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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Monday, March 23, 2009


Unlike the fictional main characters in our film 'Occasional Monsters', neither myself nor my cohort Sam (we being the unit 'Donside Pictures') have ever attempted to hunt or capture a monster. Certainly, we would like to. With any luck we'll find time to one of these days. Personally, I won't be satisfied until I've seen something that leaves me with a white streak of hair & night terrors.

However, one thing we do have experience in is attempting to depict monsters using the medium of film (well, video). Even this pursuit is not without its own hazards and horrors. So, in my best stab at a cryptozoology-themed article, I hereby present our Top Five Interesting Monster-Related Film-making Anecdotes:


Life In Ruins is a short mockumentary we made at the beginning of 2008. It follows a foreign film-maker's attempt to cover the life of a maniac who lives alone in an old castle, which also happens to be inhabited by some kind of pale-faced ghoul.

Being poor and bold, we had no choice but to film this on-the-sly, using a functioning tourist attraction as our location. This meant having to sneak our monster (in full make-up and costume) through the admissions gate, passing him off as a goth with very bad skin. It also meant having to work quickly & do our best to avoid wandering tourists. At least one American woman was badly frightened when our monster accidentally leapt out in front of her. Thankfully, all children present assumed he was simply part of the attraction.

If only we lived in a world where castles really did have specially-hired monster actors.


The opening section of Occasional Monsters sees our heroes investigating a possible lake monster. I will not tell you whether it turns out to be genuine or not - you will have to watch the film to find out. However, I will tell you that the man in control of our monster had to spend a dangerous amount of time standing neck-deep in a freezing cold lake, a situation made more hazardous by his being rather 'relaxed' at the time. I think we were lucky to avoid an accident that day.


f I may try to avoid a spoiler once more, there's a section of Occasional Monsters that involves a being that may or may not be a werewolf. In one scene, the actor playing said being had to roll down a hill. No big deal, you might think - however, we were working at night with very little lighting. As such, none of us noticed the piece of set concrete jutting out of the bottom of the hill. Our actor managed to avoid any head damage (which would have been extremely bad news) but did succeed in gashing his leg quite badly. For what it's worth, he didn't care. Our actors are tough.


Just to show it's not only our cast & crew that suffer, here's my own monster horror. Two of the creatures that appear in Occasional Monsters (you can probably guess which two if you've seen it) were required to look particularly horrific. Having no money, high-quality costumes were out of the question. Rather than scrap the idea, we decided we'd shoot the scenes with uncostumed actors, then apply the effects entirely in post using CG. This sounded great at the time. Later, while I was hand-arranging every element of the CG, frame by frame, entirely on my own, for MONTHS, it didn't seem so great. Hey, that's what happens when you try to make a film with a two-man crew and no money.

#1 -

THE MATA-MATA TURTLE Believe it or not, we didn't create the Mata-Mata turtle. It's a real exhibit in the Aberdeen Zoology Museum. I know, I couldn't believe it either. I think there's some sort of conspiracy among zoologists to make fools of the general public by sustaining an elaborate lie about this creature's existence. I mean, look at it. How's it supposed to get its head back into its shell? Look at the size of its neck! It's bullshit.

You can find out more about Occasional Monsters at http://www.occasionalmonsters.co.uk/. You can watch Life in Ruins online at http://www.imdb.com/video/wab/vi520618777/
Finally, Donside Pictures’ website is http://www.donsidepictures.co.uk/.

1 comment:

Nick Redfern said...

Check out the forthcoming issue of Fortean Times which includes a big feature/interview from me with the guys behind O.C.