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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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Friday, January 09, 2009

Messages of support

Good work Jon.

It makes a change to read one of these of these stories in which (a) a Cryptozoological outfit got straight on it, (b) they managed to secure the specimen before it vanished, got lost being sent to a lab,washed away etc.

The CFZ should be congratulated for securing the specimen so that research can establish what it is. Let us not forget that even if it is a dead seal we have the actual specimen, NOT a press cutting, memory of someone's neighbour, recollection of specimen seen 30 years ago etc.

This is what Fortean research is about.The actual carcass preserved and documented on site ,and available to serious researchers, and I am sure if a bigfoot carcass turned up in the USA,Loren would equally be up to bagging and tagging as fast as possible!

Steve Jones


Jon and team.

Congratulations on the find, amazing indeed and it certainly could not be in better hands. I would just like to know with this latest turn towards nefarious activities are we to be issued, as members of the CFC, with ski masks with the CFC logo so we can follow the leadership of your massively daring raid. LOL :)

Joking aside well done on such a magnificent find.

Kindest of regards

Tony Lucas
NZ Cryptozoologist.

CONFESSIONS OF A CRYPTOZOOLOGIST: Graham Inglis




Graham account of 7 Jan 2009 trek to Croyde

News came in that a mystery carcass had been washed up on Croyde beach. Croyde's only around 30 miles from the CFZ: right on our own doorstep, so preparations were swiftly made to set off and have a look.

I hastily gathered a few tools – garden spades, a saw, and a hammer and chisel, and set off with Oll. We collected Matt in Bideford – he was the only one of us equipped with wellies, I noted – and we proceeded to Croyde and found somewhere to park. Not difficult, in early January, with the temperature below 0ÂșC.

Croyde bay is a west-facing bay. The rocky footpath down to the north end of the beach runs past a display board giving a map of the bay area. The beach is around half a mile long, bracketed at each end by rock strata, strata that have been turned vertical by a previous geological upheaval. The direction of the strata was left-to-right as we looked along the length of the beach, which slowed access to the sands somewhat.

Oll, carrying the cameras, tracked along the strata to hit the beach at its top, whereas Matt and I, conscious that there wasn't much daylight left, cut across the strata formation as a sort of advance party. It was a matter of climbing up a ridge and down; up the next ridge and down.

The carcass had been reported as having been washed up a day or so ago, and Matt told us it was currently high tide (or maybe an hour past high tide); therefore we could expect to find the remains near the water-line that we were now seeing. That simplified the walking aspect, as it meant we could walk on the firm, wet sand near the lapping waves, rather than have to trudge through the soft sand further up the beach.

Halfway along the beach, we found it's split in two by a stream flowing down into the sea. Matt spotted a group of people at the top of the beach, who seemed interested in something – two were crouching down – so he turned upstream to investigate, while I volunteered to check the southern half of the beach that lay beyond the stream.

Jumping the stream presented no difficulties; my lack of wellies didn't matter on this occasion, so I continued south along the seashore, as far as the strata that forms the end of the beach. Nothing of interest found, so I returned, and met Matt. Matt reported that the group of people he'd been to see had been involved in nothing more than icicle-breaking, an unusual occupation for a bunch of visitors to a beach.

We retraced our steps back to meet Oll, and had a discussion. Matt then had a phone call and was told the carcass was in the Downend Rocks area. Damn. If only I'd taken a photo of the information board we'd passed, we could have looked at the map on the digital camera. As it was, I volunteered to nip back and have a look.

It turned out that Downend Rocks was the area beyond the southernmost extent of the beach, so driving there was the best scheme. I waved to my companions and indicated they should join me – in which time I set off to retrieve the car from the car park.

On the road again, it seemed a long drive just to get round a half-mile beach. However, we parked again, and took a footpath down into the rocky area. The general pattern was ridges of rock strata running out into the sea, with clear channels between them, the ridges and gaps both of varying widths. By now, the sun was about to set, so we split up again and Matt found the carcass. As I arrived, the sun was sinking into the sea… a nice sunset, but not ideal conditions for photography and videography of a biological specimen.

Obeying the primary rule of forensics – take photos before disturbing the body – we hastily set about getting pictures and video. The body cavity was open, and a dark pool of liquid could be seen below the ribs. There had been talk of bringing the specimen back to the CFZ intact, but I didn't relish the idea of that stuff sloshing about in the back of the car.

After general discussion with Jon back at base, it was decided to collect the skull and a back leg as samples. Debate about the legal situation followed. If it's private land, presumably jetsam (material washed up that's of a non-floating type, as opposed to flotsam) would belong to the land owners. If one wrenches the head off a body, is that criminal damage? But who will complain about damage to a rotting body? After a few minutes it was decided to go ahead with specimen collection.

The animal's left rear leg came free as easily as the leg of a roast chicken. The head was another matter, being connected by a leathery material and what appeared to be cartilage in addition. A hammer and chisel was deployed to disengage the skull from the rest of the body.

With the light fading fast, and a series of craggy ridges to negotiate, it was time to leave, and the samples were carried away, to be studied back at base.

CONFESSIONS OF A CRYPTOZOOLOGIST:
Oll Lewis


The Croyde Carcass

When I walked into the CFZ office this morning I was greeted by Jon who seemed to be in a particularly excited mood.

“What do you make of this!?” he exclaimed and gestured at a photograph on his computer screen.

The photo was of a rotted carcass that had been found on a local beach, and had been emailed to us by the local newspaper. Apparently, the newspaper was concerned that the animal might be a local big cat that had fallen off a cliff and died before its body was washed along the coast.

“Can you zoom in on the dentition?” I asked and Jon obliged.

“Well,” I said looking at the animal’s teeth “It’s definitely a carnivore.”

“Tell me something I don’t know.” Jon replied.

“Well… If you look at the nasal cavity it looks like it is far too large to be a cat or dog.
The shape of the skull is completely wrong too.”

“Could it be a seal?” asked Jon

“I’d say that’s definitely the most likely candidate.” I said cautiously before I hunted out some photographs of seal skulls just to be sure. The photographs confirmed our suspicions and it was decided it would be a good idea to try to find the carcass so that we could make our own examination and collect samples. Graham and I were to go to Croyde, where the body had washed up, picking up Matt Osborne on the way, and attempt to locate it.

And so for the second time since I joined the Centre for Fortean Zoology I found myself looking for a decayed body on a beach. The first time had been the on Gambia expedition in 2006 where, armed with a map of a burial site and small spades, we had attempted to unearth the body of a sea monster that had supposedly been buried right next to a nightclub owned by the presidents brother. Considering the recent case in Gambia where two British missionaries have been sentenced to one year of hard labour and ordered to pay a £6000 fine for just writing disparaging things about the Gambian president on a postcard, it was quite lucky we were not caught not everyone would have believed we were looking for a sea monster. The conditions could not have been more different this time though. The heat in the Gambia had been stiflingly hot, but on Croyde beach the temperature was colder than zero degrees Celsius.

We gingerly picked our way across the jagged rocks on the west end of the bay, taking care to avoid slipping on the ice or putting our feet though the icy crusts of frozen rock pools. Once we made it across the rocks, without breaking any bones, it seemed our search would be much easier because most of Croyde beach was covered in sand and there would be few nooks and crannies for the carcass to be hiding in. This search proved to be fruitless and as we made it back to the cars Matt phoned Jon to see if he had uncovered any more information that could aid our search. Jon said that he had found out that the carcass had been found in a spot called the ‘Down End rocks’.

We located a map of the beach on a sign near the slipway we had entered the beach from but could not find a place called Down End Rocks, we did find the Down End Road so it was pretty obvious that it was the area to check out. It was the opposite end of the beach.

We drove the car around to that end of the beach and searched for an access point. We found one and scanned the rocks from a vantage point atop the cliffs hoping to spot the carcass. We couldn’t see it so elected to split up to cover a larger area in the hope of finding the body before the light failed. After a while Matt appeared over an outcrop of rock in the far distance and started waving wildly at me. This could only mean one thing; the body had been found!

I clambered over the icy rocks, swearing to myself that if this was a practical joke on Matt’s part then he would be in serious danger, but finally I made it to the outcrop. From the top of this rock I beheld a marvellous sight. Never before had a putrid pinniped looked so good! We examined the corpse took photographs and removed several samples for study back at the Centre for Fortean Zoology (the head and the back right limb) and had to leave the beach quickly as the sun was setting. Icy rocks, incoming tide and darkness do not mix well together.

We drove home though the freezing night with all the windows open to stop the stench from the samples overpowering us and reflected on a good days work. Over the next few days we will be emailing photographs of the skull to several experts for their opinion on what the animal is.

A SEAL OF APPROVAL.....


Last Updated 12th January:

The saga of the Cadaver of Croyde (I refuse to use Matthew Osborne's appalling title of Beast of the Bay) trundles on. As the amount of data we are getting on the subject mounts up, here is an index to it all:


Our First Press Release
The newspaper reports which triggered the second press release
Our Second Press Release
Slideshow of the skull
CONFESSIONS OF A CRYPTOZOOLOGIST: Oll Lewis
CONFESSIONS OF A CRYPTOZOOLOGIST: Graham Inglis
Messages of support
More press clippings, and an endorsement by Dr Daz
CONFESSIONS OF AN ALL ROUND GOOD EGG - Matty Osborne takes the stand



The Case is solved!




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Bloody hell, The Sun says we have stolen the skull....

For immediate release
9th January 2009
It was us! We did it....

The saga of the mysterious cadaver of Croyde Beach in sunny North Devon trundles on., According to today's papers, "Last night, in a further twist, police reported the beast’s skull STOLEN." Well it hasn't been... we've got it! Because of the possibility that this corpse might conceivably be the body of only the second sealion ever to turn up on British waters, we were concerned that a specimen of potential scientific importance would be removed by the environmental health department, or chewed up by a badger, fox, or dog, and unilaterally decided that we should try our best to preserve it for posterity.

The beach is actually owned by a holiday camp, which in turn is owned by a firm based in Newcastle. We were unable to get all of anybody at the holiday camp, because it's the middle of the winter, and nobody in their right minds would be on holiday in North Devon at this time of year. So, determined - as always - to be good law-abiding citizens, we telephoned the parent company. Nobody in the management department was available to speak to us, but we spoke to a delightful young lady called Gemma who told us that she was sure that nobody from a major holiday network would actually want the suppurating carcass remains of an unfortunately deceased pinniped, but nevertheless agreed to log my call and be witness to the fact that neither I, or anyone else at the CFZ has any intention of permanently depriving Parkdean holidays of part of a dead seal, and that if they want the shull and/or rear flipper back they only have to ask. Gemma thought that this was all terribly exciting, and rather amusing. She wished us luck, and our call ended.

After reading today's papers, CFZ Director Jon Downes (49) telephoned Braunton Police Station, and spoke to the Duty Officer, telling him the state of affairs, and explaining that the missing skull and flipper are at present in a bucket of formalin at the offices of the CFZ (the world's largest mystery animal research group). Disappointingly for his street cred, he was told that an immediate arrest was highly unlikely, and that the Police were merely happy that the cadaver was "in the hands of the professionals". On hearing this, Corinna Downes (52), Jon's wife, and administrator of the CFZ stopped making the placards reading "Free the CFZ Three" and went back to her normal activities.

There are still two mysteries to be solved.

Today's newspapers said that "Some locals suggested it could be a seal, but The Marine Conservation Society and the National Seal Sanctuary both stated it was not." We telephoned both organisations, who stated categorically that not only was the corpse that of a seal, but that they had always said as much to each reporter who had interviewed them. Someone has got the wrong end of the stick at some point during this mildly amusing saga.

The second mystery of course, as we said in an earlier press release, is to establish the precise identity of the creature. Whilst it is almost certain that is a grey seal, there is the outside possibility that it could be something more exciting. One of the experts who first viewed of the photographs suggested that it looked like the skull of a sealion. There are seven species in the world, but with the exception of one species found on the coast of Argentina, all sealions are restricted to the Pacific Ocean. However, in the 1980s a Steller's sealion turned up on the Brisons - two tiny islets, a mile out to sea from the west coast of Cornwall. No one knew how it got there, and - as far as we know - it may still be there today. So, the mysterious cadaver of Croyde might just be only the second sealion ever to grace these shores.

Totally coincidentally, this weekend sees the CFZ annual general meeting, and experts from across the country will be coming to Jon and Corinna's house to discuss the next years activities. Tomorrow afternoon, experts will be examining the skull and other samples, and we will hopefully have a conclusive answer. So, although it certainly isn't anything to do with the beast of Exmoor, it might just be only the second sealion ever to grace these shores.

Jon Downes will be appearing at London's Royal Academy on Saturday the 17th of January, and he will make a public announcement to finally wrap the affair up, once and for all.

JON DOWNES IS AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEW, AND PICTURES OF THE CORPSE AND ALL THE PEOPLE INVOLVED ARE AVAILABLE. PLEASE TELEPHONE JON OR CORINNA ON 01237 431413

NOTES TO EDITORS


* The Centre for Fortean Zoology [CFZ] is the world’s largest mystery animal research organisation. It was founded in 1992 by British author Jonathan Downes (4 and is a non-profit making (not for profit) organisation registered with H.M. Stamp Office.
* Life-president of the CFZ is Colonel John Blashford-Snell OBE, best known for his groundbreaking youth work organising the ‘Operation Drake’ and ‘Operation Raleigh’ expeditions in the 1970s and 1980s.
* CFZ Director Jonathan Downes is the author and/or editor of over 20 books. Island of Paradise, his first hand account of two expeditions to the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico in search of the grotesque vampiric chupacabra, will be published in the next few weeks.
* The CFZ have carried out expeditions across the world including Russia, Sumatra, Mongolia, Guyana, Gambia, Texas, Mexico, Thailand, Puerto Rico, Illinois, Loch Ness, and Loch Morar.
* CFZ Press are the world’s largest publishers of books on mystery animals. They also publish Animals & Men, the world’s only cryptozoology magazine, and Exotic Pets, Britain’s only dedicated magazine on the subject.
* The CFZ produce their own full-length documentaries through their media division called CFZtv www.cfztv.org. One of their films `Lair of the Red Worm` which was released in early 2007 and documents their 2005 Mongolia expedition has now been seen by nearly 50,000 people.
* The CFZ is based in Jon Downes’ old family home in rural North Devon which he shares with his wife Corinna (52). It is also home to various members of the CFZ’s permanent directorate and a collection of exotic animals.
* Jonathan Downes presents a monthly web TV show called On the Track (http://cfzmonthly.blogspot.com/) which covers cryptozoology and work of the CFZ.
* The CFZ are opening a Visitor Centre and Museum in Woolsery, North Devon.
* Following their successful partnership with Capcom www.capcom.com on the 2007 Guyana expedition, the CFZ are looking for more commercial sponsors.

AND THE PAPERS SAID...

The Sun

The Daily Mail

Slideshow of the skull

WHAT A WAY TO START 2009

For immediate release
9th January 2009

Mystery skull on North Devon beach


Well it's a beast. It was found fairly near Exmoor. But is it the beast of Exmoor? Of course not. It has flippers for one thing.

Two nights ago a carcass was washed up on Croyde Beach in North Devon. The Centre for Fortean Zoology, [CFZ], were informed, and they sent a three-man team of investigators - Graham Inglis (52), deputy director, Oll Lewis (28), ecologist, and Matthew Osborne (28), one time Bideford town councillor, trainee Methodist lay preacher, and all round good egg - to find out what the fuss was about. The CFZ are the world's largest mystery animal research organisation, and they happen to be based less than 30 miles from where the mysterious carcass was washed up.

Various newspapers and media pundits have claimed that what was washed up was the cadaver of the beast of Exmoor - the notorious big black cat which for decades has been selling newspapers and killing sheep with equal abandon. From the photographs we had been e-mailed, it was pretty obvious that this was nonsense, that the CFZ would not be doing their job properly if they just took a cursory look at the photograph on their computers, before dismissing the matter from their minds.

The body was about 5 ft long, and - according to the team - reeked to high heaven. It was obviously a member of the seal family, and is almost certainly the remains of an unfortunate grey seal (Halichoerus grypus), which is a fairly common resident of the wilder parts of the Bristol Channel. However, there is an outside possibility that it could be something more exciting. One of the experts who first viewed of the photographs suggested that it looked like the skull of a sealion. There are seven species in the world, but with the exception of one species found on the coast of Argentina, all sealions are restricted to the Pacific Ocean. However, in the 1980s a Steller's sealion turned up on the Brisons - two tiny islets, a mile out to sea from the west coast of Cornwall. No one knew how it got there, and - as far as we know - it may still be there today.

Experts will be examining the skull and other samples over the next few days, and will hopefully have a conclusive answer. So, although it certainly isn't anything to do with the beast of Exmoor, it might just be only the second sealion ever to grace these shores.

Watch this space.

NOTES TO EDITORS


* The Centre for Fortean Zoology [CFZ] is the world’s largest mystery animal research organisation. It was founded in 1992 by British author Jonathan Downes (4 and is a non-profit making (not for profit) organisation registered with H.M. Stamp Office.
* Life-president of the CFZ is Colonel John Blashford-Snell OBE, best known for his groundbreaking youth work organising the ‘Operation Drake’ and ‘Operation Raleigh’ expeditions in the 1970s and 1980s.
* CFZ Director Jonathan Downes is the author and/or editor of over 20 books. Island of Paradise, his first hand account of two expeditions to the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico in search of the grotesque vampiric chupacabra, will be published in the next few weeks.
* The CFZ have carried out expeditions across the world including Russia, Sumatra, Mongolia, Guyana, Gambia, Texas, Mexico, Thailand, Puerto Rico, Illinois, Loch Ness, and Loch Morar.
* CFZ Press are the world’s largest publishers of books on mystery animals. They also publish Animals & Men, the world’s only cryptozoology magazine, and Exotic Pets, Britain’s only dedicated magazine on the subject.
* The CFZ produce their own full-length documentaries through their media division called CFZtv www.cfztv.org. One of their films `Lair of the Red Worm` which was released in early 2007 and documents their 2005 Mongolia expedition has now been seen by nearly 50,000 people.
* The CFZ is based in Jon Downes’ old family home in rural North Devon which he shares with his wife Corinna (52). It is also home to various members of the CFZ’s permanent directorate and a collection of exotic animals.
* Jonathan Downes presents a monthly web TV show called On the Track (http://cfzmonthly.blogspot.com/) which covers cryptozoology and work of the CFZ.
* The CFZ are opening a Visitor Centre and Museum in Woolsery, North Devon.
* Following their successful partnership with Capcom www.capcom.com on the 2007 Guyana expedition, the CFZ are looking for more commercial sponsors.