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Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

GUEST BLOGGER GLEN VAUDREY: Seeing is believing

Glen is a very new recruit to Planet CFZ. Indeed, we had never heard from him until a few months ago when he wrote - slightly diffidently - to us, asking whether he could write a volume in our ongoing series The Mystery Animals of The British Isles. We asked him for a proposed synopsis and a sample of his writing, and were overawed by what we received. Here was a man who loved both words and the countryside, and could use one to describe the other in poetic but always down to earth terms. We were beginning to come to the conclusion that here was someone that Bob Marley would have described as a `Natural Mystic`, when the final manuscript arrived, and we knew that we were right. So we asked him to be a guest blogger..
When looking for mystery creatures does our current knowledge affect our perception of what we are going to see? For example whenever I catch the briefest glimpse of a great northern diver as it swims past in the distance, would it ever even cross my mind that I might have seen a Great Auk if I didn’t already know what one looked like.

It was a little over a year ago on a particularly foggy day when I saw what I at first suspected to be a long necked sea serpent popping up its head in the most unusual of places, Stornoway harbour! After both the initial excitement of the sighting and the obligatory cursing at not having a camera upon me I soon realised that what I had been privileged to observe was not an unidentified sea serpent but rather a grey seal as it was periscoping, it raised what appeared to be getting on for nearly half its body clean out of the water as it struggled to see around.

The reason all this came to mind was that as I set about researching mystery animal sighting in the Hebrides I became aware that not all the things reported over the years were necessarily mystery animals, for instance there is one sighting of a long necked sea serpent the description of which sounds remarkably like a submarine.

But not all reports come out so negatively, on the Isle of Mull in the years leading up to the First World War there were reported sightings of a large mystery black dog. Fast forward a few decades to the late ’70s and reports start to appear of sightings of a large mystery black cat.

Maybe those two sighting are not connected in any way other than my mind running ahead of itself, but perhaps we should consider that if today you see a large black animal in the distance it is almost certainly chalked up as a cat because that’s what people see, even if the sighting might be couched with ‘I thought it was a dog till it moved’.

What then are the chances that those earlier mystery dog sighting had more to do with the viewer being secure in the knowledge that it had to be a dog because such a thing as a large black cat on the Isle of Mull just couldn’t possibly exist.

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