With the story of Paul Harrison hitting the news and that he made up interviews,its unlikely a book about Frank Searle will appear. So I thought I should write down what I knew about Frank from the few meetings I had with him. Had I known that such stuff would be important to some people in the future I would have kept a record but hind sight is a wonderful thing. One of my illnesses ,Graves Disease, has affected my thinking processes. I was warned it could change my personality but not that I would think I was going mad or that I would have problems thinking as clearly ever again. As an academic it has been devastating not to be able to do so but early retirement meant no one knew. So whilst I am reasonably un-muddled I thought I should write about Frank in case dementia sets in and I forget everything.
What you need to know is that the late 1960’s and early 70’s were very different times from today.There was no internet and people tended to believe what was in the newspapers and what scientists said. Less scepticism because of lesser knowledge I suppose . You had to go to the library to look things up and The British Library in London if you had no access to a university library for deep research.
So I first met Frank in about 1970/71 when I was about 15 or 16. I was up at Loch Ness on holiday with my friend’s family and a cousin.In those days a monster hunter was great news and very exciting so we all trooped down ,friend’s family, friend, me and cousin to meet Frank Searle. He was living in a tent then and was fairly new to the Loch. My friend’s mum described Frank as dapper looking ,a bit film star-ish.To us younger ones he was just another adult. However Frank had ,they say in my native Yorkshire ,the gift of the gab, and he soon had us all listening to his story. He was determined to prove Nessie existed and to get photos to prove it. The conversation ended up with friend’s Mum worrying about Frank in a tent in the winter but he said he was army trained and was hardy.
The next time I saw Frank was after his famous photo had been published and I was about 17/18.On holiday again with friend and family etc.Still quite innocent in some ways and wanting so hard to believe Nessie was real. Frank had quite a following and lots of visitors.
Frank sounded so knowledgeable and had me and my friend convinced Nessie was a dinosaur. He was affable in those days to people would listen and wanted to believe. He was also a ladies man and I felt uneasy to be alone with him and glad friend and male cousin were there. I was tall and slim with hair down to my waist in those days and already had been offered a modelling job in London.(calm down guys ,I am an old fat lady these days)He was revelling in being the famous monster hunter .I think he felt like a star of monster hunters,he was the man.
The next time I saw Frank was 1976 .Nicholas Witchell, with whom I corresponded for a while ,had published his book exposing Frank as a fraud. It was a different Frank we met this time. He was belligerent and bristled if anyone mentioned the book.He had some choice language to describe Mr Witchell. We didn’t stay long.I felt sad for him .Frank wanted to be the star monster hunter and now he was exposed as a liar .
The last time I saw Frank was a year or two later. He had a young woman living with him .He was physically ejecting a man from his campsite and being quite aggressive about it.The man had criticised Frank’s photos.I said hello and asked how he was and he replied he was fine apart from these ****** . I took that to mean sceptical visitors. I felt sad that he was so different from the affable man we had first met. I never went to visit him again.
I think Frank wanted to be the only monster hunter and the only one to prove Nessie existed and to do so he faked things.He was quite a character and a story teller but in later years his aggression was to the forefront and he was always belligerent and on the defensive. The story was he attacked other monster hunters ,I don’t know whether it is true or not but can believe he would want to scare others off so he could be the only one,the one to find Nessie.
I still think Frank did a lot for the Loch in terms of attracting tourists and whether he is much maligned I don’t know. I know he changed and became more aggressive.I felt sad for him and still do . He meant well but it all went wrong and just served to make Nessie and him more of a laughing stock than a serious subject for study. RIP Frank , I don’t think you will ever be forgotten.