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, March 31, 2009


This picture has been in the CFZ archives for at least five years, and to my embarrassment I cannot remember where I got it. It is supposedly a siamese pike (Esox lucius) caught by Donald Tayer on the Ottertail River in North Dakota.

However, if you do what I did, and google "Siamese Pike" then a whole can of worms gets opened.

Is it:

a. Real
b. Real but caused by intentional human activity
c. A result of pollution
d. A Phototoshop hoax
e. Two pikes, with the head of one tucked under the gill flap of the second

If it is real, how big is it? Most conjoined creatures never make it to maturity, and this one looks to be pretty large in size.

So, it is over to you. Someone out there must have some more information about it, or at the very least, an opinion as to its veracity or not...



For those of you interested, here are some rare (and very old) Australian press cuttings, courtesy of our good friend Paul Cropper, the eminent Australian Cryptozoologist. Paul was one of the hits of the 2006 Weird Weekend, and we hope to have him along again soon.


The second of the two episodes of On the Track (Of Unknown Animals) which had its audio removed by order of the Warner Music Group because I had pinched one of their tracks (Mr Bad Example by the excellent, if dead, Warren Zevon) has been remastered, the offending bits removed, and replaced by avant garde piano bits from me, and reposted.

I will be certain never to pinch anything from Warners in the future, and I hope that the other record companies from whom I have alco committed artistic larcenty, will be a little more forbearing...


Today, as Kithra (God bless her) pointed out a Theatre Company came forward and claimed responsibility for the plethora of bear reports from Rendlesham Forest in order to publicise their new production of Shakspeare's "A Winter's Tale" cashing in on its most famous stage direction "EXIT pursued by a bear".

Well I have to admit that this is piece of work by the Bard of Avon with which I am totally unfamiliar (except for the line about bears and a rather unfunny quip about dildos) so I had to look it up.

The Wikipedia description of the play
doesn't really explain why the bear, (and the chick who looks like Little Red Riding Hood) feature so prominently on the poster, but hey - who cares? It's all good fun and in the name of art, so it does not really matter.

But it is springtime, and I have spent quite a lot of the last few days talking to the good doctor on the `phone so the idea of stunts versus art versus reality in some sort of surrealchemical mishmash are quite high in my mind. Although the first lot of bear sightings are - I am quite prepared to accept - bosh, albeit arty bosh carried out for the highest possible motives, and in a rather well executed hoax ** I would not be at all surprised to see this kickstarting a series of less easy to explain shug monkey reports in the region.

See what Redders has to say:

** THE DAILY MAIL: "Actor and designer Jimmy Grimes said they had wanted to make one of the Bard's lesser-known plays more appealing to families and children. Mr Grimes created two youtube clips and email accounts from witnesses who claimed to have seen the bear.

He created the fake YouTube video by running through the woods with his mobile phone and added real life footage of a bear taken from the internet and altered with Photoshop."

We are living in a world where crappy cameraphone footage is so ubiquitous that a piece of footage like that constructed by Jimmy Grimes is entirely convincing. Well done mate

MUIRHEAD'S MYSTERIES: Suicidal dogs, and toads in an iron foundry..

Richard Muirhead is an old friend of the CFZ. I have been friends with him for 40 years now, since we were kids together in Hong Kong. He is undoubtedly one of the two best researchers I have ever met; he and Nigel Wright both have what Charlie Fort would have no doubt called a wild talent; a talent for going into a library, unearthing a stack of old newspapers, and coming back with some hitherto overlooked gem of arcane knowledge. Twice a week he wanders into the Macclesfield Public Library and comes out with enough material for a blog post..

Dear folks

For today`s instalment of Muirhead`s Mysteries I pass through the autumn of 1813 and encounter a break in the marine related features,only to uncover a case of suicidal dogs on the island of Samson in the Scilly Isles, (a strange coincidence here as the Biblically aware amongst you will remember that Samson did in fact commit suicide in the Philistine temple) and toads acting strangely:

“SINGULAR CIRCUMSTANCE: Last week, all the dogs in the Island of Samson (Scilly) in number about 14, ran simultaeneously into the sea,and were drowned together! No cause whatever can be assigned by the inhabitants for this extraordinary occurrence. The dogs appeared perfectly well a short time before this event took place.” Macclesfield Courier October 2nd 1813. p.2

“Remarkable circumstance- A few days ago,two living toads were found in the centre of the Cupola Furnace,at Mr Barnett`s Iron Foundry in Skipton.” October 16th 1813.p.3

I am familiar with the folklore of salamanders withstanding fire but not toads.

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


Here is the latest cryptozoology news from the CFZ daily news blog, if its news and related to cryptozoology it’s in there:

Thirsty camels 'turning the taps on' in central Australia
Frogs 'marry' to bring rain to Bangladesh
Malaysia's Mini-Chickens Big It up After Flu Scare
My Best Teacher - David Bellamy
Marlin Perkins left an enduring legacy as teacher of the animal world
City's animal instincts help raise Rs 10L for AMC
Rescue Pets Make Credit Crunch Lunch
Evolution study focuses on snail
Police catch students stealing triceratops

Bet the student’s heads were ‘saur’ when they woke up after that. They’ll probably behave themselves a bit better next time they go out and get ‘rex’ed.



About twenty years ago, when I was first thinking about starting the CFZ, I was particularly interested in the two concepts of artificial life and chaos mathematics. Admittedly I smoked an awful lot of dope at the time, but I read widely on the subjects, and was convinced that we were standing on a veritable socio-cultural precipice that would see a revolution in the natural sciences akin to the one that had happened in mathematics only a decade or so before.

Like I said, I smoked an awful lot of dope.

However, one of my favourite books in the early 1990s was Artificial Life by Stephen Levy, and it introduced me to the idea of computer programmed evolution simulators. Over the years my life changed (I stopped smoking dope) and my attitudes towards many things underwent a radical paradigm shift.

Then last night, totally by accident (and with a completely clear head) I stumbled upon ventrella.com and http://www.swimbots.com/ which is basically a simple pondlife evolution simulator and I got hooked.

I think that this is one of the most exciting things I have found in years (albeit something I read about nearly two decades ago), but then again I am a tedious old hippy who likes pondlife.

Check it out guys. Have a play with it. And let me know what you think.

Monday, March 30, 2009


There is a bear in Rendlesham Forest, or so says The East Anglian Daily Times.

"At least three people claim to have seen the grizzly beasts in the forest within the last week, although bears are not native to Britain. [...]

One of those who saw the creature is Jenny Pearce who said: "I was on the green at Rendlesham Forest having a picnic with my three-year-old son and his friend's family. After the picnic we stayed to play and explore the woods. While we were in the forest I saw a large animal moving through the trees ahead. i thought it was a big dog, so I picked up my son because he has never really got into dogs and gets easily scared. But as it continued away from us it was clearly not a dog. It was much bigger and there wasn't anyone there to be walking it if it was a large dog."

It will not surprise anyone to hear that I have been to Rendlesham Forest on a number of occasions. Anyone who went to the 2002, 2006 or 2007 Weird Weekends will know that Larry Warren, probably the most famous UFO contactee in modern Britain is a personal friend of mine and so is his erstwhile partner in crime Peter Robbins. And nearly anyone who has more than a passing interest in the subject will know that Larry was once a USAF Sergeant at the long defunt Air Base at Bentwaters, where in 1980 the most famous British UFO case of all time took place.

But that's not what interests me most about Rendlesham.

The area between Orford Ness and Rendlesham Forest in Suffolk is a very strange place. As well as being one of the most eastern points in the British Isles it has also been the focus for a wide range of bizarre paranormal activity. Writing in the 13th Century, Ralph of Coggeshall, described a "wild man" caught in fishing nets off Orford Castle. This creature who like so many contemporary sightings of humanoids seen in conjunction with UFOs was seemingly equally at home on land and at sea, lived at the castle for several months. The wild man is not the only item of cryptozoological interest from the Rendlesham area. The lanes of the area are reputedly haunted by giant spectral black dogs (like the one seen by Lady Rendlesham in Leiston Churchyard at the end of the nineteenth century), that pad malevolently but silently along. An even more disturbing spectre called the shug monkey, which is described by witnesses as an unholy combination of mastiff and great ape is also seen on occasion, and in recent years the forest has also been the haunt of mysterious black ‘panthers’.

An ex-girlfriend of mine - an East Anglian paranormal researcher - was in possession of some video tape which showed the paw print of some huge animal - like that of a cat or a dog, but far bigger and with strange flattened finger nails rather than claws. She thought that it was a print from an alien big cat of some description, but my immediate thought was of the semi-mystical ‘shug monkey’. When I later found that my friend and colleague Jan Scarff who was brought up in the vicinity of the air bases also knew about the so-called ‘shug-monkey’ I became even more interested, and I have been collecting reports for some years. Nick Redfern also writes about the shug monkey in Three Men seeking Monsters and between us we have built up a convincing image of a large, dark coloured shambling beast which is presumably zooform in nature.

So, did Jenny Pearce see a bear? I suppose it is a possibility. Bears have been reported in the UK over the years; in the most recent edition of Animals & Men writes about London `Bear Scares`. Bears have escaped from captivity and lived wild in the UK before now. One was reported for some years from the Wychwood in Oxfordshire. But as the legislation surrounding private animal keepers is tightened up, the chances of bears being released from captivity into the wilds of Suffolk recedes. There is always the ever present spectre of `canned hunting` - a barbaric and completely vile practrise whereby animals are realeased into the wild purely so some moron with a gun can shoot them for a trophy, but despite claims over the years, no concrete evidence has ever been presented to us for bears being used for this horrid purpose in the UK.

One researcher who shall remain nameless claimed to me about ten years ago that so many bears had been released into parts of mid Wales that there were "organised bear hunts" held every weekend. But he was an idiot, and I will not dignify his ridiculous claims by discussing them further.

No, I have a gut feeling that the creature that has been reported on three occasions in the last week is something far less tangible, and far less easy to catch. It is, I strongly suspect, the return of the shug monkey, some ten years after its last spate of appearances. I wonder what else may be about to make a comeback.

The game is afoot.

The picture, by the way, is of part of Bentwaters Air Force Base (now demolished) which was taken by me in 1997, and exposed all wrong. However, I have always liked the spookiness of it and waited for a chance to use it..



Copyright theft is neither big nor clever boys and girls. At l;east it isn't when you don't get away with it. I have spent much of today re-editing last October's `On the Track` to remove the offending piece of music.

And - for the record - here is Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris singing `Love Hurts` - the song which caused all the problems in the first place

I will do episode 12 either later today or tomorrow, but I hope that this is not going to become a re-0ccurent motif every time I pinch music for OTT. If so, I will have to go completely legit and that goes against the grain of my copyright liberating heart..

High Fashion Crypto


I want to thank Stephanie from the Facebook Cryptozoology group for the following story, because - despite what you may have heard - I do not spend my days wandering about girl's fashion websites in search of a story. However, I think that the items in this young lady's online store are very impressive. She writes:

"Hi -- My name is Erika and this is my store.I sell hand-screenprinted shirts; I cut every design out by hand and stencil them personally. Every shirt is different and unique.At the moment I'm creating shirts of extinct creatures, printed on garments which are either 100% organic or rescued from a thrift store -- I try to lessen the impact I have on the environment as much as possible.Since making every shirt takes a lot of time, the number of custom orders I can make are very limited. That doesn't mean that I don't do them, though; please message me or email me at rubyseeds@gmail.com for details."

They include images of quaggas (like the one above), passenger pigeons and thylacines, and to my mind (bearing in mind that I am an old git who is nearly fifty, who's wife and stepdaughters say has no fashion sense whatsoever) they are charming. Check them out, and tell them that the CFZ sent you.

RICHARD FREEMAN: Thylacine Cave Art and Sightings

The thylacine aka Tasmanian wolf aka Tasmanian tiger was chosen as the CFZ's emblem with good reason. Gerald Durrell chose the dodo as the symbol of the Jersy Wildlife Preservation Trust because it was an emblem of extinction - we chose the thylacine as an emblem of survival.

Officially classed as extinct, there is little doubt that the beast is still around. Film, photos and literally thousands of witnesses make the thylacine the healthest extinct' animal around.

Last September some Aborigional art work depicting this amazing marsupial carnivore was uncovered. Archeologist Ken Mulvaney has found no less than 12 thylacine carvings along a 20km strech of the Pilbara Coast of Western Australia.

The state Government had lodged strong opposition to proposed National Heritage listing to protect the rock art. It had cited “grave consequences” for Australia’s largest resource project, the North West Shelf LNG planton the peninsula.

But Mr Mulvaney, who is also president of the Australian Rock Art Research Association, said the rock art needed urgent legal protection from industrial expansion and acid rain that was eroding rock surfaces.

“You cannot say any of the art is safe, and we don’t know what other carvings are out there because no survey has been done in areas earmarked by the WA Government for industrial estates,” he said..

Mr Mulvaney said it was cultural vandalism to continue promoting industry in an area where the world’s greatest rock art had been created over a 20,000-year period. “The Burrup continues to reveal highly significant petroglyphs, both in a scientific and aesthetic sense,” he said.

There was a spate of sightings on the outskirts of Portland in 2006 /7. One witness, Portland resident, Anthony Ersello, who saidhe saw a strange dog-like animal sitting in the middle of the Princes Highway on the outskirts of town near the Shell service station.

“I’d been walking home from a party, had one beer and was walking home when I saw it on the road sitting in the middle of the intersection. It kept staring into the distance and then looked at me,”.
The animal had a pointed face, chunky shoulders, stripes and its hind was long and lean.“I wanted to take a photo with my phone but it had been raining and the wet road made a reflection. I got to about 15 metres then it ran into the bushes.I didn’t know what it was. It looked like a bit of a dog but it didn’t really look like one.”

Another Portland resident, who did not want to be identified, reported two separate thylacine sightings in the past year and believed the tigers regularly crossed farms and pups had been spotted.

In December 2007, Portland woman, Robyn Nagorcka shot 30 seconds of video footage of a brown, dog like animal with stripes along it's hindquarters.

Some have tried to pass the film off as a fox with mange but a still from the film shown in the Hamilton Spectator shows an animal with a thick, stiff tail and kangaroo like hind legs.I It even appears to have the distinctive muscles on the lower jaw. Ms Ms Nagorcka herself said it was too big to be a fox and was he size of an alsation dog.

If any further analysis on the footage has been done, we have not heard about it.

OLL LEWIS:Yesterday’s News Today


The CFZ daily cryptozoology news blog has been updated and it is my sworn duty, nay quest, to bring these updates to you in the form of a blogo article in the form of little blue links, a movie recommendation and a bad pun. This weeks recommended movie is Darkman http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099365/ and yesterday’s cryptozoology news was:

Jack Horner's Plan to Bring Dinosaurs Back to Life
Spanish town cancels bullfighting
'War' on poisonous Australia toad

Ask not for whom the bell ‘toads’ it ‘toads’ for thee…


When writing these pages I often feel like an old-fashioned harbinger of doom - like one of those
sad old blokes who used to hang around outside Leicester Square Tube Station brandishing a
placard which informed the world that “The End is Nigh!”.

Many fish species that have become extinct within the last few years. Sadly, the list continues to grow each year. But it’s not all doom and gloom; new species are discovered regularly, and species thought to be extinct are also sometimes

The Dwarf Loach, Chain Botia, or Chain Loach (Yasuhikotakia sidthimunki, formerly Botia
) is a popular freshwater tropical fish in aquariums and belongs to to the Cobitidae family. It grows up to 3in in captivity, and 5in in the wild. It prefers water with temperature 77 to 86F (25 - 30C), pH 6.5 to 6.9 dGH to 8.0. It is omnivorous with diets including live crustaceans, insects, snails, etc. The Dwarf Loach is found in the Mae Klong river and River Kwai, Western Thailand. This species is endangered and is a protected species in Thailand. It was thought to be extinct in the wild until recently rediscovered in Sangkhla Buri.

Algansea barbata, the Lerma chub, is found in the headwaters of the headwaters of the Rio Lerma, Mexico. Algansea barbata was last collected in 1964, and last seen only eight years later, but its extinction was not suggested until 1998. However eight specimens (five males and three
females) of Algansea barbata Alvarez and Cortés, 1964 were caught in a lateral channel to Rio Sila, Tiacaque, Jocotitlán, State of Mexico (19º 40' N and 99º 42' W) in April of 1999. This extends the known range for the species in the State of Mexico toward the most southern population's northeast limit (13 Km to the NE of Ixtlahuaca, on highway 55, NNW of Toluca, State of Mexico) and it is the first record since 1972

The parasitic Miller Lake Lamprey (Lampetra minima) was thought to have gone Extinct in
about 1958. This was as a result of a deliberate chemical treatment of Miller Lake (the only
known location at the time) to exterminate this species to prevent predation on introduced trout fingerlings. However, in 1992, an adult lamprey collected in the Williamson River was identified as L. minima, and, in 1996, unidentified lamprey were collected in Miller Creek, the outflow stream of Miller Lake. Subsequent surveys in the summers of 1997–1999 reconfirmed the species extinction in Miller Lake but lead to the discovery of several subpopulations of L. minima within and outside the Miller Lake sub-basin (Lorion et al. 2000).

The rediscovery of this species was only brought to the attention of the IUCN Red List Programme in 2004. It is provisionally listed as Data Deficient - pending a reassessment of its status.

Formerly thought to be endemic to Miller Lake (16km northeast of Mt. Thielson), Klamath County, Oregon. Recent surveys documented subpopulations in Miller Creek, Jack Creek, and the upper sections of the Williamson and Sycan rivers (Lorion et al. 2000).

In 2002 biologists with Conservation Fisheries, Inc. (CFI), a Knoxville-based non-profit organization, recently found a single specimen of the slender chub while conducting a fish survey in northeast Tennessee. This find is the culmination of years of hitherto-fruitless searching.
"We were ecstatic," said Pat Rakes, co-director of CFI, "It's a wonderful feeling to be out there for so long, searching and searching, and then coming up with something."

The slender chub, a federally protected fish, is known only from the Clinch and Powell Rivers in
northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia. It was last seen in the Clinch River in the mid-
1990s; it hasn't been seen in the Powell River since the early 1980s.

The lone fish, about the length of a human finger, is now in an aquarium at CFI's headquarters,
eating voraciously, while biologists hope to find a mate to begin the propagation process. The biologists at CFI have been key players in efforts to restore the aquatic biodiversity of the
Southern Appalachians. Their Knoxville facility, with its numerous aquariums full of rare and
imperilled fishes, is the site of captive propagation efforts being carried out for numerous fish species.

A rare fish that had not been seen by scientists for over 50 years has been rediscovered in
Auckland, New Zealand. The threatened Black mudfish, Neochanna diversus, is listed on the
current IUCN Redlist for fishes, but hasn't been seen since shortly after the species was originally described in 1949. However, a recent survey of the Te Henga and Tomarata wetlands revealed a population of Neochanna diversus alive and well.

Grant Barnes, Project Leader for Auckland Regional Council's State of Environment monitoring programme says that the new discovery of Neochanna says a lot about the health of the ecosystem. He told the news website Scoop: "Freshwater fish are sensitive to a wide range of environmental impacts such as habitat loss, pollution and sedimentation."

Neochanna diversus is a galaxiid, and a member of the Osmeriformes order. It gets its common name from its ability to spend part of the year in a state of aestivation when its pool dries up.

So it ain’t all doom and gloom. The natural world still has plenty of surprises in store for
us. Watch this space...


It was Matt Osborne that first alerted me to the fact that there was a problem with On The Track - our monthly webTV show. He wrote to me over the weekend. Did I know that the soundtracks had been removed fron the episodes?

I panicked, rushed to YouTube, and checked the last few episodes. Everything was OK. Feeling smug, I wrote back to Matty and said so, but this morning he wrote back and told me to check out #12 (September 2008). The soundtrack has indeed been removed from this and #13 for copyright violation.

It is true, and to be quite honest I can do nothing about it. Mea Culpa. I decided to use Gram Parson's `Love Hurts` to accompany my piece about the loss of Tessie (the CFZ doggie Mk 2), and "Warren Zevon's `Mr Bad Example` for the Georgia Bigfoot debacle. On both occasions I did not apply for copyright clearance and I deserve what I got. I have been doing this for ages and I thought that I could get away with it.

So, apologies for the temporary glitch in service. I will be re-editing both episodes to remove the hooky music, and hopefully normal service will be resumed relatively soon.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

You ain't gonna believe this one...

One of my favourite literary characters is Lazarus Long from Robert Heinlein's `Future History` series of books and stories. Large numbers of wonderful quotes (many of which I have appropriated for my own use) have been attributed to him, and one of the best is:

Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity
I get reminded of this regularly, but I think that the following story really takes the biscuit. The headline reads:
Giant Mystery Skeleton Satellite Images, Discovered on Google Earth
Hmmmm. Well, I have been fascinated by Google Earth for some years now, and on one occasion found a beached whale image on the cost of Namibia, so I suppose that to find the skeleton of a whale - or even an elephant, might not be quite that impossible. So I read on.
Views of Mystery Object Help Confirm Skeletal Shape. A mysterious object rises out of the bleak Saudi Arabian wilderness, and by most accounts it looks like a giant insect skeleton in satellite photographs. Now, almost a year after its initial discovery, three-dimensional views of the object are helping define its actual shape.
C'mon guys. I want a description. What animal has left these singular remains? By this time my imagination is working overtime, and I am beginning to hypothesise the bones of a long dead species of megafauna, or a dinosaur, so - excitedly I read on...
In anyone's estimation, the object's size is indeed enormous, extending 1,900 feet from head to tail, with an upper torso about the size of a football field.
Oh for goodness sake. What is this nonsense? It turns out that this is some idiot fundamentalist claiming to have found the bones of behemoth of the Old Testament. It is idiots like this who give us Christians a bad name. No wonder everyone hates us!
Richard Thomas is a new member of the CFZ family. He is a mate of Richard Freeman, and he asked whether we would be interested in the following article about strange mystery cats in Wales:

Anyone who listened to that interview will know that my younger sister (with a friend) actually had an ABC sighting in the Welsh countryside. It happened a couple of years ago. Basically, she saw what she said looked like a puma or other large black cat, and, for anyone who thinks this must have been a little tomcat seen from far away, the animal was carrying a very large, dead sheep in its mouth.

Read on: http://www.binnallofamerica.com:80/rr9.12.8.html


The saga of aberrant white tailed deer continues with this video that has apparently been on YouTube for about eighteen months. I was sent a link to it this evening by an old friend of mine called Danny Miles, whom some of you may remember from my books The Blackdown Mystery and Monster Hunter. This film was taken in Ohio, but it rings a bell in my psyche. During the winter of 1963/4 my family were on leave from Hong Kong. We were staying just outside Ringwood in Hampshire, and spent much of the time exploring the New Forest.

My parents made friends with an elderly naturalist called Major or Colonel somebody, and he took us out watching fallow deer, and on a couple of occasions we caught sight of a semi-legendary white fallow stag that lived in the depths of the forest.

I was always reminded of that when I read the last chapter of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and this piece of video brings it all back vividly. Thanks Danny.

More on man-eater from Burundi

Following on from yesterday's report by Richard Freeman on man-eating crocodiles, here is some film of `Gustave` - Burundi's legendary man-eater.

RICHARD FREEMAN: Man-eating crocodiles

On the first of December 2002 a group of fifteen British teenagers, all in their gap year, visited Lake Challa on Kenya’s southern border with Tanzania. They had spent the previous five weeks doing volunteer conservation work. The group had been surveying elephant and lion populations in nearby Tsavo National Park. Locals told them that they had nothing to fear in Lake Challa. The steep sided volcanic lake had no crocodiles only a legendary monster, the Kenyan equivalent of Nessie. They were wrong.

One girl Amy Nicholls, a beautiful 18 year old from Barnet, London, decided that the water looked too inviting to pass up a swim. She was about thirty feet from the shore, where the volcanic shelf drops off steeply into deep water, when something grabbed her. The three other who were with her reported that she was yanked violently underwater. He reappeared briefly and screamed “its` got my feet, its` a crocodile.” That was the last time anyone saw Amy Nicholls alive.

Her body was found three days later when it became entangled in a fisherman’s net. She had died from drowning and was minus and arm. It had been twisted from the socket and eaten. It was estimated that the crocodile that attacked her was fairly small, no more than two meters long.

The 1999 edition of The Rough Guide to Kenya stated that Lake Challa was a pleasant place to swim. The Kenyan Wildlife Service, however, stated that it was never free of crocodiles. A local policeman said it was infested with the animals.

There followed a media circus with lurid headlines. It was like a virgin had been sacrificed to a medieval dragon. The story is a tragic one but we in the west seem to think we can travel the Worlds` wild places with immunity. Perhaps it is because we have long since exterminated most the large predators in the “civilized world” that we believe “it will never happen to me.”

Of all large predators crocodiles account for the most human deaths. Over 500 people per year in Africa are taken by crocodiles. This is more than all the big cats, bears and sharks combined.

The general public seems to think that all crocodilians are gigantic monsters that subsist on a diet of human flesh. In reality only two crocodilians can truly be counted as man-eaters: the Nile crocodile, and the Indo-Pacific crocodile. American crocodiles, American alligators, muggers, and black caiman have killed and eaten people from time to time but these attacks are rare. It is only the two giants of the group that attack humans on a regular basis.

In the months following the attack on Amy Nicholls a spate of crocodile attacks occurred across the globe. The average number of attacks on humans was probably not any higher than usual but these attacks often involved western tourists and ergo were sized by the media.

Less than two months after Amy’s death another British tourist, Richard Shadwell was killed whilst in the Sekonyer River in Borneo. The thirty five year old musician was swimming behind a boat when an Indo-Pacific crocodile reckoned to be eighteen feet long grabbed him.

The saddest story must have been that of German girl Isabel von Jordan. The 24-year-old student had survived the bombing of the Sari Club on Bali. She and some fellow backpackers decided to ignore the warning signs and take a midnight dip in a waterhole at Kakudu National Park in northern Australia. She was grabbed and killed a by a twelve foot Indo-pacific croc. Park rangers arrived on the scream within the hour but it took six harpoons before the beast relinquished Isabel’s body.

On the remote Indonesian Island of Tenate a twenty-three foot crocodile took up residence in a river and began to eat it’s way through the population of a local village. All that remained of one victim, a teenage boy, was his head.

Not to be left out, the Nile crocodile grabbed the headlines again in December 2003. A man-eating giant was uncovered by French environmentalist Patrice Faye. The 20 to 30 foot creature was named Gustave by Faye and his team. His home is on the Burundi side of the Rusizi Delta. Gustave is estimated to be between 80 and 100 years old and may have eaten more humans than any other individual crocodile. Within year alone he has eaten 17 known people. Locals say he has been dining on manflesh for over 30 years so his human victim tally must be mind-boggling.

Patrice and his colleagues are attempting to capture Gustave alive and put him on display as a tourist attraction. They hope that this will boost the Rusizi game reserve that is currently being regenerated. He is already raking in tourists despite the wars raging in both Burundi and the Congo. Twice before the French team has attempted to capture Gustave and failed. The third attempt took place between May and December 2003. Gustave out witted them again.

It is easy to understand how such a beast, as Gustave becomes a legend. Few animals can survive being sprayed with machine gun fire but Gustave did. He has a few dents in his armor but nothing more. Aside from an elephant or white rhino, few animals are capable of killing an adult hippo. But a park warden saw Gustave killing a hippo in 2002

In November 2003 three people were eaten by a crocodiles in a single attack. A big crocodile attacked their dugout canoe in Malawi's biggest and longest river.Five people were in the canoe when the reptile dragged it under in deep waters in the Shire River, only two made it to shore.

In late December 2003 focus moved back to Australia. 22-year-old Brett Mann was grabbed by a thirteen-foot crocodile in a Northern Territory river. Brett and his two friends had been bike riding and stopped to wash their bikes in the river. His friends swam out to help him but when the reptile turned on them they were forced to climb a tree on a small island. They spent the next 22 hours in the tree whilst the croc, still grasping Brett’s body circled them. They were finally rescued by park rangers.

2005 was a bad year for crocodile atacks in Ausralia.A 56-year-old man was killed while scuba-diving with a friend north of Darwin.Five days earlier, a 37-year-old British engineer Russell Harris was killed by a large Indo-Pacific crocodile while he was snorkelling off the Northern Territory. Police found his body the next day.

In August, a 60-year-old man was dragged out of a canoe and killed by a crocodile in northeastern Queensland state.

The most infamous single case of man eating took place during WW2. A biologist named Bruce Wright, who was accompanying British soldiers observed the events. The British troops had driven 1000 Japanese infantrymen into some mangrove swamps between mainland Burma and Ramree Island. The coast was blockaded by the Royal Navy and the infantrymen’s ships could not pick them up. Under fire from the British they were trapped. As darkness fell hordes of Indo-pacific crocodiles appeared and all hell was let loose. The men on the British ships were horrified by the screams of the Japanese and the thrashing and crunching of the giant reptiles. Of the 1000 men that were trapped in the swamps only 20 were alive the next morning. The remaining 980 had been eaten by crocodiles.

The single most infamous killer croc was a giant that terrorized the Lupar River in Sarawak, Borneo. Bujang Senang was 19 feet long and had lureked in the river for several decades. I have covered his man-eating career in a previous post on this blog.

Sebtember 2008 saw the dissapereance of 62 year old Scotsman Authur Brooker. He had been checking crab pots near Cooktown, North Queensland. A 15 foot crocodile was trapped and forensic tests confirmed the remains inside the stomach were that of a human male.

An X-ray of the crocodile had revealed a wedding ring in its stomach.

A spokesman for the state's Environmental Protection Agency said that because of the man-eating reptile's size, it was a protected animal that could not be killed.

However, it could not be released either, and under Queensland state law prevented it from being displayed in a zoo or wildlife facility with any sign indicating it had eaten a human being.

That left a breeding programme as the only alternative - so the animal will be put out to stud on a farm for the rest of its life.

"Any crocodile four metres or over is... an iconic crocodile, so it needs to go into a facility where it can be used in a way that benefits crocodile conservation," the EPA spokesman said.

In Febuary 2009 the remains of five year old Jeremy Doble were found in the stomach of a 14 foot male crocodile.The creature was trapped in the flooded Daintree River in the far north of Queensland.Jeremy went missing from a nearby spot on February 8.

He had been playing with his seven-year-old brother Ryan and his dog behind their home in a mangrove swamp when he disappeared. Ryan told police that he saw a crocodile immediately after but did not see an attack.

A 10 foot female crocodile was trapped last week but later released after a surgical procedure found no evidence it had been responsible for the attack

Then in March 2009 an Indo-Pacific crocodile said to be 30 feet long attacked a canoe in the Agusan Marsh in the Philippines. The canoe was carrying children to a floating school. One unfortunate girl had he head bitten off. Around 100 members of the Manobo tribe have been forced to leave their houses, which sit on the lake on stilts, amid fears of another attack.

Allso in March 11 year old Briony Goodsell, her sister and two friends aged 12 and 10 were been playing in a creek in Lambells Lagoon, near Darwin, northern Australia, when the youngster was dragged under by a crocodile. AA search of the marshy area uncovered her remains 450 meters down stream

The area where they had been swimming was within the restricted Black Jungle Conservation Reserve. It is just 3km from the crocodile-infested Adelaide River floodplains - and access to the reserve is strictly by permit only.

These stories make gruesome reading but such attacks are relatively rare. Crocodiles do kill more people per year than any other large predator but those numbers are tiny when compared to the toll taken by creatures like the mosquito and the tetse fly. So just what is it that makes a crocodile turn man-eater?

One clue could lie in the species most often implicated, the Nile, and Indo-Pacific crocodiles. They live alongside large mammals and have adapted to feed on them. Species like the American and Orinoco crocodile very seldom attack humans. Could this be due to the lack of large mammals in Central and South America?

Another factor could be lack of prey animals. In the case of Bujang Senang it was said that the wild pigs that once abounded around the banks of the Lupar River had all but been wiped out. With no wild animals to kill a crocodile will start to take domestic stock. Then it is just a small jump to taking human prey. In other areas crocodile attacks are very rare. One of these is Lake Baringo were the abundant fish stocks keep the crocodile happy and natives consider them harmless.

In the Agusan Marsh case mentioned erlier it was thought that crocodiles had become aggressive because a recent flood had swollen the lake, dissipating the fishes and leaving the crocodiles little to feed on.

Native people sometimes take amazing risks with crocodiles due to their tribal beliefs. As we have seen many people in Sarawak think themselves immune to crocodile attack due to folklore. In Africa people think that charms can protect them. A dangerous over-familiarity has been noticed in several areas of Africa. German explorer Heinrich Fonck recorded several examples of this. On one occasion a hunter had shot and butchered a hippo. The blood had attracted a number of crocodiles but at sunset the native women came to fill their water vessels and took up position between the carcass and the crocodiles.

On another occasion a Zulu at St Lucia Bay had jumped into the water to push a pontoon away from the bank. He knew full well there were crocodiles about. The Zulu was snatched and eaten by a crocodile. But the next day more Zulus came down and swam in the water.

Most startling was a woman at Lake Albert who was observed washing her baby whilst a big crocodile swam by. A European shouted a warning but she responded by saying that crocodiles don’t eat people!

Crocodile expert Tony Pooley worked as a ranger at Natal Parks Board in South Africa. He was horrified by the attitude of some natives. Children and their parents would swim deep rivers rather than pay the few pence to take the ferry across. When a child was eaten people would be back swimming at the same spot the next day.

Lt Colonel John Henry Patterson, who had put paid to the man-eating lions of Tsavo, observed this “matter of fact attitude”. He was walking beside the Tsavo River with a group of Wa Kemba people when a crocodile snatched a man and swam off with him. When the shouts had died down the other tribesmen simply picked up the victim’s bow, arrows, and stock of meat, then walked on as if nothing had happened.

This behavior is matched by the stupidity of tourists and even westerners who live locally. Ignoring warning signs and advice from natives people will do the most stupid things. In March 1987 American Ginger Medows, who was on a boat trip up the Prince Regent River, Australia decided to swim in a creek with a friend whilst doing some exploring. She paid with her life in the jaws of a crocodile.

Another American, Bill Olsen, a member of the Peace Corps, was in Gambela, Ethiopia in April 1966. He and three friends decided to go swimming despite being warned of a large Nile crocodile that had recently devoured a woman and child. The sixteen-foot animal grabbed Bill after he lingered in the water. It hauled him downstream and ate him.

Australian Beryl Wruck, decided to go swimming in the Daintree River. It was Christmas night 1985 and she had been drinking. You might forgive a foreigner for such a careless action, but the idea of an Australia, even a drunk Australia doing something so foolish is unthinkable. She was eaten by a 17-foot crocodile.

Another case of fatal nonchalance occurred in 1987 on the East Alligator River. Local angler Kerry McLoughlin decided to wade over Carhill’s Crossing, a tidal ford, despite having been drinking and despite the large sign warning people about crocodiles. A croc decapitated him in front of horrified on lookers.

Much has been made of attacks on surfers made by great white sharks being a case of mistaken identity. The shark sees the surfboard from beneath and mistakes it for a sea lion or seal. Could something like this be the case with crocodiles?

Crocodiles do attack boats, there are many records of this. The Victorian lady explorer Mary Kingsley was attacked by an eight-foot crocodile whilst canoeing on the Gambia. She managed to beat the creature off with an oar.

Major A.S.H Gibbons, explorer and big game hunter, was traveling down the Zambezi in an aluminum launch when a crocodile rammed it with such force the at first thought he had struck a rock. Fortunately he was able to keep his balance. Others have not been so lucky.

In August 2003 Seventeen-year-old Katy Reeves was canoeing at Mano Pools National Park, Zimbabwe, when a crocodile attacked her vessel, destroying it and eating her.

Two British explorers Justin Matterson and Rupert FitzMaurice managed to escape a similar attack. Whilst kayaking on the Zambezi in 1996 when the biggest crocodile they had ever seen appeared almost dragging Justin’s kayak underwater. The pair made it to shore and, thankfully, the crocodile did not press home its’ attack.

Clearly some attacks on boats are predatory in nature but could there be another factor. The most infamous boat attacking crocodile was a 17-foot Indo-Pacific crocodile known as Sweetheart. Sweetheart lived in Finiss River south of Darwin. Between 1974 and 1979 he was involved in many attacks upon boats. Amazingly he did not kill a single person. His aggression was directed at the boats. He bit through metal hulls. Overturned boats like toys, and crunched up outboard motor. It has been suggested that the attacks by Sweetheart and other big male crocodiles on boats is brought on by the crocodiles mistaking the vessels for other crocodiles. The sound of an outboard motor is very like the gurgling threat vocalizations males make during the breeding season. Thinking the boats to be rival male interloping on their territory the crocodiles naturally attack.

Defense of nests and eggs may also be a factor. In an investigation into crocodile attacks in Northern Zululand and southern Mozambique 39 of the 43 documented cases in one year occurred between November and early April. This is when females are guarding their nests and males become aggressively territorial.

Despite the fact that crocodiles do kill people we should look at these events in perspective. Thousands of us visit Africa, tropical Asia, and Australia every year without being attacked. You stand more chance of being hit by lightning that ending up in the mouth of a crocodile. Compared to the number of lives lost on the world’s roads every year the toll taken by crocodiles is tiny.

So what steps can a tourist or explorer take to stop becoming a statistic?

* If locals tell you crocodiles are present then take care.

* Always obey any signs warning you of crocodiles.

* Never swim or paddle in water where crocodiles may lurk.

* Never gut fish or other game close to water.

* Do not let children or dogs play near water.

* Do not dangle your hands, feet or other parts of your body out of a boat.

* Do not make your camp on a rivez side or beach if you suspect crocodiles are there.

* Do not fill water containers from the river. Use small streams or put the container on the end of a long pole.

* If you happen across a nest, eggs, or hatchlings move away quickly.

* Remember, human stupidity is a big factor in crocodile attacks.

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


It’s a Sunday and that means as well as the update on the latest cryptozoology news posted to the CFZ’s daily cryptozoology news blog by Mr Wilson (not to be confused with the other Mr Wilson) I lay down a link to some music I’ve been listening to this week to share with you all. I’d like to post another Al Stewart track, but for the sake of variety I’ll leave that for next week, this week instead is the turn of Bob Dylan with a song that would later be used in the sound track of one of the greatest movies ever made: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2s8_hCCHg4 (the song being ‘The Man In Me’).

New antpitta discovered in Colombia – Probably already extinct
Reputations in the mist - Gorillas may not be as vegetarian as they are supposed to be
An end to suffering for stranded whales
Horse treated for grass allergy

They found out the animal was allergic when the vet asked what he felt like when he eats grass and the owner replied:
“A little horse.”



"Another interview with me on why i'm ace!" says Richard, and it is a sunday morning, and the clocks have just gone forward, and I cannot be bothered to argue with him. One of these days I want to have an interview with Richard posted on these pages with questions that he will hate; like `Why are you such a big Star Trek fan?" "Who is your favourite reality TV star?" "What is your favourite Gangster Rap song?" but that will have to wait.

In the meantime this Q&A session from Neil Arnold tells the uninitiated quite a lot of useful and interesting stuff.

GLEN VAUDREY: Ness than Zero

Glen is one of the newer additions to the bloggo family. He wrote to me out of the blue last year to ask wherther we wanted a Western Isles volume in our Mystery Animals of Britain series. We argeed that we did indeed want one, and commissioned him. What we were not expecting was such a bloody good writer and all round nice guy, who - by the way - is writing several other volumes for us...

Over the last three years I have regularly flown over Loch Ness on my journey from the metropolis of Stornoway to the fair cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Without fail every time I have crossed the Great Glen I have looked down at the waters some fourteen thousand feet below hoping to find a sign of some great water beast lurking just below the surface or even terrorizing a passing boat. You may have gathered that I have so far not managed to spot the critter or even a hint of it, occasionally cloud gets in the way or the wing of the plane blocks the view but even when it’s clear my track record isn’t that good at spotting much from the air.
It was only on my last flight that I finally managed to spot Ben Nevis from the air and that’s about as big as you get in the United Kingdom, but thanks to this recent spotting of a mountain I will board the next flight with a whole new level of excitement that will no doubt see me once again eagerly pressing my nose against the greasy window looking for signs of Nessie far below.


This story has been around for years. I remember covering it in Tropical Fish magazine back in 2002 or 2003. The interesting quqstion is why has it surfaced again now? I find myself being drawn more and more to questions like this. Ten years or so ago I wrote a paper about what I called `Psychosociology` after reading Julian Dibbell's My Tiny Life, and it is a subject that has interested me ever since. The ebb and flow of information online, and even more peculiarly the ebb and flow of complete nonsense fascinates me. If anyone can point me in the direction of any books on the subject as a whole I would be very interested..

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Oll has been jolly busy and the latest set of scanned news clippings and other stuff from the Archiving Project is ready for you to download HERE should you want to..

This is the third trenche of bird-related clippings and consists of mostly new and rediscovered species from the mid 1990s. A twitcher's delight!


It is with great pleasure that we welcome Neil Arnold to the CFZ bloggo with this first guest blog. 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... (and probably not that much wiser)

When I wrote Monster! The A-Z Of Zooform Phenomena, I realised that as soon as it was published more bizarre ethereal beasts would emerge from cultures across the world. The Netherlands is a greatly ignored country, a place peppered with weird and wonderful folklore pertaining to monsters.

One of my favourite zooform mysteries is the dreaded Osschaart (Osschaard, Osgaard). It is a horrifying ghoul which can take on several forms, but is mainly known for being a humanoid but with the characteristics of a bull and also horse or donkey, making this spook a classic water spirit similar in some instances to the Kelpie. Fishermen are extremely wary of this beast, for those who refuse to throw back their first catch of the night are sure to get a visit from the hideous monster. The ringing of bells, but usually the rattling of chains signifies that the creature is in the vicinity and then, from the shadows the fiend pounces, leaping onto the backs of his victims. No harm ever appears to be done to those who are on the receiving end of the beast, but just like many critters from the realm of nightmares, it seems we learn to respect and certainly fear their presence. Drunkards also seem to be prone to the attacks of the apparition.

Strangely, throughout Dutch folklore there are several apparitions whose intention it seems, is to ‘weigh down’ their victim. Such a sinister motive of course resembles the Mara, which exists in the lore of the Scandinavians as a hag-like nocturnal predator. In Dutch it is the Nachtmerrie, a horse-like beast said to sit on the chests of those during slumber. However, when discussing the Osschaart, researcher Mathijs Kroon, when I asked as to why ‘weight’ plays a major part in monster folklore, answered, “Maybe it has something to do with alcohol. Men left the pub late at night, heavily drunk in total darkness...and started walking back to their small houses in the small villages at the countryside. Legs became too heavy, walking impossible. When they finally reached home, stumbling to their doors, with their angry waiting wives, they blamed some supernatural creature for the long delay!”

Two other folkloric monsters resemble the Osschaart, the Kludde and the Lange Wapper. The former resembles a huge, phantom black bipedal hound which also roams the countryside of Flemish Belgium. It also gives off the sound of rattling chains to warn of its ominous arrival and it is said that no-one can ever outrun the hound and it also takes on the form of a ghastly black bird or large black cat covered in thick hair. It has a relation in West Brabant folklore, the Flodder, a tormenting creature which lives in ditches and ponds and leaps from these hidden places to the backs and shoulders of its victims. Strangely, particularly in Belgian lore, the Lange Wapper also has a dislike for drunken souls and exists as a trickster spook which can take on many forms, and is able to leap over houses. Another devilish form which enjoys weighing down its victims is the Stoep of Gelderland which is said to resemble the Osschaart. Its name translates as ‘short tail’ and the creature can either appear as a werewolf or dog.

To be continued….


I was driving through southern Illinois about five years ago when I saw the most enormous bird I have ever seen. It was a turkey vulture, but itseemed to be about half as big again as normal with a wingspan that I estimated as being about nine feet. This blurry picture is my only evidence, and I have been waiting to find the appropriate place t0 use it. Lindsay's article seems to be that place...

I came across this whilst browsing for something for my Literature Review.( I was avoiding writing it really)
In late September, 1992 as Kim Foley drove home late in the afternoon her two year old son, Jayson shouted, "Mommy, look at the puppy!" What she saw was not a dog, but a large bird hunched over a deer carcass. "I expected to see a dog," she explained. "But it was a very big bird eating a dead deer. It was huge!" she said, "and dark brown, almost black, an ugly beak. Looked right at us in the car, it was that tall." At the time of the sighting she was near Mt. Zion Church cemetery, south of a marsh and North White Deer Ridge in Lycoming County USA.

Thunderbirds inhabit the folklore of many regions, but are more closely associated with certain areas such as Pennsylvania, the Mississippi River valley.(Cryptozoologists use the word "thunderbird" as a convenient term for any abnormally large flying bird ).

Perhaps the most famous tale of the Thunderbird comes from 1977 in Lawndale, Illinois. It was here that on July 25, 1977 towards 9:00 pm a group of three boys were in the backyard. They saw two large birds coming, and as the birds came in closer they went after the boys. Two of the boys escaped, but the third, Marlon Lowe, did not. One of the birds clamped onto his shoulder with its claws and proceeded to lift the ten year old boy about two feet off the ground for a distance of at least 30 yards. With screams of distress calling adults outside and coupled with a series of blows by the 65-pound boy, the bird finally released him. The boy was relatively unharmed, but traumatised. Nothing was ever found as an explanation for this.

Two weeks after Kim Foley’s sighting in 1992 Dave Sims and children, Zach and Casey, saw a large bird , in Clinton County, "It flew ahead of the truck and disappeared in the trees," he said. "I know the hawks around here, but I never saw this one before," Sims continued. "I've heard `thunderbird' stories but chalked that up to regional folklore. I don't know if this was or not, but it was a big, dark gray bird, and flew faster than 55 mph."

So are prehistoric birds roaming the skies of America? There have been tales told for many years by Native Americans of such birds. What about other parts of the world, well the Ropen of New Guinea springs to mind.

Duane Hodgkinson, now a flight instructor in Livingston, Montana, in 1944 was stationed near Finschhafen, in what was then called New Guinea. After he and his friend walked into a clearing, they were amazed as a large creature flew up into the air. The men soon realized that it was no bird that started to circle the clearing. It had a tail “at least ten to fifteen feet long,” (book Searching for Ropens, 2007) and a long appendage at the back of its head: apparently, a live pterosaur. This is not the only story and natives to the area talk of being attacked by giant bats.
So could giant birds from an earlier era be responsible for these attacks? The Thunderbird could be a sort of very large eagle , like the sea eagle and the Ropen could be giant bats, so both species are feasible. There have been stories of large eagles carrying away small livestock so they could lift a child. Still though, the thought of a pterosaur, still alive, is so exciting and would truly be a wonder of the world, if unlikely.


The CFZ is a very broad church. Its membership and associates include three Peers of the Realm (two of whom are distantly related to the Royal family), various eminent scientists, famous authors and researchers, at least two rock stars and a plethora of less famous musicians, lots of artists, more computer programmers than you can shake a stick at, various second hand book dealers, at least four publishers, two convicted drug dealers (one of whom who is in prison as we speak), at least three other inmates of prisons in the UK or the USA, three ex members of the IRA, several people with far right wing affiliations, four Christian priests/padres/vicars/preachers, an imam, members of at least seven religions, and Lord knows how many ethnic groups, and people ranging in age from eleven to 87. We also have a male stripper.

Now, what a person does in his or her private life is none 0f my affair, and quite a few of the people listed above are close friends of mine, and as far as the stripper is concerned - I have known him since he was in his late teens.

The only reason that he and his profession are mentioned here on the bloggo on this particular saturday night is because he has written a book about his adventures, and how he has used his stripping career to finance his cryptozoological researches, and although not for the faint hearted, it is a surprisingly good read.

Nick is a good writer, and I have been publishing his work in Animals & Men and the CFZ Yearbooks for years now. Indeed we are planning to publish another book of his, about zoological predators (I had to promise Corinna that he would keep his kit on in the cover picture) later this year.

It gives a dispassionate account of a world that most of us never knew existed and a lifestyle that I cannot imagine, but one is left with the impression of a decent man (albeit a decent man with more than the average amount of demons) who has adopted a non-standard lifestyle in order to do non-standard things with his life. It is jaw-dropping at times, and tells me more than I wished to know about the life of someone that I have considered a friend ever since the CFZ started, but I am glad that I read it.



Nick Redfern sent us this a few weeks ago. Cannock Chase seems to be one of those strange window areas which occur across the globe, where far more than average strange things seem to happen. Those cynics who believe that this paradigm is directly related to trhe presence in an area of a diligent researcher should perhaps eat their words on remembering that Redders has been living in Texas for years now.

So herewith, without any comments, is a report of a strange flying man from this intriguing part of rural Staffordshire. Will this be the first of many such sightings? Or will it prove to be a one-off.

GLEN VAUDREY: The phantom rabbit of Crank

Glen is one of the newer additions to the bloggo family. He wrote to me out of the blue last year to ask wherther we wanted a Western Isles volume in our Mystery Animals of Britain series. We argeed that we did indeed want one, and commissioned him. What we were not expecting was such a bloody good writer and all round nice guy, who - by the way - is writing several other volumes for us...

While searching around for reports for the Mystery Animals of Lancashire book I came across a tale of a most terrible apparition that is said to haunt the lanes of the delightfully named hamlet of Crank. While some areas are subject to the prowling of mystery big cats and others suffer the paw prints of phantom hounds Crank on the other hand gets a white rabbit. Not a giant talking rabbit but a vengeful doom-foretelling bunny.

Like many a phantom dog this zooform has its own legendary foundation. The story goes that way back in the 17th century there was a nameless old woman who occupied a hovel within the hamlet of Crank which she shared with her daughter Jenny and Jenny’s pet rabbit. Fitting for the time the old woman was soon branded a witch by a neighbouring farmer by the name of Pullen who was convinced that he had been bewitched by her. Local belief had it that by drawing blood from the witch the spell would be broken and it was to this end that Pullen and his accomplice Dick Piers broke into the old woman’s cottage. Rather clumsily they awoke Jenny with the racket as they attempted to cut the old woman’s arm, not wanting to hang around Jenny ran off into the night taking her rabbit with her. She was pursued by Piers and while she managed to evade capture she succumbed to exhaustion and was found dead in the chapel. Her white rabbit didn’t fare much better as it was beaten to death. Of course just because you’ve beaten the bunny to pulp it doesn’t mean that it won’t come after you.

It was only a month later when the white rabbit appeared and started to follow Piers around the hamlet eventually being held responsible for driving him to commit suicide in Billinge Hill quarry. But the vengeful bunny wasn’t finished there as it now set about hounding Pullen who was to be seen being pursued across the fields until he died frightened and exhausted by the chase.

While the white rabbit may not be a headless hell hound it is still rumoured to haunt the area foretelling doom upon its sighting, but I wonder if this particular zooform has really anything to do with the little old lady or if she was just an invention to explain the presence of the ghostly white rabbit.


Just received:
"This morning, 25th. March, I received the not unexpected dreaded telephone call from Tony's wife, Pauline, to tell me the sad news of Tony's peaceful passing just about midnight yesterday. He had been looked after at home by Pauline and family coupled with professional nursing care, since last August when he was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour.For those wishing to know of the funeral arrangements, it will take place next Tuesday, the 31st. of March at 12.45 at the Parish Church of Linton which is close by Grassington, Nr. Skipton, North Yorkshire."

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


Your patience has been rewarded for today, as well as the cryptozoology news update from the CFZ daily news blog, is tea of the week day. This weeks tea is first flush Darjeeling and if you’re ever in London I recommend popping into Harrods for this, it is one of the teas their plantations do particularly well. Anyway news, there’s a lot of it today:

Germany's Stone Age Cannibalism
Prehistoric-looking fish hooked by stunned schoolboy
Millions of fish shoal in seconds
Crabs 'sense and remember pain'
Bid to aid daddy longlegs numbers
Shepherds reveal viral ad secrets
Third cattle mutilation found in county
Mutilated Cows Still A Big Mystery
USA TV focus on new Nessie mystery
Toxic toads targeted in Australia's 'Toad Day Out'
Rabid bobcat walks into bar, attacks patrons
So monsters of the deep really could exist!
Elephant angel mystery solved
Mystery solved of elephant in Belfast back yard
Shaun gets a scare from 'alien' catfish

Scared by a catfish, eh? What a ‘pussy’.

Friday, March 27, 2009


Syd, your email keeps on bouncing. I have been trying to email you for days. Can you ring me?




It is always nice to be able to introduce you all to a new guest blogger. Possibly the nicest thing about the CFZ bloggo is that it is a living, breathing community, and new people arrive on a regular basis. I can't tell you anything about Liz, apart from the fact that she bought some books from us at Uncon, briefly spoke to Richard, and had a charmingly old-fashioned habit of referring to me as `Mr Downes`, when everyone else calls me `Jon` or `Hey You` (or somethimes something more scatological), until I told her not to. She is obviously one to watch...

Touchstones is a charming museum, art gallery and local studies centre in Rochdale, Lancashire. It contains a wonderful little café where they serve best peppermint tea I have ever tasted.

My favourite feature in the former Rochdale Central Library building, however, is a small unassuming white telephone tucked up a corner in the local history section. There are actually several of these and not one performs the function intended by Alexander Graham Bell but my favourite will dial up any one of a four local legends provided you press the right button.
According to the over-enthusiastic actress employed to record The Rochdale Goblins (the best of these stories, in my opinion), the people of Saxon Rochdale (or Recedham as it was then known) wanted a parish church on the bank of the river Roche. Plans were drawn up, builders employed and stone was cut.

The morning after the first day’s labour the worker’s returned to the construction site to find it bare. After hunting the surrounding area all day the materials were discovered at the top of a steep hill overlooking the river. Everything was slowly dragged back down to where it should have been and tired but relieved, everyone went home.

Next morning, though, same thing again: all stone and equipment vanished, again to be discovered at the top of the hill. These trials went on for some days until some bright spark suggested the local goblins, who must have been there first, didn’t want the Christian edifice on their land and were responsible for the disruption of the work. It was thus decided Rochdale should take the hint; the church was built on top of the hill overlooking the town and river, consecrated in honour of St. Chad and still stands there to this day; intact and still in use.
Since Touchstones itself is built on the bank of the Roche, though, one must assume that goblins have no objection to cultural centres; either that or they are as fond of peppermint tea as I am.


Why does this seemingly NEW !!! attitude by the RSPCA come as no real surprise to me. Their general approach to wild life stinks and has done for a long time. Pretty much the same as their approach to domesticated critters - 'lets put it down rather than let it go to a good home'.

Well over ten years ago we found an injured swallow in the road outside my home, It had hit a phone cable and damaged its leg and torn its breast. The RSPCA told my mother they could not do anything and we should put it out of its misery. We then found a local animal charity AARU - (Animal Accident Rescue Unit) who got it collected within half an hour and treated by a bird expert. When it was recovered fully they contacted us to see if we would like to release it which we did with pleasure.

Around six years ago at 3 am one morning I found a very badly injured fox, (it had been hit by a vehicle and suffered a serious back injury & had no use of its back legs). I took time out from my job as a taxi driver to catch it and make it as comfortable as possible in my car then rang the RSPCA. They flatly refused to come out or do anything about it saying "We don't deal with foxes and other pests". Their only advice was to leave it where it was to die.

Naturally this made me rather angry and after pointing out exactly what I thought of her and the RSPCA, I then got the number for the AARU and within ten minutes, arrangements had been made for me to take the animal direct to a local vet (who happened to be my own vet). I was advised a couple of days later that following an x-ray the fox had been put down as its spine was broken.

I have no doubt that many of the RSPCAs workers are genuine, dedicated animal lovers, but the folks at the top who make decisions, only consider their inflated salaries and do not give a damn about animal welfare.

Some if not all of the CFZ animal lovers may be interested in the links on THIS SITE


We get an average of nearly 2,000 visitors a day, and the number is continuing to rise. We know that this is fairly small beer compared to some of the other blogs that are around. Darren over at TetZoo for example gets about twice what we do, but when you consider that back in the second week ofJanuary when we started the daily bloggo we were getting only about fifty hits a day, then I think we have done rather well.

However, I didn't come online this evening to post a "didn't we do well" bloggo. There are so many of those online at the moment that one would have thought that it was Bruce Forsyth rather than Sir Tim Berners-Lee who was the father of the Internet. But I digress. What I really want is some fibreglass resin, and I preferably want it without having to pay for it.

You see, we have run out of money. We have enough money to live on, and enough money to pay our bills. We even have just about enough money to pay the exorbitant Council Tax bill, but we don't have enough money to continue our work on the Visitor Centre. Not at the moment at least.

So we are on the want. Is there anyone amongst the bloggo readership who can let us have some fibreglass resin, in reasonably large amounts, cheap - or even better, free? I would prefer it to be legitimate, but my scruples are easily oversome when it comes to things like insurance write-offs....

Email me on jon@eclipse.co.uk or telephone 01237 431413

Thursday, March 26, 2009

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


Here we go, its CFZ news blog update time.

Mr Hyena can't be late for dinner
Nuisance gerbils are being put on the pill
New Species Found In Papua-New Guinea
Newly discovered frog in Papua New Guinea
Endangered and Adorable
Rare Octopus Fossil Found
Man Frees Trapped Fox In Fence
Hopefully the fox didn’t take o’fence’ at being trapped so long.


My witticisms were completely lost on a surprisingly large number of the CFZ bloggofolk, because when I included a pleasantry about `yellow bellies` in my email post to Usenet yesterday, I had several e-mails asking what I meant.

In fact that is not true. I had several e-mails asking what I meant, two saying non comprende senor, and one saying "Oi. What the *****ing ***** was I ****ing well talking about?"

So I had better explain

The CFZ have indeed just taken delivery of a breeding group of yellow bellies, but they are the yellow bellied girardinus (Girardinus falcatus ), a small livebearing fish from Cuba which are distantly related to guppies.

The reason that we have them is part of our outreach projects, trying to breed them for our static displays.

However, I have always been fond of fish from the family Poeciliidae, and I do not really need much excuse to keep them

I have been keeping livebearing toothcarps since I was a small child when I used to catch feral guppies and gambusia in the catchment ponds of the stream that flows down from Victoria Peak to Pokfulam Reservoir on Hong Kong Island.

But the amusing thing about these fishes is that they have a strikingly similar name to one of Heuvelmans' original nine sea-serpent types as delineated in In the Wake of the Sea Serpents (1968)

He described it thus:

"A sea animal of very great size shaped like a tadpole. Usually of a very striking yellow colour marked with a black stripe along the spine, and black transverse bands along the sides. The huge flat head merges imperceptibly into the flat fusiform body, and the tail is extraordinarily long and tapering"

Fusiform, by the way means "having a spindle-like shape that is wide in the middle and tapers at both ends." (I didn't know either)

So my pathertic attempts at humour failed monstrously. However I am very fond of my little fishies, and intrigued by the crypto yellow belly which I think is a strange colour form of the whale shark, and Richard thinks is a colonial salp colony.

Watch this space... (perhaps)


MUIRHEAD'S MYSTERIES: Giant Pike and a Weird Whale

Richard Muirhead is an old friend of the CFZ. I have been friends with him for 40 years now, since we were kids together in Hong Kong. He is undoubtedly one of the two best researchers I have ever met; he and Nigel Wright both have what Charlie Fort would have no doubt called a wild talent; a talent for going into a library, unearthing a stack of old newspapers, and coming back with some hitherto overlooked gem of arcane knowledge. Twice a week he wanders into the Macclesfield Public Library and comes out with enough material for a blog post..

For some reason the early years of the Macclesfield Courier were full of stories of somewhat unusual behaviour by aquatic creatures both inland and on the open waters within and around the British Isles. For example:

“A pike was lately caught in Windemere Lake of 30lbs weight: but a larger was once caught in the following extraordinary manner:- A calf belonging to a gentleman at Hawkshead was heard to make an uncommon noise by the side of the river,and on going up to it,there was a large pike seen hanging from its nostrils,which it is supposed the fish had seized while the calf was drinking. The calf had dragged it about fifty yards from the river,and the pike was killed with a stone. It weighed 45lb". Macclesfield Courier July 24th 1813.p.2

“A whale,nearly 30ft in length, was lately brought ashore in the neighbourhood of Irvine,in Scotland.” Macc.Courier August 7th 1813.p.2


Maxy was out birdwatching yesterday, and he got three snaps of this peculiar looking cormorant.

Now we know that cormorants do flaunt white head feathers in the breeding season. One authority (the URL at the bottom of this page) writes:

"Both subspecies acquire white heads prior to breeding, with some evidence that older birds have whiter heads. As an illustration, in a colony in coastal France comprised entirely of P.c.carbo, 92% of early breeders had white head feathers, while none of the later breeders showed this feature. The white head fades from egg-laying onwards, so while P.c.sinensis may average more white filoplumes at its peak than P.c.carbo, this is not a reliable character since it is dependent on the stage of breeding.

Perhaps one reason why it has been tempting to record white-headed birds at inland sites as P.c.sinensis is because only a proportion of birds in any breeding colony show the characteristic".

Now we had always thought that cormorants were cormorants, (unless they were shags) but it seems that there are two distinct subspecies jostling for our attention.


Has lots more information, but does not get us any further in identifying this bird, whose fine white head plumage and what appears to be a yellow chin, seems far more marked than any other images that we have been able to find. Over to you guys...

Maxy had a particularly good day birdwatching (I could make twitching jokes but I won't), seeing two sorts of egret as well as some other goodies. Expect a full report on his blog in the next few days, although with his A-Levels looming it is not unsurprising that his postings are a little erratic at the moment.