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.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

NEIL ARNOLD: Black Dogs and Hairy Men

I have known Neil for fifteen years now, since he was a mod schoolboy with ambitions for adventure and I was an earnest young hippy 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....


I must admit that I was rather shocked to read that some of the more recent Black Dog sightings have been suggested as scarce. Read my MYSTERY ANIMALS OF THE BRITISH ISLES: KENT and you’ll find several very recent phantom hound tales. My mother saw a small black dog whilst ill in bed with pleurisy a few years back. She was sitting up one evening when it appeared a few feet away on the chest of drawers. She blinked a few times and it remained, until it gradually faded from view. It was benign and had long, floppy ears. My book also mentions a 2001 encounter at Blue Bell Hill, involving a motorist and a white hound, which sped across the road causing the motorist to brake. There have also been some very recent sightings not far from Bluewater Shopping Centre of two seemingly spectral canids, which have caused one motorist to crash their vehicle, and others to get detailed glimpses of these wolf-like beasts. They appear very muscular, one having a dark ear, and are bigger than wolves. Investigations at the particularly dark stretch of road they haunt has drawn a blank regards to possible escaped pets.

There was an impressive sighting towards Ashford of a huge, black hound, seen by several passengers in a car one foggy night in the region of Tenterden. This was reported to Fortean Times magazine. I personally believe phantom hound reports, although not common, occur sporadically. Just a case of right place, right time…I’ve also numerous on record from London and Sussex, all of which took place in the last ten years.


Wouldham is a small village in Kent that sits right next to Blue Bell Hill, which for me, remains the country's weirdest village. In my book I noted several bizarre tales concerning witnesses who’d seen red-eyed man-beasts and very recently a lady, who now resides in Norfolk, contacted me to say that when she was a child growing up in the ‘60s at Wouldham, her grandmother used to tell her intriguing tales. One of these was said to date back to the 1920s and her grandmother, who passed away, made notes of this. The lady said that her grandmother used to tell her about the ‘hairy man’ of Wouldham. A humanoid often seen in local woods by children, and certainly adults were made aware of this being. It was completely covered in hair and the story had become embedded in her psyche and was triggered again when she purchased my MYSTERY ANIMALS OF THE BRITISH ISLES: KENT and saw, at the front, an image of a hairy humanoid standing at Blue Bell Hill’s Kit’s Coty House, an ancient structure on the landscape. It’s clear to me that we aren’t dealing with tales of escaped monkeys, but indeed something very much embedded in the fabric of the place, as some kind of folkloric creature which has existed for possibly centuries. It seems as well that the more I write about the creature, the more it stirs up. Around 1997/’98 there was a report in the local newspaper of a gorilla-type creature seen at Blue Bell Hill, and I recall scoffing at the report and believed it was simply down to media drama. Now, it seems that there is, and always has been, a strange humanoid prowling the dark lanes and thickets of a place that I’ve been obsessed with since I was a kid and my dad used to take me there and terrify me with tales of the phantom hitchhiker….

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