Is the Loch Ness monster harmless folklore or a clever conspiracy to lure tourists? An academic may shed light on the question with his analysis of 1,000 eye-witness descriptions of the alleged creature, the BBC reports. Marine biologist Adrien Shine notes wryly that several spotters were proprietors in the area. In fact the first modern witness was a hotel manager who "yelled at her husband, 'Stop! The beast!'" says Shine. Although there is a legend of a "water beast" in the area dating back to the Middle Ages, that 1933 sighting started a wave of eye-witness accounts from all walks of life.
Still, Shine considers the first witness sincere because she hid from the limelight and let her husband report the incident. In fact Shine defends most sightings, even though one 1934 Nessie photo turned out to be a toy submarine with a serpent's head attached. Shine also objects to the notion that Nessie witnesses should "take more water with it," meaning they were inebriated at the time. "I have become more skeptical over the years," he admits. "But I do believe the vast majority of witnesses are sincere … and not drunk."