large as the descriptions we’re hearing [the size of three cars] that could be living in Windermere. We run echo sounding surveys every month and have never found anything.”
You’d think that would be enough to close the case, but still people are speculating about the chance of this photo showing the monster that many have seen. It has even created debate and (rather childish) rivalry between different areas with supposed lake monsters, so, I decided that it might be worth digging into the latest photograph to see if I could discover anything telling.
a) The photo was taken by Tom Pickles on a mobile phone. He was accompanied by work colleague Sarah Harrington.
b) The photo was apparently taken while they were in a Kayak during a team building exercise on lake Windermere.
c) The company seminar they were attending was by CapGemini and took place at Fallbarrow Hall, Bowness, Cumbria.
d) Tom Pickles told Westmorland Gazette reporter, Kate Proctor, that the photo was taken on Friday February 11th at 10:35am
e) It is believed that the two islands in the background of the Bowness photo are either:
- Hen holme and Lady holme
- Or, as Pickles is quoted as saying they had “kayaked 300m out into the lake near Belle Isle when they spotted the beast to the south” the islands could be the Lilies of the valley.
I decided that the best thing to do would be to try to establish contact with Tom Pickles himself but this has proved fruitless as my emails are unanswered. Also, a search online reveals no public profiles for a Tom Pickles living or working in the Shrewsbury area. The same with the colleague who was with him, Sarah.
This proves nothing, but it has made it difficult to try to establish contact with either of them which I wanted to do so that I could elaborate on the information already presented to the press. Also worth noting is the fact that Kate Proctor, the journalist who wrote the initial article on the Westmorland Gazette website has told me that Tom has since sold the photo to the Daily Mail. The West Moreland Gazette were unable to provide me with the photo because of the Copyright in place. I would like to thank Kate for her help.
The photo shows two bodies of land in the background, but it’s hard to distinguish which islands they may be. It is reported they had kayaked 300m into the lake near Belle Island and spotted the monster to the South, which suggests they were near the islands known as the Lilies of the valley, however, they may also have been near Hen holme and Lady holme islands.
Due to the lack of quality in the photo (it was taken on a mobile phone, may have been cropped or zoomed in on and we don’t have the original) and no distinctive shoreline visible beyond the islands, it’s quite difficult to tell. Below are photos of each set of the islands mentioned, from similar angles to that in the Pickles photograph for comparison.
I thought it would also be interesting to take the Pickles photo and position it onto these photos to see if they matched up but this proved inconclusive as they both seemed to match quite well. Without being told where the photo was actually taken it’s impossible to really be sure. Though, the two water buoys present in the Pickles photo (to the left of the photo) suggest to me that the photo was taken near Hen holme & Lady holme, but I cannot be 100% sure.
However, one thing that did become apparent to me as I made these comparisons with the photos of the islands is the fact that the ‘monster’ was much closer to the photographer (Pickles) than it had first seemed. My first impression was that it was nearer to the islands you see in the background than it was to the photographer, but the islands in the Pickles photo are quite small and because of
the lack of any other detail in the photo (boats, objects in the water, a shore line in the distance) the distance between the islands, the object and the photographer is really quite misleading.
The ‘monster’ couldn’t have been the size of three cars and show up in the photo as it did. With the proximity of the ‘monster’ to the kayak, it’s more likely to be the approximate size of a large swan. The cropped version that many newspapers are using almost creates the illusion that it is further away from the photographer, however, the full version that the Westmorland Gazette printed (right) shows otherwise.
If you look back up at the photo of the Pickles photo stuck on top of the photo of the Lilies of the valley islands you will notice there is a boat moored close to the right island that looks quite small because of how far away it is from the camera. For the ‘monster’ to be the size of three cars as claimed by Pickles, the monster would have needed to be much nearer the islands that it was for it to appear the size that it is in the photo.
This leads to the question of what the object could be. A small lake monster that Pickles mistook the size of? Or something altogether more mundane?
Well, as I was researching the photo a story broke on the Westmorland Gazette website that suggested it could all have been a hoax brought about through the use of a tyre. It was reported that John Phillips, from Solihull, photographed a car tyre cut into four humps which was left in a bush near the lake shore. 
This is an interesting development that suggests a possible way in which the photo was created. It’s certainly a more plausible theory many people have been suggesting. Of course, the John Philips discovery could itself be a hoax, but a tyre sliced open to create four segments does certainly resemble the oddity in the Pickles photograph when the tyre is straightened out.
Does this mean it was all a hoax? Possibly and some would even say probably.
I would like to make it clear that I am in no way suggesting that Tom Pickles hoaxed the photo and I would even suggest that the tyre may have been simply discarded in the lake (tyres are often used as weights on boats, for example) and it happened to float past Tom and Sarah in their kayak at the right moment.
It may have become caught in the wake created by a boat had that passed by and may have been pulled up in the current (there are regular cruise tours of the lake that pass by the islands). We know that the currents caused by a boats wake can still hang around long after boat has passed without being seen (under water currents have caused lots of sightings of odd things in lakes that turn out to be drift wood emerging from beneath the water).
Whether an intentional hoax, or simply misidentification – I feel confident enough to say that the Pickles photo is nothing more than a tyre in the water. I’m willing to change my mind though, should somebody decide to send BARsoc a copy of the orignal photo…
1 – Original Westmorland Gazette news story http://bit.ly/hsMTlX
2 – embarrassing monster boasting: http://bit.ly/hWpRsR
3 – Kate Proctor informed me of the Daily Mail purchase via an email exchange
4 – Company name mentioned: http://bit.ly/hnAoi4
5 – Map produced with http://explore.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/
6 – Cut tyres story: http://bit.ly/ePSR3D
7 – ‘Killer croc’ example of driftwood monsters – http://bit.ly/cptVJO
Posted on March 12, 2011, in creature, cryptozoology, marine, media, monster and tagged a, bowness, bowniessie, hoax, investigating, lake, monster, of, photo, Pickles, rational, skeptic, the, Tom, tyre, windermere. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.