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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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Sunday, February 15, 2009

GUEST BLOGGER NEIL ARNOLD: Mr Davy's monster

It is with great pleasure that we welcome Neil Arnold to the CFZ bloggo. I have known Neil for fifteen years now since he was a schoolboy with ambitions for adventure and I was an earnest young hippie who merely wanted to start a club for people interested in unknown animals. Nothing much has changed over the years. We are just both a tad older...

Being the CFZ Representative for Greater London (as well as Kent) is a great excuse to swing by the fashion boutiques and swanky bars of the capital. Of course, it also entails seeking new information of monsters and other strange creatures that the city has harboured.

One such tale, which I’d like to share with readers, is that pertaining to Mr Davy, a London naturalist who in 1878, worked at the London Aquarium. Imagine the horror on the faces of the locals, however, when Mr Davy paraded his new ‘pet’, a strange monstrosity which emitted horrible screeching noises. The ‘animal’, which Mr Davy casually took a stroll with, attracted the attention of many who described the abomination as reaching two-feet in length, and standing two-feet at the shoulder. At the time, it claimed that no anatomist could identify the beast, for its body was covered in wiry hairs, and although its head and tail resembled that of a boar, it seemed bereft of an abdomen, its back legs seemingly situated right behind its forelegs!

Such was the appeal, through its hideous features no doubt, of this creature, that crowds flocked to view it. Mr Davy seemed completely unaware that his pet had caused such a fuss, but when the crowds buzzed about him, he made a swift exit, running, with beast in tow, into the bowels of the London Underground.

The unintentional exhibit was described as a ‘living cube’ by those two felt fortunate to see it, although many were repelled by its ghastly form. Mr Davy decided that to elude pursuers he would have to travel on the Underground, in a secret compartment to avoid passengers fleeing for their lives, whilst others in their morbid curiosity would have surely flocked to the animal, causing great consternation on the railway tracks.

According to legend, Mr Davy told an acquaintance that he’d observed the creature whilst in the south of France. Local peasants owned the beast, which Mr Davy purchased from them, but because of the language differences he learned nothing about the creature. When a friend at the Aquarium looked at the beast, he could only surmise that it had been some weird dog-boar hybrid.

Mr Davy’s pet stopped traffic, and jammed streets. His own landlord did not find such a beast as riveting as the passers by, and cowered in his room, afraid of the unimaginable creature. On October 5th 1878, Land and Water magazine editor, Mr Frank Buckland, could only describe the animal as a “demon”, a satanic manifestation with the characteristics of a gargoyle. Naturalist Thomas Wilmington, wrote, in the following issue that the beast must be some kind of deformed hyena and that the idea of a hybrid was, “…utterly untenable”.

And there the legend ends, no-one knows what became of Mr Davy’s demon, or as to why peasants in southern France had obtained such a beast, although if we go back a century to 1764 to the former province of Gevaudan, in south-central France, then we are met by a legend more savage, but resembling a hyena, which slaughtered many innocent townsfolk.

Had Mr Davy simply purchased an unknown species and paraded it about town? Maybe his pet was nothing more than a freak of nature, sold to him by locals keen to earn a crust? Or was the strange tale simply a hoax, manifested by journals eager to please and intrigue their readers with fanciful frights and eerie anomalies?

5 comments:

wm. said...

I'd like to suggest an article be written on Mr. Arnold's hair, which could be a cryptid in and of itself.

Kent McManigal said...

My suspicion would be a malformed boar. Most of these "hybrids" turn out to be simple birth defects. After all, that is much more likely given the constraints of genetics.

Dan said...

A well written story - friggin hilarious to envision.The 'monster on a leash'scaring the good people in jolly old London. Good one...

Neil A said...

wm. yes indeed, my hair is in fact a hive that harbours many dandy borrowers, and so existing as a cryptid is unlikely as it would have died from the over indulgence of hairspray!

It does seem likely that the creature was no monster at all but we know how early publications tend to misinform the public.

Jum said...

Hmmm. Jeff Beck circa 1966?