A Scottish skipper has admitted pulling the wool over the eyes of the world - by faking a picture of the elusive Loch Ness Monster.
After what must have been a lonely 26 years patrolling the famous loch on his boat Nessie Hunter IV, George Edwards finally made the limelight after producing an image of a mysterious dark hump moving in the water towards Urquhart Castle.
The picture quickly went viral and presumably Edwards, who insisted: "I'm convinced I was seeing Nessie as I believe in these creatures," got a lot more customers wanting to visit the loch.
But on Friday he revealed it was all a big hoax - and what he'd actually photographed was a fibreglass hump that can be seen in 2011's National Geographic film The Truth Behind The Loch Ness Monster.
"Why should I feel guilty for having a bit of fun?" the indignant 61-year-old said.
"Where would Loch Ness be without the world's best known forgery? These so-called experts come along with their theories about big waves and big fish, and their visitor centre, but I'm sick to death of them.
"People come here for a holiday and a bit of fun.
"I'm one of the people who has brought thousands of people to the Highlands over the years, and I can tell you they don't come here for the science."
Edwards has since tried to play down the furore over his hoax, claiming to have owned up to it just days after the picture was published - but though we can find evidence of him appearing to "water down" his claims, we can't find an outright admission.
In August last year he told ABC News: "In my opinion, it probably looks kind of like a manatee, but not a mammal."
Today, Edwards, who says he operates the busiest boat tours of the loch, said: "People know all about my forged photo, but they still want to come on my boat."
Well played Edwards, well played. While we have your attention, check out these other rather splendid hoaxes:
Adolf Hitler's $6 Million Diary
In 1983, German newsweekly<em> Stern</em> claimed to be the new owners of what would have been the most explosive diaries in history: the collected thoughts of Adolf Hitler, <em>Time</em> <a href="http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1931133_1931132_1931123,00.html" target="_hplink">reports</a>. Though the magazine paid a cool $6 million for the documents, the diaries were later exposed as "grotesquely superficial fakes" made on modern paper using 1980s-era ink and riddled with historical inaccuracies. The prank cost editors at <em>Stern</em>, the <em>Sunday Times</em> and <em>Newsweek</em> their jobs. (Photo: AP)
War Of The Worlds
The 1938 broadcast of a <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/06/0617_050617_warworlds.html" target="_hplink">radio adaptation</a> of HG Wells' <em>The War of the Worlds</em> frightened many listeners into believing an actual alien invasion was in progress. Narrated by Orson Wells, the adaptation had been written and performed to sound like an actual news broadcast about an invasion from wars. Believing they were under attack by Martians, listeners flooded newspaper offices and radio and police stations with calls, asking how to flee their city. (Photo: AP File)
Georgia Invasion Hoax
As <em>Time</em> <a href="http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1931133_1931132,00.html" target="_hplink">reports</a>, Georgians were in for the shock of their lives in when the pro-government Imedi station announced that the country's pro-western leader Mikheil Saakashvili had been murdered and Russian tanks were yet again invading their land, barely 18 months on from the short-lived war of 2008. Panic understandably ensued as people piled onto the streets, and the cell phone network collapsed. Apparently the broadcast was introduced as a simulation of possible events but this warning was clearly lost on many Georgians: people were taken to hospital suffering from stress and it's been reported that one woman, whose son was in the army, had a heart attack and died. (Photo: Getty)
In 1912, British scientists believed they had finally found definitive proof of mankind's evolution: the missing link between man and ape. As<em> Time</em><a href="http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1931133_1931132_1931125,00.html" target="_hplink"> reports</a>, the parts of a skull and jawbone, collected from a gravel pit in the village of Piltdown, had many experts convinced they were the fossilised remains of an unknown form of early man. But 41 years later, Piltdown man was finally exposed as a composite forgery: a human skull from medieval times, the 500-year-old lower jaw of a Sarawak orangutan and chimpanzee fossil teeth. (Photo: Wikicommons)
On 15 October 2009, Richard and Mayumi Heene in Fort Collins, Colorado, allowed a gas balloon filled with helium to float away into the atmosphere and then claimed that their six-year-old son Falcon was inside it. As CNN <a href="http://articles.cnn.com/2009-10-16/us/colorado.balloon.boy_1_richard-heene-mayumi-heene-alderden?_s=PM:US" target="_hplink">reports</a>, when the balloon finally landed, Falcon was not on board. Later, he came out from hiding in an attic over the home's garage.
As the Science Channel reports, London-based video entrepreneur Ray Santilli claimed to own footage of an alien autopsy performed after the 1947 Roswell Incident, which aired in 1995 to an audience of millions. He later fessed up to the hoax, noting that all the alien innards in the film were actually sheep brains, raspberry jam and chicken entrails. (Photo: AP)
Microsoft Buys The Catholic Church
In 1994 a press release bearing a Vatican City dateline, began circulating around the Web claiming that Microsoft had <a href="http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/msft.html" target="_hplink">bought</a> the Catholic church. The release even quoted Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates as saying, "The combined resources of Microsoft and the Catholic Church will allow us to make religion easier and more fun for a broader range of people." Microsoft finally issued a formal denial of the release on 16 December, 1994. (Photo: AP)