Saturday, February 28, 2009
I have just got back from a holiday in Italy. When I left, we still had snow here on the hills. I got back to snowdrops in full bloom, daffodils pushing through the turf, hens laying for England... amazing what a difference a week makes.
It’s only a matter of days before the local frogs start spawning – although there are some places in the Northern hills where last year’s tadpoles are still waiting to morph... The spring/summer season is too short and tends to be cold, slowing down the process to two years instead of one.
The toads will wait until the frogs are well into their spawning season before they will start, and their tadpoles are noticeable by being small and jet black, at a time when the frogs are turning mottled and growing legs.
The robin is singing his heart out and staking out his territory, as is the blackbird, but what really caught my eye yesterday was a pair of buzzards riding the thermals in a fantastic courtship display. The sun was shining off their backs and they just took my breath away.
But I blather... What I wanted to tell you about was a Creature from Pisa. We’d stopped off at the Botanic Gardens, close to the wobbly tower. My fella doesn’t notice things unless they are blatantly obvious, so he didn’t notice the THING that was living under the flaked sun-baked plaster peeling away from a building. It was small, black, and it was next-to-silent, and it disappeared into it’s broken plasterwork home when my shadow past it. I just caught a glimpse of a fast moving blackness, so obviously, I stopped walking and watched.
It took about 3 seconds to re-appear – a quick flicker of jet black something, which hid again as soon as it realised I was still there. A few seconds later, and I was rewarded by a similar performance, but I still didn’t know what it was. I’d guessed at a lizard, a gecko perhaps, or a bat maybe... or even a huge mother**cking spider... So I did what ANY self-respecting Beast-Hunter would do... I broke a bit of the plaster off. It had lifted anyway, and wasn’t doing the building any good.
The THING hid deeper in the plasterwork, and so I broke more off. I just wanted to see what it was, you understand.... By this time, my absence had been noticed, and himself had come back to find me. He was horrified to find me “demolishing a building” as soon as his back was turned, and insisted that I stop my destruction immediately.
I said “...but there’s a THING...” but he wasn’t having any of it. I broke one more bit of plaster off, for luck, and realised that the THING was in fact some sort of lizard, before I was lead away to look at plants. I don’t think RyanAir would approve of me smuggling a reptile into Liverpool Airport, so it’s perhaps as well that I was lead away when I was.... But, girls and boys, I ask you – wouldn’t you have done the same?
Jan Edwards, Head of Animal Care
Farplace Animal Rescue - the no-kill animal sanctuary
Farplace, Sidehead, Westgate, County Durham, DL13 1LE
A week or so ago I made a certain tongue in cheek prediction about the surrealchemical follow through that would most likely result from the advent of what I dubbed the Falmouth Bay cattything. Guess what was advertised in the pub wherein Maxy, Corinna and I found ourselves in the Holloway Rd last saturday night?
The other night I caught the American show Monster Hunter, wherein host Josh Gates is sent all across the globe in search of real monsters. It sounds great, but it isn't. Josh spends only a miniscule amount of time in each location, the research is non-existent and Josh has no zoological knowledge whatsoever.
A case in point was the show. I wasted an hour of my life watching the other night. Josh and his team had been sent to New Britain to look for a 'dinosaur'. Despite the fact that the beast had supposedly eaten three dogs, it was labelled as an 'iguanodon'. Iguanodon was a herbivore.
The actual sighting took place on the island in 2004. It occured near the village of Rabaul. Witness Christine Samei reported a 30 foot, grey scaled beast as thick as a 900 litre water tank. It reared up on its hind legs some ten feet tall. The monster ate several dogs and a search was launched, with armed soldiers carrying M16s. Nothing was found.
New Guinea and the surrounding islands are well known for such encounters. In 1960, a number of people in Papua New Guinea were supposedly killed by dragons that were over 20 feet long, stood on their hind legs and spat fire. Villagers built stockades to protect themselves. Officials from the government looked into the attacks and examined the bodies of the victims, but failed to find the monsters.
In the same year, Lindsay Green and Fred Kleckhan, administration agricultural officers, were shown skin and part of a jaw from a giant lizard.
Robert Grant and David George were exploring the Strachen Island district in 1961 when they saw a grey lizard some 26 feet long lying on a log. Its neck alone was 3 feet in length.
In 1969, explorer David M Davis was shown Papuan cave paintings of a giant bipedal lizard.
Fast forward to the mid 1980s and our own Colonel John Blashford Snell was told of an upright walking, fire-spitting dragon on New Guinea. The locals called it Artrellia. One story concerned a warrior who sat on a 'log' that turned out to be a giant lizard that reared up ten feet tall.
On a baited stakeout, the Colonel himself caught a glimpse of a lizard with a head the size of a horse’s head. A local shot a young specimen of an Artrellia some 6 feet long. It turned out to be a salvadori dragon (Varanus salvadori). They are the world’s longest lizard growing to 15 feet. But most of that is taken up by the lengthy tail, so they do not have the bulk of a Komodo dragon. Could the salvadori dragon grow far bigger than we know?
In 1999, two separate groups of people spotted a monster at Lake Murry near Boroko. It had crocodile like skin, a long tail, thick hind legs and smaller front ones. Varanids or monitor lizards can rear up on their hind legs using the tail as a support. The spitting flames could refer to the red and orange fork tongue they shoots in and out like a flickering flame.
CFZ member Bry Morgan visited New Guinea a couple of years back and was told that the truly giant lizards were not Artrellia but the war (pronounced whaar) dragon. One chief told him of seeing a war dragon 25 feet long. It had grey scales. Bry was also allowed to take home a small piece of preserved skin from one of these beasts. Our friend Dr Lars Thomas examined it at the University of Copenhagen, but sadly the DNA was too badly damaged from being in direct sunlight to be of use.
Could a giant 20-30 foot monitor lizard be existing on New Guinea? It makes more sense than a living dinosaur, especially a flesh eating Iguanodon!
'Monster Hunter' is a waste of time and money. Despite having all the financial backing anyone could want, an amazing array of equipment and transport, Josh achieves nothing. The reason? He spends so little time actually looking for the cryptids. In the New Guinea episode, he wastes time searching for the supposed 'Ri' mermaid. This was identified as a dugong well over a decade ago. In another episode, where he is searching for the Kongamanto, a supposed living pterosaur, he films what any ten year old could tell you is a bat. He excitedly takes this back to experts in the States who tell him 'it’s a bat'.
To add insult to injury we have expeditions backed by creationist loonies who think that finding dinosaurs will prove their crackpot young earth theories. It seems that everyone except the CFZ, the ones who really deserve it, are getting funding and wasting it. If I had half the budget of 'Monster Hunter' I think I would have found at least one cryptid.
Indeed, so fascinated am I by it, I even wrote a book about the damned critter!
The story essentially had its origins in 1879, when a man walking home late at night, and with his horse-and-cart in-tow, claimed to have been attacked by a bizarre ape-man style beast with shining eyes that ultimately vanished into the night.
Not only that: the beast was distinctly spectral in nature, as can be evidenced by the fact that the man said that as he struck it with his horse-whip, the whip actually passed right through its hairy body!
More intriguing: sightings of the Man-Monkey have abounded in the area ever since. Indeed, I think my current count of cases, sightings and incidents is upwards of 30 - and which covers the period from the early 20th Century and right up until September 2005.
But now, there is a fascinating development in the saga - and maybe, just maybe, it may open some doors to the question of what the Man-Monkey really was, is, or may have been.
The story comes via Fortean expert and author Mike Dash.
As Dash says, just recently he was leafing through a copy of the December 8, 1878 edition of Sheldrake's Aldershot & Sandhurst Military Gazette, and came across the following story in its pages:
CAPTURING A GORILLA IN SHROPSHIRE
For a fortnight past the district around Madely Wood, Salop, has been in a state of intense excitement, by the alleged depredations committed by a gorilla, which is said to have escaped from a wild beast menagerie travelling to Bridgnorth.
The animal was stated to have first made his appearance in the neighbourhood of that town, where in the darkness of the night it was severally seen by a clergyman and a policeman, both of whom fled.
It is also said to have appeared at several places in the immediate neighbourhood. A few evenings since the occupier of a house in Madely Wood went to bed at a reasonable hour, with the greater portion of his family, leaving his “gude wife” up, who took the opportunity to visit a neighbour, leaving the door open and a candle burning.
Returning in a short time, she was horrified at seeing a bent form, with a goodly array of gray hair around its face, crouching over the expiring embers of the fire, apparently warming itself, the light having gone out.
Too frightened to shriek, she ran to her neighbours, who quickly armed themselves with pokers, iron bars, guns, and pitchforks and other instruments of a similar character, and marched in a body to capture the gorilla.
The form was seen sitting at the fire, but evidently aroused by the approaching body, rose to its full height and revealed the figure of an eccentric character well known in the neighbourhood as “Old Johnny,” who seeing the door open had quietly walked in to light his pipe, accidentally “puffed” the candle out, and was very near being captured, if not exterminated, in mistake for an escaped gorilla.
The animal has not been heard of since.
Well, this is indeed fascinating: the story surfaced only one month before the Man-Monkey was seen - and in the same English county of Shropshire, no less.
And as Mike astutely notes:
"Old Johnny and his humorous encounter make for an interesting story, and it's easy to see why the journalist who wrote the piece focused on him. As published, though, the article ignores the central question of what became of Shropshire's mysterious 'gorilla'. The wild-beast-escaped-from-a-travelling menagerie is a common motif in out of place animal stories, as Mick Goss demonstrated years ago in a Fortean Times article on the mysterious crocodile of Cefn Caves - itself just over the border in north Wales. But it would be an ambitious showman who kept an animal as dangerous as a gorilla in a travelling show."
Indeed, Mike is right: numerous stories, tales and rumors of "circus escapees" (in Britain , in the U.S. and elsewhere) have been trotted out time and again to account for sightings of exotic animals having been seen in areas where they have no business roaming.
A perfect case in point is Britain's big-cats.
For example, in his classic title Cat Flaps, British Fortean author Andy Roberts discussed a wave of "big-cat" sightings in the English county of Yorkshire in the 1980s. One particular series of encounters led one commentator to tell Andy that: "They all come from Knaresborough Zoo, you know."
Of course, there was no evidence at all that the zoo had lost any big-cats - yet such tales and theories often spring up in such situations.
So, is that what happened back in 1878?
Had someone - or, as the Gazette's story suggests, several people - seen a weird Bigfoot-like entity that was subsequently explained (without any actual evidence to support the notion), as having escaped from a "travelling menagerie"?
Or, incredibly, was the story actually true?
Could there really have been a travelling menagerie from which a gorilla made a successful bid for freedom? And if so, did it ultimately find its way one dark and winter night in January 1879 to the heart of the Shropshire Union Canal, where it scared the you-know-what out of the man who had the misfortune to encounter it?
Perhaps further digging will unravel the puzzle.
Could it really be the case that a fully-grown gorilla briefly made its home in the wilds of Shropshire before probably succumbing to starvation and the effects of a harsh winter? Of course, that would not explain the seemingly spectral nature of the beast reported at the canal - nor would it explain how sightings of the same beast have continued until the present day.
Unless, that is, what people are seeing today could be the ghostly-form of the long-dead gorilla; forever doomed to haunt and wander the tree-shrouded, old canal...
But, bringing animal ghosts into the story is a whole different kettle of fish that I will keep for another day!
Suffice to say for now, however, Mike Dash has made a highly significant breakthrough in a story that - despite its age - never seems to go away.
For further information, see the following links:
1. Mike Dash's original article.
2. A post on this development at Cabinet of Wonders.
28th February: CRYPTOZOOLOGY: In the wake of yesterday's posting about the Borneo giant snake pictures, we take a look at just how difficult it is to fake such an image.
Click here for further details...
28th February: CRYPTOZOOLOGY: The latest developments from Falmouth Bay re. the cattything
Click here for further details...
28th February: CFZ NEWS: Oll Lewis brings you yesterday's news today! The puns are worse and the tea better
Click here for further details...
28th February: CFZ PRESS: Warning - A pirate edition of Karl Shuker's book
Click here for further details...
We will keep you up to date with what happens as and when we can.....
The latest news stories are: Ancient whale bones found in San Diego, an orang-utan that whistles, a pretty groovy looking new fish species, a mobile phone found in a fish (a new spin on the old missing ring being found in a fish story?), Turtles under threat, elephants being put to work in a circus, pictures of the massive stingray and cows taking over a Chinese railway station.
Seriously, no ‘bull’ about that, the cows are just roaming around that station and showing no signs of ‘cow’towing to convention.
Friday, February 27, 2009
Congratulations my dears, and may the blessings and good wishes of an ageing hippy and the world's largest cryptozoological research group be with you both...
So Shiela Bird has come out of the woodwork to report that she has also seen the strange semi-bipedal cattything of the woods between Maenporth and Mawnan. Shiels and her brother first entered crytpozoological circles in the mid 1980s when author Graham McEwan reported in his book The Mystery Animals of Britain and Ireland that she and her brother had seen Morgawr.
I interviewed her in the early 1990s but decided not to include her testimony in my book The Owlman and Others. Doc asked me to point out that Sheila Bird had never been "Shiels's bird".
Sheila is a well known local author who has been around for many years. She was very kind to my ex-wife and me when we visited her, and told us stories of UFOs and seaserpents. The fact that she saw the cattything should not really surprise us..
Nicholas R continues his investigations into the BHM sightings in the Midlands. We were there some years ago with a UK weatherman who for some reason was making a tongue in cheek paranormal TV series for daytime television here in the UK. We were spectacularly short of money at the time and agreed to take part..
Animals been seen in the Loch for centuries. As it surely can’t be the same creatureif it is an unknown animal, there must have been a breeding colony to continue to be seen over the years. It has always been said that the Loch doesn’t connect to the sea and therefore no large creatures could have come that way to breed. There is new evidence to say that this isn’t true.
British and U.S. scientists claim they have evidence that the sea extended into Loch Ness at two points in history: after the Ice Age in Europe (125,000 years ago) and 12,800 years ago. A geologist working with a research team in 2001 noticed the clay on the anchor of their boat looked different from other deposits found in the same part of the Loch. Carbon dating and amino-acid testing on the clay indicated that it contained clams and sea urchin spines from both 12,800 and 125,000 years ago. This discovery would tend to lend credence to the theory that large animals could have become trapped in the Loch as the water receded back to the sea. Source: The Press and Journal (North Scotland). Food for thought indeed.
The Daily Mirror describes the latest rather dubious giant snake photographs from Borneo (see yesterday's post) as a "clever piece of photo editing". Having too much time on my hands and a copy of adobe photoshop I decided to see just how clever a piece of photo editing it actually was.
12:20 I open Adobe Photoshop and Google Earth
12:22 I find Bideford Bay on Google Earth and press the "print screen" button on my keyboard
12:24 The cat comes into the office and jumps on the keyboard
12:25 I swear at the cat
12:26 I start again
12:28 After a bit of mucking about I have the following image as a *.jpg on photoshop
12:30 I then type the words 'swimming snake' into Goodle.com/images and find This URL
12:32 I download this picture
12:34 The cat comes back in and jumps onto my lap. We make friends again and I waste several minutes fussing him
23:36 Using the magic eraser tool I do a fairly half-arsed job at getting ridof the background and produce this:
12:38 With the cat still on my knee I paste the snake image onto the image of the Torridge Estuary. I then blur it a little bit, and making sure that I have an opacity of about 40% I resize the snake and cover it with a pasted image of the muddy water.
12:40 We have this - conclusive proof that giant snakes swim up and down the River Torrisge between Bideford and Appledore.
If I had paid more attention to the job in hand, rather than only taking twenty minutes (most of which was spent alternatively playing with the cat, or remonstrating him for his sins) I could have done a much more convincing job.
So If the Daily Mirror really thinks that the Borneo image is a "clever piece of photo editing" can I have a job in the Art Department? I am, sure that they pay more than I earn at the moment..
Today, or yesterday as you read this, we heard about the following: Frank Tunbridge’s determination to catch the Stroud big cat on camera, more details about the Thailand super stingray catch, Plans to boost Belarus’ economy with frog farming, A family of tree nesting foxes, A fishy fossil gives clues to the origins of sexual intercourse and Falmouth historian and author, Sheila Bird’s encounter with a cat like animal.
Apparently Mrs Bird must have been ‘feline’ quite shook up by the encounter as she ‘pussy’ed out of reporting her sighting publicly at the time.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
I have always been interested in natural hybrids (rather than man made, or human induced ones) and I have certainly not heard of this little fellow before. To find out more...
We are in new territory. The CFZ is making remarkable progress because we have been able to bring a diverse group of people together, get them working as a team and start to make a real difference not just within the cosy world of Cryptozoology but within local communities and beyond. Indeed, on the internet, we have the potential to reach anyone. And we are reaching new people all the time.
This has not always gone down too well with vested interests who want things to remain as they are, or have been, or who seek to make Cryptozoology their own personal cash cow. Others fear Cryptozoology becoming mainstream and seek to remain a big fish in a small pond. This selfish thinking has bedevilled this thing of ours since Heuvelmans first started writing about it….
It is fascinating to speak with people who are new to the subject because they approach it from so many angles. Often, because of his workload, Jon Downes puts the new people on to me to determine see where their interests lie - this is a vast subject - and how we can help them get the most from their involvement with us.
What emerges, through the long conversations I tend to have with “new recruits”, is that, despite all the information we put on the websites and blogs, there are serious misperceptions out there; about what we, what we stand for and what Cryptozoology is.
To an extent one has to generalise about this because it is impossible to include everyone’s comments, but many of my correspondents seem to believe that this subject is the “rare species version” of the X Files. They either hope or believe that we are, or should be, nattily dressed investigators in flash cars with the latest technology at our disposal as we intrepidly run through the woods chasing monsters with teams of supporters watching monitors in real time.
This, of course, is not the case, but when Cryptozoology is seen as an adjunct to science fiction we have more work to do than we might have initially expected. True, some of us initially became involved with the CFZ because we’d been done UFO or Paranormal research or had investigated or taken an interest in an unusual case involving animals (animal “mutilations”, “abductions” or big cat sightings for example). Happily, most of us (!) have grown up and our interests have diversified or, even, specialised.
What is the function of Cryptozoology? What is it for and what is the CFZ for? As the CFZ grows it is true to say that we speak for the vast majority of Cryptozoologists and are involved with the majority of active Cryptozoologists. Nevertheless, there are very few people actually out there doing anything. Much of the support for the subject is passive and fickle. A harsh lesson to learn but a realistic appraisal based on recent experience.
The CFZ website has an outreach and educational function which is why we do not spend the vast majority of time talking about Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster. Yes, these subjects are of marginal interest but the quality of evidence relating to them is poor. It is surprising that people are still so interested in them when we have so many stories available via CFZ and natural history websites that suggest that rare, little known and rediscovered species are found almost weekly and that there are new species being discovered as often. And yet, despite their importance, we are still fending off questions like, “what do you think of the Patterson Bigfoot film” or “what about Nessie?”
Sometimes, it is more interesting to ask why people are so interested in these things when we consistently show that Cryptozoology is much more than repeating and regurgitating questionable data about supposed “famous cases“. It seems that we have a job of education to do and the CFZ accepts this role. Ufology has Roswell, the Paranormalists have their medieval castles and hooded monks and, until recently, Cryptozoology has been tied to “Bigfoot and the Hendersons“. Things have now changed…
The CFZ is moving in a new direction. At heart, we are a community of amateur naturalists. That, of course, means we are a broad church, but looking at the subject in this way keeps us firmly rooted in reality and in science. Indeed, I suggest that we have little or nothing in common with Mulder and Scully and everything in common with Durrell and Attenborough. We probably always did. That is the key to understanding who we are and where we are going and this must be emphasised and repeated as often as possible. If you want to sit on a hillside looking at aircraft lights and pretend that you’re seeing alien spacecraft then please go elsewhere and leave us alone! If you want to chase ghosts then please sign up to Most Haunted and volunteer to be fooled at their next live TV show!
If you want to indulge your love for nature and all her mysteries then your place is with us. If you want to find the mysterious in the world around us you needn’t look far. If you want to understand about Life on Earth there is no better way to do this by joining the CFZ community.
If you want to be the person to discover a new species or uncover one of nature’s perfect aberrations then the CFZ is the first step on your road to salvation.
Meanwhile, the CFZ is a growing community not only in cyberspace but on the ground as we involve ourselves in all manner of campaigns, groups and causes. It might not be that racey, but you’re more likely to find a CFZ supporter doing a local nature watch, a bit of bird spotting, volunteer work at a local zoo or, even, helping toads across the road! When the CFZ gains charitable status, you will see moving further into community projects and developing the range of activities we offer to the Amateur Naturalist.
Times have changed and we have changed with them. It is more practical for us to be involved in real projects rather than dreaming about getting “that photo” of Bigfoot.
It is, perhaps, that simple……
I am now on day 4 of my UK Tour, after my report on Saturday which may well have been prosaic, but also did describe how I found the events at BugFest SW. I returned briefly home for 2 nights. Sunday was uneventful and passed off as you would expect, and with a tidy of my car boot, I was then ready to continue the tour.
Monday, having spent hours trying to do the impossible, I worked out that the “View” from Windows might be very pretty, but I have grown to XPect more from my computers and was very let down. Then started the night of a 1000 feet.
Firstly, while feeding Ragyle (my ever-loving canine sidekick) I found a small mouse in the food barrel, jumped a mile into the area and screamed like a girl; trying to hide behind any available object . On finding none there, hid the other side of Mum. I then left the kitchen while the little rodentine friend was removed.
It is not the mouse itself I am scared of - it is the suddenness of it scuttling. I then went to bed in the hope of an early night to find that every time I put the light out, the munching and scratching and other onomatopoeia round my bed grew deafeningly closer. So having worked out there was nowhere else I could go to sleep, and having spoken to my Kentucky friend, I put my TV and light on very loud and sat, hunched in a ball (that makes you sound like a hamster Ed.) in the middle of my bed.
At 4.30 this morning (Tuesday) I went back online to sort my day out, and emailed my sister to put bait down in my room while I was gone, packed the car and headed off on the latest leg on my tour, which - after a day’s teaching and an evening with a Uni friend and the football - sees me sat in a bunk in Exeter writing this to you all.
I am hoping that while I am in Exeter I will get the chance to meet up with 2 other people who said they might be free for dinner while I am here. When I texted one of these people to find out how she was doing, she sent no reply for ages and then the reply to “ so how is your evening looking” simple said “ TOUGH! X” I have to admit I am not sure what that means, but I hope that if she is having a day that is less “TOUGH” she will be back in touch.
As I have to be up at the crack of dawn tomorrow to go and teach again, I will sign off now and hit the send button so Uncle Jon can read and add this to the Blogosphere. Not that I expect it will get to him much before lunchtime tomorrow as the place I am teaching at, and the Youth Hostel, have WiFi that is very slow!
It has to be said, however, that on the whole these people are pretty bloody efficient. We have been with them since 2002 with only a few cock-ups...
We are also hoping for a speedy solution to the log-jam at our printers which is holding up the production of the hard copy version of The Amateur Naturalist #9. However, you can still buy the much cheaper digital version by using the link at the top right hand of this bloggo page.
All sorts of things are going wrong at the moment, and if I was the sort of paranoid conspiracy theorist whho believes in such things I would be convinced that "the man" is out to get me. Of course he's not. But "the man" is notoriously inefficient, and not very bright, and so when (as has happened to me this week) a whole string of people make accounting errors, screw up their procedures, deny us service for no apparent reason, refuse to answer their telephone calls, or suddenly re-route their help-desk through to a call centre in Utar Pradesh where no-one speaks The Queen's English (no, whoops you had better ignore that last comment. These days it is apparently `racist` to expect someone in the HELP department of an English company to be able to make themselves understood to their customers).
So, no. I am not paranoid. I don't think "they" are out to get me. But I am cross, frustrated, and convinced that this poor stupid little country of ours has gone to the dogs.....
Sorry for the rant
The Caribbean monk seal was a relatively small seal, the upperparts nearly uniform brown, tinged with gray; the sides paler; and the underparts pale yellow or yellowish white.
It was the only member of the Pinnipeds ( seals, sea-lions and walruses), ever to have been found in the tropical New World. The first documented sightings by Westerners took place in 1494 when they are less a personage than Christopher Columbus observed a herd of what he described as “sea wolves” on the coast of Santo Domingo. He promptly ordered his crew to kill eight of the animals for food. This was only the beginning of centuries of horrific exploitation of this vulnerable species which continued up until the 20th century.
Although the creature had actually been known since the 15th century, Museum specimens were not acquired until nearly 400 years later and very little is known about its biology. It appears that these animals preferred shallow sandy beaches for their breeding grounds, and this made them particularly vulnerable to predation from man. While on land they were sluggish and had no fear of man, a trait that permitted their slaughter to the point of extinction. In former years they were used extensively as a source of oil.Apparently, the young were born in early December because several females killed in the Triangle Keys during this time had well-developed foetuses.
The Caribbean monk seal was already rare by the 1700s, because it had not only been hunted for food but it was persecuted by who believe that they were threatening fish stocks but the species just about managed to survive. The last recorded Caribbean Monk Seal in the United States was killed in 1922 off the coast of Key West in Florida and the last confirmed sighting occurred off Seranilla Bank - between Jamaica and Honduras, where a small colony was known to have lived - in 1952.
Monk seals are amongst the most primitive pinnipeds, they are particularly vulnerable to environmental change and encroachment. Both of the other two species - the Mediterranean, and the Hawaiian monk seals are highly endangered and look unlikely to survive unless great efforts are made to preserve the species. In response to recent unconfirmed Caribbean monk seal sightings in areas within their historical range, surveys have been carried out as late as 1993, but to no avail.
However, all may not be quite lost. In an extraordinary new book called Mysterious Creatures George M. Eberhart gives us some hope of that these sad little animals may possibly have survived when he notes that 16 out of 93 Haitian and Jamaican fishermen interviewed in 1997 claimed to have seen at least one monk seal in the previous two years. If this is true - and everybody in the Cryptozoological research community sincerely hopes and prays that it is - then humanity may possibly have been granted a rare second chance to preserve an animal for posterity rather than destroying it.
Watch this space.
In 1777, an Arthur Trumble visited Brazil and brought home with him a variety of strange and large beetles and insects and creeping arachnids. Unfortunately, most of these creatures were dead by the time he got off the plane, but one particular specimen was an huge spider which he plucked from the Amazon jungle. Trumble conducted lectures on his expeditions, but one day was horrified to learn that his monstrous spider had escaped, and so was born the legend of the ‘Spider of Stock’. It is alleged that one elderly lady died of a heart attack after spying the eight-legged crawler, but once winter enveloped the area, many who’d become unnerved by the alleged spider’s presence, felt they could breathe a sigh of relief as surely the spider would have perished in the coldest weather.
During the early 1900s, sightings and legend still persisted in reference to an enormous spider which many locals called the ‘ghost spider’. The creature would often spring upon those sleeping and then scuttle out of sight, leaving many to believe that the area of Stock was indeed haunted by this legend.
In 1974 Mrs Gloria Craven from Hedingham saw a spider the size of a dinner plate, slowly creeping up her husband’s jacket sleeve. So terrified was she by the sight that she attempted to batter it with a heavy book, but instead smashed her husband on the back of his neck. This was the last sighting of the monstrous thing.
Charlie Marshall attempted to be a bit of a local Spring-Heeled Jack and steal the thunder of the monster spider. His antics, which he performed for a few coins in his bowler hat, involved climbing up the local church tower, and writhing up the tall, cold chimney of the local pub, where on one occasion he failed to return. It is believed the ‘spiderman’ of Stock died, wedged in one of the chimneys, or indeed the legend, or possibly the ghost of the monster spider, had devoured the imitator, intent on cashing in on the monster legend.
Most witnesses report a creature as big as a man with four limbs and a sloping back covered in fur. The creature is sometimes seen ‘standing up’ on its hind limbs, but invariably seems to run on all four legs. Attacks attributed to Nandi bears are usually extremely violent in nature and the creature is said to have a taste for brains, often scalping its victims and cracking open skulls as if they were egg shells. Occasionally witnesses attribute feats of athleticism to the Nandi bear like being able to leap two metre high fences in a single bound and jump to the top of huts. It is also said to emit fearsome noises before or immediately after killing that can strike fear into all but the bravest of men.
Heuvelmans postulated that the reported Nandi bears that bore a resemblance to large baboons could be caused by sightings of a surviving example of Simopithecus (a supposedly extinct gorilla sized ancestor of modern baboons). There is little evidence however to suggest that Simopithecus, now renamed as Theropithecus oswaldi and Theropithecus brumpti, survived into the Holocene. (See picture at top)
However, the sightings of giant baboon-like animals, that make up the bulk of Nandi bear reports, might have been caused by… giant baboons. The average height of a male olive baboon (Papio anubis) is 70cm but occasionally baboons do get reported of a larger size and most baboon species can hybridise with each other. Baboon hybrids have not been widely studied, but there are several baboon populations known to contain hybrids, including several in Ethiopia, and it is certainly within the realms of possibility that some hybrids could be a lot larger than most other baboons. Colonel C.R.S. Pitman reported an outsize race of baboons in the Mabira forest, which locals claimed were as big as men. Eventually he acquired a very large specimen and sent it to the Natural History Museum in London who identified it as an example of Papio anubis.
As well as giant baboons, there are other potentially cryptozoological creatures that have been classed as Nandi bears; the ‘giant hyenas’. In East Africa itself this form of Nandi bear is known as the chimiset or chemosit. In 1928 Captain William Hichens recalled when he had been sent to a Nandi village to investigate the death of a 6 year old girl allegedly caused by a chimiset that had smashed its way though a huts mud wall just to get to her. The village chief informed the Captain that the chimiset usually inhabited a small, forested hill 5 miles from the village and Hichens set off to investigate with his hunting dog.
Captain Hichens’s search was unsuccessful, but one night he set up his tent and went to sleep having tethered his dog to one of the tent poles. During the night Hichens was awoken by a blood curdling scream and the tent collapsing upon him. When he escaped from the tangled mess his tent had become he saw a trail of blood across the sand along the route that an animal, presumably the chimiset, had taken his dog’s body after snatching him. Hitchens later recalled the scream emitted by the chimiset was more frightening than the roar or a lion, the trumpeting of a maddened cow-elephant or a trapped leopard. Alongside the blood trail were paw-prints 4 times larger than a man’s hand, which showed the imprints of claws. The prints reminded Hichens of a lion but without retractable claws and the size was much larger than any lion he had seen, and Hichens had seen some pretty big lions in his time. Hichens followed the trail at dawn with some men from the village and found it led to the forested hill where the chimiset was reputed to live, but he found nothing.
Hichens certainly didn’t think that the chimiset was a hyena, saying that explanation seemed more like an evasion than an explanation because hyenas are as common around African ones as rabbits around English villages. Hyenas cannot do many of the things ascribed to Nandi bears by witnesses like standing on their hind legs and jumping over fences almost 2 metres high, but hyenas CAN account for some sightings. Remains of hyenas twice the size of the common spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) have been found in Kenya. In the late 1950s Douglas Hutton, the manager of a tea plantation in Nandi, shot two such animals and after workers at the tea plantation had viewed them the bodies were left to have the flesh cleaned off them by ants and the bones were sent to Nairobi Museum to be examined. Frustratingly all the museum came back with was that it was a giant forest hyena, which could mean just about anything and didn’t attribute the bones to any known species and did not state whether or not they were the bones of a new or un-described species. Karl Shuker has postulated that some Nandi bear reports may be sightings of the short-faced or giant hyena (Pachycrocuta brevirostris), which is thought to have become extinct 500,000 years ago.
Giant baboons and giant hyenas are both plausible explanations for Nandi bear sightings, but there have also been some candidates that have been proposed over the years that are a lot less likely. Chalicothere were creatures related to horses rhinoceroses and tapirs, that had a sloping back as a result of their front limbs being longer than their back limbs that are thought to have become extinct 3.5 million years ago. It would seem that the only reason they have been suggested as a possible explanation for the Nandi bear is their sloped back. The fact that they are thought to be long extinct and that they were herbivores does count against them. Another suggested candidate for Nandi bear sightings is the Atlas bear (Ursus arctos crowtheri). This is also complete poppycock, not because the Atlas bear is supposedly extinct, although there are occasional reports that may refer to it, so it may yet still exist in very small isolated populations, but because there is no evidence of Atlas bears south of the Sahara desert and also because, despite the name, the Nandi bear is not actually a bear.
26th February: CRYPTOZOOLOGY: Tony Lucas takes a look at giant eels in New Zealand
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26th February: CRYPTOZOOLOGY: Neil Arnold is on the radio talking about monsters
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26th February: CFZ APPEALS: We need your help. Volunteers please..
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26th February: CFZ PEOPLE: Matt Osborne on bugfest..
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26th February: CFZ NEWS: Oll Lewis take's a look at yesterday's news with only one stupid pun..
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A record-breaking stingray catch in Thailand, a Brazilian werewolf attack, a plan to magnetise crocodiles, a worm causing a computer to die, a cat that can answer the phone, a frog with 7 legs, Edinburgh zoo talking pandas, Indians after some lions, an international zoo conference in Pakistan, shape changing coral, A beaver turning up in Fife a year early, a horse slaughterhouse bill in Montana, a dinosaur missing link found in Argentina and a critically endangered Saharan cheetah captured on camera.
When I first heard about the Saharan cheetah being filmed I thought that they must have been ‘lion’, until I saw the photos.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
New England's WCIN Radio may be well known for its jazz and folk music, but listen to what DJ Mark Lynch uncovered when he interviewed author Neil Arnold about his book, MONSTER! THE A-Z OF ZOOFORM PHENOMENA. A surreal safari indeed...winged men, varying hellhounds, Asian vampires, Noodleman, urban monster legends, the goatsucker, the Yorkshire maggot, Mothman...
Our good friend Tony Lucas has donated us scans of his collection of New Zealand cryptozoological press cuttings, none of which I had seen before, and which I suspect will be completely new to anyone who does not live in New Zealand. As soon as they have fixed our FTP access, I will be posting them to the archive department so that they can be freely downloaded by anyone who is interested.
Do YOU have a collection of crypto or fortean press cuttings? Or copies of pre 1060 fortean, cryptozoological, or natural history magazines, newsletters or journals? If so, would you consider scanning them in, and sharing them with the rest of the cryptozoological community?
Whatever you have to contribute, we want to hear from you, so please do get in touch!
The largest Eel caught was officially recorded at 5ft in length and weighed an estimated 46lb. There is, however rumour of an Eel captured at Lake Waitapiti weighing 120lb. Other rumours abound from different regions of Eels reaching 7-10 feet in length, having a girth as thick as a mans thigh and weighing on average around 80-100 lbs.
How do they get so big you may well ponder? It's all to do with age and senility.
The females of both species are generally bigger than the males; from this we can therefore deduce any extremely large Eel is going to be female. Another supposition that can be made is the fact that the Long-finned Eel is larger than the Short-finned. It is therefore safe to infer that any Eel of giant proportions must be a female Long-finned Eel.
Both species feed on living and dead flesh.
Not having any predatory species of fish in this country, such as Pike ect, they are the top freshwater predator in the lakes and rivers. Accounts of giant Eels, or Eel-like creatures, date back to the time of early Maori colonisation. One engrossing account comes from the Bay of Plenty, in the North Island, from an area near what is now Whakatane.
A giant Eel-like creature known as Tuna Tuoro occupied a local river, it is said that its touch was able to paralyse a person. Could this be an account of some hereto unknown species of Electric Eel?
A more contemporary account refers to a farmer from the Wairarapa region of the North Island.
As is the practice on many farms, he had just dispatched a sheep to feed his dogs.
At the top of a small cliff with a stream running below it, he proceeded to dress the animal, hurling the offal over the cliff to the stream below. Suddenly, he heard a loud turmoil coming from the base of the cliff and looked below to see the water boiling as two colossal Eels tugged at each end of the scrap of offal he had just thrown over the cliff.
With the copious food supply, lack of competition and ample ideal habitat you would think more Eels of giant stature would be captured. These giants, however, stick to the deep waters and it is said are intelligent enough to know all the tricks to remain hidden from the sight of man.
I meanwhile took an altogether quieter approach and sat in the main reception ensuring that Jon was covered from afar. Daleks of various colour schemes with a desire for Human Death cruised past and people had to keep their feet out of the way, rumour has it to be run over by a Dalek make your foot “EXCRUCIATE”!
A number of people passing commented on my CFZ Scarf as the stiches flew onto the needles.
For the record, they are:
CRYPTOZOOLOGY: Naomi and Ritchie went to San Antonio, and all they brought me was this lousy Jackalope! Excellent video report from our Texas correspondents! We are all very proud of them - they have done brilliantly!
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CRYPTOZOOLOGY: Muirhead is back in the archives of a north country newspaper. He finds interesting stuff about entombed bats and toads. How does the bloody man do it?
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CRYPTOZOOLOGY: Over in Illinois, Derek Grebner is back! And so, it seems, are the pumas.
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FORTEAN: As Redfern is wont to say - there's somethging in the woods (although I suspect that it is a publicity stunt)
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Lady Henrietta is on her way over to see us, so I will endeavour to post the revisions to the front page later on if FTP access has been enabled. In the meantime...ENJOY
They have done magnificently, and I cannot thank them enough. I have a whole string of other projects waiting for them LOLOL
As we reported the other day, no sooner had Jack announced a forthcoming lecture bemoaning the dearth of werewolves in contemporary culture, than werewolves started popping out of the woodwork and appearing allover the CFZ bloggo. We originally thought that this was just a coincidence, but now - after the latest werewolf news - that Jack Ashby has to be to blame.
According to the complaint, the creature scratched the face and arms of the victim. The police informed that Kelly underwent medical examination, where the wounds were confirmed. Officers also claim they will investigate if someone is using a werewolf costume to scare people.
So, nexct time you are in Gower Street, London, and you see an angry mob with pitchforks, or possibly a Brazilian Police Van full of riotsuited Brazilian policemen, you will know why.
Or possibly you should just go and visit the museum anyway, because Jack is a lovely guy and the museum is fantastic. Tell them we sent you, but remember, keep to the paths, and
don't go at a full moon...
As you will have read, Jon and I went to Wildwoods at the weekend. I knew this place was good, but I didn’t expect to see this number of snakeheads here! I will swiftly explain, as an article in The Amateur Naturalist #7 explains, I adore snakeheads. They are very attractive looking animals, but with some serious intelligence (for fish) which endears them to me. It is odd that their family contains only two genera, the Asian Channa and African Parachanna, who are very similar indeed, both fulfilling the same role of predator on small fish and aquatic invertebrates in their eco-systems. Now, new species of this fish turn up in the trade with comparative regularity (two newly described species, C. ornatipinnis and C. pluchra, turned up in the aquatics trade almost a month after they were described), but I didn’t expect the ridiculous amount of undiscribed species for sale at Wildwoods. We have:
ii. Channa sp. 'Assam blue', the smallest snakehead found so far at a maximum of only 4”. I myself keep one of these stunners, and it is one of my favourite fish. (left)
iii. Channa sp. 'Meghalaya Leopard', an incredible fish with complex colouration as well as a high dorsal fin which reminds me of a giant species called C. barca (indeed, this rare fish once fetched a price of £4,000 for an adult pair!).
iv. Channa punctata “fluoro green”, a new colour morph of a described species, this deserves to be here because it is, err, striking! (see top)
I’m sure there were more there, but I can only find these four on their website. This was in addition to a host of new L-number plecs (large catfish with sucking mouths adapted to scraping algae from rocks and sunken logs) and the assortment of other animals. I will add, that should some of you be interested in snakeheads for your community tank, I will point out that they are highly predatory and will eat fish under 1/3 of their size, and are often aggressive to similar looking fish. The price of the new species varies, but Channa sp. “Platinum” (left) will set you back £130! They are very easy to keep though, and will live for over 10 years. This particular individual will eventually get to over a foot long.
Now, for something slightly different: endangered fish. I found, lurking in a corner along with some rasboras, some odd looking fish which attracted my attention. They were not colourful, active or exceptionally strange looking (characteristics which normally attract people to fish), but they were intriguing. I vaguely remembered the scientific name, but I couldn’t remember what with (Wildwoods tends to overload your senses, so you forget almost everything you know about fish). There were a form of Perch like fish (with spiny rays in their dorsal fin), and they looked to me like dwarf cichlids (they were most certainly not though). I guessed that they were from one of the strange families that one rarely encounters in aquaria, so, I bought one. I enquired about them, and found out that they were captive bred in Germany (the Germans can breed anything aquatic), originated in South Africa, it’s name was Sandelia capensis, grew up to 8”, were Anabantoids and were endangered in the wild. Endangered fish, in an aquatics shop? Strange.
The one I got (I could not afford more) settled into his new aquarium, acquainted himself with his tankmates (including a pugnacious Arulius barb and a very rare snakehead) and decided to ignore them. Good thought I, here we have a nice looking display fish who should be pretty damn hansom when he grows up. I pottered upstairs to my books to find out more about him. It turns out he is a relative of the climbing perches (Anabas and Ctenopoma) but it has evolved from the parent stock to rely less on it’s labyrinth organ (an organ which allows the fish to breath atmospheric air, an adaption to water with low amounts of dissolved oxygen) and more on its gills. This was the reason I had not twigged that it was an anabantoid in the shop, none of the fish had come up for air!
I then realised, David Marshal, a very good writer on tropical fish, had penned an article in Exotic Pets magazine about climbing perches, and had mentioned the genus Sandelia. This was the moment that I realised that I had a very rare fish in aquarium circles in my house, and one that I had been interested in keeping for a while, but one that I knew I never would. How wrong was I!
I read through the article, and then read “Sadly these fish, seldom seen in aquarium circles, are some of the most highly endangered creatures on the African continent and only remain in existence due to the work of a small number of dedicated local naturalists”. Bloody hell! thought I. After researching, I found that C. bainsii, the other species in the genus, was highly endangered and at threat from large introduced Clarias catfishes. C. capensis (my species) is listed by the IUCN as being “Data Deficient”, but that its population was decreasing. This was justified because “Several different lineages have been discovered in this species that requires a taxonomic revision. Several of these lineages will be threatened with extinction, but no reliable assessment can be made without understanding the distribution and taxonomic status of these lineages.”. It seems then, that the lineage I have could be extremely rare indeed, or “merely” Near Threatened.
Hummmm. I began researching how to breed them after that, and it looks to be fairly straightforward, but the only trouble is sexing the blighters, when sexually mature (from the small size of 2.5”) and in the breeding season, the males darken in colour and you can easily tell them apart. The problem comes in trying to get both sexes, you can’t do it with just one fish! So, I gave my idea to Jon: to breed this species, whether it is endangered or not, and try and do our bit to save a species. Are you with us? All we need are donations to help us buy fish at £17 each, but we will be able to get them a fair bit cheaper if we buy the lot. Will you do your bit to help?
Do you want to help us work with this rare and beautiful fish? If every person who visited this site yesterday gave a pound or a couple of dollars, we would have more than enough to set up a Sandelia breeding project, and have enough money left to carry out all the refurbishment we need to do to bring our other tanks up to scratch. Please be generous...
Four news stories were posted yesterday: A new sighting of the Whitby big cat (seen by a man lucky enough to have seen it a year before), an out of place bird in Hawaii, a new discovery relating to a fish with amazing eyes, and a 3 metre long oarfish that has been discovered washed up on Tynemouth beach.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
1963 – the year of the beast. A time when the Surrey ‘puma’ was making its name across the Home Counties, its legend however, obscuring another, more frightful mystery. That of the Hampshire Devil Dog.
Miriam Carroll recalled in ’63 how, whilst driving to Alton, she saw a terrifying black dog clasp a lamb through a barbed-wire fence. The monstrous hound tore at the victim, ripping its head off through the fence, leaving the witness shaken, as she drove to the nearby farm to report the incident. A year later a policeman, whilst chatting to two Irish tourists at 1:15 pm, saw a massive black dog heading their way. Without warning the beast leapt at them, pinning all three of them up against a bus shelter. One of the Irishmen could only react by swiping at the hideous form with his bag, which passed through the creature. The monster dog then vanished, leaving all three men stunned with disbelief.
In 1965, a few stories reached the local papers about the dog and when major building work was carried out at the Crown Hotel, situated in the local high street at Alton, there was some surprise when the bones of a large dog were found.
In 1987, Mr Duggan was driving through Basingstoke with his fiancée Yvonne looking for a place to set up a picnic. They found a clearing in the woods and began to set up their meal, and Mr Duggan decided to urinate in a thicket. Suddenly, whilst beginning to relieve himself he was confronted by a frightening snarling noise and the huge head of a dog, which protruded from the bushes. The couple fled the area, followed by the hellhound.
These incidents may sound like few and far between encounters with a local dog on the loose, but things become far weirder when we trace the origins of the Devil Dog back to the 1780s. Mr Thomas Newton, was a Hampshire socialite against slavery, and funded much to cease the awful treatment dished out against black workers in the West Indies at the time. One such slave was an Ottobah Cugoano who as a child, was captured in Africa. This man was said to own a monstrous dog, the size of a bear. Mr Newton offered £300 for the brute, the money aiding Cugoano’s cause.
It was said that the dog was a cross between a Doberman and a rottweiller, but it was the size of a small pony and didn’t take to any human being except Newton. In 1795 Newton died, but it took local authorities many days to get to his bed-ridden body, for it was guarded by the dog. Eventually, the dog was detained and tied to a tree but escaped when Newton was being buried. The beast was last seen heading off towards the woods.
The Morton family inhabited the Newton house. They were plagued by the beast. Six expensive Arab horses were found so severely injured that they were destroyed, strange howls emanated from the local woods, many animals were found in the shadows ripped to pieces, and large rewards were offered to anyone who could shackle the monster. The Morton family could no longer live in the house. Their farm was a non-existent business for fear of the demon, hen houses were damaged, chickens mutilated, and of 1023 sheep on the land, 887 were killed. The family moved on and the house remained uninhabited and the legend remained dormant, until 1834. A child was attacked and crippled by an enormous dog on the outskirts of Alton. The boy had to have a leg amputated, whilst his other limb was badly chewed. Despite a huge hunt there was no sign of the beast, and despite the dread of local legend, surely the same monster had no been to blame? Evidence mounted, however, that the Hampshire Devil Dog somehow had a life-span of 150 years. Cattle and sheep were often found in appalling state after severe attacks in the early 1900s, local fox hunts were often cancelled in fear of the dog, and the legend was revived in 1963.
Who knows when or where the Devil Dog will strike again.