What may have been the best evidence that the Loch Ness Monster is indeed real was inadvertently destroyed almost 40 years ago, after a rented pleasure boat suffered a violent collision with an unknown object in Scotland's vast and mysterious lake widely believed to house the bizarre sea creature.
One of the passengers on the rented boat, an elderly man, was so frightened by the collision with an unseen object that he suffered a heart attack and died shortly thereafter — making the unfortunate boater perhaps the only human fatality claimed by an encounter with the Loch Ness Monster.
The reported collision in 1978 was not even the first reported on the mist-enshrouded lake in the Scottish Highlands between a boat and the strange occupant of the 22 square-mile lake, which reaches depths of up to 755 feet. In 1943 a Royal Navy boat ran directly into what the boat's commander described as "a very large animal... a living creature."
But the 1978 collision could have yielded incontrovertible evidence of that the Loch Ness Monster exists, because the collision is said to have wounded the creature — which left large shards of its flesh on the boat's propeller shaft.
Stanley Roberts, now 85, who owned the rental boat back in 1978, described the remnants of the monster that were attached to the underside of his boat as "found flesh and black skin an inch thick along the propshaft."
But before he knew what had happened, workers who were repairing the damaged boat simply tossed the flesh into the water.
"The workers chiseled the flesh away and threw it into the Caledonian Canal," Roberts recalled, in an interview last week with the Scotland Now news site. "I said you stupid b*******s. It would have proved that Nessie was here."
Had the organic material been preserved, given DNA-reading techniques available with today's technology, scientists would likely have been able to determine exactly what hit the boat — and as a result, finally learned what the fabled Loch Ness Monster actually is.
There have been countless sightings of "Nessie" since the 1930s, when the "Monster" first became a worldwide sensation. In 2012, a Loch Ness Monster researcher, George Edwards, took what he believes is the clearest photograph yet of a large, living creature in the lake's waters.
Then in 2013, another Nessie enthusiast scanned satellite images of Loch Ness using Google Earth, and discovered what appears to be a giant eel-like monster swimming just below the water's surface.
The photo of the Loch Ness Monster at the top of this page remains the most famous alleged photo of the creature ever taken. Snapped in 1934, in 1993 it was revealed to have been a hoax all along.