Loch Ness has emerged as the secret Scottish base of an international cult who believe Jesus was an alien.
A cottage on the remote eastern shore of the loch is owned by the Aetherius Society, whose members use it to “co-operate with the Gods from Space”.
The four-bedroomed property at picturesque Inverfarigaig, 16 miles from Inverness, boasts its own private pier from which society members take to the mysterious waters in hired boats.
The group says a giant “chakra” – or energy centre – exists in Loch Ness and can be used to help mankind in times of crisis.
They also think that Jesus was an extraterrestial and the Star of Bethlehem was a spaceship.
The Aetherius Society, which has its UK HQ in Fulham, London, and groups across the globe, has confirmed it bought the Loch Ness property about 40 years ago.
The purchase was made in the early 1970s by the founder of the society, Dr George King, originally from Shropshire, who died in 1997.
The presence of the cult is known by a handful of bemused and very tolerant locals, who describe their neighbours as pleasant and respectable.
Despite being barely a mile from the busy western shore of the loch, and just 16 miles from Inverness, the presence of the society has been kept secret from the outside world.
Mark Bennett, 34, is one of the society’s ten International Directors.
Mr Bennett, who is based in Fulham, said: “Beings from other planets are the cornerstone of our belief. They want to help us.
“I love Loch Ness, despite the weather. We visit frequently. We believe it has a special significance.
“We don’t hold events there for the public, it’s more something private for the Aetherius Society.
“It’s a very spiritual place to be.”
He added: “It is connected to the earth, which is a goddess. We believe that there are advanced intelligences within the cosmos and she is one of them.
“She has chakras, which you could say are gateways of energy, and one of them is in Loch Ness.
“We do chanting and mantras, dynamic prayer and positive visualisation. We believe it’s good for us and it’s good for the world.
“Extraterrestrials send out energy to us as well.They pray to us or they use certain equipment to send it out to humanity as well.
He added: “We find the locals very friendly. Last time I was up I was there I went up to the inn. I had a very nice specialty vodka with chilli in it. I just had one though.”
Asked about Nessie, he replied: “We don’t have any interest in the monster whatsoever.”
A local, who asked not to be named, said: “It’s called King’s House after their founder George King – it used to be the Pier House.
“When he used to come they put out a life ring out and they put out green baize at the end of the pier. He comes on a big white boat and they come out and run around like mad.
“They never try to put their beliefs onto anyone or anything like that.”
Nessie Hunter Steve Feltham, who has observed the loch for 24 years, said they were not the only ones to believe aliens are interested in Loch Ness.
Mr Feltham, who recently claimed the best explanation so far of Nessie was a large catfish, said: “There’s a guy working on a tour boat here who believes there is a spaceship on the bottom of the loch.
“There was a woman up here, I think she was from Denmark, who thinks the earth is hollow and Loch Ness is how spaceships are getting in.
“For me, it’s a more out-there idea but the final explanation is anyone’s guess.”
Loch Ness was the centre of a UFO mystery in June, after a photo taken by tourists showed two glowing shapes high above the water.
On Wednesday, the mystery appeared solved after a similar photo appeared showing the reflection of light bulbs on a holiday home window.
The Aetherius base on Loch Ness is less than a mile from Boleskine House, the former home of notorious 20th century “black magician” Aleister Crowley.