THOSE who claim to have seen the Loch Ness monster come from a wide spectrum of society, although perhaps unsurprisingly local hoteliers are among those featuring most frequently, according to new research.

An expert from St Andrews University has been delving deep into the history of "Nessie" spotters.

Charles Paxton, a statistical ecologist, is working on the first catalogue of all known sightings of the Loch Ness monster in modern times.

The researcher will present his findings so far at a con-ference today, organised by author Gordon Rutter, who specialises in the paranormal, as part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

The event marks the 80th anniversary of the first official sighting of Nessie.

It was in April 1933 that Drumnadrochit hotel manageress Aldie Mackay reported "some- thing resembling a whale" while on the road from Inverness.

Dr Paxton, a research fellow at St Andrews University's Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling, is interested in how science handles "anomalistic and low frequency data".

He is analysing all reported sightings for consistencies or patterns that could be explained by natural phenomena.

He said: "I am carrying out a statistical analysis of Loch Ness monster accounts since 1933, specifically looking for clusters in terms of what is reported.

"In some cases, there are multiple witnesses, or witnesses giving multiple accounts of the same event, which allow us to test eyewitness consistency."

There have been more than 1000 recorded sightings of Nessie and Dr Paxton has so far sifted through more than 800 of these cases.

Although he wryly notes more than a few hotel proprietors among the typical spotters, Dr Paxton said all sorts of people, from locals to clergymen, have reported sightings.

He continued: "Everyone sees Nessie, from aristocrats and celebrities such as Gavin Maxwell and Compton Mackenzie to ordinary folk and children.

"Professions include cafe and hotel proprietors, chauffeurs, police inspectors, bank man-agers, students, town clerks, lorry drivers, clergymen, forestry workers, office workers, water bailiffs and fishermen."

In some cases, spotters saw Nessie more than once, as Dr Paxton notes: "These cases are very interesting because they allow us to consider whether certain witnesses have a tendency to see Nessie more than might be expected by chance alone."

Dr Paxton has trawled through old newspaper clippings, reports, books and records from the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau of the 1960s and 1970s, for all recorded sightings that peaked especially after the famous "surgeon's photograph" of 1934.

He explained: "Although the first recorded sighting of a monster-like creature at Loch Ness was by St Columba in 565AD, it was Mrs Mackay's sighting in 1933 that launched the myth. After the initial reports, there were traffic jams all around the loch. In 1933-1934, the Loch Ness monster became a massive global phenomena."

Willie Cameron, director of the Loch Ness Clansman Hotel, whose own father enjoyed one of the longest reported sightings on June 15, 1965, said he would be attending the conference. He added: "You know, it really isn't that surprising hoteliers round the loch have frequently reported sightings. We get up every morning and look out at the loch and look for Nessie. And yes, it's true – it is not bad for business."

Dr Paxton will be joined by Nessie experts who will talk about the biology of the loch, the history of the monster as a folkloric entity until 1933, the post-1933 history and the history of cinematic portrayals of the Loch Ness monster.