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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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Saturday, January 31, 2009

WHAT HAPPENED AT BOLAM LAKE

Tim was, I think, very brave to say what he did about his own experiences, in his article about the `Oz Factor` which we published this morning. I can appreciate that because, as he alluded in his article, something very strange happened to me almost exactly six years ago, in early 2003. So, for those who are not aware of it, I am republishing a piece I wrote for a popular magazine soon afterwards...

I am a scientist, and although my job entails traveling around the world investigating accounts of mystery animals, I have – nearly always – been able to provide a solid scientific explanation for the things that witnesses have reported. However, a couple of years back – almost three years to the day that I am writing this – I found myself in the position of being confronted with something that I really was unable to explain within any scientific frameworks…..

“What the hell was that?” I shouted as a giant man-like creature ran through the woods before me, illuminated only by the headlights of my Jaguar. It was well over 7 ft in height, thickly built, and was as fast as an Olympic athlete. But it wasn’t human. Was this in the forests of western China? In the foothills of the Himalayas? In the dense woods of the Pacific north-west of the USA? Nope. It was just after dusk, on a January evening, in a country park less than 40 miles from Newcastle city centre.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology is the only professional organisation in the world dedicated to research into mystery animals. In our time we have camped out on the shores of Loch Ness, searched through caves systems in Thailand for giant snakes, hunted Vampires in Puerto Rico, and trekked through swamps in Florida in search of the mysterious `Skunk Ape`. Just before Christmas 2002 we began to receive reports of a giant, hairy, ape-like creatures appearing in isolated tracts of woodland across the United Kingdom. We were sceptical at first, but we could not ignore these reports, and so without further ado we decided to go and investigate.

These things have been seen all over the country, but the biggest numbers of sightings were at an isolated country park – at Bolam in Northumberland. We have been investigating reports of strange animals around the world for 15 years now and we have the equipment to carry out investigations under all sorts of conditions. However, bizarrely, we have never gone on an expedition during an English winter before. However, over the years, we've got quite good at putting expeditions together on a shoestring and with only a couple of days to prepare ourselves.

Within days we were in a pub outside Newcastle with `Naomi` - a forty-year-old housewife who has asked to remain anonymous - and her fourteen-year-old son. `David`. She told us how – in the first week of January – they had been visiting the country park when they had an encounter with “a huge, black figure like an enormous shadow only dark and solid”, and she told us that even though the thing was standing still she had the feeling that it was “rushing at her”.

Another witness, Neil – a young man in his early twenties – reported how he had been night fishing at the lake with two friends. When they saw a giant figure “with shimmering eyes”, staring at them from out of the woods. On another occasion they were camping out when they heard the noise of a huge animal moving through the undergrowth outside their tent. They were too scared to look out, but in the morning their camp was wrecked and their bait was gone.

On our first day at the lake something very strange happened. Every piece of electrical equipment we had with me – including our mobile phones and the laptop computer – ended up with a flat battery, and strange noises were heard in the woods by several of our party. However, nothing could have prepared us for the shock, and thrill, of encountering the `beast` itself. Although our encounter lasted only a few seconds it has become indelibly etched into my brain, and I know it will remain with me forever.

What was it we saw that evening? I am certain that it wasn’t a man. It was too large and too fast. Could it have been an animal? As a scientist, although I am perfectly happy to admit the possibility that huge unknown species of ape can and do live in central Asia, and even in parts of North America, but no matter how hard I try, I cannot believe that there is an entire population of unknown great apes living in modern Britain undetected by man. It has to be something less tangible, a phantasm whose existence is governed by completely different rules of physics to anything that we as scientists presently know. If we could find out what it was, and how it can exist, then science would know a heck of a lot more about the workings of the universe than it does at the moment.

One thing is completely certain, however. Although I have seen many strange things and been to many strange places in my career as a monster hunter those few seconds in mid January was the weirdest thing that has ever happened to me, and I know that I will remember them for the rest of my life.

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