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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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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

RICHARD HOLLAND: Herring Hoggs and Sea Devils

Once again we hand you over to guest blogger Richard Holland, editor of Paranormal Magazine and all round good bloke. He is a regular visitor to these pages and I am sure that you will all agree with me that this is jolly good news for all of us...

Richard Muirhead’s recent reference to a nautical beastie by the name of the Herring Hogg sent me delving among the landfill of dusty paper I laughingly call an archive, in search of the transcript I made of a report on just such a creature that became stranded on a Wirral beach in the 17th century. I know I’ve got it somewhere… but could I find it? No.

All I can offer in compromise is this brief reference by Christina Hole in her Traditions and Customs of Cheshire, published in 1937. I’m fairly sure Ms Hole was using the same ref. as me; a transcript of a broadside ballad reprinted in a 19th century edition of regional antiquarian journal, The Cheshire Sheaf. This is what she writes (on page 178):

‘A very curious creature, called a Herring Hogg, was said to have been stranded on the shores of Wirral in the spring of 1636. Sir John Bridgeman, Chief Justice of Chester, discovered it, when he was riding on the Lent Circuit. It was fifteen yards high, and twenty yards and one foot in length. Its voice was evidently powerful, for its cry could be heard six or seven miles away, and was “so hideous that none dared come near it for some time”. We are not told what happened to it when the local people finally summoned up courage to approach.’

I think we can guess, Christina. I imagine Herring Hogg is a generic name for any big sea mammal but the factor that sets this one apart is its loud (and probably heartbreakingly mournful) cry. Any ideas what it might have been? One suspects the Chief Justice of Chester would be unlikely to exaggerate its dimensions, which adds to the mystery.
Another critter who suffers frequent exaggeration is the Sea Devil or Devil Fish – i.e. a giant squid/ colossal octopod. Yesterday I bought a book (for £2!), which I recall reading as a youngster when it used to be on the shelves of my local library: ’Orrible Murder. This fun volume features gloriously gruesome snippets from The Illustrated Police News of the 1860s and 70s, collected by Leonard de Vries and published in 1974. Although mainly dealing with crime, there are a couple of ghost stories and an account of a Japanese Sea Devil, which I include, not for its value as a report but because of the wonderful accompanying illustration.
I’ve seen many bizarre giant squid/ octopus illos in my time but this must be the bizarrest of the lot. Don’t you just love those Cookie Monster goggly eyes? Anyway, the IPN report dates from June 21, 1873. It is quoting the ‘Japan Gazette’ of April 23. Here, just in case you’re keen, is the story:



‘We have received from the mate of an English trading vessel a rough sketch of a “monster of the deep”, known by the title of a “Sea Devil” attacking a fishing smack. We are informed by our correspondent that he can vouch for the truth of the strange encounter, which is briefly described in the paper he forwarded with his sketch, and from which our engraving is taken. It seems that a fishing boat was seized by its tentacles whilst off the village of Kononoto, in the district of Kisaradzou, and that the boatmen killed the creature by repeated blows. Its length from the tail to the insertion of the tentacles is about sixteen feet, one of the arms is from the junction of the body to the sucker at its point nearly five feet. It must be borne in mind that the polypus has shrunk since its death, so that living it would probably measure considerably more.’

Richard Holland, Editor of Paranormal Magazine (http://www.paranormalmagazine.co.uk/) and Uncanny UK (http://www.uncannyuk.co.uk/).

2 comments:

Dr Dan Holdsworth said...

I seem to remember that something phonetically very similar to 'erring 'og is Cockney rhyming slang for Dog.

Might we be looking at a badly misplaced Cockney having a rhyming slang laugh in the press?

dinosaurman said...

Hi Richard.
Alan Friswell here.
The book 'Orrible Murder is a real blast from the past--I also remember reading it in my local library in east London back in the 70's. That picture of the 'sea devil' really stuck in my mind, as it looks like the kind of creature that might have come from the censored spider pit sequence from the original King Kong.