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 10, 2009

Paranormal is just a cop out

I just want to set the record straight about something. Over the past few weeks I been receiving letters from friends, and strangers alike. They all asked me the same thing. How come, when you have made your life's work the investigation of strange things, are you so resolutely against "the paranormal". Well the answer is, that I'm not. After all my most famous book, The Owlman and Others is unquestionably set within the twilight realms. It is not the investigation of things unknown that irritates me, but the misuse, and indeed abuse of the term "the paranormal".

When I was much younger I had a distant cousin who was a nun. My cousin Barbara joined a holy order, and became Sister Ignatious. I met her at various family gatherings over the years, but I was always somewhat in awe of her, and never got to know her very well. However, she always seemed to be a kind, devout lady, and to be all that one would expect one's cousin who happened to be a nun to be. However, I will always remember a family occasion of some sort which occurred in about 1971 when I was 11 or 12. Some smaller children belonging to one of the more obscure scions of my mother's family were milling about, and talking generally smutty nonsense in the way that small children are wont to do. I cannot remember the details, but one little girl went up to my cousin Barbara, sorry, Sister Ignatious, and asked her a question which was obviously intended to embarrass the poor lady.

Again, I cannot remember the details of the question, but I can remember the answer. My cousin looked down her lorgnettes and said, with all the moral authority that came from being not only a bride of Christ, but the daughter of a long line of minor Sussex gentry:

"I wouldn't know about that dear. It is all part of the majesty of our Lord God".

That would have been a remarkably apposite answer if it had been in answer to some obscure question of theology, but it wasn't. It was in answer to a smutty and wholly inappropriate question of lavatorial tediousness aimed purely at making a sweet old lady embarrassed. However, from her point of view, as she believed implicitly in the majesty of Creation, even the reproductive and excretive organs were the work of The Lord, and therefore not to be questioned or examined too closely - literally, or euphemistically.

Even at the age of 11, I realised that this was a cop out. At the age of 50 (next August) I see exactly the same cop out being used regularly by so-called paranormalists. Now, don't get me wrong. I am not, for one moment, trying to say that all the mysteries of the universe will eventually be solved. Some things - whether there is life after death, for example - are essentially unknowable. However, I for one am getting tired of the catch-all phrase "well its all paranormal innit" being used to describe mysteries from the whole gamut of the fortean canon. The concept of the paranormal has become almost a religious one in some people's eyes, and for some people, and worse for some investigators, the concept that something is "paranormal" is enough, and replaces any concept of rational investigation. When forteana, or worse forteanism, becomes a religion, then it is time for me to bail out!

So, of course I am interested in "the paranormal". A large chunk of my career has been built on it. I just believe, however, that the vast majority of unsolved fortean mysteries are either solvable using currently accepted models, or are defined by laws of physics that we just don't understand yet. And although I accept that some of the great mysteries of the universe will never be solved, there is certainly the possibility, in my eyes at least, that the things which I look into will eventually be solved, hopefully by me.

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